Christmas Cookies [12/24/2007]

I made two batches of cookies to give away for Christmas. Here are the two recipes:

Russian Teacakes
1 cup butter, room temperature
1/2 cup sifted powdered sugar
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup very finely chopped pecans
Powdered sugar

In a large bowl, cream butter, powdered sugar, and vanilla extract until light and fluffy. Sift in flour and salt; stir until well mixed. Mix in nuts. Refrigerate 1 hour.

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Roll dough into 1-inch balls. Place onto ungreased cookie sheets. Bake 10 to 12 minutes or until set but not brown. Remove from oven and cool slightly on wire racks. While cookies are baking place the powdered sugar in a shallow dish.

While still warm, roll cookies in powdered sugar. When cookies have cooled, roll them again in the confectioners sugar to give them a nice even coating of sugar. Store in an airtight container.

Chocolate Mint Cookies
2 cups all-purpose flour
3/4 cup Baking Cocoa
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup (2 sticks) butter or margarine, softened
2/3 cup granulated sugar
2/3 cup packed brown sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 large eggs
1 10oz. package of Andes Creme de Menthe Baking Chips

Preheat oven to 350ยบ F.

Combine flour, cocoa, baking soda and salt in a medium bowl. Beat butter, granulated sugar, brown sugar and vanilla extract in a large mixer bowl until creamy. Add eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition. Gradually beat in flour mixture. Stir in chips. Drop by rounded tablespoon onto ungreased baking sheets.

Bake for 9 to 11 minutes or until cookies are puffed and centers are set but still soft. Cool on baking sheets for 2 minutes; remove to wire racks to cool completely.

Finished Monster Island [12/24/2007]

Throughout the whole book I was wondering why Gary didn't try to make more intelligent zombies like himself. Wouldn't he want an peer to bounce ideas off of? Mael was too entrenched in religious fervor to think rationally. Then finally at the end I could sort of understand why he waited until Dekalb proved himself to be a worthy opponent and match of character.

I'm still wondering why the Egyptian mummies were more agile then the other zombies. It also seemed a little unclear what their motivations were.

Porter Sampling No. 1 [12/24/2007]

I discovered I like Porter! I'm undertaking a sampling/rating of all the porters I can find in the Phoenix area. Great fun. This is the first set:

BreweryNameLocationShort DescriptionRating
Sonoran Brewing Co.Vanilla PorterArizonaSweet, not nutty92
Breckenridge BreweryVanilla PorterDenver, ColoradoClean, Tangy92
Ska BrewingTen Pin PorterDurango, ColoradoToo bubbly even more than champagne50
Browar WitnicaBlack Boss PorterPolandSweet, Strong Alcohol, Wine-Like, Distinctive98
Samuel SmithTaddy PorterEnglandBitter, Strange71
Widmer BrothersSnow Plow Milk StoutPortland, OregonClean Stout, No Creamy Head85
Left Hand Brewing Co.Milk StoutLongmont, ColoradoChocolate Milky/Nutty88
Kona Brewing Co.PipelineKona, HawaiiMore like coffee than beer85
Anchor Brewing Co.PorterSan Francisco, CaliforniaDistinctive, Nutty/Hazelnutty86

See Also:
Porter Sampling No. 7
Porter Sampling No. 6
Porter Sampling No. 5
Porter Sampling No. 4
Porter Sampling No. 3
Porter Sampling No. 2

those pesky shrooms [12/06/2007]

This is from an awesome book that I found out about because Anna has a copy. It's out of print, but I ordered a used copy. It's called Legal Daisy Spacing: The Build-A-Planet Manual of Official World Improvements by Christopher Winn and it's full of stuff like this.

light painting [12/03/2007]

I've been playing around taking long exposure pics of LEDs. The green one is my router and modem, the blue a light on the computer speakers, the red part of a case fan. Original large sizes and more over on Flickr.

goat cheese ♥ [12/03/2007]

I've been really into goat cheese lately. This one is pretty tasty and I can usually find it at Safeway:

The three below Dillweed & Onion, Tomato, Basil & Garlic, and Basil Pesto were excellent. They come from New Mexico. Here is the website:

Worshiping Bigfoot? [12/03/2007]

Jeffrey Meldrum, a scientist at Idaho State University is studying Sasquatch/Bigfoot footprints. I found out about this because of an article in Scientific American. Apparently this topic is too far into the fringe for the magazine to actually explain and examine his research. I think the story was trying to talk about being on the fringe and what that means, i.e. blanket criticism vs. critical peer review. However, the whole thing was rather vague and left me wondering.

What exactly is this "fringe"? How do we place areas of research along a spectrum of mainstream to controversial to fringe? How is the line drawn between fringe science and pseudoscience?

It even occurred to me that maybe the article was just thrown out there for the purpose of getting some hollaback letters to the editor next month. There haven't been enough crazy responses to articles lately.

But, on to the topic at hand.. Bigfoot. Why is this "fringe"?

  1. We know species come in and out of the fossil record for example the Coelacanth.
  2. And we know species are often mistakingly declared extinct and then found again like the ivory-billed woodpecker.
  3. We also know that some species like crocodiles remain seemingly unchanged over a very long time (living fossils).
  4. Over 90% of living species are estimated to be currently unidentified
So why is pursuit of truth about Bigfoot considered unreasonable for scientific inquiry? My guess is that because our culture considers Bigfoot a myth, people think it shouldn't be researched. Myths are made up, right? Wait, what about all those giant squid myths?

Here is a npr interview with Meldrum from last year.

a shadow biosphere & The Arrival [12/03/2007]

This cover story "Are Aliens Among Us?" in December's Sciam was actually my third choice after I read the bigfoot and semantic web articles, but this turned out to be the most interesting and intriguing science article I've read in quite awhile.

All life on earth that we know of is similar enough that we assume a single common point of origin. The idea explored in this article is there may be other forms of life here on earth (as yet undetected) that are so fundamentally different they do not share our same ancestral tree. If such life forms are found it would imply that life itself arose more than once, that there is more than one origin.

This alternate tree of life is referred to as a "shadow biosphere". These theoretical life forms are considered alien not because of their location of origin, which could be either on earth or extraterrestrial, but because of their biological differences.

Possible differences include:

  1. silicon instead of carbon

  2. mirrored handedness

  3. different amino acids (not the our standard 20)

  4. no ribosomes

  5. arsenic instead of phosphorus

  6. ethane or methane instead of water

It's interesting to me to think that life from earth with any of these differences may be more alien than life that shares our same biological characteristics and is not from earth. The idea of aliens existing undetected on earth reminds me of the movie The Arrival, which first got me thinking about looking for alien life on earth instead of in space.

The Golden Compass [12/03/2007]

The Golden Compass is a fantastic book. I've been anticipating a movie since I first read it in 2003. After eagerly awaiting the release for so long, I was not disappointed upon attending a sneak preview last Saturday night.

Chris Weitz did a superb job of staying true to the book.

Dakota Blue Richards successfully portrayed Lyra's personality. Lyra's strength and complexity of character shone through in Dakota almost magically. I was also quite pleased with the rest of the casting. I hope that if they make The Subtle Knife and The Amber Spyglass they will do as good a job at casting Will and the others as they did with the actors here.

The set design, art direction, visual effects, and costume design were brilliantly executed. Lyra's world really came to life and looked divine. The buildings and landscapes were even more magnificent than I had imagined them. The depiction of dust was a little different than how I would have done it. But, this didn't bother me too much as such an abstract concept is sure to be difficult to materialize.

You may already have heard the big ta-do about how the ending was cut short. Yes, it kind of surprised me too and was a bit upsetting. However, thinking it through it seems reasonable to end the movie this way if the prospects towards making The Subtle Knife and The Amber Spyglass are unknown. You don't end a movie with a cliffhanger if the second movie isn't going to be made.

I've already heard several critics and reviewers express confusion about the plot and characters. This is likely because they haven't read the book. It's hard for me to imagine watching the movie without having read the book. I suppose parts would seem a bit confusing. I therefore highly recommend reading the book if you haven't already before seeing the movie. Do it quickly so you can see this movie on the big screen.

Official movie site:

Idiocracy: iz funny no really fo real [12/03/2007]

Solike ahlotta peepz sayed thisa funny movie. Before i seened it i dunno, thinked maybe i dunned like it causa the messig. Man nobuddy sayed iz Mike Judge. Heez funny. Ita like so much the funnyfullest evah. Ya gotta watch this. No really fo real.

reppin freeside [11/17/2007]

showin some ♥ for gibson

quotes from fall shows, or dulling the pain of veronica mars deprivation [11/17/2007]

From House:

House: We can try and pretend we're above it, we can try and intellectualize it away. But ultimately, shiny, pretty, perky things are good, and ugly, misshapen teenage boys are repulsive.
Darnell: The question was, do you resent Dr. Cuddy's interference in your practice?
House: Oh. Well, then I guess my answer wasn't very helpful, was it?

From Dirty Sexy Money:
Nick: All right listen, this has been a massive misunderstanding, and I can assure you my client is going to be found innocent of all charges brought against him, so theres no story here. Please excuse us.
Female Reporter: Is it true you won the Yacht in a poker game, Jeremy?
Male Reporter: Jeremy, how long have you been smuggling people into the country?
Jeremy: I don't know.
Nick: Don't answer that.
Female Reporter: Is it true you were planning to harvest their organs?
Nick: You know, that is just dumb. Why say things like that?!

From Reaper:
Russ: Wait a minute. What kind of a host do I think I am? We can't just watch the movie. We need to get high first. Who wants to rip some peyote?
Sam: Ya know Russ tonight's not a good peyote night.
Russ: Oh no no no. Peyote man it makes a great platform. And then we customize with a well chosen assortment of party enhancers. We've got angel tears, horse tranqs, jelly babies, muskies, happy flakes.
Sock: Happy flakes?
Russ: Poppers.
Ben: Thanks Russ, ya know Russ. I was gonna pass.
Sock: And ya know, I took a horse tranq on the way over here so I'm good.
Russ: You guys said you came over to party right?
Sam: Of course.
Russ: Well ok then. alright. I don't want to watch this movie until we're like rolling 4 deep ok?

From Pimp My Ride:
Xizibit: Being that we could not find out what the hell to do with those bones we found. We decided to do what everybody does when they find bones. Dip 'em in gold. So you can wear 'em around your neck. Ya know what I'm sayin? Ya know what I'm sayin? Gold plated bones. Ya know what I'm sayin?

From Pushing Daisies:
Ned: I asked you not to use the word "zombie." It's disrespectful. Stumbling around squawking for brains? It's not how they do. And "undead"? Nobody wants to be "un"-anything. Why begin a statement with a negative? It's like saying "I don't disagree." Just say you agree.
Emerson: Are you comfortable with "living dead"?
Ned: You're either living or your dead. When you're living, you're alive. When you're dead, that's what you are. But when you're dead and then you're not, you're alive again. Can't we say "alive again"?

Finished Old Man's War [11/03/2007]

Short, Sweet and ...Funny. It's been quite a while since I've read a science fiction book that's also humorous, probably since Douglas Adams or Grant Naylor. I actually laughed out loud a couple times. Enjoyable.

I don't remember what the Rraey were supposed to look like... Did Scalzi describe their appearance? If so, I guess I was too tired for it to make an impression the way the other aliens' descriptions did.

Tachyons in Fiction

arm the homeless [10/30/2007]

Yay!! Guitar Hero 3 is out and I am so happy with the songs. You get to battle Morello and then do an encore of Bulls on Parade. Other random points of awesomeness include the flying bunny on fire, the tiki head guitar, and the alien burningman.

true affection floats, or because it is september [9/25/2007]

Pop Surrealism [9/15/2007]

Oran bought this awesome book because he recognized my favorite modern artist Mark Ryden on the cover (by modern I mean post-Miro).

More artists included in the book that I recognized:
Marion Peck (no relation)
Elizabeth McGrath
    her myspace
Tim Biskup
While browsing the book I discovered a lot of new ones including:
Camille Rose Garcia
Scott Musgrove

Others in this genre that were not included in the book:

More about the movement:
Wikipedia article on Lowbrow (Pop Surrealism)
Juxtapoz Magazine
Hi Fructose Magazine

Kefir: it's not yogurt [9/15/2007]

So, I've started trying to drink this stuff. I'm hoping it will help counter balance the bad yeast and bacteria in my system from eating too many carbs.

Probiotics (live & active cultures) in kefir:

Lactobacillius Lactis
Lactobacillus Rhamnosus
Streptococcus Diacetylactis
Leuconostoc Cremoris
Lactobacillus Plantarum
Lactobacillus Casei
Bifidobacterium Longum
Bifidobacterium Breve
Saccharomyces Florentinus
Lactobacillus Acidophilus

From what I can tell, yogurt has:

Lactobacillus Bulgaricus
Streptococcus Thermophilus
Lactobacillus Acidophilus
Bifidus/Bifidobacterium Bifidum
Lactobacillus Casei
Lactobacillus Reuteri

So you are getting acidophilus and casei from both. But that's the only overlap I've been able to see.

finally my completely irrational dislike of the patriots becomes justified [9/15/2007]

Everytime I watch basketball, my intuition tells me "this is gotta be fixed". That's almost certainly not always the case, but, I just get that vibe.

I don't get that same feeling when watching football. I don't know for sure what play a team is going to do. I'm sure the coaches have a better sense what the other one is going to do then me. But, they aren't supposed to know for sure. That would seriously destroy the strategy of the game. And the whole reason I like football is because of the strategy.

I've always had an irrational dislike of the patriots. Yesterday I hear that they have been video-taping coaches to discern what all their hand-signals mean. They've been busted for cheating. I'm not surprised they did this. Winning three superbowls in four years felt fishy, and I never saw Belichick's brillance. I'm somewhat surprised they are actually facing repercussions. Apparently others like me feel that strategy is important to the game.

There has been a lot of talk about how the punishments were not severe enough. Stefan Fatsis compared Belichick's 500k and the Team's 250k against McLaren's 100mil fine. Listen to Stephan's full commentary here. I don't know how to judge what's fair. And who knows how all the bad press is going to effect the team. Players from other teams think maybe we could have won, maybe it wasn't a fair game. Patriots players may feel maybe we didn't really deserve to win. All around the players and fans are screwed. How can coaches feel they are doing a good job when they use tactics like this? Winning is not really winning if you cheat.

Arc of Time [9/11/2007]

Oran got me listening to the song Arc of Time by Bright Eyes. Here is an upbeat almost celebratory sounding song that's all about death. If I think about death, I usually get pretty depressed and scared. Time seems to be accelerating, and I constantly feel like I will wake up tomorrow morning and be 84 and not know where all of my time went. Lots of stress and anxiety. Tomorrow I'll most certainly be 29. Right? So why is this song happy anyway?

When we saw the lyrics that mention Jesus and an afterlife with angels and such, the question arose "Is this a Christian song?"

And, almost immediately without really thinking much about it, I said "No, it's a Kurzweil song."

The last verse is what makes me feel I might have a reasonable interpretation:

To the deepest part
Of the human heart
The fear of death expands
'til we crack the code,
we've always known
But could never understand
On a circuit board
We'll soon be born
Again, again, again, again

The first two badly scanned sketches are Oran's initial concept drawings for a Kurzweil emblem. Then I thought I'd play around in photoshop and make a school of happy little Kurzweil fishies.

Finished The Tiger in the Well [9/07/2007]

Well, this wrapped up the Sally Lockhart trilogy nicely. Sally was consistently strong-willed throughout all three. I really liked that Pullman finally showed her more vulnerable and emotional than ever before. I missed Jim throughout most of the book just as Sally missed him.

I was also glad to learn a bit about the pogroms in Russia. I didn't know about this part of Jewish/Russian history. After reading this book, and Spook Country not too long ago, I'm thinking maybe I should read a book on Russian history.

Worshiping Tigers? [9/04/2007]

Guilherme Marcondes is awesome. If you haven't already seen his Tyger video, you must watch it:

those bent image lab guys are pretty good [9/02/2007]

Last weekend I was watching some animated shorts on Zune-Arts. Saw this cool music video:

So, I looked up the production company Bent Image Labs. A guy named Rob Shaw did the Zune one. And then I watched this Lux commercial by Shel White. Usually, commercials greatly annoy me, or look cool, or amuse me. However, this is the first time I can remember actually being curious about a product after seeing a commercial.

James Connolly [9/01/2007]

I'm currently reading A Tiger in the Well by Philip Pullman. Part of the story is about socialists in London in the late 19th century.

Then friday night at Rosie McCaffrey's all the booths were full and we sat a table where I was positioned to see a painting of James Connolly 1868-1916 and read this quote of his:

"If these men must die, would it not be better to die in their own country fighting for freedom for their class, and for the abolition of war, than to go forth to strange countries and die slaughtering and slaughtered by their brothers that tyrants and profiteers might live?"
-- James Connolly August 15, 1914

So, in the spirit of Labor Day I wanted to honor the prominent Laborist James Connolly. A lot of his writing is available here: James Connolly Internet Archive.

Tin Man [8/29/2007]

Looking forward to checking out this new scifi channel show:

I'm also interested in Pushing Daisies.

Such Great Heights & Gattaca [8/29/2007]

Another album I've been listening to a lot is still the Garden State soundtrack. One of the two best soundtracks, in my opinion. Grosse Point Blank being the other (especially if you count both volumes). I was thinking about Iron and Wine's version of Such Great Heights.

For some strange reason this song makes me think about the movie Gattaca. Admittedly, I haven't seen the movie in quite a while. I looked up the video on YouTube - Postal Service's version. Even the video reminds me of the movie.

I was trying to sort out why.
And it makes no sense at all.

The song seems to almost tacitly approve of an intelligent design world:

"And I have to speculate that God himself
Did make us into corresponding shapes like
Puzzle pieces from the clay"

While the movie is a rebellion against intelligent design (albeit by humans instead of god).

Maybe it's just the surreal aspect of portraying a predestined world that makes them seem similar. It just seems so contradictory for them to give off the same vibe while being about such opposing viewpoints.

Worshiping Elephants? [8/29/2007]

Does anyone out there want to explain to me the basics of Ganesh? Of all the religions I've read about I know the least about Hinduism. I've tried reading the upanishads and the english translation seemed like another language. I just didn't understand. But lately I've noticed elephants showing up in the background.

First there was this Skippy commercial. How could I not notice Rastafarian elephants?

And then there was the Diane Rehm discussion of this book about elephant communication research. They send seismic messages to each other. I was impressed and took note.

Then I ran across the Howard Hollis website and found his crazy section on Wrong Dimension toys which included a Fischer Price Ganesh with a funny fake history.

So randomly I wonder what Ganesh is all about.
I wonder about worshiping elephants.

Sleeping Lessons [8/27/2007]

I keep listening to this song Sleeping Lessons by The Shins a lot. There is this line in the beginning:
"Eviscerate your fragile frame
And spill it out in the ragged floor
A thousand different versions of yourself"
And it keeps making me wonder about what the consequences really would be of splitting your soul into a thousand different pieces. The song seems to imply that you would have some greater power to resist addiction. When I listen to it, it makes feel like it's correct, that it would give you this power. But, when I'm not listening to the song, I think, maybe that doesn't really make sense. Why would you necessarily have more power to resist temptations? Anyway the whole decentralization of the soul is an interesting idea to ponder.

Thinking about that reminded me how I had this vision a few weeks ago of myself as a matryoshka (russian nesting doll). This is another weird idea, that I have smaller and smaller versions of myself inside. Like a Mandelbrot set. Instead of turtles all the way down, it's matryoshka all the way in. But, this is just a weird fantasy. I almost like it better than the thousand different pieces though.