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.