Showing posts from March, 2006

book review

Last week I read a book written by Adam Fawer titled Improbable. It was published in the US in 2005 and is the author's first book.

I enjoyed this book a lot. I was very impressed with the sophistication of the writing considering that this is Fawer's first novel. The only "rookie mistake" I noticed is that the ending was a little slack. Like Greg Bear in his novel Vitals--a book that Improbable reminds me of--there was a little too much futuristic twist at the end to remain believable. I still enjoyed both books despite the "gee-wow" endings.

In many ways it seemed like Fawer wrote this book with me specifically in mind. The major plot elements are all concepts that I'm fascinated with. The book deals with the way that the mind is organized--illustrated by means of epileptic episodes, psychosis, drug treatments and theapy--as well as the mechanics of the physical laws of the universe. Fawer's take on quantum mechanics is quite entertaining and though…

pita filling

Expanding on yesterday's theme, today I'm going to meander a bit in the search of something to eat with my soon-to-be-made pita bread.

One of my thoughts is that I could use the "sauce" that I made for bruchetta.

Now true Italian bruchetta really doesn't appeal to me. It's essentially thick sliced toasted bread rubbed with a head of garlic and drizzled with olive oil. Now to me that's just the foundation--and most restaurants here in the US prepare a more elaborate version of bruchetta as well.

I like to dice tomatoes--usually small ones like romas--and add olive oil and basil to the bowl, maybe some balsamic vinegar for bite, and kosher salt. Most people add pepper but I don't like red or black pepper. I'll use white pepper or paprika instead.

For bruchetta I'd slice a baguette of bread on the bias, maybe an inch apart, spread garlic butter on one side, toast for a minute or so then drizzle with olive oil. Add tomato mixture on top, sprinkle chee…

Pita for the weekend

It's been a few weeks since the last time I made some bread so I'm going to make some more soon. There's a recipe in the April issue of Saveur for a variant of pita bread.

The reason for the pita bread is that the magazine did some homemade hummus testing and found that store bought pita just didn't do the hummus justice. I doubt I'll be making hummus to eat with the pita bread but it's possible. More likely I'll make something with tuna or chicken as the base. Or maybe the tomato spread I make for use in bruchetta.

The types of hummus made in the article all sounded good but on the two occasions that I've eaten hummus I didn't like it at all. What do y'all think I should eat with the pita bread?

Here's the ingredients:
7 gram package of active dry yeast1/4 tsp sugar6 cups unbleached AP flour3 tbsp vegetable oil2 tsp salt
put yeast, sugar, and half cup of warm water into large bowl, stir to dissolve, let mixture sit until frothy--typic…


Calling the Last Rites

A man is struck by a bus on a busy street in New York City. He lies dying on the sidewalk as a crowd of spectators gathers around. "A priest! Somebody get me a priest!" the man gasps. A policeman checks the crowd but finds no priest, no minister, no man of God of any kind.

"A PRIEST, PLEASE!" the dying man says again. Then out of the crowd steps a little old Jewish man of at least eighty years of age."Mr. Policeman," says the man, "I'm not a priest. I'm not even a Catholic. But for fifty years now I'm living behind St. Mary's Catholic Church on Third Avenue, and every night I'm listening to the Catholic litany. Maybe I can be of some comfort to this man."

The policeman agrees and brings the octogenarian over to the dying man. He kneels down, leans over the injured and says in a solemn voice: "B - 4. I - 19. N - 38. G - 54. O - 72."


The picture below is from a Don Dixon painting used for a Scientific American cover in June, 1998. It illustrates what we believe the appearance of a quasar would be like.

According to Wikipedia a quasar (contraction of QUASi-stellAR radio sources) is an astronomical object that looks like a star in optical telescopes (i.e. it is a point source), and has a very high redshift.

Quasars are very interesting because they don't act like anything else that we know of. For example, it is believed that quasars are the most distant objects in the Universe that we're aware of. This belief is based on the extreme red shift in the radiation we receive from them. This distance means that the light we perceive would have been generated billions of years ago--they're that far away.

Oddly enough quasars also would seem to be small--though that's a relative term. Since an average quasar puts out more energy than 10 typical galaxies anything smaller than a galaxy is small for that power o…

pick that pig

This is the location of a primitive rite known as a pig pickin'
The people below are about to embark on a time honored tradition in the rural south. Eating pig, slow cooked on a smoker, is a tasty repast here in North Carolina. This party took place between Durham and North Raleigh in a quiet little neighborhood. The pictures down the left illustrate the ingredients of a pig roast...

Here's the general setup--a heat source, a smoker, a pig, and people to eat the pig.

As you can probably tell from how we're dressed, it was a very blustery day on Saturday and most of the people stayed in the barn.

A little later it rained for a while as it had earlier in the day. That's why the tarp was set up above the smoker. You don't want rain to hit it since that would cool off the smoker and then the pig would cook too slow.

This barrel is used to burn hardwood, hickory in this case, until there's just coals left--and then these coals are shoveled into the bottom of the smoker. …

Chatty B. Tawkin

I'm here posting on the behalf of my tenant, Chatty B. Tawkin. On a side note this is my 303rd post. I managed to move past my 300th a few days ago with little fanfare. That's an average of 6 posts a week since I started at the beginning of April back last year.

Chatty--and as you can probably guess, that's not her real name!--has a great design. This header just gives you an inkling of an idea how lovely it is. Maybe someday if I get ambitious I'll get my blog in shape like hers. Maybe.

Chatty is a teacher--and that alone nearly qualifies her as a saint in my eyes, or some insane martyr, perhaps--and of young kids, no less. It's certainly not something I'd ever want to do. The closest I've ever come is student teaching University students in statistics, comp sci and philosophy. I had trouble sticking to one subject, I'm afraid.

She's married so all you single guys just eat your collective hearts out. She loves boating and her dog and she's 39 so …

rant on misused stats

. .

The following is a review of the book Freakonomics that I found on the website. It's the basis of my rant today. Deceptive statistics and numbers.

11 of 11 people found the following review helpful:
Fascinating, Entertaining, and Thought-provoking , March 17, 2006
Reviewer: Dr. Marilyn R. Barry (Minneapolis, USA) - See all my reviews

The book is engaging and surprisingly humorous read, which opened my mind to a whole new way of looking at the world. It was fascinating to see the synthesis between economics and our everyday lives. Events which seem disconnected or driven by other influences are revealed with great clarity as having basic economic principles behind them.

I can give you an example. Every part starts with an interesting question. Let's say: "What is the hidden cause of obesity in the USA? It is followed by numbers. As a PH.D in Sexuality I can tell you that there are more than 20+ million impotent American men. Many of them are married and their w…


Today, for no special reason, I've decided to talk a bit about bees. The picture below I took of a bee that was snacking on some flowers next to my porch. That was last September. He didn't seem to mind me taking the picture.

The reason bees are on my mind today is that I just read a short article on honeybees in a monthly newsletter I get in the mail that focuses on agriculture in North Carolina. Apparently NC produces $10 million a year in honey but the big money is in pollination services where the honeybee industry takes in $100 million a year.

The reason that there's such a spread in those two numbers is a little sad. Apparently over the past 20 years most of the wild honeybees in the USA have been killed off by two different species of parasitic mites. These mites have also reducted the domestic honeybee population by nearly half--but now those domestic bees are needed by agriculture to pollinate crops. For most honey producers in NC, the fees they generate by renting …

tuesday rant

I'll be adding items to this as the day goes on, no doubt.

My first rant is the poor use of science in the media. The reason this is on my mind is that I recently caught up on my West Wing episodes. I've been recording it but not watching it for about 3 months and I caught up with the show this last Thursday and Friday. I watched 8 episodes and one of the subplots was a California nuclear reactor almost had a meltdown.

As part of the solution, President Bartlett had 2 engineers enter the plant with protection gear to open stuck valves allowing the coolant water to enter the containment vessel. This would expose them to large amounts of radiation even with their protective gear.

As it turned out, there was one further repair needed and President Bartlett had to decide whether to have the two engineers already in the facility to make that repair or to send new engineers in. He decided to have the engineers already inside make the additional repair--knowing this would put them well …

Ninja Poodles!

I just love that header. The phrase "Beware the four pointed paw of Death" is such a great line and goes with the Ninja motif so well. Classic.

Ninja Poodles is my tenant this week from Blog Explosion. It's a blog that is hard to define. Like mine here, Ninja Poodles covers a wide spectrum of content and interests. The heart of it is a Mommy Blog wherein the owner, Belinda, talks and vents about life with her daughter Isabella and husband Alex.

However it's also a clearing house of issues and ideas from mental health and medications thereof to celebrities like Tom Cruise to the loss of loved ones like her father and Cappy, seen to the left there.

One of the scariest things I've read I encountered in her blog. For a variety of reasons, mentioned in her August 10th post, Belinda is sometimes subject to panic attacks in Wal-marts. **Yikes** If that happened to me I'm not sure I'd find it worth living. Life without Wal-mart? I just don't know...I just don…


Happy St. Patrick's Day to all you lads and lasses out there.

Shamrocks are often said to only grow in Ireland and certainly Cecil Geddis, or Dublin Ireland, would agree. This past year he shipped over 80,000 Shamrock plants from his nursery, Hoophill Nursery, all labeled "Authentic shamrock -- grown in Ireland".

Botanists tend to disagree with this. According to them Shamrocks are simply immature clover plants. While that's probably true, it's not very romantic. Folklore is far more entertaining and tradition has it that St Patrick used the Irish Shamrock to illustrate the concept of the Trinity, an essential belief of the Catholic faith.

The name "shamrock" is actually an English transliteration of the original Gaelic name for young clover, "seamra", which is pronounced shom-ruh, for clover and "og" for young.


I watched 60 Minutes this past Sunday (March 12th) and the by far the most interesting of the 3 segments was the one on homosexuality.

The segment opened up with the camera entering a child's bedroom. The decor was stereotypical boy. GI Joes and cars, camoflauge drapes, video war game posters etc. Then the camera went across the hall and entered the other child's room. The contrast was strong--now the dominant color was pink and there were cute horses on the posters and stuffed animals on the bed.

It turns out that the two rooms both belong to boys, Jared and Adam. Identical twins, in fact. Since the past few decades have been filled with research suggesting the the roots of homosexuality are primarily genetic, for two children who are genetically identical to behave in such different ways, ways that suggest different sexual orientation, is quite startling. This point was made even more clear in an interview with an older pair of identical twin boys, these were in their 20s, one…


Amazing Race: those bastards! I can't believe they're going to make us wait another week like that. It's just not right! *pout*

Sue Grafton: I just finished reading Grafton's most recent Kinsey Millhone novel, S is for Silence last night. It might be her best novel so far. The Millhone series, often referred to as the alphabet books, have been uneven in quality. However the character of Kinsey is imbued with such warmth and quirkiness that I've enjoyed reading even the bad books in the series. I'm glad to say that S is for Silence is definitely not a bad one. In fact, it's the best book in the series. Grafton has really improved her voice in this book and while there are still some slight problems--Grafton really has trouble finding a good ending for her books--I definitely recommend this book. Her deft interplay of backstory and the contemporary plot make for a much more nuanced story than usual for this series.

Cold Case: I just finished watching the origi…

Dead Rock Stars

Michelle, over at occasional melancholia, has an interesting list on her blog that I noticed. It's a list of the "top 50 dead rock stars". Some interesting choices and while not exactly what I'd have chosen, most of them make sense.

The best thing about the list is that it's not just names. Each entry has some historical perspective discussed as well as how the artist was significant and all that stuff. The number 2 pick is the one that I had the most difficulty with--but probably a lot of kids were voting!

By the way, Jim Morrison up there logged in at #11. Break on Through to the Other Side, indeed!

You know the day destroys the night
Night divides the day
Tried to run
Tried to hide
Break on through to the other side
Break on through to the other side
Break on through to the other side, yeah

Lambs Ear

This is a picture of some Lambs Ear that I have in a bed on the side of my back deck. I normally don't care for the plant that much but it looked very photogenic this morning when I got back home from taking my girlfriend to the airport. The dew covering the leaves really makes the plant more interesting and the out of focus blue flowers behind add a little visual interest.

I had a lot of Lambs Ear in my front garden as well but I "accidently" hit it with some Roundup last Fall so I'll have to plant something new this Spring. Maybe Pansies. I love Pansies. They're just so cheerful.

The spot that these plants grow in by my back deck is also where my Morning Glories grow once they get going. The Glories are so much more aggressive that within weeks of making their presence known, you can't see any of the other plants. It's just a wall of Morning Glory from the ground all the way up to the top of the canopy I have attached to my deck.

critters in the semi-wild

Up above is a shot of several logs in a small inlet on Lake Johnson near Raleigh NC. Each log has a multitude of turtles on it--and my movement towards them already had a number slipping off into the water.

This picture was taken after I'd gotten closer, but also had scared off quite a few of the turtles. Only the braves ones were left--but since there's a limit on bravery in animals that don't want to end up in the stewpot, by the time I'd circled the tree on the left side of the picture all the remaining turtles had dove in the water.

However I did meet one fellow that was braver than the turtles. You can take a gander at him in the picture below...

Isn't he a cutie? My girlfriend hates snakes for some reason--at least when they're close up. I tell her it's Freudian but she keeps trying to prove me wrong on that score.

I only have a 3X zoom so I had to be pretty close to this snake. I wanted to get a little closer but I'm not like that insane Australian f…

space and random thoughts

Space. Everyone seems to want more and more of it. How much is too much?

I'm mainly talking about house size but you can spin it off to almost any other area as well. We here in the US seem to constantly want bigger and bigger. My house is 1,460 Sq Ft and it's considered a starter home. Hell, I mainly bought one this size due to the difficulty in reselling smaller ones. If I had my druthers, something more like 800 sq ft would have been just fine. As is, I don't use my second story for anything other than storage. I often don't go up there for 3 weeks or more at a time.

I'm not alone in thinking that houses have gotten too big. There was an article in USA Today 3 weeks ago about Aspen Colorado banning bigger houses. Of course big is a relative term. While I consider a 3,000 sq ft home too big, Aspen is only banning houses bigger than 15,000 sq ft. *gulp* Can you even imagine living in a frickin' house THAT big??? My house would serve as their pool cabana.


The Amazing Race

I've been watching The Amazing Race since the first season--which I still think was the best one--and while last season's Family Edition was pretty bad, here I am again for the 9th season.

Talking about which season is best, which is your favorite? My second favorite was the 7th Season, the season in which Uchenna and Joyce won. They might have been the nicest team that was ever on the show. They most certainly were the nicest people that have won.

My favorite team of all wasn't nice though. I just loved watching Colin of the Colin/Christie team compete. He just was never going to say die--unless it involved eating ostrich eggs. LOL That was from the 5th season. The cutest contestant for me was Nancy, the Mom from the first season. She was just soooo nice!

But enough ancient history, let's talk about the current season. In a show of hands, who's glad that bitch Lisa lost tonight? I don't see how her sister Joni was able to keep from killing her. I'm sure ther…


A few days ago I referred to Pint-glass bread in a post I wrote.

This weekend my girlfriend and I had a chance to make it and this post is about that process.

First of all, I read about the recipe in an article in Saveur Magazine, pictured off there above and to the right. The ingredients needed to make the bread are pictured to the left.

This is about the simplest bread recipe I've ever seen and definitely the easiest that I've actually made. Well, that we made. As you can see by the arms of my lovely assistant to the left--I was far from alone in this Irish Bread Adventure.

This picture is taken after the ingredients have been blended together by hand. There is no kneading nor rising steps. This recipe simply has you blend the ingredients and then bake it.

It's hard to go wrong when the recipe is that simple!

This is what the loaf we made looked like as soon as I hauled the thing out of the 375 degree oven. The recipe called for about 70 minutes but our bread was ready in 60 m…

Go Tarheels

There's a number of schools of thought within religious circles about the nature of evil.

Some say there's just gradations of the absense of God's grace and that gives the appearance of evil in the world. Other's say that there is a devil and it's his influence that creates evil in the world.

I'm here to tell you that evil does exist and the devils are behind it all. The Blue Devils, that is.

In the microcosm of the ACC, God and country are represented by the UNC Tarheels. Lucifer, and all forms of nastiness right down to toe jam are represented by the Duke Univeristy Blue Devils.

Unfortunately Duke currently has the best record in the ACC--but on Saturday the Heels were able to pull the rug out from under Duke in a very intense game that ended with the Heels on top, 83-76.

This was quite an upset since Duke is top ranked and UNC was 13 in the AP rankings that day though only a few weeks before they were barely in the top 25. A 6 game winning streak has done a lot…