Thursday, November 27, 2008

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

A brave new (food) world

Every once in a while I get to thinking about the trends in the food that I have been eating. Recently there hasn't been a main theme, but for awhile soups were getting made a couple times a week, there have also been spans of eating alot of pork, apple dishes, mustard, and cooking with beer. So yesterday I thought about what ingredients or cooking methods interest me and I decided on three ingredients that may be the focus of my new culinary experiences.

First off are beets. My first experiences with beets are from the younger years of my childhood when my mom would cook pickled beets as a side dish. Besides the very cool color there wasn't much to like about them, they smelt horrible when cooking because of the vinegar and they didn't taste that good either (I seem to be very picky about what things I like pickled, some I love some I can't stand). However now that I am older I have thought about it and have realized that I have never actually had un-pickled beets. So beets are the first thing on my list of cooking focus.

The second thing that I have been thinking about is liquid smoke. The reason I started to ponder it was because I was thinking about the "next big food" which, incase you missed it, is currently bacon. I thought that maybe cooking with smoke flavor would be a natural extension of the bacon craze. Specifically I was thinking that having a wide selection of types of liquid smoke, each from a different type of wood would be huge. So I did some research and found out that liquid smoke is actually condensed smoke, and not just a chemical concoction (plus one point for that) and there is already is at least a couple kinds of liquid smoke already made. So the last time we were at the food store I picked up a bottle but I have not cooked with it, although I have alreday picked out my first target recipe.

The last ingredient that I will try to use more of is horseradish. It seems like every three years or so I get a carving for horseradish, and yesterday when I was thinking about new foods I stumbled upon a website about horseradish. I generally don't like this type of ingredient; radishes taste like spicy dirt, wasabi is ok at best, and I get tired of ginger (which to me tastes about the same to me) real quickly. However a good horseradish sauce made with cream for meat, or horseradish and lemon potatoes sounds really good, so I will take a look to see what other uses there are for horseradish.

One other idea that I have seen tossed around that I will look into trying is to use tea leaves to cook with, I don't know how exactly that works out, but it sounds interesting. Does anyone else have new dining horizons ahead? I would like to hear about them.

p.s. While scouring the internets for pics I found a recipe for beet chips with horseradish dip, I might have to try that.

Friday, November 21, 2008


As is generally the case, the easy post trumps the hard posts. So the other posts I had thought about writing today will not happen: My Geekyness (Out of a bookcase full of interesting books I chose the basic stats book as reading material for the bathroom) and The Govt. Bailout (the worst idea since unsliced bread) .

Instead I found one of the coolest looking games to play, Auditorium. The basic Idea is to get the stream of particles to go through the sound bar things to make music. The way you direct the parties is through movable deflectors and other particle manipulators. As the bars light up parts of the overall song turn on until the full song is playing. The game sounds great and looks even cooler. It is like somebody went on board the Starship Enterprise, found what casual game they were playing and then made it for us to play. (It's a little know fact but Deanna Troi is an avaid casual game player on the comand consoles.) Now you can play visual awesome too. Clicky.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

In good company

Every morning we listen to Mike & Mike on the radio on the way to work. This morning, among other topics, they discussed how you would feel about the following:

1. A bank makes an error of $50,000 in your favor, and no one will ever know about you getting the money. Do you give it back?
2. A store rings up an expensive item incorrectly in your favor, do you alert them?
3. You seen an old lady drop en envelope that you find has $500 in it, do you return it to her?

Mike and Mike were talking about it and said that it would be a hard decision to make in each of them (they were assuming for the sake of argument that they were living from paycheck to paycheck and in general needed money.)

I can not see how these three issues are even close to each other, even for the money needing folk. Here is what I think in reverse order.
3. Obviously give the money back, while this isn't stealing form the old lady it basically is, and it is defiantly the right thing to do. The loss of $500 will directly effect a person.

2. This is a bit tougher, for me it would depend on what store I am at, how much I like them and what the circumstances are. If it is at a store that has crazy sales all the time I would just shrug it off as a deal that I happened to miss. If it was at a locally owned store I would ask about the price. Walmart often rings up produce wrong, and sometimes I point it out sometimes I don't (even when the error is not in my favor).

1. If this situation was occurring to me it would completely matter which bank it was at, if it was one that I think tries it's best to do well such as BOk here in Tulsa or Community 1st in Manhattan (KS) I would tell them. How ever if the bank is stupid like Commerce or if the bank just got a gift for the government for being irresponsible (see bailout) I would keep it. And I would think nothing of it.

You see here is where I differ than many, I do not think that we should treat businesses like people. Why should we give them the benefit of being responsible people, when they will have no such care back to us. They are out to "make a buck" usually at any cost to us, so why should we not be out to get as much from them as we can? Should the screwing not be a two way street?

I do however think that there are some companies out there that are trying their hardest to be good and treat their customers like people, and in those cases I will also try back to help them out. But Walmart, cell phone companies (besides T-Mobile), banks, and insurance companies, you are on your own. How much work would we have to go through to get $50,000 that an insurance company did not pay out when they were supposed to?

Note, however, that reporting errors on their part is different than stealing. Going into a bank that I don't like at taking $50,000 or shoplifting is NOT the same thing as giving back something that they gave me in error. Even if companies want us to think that it is.

On the same note Target has dropped a notch in the "I care about them" category. I got Nicole a fancy food scale for her birthday that turned out to not work correctly (it was very difficult to get it to "tare"). We tried to take it back last night to get a different one but they wouldn't let us return it without the receipt because it cost too much. What would they say if they wanted back something that they rang up for me wrong but I wouldn't give it back because it cost too much. They wouldn't be too happy about it I would figure.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

The New Religion

He says it better than I can.

Update: Lance took a post off from his week long hate fest of his alumni (the grand school of K-State) to also talk about the idea of Environmentalism as a religion. He found a video of an interview with Michael Crichton were he talks about this subject. His views are quite interesting.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008


I have to say that the most successful recent mission that the NASA has undertaken in terms of PR is the Phoenix Mars Lander. Besides the amazing discovery of actual water ice on Mars, the Lander had a twitter account with a following of almost 39,000 people. It was enjoyable to get up to the minute results from the Phoenix Lander as it happened on my phone, and it was very sad when recently the Lander sent out it's final goodbyes thanking everyone for their support.

Gizmodo has the final words from the Phoenix Mars Lander.

If you are reading this, then my mission is probably over.

This final entry is one that I asked be posted after my mission team announces they’ve lost contact with me. Today is that day and I must say good-bye, but I do it in triumph and not in grief.

As I’ve said before, there’s no other place I’d rather be than here. My mission lasted five months instead of three, and I’m content knowing that I worked hard and accomplished great things during that time. My work here is done, but I leave behind a legacy of images and data.

In that sense, you haven’t heard the end of me. Scientists will be releasing findings based on my data for months, possibly years, to come and today’s children will read of my discoveries in their textbooks. Engineers will use my experience during landing and surface operations to aid in designing future robotic missions.

(read the full note here)

I am glad that NASA has stepped up and used new technology that is freely available to increase the awareness of the projects that they are doing. This keeps interest in space exploration up and it also lets us know that the money we are spending on the projects are actually going to something useful. I will miss my daily tweets from the Phoenix Lander, and maybe when Martian summer rolls around in 2010 the Phoenix will have more updates to give us.

(There are some more NASA missions on Twitter: The Cassini Space Probe, The Mars Rovers, and The Mars Science Lab which will be launched in the fall of 2009)

Monday, November 10, 2008

King me

So last night when I was halfway asleep I had an idea for my blog post today, and now that I am more awake it doesn't seems as much of an awesome topic as it did last night, but it is at least something I have not thought about for ages, so worthy of a post. Behold.

There are two types of checker pieces that we had at school. Which pieces to use always was a weighty topic on my mind when we had indoor recess. On one hand there were the pieces that had the little star in the middle; there was always a complete set of these, but they were dull and the small star looked so wimpy. On the other hand there was the pieces that had a large shiny star in them which were defiantly the coolest looking piece, however, there was never enough of these to make a full set, so if I chose to use these then I would have to use at least a couple of the "small star" kind. The big problem was that the big star and small star pieces had different sized teeth cut on them, so they don't stack, so when they get paired together on a King they don't lock together right, and that is very annoying.

So the dilemma was: a complete set of lame looking pieces, or a partial set of cool pieces that don't lock with a few lame pieces. What was my solution? The obvious thing of course, I would use the cool pieces and then sacrifice the lame looking pieces as soon as possible. Note, it was against the rules to substitute the lame pieces on the board with cool pieces that were already captured, so there had to be a conscious effort to get rid of the small star pieces as soon as possible.

Because, you know, the point of playing checkers is to have cool looking pieces, right?

p.s. I liked the red pieces in checkers, however in all other games I prefer the black pieces over the other color.

Friday, November 07, 2008


Time for some fun. In Splitter you take the role of a chef that has a very sharp knife that can cut through wood and other objects. The goal of the game is to get the smiley faced ball into the orange disc. This physics based puzzler is a good way to pass by the odd 15 minutes. I wouldn't say that this game is the best puzzler ever but some solutions are clever. However, if you do get stuck they do give an option of watching a video that shows how to solve the level. Check it out.

Thursday, November 06, 2008

How the Republican Party Failed Me

It pains me to say it, but given my choice of candidates for president, my ballot had Obama marked on it when it was entered. Luckily I live in the second reddest state of all, Oklahoma, which only had 34% support for Obama. My vote was less of a vote for him and more of a vote against what the Republicans have become. If the race here was closer, I would have had to think much deeper about who to vote for, and probably would have not chosen either. But in the end of the day I did vote for Obama.

I had to think real hard about what is going wrong with the Republican party, because I have never voted against them, even when I had the luxury of voting for a 3rd party candidate. And the best single answer I can think of is that the Republican Party, as it currently stands, thinks that defending against terrorism is the number one priority for our government.

Now the idea of the government trying to protect its citizens is a good idea, but the way we have gone about it is wrong. Basically we are being protected through fear mongering. We can't take liquids on plains because of terrorists, we have to surrender our laptops at border crossing because of terrorists, we can't take pictures of structures because of terrorists, the list go on and on of ways that we are being "protected" from terrorists.

And here is where I have the real problem; we can't talk about fear at the same time that we talk about freedom. As the government becomes more fearful they must take away freedoms to protect against these fears, and once one fear is shored up a new one takes hold. This sort of thinking is leading us on a path directly to 1984.

Let me give an example; I have been thinking about... ...there are crazy people out there. But since I have to dance around this subject, like I am now, just so that I don't get called down to the FBI office means that I don't really have the freedom to talk about this subject. Even now I am thinking about deleting this above paragraph.
[Note: I did delete the paragraph, just left the start and the finish. If a kid can get hauled off to jail for writing a zombie story, I can't take those chances. Hurray freedom of speech. ]

So, what can we do? For one the government needs to stop being so paranoid. Also the GOP needs a major reform before I will vote for them again. I can not vote for people to take away my freedoms under the guise of protection. That is just crap. The Republicans used to stand for family and freedom, now they cower in fear. Hopefully one day they will get past the terrorist attacks. But until then I will vote other places.

Chin up Ron Paul, you didn’t fail, it was the party that failed.

Wednesday, November 05, 2008

Up in smoke.

Another election, another slice of freedom gone, but this time it doesn't effect me directly since I am in Tulsa.

Manhattan (Kansas) passed their ban on smoking in public places this time around. Now everyone can enjoy their "freedom" of eating in a smoke-free environment at the cost of business owners deciding what legal activity their patrons can partake in.

Freedom doesn't mean that you can do whatever you want, how you want. Freedom means that the government will not limit what you can do.

Due up in 2012: Ban on trans fat
In the batting circle in 2016: Ban on large portions of food
Clean up in 2024: Ban on "unhealthy" food

Suck it personal choice, hurray government dominance!

Update: Ever since starting my job here in Tulsa I felt the need to post again about how no one does correct statistics in their studies. However, my comment that I left is close enough to scratching that itch that I will just post it here and be done with it (for now).

The first time that I actually looked at a study that was conducted, just to see what it had to say, was a study that the American Heart Association did on second hand smoke. What I found shocked me.
While the study was used to say that second hand smoke was dangerous and bad, the study actually found that unless you live with a smoker that smokes multiple packs a day for many many years second hand smoke does not hurt you.
They were lying to us about the outcome of the study.
This got me interested in other studies, mainly global warming, since the quick analysis that is presented to the general public is flawed. Sure enough, they aren't finding anything like they are claiming, but some how it gets reported that the problem is dire and completely our fault.
Now that I work answering statistical questions from people doing studies all over the world it is quite obvious -
It is rare for someone to do an actual statistically valid study.
I don't think that people are intentionally misleading people, or doing bad science on purpose, I think that it is a matter of not knowing what they are doing statistically.
And it is sad to say, but if you do the best experiment in the world, but then do a wrong analysis or misinterpret the results your study is for naught, or worse you come to the wrong conclusion.
So here we are with "evidence" for a need to protect peoples health with a smoking ban. Policy is made without regard to actually knowing the truth.
But we can all sleep better at night, right?

Monday, November 03, 2008

Halloween Followup

Alright, here is the pic of the pumpkins that we carved.

On the left is Nicole's. She carved a dancing Katamari, from the ball rolling game Katamari Damacy. My pumpkin is in the middle, it is a hand turkey the size of Godzilla destroying a town, scary, no? The pumpkin on the right is Charity's (friend from K-State) who carved pumpkins with us. You can't tell the differences in shading, but the hair glows in real (jack-o-lantern) life. So that was a good time.

Also, we dressed up for work since there was a costume contest, I didn't know that this was going to be the "offical" contest entry pic or I would have got a bit more prepared for it, like getting my leather bound book that I brought with, but, oh well.

If you can't tell, and no one could, I am a Data Sage that can do magical things to your data without regards to the underlying study or mere mortal rules of math and science, since this is a popular request from some of my customers. However, this was a bit too complicated to convey to people ourside my brain in the time they gave me to answer "what are you?" so I was going undercover as a wizard most of the time on Friday.

Nicole had the same problem that I did and didn't get properly dressed for the picture, she was a spiffy hat, but that is ok since she still won second place overall.

The winner of the contest was Jim, who had an awesome costume as a nerd, and really played the part well too.

Just for future reference: Jim looks nothing like this in real life.