Friday, July 31, 2009

Malted Coffee:

How do you feel about malt flavoring? I really like it, so I tried putting about two tablespoons of malted milk powder into a cup of coffee. (I wouldn't do this to $20/lb coffee, just to supermarket coffee.) The result was delicious for us malt lovers. You can buy decent malted milk powder (Carnation) in most supermarkets, but I'm enjoying this brand: CtlColfax. (I paid less than retail, and avoided shipping costs, by buying a full can from a local ice cream store.)

Thursday, July 30, 2009

Free MonsterApocalypse!

MonsterApocalypse is a tabletop game played with monster figurines. The makers of this game recently developed a new strategy guide. When the published guide was shipped to the USA to be sold, it was impounded by ... you'll never guess ... the Department of Homeland Security. After a few anxious days, it was released, and it will soon be for sale.

If you think that it's worth giving up a lot of your freedoms and rights so that our government can protect you better, think about this debacle. We have a fine set of laws to protect us, and most attempts to diminish our rights in the name of security just create new stupid pitholes in our lives.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009


Now that the powers that be in the world of swimming have removed the ugliness of technology, by banning the LZR Racer Speedo swimsuit, I have invented a better way to put high tech into swimming. In fact, I've invented a whole new sport worth billions, and I'm going to just give it away.

Here's how it works. The goal, as usual, is to race some number of laps in the shortest time. The swimmer is allowed to wear, in addition to his modest swimsuit, a powerful motor of any kind, plus whatever helmet and pads he (or she) deems adviseable. The motor is operated by the swimmer's teammate, the 'navigator', who sits on dry tile with a remote-control pad. The swimmer's job is to get his body and the motor into the ideal position for supreme-speed efficiency at all times, and to manage the turn-around at each end of the pool. The navigator is responsible for accelerating as much as possible during a lap, and decelerating near the end of a lap to avoid killing the swimmer, by breaking his neck in the the fast-rushing water, or by slamming his body against the end of the pool.

I'm afraid the paying crowd (and they will pay a lot!) will be more interested in whether any of the swimmers is bashed to death during the race. But hey! That's why this sport will be worth billions.

Sunday, July 26, 2009

The fifty minute mile:

I swam one mile in 50 minutes today. 49'50" to be more exact. This is a personal best for me, and I'm proud of it, although I must admit, it compares poorly with the world mile swimming record, which is probably about 16 minutes.

I swim with no mechanical aids! It's my body, handled as efficiently as I can manage, against the drag of the water in the 25 yard pool. No fins, no gloves, and especially, no high tech Speedo swimsuit that requires 45 minutes to put on.

I am glad that those high-tech swimsuits will no longer be used in world racing. (They've just been disallowed.) I think that in swimming, the challenge is simply to use one's body as best as possible. Shave your hair short, toss on enough swimsuit to be decent, use your body perfectly and race. Swimsuits add a level of technology that is wholly out of place.

But there's an even better reason the high tech suits should be disallowed. If they take 45 minutes to put on, and some time to take off, then a swimmer who regularly practices with them will spend over 400 hours a year doing nothing but dressing, just to be competitive. Think of all the things you can do in 300 hours a year! What a waste, to spend it all in dressing.

Friday, July 24, 2009

A good name for the Open Source Cloud:

There's a lot of controversy right now about how beneficial it will be to move our computing to the "cloud", which means becoming more dependent on others for access to our data, and for its security. There are several cloud alternatives out there already, but I think that so far they are proprietary. I, for one, would feel more comfortable with a "disk drive on the Internet" that was provided by truly open software. In the long run, I would expect such a "cloud" device to be more reliable and more secure.

Best of all, I have a good name for an open source "data in the cloud" device: Gnuage.

Monday, July 13, 2009

How do you get a recommendation ...

When I search for companies and services on the Web, I also try to find recommendations and reviews. It's getting harder and harder to do this, I think. Searching for the word 'reviews' is part of the problem. Many web sites will explain that there are no reviews, but they have many different ways to say that, and I get hits for them all. Recently, I looked for a low-cost website provider. There are lots of reviews for such companies, but most of the positive ones are obviously written by the companies themselves; they sound too much like marketing documents. The negative reviews sound like they are written by asylum inmates who have been utterly destroyed by their provider and have an urge kill.

By the way, Can anyone recommend an inexpensive website provider that will give me an easy-to-use webpage builder, and also let me post integrated pages of my own html?

The good news story today is that I found a new way to find recommendations. We need a company to do some work on our house. For this type of work, there are many companies that are obviously not local, that service our region. I found no reviews for any of them. And in any case, a review by someone in, say, Indiana would not help me much. But while looking for reviews, I discovered that some of our local real estate agents recommend local businesses. In one such page, I found the recommendations I needed. And like everyone else, I know a few more local real estate agents ...

Sunday, July 12, 2009

... and a Bowling Ball:

Keith Malley, of the Keith and the Girl podcast (#998), recently stated that it's always better to have a bowling ball with you. (For those of you who know nothing about bowling balls, picture 16 pounds of heavy solid plastic, about 8.5” in diameter, that you can cradle in your arms, or try to hold by hooking thumb and fingers into its close-set holes.) Keith gave a few excellent examples: wouldn't you like to be able to throw a bowling ball down the aisle of a bus? Wouldn't you like to take a bowling ball with you when you go camping in the woods?

Now it seems to me that there are a few rare moments in life when I would rather not have a bowling ball. And I'm not thinking about that moment when I got married. I'd rather not have a bowling ball:
  • on a unicycle
  • in a plane toilet
  • in a steam room
  • while rock climbing
  • near the top of Mount Everest
  • on a seesaw.

Have I left anything out? Anything at all?

Friday, July 10, 2009

When Eddy Interviewed Ruth Slenczynska:

I think about Ruth Slenczynska every year. She was born in 1925 and (I believe) is still alive. In 1957, she was about as famous as she could get. She was recording and concertizing, and her (ghost-written?) autobiography, Forbidden Childhood, was much talked about. You can listen to some fragments of her marvelous playing here (but be sure to read the terms and conditions on that page; I have no idea whether they state the law accurately).
She had been an awesome child prodigy pianist, and she developed into a very mature pianist. The pressures of being a child prodigy got to her, and she did not perform between (according to Wikipedia) 1940 and 1954.

Her autobiography told the familiar story of a father driving her much too hard to succeed, and a family giving all its love to their other children while expecting her to practice and perform. For me, the most memorable anecdote in her book concerns her father's parsimoniousness: when the two of them traveled to her concerts, he always shared a hotel room with her. But one day the clerk listened to her father order a single room; and then the clerk said, "the young lady will require her own room." And after that she always had her own room.

I can't remember Eddy's last name. He was a friendly, middle-aged fellow with some knowledge of classical music, and he talked his way into running an interview show on one of New York's classical radio stations. My (pianist) aunt Lucy knew him and regarded Eddy as a bit of a confidence man. Of course, in 1957, there had to be an interview with Ruth Slenczynska. I believe her recording of all 24 of the Chopin Peludes Op. 28 had recently been issued to acclaim. In the interview, Eddy asked Ruth which prelude was her favorite. She replied that she had no favorite. Surely, he said, she must prefer one of them. She replied that they were her little children, and she was their mother. And like any parent, she loved them equally. Eddy could see where this was going, and he gently commented that a parent might prefer one child to another. "No," she said, "a parent always loves all the children the same."

Thinking most definitely of Slenczynska's autobiography -- most of his radio listeners were doing the same, I'm sure -- Eddy said, "I've heard of cases where a parent might love one child more than another." Ruth Slenczynska went right on denying that such a thing could ever happen, throwing the accuracy of her own book into doubt.

By the way, I'm older and wiser now, and I can see how Ruth Slenczynska could have ignored her own painful family experience while insisting that any mother will love her children all the same. What seemed embarrassing to me then, now seems poignant.

Tuesday, July 07, 2009

Little Birds for Michael Jackson:

I shall not partake of the memorializing for Michael Jackson.

I'm biased. I love many kinds of music, and I believe that hearing must be the primary sense that perceives it. Live performances are wonderful, and the eye is a great aid to enjoying them; but live performances seize all of the senses, and sight is not the primary one.

Michael Jackson's great skill in dance and movement, and his creativity, helped to kickstart the age of music videos. These strange creations, in which, when we must hear them without seeing them, we will inevitably try to imagine them as they were shown to us, are at best a sidestep on the grand march of music through the millenia.

Music videos, and Michael Jackson (indirectly) damaged the career of a much finer composer and musician: Stevie Wonder, whose blindness made him unsuited to this era of video. (I'm sure Wonder holds no grudge; he has collaborated with Jackson, and he sang at Jackson's memorial.)

But enough of the music; let's consider Jackson the human. For many years, every reference to him has reminded me of a short story by Anaïs Nin, the title story for one of her books. It's called: Little Birds.

Friday, July 03, 2009

The Lemon Malted:

I recently purchased some excellent malt powder, and I was naturally reminded of my adventures, many years ago, with the Lemon Malted.

I've always liked the taste of malt powder, so it was quite a natural thing for me to order a “malted”, rather than an ice cream soda, wherever malt powder was available. (As far as I can determine, a “malted” is just an ice cream soda to which malt powder has been added.) When I was young, I always looked for opportunities to demonstrate what an oddball I was, so once I requested a Lemon Malted, that is, a lemon ice cream soda with the special addition of malt powder.

How do you think malt would affect the taste of lemon? I've drunk this malted several times, and the result can be quite sophisticated, with the malt flavor subtly changing the quality of the lemon. But a lemon malted can also taste like cheap beer. My great dream was that some day, when I ordered this drink, the restaurant I requested it from would realize what a great drink it was, and add it to their menu.

The last time I ordered this drink, I watched with gathering excitement as the waiter prepared it. I could see he was making an extra-large batch, and when he poured my drink, he poured what was left over into a separate glass. He brought my malted to the table, and it was good, one of the better renderings of my drink. A minute later, he was back with the second glass, and this is what he said: “We were really curious what your lemon malted was like, so we made some extra and tasted it. We all think it tastes terrible. Would you like the rest?”

Thursday, July 02, 2009

Another great secret about cooking with eggplant (barbecue sauce):

Morningstar Farms has introduced a new product to its line of soy burgers. I tasted it and realized that I was eating their usual soy product, steeped in barbecue sauce. I figured I didn't need to buy their product for this, I have my own barbecue sauces. The first thing I tried was this:

Zap a thick slice of eggplant in a microwave. cover with barbecue sauce and eat. Delicious. (Our incredibly weak 450W microwave requires two minutes for this.)

Barbecue sauce is great with almost everything. To think I used to assume it should be reserved for barbecues! Try it on a cheese sandwich. Why not? It's good.