Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Sunday, December 28, 2008

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Stalk of Brussels Sprouts

Stalk of Brussels Sprouts
Originally uploaded by manducasexta

I didn't know the sprouts grew in a spiral. Or that they heft like a cricket bat.

"These directions are for planning purposes only."

Do not follow directions
Originally uploaded by manducasexta

A new-looking exit sign points toward the corner of two walls. There is no way to go in that direction, much less exit that way. It reminds me of the disclaimers on automatic maps. Google's is "These directions are for planning purposes only."

Thursday, October 30, 2008

God Hates Signs

westboro baptist church and me
Originally uploaded by Burstein!

Mmm, absurdist goodness. Way to get in there and shake things up.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

noodle bar yums

In spite of my new austerity plan, I ate out last night. I am pleased to report I've found a new (to me) gem: Viet Noodle Bar. The friend of a friend picked it. Lovely minimalist interior, simple excellent menu. We got a selection of appetizers, all of which were delicious. For an entree, I got Vegetarian Soyskin noodle, which was terrific. We brought our own wine. Here's their minimalist website:

Friday, October 17, 2008

Promoting insight

This article suggests, among other things, that insight requires focus
followed by relaxation. Many of my fellow graduate students have
trouble falling asleep, a potential time for new insights. We use
various drugs and distractions to get to sleep. It seems that this is
yet another case of our desire for progress actually impeding it.

Sent from a teeny keyboard; please excuse typos.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Monday, October 13, 2008

Pop quiz: Name three Harlequin romance book categories

Harlequin Medical Romance
Harlequin NASCAR
Harlequin Superromance

(see here for more answers)

Luckily Harlequin has guidelines for each of its lines, so the writer can tune her/his prose. For example:

In Harlequin Historical UNDONE we are looking for a high level of sensuality that flows naturally out of the plotline. There should be a strong emotional basis to the heightened attraction—it's vital the reader can believe in the intense emotion driving the characters as their relationship develops. These stories should be hot, sexy and subtly explicit without the lovemaking being vulgar or gratuitous.

Whether you choose a dark and devilishly sexy Regency rake caught in a compromising situation with a headstrong miss, or a courageous Saxon lady held captive by a powerful Norman warrior, your characters should be fully fleshed out and should be the main focus of the story.

The wikipedia entry on "Romance novel" is also quite interesting.

Monday, October 06, 2008

Frontier Baroque

As Alistair Cooke observed, “Americans seem to be more comfortable with Republican presidents because they share the common frailty of muddled syntax and because, when they attempt eloquence, they do tend to spout a kind of Frontier Baroque.”

As quoted by Maureen Dowd, 10/5/08

Wednesday, October 01, 2008

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Get flight status notification, unless late or delayed

Apparently, on the Southwest Airlines website, you can't get flight information notifications unless you sign up well before the flight is scheduled to leave. If you find out the flight is delayed, and then decide you want to be notified, you get this piece of broken logic:
The flight information that you entered is for a flight that has either already arrived or departed, or the notification time that you selected is too close to the arrival or departure time.
Any programmer would advise against the ambiguity introduced by those "OR" statements.

Does it mean you can't request notification of arrival time after the plane has departed?

Sunday, September 21, 2008

New Nantucket Nectar bottle shape

New Nantucket Nectar bottle shape
Originally uploaded by manducasexta

I'm so sad to see this - I loved the big fat Nantucket Nectar bottle shape (left) and the printed letters on it, the old-fashioned shape and the non-rectangular label. Now it's the same smooth bottle you see everywhere.


Originally uploaded by yarnzombie

This is on my "places to go" list.

Monday, September 15, 2008

Friday, September 12, 2008


Pork cutlets (from tenderloin, dredged in flour, egg, and fresh white bread crumbs)
Mashed potatoes (toasted 30 cloves of garlic on the stove top, used 2 cups 1/2 & 1/2; 2 sticks butter, 5 oz alouette cheese)
Salad (spinach, dried cranberries, candied pecans, goat cheese, some vinaigrette dressing)

Outcome: one guest, AS, said she liked the food so much she was "feeling romantic about it."


Thursday, September 04, 2008

Paddling the Long Beach canals

Kayaking in the canals of the Naples neighborhood of Long Beach (actually quite lovely in spite of Long Beach being the second busiest port in the United States), kc and I saw something I haven't seen before: people paddling while standing up on big floaty surfboards. Apparently it's a surfing thing, but these folks were just leisurely kicking around the canals. I didn't really get it - it seems like fun for waves, but very un-ergonomic for calm water.

Photos (admittedly not of stand-up paddlers) clockwise from top right by flickr users kris247, Mr Babyman, kris247 and Binary LA.

Wednesday, September 03, 2008


In more food news, I went to Gingergrass on Sunday night. I've heard mixed things about it, but I was totally sold. Great company helped. I had the special shrimp and coconut, partially split with kc who had the clay pot curry vegetables with tofu. We also got a steamed noodle veggie dumpling, and our food pals got their favorite, the wok-tossed noodles. Yum.

Scoops: wonder-gelato

I finally got to Scoops tonight, after going to a live session of The Moth. The Moth was fun, but the gelato was fantastic. Scoops apparently avoids publicity, so I'll avoid linking to it. I had two flavors: salty caramel and orange chocolate. AR had two flavors too: brown bread and strawberry with poppy seed. Apparently, sometimes they have salt chocolate. Wonderful. The folks behind the counter were very friendly. We chatted a bit with our server, who had some good suggestions. While we were sitting inside eating, they closed up, but not before giving us a big to-go container full of coffee and green tea gelato. We briefly chatted up the guy who comes up with the flavors and makes them all every night (Tai Kim). I felt like I was in the presence of greatness. The flavors were all quite strong, an very fresh. Wonderful.

Tuesday, September 02, 2008

bacon-chocolate crunch bar: Jonathan Gold says yes

Photo by Ringo H.W. Chiu / For The [LA]Times

J. Gold article

Monday, August 18, 2008

"Sortation:" what's wrong with a gerund?

This is what FedEx calls their sorting centers for their SmartPost service. If it's good enough for William Safire (here), it should be good enough for me. Unfortunately, it isn't.

Olympic-level idiocy

Three gripes about the Olympic opening ceremonies: firstly, the kid scheduled to sing a patriotic Chinese song while the Chinese olympic team entered the stadium was switched out at last minute. The new girl's voice was overdubbed by the earlier singer's. The switch was revealed days later by a musical director of the opening ceremonies. Why the switch? Because:

"The child on camera should be flawless in image, internal feeling and expression."
(from, Olympic Lip-Synching Singer Outed Following Opening-Ceremonies Switch)

"The national interest requires that the girl should have good looks and a good grasp of the song and look good on screen."
(from WaPo, Pretty Face and Voice Didn't Belong to Same Girl)

My second gripe concerns the fireworks that were set off in the shape of footsteps advancing toward the ceremony. They were represented on television by computer-generated graphics. The graphics were produced by "a team of hundreds of Chinese visual effects specialists who worked for nearly a year to pull it off." This wasn't revealed until later, neither in China or the US. Until then the clearest indication of what we were watching was Matt Lauer's inarticulate and ridiculous: "This is actually almost animation."
(from NPR, Computer-Enhanced Fireworks)

Lastly, there was a group of kids dressed in traditional clothing from ethnic minority groups were actually from the majority Han group, even though "the official Olympic guide said the children were from the ethnic groups they represented."
(from WSJ, Chinese children in ethnic costume come from Han majority)

On the subject of actual Olympic athletic competition, it turns out that "Live" does not mean what one might expect. On the west coast, NBC is broadcasting the actual events with a "live" graphic, although they took place three hours earlier. NBC's response to questions about this disparity? Two or maybe four times per hour, they add a time stamp to indicate when the event actually was live.
(from Reuters, Olympics, NBC dogged by fakery accusations)

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

A Prius kind of day

This convertible Prius surprised me this morning. A little web-searching suggests it's made by Newport Convertible Engineering.

Later I was walking in a parking lot, choking on cigarette smoke coming out of a Prius. Hilarious.

Monday, July 14, 2008

Bastille Day Cheesecake

I made a three layer cheesecake for my friend's Bastille Day party. The picture is an in-progress shot. The cake was huge, and served about 16 people who were also eating from other desserts.

The recipe is a bastardization of about 3 different recipes from Cook's Illustrated, Epicurious and cdkitchen. Here's roughly what I did.

(Cook's Illustrated)
Line bottom of 9-inch springform pan with foil, tuck foil underneath pan bottom, assemble pan, then pull foil around side of pan, (see illustrations 1 and 2, below). Brush bottom and sides with butter.

In a bowl stir together the cookie crumbs and the butter until the mixture is combined well and pat the mixture onto the bottom and 1/2 inch up the side of a 9 1/2-inch springform pan. Chill the crust for 30 minutes.

(Cook's Illustrated)
Meanwhile, beat cream cheese in food processor until smooth. Gradually add sugar and mix until sugar dissolves, about 3 minutes.

(winging it)
Split the cream cheese-sugar combo into thirds. To the first third, add about 1 cup of frozen blackberries. Mix until smooth. if desired, add blue food coloring (The mixture was purple, and adding the blue didn't have much effect. in the future I might omit it.)

Beat two eggs, and from that mixture, pour about 1.3 eggs into the food processor. Add 2 TBS each cream and sour cream. mix until just incorporated (this is why you don't add the frozen fruit at the end; you don't want to beat the eggs or cream much).

(modified from cdkitchen)
Pour blackberry portion into crust. freeze for 40 minutes. meanwhile, prepare the strawberry and vanilla portions in the same way as the first, adding 1/2 tsp vanilla to the vanilla portion only. You'll use 4 eggs in all. refrigerate each portion while waiting to pour them.

When the blackberry layer is firm, remove from freezer and add vanilla layer. In the picture, I've spooned on a little of the vanilla layer to see how well the blackberry level has gelled. Freeze till firm, about 1/2 hour. Adjust oven rack to middle position and heat oven to 500 degrees. Add red layer when vanilla is firm.

(Cook's Illustrated)
Bake cheesecake at 500 degrees for 10 minutes. Reduce oven temperature to 200 degrees, leaving oven door ajar until oven temperature reduces. Bake until perimeter of cake is set, but center jiggles like Jell-O when pan is tapped, about 1 hour longer. Remove springform pan and set on wire rack; cool to room temperature. Cover and refrigerate until chilled, at least 4 hours. (Can be refrigerated up to 4 days.)

(hard learned lesson)
Note: you really must refrigerate for 4 hours or the center of the cake won't set. You'll be left with a gooey, tasty mess. To make the cheesecake on the day you'll eat it, it has to be started at least 7 hours before.

Sunday, July 06, 2008

My country 'tis of bacteria

At an Independence Day pops concert, we heard a vocal medley of patriotic songs including "America" (recognizable as "My Country 'Tis of Thee"). I was delighted by the line "Microbes and giant trees" in the list of American things we love, but it turns out it's "Thy groves." Oh well. (Microbes available from

McGee Creek Hike

A good change from the city. Don't miss the bug eating locoweed and the dog chilling his paws. The snow in July blew my mind although I grew up seeing it in Colorado. The whole trip I was struck by how much the Eastern Sierra reminded me of Colorado, from the mountains and fir trees all the way to the sagebrush.

You may also notice some haze in the pictures. At least part of it is from the prodigious fires in the area. The California Office of Emergency Services has some great maps and data available (that's a 2008 link - parse it if necessary).

Sunday, June 29, 2008

TDC Stereo Project-or-view

TDC Stereo Project-or-view
Originally uploaded by _buttercup

I fell for the design the minute I saw it, and couldn't stop myself from salvaging it from recycling center. I'm still thinking about its future. Meta frame/controller for digital photo frame? If I could make one front dial scan through the photos like Cover Flow and another zoom in and out, I'd die happy. Or maybe it should hold the monitor for my home server. And/or run it off my old iPod Nano, maybe with iPodLinux. Or my NSLU2.

The screen is 7 7/8" x 8 7/8". Here are the internal schematics.

My goals for it are low power consumption and the ability to turn on the whole unit with a single switch, to reduce fuss, and so i can run it off a timer.

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Jesus loves destructive, proselytizing renters

(The small text says "Go Vegetarian!")

My renter left this on the fridge in his apartment when he moved out. I'm not sure what I'm most annoyed by:
  1. Being proselytized to about Jesus
  2. Being proselytized to about vegetarianism
  3. Peta, for freak's sake. I'm an animal researcher! There've been a lot of attacks on animal researchers regionally. I've killed fewer mice than most homeowners, and more humanely, but there isn't necessarily much safety in that: so far, researchers have been targeted apparently randomly.
  4. Leaving a strongly-adhered sticker on a brand new fridge. You can see the marks where I started to try to peel it off.

Thursday, June 19, 2008


Dreaming about the day I'm not a graduate student anymore. (Desk from boingboing).

Sunday, May 04, 2008

The politics of taxi dancing

Lots of NYC cab drivers live and/or garage in Brooklyn. I felt like a
native when I called out to an off-duty cab at a stop-light, "Brooklyn?"
"Park Slope."
"Get in."

My pleasure dimmed when he made two comments that probably indicate
he's got a race problem, and I thought about the many advantages that
accrue from living in desireable, central neighborhoods.

Friday, May 02, 2008

"Direct" flight

This seems circuitous. Maybe it was an effort to minimize the
turbulence. Even so, it was pretty rocky, and we got the most serious
messages I've ever heard from the pilot about the turbulence.

Hooray for public transit, but...

Could we get some better colors? (The trains have a large stripe of
the fusia and gold.)

White Boston

Surprised again by how white tourist- and business-Boston is.

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Sunday, April 13, 2008

Oh, the cultcha

rach 3
Originally uploaded by _buttercup

Fun. I liked the Prokofiev Romeo and Juliet. There was an encore piano duo with Michael Tilson Thomas and Yefim Bronfman that was entertaining. While I was listening to the "Rach 3" piece, I was thinking, "do I not like piano concertos?" because I was not thrilled. I liked the lighter parts, but I thought some of the moodier parts would be better distributed across the instruments that were, after all, right there. Happily my company for the concert, much more experienced in these things than I am, basically agreed, and I didn't feel like such a country mouse.

Merrell's fake Uggs (Merrell Yeti

merrell side
Originally uploaded by _buttercup

These boots turned out to be a terrific purchase. I was planning a trip to New England in late December four years ago when I decided I needed some really warm boots. I bought these (used, I know, that can freak one out) for $75 with shipping, which is still a whole lot of money. I've gotten more use than I expected from them. I take them with me anytime I go anywhere cold. Since they pack down to nothing but sole, I end up taking them more places than I expected. And if they're with me, I always wear them. I also wear them on remotely chilly nights in SoCal. They're too lose to be comfortable for long walks, but they're so easy to slip in and out of that I find myself wearing them a lot. Unsurprisingly, they are truly warm. I think Uggs are aesthetically hideous, and these follow that trend. Still, the high comfort and convenience mean I'm willing to uglify and old-trendify my look on their behalf.

Thursday, April 10, 2008

Happy accident

I took this shot unintentionally, but i find it strangely compelling.

Wednesday, April 09, 2008

A favorite place

How could this be a favorite place? Because I can be very alone, sing
to my music and let the dog run.

Sunday, March 23, 2008

Tristan und Isolde

I went to a movie theater yesterday for over five hours to watch the Metropolitan Opera simulcast of their production of Tristan und Isolde. I thought I'd sleep during it, given how long it was and how little sleep I got this week. I didn't sleep much though, and I really enjoyed it. The set, as you can see above, was lovely. The backstage interviews were also fantastic.

One thing I hate is how I easily forget who was involved in productions. I made picture flash cards for this one.

Thursday, March 20, 2008

Minor JPL-watch item: lawyer lauded

Alan Mittelstaedt at the LA City Beat (in the context of criticizing a lawyer):
You should be a lawyer more like Dan Stormer, who for free represented JPL scientists who fought back the invasive forces of the federal government that wanted to do background checks on their credit history and sex lives in the name of national security.

Thursday, March 13, 2008


Originally uploaded by _buttercup

My dog loves the inside of his soccer ball.

Saturday, March 08, 2008

Spinach salad v0.2

Today's version had the same red pepper, spinach, apples and gorgonzola dressing, but I added canned mandarin oranges and left out the sausages I tried last time. Good, but definitely required the side dish of hummus and pita to make a full meal. I'd like to try to a wilted (i.e. briefly cooked) spinach salad with cheese and walnuts, but the inside of my mouth is too tender for walnuts right now. It was nearly too tender for today's salad.

I experiment

It's nice when it's pretty too.

Monday, March 03, 2008

State-supported prayer breakfasts?

Why? Why does an elected figure have to have a prayer breakfast? Can't they envision a broader moral leadership? If Mr. Random Mayor (I don't know of women mayors having prayer breakfasts, although they certainly may) wants very badly to have a prayer breakfast, I say that's your privilege. But use your name, not your title, and don't use city money to publicize the damned thing. Here's my local annoyance, and here's a link to the prayer breakfast network, which asserts that their strategy is to allow breakfasters to "experience a fresh reminder of our country's Spiritual Heritage." They seem a little fringe though, so maybe they're not as much a part of prayer breakfasts as they'd like.

Fashion don't

One of the first things I saw this morning was a discordant image in the periphery. Turns out even the corner of my sleepy eye is startled by the combination of jammies I was wearing.

Sunday, March 02, 2008


spinach salad
Originally uploaded by _buttercup

For some unknown reason I was motivated to make some food today. This salad has spinach, red peppers, apples, chicken-mango sausage, and some kind of gorgonzola dressing from trader joe's. Ultimately I couldn't soak enough of the grease out of the sausage, and the salad is too greasy. Guess I'll have to stick to eating the sausage with pasta and tomato sauce. Maybe I'll use bacon for the salad if I'm planning on making it my whole meal.

Thursday, February 28, 2008


I am on a perpetual quest for a better lab timer. Unfortunately the features I want don't seem to live in a single timer. I've thought about buying parts and programming/soldering something with the features I want, but it's not worth the time it would take. Here's my list of needed features:

1) Enter countdown time using number buttons, none of that up/down crap. In other words, it should have a keyboard like this:

1a) The interface for setting the countdown time shouldn't be stupid. For example, I shouldn't have to hold down a "set" button. If I'm pressing a number button, what else might I want to be doing? Obviously, I want to be setting the time.

2) When the elapsed time is finished, if I don't silence the alarm within a minute, it should stop beeping and start counting up so when I come back I know how long it's been.

3) It should show three different countdowns at once, like this:

4) It should have a "lock" slider button that prevents the buttons from responding when I put it in my pocket.

5) It should have a clip so I can attach it the outside of my pocket when I need to take it with me and use it frequently.

6) It should have a magnet on the back so I can attach it to the eye-level metal rail at my bench.

7) It should not be ginormous.

It's this kind of thing that I find to be a ridiculous need given the technology we have today. I can program. I can get a circuit board printed. I can print to a 3D printer. Why can't I make the timer of my dreams easily?

(Image and inspiration from

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Dynamic memory? Not so much

A group of researchers found a way to retrieve memory in RAM from a computer: lower the temperature of the RAM chips. One method they used was compressed air. This isn't a real security threat to the merely mortal among us - I'm interested in it because it sounds like an incredibly fun project. Still they are handicapped by researcher-talk: "data written even momentarily to RAM persists for a non-trivial period of time." Here's all the dirt.

Smoothie yums

smoothie ingredients
Originally uploaded by _buttercup
I've been on a smoothie kick since I got braces. It's very nice to have icy cold in my mouth when my teeth hurt. I'm getting more fruit this way too. Approx amounts:

9 lg frozen strawberries
3/4 c frozen blackberries
enough chocolate rice milk to cover about 3/4 of the fruit
1/2 cup yogurt
~4 Tbs quick oats
~4 Tbs low glycemic protein powder (80 calories)

i'm not usually much of a supplement person, but i like the protein powder because it seems to help with sugar crashes. Ditto the oats. I'm also a fan of the idea of low-glycemic foods, although there's plenty of available sugar in this smoothie.

Wednesday, February 06, 2008

Large-scale projects

I'm a sucker for large-scale projects. Bridges! How are they possible? It's hard for me to really believe that all those little steps can make things so big and strong. Lately I've come across a few things that get me excited in the same way.

I found this picture on the Eye Level Pasadena blog. It's a half an apartment building being moved.

There is also a very fun time lapse movie of construction on campus here. Why are time lapse movies so pleasing?

And finally, there is the great tree moving of the past few days. Click on the image to see a quick animation. It's annoying to watch after the first few times.

Friday, February 01, 2008

Cute golf shoes (?!)

Someone (who shall remain nameless, lest you end up wanting to curse her too) introduced me to these golf shoes. Aren't they lovely? I can't stop thinking about them.

Thursday, January 31, 2008

Stick Figures in Peril

This is the name a terrific Flickr group. It lead me to this sign:

Moving Gate Can Cause Serious Injury

There is so much gated parking here in Heck that this graphic has seared its way into my consciousness. The drama of the figure is quite arresting, but i'm confused about how the victim's arm is apparently behind the thing s/he's being squished into. (Perhaps this is meant to portray a man; in Sign-Land, only men wear pants. Does this mean women don't have anything to fear from moving gates? Or maybe all the victims have been men so far?)

Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Caffeine Test Strip

After a sleepless night followed a supposedly decaf afternoon coffee drink, I'm anxiously awaiting the development of these caffeine test strips. I envision them to be like the pH test strips above.

(cite: Ladenson RC, Crimmins DL, Landt Y, Ladenson JH. Isolation and characterization of a thermally stable recombinant anti-caffeine heavy-chain antibody fragment. Analytical Chemistry June 1, 2006.)

Saturday, January 26, 2008

Another book I want to read: Johnny One-Eye

Being besotted with Patrick O'Brian's Aubrey-Maturin series, I'm newly respectful of historical fiction. Here's a book that sounds like fun:

Here's part of the blurb:

Jerome Charyn now delights with this picaresque tour de force. He reanimates a war-torn Manhattan overrun by Redcoats and deserted by all but the Loyalists—and Mrs. Gertrude Jennings, the tempestuous, redheaded queen of Manhattan’s most spectacular bordello. When the novel opens, young double agent John Stocking is being interrogated by Washington, a rebel commander far removed from the dour, silent man of most history books.

New book by doctor on trial for manslaughter via abortion in 1971

I just heard about this book, and it sounds terrific:

Broken Justice is a true story about Dr. Ken Edelin, a young, black doctor who arrived in Boston in 1971 to do his residency training in Obstetrics and Gynecology at Boston City Hospital. In April 1974 he was three months away from completing his residency when he was indicted on a charge of manslaughter by a secret Grand Jury. The indictment concerned an abortion he had performed on a 17-year old girl, and the alleged victim washer aborted fetus. The indictment was sought by an over zealous, anti-abortion prosecutor and because of the racial, political and religious climate which existed in Boston the indictment received national and international attention. In January of 1975 his sensational six week trial began before a jury which was all white, predominantly male and overwhelmingly Catholic.