Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Very quick blog post here, on the subject of spam.

I looked at my dashboard and it said that my page from the 2nd of November got 54 views. Then it broke down where the majority of those views came from. Vampirestat.com was the largest. Luckily, I googled the name before I just punched up the URL to find out more; I avoided noxious adspam and possibly trojan horses or other malware. Suffice it to say, avoid vampirestat or any other site ending in -stat. They are robot spam sites. For this and other helpful information, take a look at this fellow blogger's site: spam spoiler

Sunday, November 3, 2013


Today has been a truly mixed bag. I started off the day making a waffle recipe by Alton Brown, to use up some buttermilk we had in the fridge. Mmmm, waffles. Would make those ones again

Next, I headed off on the bus to Richmond. I've been communicating with a friend on Ravelry for more than two years, and she was in town for a convention so we finally got to meet! It was awesome  -- got to spend a couple hours together before she had to leave for her plane. We had lunch at Ceili's Irish Pub, which was excellent, and the service was also really good. Both on the way down and back I knit more on my Quidditch Surprise Gift. Now at 10 inches. Hope to get it to 50% by the end of tonight. We shall see how successful I am ;)

Upon returning home, however, I got to pay for my gallivanting with chores. Specifically, repair jobs. The porch deck has been leaking for the last year. And there are only so many 121 litre garbage cans you can station in the garage to catch the drips before the whole thing looks like the bunker of a survivalist. Not to mention becomes a major walking hazard in the cold winter.  So, gallon can of deck repair gunk in hand and a point trowel, off I go into the cold fall air to repair holes and hopefully stop the ingress of water into the garage.

The stuff I have to work with is a black, gel tar-like substance. Which reeks to high heaven. Seriously. The can suggests that one wear a respirator, and I can see why if you are doing this as a regular job. You won't get high if you go without wearing one, but you may wish to vacate your digestive tract. It is best not to breathe, really. All the cold air outside makes for great motivation in completing the task very quickly (no coat because I really don't want this crap all over my one good coat; I'm wearing my long shirt and jeans I use for painting and other grungy tasks.) Gloveless, because the vinyl gloves I have are likely to tear while doing this, I end up with a fair amount of it on my arms despite my best efforts. Which leads to the final discovery of the night: goop remover.

The label on the can, of course, recommends the one thing we don't have in the house or garage -- mineral spirits--to clean up with. Not sure if they intend it for human skin or not. Anyhow, before heading back to Walmart, we decide to avail ourselves of all the available options. (1) Sunlight bar soap -- useless. This stuff is staying on, and does not budge, despite using a scrub brush as well. (2) Vinegar -- equally useless.  (3)Acetone -- does lift a teensy bit of it off, but has the lovely added effect of making my skin bright pink. Fun.
Things are looking a little dire at this point, when my sister has the bright idea of having me use Dawn dish detergent. Surprisingly, it doesn't remove all of it, but it does help break it up a bit. At this point I make a joke to my mom about trying the cleanser she found on Pinterest. We figure there's nothing to lose, so I have her mix me up some. It's two ingredients, folks: olive oil and baking soda. And it works like a hot dang. Boom. Gone.
So, the next time you're covered in oil-based paint or stain or tar, remember this formula: 1 part baking soda, 1 part olive oil (or other vegetable oil; no need to get pricy). Mix to form a paste and apply. Also works a treat at stripping oil-based stain from wood cupboards.

Saturday, November 2, 2013


What sounds like a brand name for those blow pens that were so popular a few years ago with the younger set, is actually the impetus to get off my hiney and write something. Anything. On a daily basis. So here goes.

Today's entry:

Lidless Chicken Pot Pie Stew

4 chicken breasts
1 medium onion
1 cup baby carrots
2 cloves garlic
1 cup green peas
5 button mushrooms
1/4 - 1/2 cup butter, for sauteing
1 tsp each thyme, sage & rosemary
1 can Campbell's cream of celery soup
1 can's worth of 2% milk (10 oz)
Montreal steak spice
1 cup McCain's hashbrowns (the tiny cubed kind, not the stringy kind)

Thaw 4 chicken breasts in microwave for 3 minutes, till half-thawed. Cut breasts into 1/2-1" cubes. Sprinkle liberally with Montreal steak spice.Set aside.

On separate cutting board, cut baby carrots into small slices, about 1/4" thick. Slice onion into small diced pieces. Peel and mince two garlic cloves. Set aside.

In electric fry pan, heat about 2 Tbsp butter at  300 degrees till melted. Add in chicken, and spread the chicken around so there is plenty of space between pieces to encourage browning. Put lid on frypan, and let cook for about 5 minutes.

In a large regular fry pan, heat 2 Tbsp of butter on medium. When melted, add in the chopped vegetables and saute till onions are translucent and carrots have begun to soften. While this cooks, wash and chop the mushrooms. Add the thyme, sage and rosemary. Stir well

At this point, flip your chicken. It should be all cooked from the steaming. Now, with lid off, brown the chicken. Should take another 5-10 minutes

While that is happening, add the frozen peas to the vegetables, and stir to combine. After 3-5 minutes, add the mushrooms. after another 4 minutes or so, add the hashbrowns. Add another 2 Tbsp of butter to the mix, and then let cook on its own for a few minutes.

Once the chicken has browned, open the can of soup and add it to the electric fry pan. Add in the 10 oz of milk, stir to combine. When hashbrowns have been browned, add the vegetable mixture to the chicken. Let cook for another 5 minutes or so, to let the flavours marry together. Check the level of spices are to your taste. Serve. makes enough for 5-6 people.

Can be served on toast, if you want to stretch the stew.

Saturday, August 10, 2013

If you like big books...

Saw this reprinted on another blog. It's too good not to share here. And it makes me want to immediately go check out Jim C. Hines' collected works.  From: http://www.jimchines.com/2011/08/baby-got-books/
Baby Got Books
by Jim C. Hines
(with apologies to Sir Mixalot)
Oh, my, god. Becky, look at her book.
It is
 so big. You could, like,
Fend off a rabid jaguar.
But, you know, who even reads those genres?
She only wants dragons and swords.
It’s not like that’s real literature, right?
I mean, her book, is just so big.
I can’t believe it’s just so thick, it’s like
Swollen, I mean – wow. Look!
It’s just so … fat.
I like big books and I cannot lie.
You other readers can’t deny
That when a kid walks in with The Name of the WindLike a hardbound brick of win.
Story bling.
Wanna swipe that thing
Cause you see that boy is speeding
Right through the book he’s reading.
I’m hooked and I can’t stop pleading.
Wanna curl up with that for ages,
All thousand pages.
Reviewers tried to warn me.
But with that plot you hooked
Me like Bradley.
Ooh, crack that fat spine.
You know I wanna make you mine.
This book is stella ’cause it ain’t some quick novella.
No time for writers
Whose work is much slighter.
One-shot plot, over quicker than a nickel slot.
I’m tired of magazines,
Tellin’ stories with just three scenes.
Take a fantasy fan and ask ’em if
They’d rather read Tolkien, so…
Readers (yeah), readers (yeah)
Go get Martin’s brand new book (hell yeah).
Well read it, read it, read it, read it, read that hefty book.
Fantasies fat.
(Bulging shelves with the epic plotlines)
I like ’em thick and dense.
Good stories should be immense.
I just can’t stop myself.
I’m readin’ all of Wheel of Time,
Now where’s my Goodkind?
I wanna read Durham,
Scott Lynch and Pete Hamilton,
I don’t like my tales too quick.
Save flimsy old plots for SyFy flicks.
I want a twenty page prologue.
To write up on my blog.
Books with mad sequels.
Readers know they ain’t got no equals.
So I’m walking through my bookstore.
Searching the shelves for books I adore.
You can keep those slim things.
I want my novels like Rowling’s.
A word to the hard core writers.
Go pull an all-nighter.
I want that book wider.
But I gotta be straight when I say I’m gonna read
’Til the break of dawn.
Zelazny’s got it goin’ on.
A lot of folks don’t like ’em long.
’Cause them punks even skim the Brothers Grimm.
But I’d rather read it slow
’Cause I’ll savor the flavor
And I’m down to get the fiction on.
So bookstores (yeah), bookstores (yeah),
If you want me comin’ in through your doors (yeah),
Then turn ’em out,
Face ’em out,
Let me browse until I shout.
Fantasies phat.
(Bulging shelves with the epic plotlines.)
Yeah baby
When it’s my library,
Kirkus ain’t got nothing to do with my selection.
AnathemWay of Kings, and Cyteen,
Sweetest sight I’ve ever seen.
So you only read the Cliff Notes,
Frightened off by the slightest bloat,
Well your mind is gettin’ swindled, ’cause the stories just dwindle.
My brand new Kindle is obese with books ten megs apiece.
You can do e-books or paper, but please don’t trim that book.
Some editors’ll say to cut that,
And tell you trim twelve chapters of fat.
So you slash and delete it.
But I’m sayin’ I want to read it.
Now some folks want ’em thin.
Well I say that’s a sin.
Gimme font that’s small, that’s a true temptation,
Something big like Foundation.
It’s the doorstop books that’ll make me grin.
Want to steal that thing.
Give me that tome I’m taking it home.
’Cause reading is in my genome.
Some critic she tried to dis
The books that were on my list.
She said Williams was dull and dreary.
McCaffrey just made her weary.
But writers if your book is fat,
And you’re sick of those one-star prats,
Click my contact link and e-mail me, ’cause this is where it’s at.
Fantasies phat.

Monday, August 5, 2013

Musings on Consistency

           A foolish consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds, adored by little statesmen and philosophers and divines. With consistency a great soul has simply nothing to do. He may as well concern himself with his shadow on the wall. Speak what you think now in hard words, and to-morrow speak what to-morrow thinks in hard words again, though it contradict every thing you said to-day. — 'Ah, so you shall be sure to be misunderstood.' — Is it so bad, then, to be misunderstood? Pythagoras was misunderstood, and Socrates, and Jesus, and Luther, and Copernicus, and Galileo, and Newton, and every pure and wise spirit that ever took flesh. To be great is to be misunderstood.  -- Ralph Waldo Emerson, Self-Reliance

I've always liked this quote by Ralph Waldo Emerson. Actually, I like a lot of quotes from RWE. His writing just seems to lend itself well to becoming sound bites that help inform reality. But like a television sound bite, it is very easy to take a quoted line out of context and make it serve meanings for which it was never intended. No wheres is this more evident that when discussing the importance of consistency.

Perhaps it would be best to begin the discussion with a talk about what consistency is. Consistency is defined by the Merriam-Webster's Online Dictionary as being "a condition of adhering together, or a firmness of constitution or character... an agreement or harmony of parts or features to one another or a whole, esp. the ability to be asserted together without contradiction." In essence, it is the state of being something that seems to belong with a group of things or the ability to be unwavering in your morals/character. In a world where it often seems like everyone is swayable given threats of enough bad press, a person that has what was once called "the courage of their convictions," seems attractive. Certainly, in a position of importance, say that of a specialist surgeon, it is desirable to have a person handling your case that can be consistent. A cynic, however, would say that those desiring consistency are really after people who are predictable; that requiring you do not go back on your previously given word or decisions limits you unnecessarily. Who is right?

Certainly, Oscar Wilde would be on the side of the cynics. He has been quoted as saying that consistency is "the last refuge of the unimaginative." By which it he is saying that if one cannot come up with a novel idea or a new direction at which to look at a problem, at least you can be the epitome of perfection when it comes to doing what you already do. This ties into one of the things that RWE mentions when he states that  

                 Ah, so you shall be sure to be misunderstood.' — Is it so bad, then, to be misunderstood?                                   Pythagoras was misunderstood, and Socrates, and Jesus, and Luther, and Copernicus, and                                Galileo, and Newton, and every pure and wise spirit that ever took flesh. To be great is to be                            misunderstood.”

Predictability, or conforming with the orthodoxy of the day, allows one to be acceptable to one's neighbours and society as a whole. Non-conformity leads to misunderstandings and being looked at quizzically by one's neighbours and co-workers.  Managers don't necessarily want excessivly creative ideas and input,, which may not come on a consistent basis but only after long periods of cultivation. Instead, they seem to want consistent output -- settling for the less imaginative in the need for quick resolution.

To be creative, to be original, seems to be something that flies in the face of consistency. If consistency is so prized in the business and social worlds,  it makes it difficult to innovate - to fly in the face of consistency with what is accepted practice. If the person being innovative is one who had already taken a strong stance in the opposite direction, we call into question how truthful their comments may be. A scientist, for instance, that had previously taken the viewpoint that protons, electrons and neutrons were the smallest building blocks of matter would surely end up with egg on their face with the discovery of quarks in the late 1960's. Suppose that same scientist had been used as an expert witness for court cases where he swore to the truth of the knowledge of there being only the three smallest particles.  If, sometime between two court cases he was presented with evidence that (a) proved to him that quarks existed, and (b) was reproducible, would he not change his testimony next time? The next time he was in court, would he not testify that there were now four particles, not three? Surely, the defence rip his testimony to shreds because it was not consistent with what he had been spouting up till a short time ago. But just because the facts he is stating have changed, it does not mean that the veracity of the person who is saying them should be untrustworthy. What matters here is how the fact-reciter came to have his ideas changed.

 In the above scenario, a scientist would not generally be easily swayed. There would have to be  several kinds of proof given, and according to the scientific method, the facts of any theory should not change unless the proof being cited is reproducible by other scientists in different labs. Where people often become skeptical is when a person seems to change his opinions whenever holding the opposite opinion is more valuable; not when a viewpoint has been disproved. Politicians are famous for doing this, which is just one of the many reasons why people generally do not trust politicians. R.W. Emerson states, however, "Speak what you think now in hard words, and to-morrow speak what to-morrow thinks in hard words again, though it contradict every thing you said to-day." How does that fit with the need to not seem wishy-washy? Emerson is calling on us to take a stance and defend it strongly, come what may, for so long as the conditions that make you believe that stance hold. This is not likely to be forever; for some it may not even last a season. But while you are of that opinion, do not hem and haw and be easily converted. Demand proof if someone questions your stance. Consider thoughtfully. Weigh things accurately. Then make up your mind again. If you find things need to change, then do so. If not, then have the "courage of your convictions" and stand strong. Consistency is the "hobgoblin of little minds" because only minds obsessed with the trivial minutiae of appearances should be worried about whether or not they are seeming to not go back on their own statements. The rest know that the to be obsessively worried about the little, piddly things in life will hold us back from discovery, creativity and realizing our potential. 

Saturday, August 3, 2013

Going BANANAs!

It's time to revive this blog! So, I shall be celebrating Blog Almost Nearly All Nights in August! (BANANA)
If you're going to do something, always have a snappy anacronym {or at least a cool initialism.) 

So, let's start it off with something book-centric. I've been scanning a few posts from BookRiot over the last few days. One of the things in their recent thread is the idea of an author alphabet. Can you come up with an author you read for every letter? http://bookriot.com/2013/08/02/a-is-for-achebe-who-makes-your-author-alphabet/    This isn't a bad idea -- might save you from going back to the same tired clumps of books in the library!

So, here goes. The following authors are ones that are on my 52 books to read list for this year: 

A - Arthur, Keri (Darkness Splintered)
B-Beddor, Frank (The Looking Glass Chronicles)
C-Christie, Agatha (Murder at the Vicarage)
D-Doctorow, Cory (Little Brother)
E-Emery, Anne (Children of the Morning)
F-Fenn, Lionel (Kent Montana and the Really Ugly Thing from Mars)
G-Green, John (The Fault in Our Stars)
H-Heinlein, Robert (Stranger in a Strange Land)
I-Isleib, Roberta (Deadly Advice)
J-Jacobs, A.J. (The Guinea Pig Diaries)
K- Kellerman, Jesse (The Executor)
L-Lee, Harper (To Kill a Mockingbird)
M- McKinley, Robin (The Blue Sword)
N-Nestle, Marion (Food Politics: How the Food Industry Influences Nutrition and Health)
O-O'Dell, Scott (Island of the Blue Dolphins)
P- Pratchett, Terry (Colour of Magic)
Q-Quinn, Spencer (Dog On It)
R- Rubenstein, Julian (The Ballad of the Whiskey Robber)
S-Sanderson, Brandon (Mistborn)
T-Taylor, Patrick (An Irish Country Doctor)
U-Updale, Eleanor (Montmorency: Thief, Liar..)
V-Valente, Catherynne M. (The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a Ship of Her Own Making)
W-Willis, Connie (Doomsday book)
X- Chen, Brian X. (Always On: How the iPhone unlocked the anything - anytime - anywhere- future -- and locked us in. 
Y-Yu, Charles (How to Live Safely in a Science Fictional Universe)
Z-Zusak, Markus (The Book Thief)

Okay, the one for X I had to flex a little --thank you author keyword search at my local library! -- but the rest are all ones I had already had on my "to read" lists in various forms. I'd be interested to see who you've got on your "to read" lists. 

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

On the Benefits of ProcrastiNation

 Now leaving Procrasti Nation. Next stop: Insomniaville!

Last December, I was introduced to the concept of ProcrastiNation, via a cartoon from a friend's Facebook page. Here's the graphic, by the artist John Atkinson:

According to the map, I have visited several of these fair provinces. I don't spend a lot of time in Solitaireitory and Snack Sector.  I keep meaning to revisit Doodle District, but get caught up in the Range of Excuses for why I need to spend time elsewhere. My time in the other districts is controlled by several factors, including the need to put food on the table. The picture is funny for two reasons. First of all, I don't know a single person who cannot relate to having done some of these behaviours and achieving some of its "exports". Second of all, its clever play on words. But at the same time it is funny, it makes me think.It's true that procrastination can be  a great drain when taken to extremes, but indulging in some of the behaviours illustrated in the graphic can also be a tremendous boon, particularly in jobs requiring creative, novel solutions.

First of all, creativity is an inborn skill that must be practiced. No one comes to the Earth uncreative. Just like no one maintains their creativity without devoting time to it. But being creative is not something you can do constantly  without replenishment. Think of creativity like a short-order cook in a diner. You come to the diner, you need something fast and original done fairly speedily. Maybe your boss is breathing down your neck about a report that they want done yesterday. Maybe you have to come up with an alternative method of instructing place value to a group of seven year-olds who aren't responding to the textbook methods of explaining this concept. Maybe you want to start up a fantasy weblog about space chimps from the planet Grobotznik who go around delivering pizzas for a living. Whatever the reason, if the diner hasn't gotten a lot of business lately, you might not get your food as speedily as you might like, because the manager may have cut back on staffing due to low demand (decreased practice).  Sometimes you have the reverse situation -- a flurry of customers who all are standing around indignantly waiting for their orders to come through. It doesn't matter that there is only one chef when they needed it yesterday. While the chef will do their best to keep up, the goods available to be transformed into creative meals  will be rapidly reduced. In order to maintain proper productivity levels in the diner of your mind, it is essential to get those goods restocked so the diner can continue on doing what it does best -- speedy productions of food. Or creative ideas, as the case may be. Which in our case cannot be recharged with by going to the grocery store, but by distraction, rest or exposure to new thoughts and ideas. 

Distraction, rest and exposure to new thoughts and ideas are three key ways to replenish the mental stores of creativity. They also number six out of the eight possible provinces of ProcrastiNation: Napland, Snack Sector, Game Zone, Doodle District, Surfside and Solitaireitory. In the category of rest, we have Napland and Snack Sector. By taking care of the body's physical needs helps ensure that it is not suffering needless physical strains that can be avoided. Plus, any dreams that may occur during visits to Napland can be plumbed for possible new ideas. In the realm of exposure to new ideas, Surfside, with its visits to social media, random Googling of information, and exploring sites and links recommended by others can provide raw materials to be synthesized into new, creative means of expression. Finally, Game Zone, Doodle District and Solitaireitory provide distraction to the brain that has already been given commands to perform a particular task; to cook some concepts into a new idea, if you will. But like our chef in the diner baking a cake, we do not need to be standing around waiting for the cooking time to elapse. Instead, we can let our subconscious work on it while we use our time doing other, more fun, things.

Replenishing stores of necessary items would seem to be a no-brainer; the chef can't cook without raw materials. However, there are two problems standing in way of the chef: the new leaner, meaner business culture and the traditional "Protestant work ethic". The current business model seems to be cutting staffing closer and closer to the bone in order to reduce costs, by making a single employee do the work of not just one person, but often two, three or even four former employees. While this may look good to shareholders in the short term-- the primary focus of many businesses-- in the long term it's incredibly short sighted. People under the pressure of  performing the roles of four people do not have the opportunity to let their minds lie fallow for short periods. There is a constant pressure to produce or be fired. But is that pressure making for better, safer products? Simple logic would tell you the answer is no. This is where the Protestant work ethic comes into play. Instead of acknowledging the importance of small breaks in productivity, in order to ensure that there is continued productivity, there is a suspicion of slacking off. A suspicion that, when combined with the new business culture, leads to pressure to never be seen letting their brains lie fallow, lest they be joining the ranks of the newly unemployed. 

Now, I'm not saying by any means that slothful people who are never productive should get carte blanche. And I am definitely not saying that continual procrastination is a positive trend to be encouraged. Far from it; when taken to extremes, frequent procrastination can lead to feelings of low self esteem, being distrusted by superiors and a general attitude by all and sundry that one is a lazy good-for-nothing. But it seems to me that of the eight zones listed in the ProcrastiNation image, only two of them are truly negative: Isle Get It Done and Range of Excuses. The rest of them, properly managed, can be a means of adding variety and maintaining top mental fitness for the jobs we have at hand. So, don't forget to stock your mental supplies so your chef can keep on working!

Now that I've finished this essay, it's time for me to get back to work!