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Jun. 13th, 2010

Evie short pink hair

Now officially a grad

Ok, well it's sort of pending the receipt of actual grades in a few weeks, followed by an actual degree certificate in a few months, but at this point I'm done. The Bachelor of Arts in Anthropology is complete. Houston, the Eagle has landed.

With as many years as this took, it sure felt like an undertaking of moon-landing proportions. And I don't actually feel done. Like with my final paper -- it wasn't done, I just turned it in. It was as done as it was going to get by deadline, and I think it was adequate, but I wasn't totally happy with it. I'm actually planning to revise it and send it on to one of the researchers I quoted, since my findings support some of his. :-)

And that's kind of my feeling about my entire school-life at the UW thus-far. I could have done better. I'm disappointed that I didn't. I'd like to do better in the future. I hope I'll get that chance. I'm not entirely sure my work, or my ability to do good work, is good enough. But if I don't try, I'll regret it.

Oh, the paper? Was a write-up of my social network study:  Social Networks and Health in World of Warcraft. I had no idea when I started this that there was as much research out there as there is. Check out Nick Yee's site if you're interested in what research has been done around online gaming: http://www.nickyee.com/daedalus/

Did you know that the average female gamer is more inclined to be physically fit and have a good BMI than the average American woman? (If you're skeptical, that's good. Because self-reported data is notoriously unreliable.)

Next on my list? Three short words. Gee Arr Eee.

May. 13th, 2010

Evie short pink hair

Still alive, the bullet-point version

  • Fumbled my way through midterm exam, still managed to score 95%. Why do I feel like my instructors are giving me a "pity grade"? Hello, sense of inadequacy. I can't say that I've missed you in the slightest.
  • Attended a premier showing of Star Trek: Phoenix, the fan-produced film. It's the best fan-film I've ever seen. In fact, having watched a first season ST:TNG recently, it's at least that good.
  • Struggling with issues around addiction. As an adult child of an alcoholic parent, ex-spouse of an alcoholic, and parent of an addict, I can finally start to touch on my own issues. All that stuff I grew up with and dealt with at least once, hey. Hi. Not thrilled to see you either, but you're part of me so it's too bad if I don't like it. And yo, compulsive eating. I recognize you, too.
  • Mr. Sweetie continues to delight. It's nice, hanging out with people who love me. :-)
  • Hi, peeps! Hope you're doing well.

May. 4th, 2009

Evie short pink hair

Houston, the chickens have landed.

Chickens spent their first night in their new coop, and seem to be no worse for the wear. :-)

Cut for explicit images of happy chickens frolicking in the grassCollapse )

Apr. 23rd, 2009

Evie short pink hair

confessions of a texture freak

Unnngghhhh, argle, blargh... must... not... succumb... no... new... projects... yarn... so... pretteh... *droolslobberdrool*

Oh, the lure of a yummy new yarn. Ah, but I know the cure. I still have one over-closet cupboard that I haven't organized yet. Guess where most of my yarn is?
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Apr. 16th, 2009

Evie short pink hair

And thus opens a new year

I had, literally, the best birthday I've had in many years. My son remembered my birthday, my boss bought me lunch, my employer gave me balloons and a coffee cup and a really cool card, my sweetie took me shopping for toys and bought me dinner, and when I got home this morning my roomba was waiting patiently in its box. :-)

I'm going to finish up the chicken run tomorrow or Saturday and take the chickens out for a run. As it were. They're big enough now to be kind of crowded in their enclosure, and they scramble for greens when I put them down, and the weather is nearly warm enough to be tolerable. Unfortunately, I also broke their heat-lamp, but I think that between the higher temps and their age/size, they should be ok. I'll keep an eye on them and bring them in at night until we get the coop finished.

In other news, I'm very suspicious that we've got one (and only one) chicken who has started developing a comb. Wanna bet he's a rooster? Heh.

Cut for last week"s chicken picsCollapse )

Apr. 9th, 2009

Evie short pink hair

The pace of technology

So my vacuum -- which I have to conclude is a POS, given that it's only 3 years old and I've already sent it to the repair shop three times -- has died yet again, which only gives me good reason to buy something new and shiny. (Seriously. The point of diminishing returns has been reached. I'm justified in this.)

Guess what I bought me for my birthday? W00t!

I've wanted one of these for years. And it's actually cheaper than the stupid POS it's replacing. And really, what isn't cool about robots? :-D

Apr. 8th, 2009

Evie short pink hair

Drowning in reading

Oh dear. What have I done?

On the one hand, I love getting books in the mail. Guess showed up at my door yesterday? Chicken Tractor by Andy Lee, and Blood of Ambrose by the always-fabulous jamesenge. I'm looking forward to reading both of them. :-D

On the other hand, guess what I brought home from the Library yesterday?

These add to my existing Library stash:


Ugh. I need a reading vacation. You know... like a working vacation? Only more fun?

Apr. 7th, 2009

Evie short pink hair

And lo, how the week hath progressed

I think I owe you some chicks.
They are threatening to out-grow their enclosureCollapse )

Work on the chicken tractor has begun but damn! I couldn't find 2x2 in anything longer than eight feet. Maybe that's a good thing, structurally speaking. And it occurred to me (thank god before we started construction) that the weight-to-sail ratio on the elevated chicken coop was Not Good. Methinks this will require tie-downs, so it doesn't blow over in a high wind.

In other news, I think I might be seeing someone kinda seriously. Shh. I don't want to jinx it. But it's really hard not to be excruciatingly cheerful about it. :-D

Saw a delightful production of A Midsummer Night's Dream, the opera by Benjamin Britten. I say delightful because I don't think I've ever laughed so hard at an opera. The music, on the other hand, was not something I'd seek out again. Atonal is not my thing. (Though I think I caught a Schoenberg reference in there...) Too bad, because I've enjoyed some of Britten's orchestral works. But when I find myself focusing on the skill of the singers, or the delightful bits of stage business... that tells me that the music grip-eth me not. Still... it's hard not to admire the man's use of a counter-tenor in a lead role. Where do we see that, outside of early music? The singer was fabulous.

Looking forward to Wagner this summer. Hoy-yo-toh-ho!
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Mar. 31st, 2009

Evie short pink hair

Let there be cake!

I offer for your consideration last night's experiment: a plain buttermilk cake. It turned out really good. Perfectly done, excellent flavor and texture, not quite as raised as I would have liked but not anywhere near flat. I used half sucralose and half sugar, and that was the only substitution that I made. I creamed the hell out of the butter and sugar before I added the sucralose.

Now that I'm convinced in my own competence again, I'm thinking I'll try the Splenda suggestion -- add 1/2 cup dried milk and 1/2 tsp baking soda for every 1 cup of sucralose. I wonder if I want to add some acid to balance the base in the soda.

Let me share some of what I've learned, both from web sites and from you amazingly generous People of teh Intarwebs:

When fat and sugar are mixed together – the process is called creaming – little bubbles of air are being trapped in the mixture, each one surrounded by a film of fat (which is why the mixture changes colour during creaming as the trapped air creates a foam). It is this air which produces the lightness in the finished cake, but unless beaten egg is added to the mixture the fat would collapse and the air escape during cooking. The egg white conveniently forms a layer around each air bubble, and as the temperature of the cake rises in the heat of the oven this layer coagulates and forms a rigid wall round each bubble, preventing it from bursting and ruining the texture of the cake.
From The science of cake-making, Delia online

As the sharp sugar crystals cut into the butter, tiny pockets are formed and fill with air as the mixer blades pull more butter over the top of the hole to close it. This makes the butter double in volume and become creamy in texture, which is why this procedure is called “creaming.” If the crystals of the store brand sugar are smaller than the old favorite, or the edges of the crystals aren’t as sharp, they won’t cut into the butter as deeply. This makes a smaller hole, so less air can be pulled through.
From Chemistry 101 for pound cakes, Chef Rick

Milk solids have a binding effect on the protein of the flour, thereby increasing the toughness in a cake. A portion of the total solids in milk contain lactose sugar, which carmelizes at a low temperature (270 to 275 degrees F.). It is used to control crust color. It, along with the proteins in milk, adds food value and flavor to the cake, and helps to retain moisture in the cake.
From Baking and baking science

[Cake flour] is a flour that is grown especially to have a low protein content. Remember, that low-protein equals low gluten content equals more tenderness. If you can't find cake flour, or want to bake a cake but don't have any on hand, you can substitute 3/4 cup plus 2 Tbsp. of regular all-purpose flour and 2 Tbsp. of cornstarch. Sift this mixture together, then measure your homemade pastry flour cup by cup.
From How baking ingredients perform in scratch cakes

Baking powder is baking soda with acid added. This neutralises the base and produces more CO2 according to the following equation: NaHCO3 + H+ → Na+ + H2O + CO2
From The chemistry of baking, New Zealand Institute of Chemistry

Do not overbake. When the cake loses its wet look, and when a white or yellow cake barely begins to turn golden (not brown), it's time to open the oven and pinch a small dab of the “skin” off the top of the center of the cake. If the pinch is still gooey, but you can see the cake structure underneath it (it looks like a sponge), it’s done. That's when it's time to take the cake out of the oven.
From Seven professional secrets to baking a great cake

Sugar does more than just make the cake sweet... it helps incorporate air in the mix when you cream it with the butter (the sugar crystals are large and create air pockets.) It also prevents the gluten from over-developing to the point that you get a tough, bread-like texture by taking up the moisture in the mix. You can mix batter containing sugar longer and harder than you can batter that does not have sugar.
From fiatincantatum

Pureed beets will add too much liquid and fiber to the mix. Go back to the food colouring. And subbing coconut cream won't work. Part of the deal is that the sour cream reacts with whatever you're using for a raising agent (BP or soda), while coconut cream won't. Sifting the flour gets the lumps out, but really shouldn't affect it that much.
From trappergraves

Basically, that's a whole lot of substitution going on there. That's not to say that you can't make those subs, but pinpointing what's wrong is hard when you've introduced a lot of variables.
From djinnj

Truth is -- I enjoy playing with my food. :-) But nothing says I can't play in a more structured experimental fashion.

Mar. 30th, 2009

Evie short pink hair

Cake: 2 / Evie: 0

I feel like I've stepped into an alternate universe. I used to know how to bake. And this weekend I've had two cake recipes turn into nasty things that were barely edible.

First I tried this recipe from Martha Stewart a lovely Coconut cake. It turned out very egg-y and flat and not good at all. I wanted to e-mail Marth and tell her to put down the pipe, but then I tried this recipe for Red Velvet cake and it also turned out dense and chewy (though not quite as egg-tastic as the coconut cake).

What am I doing wrong?

a) substituting splenda for sugar
b) not sifting the flour
c) substituting coconut cream for sour cream (coconut cake)
d) substituting pureed beets for red food color (red velvet)
e) using crappy recipes

Help me, o Intarwebs!

And because I do not tolerate defeat, I've ordered some books from the library on cakes and the science of baking. I want to know how to make a truly excellent cake. Any information sources you'd like to offer would be much appreciated. :-)
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Evie short pink hair

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