maradydd: (Default)
[livejournal.com profile] enochsmiles: Crap, the root on this cactus got damaged when you removed the pup. It's going to rot if we don't protect it until it calluses. Do we have any antifungals?

[personal profile] maradydd: No, but let me see what I can do with what we have in the lab.

Google: Why don't you try Bordeaux mixture?

Wikipedia: It dates to 1885, and it's approved for use in organic gardening! You'll need 1g copper sulfate, 1g hydrated lime, and 100mL water.

[personal profile] maradydd: Oh! We have calcium oxide that the Mississippi Lime Company sent us, so I can make calcium hydroxide, and we have copper sulfate from the hardware store.

([personal profile] maradydd disappears into the lab and returns with a 100mL flask of milky blue liquid, which [livejournal.com profile] enochsmiles pours onto the soil around the cactus.)

Cross your fingers; I hope the cactus makes it. He's older than the cat. We repotted him in a deeper pot (the cat knocked the old pot off the credenza), applied a thin coating of lime to the wound to help it dry out and scab over, and gave him some Bordeaux mixture, so I hope he has a speedy recovery.
maradydd: (Default)
[livejournal.com profile] johncwright reminds me that tomorrow is Draw Muhammad Day!

Curiously, the site is down; I wonder if there's a DDoS in progress.

I have talk slides to finish tomorrow and a meeting at the university, so I might or might not have time to execute the idea slowly crystallising in my head, which might or might not involve Ceiling Cat. We shall see.
maradydd: (Default)
A bit late for Mother's Day, but great nonetheless.

maradydd: (Default)
Please, for your own sake as well as the rest of ours, shut up with the damn tone argument already.

Yes, yes, Dawkins and Hitchens and Myers (oh my!) are caustic. Allow me to point out something that you seem to have failed to notice: They know that.

I point this out because, as a frequent Pharyngula reader, I enjoy reading PZ Myers' discussions of ethics from an atheist perspective. More generally, I enjoy reading discussions of ethics from a wide variety of philosophical and religious perspectives. Every metaphysical system has its own set of axioms, and it is interesting to see how different approaches to epistemology, ethics, &c. can be derived from these axioms. Myers, for example, has a debate going on with Sam Harris about whether there can be a scientific foundation for morality. (Harris says yes; Myers disagrees, and the reasons why are interesting, so go read it yourself.)

"What principles can we validly derive from the following assumptions?" is a rewarding avenue of inquiry. It is a rewarding avenue of inquiry even if one does not agree with the assumptions in question. Or the derived principles, for that matter. As just one example, Fred Clark's grueling exegesis of the Left Behind novels is fascinating stuff because it delves relentlessly into the moral fabric that underpins the books' (and authors') worldview, and provides real perspective into the Avengelical (h/t Making Light) mindset. This turns out to be an approach that has far more staying power (coming up seven years now) and promotes far more cogent discussion than mere fisking or snarking would. Picking apart how premillennial dispensationalists' principles lead them to their conclusions actually serves to make both the principles and the conclusions even more horrifying, but I hold that this is a good thing; getting a person to examine his principles -- which is probably the most effective way to get him to examine his conclusions -- generally requires, as Atticus Finch had it, standing in his shoes and walking around in them for a while. Even if you need to bleach your feet afterward.

But concern-trolling over the tone argument is boring. It's boring in discussions of racism, it's boring in discussions of feminism, and it's boring in discussions of religion or the lack thereof. Sure, it'll draw hits to your blog, but it's the search-engine optimization of debate: you might pick up some more AdSense dollars (trolling, concern- or otherwise, is certainly an effective tactic for this), but you're not adding anything new to the discussion. You could reply to the substance of your opponents' conclusions -- bonus points for tracing the logic back to an actually held position and not a strawman -- but, no, those pearls won't clutch themselves.

So, ask yourselves: do you want the hits, or do you want to add something to the substance of the ethics debate? Because you can do both at the same time, but it requires real research and real effort. Taking the time to understand someone's underlying axioms is serious work, but it is also the only way to address the substance of any philosophical perspective. Otherwise, you're just tilting at strawmen, and it's getting dull.

tl,dr: silly internets, put more work into entertaining me, kthxbai.

Your friend,
Meredith
maradydd: (Default)
Dear LJ Genie,

I am thinking about spending some quality time with Scala. What would you recommend, resource-wise, for a Java expert (I taught it for two years) with a reasonable amount of functional programming experience? I've looked over a bunch of the references on the Scala website, and they make good sense; what I'm particularly looking for are resources of the sort that make lightbulbs go off in one's head.

Love,
Meredith

derwha?

May. 6th, 2010 02:32 am
maradydd: (Default)
There exists an IEEE standard for gigabit token ring networking.

No, I don't know why. It was approved May 4, 2001, so I guess it wasn't the IEEE's answer to all those RFCs we know and love.

(Also, why is it that so many of the April Fool's RFCs have to do with IP? There's IP over carrier pigeon, IP over carrier pigeon with quality of service, electricity over IP, the Evil Bit in the IPv4 header, IPv6 over Social Networks, IP over ATM, IP over semaphore...)
maradydd: (Default)
[livejournal.com profile] mycroftxxx: Oh, btw, I got my zipit z2 working. I now have a debian desktop that I can fit in my mouth.
[personal profile] maradydd: Pics or it didn't happen.

Yours expectantly,
Meredith
maradydd: (Default)


Horse-chestnut flowers from the trees near school, an early birthday present from [livejournal.com profile] enochsmiles.
maradydd: (Default)
I have to hand it to [livejournal.com profile] czarina69 and [livejournal.com profile] enochsmiles: it is a whole lot easier to keep a house clean than to get it clean.

Sure wish I had [livejournal.com profile] czarina69's innate wisdom as far as turning the storage room back into a second bedroom goes, but one step at a time.
maradydd: (Default)
Alcohols I have cooked with, or will cook with, within the last week as of tomorrow:
  • Orange armagnac (pousse-rapière)
  • Ouzo
  • Ginger mead
  • Port
This doesn't count things that were at one point in their existence alcoholic, such as balsamic, or a vinegar-mint infusion.

I still need to figure out something interesting to do with some of the weirder spirits we've picked up, such as the rose liqueur, or the Black Balzams (aka "tincture of various things that Latvians find in the woods").
maradydd: (Default)
So far today I have (hopefully) rescued a couple of our plants from a white mold that suddenly started taking over their pots (they're in quarantine now, but in fresh soil, so cross your fingers) and fixed the broken cold tap in the kitchen, which had frozen and stripped the knob. Need to buy a new knob, and I'm not sure they even make this kind anymore, but not having to call out the plumber == happy Meredith.

Now: work.
maradydd: (Default)
My friend [livejournal.com profile] feonixrift, who is allergic to latex, recently had an unexpected reaction to a roll of athletic tape that was sold as "latex-free". Whilst commiserating with her, I remarked that there really ought to be a straightforward way to determine whether latex was present in a product or not. Reading about the composition of latex, I noted that allergic responses to latex typically have to do with an antigenic protein in the stuff, and she observed that synthetic elastics shouldn't contain protein. I immediately considered and discarded the idea of an ELISA or a Western blot, since both of those tests are not the kind of thing you can do with common household items. However, a little more research turned up the biuret test, which confusingly uses no actual biuret, but does work as an indicator of the presence of protein and is even kind of quantitative.

The biuret test involves small amounts of copper (II) sulfate and potassium or sodium hydroxide, all reagents which I happened to have in my cellar lab. (I get them at the hardware store; USAians can probably find NaOH as drain cleaner and CuSO4 as pool algaecide [h/t [livejournal.com profile] palecur].) As I had never done a biuret test before and did not know what to expect, I decided to find out what to expect by performing a biuret test on something which I knew had protein in an aqueous solution -- in this case, whole milk.

[livejournal.com profile] chocolatecoffee took pictures. Here is how you do it. )

It also occurs to me that there are lots of aqueous solutions out there for which protein or an excess thereof is a Bad Thing, e.g., urine. While I do not particularly want to induce proteinuria in myself, I am inclined to find out what my baseline urinary protein levels are like (which will involve working out a way to measure light absorption at 540 nm, i.e., building that spectrometer I've been meaning to build).

More news once I've tested actual latex and some latex-bearing and latex-free athletic tapes. But for now, you can test things for the presence of peptides too!
maradydd: (Default)
Tonight I killed off the last of the pousse-rapière from our trip to France a few months ago, by using it as the deglazing liquid in a chicken Marsala in place of Marsala wine, which we did not have. Although the act of deglazing set off the smoke alarm, the chicken itself turned out beautifully tender, with just enough orange tang from the Armagnac, and I'll be happy to share the recipe if anyone cares.
maradydd: (Default)
I knew that BMI (that's body mass index, not British Midland airlines) was basically useless, but until just now I did not realise that it has no real statistical basis. Go read. Now. (h/t [livejournal.com profile] olegvolk)
maradydd: (Default)
Although I occasionally like to cook tremendously complicated things that take copious amounts of prep time, my time is at a premium these days. However, since the thing that has my time at a premium is the spring paper season, I'm being more budget-conscious, which means cooking rather than ordering takeout. I'm rather pleased with how tonight's endeavour turned out, and so I share with you:

Breaded Whitefish The Way Meredith and Her Mom Make It

Ingredients:

filets of any kind of white fish. In Texas it would be catfish; I used whiting.
cornmeal (a handful or two; you can also use flour, but I think cornmeal tastes better)
1 egg per 2 filets
herbs/spices to taste (you cannot go wrong with Lawry's seasoned salt)
cooking oil, butter, margarine, lard, whatever (I used the herbed olive oil that [livejournal.com profile] hukuma left over here, and it was awesome)

Beat the egg(s) in a bowl or glass and set aside. Combine cornmeal and seasonings on a plate or tray suitable for dredging the fish through. (Protip: the styrofoam tray you probably bought the fish in works great and you don't have to dirty a plate. If you buy your fish wrapped in heavy paper, that works too.) For each filet, brush one side with egg, dredge that side through the cornmeal, then repeat for the other side. Do this as many times as you want. Once makes for a fairly thin breading; twice is what most recipes say to do; three times makes a nice thick breading; four is probably too much unless you really like breading.

If your cooking fat is solid, melt it in your frying pan; if not, just pour some in. You want just a bit less than will cover the bottom of your pan. The oil is hot enough when it pops when you flick in a drop of water; if it's steaming, it's too hot. Fry the filets for about a minute on each side until the breading is a nice golden brown, then turn up the heat and give it another 30 seconds on each side.

That's it. Serve and eat, sprinkled with lemon juice if you like that kind of thing.

Prep time, about ten minutes; cooking time, about seven minutes. Total cost: €4, since whiting was on special at the supermarket today and I already had cornmeal and cooking oil. If you don't keep a bag of cornmeal in your pantry, do yourself a favour and drop a buck on a bag of it -- it's the best all-purpose breading out there, and you'll already have it around when the need arises.

Tomorrow I get to figure out what to do with the kilo of bone-in chicken thighs I also picked up on special, apart from throwing the bones in the stockpot and boiling them down for chicken broth. Next week [livejournal.com profile] chocolatecoffee will be here, and I'm sure we'll figure out something clever to do with that.
maradydd: (Default)
"You are Zaphod Beeblebrox?" it squeaked.

"Yeah," said Zaphod, "but don't shout it out or they'll all want one."

"The Zaphod Beeblebrox?"

"No, just a Zaphod Beeblebrox, didn't you hear I come in six-packs?"
--Douglas Adams, The Restaurant at the End of the Universe
maradydd: (Default)
Woke up late-ish-morning yesterday and found out that one of [personal profile] enochsmiles' colleagues was defending his thesis in a couple of hours, so we grumbled out of bed, dressed up, and made our way over to the Kasteelpark Arenberg engineering campus. It gets its name from the castle in the middle of it, which used to be an aristocratic hunting lodge but is now about 70% administration offices and 30% lecture halls for people presenting their dissertations. Markulf gave a fine presentation, and after a short roast by Bart, is now Dr. Kohlweiss. We hung around for a little of the reception, enjoying acceptably good wine and little sashimi-on-toast appetizers, then picked up two copies of the dissertation (I need to read the location-based privacy parts of it fairly soonish) and bugged out early to do some errands.

Said errands included picking up several packages that had accumulated at the post office, including presents from my mom for [personal profile] enochsmiles' and my upcoming birthdays. Nothing was actually labeled, so we divided them up according to who liked what best. I am now the proud owner of a wool-lined tan trenchcoat that is ever so slightly shiny and sheds rain like whoa -- a useful addition to my enormous collection of trenchcoats, particularly with the frequency of rain here -- and [personal profile] enochsmiles has a rain/warmup jacket that shines iridescent greenish-bluish-purple, like the carapace of a beetle. Neat stuff.

We then went home and did a bunch of dishes, since we'd made plans for D and his girlfriend S to come over and play poker later that night, briefly forgetting that we were also planning to put in an appearance at Markulf's post-defense party. So, around 9:30 we texted D and asked them to meet us at Metafoor instead of coming straight to our place; they were running a bit late anyway, so that worked out just fine. Many old colleagues had come to town for the defense, and we spent much of the party hanging out with [personal profile] enochsmiles' friend Lothar, a German now working in Norway at a research foundation that does a lot with both privacy and geophysical imaging. I'm not sure what the two have in common, but [personal profile] enochsmiles has been invited to come give a seminar, so we will probably go visit Norway in the next couple of months.

I think talking to Markulf has given [personal profile] enochsmiles some new perspective on his own dissertation. Markulf is one of those guys who seems perpetually organised and on track, but apparently he spent the last four years having a lot of the same misgivings about the quality and value of his research that [personal profile] enochsmiles has had. It's one of those things that is true for every graduate student, but it helps to be reminded that other people have the same uncertainties and still make it through.

Eventually D and S rolled up, and we made our way back home to break out the cards. D had forgotten the poker chips, so after I poured the beers I poked around to find a suitable substitute; we settled on different values of capacitors. It was both [personal profile] enochsmiles' and my first experience playing Texas hold 'em. He is an amazingly good bluffer (go figure!), whereas I play more cautiously and mathematically (but need to learn the probabilities of various hands better). D is quite a good coach, and I look forward to playing with them some more.

They finally took off around 2, and we retired to bed to watch some of Carlito's Way, the first half of which is really good, but I was too sleepy to make it through all of it. So, today I'm going to clean up the after-hangout mess on the dining room table, noodle around some more on the Drupal project I'm working on, and at some point watch the rest of the movie before D's brother's blues-rock band plays at the Machine tonight.

I'm so glad it's finally spring.
maradydd: (Default)
Waking up with a solution in mind for a leftover bug from last night's hacking session, getting it implemented within ten minutes of being sufficiently caffeinated to work, and discovering that one of the subsequent items on my TODO is actually as simple as I thought it would be.

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