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June 28th, 2015
10:23 am

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In praise of nicknames
Facebook has a real names policy, rather sketchily enforced.

There are a number of serious, practical reasons to oppose a real names policy-- there are people who need privacy for their safety or to not lose their jobs (I wonder what happened to Ahashuerus(sp?) from rec.arts.sf.written) and there are people who've built a social network around a nickname and losing that network is a serious thing for them.

However, what gets lost in those discussions is the positive argument for nicknames. Nicknames are fun-- they're a realm of playful invention and flexible identity. I don't want that to be lost. Besides, I mostly find nicknames easier to remember. They're generally more varied than real names and they have more emotional resonance.

I don't use a nickname because I assumed that if there was a right nickname for me, it would be obvious to me, and that never happened. (I don't consider nancylebov to be a nickname for Nancy Lebovitz-- it's just a desperate effort to have something a little easier to spell.) Besides, anonymity would be hard-- I've had more than one person say that they hear my voice when they read my writing.

I recommend Two Cheers for Anarchism: Six Easy Pieces on Autonomy, Dignity, and Meaningful Work and Play by James Scott, who started his career of mistrust of centralized authority with research into governments regularizing names. (He also started with research into limitations on nomadism, but that's another large topic.)

First link thanks to supergee. Which reminds me-- Live Journal and Dreamwidth are very usable social sites that *don't* have real name policies at all.

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June 13th, 2015
09:36 am

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Sous vide!
I got an Anova Precision Cooker-- a sous vide cooker which is well-reviewed, not terribly expensive and with a $50 off sale from Anova at the moment. Apparently those sales happen repeatedly.

The Anova cooker clamps on to the side of a pot rather than coming with its own pot, and it has a timer which just beeps rather than controlling the cooker.

Anyway, sous vide is putting food in a vacuum-sealed packet, then simmering it at a controlled temperature for a while. It has a reputation for cooking meat wonderfully-- partly because it gets the whole piece to a cooked temperature without over-cooking anything, and partly because none of the flavor goes off into the air making the kitchen smell good. If you want a dark, tasty surface, you use a propane torch or a hot skillet.

You don't have to use a vacuum sealer, you can use a zip-lock bag. I'm not worrying about danger from cooking in plastic on the assumption that people who worry about it seem to be running on general principles and I'm not likely to be sousviding more than once a week. If there's more evidence (preferably with information about dose and risk), let me know.

I found that after I got the cooker, I couldn't get myself to cook some meat, and decided that the problem was that I normally cook as a result of coming up with a combination of foods which seems really good to me, and it just wasn't happening with meat.

Modernist Cooking Made Easy has a recipe for French Scrambled Eggs which looked interesting.
Scrambled Eggs Sous Vide Recipe

Scrambled eggs sous vide are one of the more interesting dishes to cook. The resulting texture is much more like a custard than the sometimes rubbery scrambled eggs we're used to here in America.

Scrambled Eggs Sous Vide
Time: 18 Minutes
Temperature: 167F / 75C
Serves: 2


Scrambled Eggs Sous Vide Ingredients
4 Eggs
2 Tablespoons unsalted butter
2 Tablespoons heavy cream
3 Pieces of bacon, cut into lardons
Salt
Pepper
1 Tablespoon basil, cut into strips
Parmesan Cheese for grating

Scrambled Eggs Sous Vide Directions
Preheat your sous vide setup to 167F.

To make the scrambled egg mixture beat together the eggs, cream, salt and pepper until mixed well. Grate a few tablespoons of the cheese into the scrambled egg mixture then pour the mixture into a sous vide pouch and add the butter.

Seal the pouch lightly, shutting off the vacuum when the eggs get close to the opening. A good way to help with this is to hang the sous vide pouch off the edge of your counter when sealing it.

Once the sous vide setup has preheated, add the pouch with the scrambled eggs to it. You will be initially cooking it for around 10 minutes.

While the scrambled eggs are cooking, cook the bacon in a skillet over medium heat until crispy.

After 10 minutes take the egg pouch out of the water and massage it to break up the eggs. Return it to the sous vide setup and cook for another 5-8 minutes, until the mixture begins to firm up.

I basically followed the recipe, except that I included some cooked wild rice and basmati brown rice and some spinach with the bacon, and I'd say it serves one.

The eggs were very nice, and I speak as one who generally doesn't like soft scrambled eggs and has to kind of remember that my tastes have changed since I was a kid to enjoy raw egg yoke. I kept looking at what was on my fork and thinking "that's soft scrambled eggs-- do I actually want that?", and then I'd eat some more of it.

I'm planning to check information about time and temperature and then cook some meat with salt and pepper so I've got some information for my intuition to work with.

More recipes: I'd been irrationally lusting for a copy of Modernist Cuisine. Not only is it way too expensive for me, but it's huge (but with gorgeous pictures), and I almost certainly wouldn't get around to reading it or using it very much. It has a website with many recipes, and I've heard good things about the macaroni and cheese.

You can find a way to search the recipes by using the hard-to-notice menu icon in the upper left corner and going to "recipes".

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June 5th, 2015
01:10 pm

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On not having a bra size
A woman goes to six bra stores-- the usual advice is that women don't know what their bra size is, and they should go to a store and get a professional fitting. This turns out to be as good advice as just saying "go to a doctor".

Even if you aren't especially interested in the subject, the article might be worth reading.

The author has a fine hand with her snark: "This bra itself is a Lilyette “infinity back smoothing minimizer,” which isn’t so much a description as it is just four words hanging together for dear life." "

"Upon closer inspection, I discover that the “push-up” mechanism of this bra is literally some air bags. Presumably this is a safety feature?"

One important bit is that women don't have bra sizes because (as with other women's clothing) there is no standardization in bra sizes. Bras that are labelled as the same size aren't the same size. The map is not the territory.

The conclusions, which (with a little generalization for some of them) apply to much more than buying bras:
1. You should be fitted for a bra every time you buy a new one. Just because you’ve recently had a bra that fit you in one size doesn’t mean that they’re all going to fit well.
2. Be honest with the person fitting you. They are human people like you who do not have the ability to read your mind, and they can’t help you unless you tell them your concerns — and if they totally ignore your concerns, then it’s time to go somewhere else.
3. Never buy anything you don’t love. At the end of the day, it’s my fault for buying a bra that I didn’t feel comfortable in, because I let myself be convinced that my instincts were wrong. Nobody threatened to strangle me with a bra strap if I didn’t hand over my credit card.
4. A good fit is what feels good to you. Do you feel comfortable? Supported? Can you put your bra on without having to adjust it 85 times a day like a crazy person? Does it make you feel your best in clothes? Then you’re wearing the right bra size, and everyone else can shut their mouths. Case closed.


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June 4th, 2015
11:06 am

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Political joke
Did you know, there's a Republican who isn't running for president?

Oh, nobody you've ever heard of.

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June 2nd, 2015
02:28 pm

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What does a muse look like?
I recently saw a rant about the unsatisfactoryness of the Spectrum sf art award, and when I looked at the award, my first thought was "That doesn't look anything like a muse", but I don't have a clear idea of what a Muse does look like. (I've got a negative imagination-- I'm sure I've never seen a satisfactory representation of a hobbit, but that doesn't mean I know what a good representation would be.)

A muse (a personal muse, not a goddess of an art) should look as though it will come in close and go away at its own will, but I can't think of how you'd express the idea in a single statue.

My muse (or at least something in the back of my head) has recommended a mass of swirling colors, and if you wanted a fantasy award statue, fantasy creatures could be worked into the colors. Still, anyone have a human or humanoid who looks either like your muse or who expresses the idea of a muse for people in general?

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May 29th, 2015
11:00 am

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Dissecting a (Komodo) Dragon
This is interesting in itself, but I think it's especially the sort of thing science fiction authors should know.

I don't think I've seen a dissection of a real full-sized dragon in sf. Sorry, but for those purposes, the Lady Trent novels don't count, even though I like them very much. Those dragons aren't big enough. They are quite satisfying, but they're basically big naturalistic predators. (I've only read the first two books-- if there's something different in book three, don't tell me.)

Dissecting a monitor lizard is quite enough trouble-- I didn't know they have bits of bone in their scales, so that the skin is very hard to cut through. Or that they seem to have venom, just in case the bacteria in their mouths aren't deadly enough.

Link thanks to andrewducker.

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May 28th, 2015
06:17 pm

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A conservative is actually funny
Cthulhu vs. the Sweet Meteor of Death
I should note that the claim that Cthulhu is evil has actually sparked some controversy on Twitter. Some of his devotees tell me that he’s beyond mortal conceptions of evil which, of course, is what evil people always say. Moreover, his campaign slogan is “Why vote for the lesser evil?” Is he lying? Will he be a flip-flopper, refusing to follow through on his platform of full-spectrum evil? The last thing this country needs is an EDINO — Evil Deity In Name Only. No, I take him at his word.

This rather reminds me of Dave Barry, possibly with hints of Mencken and/or Twain-- quite refreshing since I've gotten a little tired of Cracked's house style.

Link thanks to libertarianhawk.

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May 27th, 2015
11:09 am

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3 lost pages from A Wrinkle in Time
The desire for security is a lot of how Camazotz happened.

The pages themselves.

Links thanks to nwhyte-- I substituted my first link for his because the WSJ link was paywalled.

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May 19th, 2015
10:08 am

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A new spin on self-reference


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May 14th, 2015
02:11 pm

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The Bad Moon Rising Emotional Spectrum
Very sinister from Peter Dreimanis



Steady and reasonable advice from the original Credence Clearwater, included to prevent emotional whiplash



Absurdly cheerful, and including a chipper Scottish reel. An ideal modern version would include dancing zombies. And a werewolf band.


First link from Marie Brennan at swan_tower.

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