Sunday, December 30, 2012

Household hint: freeze leftover sauce in ice cube trays

With my GERD diagnosis, I had to cut back on my tomato sauce intake.  Pre-GERD, I routinely had pasta with tomato sauce (about half a cup) for breakfast every morning. Post-GERD, I have a small bowl of pasta a couple of times a month with a small amount of tomato sauce (about a tablespoon) mixed in real good, which, with judicious cheese ratios, is almost as good flavour-wise as slathering half a cup on top.  Who knew?

But I quickly discovered a new problem: my tomato sauce kept going bad before I use it all up.  Even though I was putting it in the coldest part of the fridge, it kept going moldy after only a few uses, with maybe 3/4 of a jar left.

After some trial and error, I discovered the solution: freeze it in ice cube trays, then put all the frozen cubes in a tupperware in the freezer for storage.  I got this kind of ice cube tray, because the bottoms are flexible so you can just pop each cube out rather than having to twist the tray (which is more difficult when the substance in it is denser than water).  The ice cubes made by this tray are, conveniently, one teaspoon in volume, which is useful if you ever need to measure how much sauce you're using.

You can thaw it either by taking a couple of cubes out and just letting them thaw, with a quick zap in the microwave (supervise carefully if you're doing very small quantities), or by tossing it in with your cooking.  It takes a bit of stirring to get the texture right, but it stands up.

Once I started doing this, I realized it also solves my Hollandaise problem. I like Eggs Florentine as an occasional treat, but I only need a small quantity of Hollandaise sauce and always have a bunch left over.  Then I'm frantically trying to think of things to do with Hollandaise before it all goes bad. Next time, I'm just going to freeze is and then thaw a cube whenever the mood strikes.

Friday, December 28, 2012

My childhood home

One of the fantastic characteristics of my friendship with Poodle is that it withstands neglect.  From time to time, one or both of us will get caught up in our careers or projects or fandoms or the business of everyday life, and fail to do the normal everyday friend stuff that sustains a friendship.

But the friendship is still always there.  If, after a period of neglect, one of us needs a ride or tech support or fashion advice or non-English proofreading or to be wingmanned to Eddie Izzard, the other's response is always "Of course! Let's make that happen!  And how have you been, anyway?"  Then we address the issue at hand and catch up on everything else without any resentment or animosity about the period of neglect.

I have a similar relationship with the house where I grew up.   I don't go there often, but, when I do, it's always right there for me.  My room is still my room.  Everything is right where I can find it.  It's a constant that has been present for literally my entire life, and I've always been able to rely on it, even when I don't have any immediate need for it.

My parents are planning to sell their house at some point in the next year, and it breaks my heart.  This place that has always been there for me will no longer be there for me.  The room that has always been mine will no longer be mine. They bought this house for me, in a way.  They were living in a very small house and were pregnant with me, so they bought a bigger one to raise kids in.  We were the first ones to live there.  It hasn't just always been ours, it's only ever been ours. My room has only ever been my mine.  It's been a place of safety and refuge forever, and soon it won't be.


At this point, you're probably thinking "So why not make an offer when it goes up for sale?" The irony is, objectively speaking, I don't even like it.  It's a house.  It has a basement and an attic and a roof and a yard.  There's probably a spider somewhere in it right this minute.  It's inconveniently located.  Basically, I don't want it for the exact same reasons my parents don't, so I can't even blame them.

I stayed over there over xmas, and I found myself getting irritated by it.  You have to time having a shower around laundry and dishes and other showers, and the hot water is easily depleted.  My bed there has no redeeming qualities.  The wind rattles the windows. The air blowing out of the furnace vents has a magical ability to blow directly into my mouth when I'm trying to sleep.  From the creaks of the floorboards, you can tell exactly where everyone else in the house is and what they're doing.

When I returned to Toronto, a sense of contentment and belonging came over me as I walked home from the subway, through my own neighbourhood, and turned onto my own street.  My face lit up as I walked into my own apartment, as it hasn't done for my childhood home since before I moved out for the first time.

And yet, I still mourn for the loss of my childhood home.  My eyes still well up with tears as I write this. In an attempt to comfort myself, I considered the possibility that I might not miss it when it's gone.  But that only breaks my heart more.

Saturday, December 22, 2012

What if 20/20 vision isn't perfect?

20/20 vision means that when you're 20 feet away from something, you can see it as well as a person with normal can see it when they're 20 feet away from it.

But what if that isn't perfect or optimal?  What if the people they used to calculate normal vision had subpar vision? 

Because 20/20 is considered optimal, our corrective lenses usually correct us to 20/20.  But what if they could correct us to better with a different kind of lense?  What if we could have superhuman distance vision?  Among other things, imagine how that would improve driving safety!


From the Star:
IF TODAY IS YOUR BIRTHDAY: This year you often will go to extremes. In the process of doing so, you couldn’t care less. It is how you feel after the fact that will cause you to employ some self-discipline. You have a vision for what your life could be and what you want out of it. You ambitiously will start to create just that. If you are single, your desirability speaks for itself. Commit only when you are good and ready. If you are attached, the two of you blend together well. You can count on your sweetie. TAURUS can be seductive yet difficult.

From the G&M:

Neptune, planet of dreams and imagination, is strong on your birthday this year, so if there is something of an artistic or creative nature you would like to do now is the time to get on with it. Seize the future and make it your own.

Interesting, I'm not entirely sure what to make of these.  I hope I can avoid Tauruses though - seductive yet difficult is the last thing I need.

Monday, December 17, 2012

How to slide the edge guide in an Epson Stylus NX130

In the paper tray of the Epson Stylus NX130 all in one inkjet printer, there is a grey slidey thing, apparently called an edge guide.  It needs to be slid to the side so the paper will fit in.

In order to slide it side to side, you have to squeeze it while sliding it.  It won't move if you don't squeeze it.

I'm blogging this because I had a hell of a time finding this information when I needed it.

(Note that this is neither an endorsement nor a condemnation of this printer.  I bought it because I needed a scanner and a printer on short notice and didn't have time to research or comparison shop, and this was the cheapest one that was small enough in the box for me to carry.  It does the job, but printing is slower and noisier than it could be.  I would have preferred to do more research and buy a faster, quieter, better-quality laser printer.)

Saturday, December 15, 2012

Why Kim from Between Friends shouldn't speak to her son's class: the parental ego approach

I blogged previously about a storyline in the comic strip Between Friends, where the character of Kim had been asked by her son's teacher to go speak to her class. (If you click through in the old post, you can see the whole week's worth of strips.  The storyline also continues the week of November 26.)  I proposed that she shouldn't because it would be disrespectful of her son's expressed feelings, and parents should want to set the example for their children that you respect feelings and that you can expect your feelings to be respected.

However, some people (some of whom are parents) aren't very receptive to this argument.

So here's another one from a parental ego perspective:

We know that Kim's speaking to the class must be of some educational benefit to the students, or the teacher wouldn't have brought up the idea.

We know that any good parent wants to give their kid every advantage possible.

So if Kim doesn't speak to her son's class, she's retaining that educational benefit for her son, giving him an advantage over his classmates.

All of which sounds rather mercenary, doesn't it?

BUT, Kim can remove any perception that she's being mercenary by simply telling the teacher that she isn't going to do it this year out of respect for her son's feelings, but she'll revisit the idea in a couple of years when it isn't relevant to her son any more.  This would make her look like a good, thoughtful, considerate mother who's setting an example for her child so he grows up to be respectful, while also making her look like she's an engaged member of the community who wants to help students and be involved in her school.

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Sunday, December 09, 2012

New Rules: Natural Consequences Edition III

This post is a follow-up to this and this.

7. Anyone who replies to a complaint about life's unfairness with "Well, life isn't fair" will thenceforth only get a restatement of the problem in response to any complaint they make.

"My foot hurts."
"Well, your foot hurts."

"Damn, I spilled my coffee everywhere!"
"Well, you spilled your coffee everywhere."

"This widget I purchased doesn't work properly."
"Well, this widget doesn't work properly."

Saturday, December 08, 2012

Things Google Should Invent: don't index blog template sidebars on individual post pages.

Newer blog templates have expandable tree archive links that contain the title of every post.  (You can see an example in the right-hand column of this blog, under the twitter feed.)

The problem is that Google indexes these archive links like they're just regular words on the page, with the result that if you google within someone's blog for a word or phrase that happens to appear in a post title, Google will return every single page from that blog.

For example, I once wrote a blog post with the title "Denervousization", which isn't a real word at all and I just made up for the post.  However, if you google the word "denervousization", you get the post entitled "Denervousization", you get this post if you're reading it after it's been indexed, and you get a number of other posts that are turning up simply because they have the link to the "Denervousization" post in the archive links.

Not that many extra posts are turning up for this particular search because I switched to a template with expandable tree archive links very recently, but as time goes by they'll all get reindexed and eventually every single post will turn up if you search for just the one post with a distinctive title.  Not terribly useful, is it?

Since Blogger and Blogspot belong to Google, they should be able to work something out between the two of them to produce more effective search results.

Monogamy as sexual orientation

I was rather surprised and disconcerted to see Dan Savage, in both last week's column and the week before's (last letter both times), insist that polygamous and monogamous aren't sexual orientations.  This was bizarre to me, because I've been coming to realize over the course of my life that my sexual orientation is most accurately described as "monogamous".

In this week's column, he has some testimonials from people who identify as orientationally poly, but there's nothing firsthand from people who identify as orientationally monogamous.  So I thought I'd share what I can currently articulate about how it works for me.

- "Why do you describe it as an orientation rather than a practice?" Sexual orientation is the primary factor in defining who you are capable of being sexually attracted to.  If you're heterosexual, for example, the fact that someone is of the opposite sex is the primary factor in determining whether you can be sexually attracted to them.  People talk about "meeting men" or "meeting women" - the gender is so intrinsic to defining who we're capable of being attracted to that people use it as a shorthand for "people I am capable of being attracted to."  For me, the primary factor is whether I love them.  That's the one factor that absolutely must be present to switch on sexual attraction.  Yes, this means that I'm not sexually attracted to people before I love them.  I've never once in my life looked at a random passer-by and thought "I'd hit that!"  I have to have a reason to fall in love with them first.  I can be sexually attracted to someone for whom I have unrequited love as long as there's no requited love going on in my life, but it can only be that one person.

- "But can't you be in love with more than one person?"  No.  I don't have room.  Analogy: I have two breasts, each of which has one nipple.  Therefore, I could nurse a maximum of two babies simultaneously.  There is no possible way to do more, because there simply aren't more nipples.  There's no expansion pack, there's no extension cord, it's a hard and fast limit.  Similarly, I only have one slot in my brain for being in love with a person.  There simply isn't any more room and no way to expand it. Yes, I've heard that some people can, and I'm not going to be so presumptuous as to question their self-knowledge.  But the fact remains that I can't.

- "It's illogical."  I totally agree.  I always assumed that a monogamous relationship was just for fairy tales and old-fashioned people to whom it didn't occur to do otherwise.  How presumptuous would it be for me to think anyone could possibly find me sufficient!  But then, one day, my boyfriend raised the idea that we could be monogamous.  I was shocked that such a thing would be suggested in real life, but I noticed that since we'd gotten together I hadn't had even the slightest glimmer of interest in anyone else, so I agreed.  And HOLY SHIT WAS IT SEXY!!!  It was so sexy that everything I'd previously thought was sexy was relegated to "unremarkable".  It was the emotional equivalent of discovering the clitoris. It' s so sexy that the (physical or psychological) involvement of someone with whom I'm not in a monogamous committed relationship in any sort of sexual experience cannot possibly contribute to the sexiness of the situation - even if the situation is one where I would otherwise be alone.  The best possible outcome is neutral; the worst, and most likely, outcome is total turn-off.  Much like, I'd imagine, Dan Savage would feel if I turned up in his bed.  Analogy: the clitoris is illogical.  It would be far more logical if everyone's primary source of orgasms were vaginal stimulation, because that would facilitate procreation and provide primary stimulation to both partners in an opposite-sex coupling simultaneously.  However, this does not negate the fact that the clitoris exists and is the primary source of orgasms for many people.

- "So how do you transition from one relationship to another?"  As I've mentioned in other blog posts, my feelings - all feelings, not just romantic - don't go away.  They pile up like the stuff in the "miscellaneous" pile on your desk - the ones at the bottom might be hidden from view by the ones added more recently, but they still exist, perfectly whole and in their original state.  What this means for romantic feelings is that new feelings must be so strong that they completely envelop and overwhelm the old feelings.  The old feelings don't go away, they just become insignificant in the face of the exponential superiority of the new feelings. I can't go from one relationship to another equal relationship; I can only transition to a significantly better relationship.  (This also applies for platonic relationships, BTW.  I've blogged before about how my Grade 8 friends abandoned me before high school started.  My feelings for those people are still exactly the same as they were when they were still being friends with me, it's just the friends I've made since are so much more awesome that the feeling I was defining as "friendship" in Grade 8 no longer counts as such.  My current close friends found me when we were in our mid/late teens, and I haven't felt the need to seek out new friends since.)

- "What about fantasy?" When my love is requited, I don't fantasize about anyone else.  I can't explain why, it just doesn't happen.  When my love is not requited, I'm like Marshall in How I Met Your Mother.  Marshall, as you may recall, can only fantasize about someone other than his wife Lily if he constructs a scenario where Lily has died but, on her deathbed, gave him her blessing to be with whomever is the subject of the fantasy.  Similarly, the premise of my fantasy has to be that my previous love thinks it's for the best that I'm with the subject of the fantasy. When my 13-year-old self transitioned from crushing on Wil Wheaton as Wesley Crusher to crushing on Dean Cain as Clark Kent, she constructed a scenario where Wesley had to go off and join the Traveller, and therefore introduced her to the most powerful man on earth to ensure she'd have a worthy partner.  (Did I mention this was fantasy?)  It sounds complex when I write it up like this, but all fantasy actually involves a lot of premise.  You're constructing a scenario where the subject of your fantasy likes you and enjoys spending time with you and doesn't smell and is into all the same sex acts as you and can do that thing with their tongue and isn't creeped out by the fact that you have a poster of them over your bed, all on top of the fact that the two of you were in the same place at the same time and managed to talk and they found you interesting enough that they didn't just pass you over for the next fangirl.

- "But is poly something anyone can do or something some people are? I come down on the "do" side" - Dan Savage, Nov. 28. You could do it without being it, and you could (with much more incentive and self-discipline) be it without doing it.  I could, I suppose, have more than one lover, as in I could physically carry out the motions.  But I don't want to, and am in fact repulsed by the idea.  Just like I'm sure Dan Savage could engage in a rousing session of cunnilingus (and, being a sex advice columnist, would probably even know a trick or two), but I suspect he'd rather be in bed alone with a book.  Polyamory is something anyone can do just like having sex with a woman is something anyone can do.  That doesn't mean it isn't an orientation factor.

- "But I'm monogamous as a result of a deliberate choice to be so - it has nothing to do with my sexual orientation!"  I have no doubt that's true.  Many people make a conscious decision to be monogamous.  However, it is still my orientation.  Analogy: It is perfectly possible for someone who is bisexual to make a conscious decision to only have relationships with members of the opposite sex, perhaps for procreation, religious, or convenience purposes.  However, this does not negate the fact that many people are heterosexual by orientation and are actually turned off by the idea of sex with a member of the same sex.

Tuesday, December 04, 2012

Teach me about optican economics

Optical stores, at least large chains, often have major discounts that only apply if you buy a complete pair of glasses (i.e. frames and lenses).  They won't ever give you a discount if you just have new lenses installed in a pair of frames that you already own.

As a result, there are times, with major sales and less expensive frames, when  you could get a complete pair of glasses for less than it would cost for just the lenses.  For example, using numbers that make the math easy, if the frames cost $100, the lenses cost $200, and there's a 50% discount happening, you could get a complete pair for $150 where they would charge you $200 to put exactly the same lenses in a pair of your own frames. 

I understand that the lenses are custom-made and frames are mass-produced, so the margins are far greater on frames.  But what do they gain by charging me less for buying more things?