Thursday, December 24, 2009

Goals # 67, 69, 92

Goal #67: Sent Christmas cards to grandparents

Goal #69: Play Date with Olivia - we walked to Kaze and had shabu-shabu, which is a favorite of hers. She definitely like salmon!

Goal #92: Rekey the locks. Ted took care of this, but it's done which is important.

Goal #101 - Unknown White Male

Goal 101 - Watch Documentaries

I watched the documentary Unknown White Male about a guy who basically wakes up with complete amnesia and no identification on him. I saw it after reading the fanfic Unidentified which uses the same premise. I liked the story better than the movie. The movie was okay, but slow, which I find to be true of most documentaries.

Goal #100 - Lolita

Goal #100 - Read 10 Banned Books

I read Lolita as one of my banned books. While reading it, I kept wondering about the origin of the classic or stereotypical characteristics of a pedophile. Did Lolita draw from what was known at the time regarding the psychology/motivations/characteristics of a pedophile? Or did Lolita formulate that image in the public consciousness? I'd guess the former, it's just that I kept noticing how the book kept matching what "they say" regarding pedophilia, which made me wonder.

While I'm not likely to reread the book, it's definitely a decent literary work that doesn't feel like "literature" in the negative (clockwork orange) sense.

Saturday, December 5, 2009

Goal #69: Play dates

This goal was to do individual play dates with nieces and nephew. First up was Esme. We walked around the park, went to the playground, and watch the ice skating rink. She enjoyed watching the Zamboni. Her favorite seemed to be going and playing in the "snow" dumped by the Zamboni. Afterwords we got cocoa and a doughnut. Fairly successful all around.

Goal #100 - Animal Farm

Read Animal Farm as one of the banned books. Quick read, totally see why they use it in schools. While I can tell it was very revolutionary for it's time, I think the impact is fairly weak nowadays.

Don't have much to say about it. Lolita is next.

Gaols 36 & 80 - Date at the Aquarium

So I planned a date for Ted and I: going to Boston Kebab House and the Aquarium. I'm counting this as the first planned date, but Ted thinks it's number three. (We did a picnic along the river and a trip to the Ignoble awards, both of which I planned. But I wasn't thinking of them as new date things, so I don't think I'll count them.)

The Kebab House was good. If I was in the area for lunch, I'd eat there, but it's not something I'd make a trip out of my way for. I would like to try their Meze bar sometime - we got there late enough that it was pretty sparse.

The Aquarium was nice. We stayed just over an hour. Since we got free tickets from my work, I was happy with the value, but I wouldn't want to pay $20+ to see it. I really like the mini jelly fish, the penguins were cute, and I felt sorry for the octopus.

Saturday, November 21, 2009

A Clockwork Orange: Goals #99 & #100

So goal #99 was to read or see A Clockwork Orange. Since I decided to read the book, it also meets goal #100 because it is a banned book.

Two or three people made comments when I mentioned I was going to read A Clockwork Orange. Universally, their response was about how much they hated the book or movie.

I wouldn't say I hated the book, but I didn't enjoy it either. Of course it's not the kind of book that's supposed to be enjoyed, I think.

Honestly, I see why it's considered 'literature'. It has blatant themes and symbols, heavy moralizing and political commentary, and difficult to read writing style. It's Catch 22/Brave New World as written by Jack Kerouac.

It reads like 'On the Road' but with way too much made up slang. It was the fictious slang that got to me. I've read a lot of fantasy and sci-fi, and so I understand the need to 'world build' through language choice. But this was just absurd. When half of the words in the sentence a completely made up, it's not creative. Given how rich a language English is, I feel it's a poor reflection on the writer if he needs to make up that much crap. There's a point where it stops adding character and starts detracting from the story and Burgess passed it.

I'd like to say that the book reminded me of what I think of as 'classical anime': a good story that's killed at the end when the author heavy-handedly shovels in an overbearing moralistic commentary. Unfortunately, A Clockwork Orange didn't have a good story (or really much of a story) to start with. And Burgess didn't really wait that long to start shoveling.

I'd say file and forget, but at least it's a book that might be worth making cultural or literary allusions to if I'm ever forced into a conversation with a pretentious litterary nut.

Sunday, November 8, 2009

#56 Clean Clothes Closet

As part of moving, I cleaned out my clothes closet. I had a friend along to help -- she made sure I got rid of the stuff that was old, didn't fit, didn't look good on me, or didn't get worn. Afterwards, she made a list of stuff I should not buy any more of, and she right.

No more buying:
  • Cardigans
  • Shells
  • Black, white, or black and white skirts
  • Neutral toned tops (beige, brown, tan, cream, black, etc.)
  • Shapeless or baggy clothing.
There more stuff that I really should replace -- sweaters and sweaters come to mind -- but that's not a priority right now.

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Goals #31, 77, 82, and 85

I'm a bit behind on posting, but I have completed several goals.

Goal #31 - Get an IUD: Done. I really like it. Aside from the excruciating pain on insertion and a days worth of cramping afterwords, I've had no problems. 5 years of not having to think about birth control. Woot!

Goal #77: A weekend with no computer: One weekend down. I'm not sure if being sick made this easier or harder, though it did help having stuff planned for one of the days. While not using a computer does prevent wasting time on-line, it doesn't prevent wasting time.

Goal #82: Buy a condo: Done. Everything's signed and official. We're now in debt again.

Goal #85: Paint a room: Well, more like get a room painted. We got the entire place painted so it now has personality and color.

I expect more of the house related goals to get ticked off soon.

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Goal #101 - The James Bond Story

The second documentary I watched for Goal #101 was The James Bond Story. I'm a huge fan of spy movies in general. I used to think I was a big Bond fan, but it turns out I'm more of a Pierce Brosnan fan. Bond's okay, but parts of it are a bit cheesy and too sexist for me. I love the gadgets though.

The documentary was okay, but I don't feel I really learned anything from it. Yes, there were some new random facts regarding the actors and who they were chosen. But on the whole, I feel like it didn't give me any really insights or interesting perspectives. They did talk about the characteristics different actors brought to the role andwhile I found intriguing, it was a small piece of the over all story.

Not really a documentary I would recommend. Non-Bond fans likely won't find it interesting and Bond fans likely aren't likely to learn anything.

Goal #101 - The Aristocrats

Goals #101 is to watch 5 documentaries. The first of these was The Aristocrats.

Why did I choose this? Well I didn't. The Brother-in-Law (BIL) was talking to Ted about how he couldn't watch it. They got up and left the theater after 10 minutes or so. Ted and BIL ended up betting $20 that Ted couldn't watch the whole thing. And thus the movie got put at the top of our Netfilx queue.

Well, we watched the whole thing without any problems. Ted found a lot of it to be funny. I didn't find it funny, but neither did I find it offensive or gross. It was an interesting movie from a psychological perspective -- what does the content of the joke say about the person telling. How closely do they identify with it? (i.e. is it told about themselves, a friend, or as an abstract joke.)

The one part of the movie that did make me laugh was the Smoother's Brothers part. One of them didn't find the joke funny and said so. The other pointed out that it was because he's the straight man. Since I tend to be the straight man in the humor part of our relationship, I totally related to this.

So, one documentary down.

Monday, October 5, 2009

#41 Ig Noble Awards

Last Thursday we went to the Ig Nobel awards at Harvard. We had a good time, though I probably won't attend again since we can watch it on the web. Saw the bra to gas mask demo live though.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Goal #100 - The Color Purple

Goal 100 was to read 10 books off the most banned/challenged list. I finished the first today. I read The Color Purple. It has all the major push-buttons for challenges (sex, religion, race, dialect usage), so I'm not surprised it made the list. This is definitely an English class book -- lots of themes and stuff to discuss. Wasn't a tedious read, but I'm not likely to reread or think about it ever again.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Banned Classics

#100 on my list is to read 10 banned classics. The list is from the American Library Association.

Bold = Have not read

italics = Started, did not finish

1. The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald

2. The Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger

3. The Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck

4. To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee

5. The Color Purple by Alice Walker

6. Ulysses by James Joyce

7. Beloved by Toni Morrison

8. The Lord of the Flies by William Golding

9. 1984 by George Orwell - I think

10. The Sound and the Fury by William Faulkner

11. Lolita by Vladmir Nabokov

12. Of Mice and Men by John Steinbeck

13. Charlotte's Web by E. B. White

14. A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man by James Joyce

15. Catch-22 by Joseph Heller - I think

16. Brave New World by Aldous Huxley

17. Animal Farm by George Orwell

18. The Sun Also Rises by Ernest Hemingway

19. As I Lay Dying by William Faulkner

20. A Farewell to Arms by Ernest Hemingway

21. Heart of Darkness by Joseph Conrad

22. Winnie-the-Pooh by A. A. Milne

23. Their Eyes are Watching God by Zora Neale Hurston

24. Invisible Man by Ralph Ellison

25. Song of Solomon by Toni Morrison

26. Gone with the Wind by Margaret Mitchell

27. Native Son by Richard Wright

28. One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest by Ken Kesey - not sure, may have read

29. Slaughterhouse-Five by Kurt Vonnegut

30. For Whom the Bell Tolls by Ernest Hemingway

31. On the Road by Jack Kerouac

32. The Old Man and the Sea by Ernest Hemingway

33. The Call of the Wild by Jack London - It hnk

34. To the Lighthouse by Virginia Woolf

35. Portrait of a Lady by Henry James

36. Go Tell it on the Mountain by James Baldwin

37. The World According to Garp by John Irving

38. All the King's Men by Robert Penn Warren

39. A Room with a View by E. M. Forster

40. The Lord of the Rings by J. R. R. Tolkien

41. Schindler's List by Thomas Keneally -saw the movie

42. The Age of Innocence by Edith Wharton

43. The Fountainhead by Ayn Rand

44. Finnegans Wake by James Joyce

45. The Jungle by Upton Sinclair

46. Mrs. Dalloway by Virginia Woolf

47. The Wonderful Wizard of Oz by L. Frank Baum

48. Lady Chatterley's Lover by D. H. Lawrence

49. A Clockwork Orange by Anthony Burgess

50. The Awakening by Kate Chopin

51. My Antonia by Willa Cather - not sure, might have read

52. Howards End by E. M. Forster

53. In Cold Blood by Truman Capote

54. Franny and Zooey by J.D. Salinger

55. The Satanic Verses by Salman Rushdie

56. Jazz by Toni Morrison

57. Sophie's Choice by William Styron

58. Absalom, Absalom! by William Faulkner

59. A Passage to India by E. M. Forster

60. Ethan Frome by Edith Wharton

61. A Good Man Is Hard to Find by Flannery O'Connor

62. Tender Is the Night by F. Scott Fitzgerald

63. Orlando by Virginia Woolf

64. Sons and Lovers by D. H. Lawrence

65. Bonfire of the Vanities by Tom Wolfe

66. Cat's Cradle by Kurt Vonnegut

67. A Separate Peace by John Knowles

68. Light in August by William Faulkner

69. The Wings of the Dove by Henry James

70. Things Fall Apart by Chinua Achebe

71. Rebecca by Daphne du Maurier

72. A Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams

73. Naked Lunch by William S. Burroughs

74. Brideshead Revisited by Evelyn Waugh

75. Women in Love by D. H. Lawrence

76. Look Homeward, Angel by Thomas Wolfe

77. In Our Time by Ernest Hemingway

78. The Autobiography of Alice B. Toklas by Gertrude Stein

79. The Maltese Falcon by Dashiell Hammett

80. The Naked and the Dead by Norman Mailer

81. Wide Sargasso Sea by Jean Rhys

82. White Noise by Don DeLillo

83. O Pioneers! by Willa Cather

84. Tropic of Cancer by Henry Miller

85. The War of the Worlds by H. G. Wells

86. Lord Jim by Joseph Conrad

87. The Bostonians by Henry James

88. An American Tragedy by Theodore Dreiser

89. Death Comes for the Archbishop by Willa Cather

90. The Wind in the Willows by Kenneth Grahame - I think

91. This Side of Paradise by F. Scott Fitzgerald

92. Atlas Shrugged by Ayn Rand

93. The French Lieutenant's Woman by John Fowles

94. Babbitt by Sinclair Lewis

95. Kim by Rudyard Kipling

96. The Beautiful and the Damned by F. Scott Fitzgerald

97. Rabbit, Run by John Updike

98. Where Angels Fear to Tread by E. M. Forster

99. Main Street by Sinclair Lewis

100. Midnight's Children by Salman Rushdie

Wow! I haven't read very many of these. Of course, a lot of them are fairly familiar, so I'm not sure if I've read them or just read about them. There's at least 10 there that I've been meaning to read, so this goal shouldn't be too difficult.

Saturday, September 12, 2009

101 Goals in 1001 Days

Posting this because publicly stating goals tends to increase motivation...

The Mission:
Complete 101 preset tasks in a period of 1001 days.

The Criteria:
Tasks must be specific (ie. no ambiguity in the wording) with a result that is either measurable or clearly defined. Tasks must also be realistic and stretching (ie. represent some amount of work on my part).

Why 1001 Days?
Many people have created lists in the past - frequently simple goals such as New Year's resolutions. The key to beating procrastination is to set a deadline that is realistic. 1001 Days (about 2.75 years) is a better period of time than a year, because it allows you several seasons to complete the tasks, which is better for organising and timing some tasks such as overseas trips or outdoor activities.

101 Goals in 1001 Days website

Start Date: September 13, 2009
End Date: June 12, 2012

My List

Food Related
1. Make at least 2 different kinds of cheese (0/2)
2. Preserve at least two foods by canning or pickling (0/2)
3. Make no-knead bread
4. Make butter
5. Make yogurt
6. Make jam (that keeps)
7. Make jerky
8. Make a soufflé
9. Pack lunch every day for a week (0/5)
10. Try 10 new foods (0/10)
11. Enter a cooking/recipe contest

12. Knit or crochet a pair of socks
13. Design and sew a quilt
14. Make dipped and molded candles (0/2)
15. Make paper
16. Make soap
17. Make lip balm
18. Make a gourd bowl
19. Make and fly a box kite
20. Finish stain glass box
21. Finish crocheted sweater
22. Carve something (out of wood or soap)

Health & Safety
23. Take a gun safety course; shoot a shotgun and a pistol
24. Get CPR/AED Certified (Red Cross)
25. Get First Aid certified (Red Cross)
26. Assemble a complete disaster kit (Red Cross)
27. Assemble a complete first aid kit (Red cross)
28. Create an emergency preparedness & fire escape plan (Red Cross)
29. Make a living will
30. Make a will
31. Get an IUD/implant/(semi) permanent birth control
32. Get a general health checkup (not Ob-Gyn)

33. Memorize Cannon in D for the piano
34. Learn to tie 10 different knots (0/10)
35. Learn how to splice rope

36. Go to the Aquarium
37. Go to a concert
38. See a play
39. Go ice skating
40. Go out dancing
41. Attend the Ignoble Award ceremony
42. Attend at least 5 non-math lectures
43. Volunteer at least 10 hours (0/10)

Art & Writing
44. Write a song (instrumental) for piano or psaltery
45. Write and submit a non-academic math article
46. Paint a picture
47. Draw (charcoal/pencil) picture
48. Calligraphy a poem or saying
49. Submit crossword puzzle for publication
50. Revise and submit math article
51. Write a short story (fan fic okay)
52. Design a new board game

53. Be fitted for a bra and replace ones that don't fit
54. Spend $250 on something completely self-indulgent
55. Get at least one piece of jewelry for specific outfit and wear it

56. Sort through clothes closet
57. Set up an IRA
58. Digitalize CD collection
59. Trade 2 games not played for new games
60. Get my laptop working properly

Physical Activities
61. Take a martial arts class
62. Do 100 consecutive sit-ups
63. Do 50 consecutive push-ups
64. Go to a yoga class
65. Run 10k race

66. Dress up and go to a costume/Halloween party
67. Send at least 6 handwritten letters/cards to grandparents (0/6)
68. Host a dinner party for two other couples
69. Do a (1 hour min) personal play date with: Olivia, Esme, John (0/3)
70. Email or call my sister 2x a week for a month (0/8)
71. Give 5 "just-because" gifts (0/5)

Ted & Self
72. Watch 3 sunsets with Ted (0/3)
73. See 3 sunrises (0/3)
74. Meditate for 15 min /2x week for 8 consecutive weeks (0/16)
75. Private
76. Private
77. No computer from 5pm Friday to Monday morning for 2 weekends (0/2)
78. Journal every day for a week (0/7)
79. Make a list of 101 things that make me happy (0/101)
80. Plan and initiate 5 new dates with Ted (0/5)
81. Have daily sex for a month (30 days)

House Related (all dependant on #82)
82. Buy a house/condo
83. Decorate a room
84. Hang curtains (etc.) in at least 3 rooms
85. Paint a room
86. Buy a sofa
87. Winterize the home: furnace/fireplace/calking
88. Spring home maintenance: AC, screens, gutter
89. Get fire extinguishers, smoke alarms, CO alarms as needed
90. Hang pictures
91. Get maid service or clean the bathrooms and kitchen 1 per month
92. Change the locks

Books & Movies
93. Finish reading the American Literature textbook
94. Read 5 books recommended by friends, no matter what they are (0/5)
95. Watch Hamlet
96. See Jane
97. Get and read the Kama-Sutra
98. See Ben-Hur
99. See or read a Clockwork Orange
100. Read 10 new books off the banned classics list (0/10)
101. Watch 5 documentaries (0/5)

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Muffin Variations

I posted my basic muffin recipe here. Here's a list of ideas to mix and match from. These are from my brainstorming and have not necessarily been tested.

Extracts: Vanilla Extract, Almond Extract, Lemon Extract, or other extracts you can find. Use 1 tsp in general, but you could increase the total extracts to 1TB for very decadent recipes.

Spices: For sweet muffins, common spices include: cinnamon, cardamom, ground ginger, allspice, nutmeg, cloves, pumpkin pie spice. The amount varies -- up to 2 tsp, but for strong spices (nutmeg, cloves, allspice) perhaps only 1/2 tsp.

For savory muffins, consider cayenne and other peppers, minced jalapeno, oregano, basil, dill, rosemary.

Zests: Lemon, lime, orange, tangerine, etc would all work. Up to 1 TB.

Moist Mixins: Any kind of berries, cherries, cranberries, apples, mango, grated carrots, grated zuchini, corn. Make sure the pieces are small.

Dry Mixins: Dried fruit (apples, pears, cranberries, etc.), raisins, dates, nuts (walnuts, pecans, almonds) -- toasted nuts add a nice depth, shredded coconut, chocolate chips, grated cheese (add to dry ingredients).

Flour Substitutes: Replace a 1/2 c flour with a 1/2 c of cornmeal, ground oatmeal, almond flour, wholewheat flour, proteen powder, or besan flour, etc.

Oil Substitutes: Instead of oil use melted butter, melted lard (savory only), almond oil, walnut oil, coconut oil, etc.

Sugar Substitues: Instead of white sugar, use brown sugar or (add to wet) molasses, honey, rice syrup, concetrated fruit juice (apple or orange). For the molasses, start with only substituting 2TB as it is a very strong flavor.

Yogurt: Use flavored yogurt instead of plan. This will make the muffin sweeter unless you decrease the sugar. Or use coconut milk or buttermilk.

Sunday, March 1, 2009

More Muffins!

Today's a muffin day. I usually do four batches of muffins at once. That gives us some variety during the week. It also uses all of one large yogurt container. This month's muffins (using my basic muffin recipe):

Apple Cardamom: Three (granny smith) apples grated, chopped dried apple, 2 tsp cardamom, 1/2 tsp cinnamon, vanilla extract.

Cheddar Corn: Omit the sugar. Replace 1/2 c flour with cornmeal. increase salt to 3/4 tsp. 2 cups corn kernels, 1 cup grated cheddar (add to flour), 1 tsp basil, 1/4 tsp oregano, 1/4 tsp rosemary (crush it), 1/2 tsp minced jalapeno (add to wet).

Cranberry Pineapple: Replace sugar with 1/4 c molasses, 1/4 c concentrated orange juice (add to wet). 1 1/2 c chopped/crushed pineapple. 1 c. dried cranberries (chopped), 1 tsp ground ginger, 1/4 tsp cinnamon, 1 tsp vanilla, 1/2 tsp lemon extract.

Berry Almond: 2 cup mixed frozen berries, 1 cup almond slivers. 1 1/2 tsp almond extract, 1/4 tsp cinnamon, dash of cloves.

These recipes are my own creations, adapted from recipes I've seen on the web. Let's hope they work well.

Update: I have deemed the Cranberry Pineapple muffins a failure. Three main problems. First, while pineapple upsidedown cake might be tasty, pineapple does not quite work in muffins. Second, molasses is quite a strong flavor, so even a quarter cup is a bit much. Finally, very moist fruit plus juice and molasses make the muffins a bit too wet so they fall.


On a non-beef note, I've been making muffins! The past few months I've gotten in the habit of making a couple of batches of muffins and freezing them. I grab one in the morning, microwave for 30 seconds and breakfast is done.

Here's the basic muffin recipe I settled on:

Dry Ingredients:
  • 2 c. flours
  • 1/2 c. sugar
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • spices
Wet Ingredients
  • 1 c. plain low fat yogurt
  • 1/4 c. oil
  • 1 egg
  • 1 tsp extract
  • 1 to 2 tsp zest (optional)
  • up to 2 c moist mix ins (frozen fruit, grated carrots, zuchinni, etc)
  • up to 1 c dry mix in (chooped nuts, raisins, etc.

Combine dry ingredients in a mixing bowl. Use a large measuring cup to measure and mix the wet ingredients. Add wet to dry, stir a bit. Add mix ins. Stir until just combined. Baked in a greased muffin tin at 375 for 25-35 minutes (depending on how moist the mixins are). Cool, then freeze. Makes 12.

I adapt this recipe in a variety of ways based on the mixins, spices, extracts, and zest.

Lemon Blueberry: Use blueberries, lemon zest, lemon extract, dash of cloves
Apple: grated apples, chopped walnuts, vanilla extract, 2 tsp cinnamon
Carrot Cakish: 1 c grated apple, 1 c grated carrot, raisins, vanilla extract, 1 2/2 tsp cinnamon, 1 tsp nutmeg, 1/2 tsp cloves, orange zest.

The blueberry were my favorite. The apple were fairly bland. I'll play with the seasonings next time and toast the walnuts.

Catch Up

Just wanted to finish off my side of beef chronicles. I made the stuff ages ago, but never posted. For the last package of stew meat, I think I made a beef paprika dish (smoked spanish paprika, tomatoes, sourcream type sauce).

On New Year's Day I used the rest. The beef bones got made into stock. The suet was rendered into lard. The last of (my half of) the liver was made into dog treats. It's all in the freezer slowly getting used.