Thursday, October 30, 2003

Twas the Night Before Halloween

And all through the haunted house...

Gaggles of teenagers were dressed in robes, fright wigs and rubber masks...

Kelly's school was doing a fundraiser by running a haunted house, and Kelly, never having been to one, but having watched about a thousand episodes of Scooby Doo, decided that she was willing to try it. So we went this evening. It was set up in an old house which has served as a church in Tualatin since I've been here. They divided up the house with plywood partitions painted black, draped everything in 'cobwebs', filled the halls with fog, played loud spooky sound effects, and had an annoying passage lit with strobe lights.

Kelly and I entered, paid our $8, and ran the gauntlet. Kelly's only question as we paid, was "where's the bathroom?" Unfortunately for her, it was halfway through the haunted house. We began our tour, and Kelly kept asking for the bathroom. Some costumed geek jumped out behind us, and I gave a faux shriek. Kelly turned around and said "hello, we just want to find the bathroom."

She repeated this performance a couple more times, and at first I thought she was unimpressed by the whole situation. But the farther we got into the house, the more agitated she became, and about halfway through, she began sobbing and started repeating, over and over, "I just want to go home!" I assured her that we'd be out soon, and held her hand. We wove through the maze of plywood partitions, and eventually got out.

Total time in the house, about five minutes. That's even more expensive than those parking lot 'carnivals' that pop up outside K-Mart. For five minutes, Kelly and I could ride the mini-roller coaster for a couple of bucks.

Kelly's verdict is that she never, ever wants to do a haunted house again! She blames the fact that she needed to go to the bathroom (even though she went before we left) for her emotional overload. She could have handled ghouls if she hadn't been drained already by bodily distractions.

Oh well, I'm proud of her for trying something new. Looking forward to Halloween tomorrow night!

Through a Glass...

One benefit of age seems to be improved vision. Recently I went to get a vision checkup since I wanted to replace my eyeglasses (required for driving by the State of Oregon). The old ones were scratched and worn.

My eye doctor commented that my vision had changed, and was good enough to pass the vehicle vision requirements. "This often happens in the mid-forties." So she suggested I retest, but filled my prescription for new driving glasses anyway.

Several weeks passed, me wearing the new glasses and getting used to them. But this morning before work, I drove to the DMV and waited in line. When I explained to the clerk what I wanted, she fairly tread on my words: "put your head here, read the letters on the fourth line." I did, and she jumped in again: "that's it, you pass."

So after a bit more work, and $21, I got a new driver's license: eyeglass restriction removed. I'm still getting used to not reaching for my glasses. Even after I drove down to work without them on, when I got out of the car, I tried to take them off! Wonder how long it will take to get used to them not being there?

Tuesday, October 28, 2003

Ice Cream In A Bag

Awhile ago I made some sorbet for Kelly using this technique, but I guess I forgot to write it down. So here it is for my reference, this time producing ice cream (the physics and chemistry are the same with sorbet):

Ice Cream in a Bag


  • 1 tablespoon Sugar

  • 1/2 cup Milk or half & half

  • 1/4 teaspoon Vanilla

  • 6 tablespoons Rock salt

  • 1 pint-size Ziploc plastic bag

  • 1 gallon-size Ziploc plastic bag

  • Ice cubes


  1. Fill the large bag half full of ice, and add the rock salt. Seal the bag.

  2. Put milk, vanilla, and sugar into the small bag, and seal it.

  3. Place the small bag inside the large one and seal again carefully.

  4. Shake until mixture is ice cream, about 5 minutes.

  5. Wipe off top of small bag, then open carefully and enjoy!

Sunday, October 19, 2003

Baker Baker

I'm not much of a baker. I have one or two bread recipes I really enjoy, but my favorite takes all day, and I just don't have 'all day' any more. Besides, I can't find my favorite bread book (Laurel's Kitchen Bread Book)!

But for the past three weekends, Kelly has been pulling me in to the world of baking. It started one Sunday when I was resting downstairs after digging around in the garage and breathing too much dust and dander. She'd asked Jean if they could bake something, but Jean was studying. I think Kelly knew I wasn't a baker, but she's eight years old, and the world if full of possibility.

So we hauled out her Easy Bake Oven, dug through a few recipe books, and ended up making some kind of crispy chocolate chip sheet cookie. Two cookies were made in the Easy Bake, and the rest in the conventional oven. They turned out great, and I'm almost through the lot (two weeks later).

Last weekend, we decided to make a cake. I looked through The Best Recipe, and we found a chocolate cake to make from scratch. We also made a vanilla butter creme frosting from scratch, which, by the way, is mostly butter.

This recipe took a lot of time, and a lot of effort. When we were done, Kelly had a mini-two layer cake made in her Easy Bake, and I had a regular-sized two layer cake made in the oven. It was delicious, and I admit to eating two pieces in the last week. Kelly's been eating the rest, and Jean is putting a ban on cakes like this one. Not that we'd make another, given all the fuss and bother.

This Sunday, we decided to make something different, and tried out a croissant recipe. The recipe was confusing, ambiguous in several places. Still, we forged ahead, and managed to bake the suckers. The Easy Bake did not play a role this time, as a risen croissant could not be pushed out of the narrow slot in the side of the oven. I told Kelly if she tried, she'd have a petrified croissant forever in her Easy Bake.

These creatures don't really taste like croissants to me, and their texture is more 'baking powder biscuit' than flaky pastry. But they taste goooood! They are evil, filled with much butter, and I think we will be skipping such foods entirely for a few weeks. Jean suggests muffins, so maybe that's next. I couldn't convince Kelly to learn how to make Eggplant Parmegian, for some reason.

Friday, October 17, 2003

So Atypical

Raffi Krikorian (author of Tivo Hacks) posted an article to PVRBlog listing the top ten Tivo 'Season Passes', i.e. shows folks have set to auto-record. I looked at the list, and I don't watch any of 'em.

Guess ReplayTV users march to a different drum

Wednesday, October 15, 2003

Best American Science Writing 2001

I recently completed reading Best American Science Writing 2001, but haven't really had the time or inclination to write up a review. I got it from the library by mistake. I'd asked for the 2003 edition, edited by Oliver Sacks. Unfortunately, the library treats all editions as different copies of the same book, and I got the completely different book edited by Timothy Ferris.

Nevertheless, it was an interesting read, and I'd have no problem recommending it to others. Two essays I found particularly interesting:

Death of an Altruist - James Schwarz. A brief but fascinating biography of George Price, an eccentric polymath who proposed a theory of altruism in genetically related and extended groups which was more mathematically rigorous than anything which had preceded it.

Syphilis and the Shepherd of Atlantis - Stephen Jay Gould. Gould, one of my favorite nature writers, shares the story of how syphilis got it's name, including the politics of the era in which it was christened.

Tuesday, October 14, 2003

Kill Bill

One of the things that makes watching a Tarantino film so much fun is his tendency to sprinkle it with pop culture references, and to not limit himself to the pop culture of one country. Kill Bill is no exception, and I'm really looking forward to watching it.

I have watched a lot of Asian movies, from Shaw Brothers classics to modern Hong Kong flying people movies, but apparently not nearly as many as Quentin Tarantino, who would watch one or two of these movies a day while making Kill Bill.

Anyway, I found a neat interview where he talks about all the movies which influenced and are paid homage to in Kill Bill. Check it out!

I know one Director's Cut DVD set I'm gonna buy, just for the director's commentary track!

The Register

Not The Register, but rather a very interesting essay on the distinctions between Public, Private and Secret, by Danny O'Brien of NTK fame. Take the time to read it.

Wednesday, October 8, 2003

Dad's Okay

I got a call from my Dad last night. He'd been scheduled for followup tests due to the irregular rhythm of his heart. They checked him out, and found that all chambers look healthy. Then they applied a shock designed to resynch his heartbeat. Apparently it worked the first time. So all is well on the paternal front.

Tuesday, October 7, 2003

Teen Titans Again

Okay, Sluggy Freelance nails exactly what's wrong with Teen Titans...

Friday, October 3, 2003

Pilates ... Sort Of

I really enjoyed taking that Cha-cha class with Jean. There's another class for Two Step that just started, but Jean's real classes are pretty much eating up all her time. So I decided to find another way to embarrass/hurt myself.

Today I started a lunchtime class in 'core stability'. That is, strengthening the back and abdomen. I've always been prone to back problems, and while I do strength training to help it, I think I tend to skimp on the waist, doing mostly sit-ups and Roman Chair. So when I saw this class was being held every Friday, I decided to try it out.

The instructor is of course totally fit, and she let slip that the exercises were modelled on Pilates, which I've heard of, but never investigated before. The session was one half hour, and I was sweating at the end.

There was no running, jumping, bouncing or any obvious exertion, but it was hard! Lots of slow motion gut crunching while your legs are up in the air. I actually gave up on perfect form, as it was making my lower back twinge dangerously. Maybe after a few tries...

I can't really reproduce most of the exercises she did, it's too new to me. So I'll have to let a week lapse without much practice, then hope I pick it up more next time. Wish me luck!

Update (Saturday morning): Good god am I sore!

Science Toys You Can Make With Your Kid

Linked to for my future reference. Of course a miracle must occur first, since I'm terminally lazy at home...

Science Toys

Wuthering Heights the RPG

I wish I still had the time to play old-fashioned pen-and-paper, multi-sided dice roleplaying games. This has got to be the most amusing idea for an RPG I've heard of in a long time...

Just in case I ever get that perfect group of people together, here are the rules.

And WHTRPG isn't alone, apparently. Search near the bottom of this page for some other truly odd RPGs.