Saturday, December 15, 2018

Life Renovations

Thing I did this year (or continued doing) that greatly improved my life:

  1. Continued to mostly) not read Books By Dudes.
  2. Read a lot of books.
  3. Offloaded a significant amount of child wrangling to the spouse.
  4. Did a bunch of reorganizing and culling.
  5. Bought a robot vacuum.
  6. Went to a loooooot of physical therapy.
  7. Disengaged from everyone I know who a) has severe anxiety/mental illness and b) refuses to seek any treatment.
  8. Started a huge Science Project at work, which makes me happy/ is useful/ makes me like my job way more.
  9. Took the kids to the beach just because they wanted to go.
  10. Stopped drinking alcohol almost at all (health stuff; I'm not HAPPY about it but it's better for me).
  11. Quit F@cebook and stuck with it.
  12. Stopped grocery budgeting.
  13. Bought one pair of really comfy shoes.
  14. Made the kids take over some cleaning chores.
  15. Taught Hebrew School.
  16. Put more effort into eating in a way that helps my body feel better.

What made your year more awesome?

Sunday, December 02, 2018

Marshmallow Making Tips

In a moment of... something... I decided to make fancy marshmallows for my entire department as a holiday gift.  (There are 24 people in this department.) Here I have collected all the things I learned from the internet and/or painful experience.

Figure 1: Supplies for Less Sticky Marshmallow Making
  1. This recipe is mostly fine and this one is extremely detailed.  (I am trying coffee marshmallows next!) Use a recipe that calls for a thermometer and boil the sugar to 240F.
  2. Use cooking spray, not oil (the silicone helps maybe?  I don't know.)
  3. Spray your marshmallow-forming tray or dish, then wipe it with a paper towel so it's evenly coated.
  4. After your marshmallows have set, take a piece of parchment paper and spray it too, then wipe with a paper towel.
  5. In a bowl, mix about 1:3 cornstarch and powdered sugar.  I used one cup of powdered sugar and it was enough for four batches of marshmallows.
  6. Spray and wipe a knife and kitchen scissors.  Cut strips with the kitchen scissors, then transfer the strips to the parchment paper.  Cut them into squares with the knife.  Roll in the sugar/starch mixture and store in something (here I have a Ziploc bag).
  7. Re-wipe the knife and scissors regularly.
  8. If you run out of corn syrup part way through, use the equivalent mass of sugar (about 3/4 cup white sugar per cup corn syrup) and add a teaspoon of lemon juice* and simmer to temperature more slowly.
  9. Add the salt to the gelatin bloom.
  10. You can add the flavoring after the mixture is stiff, but it doesn't always mix in well (see also: some marshmallows which are VERY PEPPERMINT right now).  You can add it to the sugar syrup, but your marshmallows will be slightly flatter, especially depending on the oil content of the extract.**  If you add it at the very end, make sure to stir well with a spatula.
  11. I have only succeeded in smoothing the surface by putting a well-oiled parchment paper on top.  Spatulas resulted in sticky mess everywhere.
Happy marshmallow making!

Updates:
 1. We have lost the pizza wheel so I have no data.
2. Chilling does make them easier to cut!
3. I made the Bravetart  marshmallows with exactly four drops liquid smoke (and a little butter vanilla flavoring) and they are the best marshmallows I have ever eaten (warm: when cooled they were not smoky enough, rats.)
4. If you're going to drizzle with chocolate don't roll in powdered sugar first. It doesn't stick.

Finished product:



* You get acid-catalyzed hydrolysis of the sucrose, which prevents crystallization because you have a mixed system then.
** Oil tends to destabilize water-protein emulsions.


Friday, November 23, 2018

Ill Advised Choices

Thursday night at 5 pm, after Thanksgiving lunch, my mom and I went to the local Walmart. Not for discounted holiday shopping, oh no: for a plain old air mattress for my cousin. I would have gotten one last week, but they didn't say they were coming until the last minute. Anyhow.

My friends, I have never seen such a sight. Camo jackets as far as the eye could see! All the registers blocked off awaiting 6 pm! Hordes of people prepared to wait a full hour for an array of discounted electronics, toys, household goods, and socks! It was like a living commentary on consumerism, poverty, and the rural south all in one.

My mother and I extracted the air mattress from a shelf with the help of some bystanders, made a circuit until we found the only open cash register, and fled into the night. We hopped in the car, buckled up, and...

...heard the clicking wheeze of a starter turning over, and over, and over.....

Eventually my dad came and jump-started the car but, dear readers, I have seen Hell and it is a Walmart parking lot after Thanksgiving.

Tuesday, November 13, 2018

Stay, Go, Don't Know

Some friends of ours are, all of a sudden, moving to Canada.  (One of them is originally from Canada.)  They got tired of the neo-Nazis, the death threats relating to MLK Day, the endless Confederate flags, and the tireless pro-Trump-ism of most of the students here.


It came as a bit of a shock to me.  If these people, who were so invested in making our community better, are just up and leaving, should I leave?  Can I really raise my children here, and do I want to?  Is it better to give up and move away? 


Separately, this morning, someone told me she doesn't ever vaccinate her children against influenza because it's not like it kills anyone. (As opposed to.... measles?  Which only doesn't kill people because there are so few cases, of course.)  Another person told me about how an osteopath cured her of her viruses with activated charcoal.


On days like these I fantasize about moving back to Cold City, where there are, possibly, more people who use their brains.

Saturday, October 20, 2018

Parents' Weekend

Me to a pair of middle aged parents who have shown up for 8 am biology: "And where are you visiting from?"
Them: "San Diego."
Me: "Oh, that's a lovely place to live. What do you do there?"
Dad: "I'm in plants."
Me, internally: I would NOT have predicted THAT!
Me, externally: "How nice! I really enjoyed the botanical gardens last time I was in San Diego."

(If you know where I work it's even funnier.)

Sunday, October 14, 2018

American Horror Story

Last night I had a dreadful nightmare and woke up in a cold sweat:

I dreamed our new health insurance had no out of pocket maximum.

(I only wish I were making this up.)

Monday, October 08, 2018

Ten-Minute Blogging: Flail, Flail, Flounder

Hello, I am briefly back!


I have gotten myself into a pickle next semester wherein I am teaching two lectures and four labs (yes, this is a totally unreasonable amount; no, I cannot now gracefully extract myself without making everyone angry, so, something to look forward to.)


My professorial partner in crime and I finished our outlining and grant-writing around Making This Class Suck Less - and it does suck less, even already!  I'm not sure the students really get the point - they mostly lack a frame of reference - but it will be better for them, truly.  I estimate I spent about 50 hours on it so far.  On the bright side, the front-loading was highly efficient!


Now I have several free hours a week without work to fill them...


Also, I'm still flailing professionally.  What am I even doing with my life?  Redesigning Science Course A to be more interesting and useful has starkly highlighted how Lab Course B (which I teach three sections a term of...) is... not any of that.  What's the point?  How much longer can I be cheerful about this darn lab? I feel like the answer is 'a very short time' and it's time to bow out.  But slowly.


A colleague has mentioned to me the possibility of a future job opening and I am deeply conflicted.  Is it better than nothing?  How much?  I don't know...


Meanwhile, the kids are old enough that they have lessons and games and parties and social engagements and it's a lot of work


On that note, a bell just rang (literally), and I must go pick up the smallest child and meet the others for a social engagement. 


Yours in confusion until the next dispatch-


J