Category Archives: Geeking out

Merry Christmas. Blink and you’re dead.

We have a Christmas tree at our office.

Our office Christmas tree does not have a topper.

I do not have any act-right.

The dollar store near our office is selling treetop angels for $3.

So, obviously, this had to happen:

Fascinating race, the Weeping Angels. The only psychopaths in the universe to kill you nicely.
Fascinating race, the Weeping Angels. The only psychopaths in the universe to kill you nicely.
A weeping angel is the deadliest, most powerful, most malevolent life form evolution has ever produced, and right now one of them is about to be trapped inside my office.
A weeping angel is the deadliest, most powerful, most malevolent life form evolution has ever produced, and right now one of them is about to be trapped inside my office.

I couldn’t help myself. Really, I couldn’t. The reporter who sits behind me is a Whovian, as are two copy editors, all the IT guys and at least one person in advertising. And that empty spot at the top of the tree is just begging for a worthy decoration.

Besides, somebody already brought in one of those Elf on a Shelf things, and they’re at least as terrifying as the Weeping Angels. If you don’t mind a voyeuristic elfin ratfink carrying out covert espionage operations all over the office from Thanksgiving until Christmas, you shouldn’t be fazed by a quantum-locked assassin masquerading as a divine emissary.

I suspect the Elf on a Shelf of being a Weeping Angel in disguise anyway. I mean, it does seem to be quantum-locked, and we are advised not to touch it.

Come to think of it, that’s a little unnerving. The prevailing theory among Whovians is that Santa is a Time Lord, because he doesn’t age, he doesn’t die, his bag is obviously bigger on the inside, and the only thing that could manipulate time and space efficiently enough to allow for several billion deliveries in a single night is a TARDIS. (Evidently his doesn’t have a functioning chameleon circuit, either, since it always looks like a flying sleigh, which is almost as inconspicuous as a flying British phone booth.)

I can think of only one Time Lord whose ethical standards would be so dubious as to allow him to infiltrate children’s homes with poorly dressed Weeping Angels.

Don’t pull on Santa’s beard, kids. You’re liable to find John Simm hiding back there.

Emily

Chilly Monday

We ended up with about an inch and a half of snow overnight. It didn’t affect the roads much, so after we dropped Riggy off to have his teeth cleaned this morning at the vet’s office, we headed up to Ste. Genevieve to pick up some odds and ends from the Brew Haus and have lunch at the Anvil.

While we were there, I saw something I’d never noticed before:

stegenangel

I was a little reluctant to take my eyes off of it, because from a distance, it looked suspiciously like:

Carne Y Piedra

When we got back, we picked up new tags for the dogs and a new collar for Riggy and met a nice young man who was having a tag engraved with “MARRY ME” so he could put it on the puppy he was getting for his girlfriend. He said she told him she wanted a puppy and a ring, so he was getting her both on the same day.

After another errand or two, we went to the vet’s office to pick up Riggy, who was well and truly stoned from the anaesthetic. He cried on the way home because he hates riding in the car, but when we got to the Hardee’s drive-through to get him some chicken strips for dinner, he whimpered once or twice and then started literally nodding off:

sleepyriggy

Poor little Riggy. He enjoyed his chicken, though. He’s got some more waiting for him when he wakes up.

Emily

Pinterest quackery

I’m beginning to think Pinterest has become the wormhole through which junk science enters the universe.

Sample du jour: an “alkalizing foods” chart telling people they can lose weight and prevent cancer by consuming certain foods to make their blood more alkaline.

Among the supposed “alkalizing” substances: lemon juice.

Those of you who passed chemistry class might, at this point, be giving that sentence an epic side-eye. But wait! You don’t understand! See, you put the lemon juice in water, which raises its pH, so when you drink it, it “alkalizes” your body. Science!

o__O

o______O

o__________O

For those of you who flunked chemistry, let me explain:

Acids have a pH below 7.

Alkaline substances (a.k.a. bases) have a pH above 7.

Neutral substances have a pH right at 7. Pure water, for example, has a pH of 7.

When you add water to a strong acid, you get a weaker acid. When you add water to a strong base, you get a weaker base. You can’t convert an acid to a base (or vice versa) by diluting it. And you obviously can’t raise the pH of a substance by adding acid; that’s like trying to lighten paint by mixing in some more black.

Now for some biology:

Your blood is slightly alkaline, because blood is supposed to be slightly alkaline. The pH isn’t subject to the whims of your diet. If it were, a bag of Sour Patch Kids would probably kill you. The alkalinity of your blood doesn’t bounce around like your glucose level. It’s more like your body temperature: It has to remain within a very narrow window.

Even if your blood’s pH were subject to wild fluctuations, you couldn’t adjust it by means of diet, because anything you eat has to go through your stomach first, and your stomach is full of hydrochloric acid, diluted by your body to a pH somewhere between 1.5 and 3.5. To neutralize that, you’d basically (see what I just did there?) have to knock back a shot of Liquid Plum’r and chase it with a glass of Windex. I don’t recommend this, unless you’re just trying to die young, in the most horrifying possible manner.

What I’ve seen of the “alkalizing diet” isn’t particularly harmful on its face. It’s never a bad idea to go heavier on the vegetables and lighter on the aerosol cheese. But doing that won’t alter the pH of your blood — and it shouldn’t.

Emily

Lots of projects

As we wind down our weekend (our days off are Sunday and Monday), I’m pretty happy with our accomplishments.

Ron worked late Saturday, so I made breakfast while he slept in, and then we went out searching for Gone Girl filming locations for an article he’s working on. We followed that with a trip to the hardware store to pick up materials for a small project I needed to do: The exercise bike we bought last weekend is great, but it didn’t have a shelf or ledge or anything for my iPad, which meant I couldn’t watch Netflix while working out — kind of a big deal, since I rely on a humanoid alien in tweed and a bowtie to keep me motivated.

I wouldn’t exactly call this an elegant solution, but it works, anyway:

Red Fork engineering.
Red Fork engineering.
Matt Smith is an excellent personal trainer. A 45-minute ride goes by much faster while you're watching the Doctor save the universe again.
Matt Smith is an excellent personal trainer. A 45-minute ride goes by much faster while you’re watching the Doctor save the universe again.

I stayed up late last night to add a couple more short chapters to my novel. It’s still not quite where I want it, but it’s inching closer. Which is good, because I have ideas for two others that are much more plot-heavy, and I’d really like to get this one done and either shopped or Kindled and off my plate so I can start the next.

We slept in again this morning, took the dogs to the park, and headed to Giant City to shoot some more Gone Girl sites. We spent a few minutes on the Makanda Boardwalk, made a pit stop at Lipe’s Orchard for sweet potatoes and chrysanthemums, and had dinner at Quatro’s before heading home, where I insulated a few pipes in the basement. Not the most productive weekend ever, but not bad.

Emily

Don’t blink.

I spent a happy Saturday geeking it up in the garden. I got a few practical things done — most notably, Ron and I inspected the hives this morning, and after he left for work this afternoon, I reconfigured my irrigation system and planted a few tomatoes to replace some of the seedlings that didn’t make it — but this was my major project for the day:

tardisangel
Eat your heart out, Amelia Pond.
tardisbirdfeeder
Ready for birdseed. Or, alternately, a tealight. I think we know which way I’ll end up going with that.
sleepingangel
Sleeping angel, or Weeping Angel playing opossum? I’ve got the mermaid keeping an eye on her just in case.

After I finished my work, I made a big cranberry-peach-banana smoothie and sat next to the pond, which has tons of toad eggs in it. They seem to be growing. I imagine we’ll have tadpoles by next weekend. The duckweed seems to be increasing a bit, too, and the fish have gotten braver — they play in the shallow areas now, provided I don’t get too close.

songonknee
Songdog decided he needed some quality time with Mommy while Riggy was busy sniffing the quail pen.

Notes from our hive inspection: The bees seem to be settling in. The Carnie hybrids built a lot of burr comb that had to be scraped off — much to my regret, as it was full of brood — and the Buckfasts are drawing out comb and packing in great stores of pollen, although the queen hasn’t laid any eggs yet. It’s still early for them. We’ll check again next weekend and see how they’re doing. The girls are bringing in a lot of bright red pollen, which is interesting.

Hope your Saturday was full of satisfying projects and friendly dogs, wherever you are.

Emily

Acquisitions

I’ve been slowly but surely converting a tiny, unused space at the end of the kitchen cabinets into a sort of FlyLady-style “launching pad” for the back door.

Thanks to an inconveniently placed vent, I had a section of unused space at the end of the cabinets that was about 18 inches wide and as deep as the counter. The wall was wide enough to hang a calendar, but I couldn’t put anything on the floor because it would impede air circulation.

Last week, I installed a hanging deck planter under the calendar to hold a hive tool, a pair of bee gloves, a can of goldfish food and a few other odds and ends, and we picked up a little tile-topped plant stand yesterday to hold a bag each of quail feed and dried mealworms (the birds’ favorite treat). Then last night at Target, I found the most appropriate of all possible hooks to hang my ballcap and bee jacket:

beehook1 beehook2

 

Very convenient, and I love reclaiming wasted space — especially in a 730-square-foot house, where we don’t have much space to waste.

I made a few other purchases today, mostly for the pond:

pond3
Duckweed. Hard to find sometimes, but awesome for shading the water and giving pollinators a safe landing pad.
pond2
Big pot of water lilies, also for shade and pollinator protection.
pond1
Little concrete bench so I can sit and enjoy my coffee in the garden in the mornings.

The white circles in the pond are the bottoms of styrofoam coffee cups. They’re temporary; I put them out there to give the bees a safe place to land so they don’t drown while they’re trying to get a drink. Also note the presence of our old friend Smeagol, the weird Gollum-looking lawn ornament I found at Lowe’s a few years ago and absolutely could not resist. Too many summers in the Oklahoma heat left him with what appears to be the corrupt-plastic-hobbit version of vitiligo, but a coat of Rust-Oleum should fix that easily enough. I still need to come up with a good way to display a replica of the One Ring in the pond. Geeky, yes, but that’s just the way I like it.

Hope your garden is just the way you like it, wherever you are.

Emily

 

 

Eco-Saturday: Coffee conscious

NOTE: This is the second of two Eco-Saturday entries I’m posting today to make up for the lack of a post last week.

coffee1
Saving the planet with help from the Good Doctor.

I am a shameless coffee junkie. One way I’ve reduced my environmental footprint is by making my own coffee and bringing it to work in a reusable container.

Here are a few tips and instructions for making three popular drinks: plain, single-serving coffee; cappuccino; and mocha frappes.

Plain coffee

First, don’t buy a Keurig. They are obscenely expensive and generate a lot of unnecessary waste. You can get a good single-serving coffee maker that will brew directly into an insulated travel mug for $25 or less. I use this model. Make setting up the coffee maker part of your before-bed routine. That way, all you have to do in the morning is flip the switch on your way into the shower.

For a coffeehouse-worthy experience, buy unflavored, whole-bean coffee (preferably fair-trade and/or organic) in small quantities and grind it as you use it. You can get a decent burr grinder for $40, and it’s well worth the money. Avoid flavored coffees, as artificial flavoring is often used to mask inferior-quality beans. If you want your coffee to taste like hazelnut or vanilla or whatever, buy a bottle of Torani syrup and DIY.

coffee2
Ignore the big bubbles in the froth. I tried using almond milk for this one. I don’t recommend it. Some things were never meant to be vegan.

Cappuccino

Real cappuccino is one part espresso, one part steamed milk and one-third foam, and you can’t make it without an espresso machine. Anyone who claims otherwise is either a fool or a liar.

You can buy a perfectly good espresso machine for less than $50 at any big-box store. Just be aware that when you are using a small machine to make cappuccino, you may have trouble getting it to build up enough steam to froth and heat the milk. To prevent this problem:

1. Make sure the coffee is ground finely enough. Some of the pre-ground “espresso” is too coarse to work well in small machines, as the water flows through it too quickly to build up a good head of steam.
2. Set up the machine to make four shots instead of two. This helps ensure you have adequate steam.
3. Tamp down the espresso as firmly as possible. (The bottom of a shot glass works well for this purpose.)

This is a great demonstration of the frothing process, which is the hard part:

Frothing takes practice, so don’t get frustrated if your initial efforts are less than satisfactory.

coffee5
Purple haze courtesy of the growlights I’m using on my tomato seedlings, which are in the dining room at the moment.

Frappes

Frappes always make me think of Travolta’s “five-dollar milkshake” riff from Pulp Fiction. They are not worth $5. Make one yourself for less than $1.

Start by making a couple of shots of espresso. Add an equal amount of any kind of milk (skim, whole, soy, almond, whatever) and a handful of ice cubes.

dalek
Ice cubes, ice Daleks — potato, potahto.

Add chocolate syrup to taste and blend until thick and frosty, adding more ice if necessary. (Protip: Most blender blades will fit on a narrow-mouthed Mason jar, so you can make the drink and serve it in the same container to save time and dishes. This also works well for smoothies.)

Top with whipped cream and chocolate sauce if desired, add a straw and enjoy.