Category: blabbering

Nov 06 2012

Go vote!!

Just a quick reminder for everyone in the US today – get out and vote. This election is going to be a close one, make sure your voice is heard!

Mar 21 2011

On Serious Baking, and a Whole Wheat-ish Bread Recipe

I bake a lot. I’m regularly bringing things I bake to work or to friends, since part of the fun of baking is being able to share, and seeing other people smile when they eat your yummy creations. Last time I brought something to work, one of my coworkers asked me how long I had been baking. I answered without thinking, “I’ve been baking seriously for about 15 years.” Her response “what’s seriously baking?”

Good question, and one I had to think about. I believe I did give the right response. I’ve been baking my entire life, but for years and years I was like most people and just pulled out a random chocolate chip cookie recipe or something every once in a while. But 15 (or so) years ago, it all changed.

It wasn’t really intentional, I didn’t set out to become a baking geek. A friend of mine had a bread machine, I saw what it could do, and thought it was the greatest thing ever. I bought a second hand machine off of Ebay for next to nothing, and discovered I could bake very good bread very cheaply. Financially, bread baking made a lot of sense for me at the time. I joined a bread maker Yahoo! Group, and found that the science behind baking was really interesting and fun to play with.

I still think I tend to approach baking as more of a science than an art – most bakers would agree (in fact, “if cooking is an art, baking is a science” is one of my favorite quotes). I tend to think about what I want as the end result and back into a recipe from there. I think that’s different than what most chefs do, which seems to be more adding ingredients to see what the end result will be, playing with various combinations that seems like they’d work well together. Baking is a bit more complicated.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying I’m a perfect baker. I screw up ALL the time. That’s part of playing around. I always have a couple of recipes I’m working on perfecting, and more and more I tend to make “kitchen sink” bread where I open the fridge/cabinets and throw stuff in randomly. I made an awesome loaf last night this way (and will share the recipe below), but often have disasters. My recent explorations into ciabatta baking have resulted in a number of disasters. My one successful loaf looked like ciabatta, but was fairly tasteless – there is a lot more perfecting to do.

These days, if I want to bake something specific and don’t know how, I tend to read a bunch of recipes and combine them into something I like. But if it’s totally unfamiliar (like ciabatta) I will follow the recipe to the letter until I get the technique and procedure down.

Enough blabbering, onto the recipe. I fully intended to make a pizza for dinner last night, but when I started pulling together the dough, got a bit carried away, and it mutated into something else. This obviously isn’t a tested recipe by any sense of the word, seeing as I only made it once (I wouldn’t put it up there with my perfect French bread or anything), but it is good, healthy, whole-wheatyish sandwich bread. I am out of real sugar at home, which is why the splenda, substitute real sugar if desired.

Ingredients:

3 cups white bread flour
2 cups whole wheat flour
2 1/2 cups water
1 1/2 tsp salt (this made for a slightly salty bread, which I think worked well with the other ingredients)
heaping 1/4 cup splenda
dash of honey (this was for the yeast more than anything else, there isn’t enough for flavor)
2 tbs olive oil
1/4 cup non-fat milk powder
1/2 cup seeds & grains (I use this – I love everything about KA’s harvest grains blend except for the poppy – this lets me make my own).
2 tsp yeast

Throw all the ingredients in your bread machine set to dough, OR…mix the yeast, honey and water, let sit. Mix all the dry ingredients, then add the yeast/water mixture and olive oil.

Once the dough is kneaded (if by hand, about 20 minutes kneading should do it), let it triple for the first rise. In my case, this means I have to pull it out of the bread machine – the machine will automatically knock the rising dough down before it can fully triple. Took about an hour.

Now to decide what to do with the dough! I made this into 4 rolls (for dinner that night), and 1 big loaf. The rolls baked at 450 for 15, the loaf at 375 for closer to 30. Both batches were sprayed with water 5 and 10 minutes into baking.

Allow to cool off completely before slicing, then enjoy!!

Aug 29 2010

What Does Being an Aural Learner Mean?

My learning style according to the University of PhoenixA few weeks ago at BlogHer, the University of Phoenix was offering a learning assessment you could take to find out what your learning style was to win an iPad (which I did win – holy cow – but more on that in a future entry, there’s a funny story to share). As you can see from my results here, I tested nearly completely as aural, with a big chunk of logical, some solitary, and a teeny weeny bit of visual. I was told that was pretty much dead opposite of the rest of BlogHer attendees, which I found pretty fascinating. I knew my learning style was considered more masculine than feminine, but I would have said it was because I was visual/spatial (or what I thought of as left brain vs right). Mind you, spatial isn’t on this learning style chart, could mean the same thing as visual, and maybe one doesn’t exclude the other (anyone know?), but I barely registered as a visual learner.

I have always been very musically oriented, from starting to play the piano when I was 4, to learning a bunch of other musical instruments just because (not saying I was good at them, but they were fun to play with), to singing in any chorus, choir or musical that would have me. And of course, if you know me, you know my love for Broadway. A good song, or even just an amazing voice will easily bring me to tears, but I never really thought about whether or not that meant anything.

I was staying with my parents while I was in NYC at the conference, and when I told my mom (who’s a lifelong academic/educator, now a college professor and school superintendent) what the test said, her response was simply “of course!” Oh. Revelation to me, known fact to her.

Some people have eidetic (photographic) memories, where they can take a quick look at something and recall every single element of it. I can do something similar where my brain takes single snapshots of certain moments and can recall details of those snapshots, no matter how old they are. My memories are full of mental pictures. If I’m remembering notes on a page, I have to remember where those notes are on the page before I can remember the content of the notes. I’m also terrible at foreign languages, and thought all of this made me a visual learner.

Now with the learning assessment results in mind, I realize that my “visual snapshot ability” (it’s in quotes because I don’t think it’s considered any kind of “real” ability) doesn’t even come close to what I do with audio. People with eidetic memories can remember every single detail of something they’ve seen for a brief moment, which I can only do on occasion, and I can’t make it happen, as much as I’ve tried to “train” it. It just happens, sometimes due to an emotional event associated with the moment, and sometimes for no good reason at all.

However, I can recall audio I’ve heard for a brief moment down to the most minute detail, sometimes with visuals, sometimes without. I know the proper pitch, the vocal tone, I can identify single notes in chords in my head, I often remember the lyrics, and although I may not be able to accurately recreate the audio due to my inability to play the piano or sing even half as well as I used to (I mentioned all of this briefly in the 25 things you don’t know about me post/meme/thingy), I know the tune inside and out. It used to drive my piano teachers crazy (they call it “playing by ear”), if they made the mistake of playing a song for me before I learned it by reading the music, I would never look at the music again and play from audio memory. I’ve always thought that was due to a lot of training (both vocal and instrumental), and music theory classes, but I now think it’s more than that. In hindsight, the learning assessment results make perfect sense. Why else would I still be able to recall every single helper verb I had to memorize in 6th grade to the tune of Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star (“be being as is have has could, do does did, may might must….” and so on). My teacher said we would never forget, and she was right.

I also learned years ago that I cannot do much of anything without sound in the background. It doesn’t really matter what the sound is, just something my mind can grab on to so the rest of me can concentrate on something else. When I was younger, this was a pretty big problem due to the common belief that you must have silence to be able to study. Once I got older and figured it out, concentrating became much easier. I blamed that on my general tendency towards hyperactivity (or ADHD, or whatever you want to call it). I’ve never been good at sitting still, and have never grown out of the “ooh, shiny!” distractibility.

The same goes with me in the office and at home. If I’m at home, the TV is on, no matter what I’m doing. CNN is on right now, has been for hours, but it’s just background noise. I do know part of my head IS listening, though, for example, I just heard the words “Clay Shirky” and looked up. And now (it’s probably hours later, I’ve been doing other things while writing/editing this entry) I just recognized a voice, looked up, and it’s Marc Saltzman, who used to work with us at Pseudo years ago, wow, hey Marc! How on earth is possible that he looks younger now? I sure don’t. But he’s on CNN! See, random bits and pieces catch my attention. But is my attention being swiped by the TV ADHD, or my ability to learn almost subconsciously through audio?

At work, if I’m trying to concentrate, my headphones are on. I’m not really paying attention, but just like CNN right now, I will be affected by what I’m listening to. I tell you, there’s nothing like fighting tears while writing a spec (I swear, I’m not crying over specs, even if Jira does love to suggest that I tag all my specs “pain”). And nothing on earth will keep me from falling asleep more than a sound I can just barely hear, no matter what it is, my mind will not stop trying to interpret it into something I can recognize, put to a pattern, and end.

Everyone gets a song or a jingle stuck in their head every once in a while. I’m the same, except in my situation, I cannot get the tune out of my head until I completely memorize it. I will hear commercials as I’m wandering around the house (I fast-forward through them when I’m actively watching TV) and end up memorizing them, or even worse, memorizing bits and pieces. It doesn’t matter what the song or jingle is, anything musical has to have an ending, otherwise it gets stuck on a loop in my head.

That is also why I tend to listen to full musicals or albums that run together (like Queensryche’s Mindcrime) while I’m working (and monotonous TV when I’m reading or writing or something), I don’t notice the switch from one song to another as much, and am able to easily stop in the middle, since it can then continue through to the end in my head.

If I don’t know the ending of a song or jingle, or if it ends on a discordant note or in the middle of a beat or something (like nails on a friggin chalkboard to me!), I’ll end up mixing it in my head with a song I do know that hits the same note or a complimentary one in the same key.

Fortunately, I tend to forget the mix once I learn the song, since I do come up with some really weird ones, I don’t know how my head pulls the songs together. I’ve wondered before if really good DJ’s train that ability to select songs that match, and that’s how they mix music so well (I don’t do it intentionally, and have never tried), but that’s another blabber for another time. I do get well done mash-ups (ones that match more than just a beat) stuck in my head pretty easily, and tend to avoid them as a result.

As a silly example, last September when I was on vacation to Las Vegas and the Grand Canyon, we kept hearing “See You Again” by Miley Cyrus everywhere. It has a funky chorus with off beat lyrics, and got hopelessly stuck in my head. I bought the song as soon as possible (I think I got it from iTunes while I was still at the Vegas airport), put it on repeat many times over a few days, worked out the piece of the song I was having trouble memorizing, even looked up the lyrics I couldn’t clearly understand, and was done with it. I can still run though the whole thing in my head, it’s actually a cute, catchy song, but the point is…I don’t have to.

For the most part, I discover interesting music this way. The annoying piece is when I get bits and pieces of TV jingles stuck in my head, or songs I really don’t like – the solution is still the same as with the Miley Cyrus song. I’m also often amused when I discover what song goes with what tv commercial, there’s rarely any relation between the lyrics of the song and what the commercial is pitching.

Strangely enough, this all started out as an entry about my trip to South Africa, but it’s safe to say that this is already far too long of a single blog entry from a girl who’s already been told her entries get too long. Oops.

Until an actual “all about my trip to Cape Town” entry (of which there will be many), I leave you with this…gorgeous, isn’t it?

Table Mountain

Disclosure: I wrote most of this entry on an iPad I won from the University of Phoenix at BlogHer because I took the learning assessment described in this entry. I think I’d be writing this entry anyway, because the findings were really interesting to me, but maybe it wouldn’t be quite so rambly if I hadn’t had the iPad on some very, very long plane trips. You decide if that is a good or bad thing. I’m too jet-lagged to care. There ya go, FTC – full blogger disclosure.

Aug 17 2010

More from Dubai

Still at the Dubai Airport and still have not found wifi. So more random blabbering from me. I did get today’s New York times downloaded, which is something I suppose….yes, the Kindle’s world 3G really is world wide. I’m at the gate waiting for my flight now, this was a much more pain-less checkin than in SF, primarily because I was already checked in. My luggage (hopefully) went straight through to South Africa.

I had a really interesting conversation with a woman from New Zealand who is on her way home from Afghanistan. She had spent the last 4 months there as a relief worker, and was on the 12th hour of her layover. Some random facts she told me about: no smoking anywhere in public during Ramadan, the Irish pub at the airport here is the only place that serves alcohol during the holiday and they have free wifi (will check it out on my return, I’ll have four hours to kill), shopping here is out of control – the time to come is the first two weeks in January, but duty free isn’t bad here end either. She definitely convinced me to take a longer layover if I’m ever here again – i would love to explore.

What else. Burkas are omnipresent here, but not so much so in rural Afghanistan, near Iran. Women there do not wear the full deal, some of them may wear the head piece, but she made a point of saying its personal choice. It’s not quite as required as it may be elsewhere. Of course, that said – no shorts, no skirts unless they hit the floor. No short sleeves, no cleavage. Strangely enough, heavy, heavy makeup is ok – its strange to me to see these gorgeous women wearing pounds of makeup covered from head to toe. All you see are smoky eyes. She pointed out a woman wearing a tank top and said that someone was going to ask her to please “cover herself for decency.”

I suspect I will have a lot more to say about the gender stuff once I’m not quite so sleep deprivand have had time to process. It has definitely been an experience. Nothing bad, though, I want to emphasize that.

Ok, I think we’re boarding soon. Next stop Cape Town, where although it is winter, there is nothing wrong with a woman in a tank top.

Aug 06 2010

It’s BlogHer Time of Year Again

..and this year it’s in New York City, which is about as cool as things can get, since I’m from here.

I’m waiting for the first session to begin right now, so while I’m waiting, here are some random tips on BlogHer and NYC:

- If anyone asks you for money, to buy crap, or whatever on the street, glare at them with narrowed eyes and snark “Do I look like a fucking tourist.” Guaranteed to work.

- Don’t get overwhelmed with all the sessions. You can’t attend them all, and that’s OK!

- Be friendly. People are more than open to talk (I do get the irony that I’m sitting staring at my computer telling other people to be friendly. But I will be friendly later, I swear), and are here to meet people like you! I finally did talk to the woman sitting next to me, awesome blog I need to read: One Woman’s Eye.

- It’s hot. Very hot out. And chilly inside. Wear as little as possible while still being decent.

Woops, this will be shorter than intended, session starting now. More later!

Jul 01 2010

On Life as a Fan Girl

I am a fan of things. By that, I mean that while I do “like” some things, I also, always, have been that person who, when I really like something, I REALLY get in to it. I become obsessed with one thing after another, maybe it’s what happens when you cross an addictive personality with ADD? I am fairly monogamous in my addictions, though, I tend to only have one obsession at a given time.

Stargate is probably the longest-running fandom I can claim to belong to. I’m not head over heels obsessed, in fact, there is only one reason I’m up to date on Stargate Universe right now, and his initials are MS, but it’s definitely something I love. I listen to multiple Stargate podcasts, I’ve seen all there is to see, and keep up on the news and blogs. I’ve never been to a Stargate convention (as much as I would love to go, it’s one of those “if I won the lottery” things) and while I wouldn’t go chasing Michael Shanks across the country, I wouldn’t say no to seeing him at some convention if it was in SF. Which it never is, mind you.

That said, I’m still not a casual fan of anything. My favorite way to watch a tv show is start to finish, as in, watch the whole season start to finish. I will often not watch a show while it’s airing so I can do this. I get really into the show for about two weeks, crank through it, and then I’m done. For some reason, I find that much more satisfying than watching an episode a week for 20 weeks, although I definitely do feel a difference in the show’s pacing – in some cases, the storyline significantly changes in your mind if you go through a season too quickly. This also works well since I tend to prefer shows that are complex enough that it’s impossible to jump in midway through, I just wait for them to finish airing and then watch it all.

I will rewatch exceptional tv shows, listen to commentary, watch extra features, and read analysis online. If I really like a tv show, I want to learn as much as I can about it. I’m currently rewatching Babylon 5, and it amazes me how much more I notice about the show now that I know how it all ends. I’m even re-reading the episode guide as I rewatch the episode. Great shows do that…leave you amazed at the end about things they did in the first episode. They give you a reason to want to be a fan girl, to want to learn more, because there actually is more to learn! I definitely prefer shows and stories that are multi-threaded, that give you things to think about. Simple is boring.

I don’t think there’s anything negative about being a fangirl. It simply means I like complex things that require thought and invoke emotion. So what if I have a new obsession every week? It keeps life interesting, and I have a lot more fun being REALLY involved in things than minimally.

What about you? Do you keep all things at a distance? Or do you bury your head until you’re done?

Apr 14 2010

When Sense is Nonsense

I have always had a great sense of direction. I never knew how, or why I had it, but if you asked me at any given time where something was, I could point in the right direction. I wouldn’t necessarily know north or south or street names, just…”that way.” It’s definitely come in handy, every time I move, I need to learn streets and directions all over again, which means lots of getting lost trying to find my way around. I like going on instinct, it’s a great way to explore an area, and as long as I know “I need to be over there” I’ll end up at the right place.

That is, until I moved to San Francisco. I had a feeling this city was going to throw off my sense of direction, but I had assumed that was because of the hills. I was right about the sense of direction thing, but so wrong about the reason.

As it turns out, the hills don’t make a difference, the height of a street does not effect my perception of its length. What did screw me up, though, was my apartment building. My building sits in on the corner of the street. I enter my building on one street, and my window looks out onto another perpendicular street. However, when walking around that corner, I am able to cut it slightly by walking under the building, essentially walking catty corner instead of straight to the corner and turning 90 degrees. Doing this means that while walking from point A (under my window) to point B (entrance to my building) instead of only turning once in complete 90 degrees at the corner I turn twice, 45 degrees or so each. This is evidently a HUGE thing to my sense of direction.

When I first moved here, I was positive that the two streets surrounding my building were parallel to each other. Three turns must mean there’s another street, right? Just…the street is only 2 feet long and is actually a way to walk around the corner. I figured out my mistake quickly enough, but knowing and feeling are two different things.

This is where it gets interesting for me. I have lived here for over a year. Logically, I know the two streets I live on run perpendicular to each other, but it makes no difference. My mind – my “sense of direction” still insists that the streets run parallel. Even last night, someone asked me for directions, and I had a horrible time trying to point them in the right direction. I had to remember that “this street goes that way,” and even then confused myself but good.

Clearly, a “sense of direction” is related to feelings and perception more than logical thought, and changing the way your “gut” thinks is not simple. Logic does not enter into a gut reaction, and directional ability seems to be exactly the same. This is probably the first time that I remember trying to actively un-learn something because my perception is all screwy as a result, and it’s extremely hard.

What does it say about the human mind? How much of what we do is perception or gut-based, and how much is logical? My struggle with directions here in SF would suggest that I act a lot more from instinct than I do from logic, even if I don’t know that I’m doing it. I find that fascinating.

I haven’t found a second example where my gut thinks something that my head knows is wrong, but I’m absolutely keeping my eye out. I want to understand more about how this works, it’s a really neat mental, well, bug, that I want to fix.

Has this ever happened to you? Did you fix the bug?

Mar 25 2010

You Didn’t Get Mad When…

I didn’t write this, but it’s too good not to share. Source unknown.

You didn’t get mad when the Supreme Court stopped a legal recount and appointed a President.

You didn’t get mad when Cheney allowed Energy company officials to dictate energy policy.

You didn’t get mad when a covert CIA operative got outed.

You didn’t get mad when the Patriot Act got passed.

You didn’t get mad when we illegally invaded a country that posed no threat to us.

You didn’t get mad when we spent over 600 billion(and counting) on said illegal war.

You didn’t get mad when over 10 billion dollars just disappeared in Iraq.

You didn’t get mad when you saw the Abu Grahib photos.

You didn’t get mad when you found out we were torturing people.

You didn’t get mad when the government was illegally wiretapping Americans.

You didn’t get mad when we didn’t catch Bin Laden.

You didn’t get mad when you saw the horrible conditions at Walter Reed.

You didn’t get mad when we let a major US city drown.

You didn’t get mad when the deficit hit the trillion dollar mark.

You finally got mad when… when… wait for it… when the government decided that people in America deserved the right to see a doctor if they are sick.

Illegal wars, lies, corruption, torture, stealing your tax dollars to make the rich richer, are all OK with you, but helping other Americans… well f*ck that. That about right?

The government did a really good thing this past weekend. It’s not perfect, but it’s a start. Here’s to being optimistic about the future!

Jul 23 2009

One door closes, lots of doors open.

Back in November, I left my position at MySpace to move to San Francisco and work for a teeny weeny startup. I definitely missed the startup world, and really enjoyed working in a 6 person company. After Yahoo!, AOL, and MySpace, it was like getting back to my roots.

But, things change, I am no longer working on Operation Turtle, and find myself in one of those funny “wow, I could almost do anything” situations. I wish the best for the folks left at OT and hope that they do get to show the world how incredible the product truly is. I’m moving on, though.

What do I do next. I’ve been emailing various folks, applied for a few positions online, but have saved most of the applying for jobs until I’m back from BlogHer in chicago next week (there’s nothing worse than applying for a job and then being unavailable). I’m a product person, so obviously, that’s what I’m looking at, but this is one of those moments where, theoretically, anything can happen.

In what is a sick twist of, I guess it’d be irony, I had been thinking for months now how much I missed writing, and how cool it would be to take a year and do nothing but write. Write the ‘great american novel,’ so to speak. Now, while it’s safe to say that whatever I write will most likely not be publishable in any form, it is still good for me and my own sanity to get something down on paper. I feel better when I write. And, well, let’s face it, it takes a little while to find a new job. While I hope I find something great and wonderful soon, I’m still gonna have some free time on my hands.

So I’m, slightly unexpectedly, back on the job market. Who knows what I’m going to do. But as always with me, it’s sure to be an adventure.

Jul 09 2009

The Man With the Beard in the Mirror

We’ve lost a lot of celebrities in the recent weeks, and a death is like an emergency – you don’t really know how you’re going to react until it happens.

My reaction to two of the celebrities who died – Michael Jackson and Billy Mays – surprised me.

Billy Mays passed away right in the middle of the Michael fever (same with Farrah Faucett, who died the same day as Michael). I don’t think I realized what a connection I had in my head to him until he died. I read about Billy dying on Twitter, turned on the TV, and there he was selling Kaboom.

We all let Billy, more than anyone, into our houses every single day. It’s near impossible to watch anything without seeing him. I don’t watch commercials, I’ve never bought something from an ad on tv (I do own a snuggie, but I bought it at Walgreens), I DVR everything, either on the TiVo or the DirectTV thingy, and yet…I still know Billy Mays.

I’ve also been watching, and loving, Pitchmen, which anyone interested in consumer marketing really should watch. Invaluable stuff. People have heard me rant many times about “knowing your market” and not making a product for YOU, but for your users. Billy (and his partner on the show, Anthony Sullivan) knew better than anyone else I’ve ever seen how to make sure you were selling products to your market. It was really fascinating to me to see them turn down (what I thought were) really neat products because they weren’t appropriate for their market, and select really strange stuff, because their market would like it…even if they personally did not.

Billy came off as a really nice, sweet guy. A guy who you truly would trust to tell you “hey, buy this thing.” Who you want to sit down and have a beer with. And I discovered that I really expected to see him on tv every day, and that seeing him was somewhat comforting. Some psychologist could tell me what that means.

The idea that I won’t see him anymore, ever again, is unsettling. It’s not true, of course, they’re still running his commercials, and I understand a new season of Pitchmen has been ordered. But still. He’s gone, just like Michael Jackson, at 50.

Michael Jackson was the first VHS I ever saw (Thriller), and the first CD I ever bought (Dangerous). His music is associated with my life. I don’t know how to say it better than that. I hear his music, I remember the time in my life where it came out. It’s just always been there. And suddenly, it won’t be. I’m still a little stunned at that.

Two people who were always there suddenly are not. RIP Michael Jackson and Billy Mays, you both meant more to me than I ever knew.

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