Sunday, November 9, 2008

I chose the wrong field

I was trying to find a study about runners' health and yogurt that Michelle had heard about somewhere, and my Google Scholar search results included an article titled "Effect of Yam Yogurt on Colon Mucosal Tissue of Rats with Loperamide-induced Constipation". Why am I studying the sub-millimeter accuracy of Newton's gravitational square law when I could be spending my time with a topic like this?

Saturday, November 8, 2008

Online game of the day

Factory Balls 2
I like logic games like this.

Thursday, October 30, 2008

The U.S. are . . .

Thanks to "today's" Calvin and Hobbes strip, I realized that "United States of America" should be treated as plural. Henceforth, I'm going to try to do that. It has some interesting political connotations that I think I like, but let me know if I'm off base. Granted, this is going to make some ideas harder to convey, since you can't say "The United States are the world's only superpower." Maybe "The United States constitute the world's only superpower"?

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Odin is the new Freyja

So most students might feel a bit of relief once Friday is over, or maybe Thursday if they've managed to not have any Friday classes. For me, it's Wednesday. The one class I'm taking for credit has homework due on Wednesdays. Every week on the bus home Wednesday night I remember that I don't have any more homework that week, which makes everything better. Wednesday is the new Friday.

Monday, October 27, 2008

Making Yogurt

In Thailand there's a drinkable yogurt that we bought almost every day. I decided I wanted to try to make some, and instead of using store-bought yogurt I looked into making my own. It turns out that it's pretty easy. It's even easier if you use dry milk instead of fresh. The thing to remember is that you want a sterile environment to put the yogurt culture into, so just keep track of keeping things clean.

  • Boil about a quart of water (to sterilize it).
  • Put 3 & 3/4 cups of the water into a (clean) 1-quart mason jar or other similar container.
  • Once the water has cooled down some, add 1 & 1/3 cups dry milk powder and mix. I just put the (sterilized) lid on and shook it so I didn't have to worry about sterilizing a stirring implement.
  • Let the milk cool to less than 140 degrees and add a few tablespoons of live-culture yogurt.
  • Keep the mix at ~110 degrees for about 8 hours. I filled two other mason jars with boiling water and put them in our handy Thai cooler, with a towel under them so as to not melt the plastic. I then put the towel over the top of them a bit and put the jar with the mix on top and put the lid on the cooler.
  • When the mix has become suitable yogurt, flavor as desired. I was able to match the Thai stuff pretty well by mixing in some juice and sugar.
I haven't tried yet, but adding more milk powder is supposed to thicken the yogurt up substantially.

I need to come up with some appropriate title for my kitchen experiment series. Any ideas? Next up--beef fat candles.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

BYU Speech I need to listen to/watch

Science, Faith, and the Nobel Prize
Bill Phillips

Another book

The Evolution of Physics: From Early Concept to Relativity and Quanta

Book to read

I'm going to start posting books I need to read here.

The Man Who Mistook His Wife for a Hat and Other Clinical Tales

Saturday, September 27, 2008

Pepper Jam

So a month ago my friend Conrad (aka the Chief), his wife Dani, their friend Syd, and my pal Dave (aka Little Davey) came up to Seattle for a concert. They stayed with us and were kind enough to take us to a Mariners game and out to dinner at Anthony’s Bell St. Diner. Dani and Conrad also brought a good deal of produce from their garden--a few squash and zucchini (as dictated but Utah tradition), a couple bell peppers, and ~15 Hungarian hot peppers. That weekend Michelle went to cross country camp and I had to figure out something to do with all those peppers. We've had some pepper jam before that we got at Pike's Place Market, so I decided to try making some. I found a recipe in the pectin package insert (here) for jalapeño jam, so I just used that. It was technically a recipe for canning jam, but I just put it in freezer containers and froze it.

It turned out pretty well. It packs more of a kick than I expected, and it doesn't look great, but it tastes pretty good. It's really good on zucchini bread or with cream cheese and cracker.

SAFETY NOTICE: While you can use a canning jam recipe for freezer jam, you SHOULD NOT use a freezer jam recipe for canning jam. Canning jam recipes are formulate to preserve correctly, while freezer jams aren't.

Lessons Learned:

If/when I make this in the future, I think I may go with yellow food coloring instead of green. It took me a couple tries to get the color somewhat appealing, while not looking to much like a mint jelly.
I also think I'll leave out any red peppers. There was one in the bunch, and I though it would add some cool color to the jam, but I think it makes it look even less like food.
You always need a bigger pot. I thought this one would be big enough to allow for the foam/bubbles/froth, but it wasn't. Runny jam mixture is a real pain to clean up, and I don't think the stove burners liked it very much.

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

Qualifying Exam

These questions are typical ones for our physics qual, which I'm taking next week.

Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Viewing the U.S. as roads
This pages shows a map of the U.S. consisting solely of simple lines for all of the roads. It's really interesting to try to pick out geographical features by analyzing the surrounding roads. The checkerboard of preserved farmland in the midwest is also very striking. It turns out Ben Fry (the creator artist artist who created this piece) is a specialist in visualizing data and just had a book published with that title. Check out his web site when you have some time to burn--he's done lots of cool stuff and has links to similarly cool stuff.

Monday, April 21, 2008

Antithesis of orange juice

Some things have opposites.
Some things don't.

Drinking orange juice after brushing one's teeth, has an opposite, which is
Drinking hot chocolate after brushing one's teeth.

What's that you say? Those things are too similar to be opposites? I have two replies:
1) Opposites typically have more commonalities than differences. Boy and girl are opposites, but they are both human, both young. Black and white are both colors.
2) Try it.

(Brushing your teeth makes orange juice taste bad because the foaming agent in toothpaste, sodium laur-something sulfate, blocks the sugar receptors on taste buds.)

Sunday, April 20, 2008

Mangosteen in the U.S.!

I discovered last week that imported mangosteen are indeed available in the U.S.!
I was doing my ~bimonthly Asian food shopping at the Viet Wah supermarket in Seattle's Chinatown, and was surprised to find some bagged mangosteen sitting with the other fruit.
What is a mangosteen? The best fruit ever. Seriously. The price was ~$9/lb, which works out to ~$1.60 per fruit. Extravagant? Perhaps. Worth it? Definitely.
According to Wikipedia, importation of irradiated mangosteen has been allowed since since last year, but I only found this out after my discovery last week. A month ago, Michelle and I drove to Vancouver, with the primary purpose being to buy mangosteen.


Pretzels are made by first boiling the shaped dough in a brine of sodium hydroxide (lye), sodium carbonate (washing soda or soda ash), or sodium bicarbonate solution (or possibly by just dipping it in the brine), and then baking. The boiling process is what gives them the shiny coating. Bagels are prepared using a similar method.

I tried making pretzels with some leftover scone dough. They almost tasted like pretzels, but the consistency of the dough wasn't right. I'll try using a real pretzel recipe this weekend.