I have purchased four recipe books in my lifetime. Two are by Alton Brown, one is Ratios, and the last is 125 Best Cheesecakes. The last of these makes a barely passable doorstop let alone a cookbook. The metric measurements it lists aren’t by mass but by volume leading the reader to add 125ml of sugar or 200ml of eggs to a recipe. This is practically less than useless as it takes up the space where I could have written measurements by mass. Its recipe tips are a list of near tautologies like “to change the texture of the crust, adjust how long you crush the graham crackers”. This man is the Gauss of cheesecakes… Internally, there are pictures of some of the cheesecakes but they are nowhere near the recipe to make that cake and the photos don’t even include a cross reference to a page.

My final criticism is in its “aspirational” bake times. I’ve yet to prepare something from this recipe book that didn’t require at least 20% more bake time. Today’s recipe was off by a factor of 2 and I was rather late to a surprised party because of it. I suppose it being a custard I could have left and come back to it but I leave no cake behind.

The Objective-C reference book I use doesn’t lay flat and proved difficult to consult so I went to Staples to have the binding removed so I could hole punch it and put the pages in a binder.  I told the copy person what I wanted done and he said it was doable for a few bucks but it’d take him a bit to get around to it.  I left the book, had a quick lunch, and returned to copy station where the neatly despined book lay.  I asked for the price:

Copy Person: No charge.  I know the pain that lies in your future.  Good luck.
Me: Thank you.

Well then.

The basic trade of fiction is “I will entertain you with an interesting narrative in exchange for your time” almost never works out as reality is consistently more interesting than what the best authors can produce.  Writers can easily brood on what has happened but almost never on what will so the skilled author will almost always lose in my mind to the skilled biographer or historian.  Because of this view, I felt like I was almost indulging myself by reading The Poisoner’s Handbook after finishing A Clash of Kings, part of George R. R. Martin’s Song of Ice and Fire series of fantasy books.  The latter had characters, the former had people, the latter had a narrative, the former had events embedded in actual history; it was so decadent that I finished The Poisoner’s Handbook in a day.  I can visit the tombs of Charles Norris, former chief medical examiner for New York City, and famed toxicologist Alexander Gettler, I have no such opportunity with Eddard Stark.

Yet, I am a completist and will consume the remaining 3000 pages of text penned by Martin across six Audible.com credits, but when one’s looking, I’m going to learn about the history of Biblical translation, read Tina Fey’s biography, and see why Lee Smolin thinks string theory is horse hockey.

Yesterday’s ennui over programming has been replaced with a stronger sense of determination.  I began looking into a solid reference for the framework I was using and wasn’t sure which to pick as there were hundreds so I started looking at reviews.  Almost all of them had reviews between four and five stars which is close enough to noise to not show much so I hit upon the idea of analysis of grammar: I’d buy the book who had the most five star reviews from people who had no command of grammar and had few negative reviews from people that seemed to have graduated from the sixth grade assuming that if an idiot found it useful, I would.  This algorithm seemed quite powerful and I whittled the field to two.  I’ll find out tomorrow if my selection method works.  Thank you, Amazon Prime.

Chef had no problem with sleeping in so our day started at around the crack of 10.  Our meeting point with Thomas was Voodoo Donut, an independent donutteer in Portland, a place notable for their innovations in donut-making such as the cock and balls.


Someone didn't like the blockade...

Another standard that Chef recommended was the maple bacon bar, which is pretty much what its name entails.


I hope the bacon wasn't out for too long.

Chef was pleased.


Chef pleased.

Thomas chose to rock some concoction that seemed like a standard donut dipped in various breakfast cereals.


Thomas, soon to be donut consumer.

The next stop was a visit to the core sample taken near the Washington Park Tunnel.  Along the perimeter of the sample is a timeline of humanity’s achievements with associated graphics, one of these is a square grid listing the first 40 or so digits of pi.  I saw the list and started reciting the first 30 digits or so:

Chef: You’re wrong.
Me: How?  I know the first 32 digits cold.
Chef: Looks like only the first 10 or so are right.  Maybe you’re not remembering correctly.

I thought I was going crazy but was delighted to find out that the inscription was incorrect as the person making the inscription read the digit table incorrectly.

Later that day, Chef and his father took me to Powell’s Used Book store, which is claimed to be the largest independent book store in the world.  I was disappointed to find their used books were only about 20% off and in almost every case beaten on price by Amazon.  Oh well.

Chef and I retired home to play, of all things, Team Fortress 2.  Chef usually has wonderful sound and I found out that he uses a $10 desktop USB boom mic that he holds in place with a duct tape sling that rests nicely on his chest.  I was impressed.


Microphone: Activated

I hate the Kindle, Amazon’s electronic e-book reader.  I really have no qualm with the device I suppose but the model of licensing reading material and calling it a “book reader” smacks of consumer injustice.  But for health reasons I may need to get one.

I read on the can as most people of learning do.  I finished Robert R. Colton and Joel A. Palmer’s History of the Modern World largely on the toilet and some 3k of the 4.7k pages of the Dark Tower heptilogy were consumed on the crapper.  This habit has had long-term health effects though as I’m now reading the 1.3 kilopage tome The Codebreakers and my right wrist starts hurting after a few minutes.  This has never happened before and I fear it may endanger my ability to read books larger than a few hundred pages.

So I’m reduced to three options:
1) Buy an e-book reader
2) Eschew large text consumption on the john
3) Construct some ridiculous articulated lapboard to mount in the bathrooms of my house.

The answer is obvious; I have a battery of counterbalance potty tables to build.

I’m brushing up on my cryptography and took the recommendations of the Security Now! podcast and looked up The Code Book and Codebreakers.  The latter I had to get on library loan the former was available in my local branch, but in Juvenile Non-Fiction.  I’m trying to figure out how stupid I’m going to look picking out two other cryptography books from the “big kids” section followed by this one from Juvenile Non-Fiction.  It’ll be impossible to pass it off like it’s for someone else unless I try to pull “oh, my kid and I are going through a cryptography phase” thing.  This may not work as the checkout person is a dropout with which I went to high school who has her own brood of failure and probably knows both what juvenile fiction looks like and that me having a kid is a level of stupid beyond farcical.

I could go to a different branch where I probably wouldn’t arouse suspicion or if I did, my visit would be left in the dustbin of history.  I’ll have to think about this one.

For years I’ve kept a list of books I’ve read largely for bibliographic purposes.  That way if I ever needed to cite something I could pull out the list, invent a page number, invent a statistic and accurately attribute it to the author complete with print locations.  Goodreads.com is a “reading social network” but more importantly the site keeps this information so I can pitch updating the spreadsheet.  After I updated it with what I’m reading, it searched for other users through my gmail contacts and presented a list that I’m hesitant to friend: they’re all churchy.  All of them.  Every stinking one.  The page displays your most recent read book and  I’ve recently gone on a bidge of skeptical reading ranging from The Faith Healers by James Randi to  Irreligion by John Allen Paulos (Temple prof, go Owls!).  For fear of their divine wrath I have to space my updates in pairs so The Secret Origins of the Bible will be quickly followed by The Big Book of Adorable Puppies or something equally buccolic to both act as protection from the superficial glance and as counterweight when St. Peter reviews it.

I’ve been reading up on modern physics since camp ended to try and get back into the swing things.  After finally figuring out math of Hawking Radiation and how holographic information theory works i broached books with fewer pictures and more equations.

I got most of these texts from the library and as the difficulty level increased the page on which the previous reader left their bookmark decreased.  Each one of these passes left me giddy and reinvigorated and probably helped me finish in a few cases.

I imagine I’m not the only person who gets this feeling of triumph from beating someone else at reading.  I think we should sprinkle fake bookmarks through children’s books as a way to encourage reading and through more advanced works to reward adults for finishing legitimate literature.