Blog: Life

Most of these posts were originally posted somewhere else and link to the originals. While this blog is not set up for comments, the original locations generally are, and I welcome comments there. Sorry for the inconvenience.

Pardoning turkeys

On the way to Thanksgiving dinner we found ourselves wondering what happens to the turkey that the US president pardons each year. We were both under the impression that the president is presented with two turkeys, one of which gets pardoned and one of which becomes dinner. I said I thought the pardoned bird went to a zoo or some such, and that it would be wrong for it to go back to the farm where it could become somebody else's dinner.

We talked about the similarity to the two goats on Yom Kippur, one of which becomes an offering and the other of which is sent to Azazel. I pointed out that neither of those goats gets out alive (though they at least serve a holy function), and said I didn't think the turkeys worked like that.

When we got home I looked it up, and found that we were both wrong on several points. (I blame that West Wing episode, though perhaps my mistaken impression predated it and I shouldn't.)

The president is presented with one turkey, not two. There is a backup turkey, in case something unfortunate happens to the first one. (Still on the goat theme: like the backup wife for the high priest on Yom Kippur? Topic for another day...)

This turkey is presented by the National Turkey Federation. (Today I learned that there is a national turkey federation.) This started in the 1940s, apparently as tribute. They ate the turkeys until sometime in the 70s, when presidents started sparing them. The regular ceremonial pardon started with Bush the First (though it also says Reagan pardoned one).

I hadn't thought about this at all, but there is a selection process where a pool of candidate turkeys is filtered on not only size and appearance but also tolerance of loud noises, flashes, and large crowds.

And yes, the turkeys end up at various places where they will not become food.

Living Treasures Animal Park

We recently visited Living Treasures Animal Park, right off the PA Turnpike. It's nearby for us, but we'd never heard of it until we got a recommendation. It's a family-run cross between a small zoo and a petting zoo, with care for the animals being a top priority.

They have typical domesticated animals that kids (and others) can interact with. I call this first one "pet me!" and the second one "feed me!": Read more…

How it started / how it's going

Remember this tomato plant from the end of May, when I thought the cage was overkill but they didn't have the next size down? Read more…

Considerations in remodeling

When choosing a floor tile, it's important to consider contrasts with key components:

light floor, dark cat

True but not helpful

Oh, Credit Karma, who writes your copy (or programs your algorithms)?

Your hard work this year has really paid off, and we want to remind you how far you've come.

(Um, I have? Also, this sure sounds like "you were having trouble and you're better now, attagirl!. I feel patronized.)

About a year ago your TransUnion score was X.

Check in now to see your updated (and uplifted) score, and keep up the awesome work.

"X" sounds about right, actually. Curious, I took a look. Why yes, my score has gone up! It is now X+1.

Uh, thanks?

(Fluctuations of a few points are completely normal. I expect to take a slight ding this month because we paid for something substantial online with the joint credit card. It'll come back next month when we pay that bill. You can't always write a check, but any use of your credit card affects your score at least a little.)

Waste not, want not

A friend is recovering from surgery, so the gang organized a meal rotation. Our first day is tomorrow, to cover meals for a couple days. Our friend is a foodie, so we made something nice, which took a lot longer than we thought from reading the recipe. (James Beard's salmon tart. It started yesterday, because the dough wants to be refrigerated overnight, but most of the work was today, including rolling out a very stiff crust.)

We doubled the recipe, to make one for ourselves as well, which we had (part of) for dinner. The salmon is poached in wine, which left us about half a bottle. By definition, the wine you cooked dinner in goes with dinner, so that worked out. (Never cook with a wine you wouldn't drink.)

The recipe also called for egg yolks, which left me with a bunch of whites. I know exactly one thing to do with a bowl full of egg whites.

And that is how I came to be making meringue cookies after 9PM. If they're any good, our friend might get some dessert. Goofy-looking dessert, because I don't do this a lot and shaping meringues using a zipper bag with a corner cut off is...imprecise. But it's the taste that counts.

Looking back

A year in, I find myself thinking back to the beginnings. In January of 2020 we had early reports, increasing in February, but life went on mostly as normal anyway. There was a local SCA event on March 7, and part of me wanted to stay home but our choir was performing and a friend was coming in from out of town to attend (and crash with us), and we went and had a lovely time -- and a healthy one, fortunately.

Purim was a few days later, and at the last minute I decided not to go to a large gathering. (They advised the elderly to stay home, but they didn't cancel.) Our Shabbat minyan met on March 14, but we moved into the sanctuary, where the 25 or so of us could spread out in a room that seats over 300. We didn't know then, but it would be the last time we met in person for more than a year.

Over that weekend, or maybe Monday, the state had some early rumblings of a stay-at-home order. It must not have taken effect immediately, because I remember going into the office on the following Monday, and taking some equipment home with me so I could work from home. Our office formally closed around Wednesday, I think, but it was a formality; we'd all decided by then that staying home was the wiser move. And soon there was a stay-at-home order from the state.

My choir had cancelled that week's practice, and the director cancelled through the end of the month, with the idea that we'd look at other options (outdoors? a really large space? the home we were practicing in was clearly out of consideration). We were so optimistic back then, despite the warnings we'd gotten from other parts of the world. It wasn't that we thought we were invulnerable; rather, we thought that with a little care, one could mitigate the risk without having to completely isolate. Ha. Read more…

2020

Somebody on Twitter asked:

What did you learn in 2020 (besides how to make bread)?

I responded there:

  • To grow food in pots.
  • To cut men's hair.
  • To cook more new things.
  • That my cat loves me being home all the time.
  • More about community-building.
  • How to set up a nonprofit foundation.
  • To cut people w/no morals or human decency out of my life.
  • And yes, sourdough.

I was up against a character limit there, but I'm not here. Read more…

Odds and ends

I haven't been posting regularly. Oops.

I've been baking bread about once a week. This past week I finally scored some rye flour (that was not exorbitantly priced), so I made a rye sourdough for the first time. I think I prefer less molasses than this recipe called for, so I'll adjust that next time or try a different recipe. The bread is tasty, aside from the molasses overwhelming the caraway. Most "rye bread" recipes I've seen use rye for only one third of the flour, which sent me searching for "all rye" rye bread, which apparently works and tastes good but might not rise as much? I'll probably try it at some point, especially since I had to buy four (small) bags of rye flour to get it.

Dani and I play board games every Shabbat now, and occasionally we have two other friends (who are also careful, and I guess this is a "pod"?) over to play. We play Pandemic in every session because, well, pandemic. Yesterday we pulled out Kings and Things, a game we all had vague memories of, and by the end had concluded that while it's appealing it's also kind of tedious and maybe sort of a shorter Titan, a game I like in principle but dislike actually playing. Ok, now we've refreshed our memories...

A friend has a game called McMulti, which is an economic game (oil/gas theme)... in German. There are lots of places where text matters, so when we've played we've used cheat sheets since none of us read German. We recently became aware of an English-language derivative, called Crude, and got it recently. They've changed some of the mechanics and made one really annoying change to how the board is laid out, but other changes are positive and the game's a little faster. I like it, but am tempted to figure out how to print my own board. The game is really strongly designed for four players, but there are rules for a two-player version, which Dani and I have played once, which seen to work ok.

Codidact, the project that consumes most of my spare time, is in the process of incorporating as a non-profit. We've got our lawyer on our Discord server and having conversations about incorporation documents via Google Docs comments. It looks like we will be able to clear an important hurdle soon. Neat!

On the project front, I'm not writing code -- I keep feeling like I should learn Ruby and the dev environment so I can help, then concluding that I probably won't be helping because I'd be taking time and attention from the developers who are actually being productive. But I've taken over bug-wrangling -- some analysis and testing, clarifying vague reports, and, especially, triaging. I was surprised to find that GitHub counts filing issues as contributions. I think that's new?

We just had our first birthday, counting from when the project founder set up a Discord server to talk about maybe building an alternative to Somewhere Else. We've still got a lot of work ahead of us, both technical and community development, but I'm pleased with where we are.

I've been reading a lot of fiction, a mix of short stories, novellas, and novels, many through the BookFunnel network (and also StoryBundle). I'm "meeting" a lot of authors I didn't previously know. I should really write a separate post about that.

Harvest

The temperature tonight is supposed to be below freezing, so today I did a final harvest. There are a few small green tomatoes that would need rather a while to grow and then ripen and I don't think I can keep the plant warm enough for long enough, so I picked everything that was larger even though it was still green, and I'll see if they ripen indoors. I've picked tomatoes before when they were orange but not fully red (to beat the critters to them), and I've had the occasional green one ripen on the windowsill. Today's are in a brown paper bag with a sacrificial apple. Even if I lose these last couple dozen, I had a pretty good bounty for the year, as best I can tell having never done this before.

The last of the rosemary and basil are currently drying. I had two different rosemary plants -- no idea what the difference was, but one is lighter than the other and they smell a little different. I decided to oven-dry one and hang-dry the other, to see how the methods compare. It's not true science because there's a second variable; I didn't split each variety into two groups. So I won't really know if any differences are due to the type or the method, but oh well. The main goal is to get dried herbs.

The lunchbox peppers were a disappointment. The peppers I got were nice, but I only got a total of 15 between the two plants. I will probably skip those next year and use the pots for something else.

I think next year I want to add some oregano.