Thursday, September 23, 2004

Taking burning the food to a whole new level

(Originally posted on Thursday, September 23, 2004 by Cathy)

Well. I've never had flames shoot out of my oven before! We had friends over for dinner last night, and I was trying to partake in the conversation, the mushroom appetizer, and broil the garlic bread, all at once. The evil left oven (more on it later) decided that broil should be even hotter than usual yesterday. I opened the door to see blackened brickettes of garlic bread. As I opened the door and the air rushed in, the garlic bread actually caught fire.

So I slammed the door. It seemed like the thing to do. Opened the door again. Same ignition in the presence of oxygen. Isn't fire neat? Meanwhile, the smoke alarm is going off, and our guests are in the kitchen.

Turned off the left oven, waited a couple minutes, and then Tim was able to get the remains of the bread out of the oven and out of the house.

Coda: since Tim got the garlic bread out of the house by throwing it into the back yard, I'm having to remove slices of badly charred garlic bread from dog mouths every time they come in. Sam snuck past me last night and chewed a piece all over my side of the bed. Yuck.

At least the rest of dinner was good. :)

Thursday, September 16, 2004

Funny addition to the google post

(Originally posted on Thursday, September 16, 2004 by Cathy)

While attempting to demonstrate to Tim that my name was clearly superior because all of Google's 13k hits are actually me (even if most of them are worthless/irrelevant/duplictes), I found this. Searching for his name (in quotes) gets you a bunch of hits for a bunch of other people, and a page with this image. Yep, that's Tim as an undergrad. Now, I'd never blow his cover by commenting on just how old that picture IS, but well, it pretty much dates to the dawn of the internet.

Wednesday, September 15, 2004

Ah, google

(Originally posted on Wednesday, September 15, 2004 by Cathy)

Google is interesting. For those of you who maybe don't know how Google works, here's sort of how it goes:

(Note: Google is constantly changing things, and they don't entirely disclose their algorithm for ranking pages. This is an approximation at best.)

The GoogleBot visits a page. It saves your page content and notes where your page links go. It will later visit all the pages your page links to, whether they're part of your page, or go to somewhere else entirely. So at the end of the day (well, actually it takes Google a week or two to crawl the whole internet), Google has a huge collection of pages. So let's say you want to search for information on cultures that consider lime juice to be a sacred substance. You google for lime juice "sacred substance" and discover that Modi knows quite a bit about it. How'd we do that? Well, it turns out there aren't many sites that contain the phrase "sacred substance" and the words lime and juice, so Google doesn't have much to work with.

Now suppose we search for a phrase that's a little bit more widespread, like maybe Gold colored pennies. The first link (at least today) is a chemistry experiment I wrote. Pretty cool. Part of why Google lists Lab Archive first is that it has all the right words and close together, but another reason is that there are quite a few sites that link to the Lab Archive. (It also helps that Lab Archive has a zillion pages of its own, all of which link to other pages on Lab Archive. Currently, at least, the GoogleBot seems impressed by links within a domain as well as links from other domains.) Remember who we said the GoogleBot was noting which pages a page linked to? GoogleBot considers a link to be sort of like a vote, and it figures that a page that lots of other pages are linking to is probably a pretty useful page. The GoogleBot also gives some votes more weight than others. If a site with a high score links to you, that's worth more than a site with a low score.

So, on to the event that actually prompted this post. I want a teaching job. I want someone who's interested in me to be able to find something useful about me on the web, or at least, I don't want them to find something inappropriate. So let's Google. Blessed with the odd last name, I can actually expect the results of Googling for "Cathy S." (edited) to return results that are relevant.. at least somewhat. First link: my EvCC homepage. Ok, that's out of date, but sort of good. Lots of people link to EvCC, so it makes sense that a page at EvCC would be considered important. Most of the other links on the first page of Googling: OpenACS-related or vserver-related. If you wanted to know that I write code or do some sys admin work, you'd have come to the right place. If you wanted to know that Cathy S. is a chemistry teacher (did you catch that, GoogleBot?), you'd still be stumped. Lots of people link to OpenACS and to the vserver mailing list. On the second page, we find a link to my Mayo group webpage. Well, that makes the EvCC link look downright fresh. And better yet, it isn't a link to my index page, or my vitae. Nope, it's a link to some hiking pictures, showing me in all my grungy glory. For this, I blame Marcus Sarofim (whose current homepage, if any, I couldn't find at the top of Google, so I've linked a stale page. Hah, take that! Marcus linked to my page with the hiking pictures, along with someone who thought those yellow flowers in the background were interesting for some reason I've forgotten. Since no one else seems to have thought my other pages at were interesting (not even the one with the Comprehensive ANSIG FAQ), that's the first one to show up. Finally on page 3, we find links to my current website. Well, finally.

So now what? A couple things to do:

  • Put in the link to my website, particularly my CV on some of those higher-ranking sites that I can influence.
  • Make this blog post.
  • Solemnly vow to relocate or remove old webpages before I lose control of them, so that someone doesn't end up looking at a 5 year old CV.
I'm still pondering what to do about mailing list archives. I like that Google can search them, since sometimes that's the only place I can find an answer to a question. On the other hand, Google is often fooled into thinking they're definitive answers because they're so heavily-linked. If I had it to do over, I think I'd post with some variant of my name other than the two prospective employers are likely to be searching by, so that the first results from a Google search wouldn't be random questions I asked years before.

And on that note, I have to go update my CV again.

Saturday, September 11, 2004

Hot Fudge Sauce

(Originally posted on Saturday, September 11, 2004 by Tim)

I would like to state that bags of cookies, or potato chips, or any other snack are just plain evil. The "can't eat just one" ad campaign was clearly directed at me and did not just apply to Lays' potato chips. About a week ago, I happened to be walking down the cookie isle and picked up a pound of Nutter Butters. I am especially susceptible to Nutter Butters because they are sweet AND salty. All you need to do is add a little MSG to them and I'd be in heaven. Needless to say, I brought them home and they were gone in two days. While I didn't eat each and every last one, I would estimate that Cat and dogs did not get more than 10%. Whenever they would approach the bag, there would be lots of growling and snarling. I feel that I handled it very well. At least I didn't bite anyone. The bad thing about chowing down on 1/2 pound of Nutter Butters for dinner is that it tends to throw off my system. I end up having trouble focusing on things, my productivity gets shot to hell and I'm generally unsafe to operate heavy machinery.

After last week's binge, I can confidently say that I've learned my lesson. Well, at least I've learned my lesson until a month or two from now when memory fades and I find myself next to a big can of Pringles.

This recipe is off an unsweetened baking chocolate box. It is good hot fudge sauce, but I am mostly writing it up so that I can throw the ragged piece of carboard box containing the recipe in the trash.

Hot Fudge Sauce
2 oz unsweetened baking chocolate
1 tbs butter
1/8 cup milk
1/2 cup sugar
1/4 tsp vanilla
1/8 cup whipping cream

Microwave chocolate and butter together until butter is melted. Pull the mix out of microwave and stir until chocolate is completely melted. Add cream and sugar and stir until well mixed. Microwave for 5 minutes more or until sugar is completely dissolved. Pull teh mix out of the microwave every 2 minutes or so and stir. Add vanilla and mix well. Store in the refrigerator.

I like to have this on vanilla or nigh vanilla ice cream with sliced bananas. Cat likes to put it on strawberry ice cream which is just wrong.

Friday, September 10, 2004

Pear Chutney

(Originally posted on Friday, September 10, 2004 by Tim)

Finally! A little free time to write. I've been swamped this week after we spent last weekend at Brian and Anduin's place near the nation's capital. I've taken on alot this term with the preparation for my classes and I really need the free time on the weekend to catch up. I have no regrets on last weekend though, I had a great time and I'm just too old to let work stop me from having a life.

I did find a little time earlier this week to indulge in an activity that combines one of my hobbies with one of my obsessive tendencies. I made a very nice pear chutney. The hobby part of this activity is the cooking and the obsessive behavior is not letting anything go to waste. I don't know if you picked up on this in my jam recipe post, but a large part of the motivation for making that jam was to keep the grapes from spoiling. This behavior was evident last weekend when Brian and Amy brought a very tasty lemon curd to Brian and Anduin's house. I complimented them on the spread, asked for the recipe and then wondered out loud where I might find lemon trees in Virginia. They then proceeded at length to try to explain to me that money could be exchanged for lemons in an edifice known as The Grocery Store. Sigh! Some people just don't get it.

When we got back, I found that one of the Emeritus faculty at Radford had brought in a big bag of pears from a tree or trees in his yard.


In the end, I went with a chutney instead of a jam. There are more chutney recipes for pears than jam recipes for pears on the internet. The ingredients for chutney are more exciting than for jam as well.

Pear Chutney
2 tbs butter
1/2 cup packed brown sugar
1/2 onion, chopped
1 jalapeno pepper, seeded and chopped
6 small pears, hand picked from someone's yard, peeled and chopped
1 tsp salt
2 tbs balsamic vinegar
2 tbs lemon juice

Melt butter in a skillet over medium high heat. Add next three ingredients and cook until mixture is carmel in color and a little thick. Add pears, salt, vinegar and lemon juice. Reduce heat and simmer until chutney thickens. Allow to cool.

I tasted the chutney and found it to be quite tasty. It is sweet and salty and a bit hot from the peppers. However, I was a bit stumped as to what we would eat it with and started thinking about how I might make a jam out of the hundreds of pears that were laying about in our Emeritus faculty's yard. Cathy came to the rescue on this one by making an excellent marinated tempeh that went very well with the chutney. Maybe she will post her recipe some time. This chutney would also go very well with pork or with ham.