Wednesday, November 24, 2010


Offering insight to get recipes just right

* How many meals just don't turn out as they should due to imprecise measurement? I know that until I brought my measuring cup to work, I had a horrible time trying to get the right amount of water to go with the right amount of oatmeal. Too little water made the oatmeal gummy. Too much water made the oatmeal too soupy. I botched it almost every morning.
* On the other hand, sometimes when I'm cooking I like to ignore exact measurements. For instance, when I make homemade mashed potatoes, I know that I just need to add "enough" milk, butter, and salt. In a sense, cooking this way adds "adventure." How many dishes are there where having the right "feel" is better than having the right recipe?
* Whether you're a measuring cup fan or not, happy Thanksgiving to you and your family!

Wednesday, November 17, 2010


More valuable than gold, the means to grab hold

* According to Wikipedia, a thumb is opposable if "is capable of bending in such a way that it can touch all the other digits on the hand." Interestingly, very few species have opposable thumbs.
* My friend Nicholas pointed out the benefit of opposable thumbs the other day (providing the idea for this simple miracle). He commented that without them, our hands just be like flippers on a seal or fins on a fish. We could swat a fly or paddle through water or pin things together using both hands. But holding an object with a single hand would be quite difficult.
* An opposable thumb is valuable for holding objects such as coffee mug handles.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010


Beverages warm to sip without burning our grip

* Think of the mug that you fill with water and put in the microwave in preparation for a cup of tea. The water becomes very hot. Your mug becomes quite as hot not. If your mug became as hot as you want the water to be, it would be much harder to carry the mug, or even to hold it.
* The handle, of course, is not the only aspect of a mug that makes coffee-carrying conceivable. After all, many fast food restaurants distribute coffee in cups without handles. A good mug will be made out of material that won't get as hot as quickly as the liquid that it contains. But some of the heat from the liquid will inevitably be passed to the mug itself (in an amount that depends on the mug's insulation properties). But it takes longer for the heat to get to the handle than it does to reach the rest of the mug.
* The weather has been colder during the past few days in Maryland. So coffee mug practicalities are all the more important.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010


Boasting a bloom which chill does not doom

* The landscapers both at my office building (Laurel, MD) and at the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception (Washington, DC) seemed to plant the same purple and violet pansies. Maybe they even obtained them from the same greenhouse or grew them from the same seed.
* A friend of mine once commented how pansies are misnamed. Unlike the colloquial connotation of a "pansy" being weak and quick to fold, pansies are among the heartiest of flowers.
* Our part of Maryland has come very close to its first frost. Will the pansies survive the frost? Can any flower survive a frost?
* When I was in college, I decided that it would be "a good life skill" to be able to identify flowers by sight and enlisted my sisters' help. I became very proficient at distinguishing begonias from petunias or even salvias from lilies. Admittedly, this skill has waned for me in recent years. But perhaps I could still identify a pansy, using this simple rule. "If a flower is still growing in November, it very well might be a pansy!"

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