The Emperor’s New Dinner

Soooo…here I am making dinner*. I’ve got some tilapia, I’m not really sure what I want to do with it** and so I’m looking for a jazzy new recipe online. I’m a very visual person when it comes to recipes – I want to see the finished product before I decide if I’m going to invest time and ingredients, hopes and dreams and all that. I’m thinking some wine, some capers and I come across this:

What the… Food photo cheat! And then I realized that it’s a Weight Watcher’s recipe, so maybe it’s some sort of new-fangled diet tilapia meal in which the portions are really, really, really small.

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Here’s how the real dinner turned out. I ended up throwing some garlic, salt, pepper, dried chives, “italian herbs”, red wine, olive oil, lemon juice, capers, green olives and  white onion in a bag, tossing it around a bit, then throwing the whole mess into the oven at 350F for 20 minutes. Nom nom nom. I made broccoli and cheater-rific Trader Joe’s pre-made risotto as sides. Nom nom nom.

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* Cuz if there’s one thing we young things know how to do, it’s make some dinner.

**I mean, I know what I want to do with it; I want to eat it. I’m just not sure how I want to prepare it.

Married People Conversations 2

The Hubby and I have been married for seven years now, so we have the division of labor fairly well established. I cook, clean the toilet and change the cat’s litter box. He opens the mail, pays the bills, vaccuums and fixes most broken stuff. We usually do dishes together, but if one of us is feeling particularly starved of affection, doing the dishes alone while the other partner is out is a fast route to extra smiles, praise and gratitude. We do our own personal laundry, with the occasional good will gesture. “Hey honey, I’ve only got a few t-shirts to wash – do you have any whites that you want me to throw in with my load?” Towels and sheets are sort of  gray area; someone washes them and then they may or may not fold them alone. Without much exception, we fold bed sheets together because they’re big, and because the bastard fitted sheet is just easier with four hands.

Thus we have arrived at our scene.

We washed sheets about two weeks ago. Note the lack of the words “and folded” from that sentence. So for two weeks now the Hubby and I have been moving the unfolded pile back and forth to various places around the apartment, apparently waiting for the perfect folding moment to present itself. The pile was on a chair in the front room for a while, but the dog tried to turn it into a nest. So the Hubby moved it to our bedroom, but it was in my way so I threw it in his man den. That must have been no good because I found it back in our bedroom a few days later. So I balanced the pile on the back of a chair where the dog couldn’t get at it.  This morning things finally came to a head.

Hubby: C’mon, let’s fold these sheets.

Me: I don’t want to.

Hubby: C’mon, I’m tired of them being all over the place.

Me: They’re not all over the place – they’re in a single pile that’s constantly changing locations.

Hubby: Really? C’mon.

Me: [sighing] I’m playing, um, working on the computer. Why can’t the dog help you?

Hubby: He doesn’t have opposable thumbs.

Me: Worthless mutt.

I finally relent to the Hubby’s frowning stare and help fold the sheets. That’s 45 seconds of my life that I’ll never get back.

Placebo Surgery

  From’s Monday’s desk calendar:

This comic reminds me of a story that I heard about on the Skeptics’ Guide to the Universe a while back (apologies – I can’t find the episode in a brief search of the website) about vertebroplasty, a surgery that has been used to relieve pain associated with some vertebral fractures. Bone cement is injected into the fracture, and patients who receive the surgery report immediate pain relief afterwards. But a sham procedure seems to produce the same effects. From a 2009 article in the Wall Street Journal:

The federally funded study signed up 131 patients in the U.S., Britain and Australia. Half of them received a vertebroplasty, in which the back is numbed, an injection is made into the vertebra, and bone cement is injected by a radiologist or spine surgeon to shore up a fracture. The other group of patients received a sham procedure, including the numbing, but no injection. The doctor opened the container of bone cement so its scent would fill the operating room to disguise whether these patients were receiving a real surgery or not.

After a month, both groups saw a substantial reduction in various measures of disability and pain, assessed by a questionnaire. But the reductions were a statistical tie—the actual procedure yielded no gain beyond the placebo effect of the sham surgery.

There was a second major study that appears to confirm these findings. But the verdict is still out and there is a bit of a controversy around the effectiveness of vertebroplasty.

Pain management is what we’re talking about. This doesn’t sound like a surgery that’s necessary to stabilize a fracture to keep it from getting worse. It’s not needed to cause a structural change or to evoke a physiological effect. It’s done to relieve subjectively perceived and reported pain so people can get about their day. We have so much still to learn about pain management, don’t we?

Aside from the findings, I also think it’s a pretty neat example of how so-called “western medicine” is willing to examine itself and to make changes – or at least start conversations about potentially making changes – based on new science and data.

Dead Car is Dead

This is a boring post about my car dying and yesterday’s search for a new car. Unless you know me, plan on hitching a ride with me in the future, or care about the process of purchasing a used car, you can probably just skip to my next post which involves a comic about the placebo effect and a bit on vertebroplasty. :p

Yesterday this happened:

AAA towed me to Steve’s Auto Repair in South Minneapolis (very clean shop, all of the employees were very friendly, and a big shout out to Tim for his help). After about 15 minutes of looking the car over Tim came out and very gravely said “Dead car is dead.” No, he didn’t say that, but wouldn’t that have been fabulous? He did, however, use lots of exciting words and phrases like, “explosion”, “catastrophic engine failure”, and “thousands of dollars”.

So the bright side: Yesterday I didn’t have to go to work, I learned that I have an excuse to buy a new car, I got to take a lovely 2-mile walk in the nice sunshine and relatively warm weather, and I was able to share lunch with some friends who work between the auto shop and my home. It was a wonderful day…that’s just going to cost me about $5000-$6000. Ah, well. Comme ci, comme ça.

I spent the entire day reasearching cars. I used vehix, carsoup, autotrader, cars and keepitlocal (dot)com websites, and then I opened up google maps, searched “car dealerships” and went to every major dealership’s website. Searching was actually pretty neat; I used online searches, I called and spoke with salespeople and even engaged in two IM chats with dealers. I went through literally hundreds of cars without leaving my computer. Gee, the interwebs are handy.

Here’s what I’m looking for:

  • Price: Up to $5000
  • Mileage: 60K-115K
  • As Feul Efficient as possible – no trucks, SUVs, etc. Compact commuter car that can make the occasional road trip.

Other than that I’m pretty flexible. I have a preference for manual transmission (more fun and feul efficient) and 4-doors, but I can deal.

I found a handful of cars that met my criteria and are still available. Most of the cars are 2001-2002 models, (a lot of Saturns and Chevy’s) with 90-100K miles,  4-cylinder engines (there were a couple of V6s), and about half of these have a manual transmission. Most of them get 21-23 mpg city driving.

And then I found a Ford Focus SE. It’s a 2006 with 72K miles, manual transmission, and it gets 26mpg city/34mpg highway. It’s a really simple car. It has no tilt steering, AND it has manual locks and windows! Holy 1990’s stone age technology, Batman! <—– #firstworldproblems. It is about $6000, so $1000 more than what I was hoping to spend, but for 25K less miles and +5 years on the competition, I think that it’s the best car for my money that I’ve found so more. And once I realized that I was willing to pay $6000 for more car, I went back and reopened my searches to include cars in that price and mileage range that I may have missed on the first go around, but there wasn’t anything that caught my interest. 

I test drove it yesterday. It’s definitely a compact. The seat belt is waaaaay back, so you have to turn and stretch to reach them, and the ceiling room is sufficient for me, but the Hubby may have to recline his chair a bit to be comfy.  It only has two doors and the manual locks and windows suck, but the hatchback and folding seat backs are pretty sweet. The steering wheel is about the right angle and height for me, so I don’t have to worry about not having tilt steering. It’s chain-driven, so I don’t have to worry about changing a belt in 3K miles. It’s only had one owner, there’s no major rust and I wouldn’t need tabs until June (which would be a treat because currently I have to change tabs in January when it’s freezing and the car is covered in road slush). It’s mp3 ready. And there’s a 5-day/500-mile no worries return policy, a 1-month warranty, and all sorts of dealer perks for buying from the guys who are selling it.

So how about it? Any words of wisdom?

Weekend Photo Fun

I had some fun with my new camera this weekend. I took lots and lots and lots of photos, and then proceeded to erase lots and lots and lots of photos. I learned that my camera currently knows a hell of a lot more than I do, but I reckon to be fixin that right quick.

Here are some of my favorite photos from the weekend:

I’m going to try Flickr out for sharing some of my photos. I’ve set up a Flickr widget in the Biodork blog sidebar to the right.  It will take you to my album if you want to see some of the wacky times I’m having. This will also provide an outlet for me to post my photos without driving you all batty.

First Photo

I dedicate my very first photo with the Nikon D3100 to Jana, my camera commiserating blog buddy. She takes magnificent photos as part of her blog Transatlantic Panorama and inspires me to see the world’s beauty in new ways.

After the camera was set up and the battery finally charged, my cat was the closest photo op I saw. I think she’s saying, “You have a nice camera now. Don’t disappoint Jana with a crappy picture.” Either that or, “Don’t think that I don’t know that you shorted me on wet food at dinner.”

Omigod, I CAN haz camera!

Warning: there are more exclamation points in this post than any one post should be allowed. Also, there is some squeeeeeing.

I’m not the sort to whine about a situation and then ignore an opportunity when it becomes available.

I’ve been wanting a camera. A DSLR camera. And a zoom lens. For about a year now.

After speaking with friends who have DSLRs and salespeople at three different camera chains, and tooling around the internet I decided that I could be quite happy with a Nikon D3100, which goes for about $599 these days. But after adding in the zoom lens (zoom capability is one of the reasons that I want to get a better camera so it wasn’t even a possibility of getting into a nice camera without picking up a zoom lens), the carrying bag, the USB cord, memory card, sales tax, warranties/service plans…I was looking at about $1000.  That’s about $110/month…too much.

I was dreaming about having a DSLR, you guys. From my Facebook:

I love my friends.

I had it bad, but I just couldn’t figure out how to make it happen. And then I found out about Best Buy’s 18-month no-interest payment plan. That I could swing. So I did.

Squeeeeee! hyperventilate…and… Squeeeee!

I was so excited! As I was checking out I thought of my blog-friend, Jana, because earlier that day we had been grousing about our point and shoot cameras. My first picture is for you, Jana!

When I got home, I did the only thing a photo-obsessed gal could do – I took pictures of everything!

My swag

Everything opened! I left a few bits and pieces out of the pic, but this is all the really exciting stuff.

The lenses, with UV filters attached. The 55-200mm has the lens hood on, which makes it look all classy and shit.

The camera body without a lens attached.

The camera all put together with the kit lens attached.

My camera has pretty specs – 14.2 megapixels, shoots 3 frames per second, has 11-point autofocus and an ISO range of 100-12800. The kit lens is an VR 18-55mm f/3.5-5.6G, my zoom lens is a VR 55-200mm f/4-5.6G. I still don’t have the uber-zoom lens or a ultra low f stop that would kick ass in darker environments, but one thing at a time! I know and embrace my sweet new camera’s limitations. Well, not really, but shhh…I don’t want to hurt it’s feelings.  My camera phone is already in the corner whimpering. It’s saying “But, I…I gave you 8-megapixels! How could you do this to me!?” I still love you camera phone, and you’re still my steady for shots on the go and twitpics.  C’mere, let me give you a hug.

Sad camera is sad and needs comforting.

I may be a little giddy right now.

I’m running off to a talk by PZ Myers in Minneapolis now (could this day get any better?). After that I have to stop by Best Buy to pick up a USB cable (srsly, how is that not included in the camera kit?) and an extra battery. And this afternoon the Hubby and I are driving up to Duluth/Superior along the river.  Helllloooo test drive of new camera.

Ciao!

Thursday Fog in the Twin Cities

Yesterday was foggy and warm(ish). When I left home at 7:45am it was actually drizzling lightly instead of snowing! The fog was very thick, especially in Chaska where I work.  Sure it was gray, dreary and overcast, but it had its own beauty.

Garbage Day in South Minneapolis

The Morning Commute

The road to work is shrouded in fog.

Fog behind me, too.

Can I call in lost for work if I can’t find the building?

Trees in the fog. Bonus: Photo-bombing coworker.

They were beautiful, these automobiles in the mist.

Should We Allow a Leap of Faith?

Bad UFOs: Skepticism, UFOs, and The Universe posted last week about a gentleman’s decision to make a leap of faith. A literal leap of faith. From this rock formation:

Image source

On December 21, 2012 Mr. Peter Gersten plans to hurl himself off of Bell Rock in Sedona, AZ. It is his belief that a cosmic portal will open at this time and in this place, and that he will be delivered into a new, unfathomable opportunity. He is fully willing to die if he is wrong about the portal.

Regardless of how we feel about Mr. Gersten’s beliefs, are we willing to let him die if he is wrong about the portal?

It is not a crime to commit suicide in the United States, but one can be committed involuntarily for psychological evaluation and treatment if one is deemed to be a danger to him or herself, i.e., makes his or her intention to commit or attempt to commit suicide known.

Our current understanding of the universe would suggest that Mr. Gersten has a very small chance of being correct about a cosmic portal opening when he takes his leap of faith. Given what we know of our world, we can assume that Mr. Gersten has a very high probability of killing himself. We might say it’s suicide.

So should we allow him to take this leap of faith, or should he be committed?

As a supporter of civil liberties I want to believe that Mr. Gersten should be allowed to do any dumbass thing that he likes as long as he doesn’t take anyone else with him or inconvenience others unduly. We allow people to do dumbass, life-threatening things all the time. If you want to risk death in a selfish endeavor, such as attempting to tightrope between two skyscrapers, raft down the rapids in March on the fresh thaw, climb Mount Everest, run across Death Valley, more power to ya.  And we won’t just cheer you on, we’ll send TV crews and journalists to livecast your attempt because secretly we’re all hoping you’ll slip on the tightrope, fall into the chilly swirling water, get buried in an avalanche or collapse from heat stroke 20 feet from the finish line. Then of course we want you to muster superhuman strength and catch your balance, climb back in the raft, dig your way out of the snow, or regain consciousness and drag yourself across the finish line to where an ambulance is waiting to restore you. And then we’ll go out and buy your autobiography and our kids will talk about how they want to be just like you!

But I digress.

Assisted suicide is illegal in 48 of 50 states (Oregon and Washington, since you were curious). If we allow Mr. Gersten to attempt his leap of faith, are we his partners in (non?)crime?

And even if we say no, that this is not a crime, that indeed Mr. Gersten should be allowed to pursue his ambition…who the heck is paying for clean up if he’s wrong? I’m not being facetious; If the portal doesn’t open up, rescue workers are going to have to climb Bell Rock to clean up bits of Mr. Gersten wherever they may land, possibly endangering their own lives in the process. And Mr. Gersten, having left this world by very natural means having nothing at all to do with cosmic portals, is going to be leaving us the tab. Hmmm…should we allow him his leap of faith if he were to find volunteers and money to fund clean up in the event that he is wrong?

Or – as one of the commenters at Bad UFOs pointed out – should we just ask him to bring a damn parachute?