Tuesday, February 28, 2017

Leggy Bugs--Centipedes and Millipedes

Leggy bugs can mean bugs that have lots of legs, or bugs that have long legs. Animal-kingdom bugs can mean insects (6 legs), arachnids (8 legs), or for me, creepy crawlies with way more legs than I care to count. Let's get to the long-bodied creepy crawlies first. Google is a great starting resource for viewing images (for this article, centipedes and millipedes).

Centipedes

Enchanted Learning shows a diagram and descriptive terms of parts. A more detailed diagram is at Amateur Entomologists' Society. Both of these webpages have good elementary information.

Millipedes

Google's hits for millipede images show some atop hands and other body parts (cringe). For sizes, one image that surprised me greatly showed someone using both hands to hold one. On the other hand (grin), one image shows a millipede on a finger, and another shows one with a penny.

Enchanted Learning shows a diagram and descriptive terms of parts. EL's millipede diagram is much more detailed than for the centipede. Amateur Entomologists' Society's diagram is similar to its centipede one.

The University of Bristol's 'Morphology" webpage has a really detailed image and scholastic explanation of anatomy. (The home page "Diplopoda" provides overview of millipedes.) BTW, "Chilopoda" is the term for centipedes, but U of Bristol doesn't have a special section for it. That is, replacing the URL part "chilopoda" for "diplopod" yields a not-found page.

My section about centipedes is short and the millipedes section only a bit longer. The most interesting information might be contrasts between the two creepy crawlies.

Centipede vs Millipede

A big difference in looks between these bugs is the number of legs per segment. Centipedes have one pair, and millipedes have two pairs. One helpful image with side by side drawings and descriptors is at the "Centipede vs. Millipede" section of "Top 10 Facts About Millipedes"..

In seeing so many Google image hits for millipedes where people handle them, I sensed that centipedes might be less receptive to handling than millipedes. Maybe another reason. Centipedes bite. "Millipedes of Petroglyph" provides a section for differentiating the two animals, and especially warning about the centipede's capability to bite and hurt. For a video featuring someone capturing one of each and explaining differences, view "Millipede vs Centipede!".

Additional sites that contrast these two members of Myriapoda (many-legged) subphylum
For some whimsy, visit Gaming History about "Centipede" and "Millipede". Both sites describe the video games, scoring, and technical details. The Millipede site notes that the game (the successor to Centipede) had been originally called Centipede Deluxe. The Millipede site, besides describing the game play and technical details, includes a trivia section on differences between the two games. For videos about the games, visit YouTube and enter appropriate keywords.

Friday, February 10, 2017

Familiar Music in Superbowl 2017 Product Ads

YouTube playlist for this article,
playlist compilation article


What an exciting start and finish to this year's Superbowl—New England Patriots over Atlanta Falcons, 34 to 28 in overtime! For me, one song emerges for games with a lot of emotional stake: the Eagles' "Gonna Be a Heartache Tonight".

This article is similar to my previous article about songs in product ads "Familiar Music in Product Ads and Product Jingles that Became Hit Songs". This time, I focus on Sunday's 2017 Superbowl advertisements, skipping discussing jingles that might become song hits. In viewing commercials multiple times, I was intrigued by some subtle, unfamiliar musical notes, and, with some songs, was psychologically transported to different eras.

Some songs have been standards forever—"America the Beautiful" (Coca Cola), "Amazing Grace" (upcoming Logan movie). Some songs are as old as 50 years or as recent as within this decade. My journey in hunting up music that ads used was distractingly enjoyable for trips down memory lane (Steppenwolf's "Born To Be Wild") as well as discovering songs new to me (Sia's "Move Your Body").

The following list of products and their associated music are in the approximate order that the ads aired during the game. Except for "standards" that I mentioned earlier, secondary links go to original-artist versions of known songs.

Coca Cola
Ford
Google Home
Michelin Tires
LifeWTR
GoDaddy
Logan (movie)
Bai Antioxidant Infusions
Michelob ULTRA
Lexus LC
Wendy’s
National Geographic’s Genius Series
Kia Niro
Amazon Echo
Mercedes-AMG GT Roadster
Nintendo Switch

Monday, January 30, 2017

Familiar Music in Product Ads and Product Jingles that Became Hit Songs

YouTube playlist for this article,
playlist compilation article


Some products have used known songs, and some products' jingles have expanded into song hits. The first category has a lot more instances than the second one. Maybe it's more common to have songs inspire ads than for ad-specific music to morph into recorded music that people want to buy.

The music I cite range from about 50 years to well over 100 years old. If newer music has integrated into products, I probably am less aware. Technology that wasn't available a few decades ago has made it convenient to skip commercials. For Superbowl 51, I'll consider being on the lookout for products with familiar music.

Hmm, I'd like to see the NFL switch from the unwieldy Roman numerals to the more compact Arabic numerals. Think about the Superbowl number two years ago. BTW, if you want to quickly convert a Roman numeral to Arabic or vice versa, visit "Roman Numerals Converter". Enter a numeral, then click Convert It!

Products that Incorporated Known Music

Tropicana Orange Juice
Crispy Critters Cereal
Subway Sandwiches
Doritos Chips
Beef
United Airlines
Noxzema Shaving Cream
Marlboro Cigarettes
Product Ad Jingles that Expanded and Became Hit Songs

Benson & Hedges Cigarettes
Alka Seltzer
Crocker Bank
Coca Cola

Tuesday, January 24, 2017

Cherry Pie, Episode 3--Using Frozen Cherries and Scratch Crust Ingredients

*** 1/24/2017
Accompanying video segments now available at YouTube—
"Cherry Pie—Section 1 of 3, Overview and Fruit Filling Preparation"
"Cherry Pie—Section 2 of 3, Pie Dough Preparation"
"Cherry Pie—Section 3 of 3, Pie Assembly and Baking"
Playlist: "Cherry Pie (Using Frozen Cherries and Scratch Crust Ingredients, All Three Sections"


The writeup is finally here! It deviates from my usual recipe articles of including imperative steps, which could make this article REALLY long and maybe more difficult to follow than going to my video(s). The process has two separate stages and the convergence stage: fruit filling preparation, pie dough preparation, and pie assembly/baking. Although the number of ingredients are few, the processes require time, timing, and order. If you try this recipe, you should first read the article and view the video (three sections) thoroughly.

The ingredients are few:
  • Cherry pie filling: 1 pound frozen cherries, 1 C granulated sugar, 1/4 C cornstarch, 1/2 C water
  • Pie crust: 2 1/4 C flour, 1 T powdered sugar (granulated ok), 3/4 t salt, up to 3/4 C water
Historically, for recipes I've posted, I've listed required equipment. In this case, because bakers' tool preferences can vary widely, the video sections provide the best visual guidelines. The following actions are a few examples of deviating from traditional pie-making norms.
  • For the pie filling, I coated frozen cherries and granulated sugar in a bowl, chilling them overnight and occasionally stirring to get the cherries to juice up. The cherries bag includes thawing instructions that might speed up the process. Some people prefer fresh cherries that they de-stem and pit. Others use canned or jar cherries, which require different processes.
  • For mixing of pie dough ingredients, I used a tilt-head stand mixer for ease. In the past, I have used a pastry blender. Some people prefer to use two forks.
  • For cutting the butter, I used a combination of french fry cutter and butter knife. I've seen videos for various butter shapes from pat slices to butter cube in its entirety.
  • For rolling out of pie dough, I used a Joseph rolling pin on a cutting board. Other bakers use various rolling pins and work surfaces.
  • For fruit pie venting, required for steam escape during baking, I latticed the top crust using a pizza cutter and an inverted cooling rack. (Numerous sites show different methodologies for latticing.) Typical top crusts have slits, which are faster to implement.
One picture is worth a thousand words, and the video is worth a lot more. The entire video turns out to be 2.5G and 26:10 long. To make upload more manageable, I split it into sections 1, 2, and 3. You can view them as a playlist or as standalone segments. Title screens within the sections display text for preparing the fruit filling, preparing the pie dough, and assembling the pie and baking it.

Video Section Title: Cherry Pie (Using Frozen Cherries and Scratch Crust Ingredients)
Section 1, Overview and Fruit Filling Preparation

  1. Processing the frozen cherries
  2. Fruit mix overnight
  3. Draining the cherries
  4. Mixing cornstarch and water for making the fruit sauce
  5. Cooking the cornstarch and sauce together
  6. Folding the cooked sauce into the cherries
Video Section Title: Cherry Pie (Using Frozen Cherries and Scratch Crust Ingredients)
Section 2, Pie Dough Preparation

  1. Pie crust ingredients (overall intro info)
  2. Measuring pie crust dry ingredients
  3. Mixing the dry ingredients together
  4. Cutting the butter
  5. Stirring the cut butter chunks into the dry ingredients
  6. Mixing water into the chilled dough
  7. Preparing to chill the mixed dough for an hour
  8. Retrieving the chilled dough for flouring, flattening, folding, and rotating it a few times before wrapping it for more chilling
  9. Retrieving the chilled dough, dividing it, and rolling out the bottom pie crust
  10. Preheating the oven for 350 degrees, flouring the surface, and rolling out the top crust
Video Section Title: Cherry Pie (Using Frozen Cherries and Scratch Crust Ingredients)
Section 3, Pie Assembly and Baking

  1. Cutting the top crust dough into lattice strips
  2. Pouring the cherries into the pie pan, then assembling the lattice strips
  3. Brushing egg wash on unbaked pie
  4. Weighing the egg-washed, unbaked pie before baking it for 30 minutes
  5. Putting a pie shield on the pie after baking it for 30 minutes
  6. Baking complete (60 total minutes)--moving the pie from the oven to a cooling rack
  7. Revisiting latticing: Simulating cutting lattice strips differently using wax paper and pizza cutter
  8. Detailed article: Cherry Pie, Episode 3--Using Frozen Cherries and Scratch Crust Ingredients http://whilldtkwriter.blogspot.com/2017/01/cherry-pie-episode-3-using-frozen.html
Future Pie Thoughts
I've made three cherry pies in the recent past. For making a more perfect pie, hopefully using less time, I'll try the following actions:
  • Instead of overnight thawing of cherries and sugar, I'll try using the microwave oven, carefully monitoring and periodically stirring.
  • Weigh out my two pie doughs before rolling them out. I have tended to barely cover the pan with the bottom shell, and rolled out too much dough for the top shell (lattice).
  • Buy and use a pastry mat that has concentric circles as visual guides for pie shell diameters. The circles should help me stay inside the "lines". Related, for my third pie, I used an Oneida cutting board for my dough surface. It was OK, but the board slid around, even with a somewhat damp kitchen cloth. The silicone mats are reported to stay put during use. Possible candidate mats:
  • Re-view videos about latticing the day before or the day of making a pie to refamiliarize myself with the weaving process.
  • Bake the pie for 65 minutes total instead of 60. The bottom shells were cooked, but still a little pale.
Visit blog articles of my first and second cherry pie learning processes, which also include helpful links about scratch pie making.

Monday, December 26, 2016

Cherry Pie, Episode 2--Oops, Awws, and Ahhs

Previously in "Cherry Pie, Episode 1--the Newish Baker Challenge", I wrote that I would put the recipe in the next article (meaning this one). Well, this blog article WAS going to be about the complete cherry pie recipe process, along with a link to a YouTube video. However, a big snag came up. The big snag and other factors nudged me to write this interim article instead.

Oops and aww (biggest snag): My camera battery ran out before I could finish recording all of pie #2 process.

My camera died about halfway through the lattice-cutting stage. My final video will be a composite of steps I took for making pie #2 and pie #3. It'll be a Frankenstein assemblage of video clips and edits—more clips of the better results and omission of some of the not-so-hot ones. The entire recipe will be in Episode 3 article.

Oops and ahh: I missed integrating the butter into the dry ingredients, but the crust came out fine anyway.

I had forgotten the step of slowly mixing the cut butter into the stirred dry ingredients (flour, salt, sugar) before adding water. (I'd interrupted my dough process to eat breakfast.) I put the bowl of butter and dry ingredients into the refrigerator, to resume the process afterward in about an hour.

After breakfast, I resumed the dough process. I trickled icy water into the slowly moving mixer, watching for dough texture to become acceptable. After turning out the dough onto my floured work surface, I pressed it, folded it towards me, pressed, folded, left-right, pressed, wrapped in plastic wrap, and refrigerated it.

When I realized I'd omitted the intermediate step, I compensated by refrigerating the mixed, plastic-wrapped dough for about three hours before rollout. (Numerous sites recommend at least one hour.)
Anyway, the missed step did not affect the outcome of the crust. Two possible actions that might have helped the crust results:
  • Tossing the cut butter pieces through the dry ingredients, thus coarse-integrating the ingredients while coating the butter
  • Refrigerating the bowlful of butter and dry ingredients for an hour during my leisurely breakfast, thus chilling the ingredients before further mixing
For pie #3, I'll refrigerate the plastic-wrapped dough for only an hour and see if the crust quality differs.

Oops: The fruit fluid was a bit thick for my pasta drainer to strain the cherries.

For the fruit-and-sugar-overnight process, I used my pasta drainer, similar to the "Stainless Steel Pot Drainer with Handle". The task was awkward. The holes were a bit undersized for draining the viscous fluid from the cherries. Also, holding the drainer against the bowl was somewhat unwieldy.

I decided to root around my kitchen gadgets for a more suitable straining device. Next pie, I'll try my fry basket, which resembles one from Lionsdeal. One possible workaround for easier draining is warming up the fruit mixture in the microwave until the fluid becomes runnier.

Oops: The length of the new Joseph adjustable rolling pin overspanned the existing cutting board that I used for dough rollout.

The cutting board I used was 13 inches wide. The roller (between the gauges) measures more than that, thus, making the roller's thickness wheel gauges ineffective. I've bought and will use a 16" x 16" plastic cutting board that will more than accommodate the roller.

Aww: My latticing skills still need work.

My pressing down of the rectangular cooling rack didn't help me with cutting lattice strips very straight. Next pie, I'll use a pizza cutter with cooling rack together to make the cuts. It'll be like using an X-Acto knife and a straightedge that has yoked multiple edges.

Ahh: My crust for pies #1 and #2 seemed tough as time passed, but dough treatment wasn't the reason.

The key is that refrigerated pie crust gets harder because of butter getting more solid when chilled. The day after the pie was in the refrigerator, I cut a piece and warmed it in the microwave. Eureka! Yummy pie with tender crust! The Other likes his pie cold, and my entreaties to warm his were soundly rejected. Anyway, if your cooled-down pie crust seems tough, warm it up.

Speaking of pie crust, I did some research on economics of DIY crust. Ingredients are cheaper for homemade, and you know all the items you're putting in. Prices are approximate, and YMMV for amounts, as humidity and measurement methods can differ.

For scratch crust ingredients, the most significant for cost are flour and butter. I'm excluding cost and weight for sugar and salt, as their bulk and cost impacts are negligible. Estimates:

flour (~ $2 for 5 pounds, estimation of 20-25 cents for 2 1/4 C flour)
butter (~$3.50 per pound, estimation of $1.30 for 3/8 pound)

Calculating about $1.50 for ~9 oz flour, 5 oz butter, 6 oz water and weight of about 1 1/4 pounds (20 oz).

For pre-made crusts:
Ahh: I discovered that baking the pie at one temperature was as effective as baking initially at higher temperature, then lowering it.

I baked the pie at 375° for 30 minutes, placed my pie shield on it, and baked it for another 30 minutes. Upon cutting it open three hours later, I felt that another 5 minutes baking might have browned the underside more without burning it.

Ahh: The fruit sauce held together well, barely pooling. By the last day, only a little of the sauce pooled. Incidentally, this pie lasted us only three days; pie #1 lasted four days.

One more incidental: This unbaked pie weighed 2 pounds, 15 ½ ounces with pan; pan weighs 2 ounces. The baked pie and pan (20 minutes after removal from oven and reweighed ~ 1 hour later) weighed 2 pounds, 14 ounces. Net weight loss through water vapor evaporation was 2 ½ ounces.

Visit "Cherry Pie, Episode 3--Using Frozen Cherries and Scratch Crust Ingredients", my assessment of cherry pie #3, which also includes links to YouTube video segments for making cherry pie.

Sunday, December 11, 2016

Cherry Pie, Episode 1--the Newish Baker Challenge

This article is an assessment of a cherry pie I made last month. I'd not made a scratch pie in many years—scratch meaning pie dough from scratch ingredients and fresh filling. My recollection of the most recent crusts were frozen pre-made ones in pans or rolled up disks, all of which required thawing. They were really convenient! As for filling, the previous cherry pie was years ago that required two cans of filling. Or maybe they were cans of fruit that I needed to make cornstarch sauce.

Anyway, I wanted to try my new tilt-head stand mixer for pie crust, hoping to save shoulders and arms from elbow-grease effort of a manual pastry blender. I pored over numerous sites for guidance for pie making, particularly crust ingredients and processes. For the cherry filling, I decided I'd use frozen cherries rather than fresh that would need pitting, or canned, whether they were pre-sauced or required fluid thickening.

The big-picture pie-making process is as follows:
  1. Acquire two pie crusts or make your own. Ingredients are flour, fat, salt, sugar (optional), and water. The amounts vary from recipe to recipe. The sequence of additions and process are similar among recipes.
  2. Acquire filling or make from ingredients you buy. For fruit pies, ingredients are mainly fruit, sugar, cornstarch or other thickening agents, and fluid. The sequence of additions and process are similar among recipes, but can vary widely.
  3. Assemble (crust in pan, then filling, then "vented" top crust), and bake. Single-crust pies can require pre-baking. Lattice-top pies provide venting as well as decoration. Temperatures and durations vary widely among recipes. Some recipes include extra efforts and more items than others. A pie crust shield or foil at the rim is helpful for avoiding edge overbaking.
My pie tasted good, but had some issues that I hope to improve my process for the next pass. Before I get into the next-time discussion, I'm noting some innovations I implemented.

Home Innovations
During my research of pie making, I thought of implements that I had that might help in my pie making.

 Using a Vintage French Fry Cutter for Cutting Butter
I saw various approaches to butter use—tablespoon slices, pat-size slices, 1 cm (.39”) cubes, and whole-stick. I myself used a hand-held French fry cutter and butter knife to easily cut butter into cubes as follows:
  1. Halved one stick so three sections are small enough to fit the cutter sideways.
  2. Pushed the cutter halfway down.
  3. Used the butter knife to cut at the grid wires.
  4. Pushed the cutter farther down.
  5. Used the knife to finish pushing the rest of the butter from the opposite side.
Using Two-Color Alternating-Stripe Cutting Board for Dough Surface
I used a cutting board (12” x 13”) that had alternating dark and light wood sections. The size was helpful for easily rotating the dough 90° at a time during rolling out time. The stripes, although not consistent widths, were helpful guidelines for cutting the lattice strips.

Post-Pie Implementation Thoughts
The thawed cherries were fragile and required tender treatment when stirring in 1 C sugar. Next time, will stir sugar with the frozen cherries, then refrigerate so the cherries juice up and thaw overnight. Stirring will be minimal the next day.

The baked pie crust seemed normal the first day, but seemed tougher in the three subsequent days. I might not have handled the dough as well as I could have. Next time, I will try improving methodology and equipment.
The latticing was awkward, and I ended up with three strips for one axis and five in the other axis. Next time I’ll cut 12 strips and be more methodical about weaving them. (For marking strips, I'm going to use a cooling rack and pizza cutter—press the rack's rack wires along the top crust, then cut the strips.) Some sites for latticing guidance:
The fruit sauce pooled somewhat at the bottom of the pie, even on the fourth day. Next time, I’ll drain the fruit liquid more thoroughly into the saucepan and be sure that the cornstarch sauce thickens up well.

Additional helpful links—admittedly mostly crust-centric:
Note: Pie pan size selection will greatly influence the amount of ingredients and time required for baking. The pie pan I used was an 8" Marie Callender metal pan (~1 1/2 pints water capacity), which was a good size for my fruit filling (1 pound rozen cherries processed with sugar, cornstarch, and water).

Visit blog articles of my other two cherry pie learning processes.

Saturday, November 19, 2016

Zebra Cake, Using Two Half Boxes of Mix

*** 11/19/2016
Accompanying video now available at YouTube—"Zebra Cake, Using Two Half Boxes of Mix"


Last month, I wrote up "Zebra Cake, Using Marble Cake Mix", which differs from this zebra cake only slightly. While the marble cake method has the convenience of using one box of cake mix (marble), the two-half-box method provides flexibility in varying flavors and brands. Try different varieties of chocolate (fudgy, devil's food, …) and lighter color cake (white, yellow, vanilla).
My pixstrip shows the following image areas:
  1. ingredients
  2. equipment
  3. preparing pans (spray oil with parchment paper)
  4. separate bowls for chocolate and white cake mixes
  5. mixing of wet ingredients
  6. mixing of white cake batter
  7. mixing of chocolate cake batter
  8. start of dispensing of batters into the pans, alternating colors
  9. batters in pans, kitchen scale
  10. baked cakes
  11. parchment paper removal
  12. frosted cake with slice showing zebra effect
Ingredients
  • 1/2 box chocolatey cake mix (I used Duncan Hines Devil's Food.)
  • 1/2 box lighter color cake mix (I used Duncan Hines Classic White.)
  • 2 egg yolks
  • 3 egg whites
  • 3/8 C cooking oil
  • 1 1/8 C water
  • spray oil
  • frosting of your choice (I used mocha frosting. Scroll down for EZ instructions.)
Implements
  • electric mixer
  • 3 mixing bowls, 1 for mixing wet ingredients, the other two for mixing the batters
  • 2 round cake pans
  • cooling rack(s)
  • measuring cups
  • rubber spatula(s)
  • 2 1/4-cup measuring cups for dispensing different color batters
  • measuring cup or pitcher that holds more than two cups
Additional (straggler) items
  • parchment paper as desired
  • knife for spreading frosting
  • cake plate
Instructions (Have the cake mix box handy! And watch the YouTube video for more details.)
  1. Prepare baking pans. (I used parchment paper and cooking spray.)
  2. Pour the cake powders into separate bowls.
  3. In the third mixing bowl, mix the wet ingredients together, then measure. (Mine measured about 2 cups.)
  4. Pour half of the liquid into the lighter color cake powder, then mix (about 30 seconds on low, then 2 minutes on medium).
  5. Preheat the oven (350°).
  6. Pour the other half of the liquid into the chocolatey cake powder, then mix (about 30 seconds on low, then 2 minutes on medium).
  7. Use the two 1/4 C measuring cups to alternate pouring light and dark batters into the two pans. (Afterward, if desired, weigh the two filled pans to confirm the amounts are close to equal. Adjust as desired.)
  8. Bake for about 24 minutes. YMMV
  9. Test cake(s) for doneness with toothpick.
  10. Remove the pans of cake and place on cooling rack(s) for about 15 minutes for cooling.
  11. Decorate as fancy as you wish. Conventional, not-too-fussy decorating is as follows:
    1. Place one layer upside down on a plate and decorate the exposed side
    2. Place the other layer right side up on the first layer.
    3. Frost the sides.
    4. Frost the top.
Mocha frosting:
o 1/2 can white frosting
o 1/2 can choco frosting
o 2 tsp instant coffee dissolved in 1 tsp just-boiled water or just-brewed coffee

If necessary, microwave the frostings a few seconds for stirrability, then stir all ingredients together.
Post-recipe Thoughts
This two-half-box method for zebra cake yielded only slightly less batter than the marble-cake method, but final cakes looked and tasted similar. (I'm not a pro.) For the marble-cake method, the wet ingredients were 3 eggs, 1 cup water, and 1/3 cup oil; baking time was two minutes shorter. Anyway, for future zebra cakes, I need to improve my aim in pouring batters in concentric circles.

Saturday, November 5, 2016

Envying Animals, Part 2--Non-senses

My previous article "Envying Animals, Part 1--Vision, Hearing, Sense of Smell" was about envying animal characteristics pertaining to three senses. This article is about envying animal non-sense (grin) characteristics. Obvious capabilities are flight and living underwater without requiring mechanical devices. Other marvelous animal capabilities are ability to leap tall objects in a single bound, tails for tools and communication, and ability to hide in plain sight.

Flight
Has anyone ever, from youngster age on up, ever NOT wished for ability for self-propelled flight? For animals, we have birds, bats, and flying insects. We have aircraft and other machines that fly. Legendary fantasy flyers, such as European dragons, flying monkeys, Pegasus, and flying creatures from Avatar tantalize the fancy for flight. We have fantasy superheroes with wings or jet packs, and some who originate from other dimensions or planets.

Especially impressive are birds that can fly very long distances without stopping. From "These amazing little birds just broke the world record for nonstop flight": "These amazing little birds just broke the world record for nonstop flight … common swifts are capable of flying for 10 months without once touching land".

Underwater Living
Wouldn't it be great to breathe underwater without using a snorkel or scuba tank? Or deal with holding breath? Or worry about running out of air? Wonder about fish aquatic environment? "How do fish breathe under water?" explains: "Fish use their gills to breathe by extracting oxygen from the surrounding water."

High Jumps (Able to Leap Tall Objects in a Single Bound)
I think it'd be cool to be able to jump heights that cats, squirrels, and deer can in relation to their body lengths.
On a related note, "Top 10 Best Jumper Animals!" depicts animals that exhibit astounding horizontal as well as vertical jumping abilities.

Tail Uses
We humans lack tails. I envy dogs for having tails for conveying emotion. I envy prehensile-tailed animals for their ability to use their tails like an additional hand.
  • "Why Do Dogs Wag Their Tails?" state "Dogs use their tails to communicate strong emotions such as agitation, annoyance and anger as well as happiness."
  • "Animals With Prehensile Tails: Gripping Facts and Pictures" describes numerous animals that use their tails as tools. "They can curl their tail around objects such as branches and hold on to those objects for balance. … The Silky Anteater and the northern and southern tamandua have prehensile tails, which assists them in climbing trees or holding on to branches or other objects."
Hiding in Plain Sight—Camouflage, Mimicry
Some animals have their own cloaking devices, some for seeing without being seen, and some for making them seem to be something they're not.
Hanging Out in Groups—Swarm Behavior
I envy and marvel about some animals that can swarm without colliding into other members. Think about swarms of bees, flocks of birds, and schools of fish. From "Swarm behaviour": "a collective behaviour exhibited by entities, particularly animals, of similar size which aggregate together, perhaps milling about the same spot or perhaps moving en masse or migrating in some direction. … From a more abstract point of view, swarm behaviour is the collective motion of a large number of self-propelled entities."

I can only imagine if aliens observe humans going 'round and 'round a race track collectively, but collide into others. Also, consider what alien observers might infer if they saw a sporting event—migration into a stadium, rituals and movements in the center that correlate with group motions and vocalizations, and migration out of the stadium.

Some Human Advantages Over Animals
Despite my envy of several animals' characteristics, in some areas (and more), we humans excel animals:
  • Speech and communication, as in spoken and written language
  • Human bipedalism that helps with seeing and assessing environments, and leaves hands free to do other things
  • Unlike a goodly number of animals, no need to eat on the run, such as pursuing live prey for a meal or chomping on animal on the hoof. Also seldom needing to fret of predators in hot pursuit to make a meal out of us.

Saturday, October 29, 2016

Envying Animals, Part 1--Vision, Hearing, Sense of Smell

Every now and then, I think about animal characteristics that I envy. Part 1 of "Envying Animals, …" focuses on three senses—vision, hearing, and sense of smell. Part 2 of "Envying Animals, …" focuses on non-sense characteristics.

Vision
Human vision is amazing for near and far vision, color differentiation, and motion and edge detection. Some animals' vision talents far exceed ours. For example, "10 Examples of How Animals See - Images That Show Us The World Through Their Eyes" describes 10 animals' visions (with images) that contrast with human vision. Two examples of animal vision superiority are birds and butterflies.
Birds have four types of cone cells in their eyes called photoreceptors, while humans only have three. ... Their four types of cone cells let them see red, green, blue, and ultraviolet together. … Butterflies see with red, green, blue, UV, and the wideband light from red to purple.
Other animals that "10 Examples …" features include snakes, cats, and bats.

"Animals That Can See Infrared Light" features boa constrictors and pit vipers, piranha and goldfish, and mosquitoes.

"Snake infrared detection unravelled" describe physical reasons for snakes' infrared vision, an enviable ability.
Vipers, pythons and boas have holes on their faces called pit organs, which contain a membrane that can detect infrared radiation from warm bodies up to one metre away. At night, the pit organs allow snakes to 'see' an image of their predator or prey — as an infrared camera does — giving them a unique extra sense.
"Cat Vision: Cat Vs Human Eyesight" contrasts cat and human vision capabilities.
Cats may have beaten us humans with their field of vision and ability to see in the dark, but we win hands down when it comes to color. While cats are not totally color blind, they do not see the entire array of colors that we do. ...The average cat vision is somewhere between 20/100 and 20/200.
"What If Humans Had Eagle Vision?" describes in great detail about eagles' vision advantages.
Eagles and other birds of prey can see four to five times farther than the average human can, meaning they have 20/5 or 20/4 vision under ideal viewing conditions. … their retinas are more densely coated with light-detecting cells called cones than human retinas, enhancing their power to resolve fine details … they have a much deeper fovea, a cone-rich structure in the backs of the eyes of both humans and eagles that detects light from the center of our visual field.
"Animals with super powers: Sonar hearing, infrared vision, lightning reflexes... A new BBC show reveals the amazing abilities that help animals survive" emphasizes extraordinary vision and other characteristics helpful for certain animals' livelihood.
One advantage of [snakes'] heat sensors is the power to see not just where an animal is but where it has been, leaving traces of warmth like tracks.
Thanks to their [arctic caribou] UV vision, the wolves [grey-and-white pelts] show up as almost black, and their camouflage is useless.
Hearing
Animals that have excellent hearing (much better than humans) include owls, bats, cats, and elephants. "Animals with the best sense of hearing in the world" describes animals that really show that humans have huge disadvantages for hearing acuity.
[Owl] large ear holes are at slightly different heights, above and below eye level, helping them pinpoint the vertical positions of sound sources.
Echolation (echolocation?) [of bats and dolphins] is so accurate that with each chirp, a bat or dolphin can tell the location, size, direction and even the physical nature of an object.
With 30 different muscles, the cat can independently rotate each of its ears 180 degrees, and position one ear or both facing any sound the cat detects.
[An elephant] can hear at frequencies twenty times lower than us. They also use their trunk and feet to hear, both of which are packed with special receptors to pick up on low frequency vibrations.
Like elephants, pigeons can hear sounds at exceptionally low frequencies and this helps to explain their exceptional sense of direction. … Pigeons also possess the equivalent of an in-built compass which allows them to navigate using the Earth’s magnetic field and the position of the Sun.
Besides having excellent hearing, elephants feel vibrations more sensitively than humans do. From "Animals with super powers: …": "Some creatures such as elephants 'hear' distant footsteps by picking up vibrations in their ear bones and through their feet".

Sense of Smell
Three species of animals that are impressive with their sense of smell are dogs, elephants, and sharks.

"Why Do Dogs Have Such a Great Sense of Smell?" contrasts number of smell receptors between dogs and humans and other canine advantages.
A dog contains about 225-300 million smell receptors, as compared to just 5 million of these receptors being present in a human nose. … A dog’s olfactory cortex is about 40 times larger than that of a human. … Dogs contain another special olfactory system above the roof of its mouth called the vomeronasal organ, which helps dogs sense the smells of objects that they cannot see, such as human emotions.
Elephants, on the other hand, also do well in the smell department. "7 Facts You Didn't Know About Elephant Trunks" mentions bloodhounds and elephants—"sense of smell up to four times as sensitive as a bloodhound's … millions of receptor cells housed in the animal's upper nasal cavity". In addition to touting the elephant's sense of smell, the same article describes other features of the elephant's trunk, such as strength for lifting (with over 40,000 muscles), capability of picking up small objects, and snorkeling.

"The 25 Coolest Facts About Sharks" discuss sharks' smell equipment among the article's other shark facts. "Two-thirds of a shark’s brain is dedicated to its sense of smell. … they can detect whether a scent is coming from their right or left nostril to better help them track down their prey."

Friday, October 21, 2016

Zebra Cake, Using Marble Cake Mix

*** 10/21/2016
Accompanying video now available at YouTube—"Zebra Cake, Using Marble Cake Mix"



I'd been intrigued by a cute Duff zebra cake mix. (Love those stripes!) But it was so much more expensive than household names like Betty Crocker, Duncan Hines, and Pillsbury. In googling"zebra cake", I found a wealth of resources—especially how to create the stripey effect.

A particularly easy, non-Duff way to make a yummy zebra cake with using only one box of mix is getting marble cake mix. My store carried marble cake mix from only Duncan Hines. Surprisingly, Pillabury and Betty Crocker seem to have ceded the marble cake market to Duncan Hines, as googling those mix products indicates.

My pixstrip shows the following image areas:
  1. ingredients
  2. equipment
  3. prepared pans (spray oil with parchment paper)
  4. mixed cake batter, pre-cocoa powder
  5. scooping of 2 C batter into another bowl
  6. mixing of chocolate cake batter
  7. dispensing of batters into the pans, alternating colors
  8. baked cakes
  9. parchment paper removal
  10. frosted cake
  11. frosted cake with slice showing zebra effect
Ingredients
  • 1 box marble cake mix
  • ingredients for recipe, using the box info for guide
    • eggs
    • cooking oil
    • water
  • spray oil
  • frosting of your choice
Implements
  • mixing bowls
  • measuring cups for oil and water
  • 1/4 C measuring cups for dispensing different color batters
  • rubber spatula(s)
  • electric mixer
  • 2 round cake pans
  • cooling rack(s)
Additional (straggler) items
  • parchment paper as desired
  • knife for spreading frosting
  • cake plate
Instructions (Have the cake mix box handy! And watch the YouTube video for more details.)
  1. Preheat the oven (350°).
  2. Prepare baking pans. (I used parchment paper and cooking spray.)
  3. Prepare the batter as instructed on the box, up till blending in the cocoa powder. (I mixed wet ingredients, then mixed in the cake mix powder.)
  4. Pour 2 C of the batter into a smaller bowl.
  5. In the bowl of remaining batter, pour the cocoa powder and blend together.
  6. Use the two 1/4 C measuring cups to alternate pouring light and dark batters into the two pans. (Afterward, if desired, weigh the two filled pans to confirm the amounts are close to equal. Adjust as desired.)
  7. Bake for about 22 minutes. YMMV
  8. Test cake(s) for doneness with toothpick.
  9. Remove the pans of cake and place on cooling rack(s) for about 15 minutes for cooling.
  10. Decorate as fancy as you wish. Conventional, not-too-fussy decorating is as follows:
    1. Place one layer upside down on a plate and decorate the exposed side
    2. Place the other layer right side up on the first layer.
    3. Frost the sides.
    4. Frost the top.
Post-recipe Thoughts
Seems I wound up with slightly more chocolatey batter than white batter. Maybe next time I'd set aside slightly more of the lighter color cake batter. Maybe the cocoa powder wound up adding more bulk to the chocolate batter than I anticipated.

November 19, 2016: Visit "Zebra Cake, Using Two Half Boxes of Mix" for another zebra cake methodology. It requires only slightly more effort, but has a lot more flexibility for flavors and brands.

Tuesday, September 27, 2016

Some Clarity on Legumes, Haricots, and Nuts

I first ran across "legumes" (beans) and "haricots verts" (green beans) in my high school French class, but probably during different lessons. In the last 10 years or so, I've seen a lot of "legumes" in print.

I got curious enough recently to poke around the web for improve my knowledge about beans. The following sites dispense basic information.

"Legumes: Beans, Peas, and Lentils" provides characteristics differences—"Beans, peas, and lentils are all seeds that grow in pods. We can tell the difference by their shape." The site also provides overall preparation guidelines.

"The battle of the beans: Which are best?" lists and describes 11 common variety of beans.
Beans are part of a food category called legumes and grow in pods then are shelled and dried. Other legumes are peas, which are round and generally sold fresh or frozen, and lentils, which are flattish and round, are sold dried, and come in various tones of gray, green and coral. Beans are either round, kidney-shaped, or oval shapes with varying degrees of size and thickness.
"List Of Legumes - Healthy Protein" describes legumes as "plants that bear their fruit in pods, which are casings with two halves, or hinges". The site lists the following plants to be legumes—beans, lentils, peas, peanuts, and features four columns of names.

Big eye-opener for me—peanuts are legumes, not nuts.

"List of Legume Foods" lists the same four plant edibles, but also explains that peanuts are mistaken for nuts, a different class of vegetable. Further details about nuts are at "Are Cashews Nuts or Legumes?"
Highly diverse in size, shape, texture and flavor, nuts are the seeds of nut trees. All nuts grow encased in a shell, and in some instances, the shell is contained inside a fruit or outer husk. … Much like nuts, legumes are the nutrient-dense seeds of leguminous plants. These seeds are encased in pods, some of which are edible.
During my browsing over beans, questions popped up that I wanted to find answers for and share.

* What's the difference between green beans and haricots verts?

"Green Beans vs. Haricots Verts: What's the Difference?" states the following:
haricots verts tend to be skinnier than traditional green beans, and are also more expensive. … they’re also more tender and flavorful than comparably sized traditional green beans. They’re also younger than traditional green beans.
* Are refried beans fried and refried?

Yahoo's "question about refried beans" yielded a couple of feasible explanations:
We came up with 'Refried Beans' from the Mexican word 'frijoles refritos'
The re- in refrito doesn't mean 'again', as in the beans being fried again. In Spanish, the re- in front of the word for fried means the beans are fried strongly or very well.
Refried beans are the same fried beans BUT with a little more cooking oil or lard; also the lenght [sic] of cooking is extended a few more minutes until the oil or lard soak the beans and turn them browner.
Funny thing is that recipes I've run across call for mashing the beans. Seems this food should be called mashed beans (puré de frijoles).  

* Why are black-eyed peas seldom referred to as black-eyed beans rather than peas? Peas, such a green peas, are spherical.

I've not found definitive answers for why these beans are commonly called black-eyed peas but not black-eyed beans.

From "Why are black eyed peas called peas when they are clearly beans?", a plausible answer seems to be "Jamaica, where a very popular dish there is Jamaican rice and peas. But, the 'peas' are actually small red beans that are the same size and shape as black-eyed peas, but red like kidney beans."

"The battle of the beans: Which are best?" seems to hedge bets by referring to these legumes as both peas and beans—"BLACK-EYED BEANS (black-eyed peas)".

* Are black beans in Mexican food the same as black beans in Chinese black bean sauce?

No. "Is black bean sauce made from black beans?" explains that "black bean sauce is made from dried, fermented soybeans, which turn a dark brownish-black during the curing process".

* What's with the fancy name "edamame" for soybeans?

"Edamame - What is Edamame?" differentiates these two types of soy beans.
Edamame is young soybeans, usually still in the pod. Because the beans are young and green when they are picked, edamame soybeans are soft and edible, not hard and dry like the mature soybeans which are used to make soy milk and tofu.
* Are the red beans for making red bean paste in Asian food the same beans as for red beans and rice?

No. The US Dry Bean Council's "Bean Varieties" site lists separate entries for adzuki and small red beans.

"How to make Red Bean Paste" shows how to make paste for Asian recipes. Although the video owner does not mention moon cakes, they are a major dessert that uses red bean paste.

"Red Beans and Rice" calls for small red beans. Numerous other recipes on the Web call for kidney beans.

* Split peas resemble lentils more than they do green peas. What's up with that?

"Relationship between split pea and green pea" specifies
the split pea and the green pea are one in the same. The split pea can be either a green pea or a yellow pea. Green split peas are identical to green peas. The difference lies in how they are processed. Both are the seeds of Pisum Sativum. To make a split pea, the green pea is peeled and dried. The skin is removed and a natural split occurs in the cotyledon. The split can be further exaggerated manually or mechanically.
* So, how do lentils differ from split peas?

"What's the Difference Between Split Peas and Lentils?" shows images side by side and explains:
Split peas are field peas, which are a variety of yellow or green peas grown specifically for drying. … Lentils are pulses, which are the dried seeds of legumes. There are two main groups, the large ones with flat seeds, and smaller more rounded ones.
* Pulse WRT lentils? What's a pulse, and how does it pertain to legume?

"What is a Pulse?" states that pulses are the edible seeds of plants in the legume family. It further explains and contrasts "legume" and "pulse":
The term "legume" refers to the plants whose fruit is enclosed in a pod. … Pulses are part of the legume family, but the term “pulse” refers only to the dried seed. Dried peas, edible beans, lentils and chickpeas are the most common varieties of pulses.
* What are Mexican jumping beans, and what makes them jump?

From Wikipedia
seed pods that have been inhabited by the larva of a small moth (Cydia deshaisiana) and are native to Mexico. The "bean" is usually tan to brown in color. It "jumps" when heated because the larva spasms in an attempt to roll the seed to a cooler environment to avoid dehydration and consequent death.
Read further details and view images at "The Jumping Beans Life Cycle". Also view the short video explanation at "Why Do Jumping Beans Jump?".

The jumping beans don't whet my appetite. However, all this poring over bean info makes me want to cook beans, such as the pinto beans in my pic (and the rest of the one-pound package).

Thursday, September 15, 2016

Dozen Matter If 12 Is Significant

Why does 12 seem a significant quantity? The thought occurred to me after I counted to 12 in one of my exercise stretches that I usually count to 10. I then thought about terms and expressions that include "12" or "dozen".

The association between twelve and dozen are numerical meaning. From Online Etymology Dictionary,
from Old French dozaine "a dozen," from doze (12c.) "twelve," from Latin duodecim "twelve," from duo "two" + decem "ten".

Some Familiar Expressions that Refer to Dozen

a dozen eggs (in a carton)
from New York Times
Under a system that came to be known as English units, which was a combination of old Anglo-Saxon and Roman systems of measurement, eggs were sold by the dozen. It made sense to sell them that way because one egg could be sold for a penny or 12 for a shilling, which was equal to 12 pennies. That system held sway in the American colonies and persisted after the revolution, becoming part of the system known as U.S. customary units.
Why are Eggs Sold by the Dozen?
from fresheggsdaily
The number twelve has had special significance for man since the ancient times, from Jesus' twelve apostles to twelve full moons per year and twelve months in a year. There are twelve inches in a foot and twelve hourly divisions on a clock. There are twelve zodiac signs, twelve tribes of Israel and twelve Knights of the Round Table.
In Western Europe, particularly England, from as early as the 700s and continuing right up until around 1960, the Imperial Unit System was used. Under this system, there were twelve pennies to a shilling, likely because of the huge importance of the number twelve to civilization. This meant that an egg could be sold for a penny, or a dozen eggs could be sold for a shilling, with no change-making required.
cheaper by the dozen
from YourDictionary
"Things are handled more efficiently as a group, rather than individually." This expression is best known as a book and movie about a couple that has 12 children.
The Dirty Dozen
from IMDB
Another movie, this one about a US army major and 12 convicted murderers to assassinate German officers in World War II.
a dime a dozen
from knowyourphrase
copious newspapers from that time (1800s) advertised how certain kinds of food, like eggs, oranges, and peaches, were available for purchase by the dozen, and their cost was nothing more than a single dime
baker's dozen
from The Phrase Finder
the practice of medieval English bakers giving an extra loaf when selling a dozen in order to avoid being penalized for selling short weight
Maybe somewhat surprising, no national chain claims the name for baker's dozen. I found four independent shops with the name—all donut-themed.
Six of one or half a dozen of another
from Programmer Interview
“6 to one half dozen to the other” is a phrase that’s used to basically say that the 2 options you have are essentially the same. Since a dozen is 12, and half a dozen is 6, then it should be clear that 6 and half a dozen are basically 2 different ways of saying the same exact thing.
a gross of items, related to dozen—144, which can be 12 x 12 configuration/grid. From The Word Detective
The use of “gross” as a noun to mean “twelve dozen” (144) of something arose in English in the 15th century, drawn from the French “grosse douzaine” meaning “large dozen.”
In the 14th century, English adopted the Old French term “grossier” (from the Latin “grossarius,” wholesaler) as “grocer,” meaning a merchant who buys and sells “by the gross,” i.e., in large quantities.

About Time and Twelve

12 hours on a clock, most common display for number of hours, whether analog or digital—
The 24hourtime.info history section describes timekeeping and devices, 24 hour displays being the initial standard.
The origins of our 24 hour day can be traced back at least 4000 years, to ancient Egypt and Babylon, and perhaps further back in time. The Egyptians and Babylonians divided the parade of stars that appeared in the sky each night into 12 sections, marked by the various stars that rose and set that night.
Gradually the 12 hour dial became used for most standard clocks, and the 24 hour dial was reserved for the more esoteric, technical, or complex clocks.
12 days of Christmas and related Shakespeare play, Twelfth Night
from A Company of Fools
'Twelfth Night' is usually considered to be a reference to Epiphany, or the twelfth night of the Christmas celebration (January 6), as in the popular song “Twelve Days of Christmas”
12 months in a year
from Calendar Origins
Ultimately, all calendars began with people recording time by using natural cycles: days, lunar cycles (months), and solar cycles (years). ... The Ancient Egyptians are credited with the first calendar of 12 months.
12 signs of the Zodiac WRT ecliptic
from Space.com
ecliptic, the apparent path the sun appears to take through the sky as a result of the Earth's revolution around it. … Because of the Earth's yearly revolution around the sun, the sun appears to move in its annual journey through the heavens with the ecliptic as its path. … Twelve constellations through which the ecliptic passes form the Zodiac.
12 years in the Chinese Zodiac
from Time
Because the Chinese calendar is based on the moon's rotation, the new year can occur anytime from mid-January to late February. According to legend, the calendar was created by Ta Nao, a minister of Emperor Huang Ti's, and has been used in Asia since 4000 B.C. … After 12 years, the cycle restarts, matching the length of Jupiter's solar orbit.

Untimed 12

12 inches to the foot
from Fact Monster
In the 14th century, King Edward II of England ruled that 1 inch equaled 3 grains of barley placed end to end lengthwise.
12 disciples, and other biblical references to 12
from patheos
There were 12 tribes in Israel and this symbolizes the completeness of the nation Israel. Jacob had 12 sons which were the heads or fathers of each of the 12 tribes of Israel which are likened to 12 princes. ... Jesus chose 12 disciples who later became the 12 apostles which seem to fit the context of the number 12 used elsewhere in the Bible as this number also signified governmental rule or authority.
"12th of Never", recorded by Johnny Mathis and the group Earth, Wind & Fire


An Oddball Connection to 12

In my online travels for this article, I encountered a site, "Printable Paper Graph Paper", where you can print grid paper, including 10 x 10 or 12 x 12 to the inch. This site could be very useful for students who graph images. The top level "Free Paper" site shows numerous other printable offerings.

Tuesday, August 30, 2016

New Molted Cicada Exoskeleton with Wasps

Last month, I published "Closeup of Molted Cicada Exoskeleton (and More Info)". I had taken the accompanying pic of that lifeless shell on July 25. A few days ago, another cicada exuviae showed up on the same porch column, about a foot higher. Oh, boy! Another opportunity for another pic or more! Spotted more subjects than I expected, and got a bit more practice with my Fuji JX665.

I took the pix August 21, 22, and 23. With some of the images, I stood on a stepladder to get a better view of shell interior. Some pix are better focused than others. The pixstrip shows seven images. Click the following links to view very large images, which I saved as jpgs to reduce file sizes.
  1. Wasp perched on the shell (taken 8/21, 8:09 AM)
  2. Two wasps near the shell (taken 8/21, 8:11 AM)
  3. One wasp near the shell (taken 8/21, 8:14 AM)
  4. Wasp perched on the shell (taken 8/21, 8:19 AM)
  5. Shell (taken 8/21, 12:23 PM)
  6. Shell (taken 8/22, 1:40 PM)
  7. Shell (taken 8/23, 12:10 PM)
Part of my autofocus problem might have been cloudiness on those days, as we'd been getting rain several days that week. (The Fuji doesn't have manual focus, and the autofocus feature is ok but not great.) The porch overhang that obscured some ambient light might have also helped make it too dark. Otherwise, the camera would deliver a cheery-sounding autofocus double beep, signaling me to fire away.

Another issue I had was the camera focusing on greenery several feet away instead of my favored subject(s). A couple of times, I tried taping some cereal box cardboard as background, but breeziness kept flapping it, maybe affecting the camera's optimum capability. (Yes! Blame the camera! LOL!)

I think the main reason I didn't get optimal images is from inexperience. Learning for future shots:
  • Keeping subjects inside the rectangular marks, especially with trying to capture shell with nearby wasp(s) or getting too near the shell as I did with the last two shells
  • Avoid zooming in if I use the closeup mode (flower)
  • Increasing lighting so autofocus works better
I mulled over including the last two images because of less than optimal focus. However, details looking inside the shells are unusual to see. Better luck next time for me! And may the next cicada not shimmy so high up the porch column before planting itself for its skeletal strip!

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