Saturday, March 27, 2010

A Convenient Cake Mix Cooky Batch--Easter

This article is a sibling recipe to my Valentine cooky recipe. This simple recipe requires only 4 ingredients:

  • 1 box vanilla or otherwise light-color cake mix
  • 1/3 cup of oil
  • 2 eggs
  • various-color sugars

Note: The stated weight for a standard-size box of cake mix is 18.25 ounces.

The following baking equipment required:

  • cooky pan(s)
  • pastry blender
  • bowl
  • measuring cup
  • measuring spoon(s)
  • small rubber spatula
  • small cooky cutters to create indentations
  • cooky spatula to lift and transfer baked cookies
  • cooling rack for done cookies


  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
  2. Pour the cake mix powder into a medium-large mixing bowl.
  3. In a bowl or large cup, mix the oils and eggs.
  4. Pour the wet ingredients into the larger container and use a pastry blender to stir the ingredients together.
  5. Complete the process as follows according to the cooky size and number you want (larger/fewer—40 vs. smaller/more—50).

  6. Flat-tablespoon Method (Shown in pic strip at article title.)

    Yields about 40 cookies.
    1. Use a round tablespoon to scoop the dough.
    2. Flat-scrape the excess with a rubber spatula.
    3. Use the spatula to turn and drop the spoon's dough onto the cooky sheet.
    4. Flatten and spread the dough using the bottom of a glass.
    5. Sprinkle color sugars over the dough disks.
    6. Press cooky cutter shapes all the way through the dough disks.
    7. Bake for about 10 minutes.

    Domed-teaspoon Method

    Yields about 50 cookies.
    1. Use a round teaspoon to scoop the dough so it looks more than rounded and less than heaping (about a 2-teaspoon measure).
    2. Use the spatula to turn and drop the spoon's dough onto the cooky sheet.
    3. Flatten and spread the dough using the bottom of a glass.
    4. Sprinkle color sugars over the dough disks.
    5. Press cooky cutter shapes all the way through the dough disks.
    6. Bake for about 8 minutes.

  7. Use the cooky spatula to lift and transfer the done cookies onto cooling rack.

Note: Using a cooky shooter is also suitable for dispensing the dough. If using a shooter, sift the powder before mixing in the wet ingredients, in case there are soy "pebbles" that can clog up the pattern disk(s).

The cookies are soft right out of the oven; the edges become slightly crunchy after a few minutes.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Pronunciations Heck with Hermione and Homage

As my occupation (technical writing) is more involved with the written rather than spoken word, I often trip over pronunciations of words that I read rather than speak, particularly non-English names. But even with a name common in England consciousness, one gives me problems in particular—Hermione—for the following reasons.

  • The name starts with an "h", a letter that seems to have no logical rules for it getting pronounced or not.
  • Syllable accentuation is not obvious.
  • The "i" is not obvious for whether it's long or short.
  • The second "e" because of the word-end placement seems like it should be silent.
  • Possible pronunciations seem to include "HER-mee-own", "HER-mee-one", "her-MY-own-ee" (Bingo!), etc.

Unless I've seen a Harry Potter movie recently—maybe a year since, I forget how Hermione is supposed to be pronounced. Reasonable video resources, besides Harry Potter movies, now include YouTube videos where Emma Watson talks about her character.

Another "h" word (term) that gives me pause is "homage".'s pronunciation guide shows "\ ä-mij, hä-\ ". There are two speaker icons. When clicked, they sound like "hawm ij" and "awm ij", respectively, to me.'s pronunciation guide shows "[hom-ij, om-]", although there's only one speaker icon. When clicked, I hear what sounds like "hawm ij". I can't help but also consider pronouncing "homage" as "home age" or "ohm age" or "home ij" or "ohm ij".

My feeling is that "h" words come with the unusual pronunciation difficulties particularly for non-native English speakers. Does the "h" get pronounced or not? Seems only experience helps in knowing. Honor? Hour? Hope? History? My efforts to find online pronunciation help regarding "Hermione" and "homage"—my "h" pet words for this article—has yielded a few reasonable resources.

Online Dictionaries

Other Resources

Per inogolo's "About" page, is "website devoted to the English pronunciation of the names of people, places, and various things". The result for Hermione provides a link for speech ("Audio Pronunciation"), displays pronunciation ("Phonetic Pronunciation") as "hur-MY-o-nee", and shows the name/word origin.

A topic at Language Forums yielded a commenter's link to AT&T for pronunciations. At the AT&T site, you can select different voices from a drop-down list box, then type or paste text into the text box. You then click SPEAK to hear the text. The American English speakers pronounce Hermione as "her MY oh nee", whereas the British speakers pronounce "HER me on". Other language-speakers have yet other pronunciations. Incidentally, the WordReference forum page shows a paid-ad link for free text-to-speech reader.

Even if I mastered and could continue to remember pronunciations for "Hermione" and "homage", I could never be an news announcer for foreign news. I would have an awful time correctly pronouncing names of heads of states for former Eastern-bloc countries and several Mediterranean-area countries. I'm fine with most British-based and Spanish names, except for Hermione (British by Potter <g>).

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Technical Communications Means

YouTube playlist for this article,
playlist compilation article

Telephone and mail correspondence—mostly referenced in songs, movies, and a few TV shows are the technical communications means I'm talking about. At the time of those media release, they reflected the prevailing technology for non-f2f interactions. Back then, letters did not reach recipients within seconds, older phone calls person-to-person required manual dialing on a rotary dial (woe if numbers were 8s, 9s, or zeros and your dialing finger slipped), and there was no Caller ID nor answering machine. Cheap mass mailing? Fuggedaboutit!

Especially regarding songs that mention phones, references to phone call costs (dime, 40 cents more, …) and dialing contrast sharply to current call charges and keypad or memory-number inputs. One carryover from dialing days seems a bit amusing to me: the feature called "redial". And how about "speed dial"? Another anachronism: "operator", an occupation that has gradually faded from phone call prominence but for which there are several songs that feature that term.

I've grouped some lists and links as follows:
  • Songs that Feature Letters
  • Songs that Feature Phones
  • Movies that Feature Phones and Letters
  • TV Shows that Feature Phones
Songs that Feature Letters

"Gonna Sit Right Down and Write Myself a Letter" (written 1935), Billy Williams (recorded 1957).
Lyrics excerpt—

I'm gonna sit right down and write myself a letter
And make believe it came from you
"Love Letters in the Sand" (1957), Pat Boone.
Lyrics excerpt—

On a day like today
We passed the time away
Writing love letters in the sand
"Please, Mr. Postman" (1961), Marvelettes.
Lyrics excerpt—
please mr.postman
deliver the letter
the sooner the better
"Return to the Sender" (1962), Elvis Presley.
Lyrics excerpt—

So then I dropped it in the mailbox
And sent it special D.
"Sealed With a Kiss" (1962), Brian Hyland.
Lyrics excerpt—

I'll send you all my love
Everyday in a letter
Sealed with a kiss
"PS I Love You" (1962), Beatles.
Lyrics excerpt—

As I write this letter,
Send my love to you,
"All My Loving" (1964), Beatles.
Lyrics excerpt—

And then while I'm away,
I'll write home ev'ry day,
And I'll send all my lovin'to you.
"The Letter" (1967), Boxtops.
Lyrics excerpt—

my baby just a-wrote me a letter.
"Take a Letter Maria" (1969), R B GREAVES. (See the guy dictating into a tape recorder, starting about :29.)
Lyrics excerpt—

So take a letter Maria, address it to my wife
Send a copy to my lawyer
Songs that Feature Phones

"Beachwood 45789" (1962), Marvelettes. (Note that both "Beechwood" and "Beachwood" appear in search results. An image of the record label shows the correct name to be Beechwood. Oh, sunnybeeches!)
Lyrics excerpt—

Beechwood 4-5789
You can call me up and
Have a date any old time
"634-5789" (1970), Picket Wilson.
Lyrics excerpt—

All you gotta do is pick up your telephone and dial now…
"867 5309/Jenny" (1982), Tommy Tutone.
Lyrics excerpt—

Jenny, Jenny who can I turn to? (8-6-7-5-3-0-9)
For the price of a dime I can always turn to you.
"Call Me" (1965), Chris Montez.
Lyrics excerpt—

Call me, don't be afraid, you can call me
"Call Me" (1999), Blondie. (Note someone writing "636-1636" on someone's forehead at 1:18.)
Lyrics excerpt—

Call me on the line
"Reunited" (1979), Peaches and Herb.
Lyrics excerpt—

I wished I could climb right through the telephone line
"Memphis" (1959), Chuck Berry.
Lyrics excerpt—

Long distance information, give me Memphis Tennessee
Help me find the party trying to get in touch with me
She could not leave her number, but I know who placed the call
'Cause my uncle took the message and he wrote it on the wall
"Wichita Lineman" (1968), Glen Campbell.
Lyrics excerpt—

And the Wichita Lineman is still on the line
"Back in the USSR" (1968), Beatles. (Paul performs in Kiev in 2008.)
Lyrics excerpt—

Honey disconnect the phone
"Rings" (1974), Lobo.
Lyrics excerpts—

Ring ring telephone rings

Ring ring door bell ring

Ring ring golden ring

And let the wedding bell ring
"Ring Ring" (1973), ABBA. (See Agnetha and Anni-Frid use their index fingers to simulate dialing a telephone, about 2:34.)
Lyrics excerpt—

Ring, ring, why don't you give me a call
Ring, ring, the happiest sound of them all
Ring, ring, I stare at the phone on the wall

Related: YouTube audio mix using ABBA's "Ring Ring" and Blondie's "Hanging on the Telephone"
"Happy Together" (1967), Turtles.
Lyrics excerpt—

If I should call you up, invest a dime
"Do Ya Think I'm Sexy" (1978), Rod Stewart.
Lyrics excerpt—

Give me a dime so I can phone my mother
"Sylvia's Mother" (1992), Dr. Hook. (Note there's a phone booth in the background.)
Lyrics excerpts—

Sylvia's mother says "Sylvia's busy"
"Too busy to come to the phone"

And the operator says "40 cents more for the next 3 minutes"

And Sylvia's mother says "thank you for callin'"
"And, sir, won't you call back again?"
"Amish Paradise" (1996), Weird Al Yankovic.
Lyrics excerpts—

We haven't even paid the phone bill in 300 years

There's no phone, no lights, no motorcar
"Telephone" (2009), Lady Gaga.
Lyrics excerpt—

Call all you want, but theres no one home,
And you're not gonna reach my telephone.
A small subcategory—Operators

"Operator" (1972), Jim Croce.
Lyrics excerpts—

Operator, could you help me place this call,
'Cause I can't read the number that you just gave me,

You can keep the dime.
"Operator" (1975), Manhattan Transfer. (Note the bent arm and fist by the ear to simulate holding an operator's set.)
Lyrics excerpt—

Please give me Jesus on the line
"Smooth Operator" (1984), Sade. (OK, so it's not about a phone operator.)
Lyrics excerpt—

He's a smooth operator,
smooth operator,
smooth operator,
smooth operator.
Movies that Feature Phones and Letters

Enemy of the State (1998), Will Smith.
Will's character gets tracked via cellphone usage, before current common GPS outfitting into phones.

Bill & Ted's Excellent Adventure (1989), Keanu Reeves.
The phone booth serves as a good vehicle, as it could transport several people at any one time.

Superman (various releases and stars).
Superman typically switched out in a phone booth. One movie did reflect the downsizing of phone booths to a payphone surround, with Clark looking perplexed, needing to find an alternate changing room.

Matrix (1999), Keanu Reeves.
Characters travel through payphones lines. At the time the movie was in theaters, payphones were still common. Try to find a payphone these days.

My Best Friend's Wedding (1997), Julia Roberts.
This movie has both phones and letters. Julia's character drives a wagon while talking on a humongous cellphone, indicating an agedness in technology. In a different scene, she keeps a draft email, but inadvertently, the email goes out, resulting in stressful circumstances.

Vanity Fair (2004), Reese Witherspoon.
Correspondence letters are prominent in this story.

TV Shows that Feature Phones

Rowan & Martin's Laugh-In, featuring Lily Tomlin as Ernestine, the phone operator—one of many characters Lily developed. (Note she is at a switchboard, and at a later point, dialing the phone.)

Keeping up Appearances.
The main character Hyacinth often converses using a phone—YouTube instance, starting about 2:16. One clip shows Hyacinth dissed and thwarted in her attempts to use a phone.

"Night Call", a Twilight Zone episode.
A woman receives mysterious phone calls, but is regretful when they stop. They had been from her deceased fiancé, and he finally hung up on her.

As my compilation turns out, my focus is more on phones—letters seeming to loom not quite as large—in songs, movies, and TV shows. In any case, I hope visiting links brought entertainment, enlightenment, and a-muse-ment nevertheless. Note: Other resources (besides linked YouTube videos and lyrics sites) include Google and Wikipedia—mainly for release-year information—and IMDB for movie references.
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