two tarts

Each year, the Berkeley University Ward puts on a "Sub-for-Santa" dinner and actions off all sort of donations to the members of the Stake.  Donations range from music lessons to sailboat rides, handmade quilts to dates with cute girls in the ward.  And for dessert, a wide variety of fancy tasties are brought in and auctioned as well.  Proceeds go to buy presents for less fortunate kids in Oakland.  This year's event happened this past Saturday and was a blast.  We made over 9k total.

I liked the texture of the lighter tart better and am plotting to make a recipe combining the two: a light textured orange chocolate tart with an almond crust.  I'll experiment over the holidays.  The original recipes are below.


brain teaser

The lot of us came up with this at work today.  Can you solve it?

Fill in the blank: George, Tom,     ?    , Alex, Andy

Update 9/7/2013: Answer now in notes.


speaking of quotes...

I was poking around my sccs account recently and found a old list of Erik Cheever quotes from E12 (Linear Systems).  Brought back memories. Here they are:

"In the real world, where most of us live..."

"I can read it, even if you can't 'cause I have x-ray vision."

"Even though I have x-ray vision, I can't do algebra."

"I brought a spring in, just to show you that they exist."

"We can't deal with the sine, we are powerless against it."

"The only place sinusoids exist in nature is out of a wall socket."

"Five minutes isn't quite enough to do all of E11."

Cheever: That's why e+ = e-!
Julia: Cause there's a heater in there?

"Last time, i was zero."

Julia: The bottom one's faster?
Cheever: The top one's slower.

On Bode Plots: "You gotta embrace these things. The more you fight it, the more you'll suffer."

"Infinity...yeah, well, I can reach that high."

"How is this related to that?...*Loud whisper* They're the same!"

"It's not complicated enough, so I have to make mistakes to make it harder."

excellent quote

"I'm glad it works just as well for white-boards as it does for gerbils."
     -Adam, on the autoenhance feature of shotwell and referencing this article.


highlight of the day

Climbing down an emergency staircase, onto a ledge, and through a window to open a fellow tenant's door.  (She lost her keys.)  Maybe I should start rock climbing again.


more on the mormon church and gay rights

From Miriam: The Mormon Move and Utah Leading on Gay Rights

I've thought a little more about this issue since my original post.

One of the reasons I liked the church's actions is that it marked a shift from a "prevent things we don't like" political attitude to a "promote good things" one.  Previously, the church involved itself in maintaining the status-quo:  keeping marriage between a man and a woman, and maintaining that men and women are inherently different.  But the move to support gay rights shows that the church cares about changing the world for the better.

I don't like the squabble about the word marriage.  I wish we didn't have to deal with this issue.  I wish that everyone could have equal rights that don't interfere.

But for now, I'll count my pennies, because, as Miriam put it, pennies add up.


See!  I'm not crazy for smelling books.  Hah!

"I often noticed that conservators smelled paper during their assessment."

So. There.

meanness and panning, or the economics of charity

A while ago, NPR published an article on the 10 Meanest Cities In America, which I've thought a lot about since reading it.  San Francisco (where I work) comes out number seven and my beloved Berkeley is number ten. Why?

All of the cities mentioned, except Kalamazoo, Michigan, are in relatively warm climates. Florida, for example, gets a pretty good representation, taking four of the ten. My reason for mentioning this is not as an excuse for the meanness, but as an attempted explanation. Back to the point: warm weather means it's easier for those without homes to survive. I mean, there's a reason why Chicago's not on the list. A couple of reasons actually: one being that I'd imagine people are more charitable to those who are freezing to death. Another being that at some point the homeless there are faced with the choice: leave or freeze to death. Either choice decreases the homeless population in the area.

The bay area in particular also has a rep for being hippie-tastic, which is often coupled with generosity, love, and all that jazz. That plus warm weather? I'd totally head over here if I were homeless. Everyone else seems to have the same idea, though. Both San Francisco and Berkeley are crawling with panhandlers.

And having a huge population of needy people then backfires on those in need--it's a lot easier to be hard-hearted when you'd stop twelve times on your way from point A to point B if you weren't. I know that when I see over a dozen panhandlers a day, I'm a lot less likely to hand over my cash. If I was approached twelve times a day and gave a dollar to everyone that approached me, I'd give out more money than I spend on my groceries and gas combined. And a dollar is stingy by today's standard.

Please note that I'm not passing judgment on what is right or wrong to do, or even declaring what I do for that matter. I'm just trying to explain the situation. Lots of demand decreases supply. It's the economics of charity.

But the meanness rating was not just about giving to people on the streets, it was also about laws being enacted or considered, but the same rules apply. If there a lot of people living on the streets, it can eventually become a problem, and then legislation comes into play.

But then again, a bit ago, I saw a cop jump out of his car (partner driving) and cut across my path (inches away) to handcuff a bloodshot-eyed vagrant who was sucking on some ice a few feet away. The policeman said something like, "All right, that's it..." and then a sentence with a conditional and something about the ice-man's actions. The friend I was walking with thought he was joking, and I thought he was being unnecessarily harsh, but then again, I didn't know if the man had done anything prior or had gestured to the police in any way.

I find myself constantly asking the question, "what is the best we can do within the confines of our society?" And is that good enough?  The same aforementioned friend told me once that what to do is an impossible question.  There are no easy answers that apply to all situations.


but I be done seen about everything

I was quite surprised to find an NPR article in my news feed this morning titled Mormon Church Backs Salt Lake City's Gay Rights Law.

Having been a Mormon in the SF bay area while Prop 8 was going down, I felt like I knew the church's attitude: everyone is a child of God, but only heterosexual marriage is okay.  I didn't get why it was so important for marriage to be only heterosexual, and there was a whole lot of discussion about it, as many of the members in the area are fairly progressive.  Needless to say, it was a time of a lot of conflict between individuals and the institution.

I knew that the church wasn't against the individuals of the LGBT community, just against homosexual marriage.  (And premarital sex, so it often feels like they're against homosexual relationships, but I sure hope they never get into legislation about that.)  So when I read the aforementioned article, it didn't come as a huge shocker, at least in retrospect; it was consistent enough with their previously declared positions.  

But it did make me extremely happy that they were making the effort.  The church does see where it could do better, and is having open conversation about it.  If there is one thing that I think the world could use more of, it's the willingness to be a little flexible and converse about differences.  I think knowing your own position and defending it is noble too, but we already have strong tendencies to do that.

And though I like the call to change, perhaps the church is wise in its decision to go about change slowly--it makes people more open in the long run. 

Update: NYT article on the topic


every day is special

I am 23 years old today.  Twenty-three is a very good number--I shall make it my fifth favorite number.  Like Christmas, graduation days, and anniversaries, birthdays feel a little special.  Today, this happens.  Today, I am changed. 

And perhaps these things are true.  People act atypically and we feel something in ourselves.  But some of it is just anticipation, and often we are let down by the day.  I thought I would feel different.

Today being my birthday, I woke up and thought, I am 23 years old.  And through the day, I thought of things I could do to treat myself--nothing too indulgent.  Mostly I just wanted to eat well and enjoy myself.  I have done nothing terribly exciting; I went to work as usual, ate lunch, and then back to work.  Tonight will be simple as well, since I have the CS GRE tomorrow morning.  My fortune cookie at lunch said, "It's nice to be important, but more important to be nice," which I thought was fitting for an important day.

I feel very peaceful.  No extravagance, just seeing the simple joys.  I should feel this way everyday.  Perhaps tomorrow I shall wake up and think I am 8403 days old today.  I'm bound to fail miserably at keeping every day special--that defies the nature of the beast--but I will try.  It's less special, and more beautiful anyway, and beauty does not exclude those that surround it from being beautiful as well.


buying bread vs. making bread

I've been struggling with the dilemma of whether to buy bread or bake bread. Home-made bread tends to be healthier and is obviously more fresh. It can be tastier too, if you're skilled enough, which just comes with time. However, it takes much more time and energy to bake a loaf than it does to go out and buy one (unless you live quite far from a store and consider it exceptionally difficult to deal with the check-out personnel). Unable to make a conclusion, I decided to run some numbers to see which was cheaper, and I thought I'd share.

The cost of buying bread every week is basically $2.50/loaf for Oroweat 100% Whole Wheat Bread from Safeway. I'd factor in transportation, but I go to the store just as much, whether my bread is bought or baked. That one loaf of bread is 1620 calories, which brings it to .154 cents per calorie.

The cost of making bread is a little more complicated. There are a million permutations, but I'll just consider two: buying your yeast and keeping a yeast starter.  Also note that I'm not counting the cost of water.

Weekly bread ingredients: packaged yeast: $0.44, 1.25 lb flour = $1.12, 2T honey = $0.25
Calories: 2200 calories

This comes to about .082 cents per calorie.  Additionally, you can factor in your time into the cost, but I enjoy baking enough not to do that.

Weekly yeast maintenance: .25 lb flour = $0.22
Weekly bread ingredients: 1lb flour = $0.90, 2T honey = $0.25
Calories: 2200 calories

Once you get the routine going, it comes to .062 cents per calorie. There is a startup cost of getting your yeast going, but you might be able to find someone to give you some of theirs to start. 

It's hard to grasp the cost of things when we're talking fractions of cents, but think of it this way: an individual consumes about 14000 calories a week.  If one-tenth of your caloric intake comes from bread, the difference between buying bread and baking bread is about $1.29 a week, or $67 a year.  If half of your caloric intake is from bread, it comes to $6.44 a week, or $335 a year.  It's counting pennies, but more information never hurts.

As for me, I'm going to see if I can get a yeast starter going.


Shotwell 0.3!

Yorba has released Shotwell 0.3.0, a major update to our digital photo organizer.  Yay!  Check it out: