August 24, 2010
As you know if you've spent any time floating around here at all, I used to do a pretty decent job of maintaining this little piece of real estate on the web. The last time my posts slowed to a crawl... it was for much the same reasons as now: too much work, not enough time, and the blog is taking much to much administrative effort to keep going.
When I first started blogging here in 1998 or so, I hand-tooled the html every time I updated the page. Not difficult, but it gets tedious after a while. Then I met Jehan Semper, who programmed a content management system in perl that I used for years. Wow, did that make it easy to keep the site updated.
But even so, hand tooling special features became a bit of a chore, and I wanted things like "comments" and other Web 2.0 gadgets like all the other cool kids. Along came Movable Type, and I was once more off to the races.
Now, it's the one-click uploading of photos and comment screening that I want. Like all the cool kids. If I paid any attention to this blog at all, it would be to delete the hundreds of comment spam e-mails I get every week. Of course, I don't bother because I get thousands of junk e-mails each week, and it's a struggle just to reply to valid e-mail, let alone maintain my blog.
...let alone go to work, raise my kids, deal with recent surgery (more on that in a future post), and many other things, besides. But you get the idea.
This blog started out as a means of keeping in touch with friends and family and occasionally waxing philosophical about the topics of interest to me. Truth be told, I haven't really run out of things to say. But it would be more fun standing on a cool new soap box.
So, do any of you, my dear readers, have any suggestions on how I might improve my blogging experience, and thereby renew my enthusiasm here? How might I make it easier on myself to share not only recipes with you, but photos of the finished product? Or pictures of the kids? Or embed movies, for that matter?
Feel free to comment with your suggestions... I promise to read them!
July 24, 2010
My friend Gabrielle Bouliane was born this day 44 years ago; she was less than two years older than me. She died this past January.
Having gone to the hospital to see someone about back pain, Gabe was diagnosed with late-stage cancer of the gallbladder. This was just last year. She was told that the odds of someone surviving another five years after such a diagnosis tended to be roughly five out of a hundred, if I recall correctly.
Quite frankly, I thought she had a pretty good shot at being in that five percent. She was otherwise healthy, surrounded by a strong network of love and support, and had all the usual things that people say help in these situations: reasons to live, strong will, etc.
Gabe kept in touch with her many friends via Facebook and CaringBridge -- an example of the good use that the social networks can be put to. We all were able to stay connected with her; share photos and memories and shout-outs and well-wishes; offer support when she was feeling down. Coordinate visits. Even send her gifts by way of her Amazon.com wish list.
I phoned her on January 29th to see how she was doing. Out of respect for her situation, I did not want to be one of her hundreds of friends to inundate her with calls, so I had waited until I thought the dust had reasonably settled. When I called, a good friend of hers answered the phone; Gabe was not doing well, but she'd let her know that I called. A few hours later, Missy phoned me to let me know that Gabe had died shortly after my call.
Gabrielle and I knew each other since my high school days; she and I were writers for a weekly student news magazine at the University of Buffalo. The friends I made during my time at Generation have had a lasting impact on my life. They taught me ways of seeing and thinking that influence me to this day. Gabe, like all of them, was fiercely intelligent and expressive; kind and thoughtful.
We encountered each other at several different stages of our unfolding lives. Buffalo. Boston. Buffalo again. Seattle. She became a nationally known slam poet, and I was emceeing a monthly open-mic poetry night in a suburb of Seattle when someone said I should see about having her as a featured performer. "Funny. I used to know somebody with that name. But her bio here says she's a red-head. The Gabe I knew had brown hair...." Yeah. It was her.
She was driving a Rambler Classic at the time, which she loved. She had changed her appearance and had gone through marriage and divorce and a few career changes and had a new kind of fire and vitality that I hadn't recalled from our previous lives... but she was still Gabe.
A couple of months before she died, Gabe performed her last public appearance on the slam poetry scene. I hope you'll take a few moments out of your day to listen to what she had to say:
For all that I knew Gabe on and off over the years, I never expected to be hit as hard as I was by her death. Once she got and shared the news, it brought us all together. And, I think, it made her passing that much harder.
I am taking Gabe's advice. I'm doing what I can to make my life better today. I'm stepping with more purpose. I'm fixing what needs fixing, holding onto what's worth keeping, and putting to rest that which can not (or should not) be mended.
And, what about you, my friends? Are you living the life you want to live? If not... what are you waiting for?
Gabe, I miss you terribly, and will always cherish your memory. Happy Birthday.
March 07, 2010
So, I hear people talking about how they prefer their sodas of choice to use the sugar recipe instead of the high fructose corn syrup recipe. Given that sugar and HFCS are pretty much identical, chemically, I was curious as to whether there really is a difference.
So I set up a test.
I went to the local grocery store, and bought two otherwise-identical bottles of Dr Pepper -- one using the current formula, and the other using the 'heritage formula' that uses sugar instead of HFCS. I chose Dr Pepper because that is my poison of choice. And yes: I AM WELL AWARE THAT I SHOULDN'T BE DRINKING SODA POP AT ALL, THANK YOU VERY MUCH.
Pepsi was also an option to do the sugar versus HFCS taste test challenge, but Pepsi is not my poison of choice.
So. I made myself some peanut-butter toast to use as a palette reset. I asked Paulette to pour one type of Dr Pepper in one mug, and the other in another while I was out of the room, and to return the bottles to the fridge so that I couldn't be swayed by knowing which formula was in which mug.
I came back in the kitchen and began the taste test. I ate a bite of peanut butter toast, and then tried the first mug. Very bubbly. Otherwise, about what I'd expect from Dr Pepper. I had another bite of peanut butter toast, and then tried the second mug.
Hmmm. A very subtle difference. Very subtle. A little (only a weeee bit) fruitier, perhaps. More like... cough syrup.
I held out the second mug. "This is the sugar version."
"The difference is almost too subtle to notice. But given a choice between the two, I prefer the HFCS recipe."
So, there you have it.
If you slipped me sugar instead of the HFCS version, I probably wouldn't notice or care. But when paying close attention, when it comes to the taste of Dr Pepper, sugar is not an advantage.
This public service message is brought to you by the find folks at Rousselle labs, who remind you that all soda is bad for you, whether you bow to your Big Corn overlords or fall sway to the great "Sugar Is Better" lie.
February 13, 2010
There was this little meme that ran around Facebook a while ago that challenged people to: "Quick! Name 15 books that have stuck with you!"
I resisted for a long while, but then finally decided to go ahead and play the game. Below is what I posted on Facebook, and it generated quite a fascinating discussion on my Facebook page. That said, I post it here for your perusal. Notice how I decided to use this meme to launch into a discussion about more than just 15 books. Hey, it's my Facebook page... I'll post to it however I see fit!
Rules: Don't take too long to think about it. List 15 books you've read that will always stick with you. They should be the first 15 you can recall in no more than 15 minutes. If you decide to play, tag me back, because I'm interested in seeing what books my friends choose. (To do this, go to your Notes tab on your Profile page, paste rules in a new Note, cast your 15 picks, and tag people in the Note, upper right-hand side.)
I could just as easily make this a list of fifteen authors....
In no particular order (I even filled in the numbers out of order, just to be truly random):
1. Stranger in a Strange Land by Robert A. Heinlein
2. Catch-22 by Joseph Heller
3. The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy series by Douglas Adams
4. 1984 by George Orwell
5. The Harry Potter Series by J.K. Rowling
6. 2001 A Space Odyssey by Arthur C. Clarke (plus lots of others by him)
7. The Moon Is a Harsh Mistress by Robert A. Heinlein (plus, almost everything else by RAH)
8. Animal Farm by George Orwell
9. The James Bond series by Ian Fleming
10. The Federalist Papers by James Madison, Alexander Hamilton, and John Jay
11. What the Anti-Federalists Were For by Herbert Storing
12. The Bonds of Womanhood: "Women's Sphere" in New England by Nancy Cott
13. The Boomer Bible by R. F. Laird
14. The Artist's Way by Julia Cameron
15. The Stand by Stephen King
15.5. The Dead Zone by Stephen King (plus, almost everything else SK has written)
16. Atlas Shrugged by Ayn Rand
17. Brave New World by Aldous Huxley
18. Selected Writings of Abraham Lincoln (And Ben Franklin, Thomas Jefferson, etc., etc.)
19. The Dilbert series by Scott Adams
20. The Far Side series by Gary Larson
21. The Calvin and Hobbes series by Bill Watterson
22. The Pearls Before Swine series by Stephan Pastis
I re-read Catch-22 every few years or so, and it's brilliant every time. Brilliantly funny, razor sharp commentary. Just brilliant.
1984, as I found out later when I read Darkness at Noon by Arthur Koestler (for a Russian history class) and Anthem by Ayn Rand (recommended by a friend), is a complete rip-off of those two earlier works, but its message still resonates more profoundly than both of those works put together. Odd, but true.
With the exception of 1984, I've re-read 1-9 several times over, and re-read parts of 10-15 and 18-22 several times over.
I included Atlas Shrugged not only because it belongs on the list, but also because I know it'll cheese off some of my friends. I disagree with much of what Ms. Rand had to say, but she nonetheless spoke more truth than many people would like to admit.
Brave New World belongs on this list, too. Only read that one once, however. (Same with Atlas Shrugged.)
The Boomer Bible is one of the most scathingly funny books I've ever read, written in biblical verse. It is a satire on history, politics, religion, psychology, human nature, and in particular, so-called Western Civ.
Why "The Bonds of Womanhood" by Nancy Cott? I was a history major as an undergrad, and this was the first history book I'd read that made me realize just how much of our current social structure in the US is owed directly to the way the Puritans set up shop in New England. Why are most teachers in U.S. secondary schools women? Etc. Fascinating. I could have included many, many history texts regarding WWI and WWII, but this one was the first that really hooked me into history as a field of study.
While most kids have read at least parts of the Federalist Papers, it might surprise you to learn that there were many, many brilliant minds at the time who argued *against* adopting the US Constitution. "What the Anti-Federalists Were For" explains their positions, and it's a must read for anyone interested in US politics. (As I clearly am.)
Ah, hell. Add "Take Back Your Government" by Robert A. Heinlein, his best non-fiction work.
The James Bond books, upon a recent re-reading, are so truly awful it's bizarre. But I loved them. Loved them for years and years. Ate them up like candy.
I originally included these because I read them in book form, but since they are plays, I suppose they're not supposed to count. So, as extra credit, I include:
Death of a Salesman by Arthur Miller (plus, while we're at it, the Crucible)
Macbeth by Shakespeare (plus, while we're at it, Othello)
Inherit the Wind by the guy who wrote Inherit the Wind
Uncle Tom's Cabin by Harriet Beecher Stowe
Tag. You're it.
January 18, 2010
Like Thomas Jefferson, James Madison, and Abraham Lincoln before him, Martin Luther King, Jr. was a powerful writer whose words transcend the time and place that they were written.
Listen to the words of this speech. It astounds me that they were even necessary, and that the dream has not yet quite been achieved.
But we're getting closer, my friends.
Copyright (c)1998 - 2010 by Allan Rousselle. All rights reserved, all wrongs reversed, all reservations righted, all right, already.
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