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Wednesday, December 10, 2014

War on Christmas 2014

Santa in the CrosshairsChristmas is only two weeks away. Maybe I just haven't been following the right news sources, or maybe the issue's dying out, but I haven't heard a whole lot about the War on Christmas this year. I did Google the phrase, and found that the right wing site, The Blaze, still has several War on Christmas articles (and they're written from the oblivious position you'd expect from a site like that - how dare those atheists insist my city actually follow the law, even though a majority of our residents want to break the law), but even there there were only 10 articles from this year - hardly a raging war. Thank goodness. I'm hoping the right wing types who get so bent ouf of shape over the separation of church and state or the inclusiveness of saying Happy Holidays are finally getting over themselves and that in a few more years the only mention of the War on Christmas will be people remembering curiosities from the past.

Anyway, I've written a few good 'war' posts in the past that are still interesting. The first two links below are my favorites. The first includes a historical perspective on Christmas, and how it wasn't always the warm and fuzzy holiday it is today. I especially like the quote from a historian who described Christmases past as "a nightmarish cross between Halloween and a particularly violent, rowdy Mardi Gras." Actually, that sounds kinda fun. The second article is about the attitude that people have taken towards Santa Claus that I just don't understand. Why do we insist that children earnestly believe in this silly myth, even once they get old enough to start questioning its plausibility? Like I point out in the article, everybody has a good time with their kids around Halloween with ghosts, goblins, and vampires without pretending they're real. Why can't we let kids enjoy Santa Claus the same way? On the other hand, there's a meme* that's gone around about Santa that I find pretty funny.

Santa Jesus Meme
Source: Master Marf (no idea if that's the original creator)

I guess I rambled a bit there. Anyway, here are my previous War on Christmas posts:

But I really do like Christmas. My wife's already put up the tree in the house. I've already decorated our big tree out front. My daughter's been checking her advent calendar every day. I'm close to having more Christmas songs stored on my computer than what's actually possible to listen to on Christmas Day. And when that day finally gets here, we'll do the presents, visiting with family, a big Christmas dinner. In fact, we do pretty much everything associated with Christmas other than go to church. So, here are a few of the positive Christmas posts I've written.

And as a bonus, here are links to humorous Christmas related pages on other sites.


* I really don't like how to many people, the term, meme, has become synonymous with a picture with a catchy sarcastic saying, rather than Dawkins' original coining, but I guess that's the way language works. Speaking of, here's one I just came across from Meme Generator that's rather fitting for this entry:

Thursday, October 2, 2014

Website Update - Chile Relleno Recipe

I've added a new recipe to my How To page, Chiles Rellenos. It's a recipe from one of my sisters-in-law. Even though it's an easy recipe, it is time consuming. Plan on a solid 3 hours from start to finish if you plan to try making them. They're really very good, though, and worth the effort.

Chile Relleno

Image Credit: Me

Monday, July 28, 2014

OK vs. Okay

A-OKThere are four common ways I've seen to spell the term referenced in the title of this post - O.K., OK, ok, or okay. Apparently, three of those are accepted spellings, - O.K., OK, and okay, are all okay, but ok isn't.

There are a whole host of proposed etymologies for the term, but the one that seems most likely is actually similar to a popular trend right now. The same way people now use LOL, TLDR, or WTF, people back in the 1800s were using their own acronyms. But the added twist back then was to intentionally misspell the words. So, 'all correct' became 'oll korrect' became 'O.K.' and 'OK'. The 'okay' spelling doesn't appear until around 60 years later.

Different style guides recommend the different spellings, but I definitely prefer 'okay'. It may not be the original spelling, but it just looks better, and with the way the meaning of the term has morphed so much, I don't mind the spelling morphing a bit. And especially with the convention of using all caps to signify shouting, I can't read 'OK' without hearing it in my head as someone shouting the word, instead of just 'okay', which sounds like someone just saying it in a normal voice.

Anyway, not a terribly important subject nor a particularly long post, but there you go.

More Info:

Image Source: Wikipedia

Friday, June 27, 2014

Whiskey Blind Taste Test

I like whiskey. I don't drink it nearly as often as beer or wine, but I enjoy it when I do. And I've been slowly accumulating a small collection of different types of whiskey - 9 bottles as of right now*. These range from Evan Williams Kentucky Bourbon at the low end, to 15 year old The Macallan Single Highland Malt Scotch Whisky at the top end (price-wise, not necessarily taste-wise, as you're about to read - and yes, it's The Macallan).

My Current Whiskey Collection

With my daughter and I being the nerds we are, we decided to do a blind taste test to see how they all compared. Just how good were the more expensive whiskeys? Were they worth the price and reputation? Granted, these are different varieties of whiskey, so it's not really a straight comparison, but it's still interesting (plus a good excuse to sip on some whiskey).

We weren't super scientific in our methodology, but we tried to be fair. My daughter put a little bit of each whiskey into a shot glass while I was in the other room, writing down which whiskey was in each glass, and then I came back in and tasted them all and ranked them. It was only a little per glass and only taking sips, or else by the end of 9 full shots in a few minutes, I wouldn't have cared about rankings. We repeated the same routine a few nights later for comparison.

It's pretty obvious that all the different whiskeys have their own unique flavors, but it's hard to actually rank them in order of preference (maybe I just have an underdeveloped whiskey palate). There were basically three standouts that were my favorites, one that was a standout in the other direction that I didn't particularly like, and then the rest that were all good but that I had a hard time favoring any over the others.

My top three were Ledaig, Oban, and Evan Williams, in that order. The one I didn't like much at all was Jim Beam. And then in the middle were all the others. And even though my preferences weren't huge, I did my best to rank them in order - 12 year old Glenlivet, The Macallan, Black Velvet, Jack Daniel's Old No. 7, and Jim Beam Devil's Cut. Keep in mind that The Macallan was the most expensive bottle I had, and it ended up in that middle group. And the funny thing is, up till that point I'd been touting The Macallan as so much smoother than the normal whiskeys, and the Evan Williams as rubbing alcohol. It's amazing how much of an influence labels and expectations can have on our perceptions. Though somewhat in my defense, I'd said all along that the Oban and Ledaig were my favorites, so my non-blind perceptions weren't completely off base. But Ledaig and Oban both also have very distinct peaty flavors, so I wonder if they'd still be my favorites if I found cheaper peaty whiskeys.

...

Originally, this entry was going to stop with the above paragraph, but like I said, I'm a nerd. I couldn't just leave it at that, so I decided to plot up these results and see if there were any noticeable trends. So, here are three different graphs. First is each whiskey with the price per bottle, in the order that I ranked them. The three groups are distinguished by color.

Whiskey Prices
Whiskey prices per 750 ml bottle, based on Spec's Texas Superstore - Red: My favorites, Blue: Still taste really good, but hard to rank compared to each other, Grey: Not so good

Next, I did a very simple plot of price vs. rank, and had Excel draw in a trend line.

Whiskey Price Trends

Third, I broke it down by groupd described above, averaged the price per group, and had Excel draw a trend line for that. Group 1 were my 3 favorites. Group 2 included the whiskeys that I liked but didn't have too strong of a preference of any over the others, and Group 3 was really only one whiskey, not a group, the Jim Beam that I didn't particularly like.

Whiskey Prices

So, there does appear to be a trend where I do like more expensive whiskey better than less expensive whiskey on average, but there's a lot of scatter in that plot. In fact, my third favorite whiskey, in my standout group (Group 1), was the second cheapest. Those rankings are also very subjective. I wouldn't be surprised if I did this test on another day and came out with slightly different results. Plus, it's not like a sample size of 9 is particularly big.

Like I said, I like whiskey, but I don't drink it a lot, so take these results for what they are. Still, I found it interesting that even if there was some correlation between cost and my personal preferences, how much variation there was around that trend.

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*I always say that it's not people with large alcohol collections that you have to worry about, but rather the ones who drink it too fast to build up a collection.

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Updated Casio EX-F1 Review

Okay, it's only a small update, but I've embedded YouTube versions of all the videos in my old entry, Casio EX-F1 - First Impression of the High Speed Video. I added links to all the quicktime files so that readers could still see the original videos, but the YouTube versions make it easier to review. And if you're not really interested in purchasing the camera, I'd still recommend going to that page just to watch the videos, because slow motion is just cool.

I put a comment in my update note that I'll repeat here. I'm shocked that this camera is still the best option out there for budget high speed video 6 years after it was first introduced, and indeed, after it was discontinued by Casio. I would have thought that surely, somebody would have come out with a better $1000 camera by now, or a cheaper camera that does what this one does. But alas, Casio's new high speed options aren't even as good as this, and no other manufacturer has stepped up to the plate. You'd think the fact that people are paying full price and higher for used versions of this camera, or even up to $2500 for new ones still in the box, would be enough evidence of demand that some manufacturer somewhere would start making a camera with this capability.

Actually, to give a taste of what you'll find on that page, here's my favorite of the videos, lighting a match, recorded at 1200 frames per second, slowed down 40 times for playback.