Calories Don’t Make Sense

Dear Fiber One,

Regarding your “90 Calorie Brownies”: First of all let’s get our terminology straight. That is not a brownie. It is a soft cookie. Actual brownies are about twice as thick. The main point I would like to make, however…

WTF?! 90 calories? In that tiny little thing? How the heck did you manage to stuff 90 calories into a little cookie? (Yes, it’s a cookie, like I said, not a brownie.) And you put it on the box in great big letters as if it was a good thing. Wow. That’s some really audacious marketing.

Also, how do you expect a person to eat just one small cookie? Or even just one brownie if they were actual brownies, which they’re not. So two of these things would be 180 calories. That’s getting to be a bit much for a little snack. Might as well eat ice cream. Or real brownies. (I know, I know… fiber. So I’ll make it a banana split) And if you eat the whole box, which is what a normal person would do, (Thank goodness I’m not normal.) that would be 540 calories. Yeah, I’m definitely eating ice cream instead. I wonder how much fiber there is in a pint (okay, half a pint) of Ben & Jerry’s Chunky Monkey.

Reading

300 Suns by Allan J. Ferrenberg is one of the more unputdownable books I have read recently. In the near future a huge alien starship arrives. The aliens refuse to show themselves or to communicate in any way. Soon they begin putting satellites into orbit around Earth. Scientists, the military, and politicians are divided over whether or not the aliens are hostile and what, if anything, to do about them.

I don’t want to post any spoilers but I do want to say, “Hello, Hollywood? This would make an epic disaster movie.” Also, I was able to figure out what the aliens were up to one chapter before it was revealed in the story. I do like surprises but I also like being able to figure things out. I was not entirely pleased with the ending but it wasn’t a bad ending. My quibble is just over details, I suppose. Overall it was a very entertaining and worthwhile read.

Thank Goodness It’s Monday?

It was sort of a sucky weekend. There was no Big Bad thing that happened, just several small and medium bad things that felt hugely bad for some reason. I guess it actually started the middle of last week with the antique indigo stretch denim that I didn’t get. I did search to see if I could find it anywhere else. I couldn’t but even if I had found some the same color on another website there wouldn’t have been any way to be sure it was the exact same thing. The denim I missed out on had 35% stretch. Most online fabric retailers don’t tell you the amount of stretch and in my experience “stretch” denim is usually not actually very stretchy at all. Maybe 5%?

Anyway, as I said, I did order some of the light blue stretch denim. (20% stretch) It was supposed to arrive via US Mail on Saturday. But Friday, as I was headed out to go buy groceries, I noticed that our mailbox had fallen down. There used to be a huge problem with mailbox vandalism in our area so we made a super vandalism resistant mailbox. It totally worked for vandalism prevention but it weighed well over 100 pounds so I couldn’t put it back up by myself. We decided to buy a new, lighter weight but still sturdy mailbox to replace the old Superbox but didn’t have time to put it up until Saturday afternoon so we didn’t get any mail Friday or Saturday. This is not a big deal. I wouldn’t have got around to doing anything with the denim for several days or possibly a week or two anyway but still… I was expecting it on Saturday.

Saturday I went to a local quilt show. That should be fun, right? Well, it was nice. I did enjoy seeing all the gorgeous quilts. But there were two things that partially spoiled it for me. First of all, it seemed like I was the only person there who didn’t know anyone else and I felt alone, left out, and a little like I didn’t belong there. There was one woman there who started a conversation with me but she saw someone she knew and abandoned me mid-sentence. I can understand that. I really can. When you see a friend in a public place you don’t want to let her get away without talking to her, but still, it sort of made me feel like I was still that little girl who was only good enough to talk to if there was no one else around.

The other thing… I’ll be honest, a big reason why I even went to the quilt show was that a local quilt shop that I’ve been to a couple of times said on their Facebook page that if you stop by their booth at the show you could get a 25% off coupon for their store. 25% off? That’s huge! Well, I stopped by their booth and I didn’t see any coupons. The person attending the booth was talking to someone and I didn’t want to interrupt so I walked around a bit more and came back and she was still talking. I hung around for a bit and finally gave up and left without a coupon. It’s just as well. I certainly don’t need any more quilting cotton and yet I’ll probably buy some from eQuilter pretty soon because they have several fabrics that I’m finding particularly irresistible right now. But you see, this was a multi-level disappointment. Thursday I went to visit my brother for a while and I refrained from going to the the quilt shop over there in his town because I knew I was going to get a 25% off coupon from this quilt shop over here. And I like the selection of fabrics at Sager Creek Quilts better. (I don’t like their website and have never ordered from it because their images are too small and I can hardly see what I’m getting.)

The people who work at the local quilt shop are all very nice and one lady in particular is especially friendly and always seems so happy to see me, it makes it a pleasure to go there. Without the coupon as an excuse though, I probably won’t go there at least until next spring. Sager Creek Quilts, while they have a better fabric selection, the guy who is usually working there when I go there (I think he is the owner or is married to the owner) is sort of dour and reserved. Not really unfriendly but not fun and makes me a little uncomfortable to try to talk to him so it’s usually all business when I go there. It’s almost an hour and a half away so I probably won’t go there again anytime soon either.

Finally, to top off this less than fun weekend, my granddaughter was sick yesterday. She was supposed to have her 1st birthday party. I wasn’t excited about the party itself. There would have been a bunch of people there I didn’t know or barely know but I’m disappointed for her sake and sorry she’s not feeling well.

So that was my weekend. I’m actually glad it’s Monday but I’m a little nervous, wondering what else can happen.

Quotes From Here and There

Because of the way our brains work, something rare and exotic is much scarier than something that’s familiar.here

I would be irresistible to the ladies if only I had bright blue inflatable throat sacs…there

… it’s “only drudgery if you’re reading it for school.”here

…we are constantly barraged with health claims in popular culture, and evidence based medicine is the science of how we know what does good, and what does harm. Every popular claim is an opportunity to learn about the relative merits and downsides of randomised trials, systematic reviews, cohort studies, laboratory work, and more.there

She Who Hesitates Doesn’t Get the Fabric

I have been looking for some stretch denim that is actually noticeably stretchy for ages. I found some black denim and made an amazingly comfortable (if not exactly fashionable) pair of jeans but no one ever has any faded blue stretch denim. But finally I found it! [rays of heavenly light, angels singing] Girl Charlee, which very helpfully gives the percent of stretch, had two nice stretch denims: one, a “light indigo blue” and the other one “antique indigo”. I really wanted the antique indigo but I waited several hours trying to decide whether I wanted to get some of the light blue also or only the antique indigo. I decided to get only the antique indigo but when I went to order it they only had one yard left! (Oh the humanity!)

Naturally, I was devastated but I ordered some of the light indigo denim. I will keep checking. Maybe someday they will get some more? I have one big complaint against Girl Charlee. They are one of those online fabric retailers that only sell in whole yard increments. I am sure that this contributed to my not getting the fabric I wanted. How many of the people who ordered the antique denim had to order more than they actually wanted? 3 yards instead of 2 1/2 yards, for example. Perhaps there would have been enough left for me if other people hadn’t been forced to buy more than they needed. I have learned my lesson though. Never hesitate to buy fabric.

Dreaming

Okay, I do have something to say about that after all.

Yesterday I linked to this article, 10 Interesting Facts About Lucid Dreaming, and a commenter, Ken, said he was surprised that I didn’t have anything personal to say about the subject. Actually, I bookmarked that article a long time ago with the intention of saying something about it but I could never think of more than a short paragraph, a couple of sentences at most, and I thought, “No one likes dream posts anyway,” so I finally decided to just link to it. But…

I do usually, at some point in my dreams, realize that I am dreaming. When I was a kid I learned to wake myself up when I was having a bad dream but I have never controlled what was happening in my dreams. Most of my dreams now days are pretty cool – like my own personal sci-fi movies. I once had about a dozen or so Klingons over for dinner but most are more original and really weird and I often wake up wondering, “How did my silly brain manage to come up with that?”

Besides the “sci-fi” dreams I sometimes dream about houses, usually like we are looking at a house to move into. The last time we did that in real life was almost 19 years ago but we spent six months at it and it doesn’t seem like it was that long ago so maybe that’s why it has stuck with me. It has been a while since I had one of those but I actually had one last night. This one was a little different. Someone wanted us to “house-sit” for them while they were away and the house was huge and luxurious and had awesome closets. One was so big it even had a clothes conveyor. The whole dream was mostly about the closets, which makes sense because lately I have been desperately wishing for bigger closets.

A couple of things about my dreams that might or might not be a little odd: 1, I almost always dream in color. I don’t think that’s so strange because of I’ve heard a lot of other people say they dream in color but I used to hear and read that “most people” don’t. 2, I often see and read words in my dreams, usually on signs or product labels but sometimes books. I have read a number of times that one way you can tell if you’re dreaming is that words are all jumbled and unreadable but that’s not true for me. Sometimes they start out sort of indistinct somehow but I can stare at them and make them clear enough to read.

Today Is Not Columbus Day

Yesterday was Columbus Day – the traditional day that is. When I was a kid Columbus day was really just like any other day, just like it is now. We still had to go to school if it was on a weekday but we got to do something different like color a picture of three wooden ships or maybe watch a film. It was used as a teaching opportunity but most of the stuff we were taught back then was wrong.

Now Columbus Day is just a Monday off for government employees and a day when I have to remember that I don’t need to go get the mail. For the perpetually offended it is another excuse to take offense and to post holier-than-thou rants on the Internet. And it is a somewhat problematic day. Columbus didn’t even know that he discovered anything – he was even wrong about the size of the Earth – and his voyage and landfall led to a lot of bad history as well as the good that those of my generation were taught in school.

Personally, I wouldn’t mind if Columbus Day just went away. Oh, I would be a little sad but I would get over it in about five minutes. The worst thing about getting rid of Columbus Day would be having to listen to the uproar from those traditionalists who are more vocal and political than I am. But seriously, when you think of all the great people in history who do not have their own special day, is Columbus really any more deserving of his own day? There is no Benjamin Franklin Day or Thomas Jefferson Day. There is no Ferdinand Magellan day, no Nikola Tesla Day or Thomas Edison Day, no George Washington Carver Day, no Neil Armstrong Day. The list of explorers, inventors and statesmen for whom there is no special day could go on and on. There are not enough days in the year.

So why Columbus? Well, he was significant for what his accomplishment ultimately led to even if he had no idea. The Vikings discovered America long before Columbus but they only stayed for a while and then left the continent as they had found it. After Columbus, Europeans just kept coming and coming and coming. For good or ill, the voyages of Columbus were the beginning of something that changed the world as nothing else ever has. So maybe that does deserve a day. Maybe it should even be a much bigger day. But this has been talked to death already. Maybe a better question would be, “Do government employees really deserve a day off that most other people don’t get?”

Random Linkage

Alexander Alland – Brief post about the photographer of “hyphenated Americans”

Emergent – Just headlines, true, false, or unconfirmed

Scrambled Eggs and Serifs – A history of typeface names

Fun With Oxygen – Chemistry is kinda fascinating, don’t you think?

Six Singing Sci-Fi characters

31 Useful Gadgets That Might Even Change Your Life – I don’t think any of these would change your life but there are a few useful ones, a few fun ones, and a few that might make you say, “Huh? What?”

Old Book Smell

Stain Solutions – Useful

They Wrote That?! Halloween Tales From Classic Authors – A very short list. I have read A Rose For Emily.

People Named Hitler – I have wondered about this. I always assumed most would have changed their names.

A bunch of cute comics

Historical Sass – a great collection of photos

Space Colony Art From the 70’s – I have seen a couple of these before.

Curious Places – I love this!

Endless Geyser of Awesome – Another really neat blog

Quotes From Here and There

Of all the pro-education stuff our parents did, that may have been the subtlest but one of the most important: if you don’t know something, don’t just shrug and go “meh,” go find out.here

And while all partner abuse is unacceptable, it is especially problematic when domestic abusers are literally the people that battered and abused women are supposed to call for help.there

It’s all about the avoidance of catastrophe.here

The cumulus cloud of apathy has formed above our heads and is raining down a waste of time upon us; an absolute downpour.there

Showing Off the Sewing, Worthy or Not

For a couple of weeks I was feeling uninspired and didn’t know what I wanted to sew so I decided it would be a good time to sew something boring and practical: a denim skirt. I know you can’t see the whole skirt – not a very good way to show it off – but in the pictures it looked a lot longer than it actually is so I cropped off the bottom of the picture. It’s actually about mid-calf length. (I would rather have taken these outside because the flash does me no favors but the neighbors are putting a new roof on their house and I could just imagine them saying, “What’s that crazy lady doing over there taking pictures of herself?”) Anyway, here it is:

I made the blouse about three or four years ago. It’s a Kwik Sew 3511. I never go tucked in because that emphasizes the granny gut. (which I’ve had all my life and I hate it now as much as ever but somehow it is a bit of a relief to be old enough to refer to it as a “granny gut”) I really like the way the whole outfit looks.

Here’s a detail pic. (The color of the denim is more accurate in the first picture.) I’m not happy with the buttons but I wanted to get it done and not go on a long frustrating search for “exactly the right buttons” so I just used a couple of leftover 5/8 inch shirt buttons I had, thinking, “I can always replace them with some nice ones later,” but I probably won’t bother.

And the pocket with the hidden opening. I’m always very afraid to show the insides of anything I sew. This is really a leap for me so be kind. (Yes, those are hand stitched buttonholes. Because I can. And it’s fun.) (I did not make the quilt.)

And finally, a less “dressed up” look with the skirt and a top I made a couple of months ago. I didn’t show off the top when I first made it because I felt like it was a FAIL. The fabric, a cotton/rayon blend knit, is sort of twisty and it made the hem uneven, but I sort of like it anyway.

I am now back in a sewing mood and want to make 10 things at once. I just finished a blouse this morning. It has long sleeves so I’m going to wait until the temperature drops a little before wearing/showing off that one. I am getting ready to start a rain poncho, which I will need soon. After that more long sleeved shirts, I think. I have some plaids that I am eager to get into.

Infinite Directions

A week or three ago there was a brief conversation on Facebook about fantasy and science fiction. Someone said something about not liking the direction that a lot of modern fantasy is going. I responded, saying that I don’t read a lot of fantasy but that the same was true of me and science fiction. But then, later, I thought, “Why did I say that? Is that really true?” I was thinking of some of the near future sci-fi and “hard” sci-fi (No FTL) that I’ve seen in recent years and which critics seem to be saying is “the future of science fiction,” the direction it’s going, and some of that is really good, but more often I’d rather just read some good old fashioned space opera. Damn the scientific plausibility and just entertain me!

If you ignore the critics and the hard “SF” nerds and really look at what’s out there, you see that there are books to take you in any direction you want to go. One of the first authors I thought of when I was rethinking my comment on Facebook was Neal Asher. Definitely original, what you could call “a new direction”, and yet, at their heart, his stories are good, old fashioned space opera, with strange planets, weird aliens, and FTL to get you there in less than one lifetime.

Independent and self published books are becoming more common. I have mentioned a few of these before: A Door to Truth by J.S. Johnson and The Last Revolution by R.T. Carpenter, to name just two. These authors have been inspired by the same books, movies and TV shows many of us have loved and they have their own original ideas so you get some really good stories (in spite of the fact that some of these authors really need to improve their proofreading skills) that might never have made it into print if they had been stuck trying to get past the traditional gatekeepers.

But what I really wanted to talk about is the book I just finished reading and one that I am eagerly anticipating. Let’s start with the one I just finished: Space Chronicles: The Last Human War by Dean Sault. The story begins some 300(?) years after Earth was completely destroyed in a war between several interstellar empires. The surviving few thousand humans are living in benevolent slavery on the planet Tanarac. The Heptari, a reptilian race, have apparently just discovered that there are still a few humans left alive and want to kill them all. Or at least they’re using that as an excuse to attack Tanarac. I don’t want to give away too much of the plot so I’ll just say, if you like space ships and especially epic battles between space ships you must read this book.

I have two more sci-fi novels and a non-fiction book (no wait… two of those also) in the queue, plus all those classics that I’m going to read someday, and I’m not sure what I will read next. But the big important one that I’m waiting on – and I have to wait until November for it – is Stardancer. I have been reading Kelly Sedinger’s blog, Byzantium’s Shores, since 2002, I think, and I have read some of the short stories he has posted there, and I think I know something of his taste in fiction, so I know this will be good. I’m going to try to time my reading to be done and ready for Stardancer when it comes out but if I’m in the middle of something at that time I will likely drop it to read Stardancer immediately. I don’t seem to be very good at reading two books at once. I usually end up dropping one even if I don’t intend to.

And He Sings Too

I had heard that Mike Rowe sang opera but I hadn’t heard the whole story before.

And here’s how you sing The Star Spangled Banner if you can’t hit the high notes.

Random Thoughts, Observations, and Complaints

To whom it may concern: When you are turning, please move all the way over into the turn lane. (if there is one) Don’t slow down to two miles per hour with two wheels in the turn lane and two in the regular traffic lane. We can make an exception for 18 wheelers but anyone with four wheels or fewer… no excuses.

Dear Mother Nature: Are you drunk? Have you been doing drugs? It’s October! Not that I really mind 85°F. I’m a warm weather kind of person. I just worry that you might try to make up for all this nice weather a couple of months from now with several weeks of -10° and a foot of snow, or worse, half an inch of ice. Please don’t do that.

Chocolate flavored cereal is always a little disappointing to me. It seems like an awesome idea but it’s never quite good enough. That said, Fiber One 80 Calorie Chocolate cereal is not bad and 80 calories per serving? That’s almost kinda like a little miracle. (This is not an advertisement. If it had been an advertisement I would have used the word “awesome” again.)

October? OMG! It’s October! I need to start the online Christmas shopping already or at least start thinking about what to get everyone. (And there’s a very important birthday in the family in less than two weeks!)

Speaking of early Christmas shopping, Lowe’s had their Christmas decorations out already in September! Way, way too early. At least wait until after Halloween. Halloween decorations are nice too.

Though I haven’t mentioned it lately, I have been sewing. I’m actually working on several things. I usually never work on multiple projects at the same time. It just makes me feel more like I’m not getting things done. Anyway, I might get around to showing off something tomorrow. Or Friday. Or someday.

The Curious Brain

Interesting article about curiosity and learning.

The study revealed three major findings. First, as expected, when people were highly curious to find out the answer to a question, they were better at learning that information. More surprising, however, was that once their curiosity was aroused, they showed better learning of entirely unrelated information (face recognition) that they encountered but were not necessarily curious about. People were also better able to retain the information learned during a curious state across a 24-hour delay. “Curiosity may put the brain in a state that allows it to learn and retain any kind of information, like a vortex that sucks in what you are motivated to learn, and also everything around it,”

I think it’s interesting that they also found that the brain’s reward system is involved in curiosity and learning. My immediate thought: “Well, I could have told them that!” Finding out stuff feels awesome. People who don’t seem to be curious about anything puzzle me. I always wonder what’s going on in their heads if they have no curiosity. What do they think about if they’re not wondering how things work or why things are the way they are? Their lives must be so dull and sad.

What makes some people curious and others not? Everyone is born curious but as we grow up we are gradually conditioned to be less curious. Most parents encourage curiosity, up to a point, in very young children but I think there are probably very few parents who actively lead their children in satisfying their natural curiosity. Busy parents often give short answers that really mean, “Don’t bother me right now.” As children get older and peer pressure kicks in the number of things about which it is acceptable to be curious is greatly reduced and open displays of curiosity are considered “uncool”. Even among adults, people who are openly curious are considered a bit weird.

Lucky is the child who grows up observing his or her parents being curious. Just as the children of people who read books grow up to be readers of books, the children of curious parents retain their early childhood curiosity into adulthood. A few of these children grow up to be scientists and inventors. Many more simply grow up to be adults who continue to find wonder in the world and are rarely bored.

Random Linkage

The Crooked House of Windsor

Oxygen Thief – Sounds like it might be dangerous to be in the same room with this stuff.

Mysterious Tower

Things that make kids cry – Some of these are hilarious. I like the corn dog kid and the pennies kid.

Shadows – Some (maybe all) of these are obviously deliberately arranged or Photoshopped but they’re still neat pictures.

Unusual Corner – Unusual cars and other vehicle related lists.

Beautiful Chemistry – Photos and videos of chemical structures and reactions

Aerial Design – Carpeting designed to look like aerial photos

Our Nerd Home – Nerdy art and home decor

Haiku – I wonder what grade this kid got.

Large Leaf Grass of Parnassus – Beautiful! I have never seen one of these before.

Nylon Journal – Interesting tights, leggings, and socks

Flowers that Look Like Other Things

Quotes From Here and There

Honestly, on the off-chance that I have kids one day, this scene is how they are learning the alphabet.here

From what I can make out, our indignant Guardianista is upset that some white female celebrities have been happily drawing attention to their fulsome hindquarters, which are, it seems, the latest must-have fashion item among the suggestible and insecure.there

Jackson’s life seems to have been generally free of drama, which surely disappoints anyone looking for demons and skeletons in her personal closet to account for the apparent darkness her imagination often generated.here

I wept, and wept again at the inequality of the universe, and then considered that what I save on gas I can spend on MORE HelloKitty stuff…there

Class Has No Expiration Date

Oh, this might get me in trouble with some people but I’m going to say it: Yes, definitely, sexy does have an expiration date, though the photos of Tina Turner and Cher (the latter obviously airbrushed) seem to suggest otherwise. Seriously, Cher didn’t look that good when she was 30. She couldn’t because they hadn’t invented Photoshop yet.

I don’t have any particular problem with cosmetic surgery as long as it’s subtle and not overdone. If I had the money I would definitely go there myself someday. But “sexy” is not the only way to be attractive. Grace, dignity, charm, elegance, style, class – these are attractive alternatives to sexy at any age but older women should absolutely aspire to these qualities instead of trying to be “sexy”. And I think there might be some debate as to what, exactly, is sexy. Is Miley Cyrus sexy, or merely skanky?

Now I know someone out there is thinking “sex sells”. Don’t say it. Everyone knows that. But why does what sells always have to rule our attitudes and behavior? If seeing a sixty year old in her underwear makes you want to buy some like them for yourself, fine. Go ahead, buy. Then go home, put them on, then put a nice, modest outfit on over them and hold your head up and feel good about yourself, whatever your age, whatever your style. Don’t copy your style from a model in an underwear ad or from a celebrity who has cosmetic surgery done so often it could be considered a hobby.

We older women should be leaders, not followers. We should be setting the example for younger women not copying them. Not that they will follow, at least not immediately. They’re too busy following the latest trends. But eventually every normal woman gets tired of all that nonsense and just wants to be herself.

Maybe We Should All Be Reading Stone Tablets

The real books vs. e-books debate gets scientific. I have no doubt that if there had been psychologists back when bound books were replacing scrolls they would have have been presenting all kinds of scientifically valid evidence that scrolls were better, healthier and more natural. I am equally certain that when scrolls were first introduced there were people who criticized them for their impermanence compared to stone tablets. The new will always be bad and scary. At the same time, it’s true that, often, embracing the new means losing some useful or merely pleasant features of the old.

I like both paper books and my Kindle. What I miss most when reading a book on the Kindle is the ability to flip back to an earlier chapter to re-read something related to the latest thing I read. When I’m reading a paper book I often miss Kindle’s dictionary. I also like Kindle’s size and weight. The standard size paperback, which is the perfect size, seems to be disappearing. Many of the books I want to read are only available in hardback or the heavy, over-sized paperbacks. People say they like the way real books feel in their hands. Well, I like the way the Kindle feels in my hands. I didn’t at first. It felt awkward and there didn’t seem to be any good place to get a grip on it, but I got used to it and now I like it. Funny how that works.

Based on personal experience, I disagree with the article’s claim that e-book readers “inhibit reading comprehension” and even make it harder to remember what we read, but the article does present some interesting things to think about – about the way the brain works when reading. These are things future developers of e-book readers should take into consideration. I do think (or hope) real books are going to still be around for a long time. There is really no reason for debate. This is not like electing a president. We can have both.