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Articles: 2008 March

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Page 1

Learn Something Every Day
Monday, 2008 March 31 - 11:17 am
Today's factoid: Fructose melts at 104°C (219°F). Dextrose and glucose melt at 146°C (295°F). Sucrose melts at 186°C (367°F).

The reason I'm interested in this is because I'm trying to figure out if the slow-cooking process I use for beef ribs will, in fact, allow me to use add barbecue sauce during the cooking phase. The sweetener in most bottled barbecue sauces is high-fructose corn syrup (a mixture of fructose and glucose). So presumably, if the cooking temperature reaches the melting point of fructose, you'll start to get carmelization in the sauce, and that will destroy the flavor.

Cooking at 200°F should be low enough to avoid that. But I think I may have to experiment with it before trying it out on my rib-loving friends.

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Posted by Ken in: foodinteresting

Learn Something Every Day
Friday, 2008 March 28 - 4:24 pm
You can use the fresnel lens from a projection TV to make a solar mirror that's powerful enough to boil a quarter in 25 seconds. Kids: do not try this at home.

A completely unrelated fact: Today I discovered that teenagers are throwing around the term "sponge-worthy" without understanding what it means. Kids: do not use this phrase at home.
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Posted by Ken in: interesting

Learn Something Every Day
Thursday, 2008 March 27 - 7:12 pm
Today's factoid: In most of Northern England, the dialect doesn't have what's called the foot-strut split. This means that in that area, "cut" and "put" rhyme, as do "pudding" and "budding".

I've long had a fascination with all the varieties of English accents. Most Americans only recognize one or two different kinds of accents from the British Isles, usually Received Pronunciation (RP, or "the Queen's English") and cockney. But someone from England could probably place another British person's accent to within 25 miles.

Conversely, British people only recognize two or three American accents, like Midwestern, Southern, and sometimes Bostonian. I'd say the majority of Americans north of the Mason-Dixon line can recognize the distinctiveness of accents from Chicago, Wisconsin, Minnesota, California, and New York (even distinguishing Manhattan, the Bronx, and Long Island); most Southerners can recognize the difference between accents from North Carolina, West Virginia, Texas, Alabama, and Georgia. (Note for non-Southerners: I have yet to meet someone who has the stereotypical "plantation" accent from "Gone With the Wind". That'd be like meeting a New Yorker who still talks like Edward G. Robinson.)
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Posted by Ken in: interesting

Learn Something Every Day
Wednesday, 2008 March 26 - 10:27 pm
In the course of surfing the Internet (and researching answers for Yahoo Answers), I do several dozen Google searches a day. (There you go, a plug for both Yahoo and Google in one sentence.) And I find that I learn a few interesting things every day. So I'm gonna try a new regular blog feature: "Learn Something Every Day". I'll try to post at least one random fact I discovered or looked up that day.

Today I looked up a bunch of stuff about the cost of the Iraq war and the cost of U.S. energy consumption, but I covered most of that in my last post. So instead of those facts, I'll tell you about potatoes.

Did you know? Potatoes are very good for you. They're loaded with Vitamin C, potassium, B vitamins, and dietary fiber. They kind of have a bad reputation as a starchy food with empty calories, but a potato has half the calories of a serving of rice, and considerably more nutrients. So, enjoy that potato! Just go easy on the butter.

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Posted by Ken in: foodinteresting

4000 lives and 500 billion dollars later
Wednesday, 2008 March 26 - 10:15 pm
The Iraq war is still going on. It's been five years now. It's like we've almost forgotten, what with the subprime mortgage crisis and recession and all. But yeah, people are still dying, and we're draining money into the desert. 4000 U.S. troops have been killed. And we've spent over $500 billion in direct military costs. We continue to spend about $10 billion a month.

Let's look at what $10 billion a month would buy:
  • All of the oil that the U.S. imports from the Persian Gulf (about $7.5 billion/month)
  • About 28% of our gasoline consumption; or, enough to reduce the price of gas by nearly a dollar a gallon
  • Three new nuclear reactors each month (at roughly $3 billion apiece); in five years, nuclear power could be generating over half of the country's electrical needs
  • A complete solar power system for 250,000 homes every month; in five years, 13% of houses could be powered solely by solar energy

You get the idea. (Of course, this still pales when compared to the cost of health care in this country. But that's an article for another day.)

Meanwhile, 4000 U.S. troops have died. That's two lives per day for every day of the war. It barely makes the news any more, when a roadside bomb kills a Humvee full of soldiers. But you can bet that for the families affected, it still matters.

The good news? Only 10 months are left in Bush's presidency.

10 months. $100 billion. 600 deaths.
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Posted by Ken in: politics

American Idol 2008 Week 6: Top 10
Tuesday, 2008 March 25 - 8:31 pm
Amanda went out last week. This week's theme: songs from the year of the singer's birth.

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Posted by Ken in: television

American Idol 2008 Week 5: Top 11
Tuesday, 2008 March 18 - 8:55 pm
It's the Beatles again... I guess tonight, we include Ringo and George.

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Posted by Ken in: television

MacBook Air
Sunday, 2008 March 16 - 11:55 am
macbook air in boxFor my birthday, Amy got me a MacBook Air.

Now, this isn't something I would have bought for myself. It's not that I didn't want it... it's just such a luxury item, I would have felt bad getting it for myself. So in that respect, it's a perfect present: something I really want but wouldn't buy for myself.

Amy was worried that I didn't like it, since it's taken me so long to blog about it. Nothing could be further from the truth... I love love love my new baby. Meet the new addition to the family, "Liesel".

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Posted by Ken in: techwatch

Sunday, 2008 March 16 - 10:58 am
Wow, I haven't done a "miscellany" post in a while. But there are a few stories I've seen recently that are begging for commentary.

The New York Times posted a flow chart that diagrams the path of your life depending on whether you were exposed to Dungeons and Dragons early in life. I think the best part of this diagram is the little square in the lower left that says "doubting the technical accuracy of this diagram". I am certain that people who are familiar with flow chars AND who played D&D early in life will end up in this square.

The University of Michigan has won a contract from the United States Army to design robotic bats. This is presumably either to combat the hordes of robotic mosquitoes that the terrorists plan to use against us, or to bombard the Ohio State football team with robot guano. I, for one, welcome our new robotic bat overlords.

Disney is reportedly exploring the idea of an "adult-oriented" theme park, near Disneyland in Florida. I'm not exactly sure what they mean by "adult-oriented", but this does remind me of when my friend Gary and I had the idea of a porno theme park called "Bush Gardens". (You can just imagine the possibilities... think of roller coasters entering tunnels, staff members dressed as famous porn stars, and a popular midway game called "Whack-Your-Pole".)

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Posted by Ken in: commentaryfunnyhaha

Oh, the Drama
Thursday, 2008 March 13 - 9:55 pm
Well, I'm up to Level 4 on Yahoo Answers now. I've answered 325 questions, in topics ranging from law to, uh, vaginal discharge. And you know, up until now, I never would have thought the phrase "vaginal discharge" would appear on this blog. Twice.

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Posted by Ken in: datinginteresting

American Idol 2008 Week 4: Top 12
Tuesday, 2008 March 11 - 9:01 pm
It's the Beatles, specifically Lennon/McCartney, for the first time ever. Wow. This could be phenomenal or disastrous. The songs are so well known, they're gonna have to try to make them unique somehow.

Also: my three-week moving averages start tonight.

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Posted by Ken in: television

This is the kind of post I write after reading David Sedaris
Thursday, 2008 March 6 - 11:43 pm
You know, it's been so long since I've posted anything meaningful, I feel like I owe you something. So here's a little story for you. It's the story of when I moved to North Carolina.

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Posted by Ken in: life

American Idol 2008 Week 3: The Girls
Wednesday, 2008 March 5 - 8:59 pm
80s night continues, and Paula is more drunk than ever.

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Posted by Ken in: television

American Idol 2008 Week 3: The Guys
Tuesday, 2008 March 4 - 8:58 pm
It's 80s night.

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Posted by Ken in: television

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