Monday, December 27, 2010

Hot Chocolate

Without a doubt the best memory of my grandma is coming in late at night around the holidays after a long trip from somewhere. We always seemed to be coming from far away. Didn't matter how late, though. She'd put a pot of milk on the (cast iron coal burning) stove, pull down the sugar canister and the Hershey's cocoa and make the very best hot chocolate that I've ever had. I don't remember the exact details but I make a pretty good cup myself.

Of course, I have to use fancy chocolate and all that, because I don't have that grandma magic...

My recipe:
  • Coal burning cast iron stove (optional, but you'll need your own magic)
  • One cup whole milk. (c'mon, don't fool around here...)
  • 2 tblsp sugar
  • 4 tblsp Ghiardelli cocoa
  • 1 tsp vanilla
Put the milk on the stove on medium heat, then add the sugar and the cocoa. Whisk vigorously to dissolve the cocoa and keep it from sticking to the sides. You can take a short break from this to fill your mug with hot tap water. Once the hot cocoa has reached the desired temperature, cut the heat, dump the tap water and then add the vanilla to the mug. Pour the hot cocoa into the mug, give it a quick whisk and enjoy.

If I have some in the fridge, I'll often pour a "shot" of half and half or heavy cream in with the milk. Another common variation is the addition of a 1/8 to 1/4 tsp cayenne pepper.

Give it a whirl and then you can play with substitutions, like all half and half instead of the milk, more or less cocoa, etc.

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Santa's Checkride

[This story has probably been around longer than I'm alive. I did do a little editing, but it's certainly not original. Wish I knew exactly who to credit.]

Pilots have to be certified by the Federal Aviation Administration, which initially involves a lot of school and practice and--finally--a ride with an examiner who distracts the potential pilot with a lot of questions while they're flying. The examiner also makes the pilot do things like induce a stall and then get out of it. Pretty much anything the examiner wants to test is fair game. He could, if he wanted, just reach over and turn off the engine. Once a pilot has his/her certificate, they get to be reexamined every so often.

Santa Claus, like all pilots, gets regular visits from the Federal Aviation Administration, and it was shortly before Christmas when the FAA examiner was scheduled to arrive. In preparation, Santa had the elves wash the sled and bathe all the reindeer. Santa got his logbook out and made sure all his paperwork was in order.

The examiner arrived. He walked around the sled slowly, paying attention to every detail. He carefully checked the reindeer harnesses, the landing gear, and Rudolf's nose. He painstakingly reviewed Santa's weight and balance calculations for sled's enormous payload.

Finally, they were ready for the checkride.

Santa got in and fastened his seatbelt and shoulder harness and checked the compass. Then the examiner hopped in carrying, to Santa's surprise, a shotgun. Santa's brow furrowed and he turned his head askew.

"What's that for?"

The examiner winked.

"I'm not supposed to tell you this, but you're gonna lose an engine on takeoff."

Thursday, December 9, 2010


So I recently came across a new comic strip online: Abstruse Goose. Today's strip was a riff on an old joke I first heard from Andy Engelward: Mathematicians are machines that turn coffee into theorems. Well, that bent a little gansta, so maybe folks are listening to the Klein Four Group. (I'm a big fan of their tune, "Mathematics Paradise"...)

Given the season, perhaps you could give their 12 Days of Christmas a listen...

btw, Abstruse Goose strip #323 should be read by all COBOL programmers who are fans ST-TNG.

Since this is mainly a math post, let's get a few other links out there:

If you use LaTeX a lot but can never remember the crazy LaTeX name for some random symbol, just draw it! That link was passed along to me by a friend in Florence.

TED always has something interesting about math education. I found Conrad Wolfram a little less compelling than Dan Meyer, but both are worthwhile.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

A Great and Glorious Game

101 days to Pitchers and Catchers! A prime day to be thinking about baseball.

With some encouragement from the Joy of Sox blog, I picked up Bart Giamatti's aforementioned title in order to read his essay The Green Fields of the Mind. Grab it. Read that essay and then poke around some of the others, like Tom Seaver's Farewell, or Baseball and the American Character.

Monday, February 1, 2010

whoa! I read a book!

So Jen just plows through book after book after... And she hands me this Grisham book--Ford County. It's a collection of short stories set in the same town as A Time to Kill and she wants me to read this one particular story.

I, on the other hand, read like I'm walking up a 60% grade above 6000 feet. But I'm breaking in these new prescription reading glasses and... Zip. It was done. I remembered her laughing at a scene in another, so I figured I'd read that one too. Zip. Unfortunately, it had to go back to the library the next day.

Saturday afternoon, I managed to wheedle the librarian into letting me return it and check it out on my card. Even though I didn't have it with me. One of the advantages of being a frequent patron, I expect...

So it's done now. Kind of reads like a Stephen King, except that Grisham is really fond of adverbs. So if you're looking for a voyeuristic trip into the seedier side of the south, give it a read:
The deputy was seconds behind them, but out of sight. They turned sharply to the right, and the truck's lights swept across a small farmhouse tucked low under huge oak trees.
Some of you know why this turns up the corners of my mouth. If you'd rather take a voyeuristic trip into a similarly seedy side of New England, give Don White's CD, Live from the Somerville Theatre, a spin. But remember:
Words cannot hurt fictional people.
Add this to Stephen King's On Writing, and you have the books I've finished so far this year. Of course, there was an entire class in January. Cut me some slack.