2017.06 minutiae

  • I was looking for a place to parallel park and thought I had found one, but when I pulled up to it, it looked like it was a little too small.  I saw a slightly larger spot further up, so I parked there and did my errands.  When I returned, I found that the smaller spot was now occupied by a car identical to mine: same make, some model, same color.  It was like the cosmos was telling me, “Here’s a picture from the parallel universe in which you tried, you quitter.”

  • All right, someone explain this to me.  So the way to get to your house is to take a minor freeway out into a sparsely populated area, take an exit onto a meandering residential road, follow that road for over a quarter of an hour, then turn into a gated community whose entrance is patrolled by a uniformed guard.  Take a series of forks onto narrower and narrower roads until you’re on a one‐way strip of crumbling asphalt.  Turn onto an unmarked path, barely visible among the trees.  Take a long series of steep switchbacks to the top of a tall hill.  And at the top is… another gate.  Who is that gate stopping, other than you?  That question may be rhetorical, but this one isn’t: Seriously, what is the motivation here?  Is it paranoia?  Is it a status symbol?  I always thought that a big part of the draw of living in such an isolated place was the luxury of being able to leave your doors unlocked.  I grew up in an exurb; there were no gates, and we left the garage door open all day and night.  Anyone could just walk into our house.  But it was never an issue.  And this goes beyond the question of trusting your neighbors—​at a lot of the places I’m talking about, there aren’t really any neighbors to trust or distrust.  What am I missing?

  • The following picture is provided as a service to those visitors who can read French and have been looking for a reason to gouge their eyes out:

  • Seen in the bulk bins:

    Roasted cashews: $9.99/lb
    Honey‐roasted cashews: $9.49/lb

    Adding the honey reduces the value by five percent

    It’s like that old joke: “You ever go down to the gas station and check out the tapes they have for sale?  One time I was waiting in line and I saw ‘The Best of John Denver’ for 99 cents.  A blank tape is two‐fifty”

  • A cheerful yet disconcerting message to find on the whiteboard as you walk into class:

  • Word that this month I learned I have been pronouncing wrong for my entire life: “lecithin”

  • In my minutiae article three months ago I complained that the new chip readers announce that your credit card is approved with an ugly BRAP BRAP BRAP sound like you’ve done something wrong.  Apparently I wasn’t the only one who thought that was dumb, because the last time I went to Safeway and paid with a credit card, the chip reader announced that my card was approved with a burbly happy tune.

  • I guess we can put off worrying about AI taking over the world for a little while longer:

  • I didn’t have a lot of free time this month, so my Australian dessert for June was just Anzac biscuits:

    I’d bought things billed as “Anzac cookies” from bakeries before, so I thought these would just be standard oatmeal coconut cookies with some nuts mixed in, but actual Anzacs turn out to have a couple of twists.  First, I had to make something called “golden syrup”, which is made by starting to make a caramel and then throwing in boiling water and a slice of lemon.  Apparently this is a standard pantry item in Australia (and the UK), but while I was able to find a bottle at Berkeley Bowl, I wasn’t about to spend six bucks on something so easy to make at home.  The other surprise was that it turns out that Anzac biscuits don’t have any eggs in them.  Apparently that’s the whole point—​the lack of eggs meant that the cookies could be shipped halfway around the world without spoiling.  This is great, because it makes the recipe much more scalable than a standard cookie recipe: I can’t add 2/5 of an egg, but changing 150 grams of flour to 30 or 90 grams of oats to 18 is easy.  The “dough” for my first batch was extremely dry, so much so that I thought that surely the cookies would be abominations, but they were fine.  Later I added dry ingredients to wet (rather than the other way around, as the recipe called for) and the dough wound up much more workable.  Every batch was pretty good!

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