small update

So most of you know I’m long term unemployed. Lots of little factors none of which should have mattered much met in just the right timing to make my life miserable.

I’m hesitant to say I have changed status, yet it appears I may have done just that.

The hesitation is due to the process. I have been hired in a temp-to-hire sequence for a company. I’m going to reserve naming the company for now. I’m presently training as a shipping clerk which is simultaneously easy and high stress. Well, I say easy, but apparently a /lot/ of people wind up walking off the job within the early days.

Driver comes in. Job comes in, maybe earlier, maybe later. Get driver and job together at the same door so they can leave together. Easy. (sigh). Make sure all the paperwork for all the jobs and the data entry is correct so billing can be done, make sure things are arranged so nobody misses deadlines, make sure … yeah, there’s the stress.

Realistically, I believe I have a handle on it. It’s honestly not that different from working blind and physically handicapped library or the holds and ILL sections of the library; just a matter of scale and particular details. And a few more dollars per job, of course.

But it is still officially temporary, and temp is not “employed” by pretty much any book you use.

The shipping clerk is (hopefully, and according to supervisors is intended to be) a stepping stone to a position I actually want more: CSR (Customer Service Representative). The current management’s position, in part due to the particular business, is that they have decided that the CSRs will do a better job of scheduling and dealing with customers if they have actual experience with various stress positions, of which shipping clerk is one. So /if/ I do well enough then not only will I be hired but I’ll be trained for my preferred position.

On the flip side of the same coin, if they decide I’m shipping clerk hire then I’ll take it – working beats not working.

I seem to orbit three fields. Computers, Logistics, and Information Services. I was moving furniture and assisting warehouses as early as 1979 (yes I’m that old), I started working with computers in 1981, and though my library degree began in 1988 I was doing field related instruction in 1984. I’ve dropped into all three fields multiple times since. It’s been interesting to watch this in progress, and I’m kind of curious where I’m going from here (when I grow up. grin)

Maleficent

I went to see this movie tonight. I’ll give the bottom line up front: Maleficent is magnificent and I liked her story quite a bit – despite the quibbling complaints that follow. And while I don’t really intend to spoil and indeed won’t be doing much beyond what should be obvious from trailers, read on realizing I might do so unintentionally.

Continue reading

The minimum wage argument

I’m going to keep this one fairly simple.

The most consistent argument against increasing minimum wage is that cost of goods is increased to completely absorb it, which since the rest of us don’t get that increase hurts everyone else.

1. Does the price of goods increase when minimum wages are not increased? yes.
2. Is the rate of increase of price of goods more, less, or the same (on average) after a minimum wage increase? the same.

If the ‘problem’ happens regardless of whether the alleged trigger occurs AND when the trigger is pulled there’s no change in the problem, the trigger isn’t a trigger.

Now can we push it to absurdium? Oh, sure, let’s push minimum wages to a million dollars a day or something like that. At that point yes, we’d have forced in inflationary response.

But when the change stays low – to ‘minimum living standard’ or such – then it is neither absurd nor the cause of the problem claimed.

Are there other potential problems? Probably, but not this one.

Some crepes

So today I decided to make and fill a few crepes. Now, the thing about crepes is they’re easy – easier than pancakes, even – and yet have this reputation of being special.

The special is the filling. And the next nice thing about the crepe (in my opinion) is that it’s as thin and soft and flexible as a flour tortilla but (again) a whole lot easier to make.

The final nice thing about the crepe is that it works in small batches – meaning you can make it for one large or two small appetites with little to no waste.

One egg in a small to medium bowl. Whisk or beat it till it’s all one (yellowish) color. Get a half cup of flour and a cup of water-milk mix. (What mix depends on your taste – I follow Julia Childs and go about 2/3 milk to 1/3 cup water, common on the internets is half and half, Alton Brown is 3/4 milk and 1/4 water. They all work.) Add half the flour and stir it in. Add half the liquid and stir till it’s smooth. Repeat till it’s all smooth. Now stir in 1 tablespoon of melted butter and you’re done.

Now put that in the refrigerator and start getting the rest of your ingredients ready. Yep, that’s one of the big bonuses; you don’t have to prep everything up front because you want the batter to rest a bit. You want it to rest at least 15 minutes. If you’ll cover it so it won’t form a skin you can keep it in the refrigerator for up to a day. (I’ve been told 2 days, I’ve never tried it so won’t promise.) This means you can prep the batter the night before which in turn is less mess in the morning. Or in the morning so you can make dinner crepes faster. There’s another time saving point I’ll get to, but this is the first.

Oh, the reason for resting is so the bubbles you formed by whisking have a chance to leave. You’ve developed the gluten in this by stirring so thoroughly. If you leave in the bubbles you’ll get something that’s light, fluffy, and weak. The first two are good, the latter – with one exception case – is bad.

So you let it rest and it’s cooking time. Preheat a skillet – 8 or 10 or 12 inch depending on how large you want your crepes. You want it hot. The droplet test is good here. Sprinkle a little water on the skillet. If the drops skitter about it’s ready. If they just stick and boil it’s not hot enough, and if they flash to steam you’re a little too hot – though this is less of a problem than it is for pancakes.

Lightly oil your pan (a dollop of butter tastes better, a spray of no-stick is healthier). Pour a small ladleful of batter into the middle and tilt your pan in circles till the batter’s filled the bottom and/or no longer flowing. How much si a ladleful? I use my 12 inch cast iron and get about a half inch gap around it when I use about 1/3 cup. If you’re filling an 8 inch a scant quarter cup will fill it.

Now that you’ve poured and spread, let it sit for a minute, maybe a minute and a half. You’re going to turn this while the middle is still moist but the edges are firm. If you’re really good you can flip it by tossing. me, I’m not so good so I use a spatula and maybe my fingers to help. Turn it over, let it cook for 30 seconds or so. Pull it out onto a plate, give your pan a few seconds to recover its heat (if you’re using cast iron don’t bother), and pour the next. When it’s done just stack it on the previous and keep going till you’re done.

The recipe I have makes two to four depending on the size of your pan and how heavily you pour the batter. If you’re making more, though, we’re off to the next nice thing about crepes – they keep. For a short wait, make the plate you put them on heat-proof. Put the stack in a warm (200 or so) oven and they’ll stay warm and ready for up to an hour — plenty for preparing for guest(s). Alternately you can put the stack in the refrigerator for a day or two. If you do, cover them so they don’t pick up funky odors. Just a quick reheat (oven, microwave, or even a toss into the skillet for a few seconds) and they’re ready to go. Finally, they freeze well. Meaning they lose very little quality when you thaw and reheat them. Yeah, I like crepes.

But let’s come back to filling the crepes. The basic principle is easy. Take a spreadable sort of filling and spread it on the crepe, then roll it into a tube like a burrito or, well, like a crepe. Pour a little sauce of some sort over the rolled tube if you wish.

You can get as fancy or as simple as you wish. Spread some cream cheese and your favorite jam. Or just the fresh fruit of your choice. If you’re feeling a little fancy fill with some marscapone and whipped cream, roll, then drizzle a little espresso and dust with cocoa powder. (Marsala is optional).

And don’t forget savory. Layers of thinly sliced meats and many vegetables, with or without cheese, work well. I’ve got a quasi-fancy recipe (not sharing) that amounts to a crab thermidor filling. It’s topped with a little extra sauce and cheese and baked long enough to melt the cheese.

Cold, they work fine for wraps. Well, some people think they’re a little gummy (due mostly to the developed gluten), so your mileage may vary.

Before I go, a couple of variations. First the easy one, the reason I mentioned the bubbles way back near the beginning.

Start making your crepes right away. Lay it flat on the plate, pour the next, and while you’re waiting spread your filling on the first but do not roll it. Just for reference a really easy thing here is just a dusting of confectioner’s sugar, but you can spread chocolate or nutella or jam or even a layer of fruit (slices of banana, for example). Repeat till you’ve finished making crepes, and you’ll have this stack of crepes and fillings. Oh – just so you have an idea, I’ve made this with bananas foster as my filling and topped it with the ice cream and final drizzle. Share. (or not, if that’s your pleasure. It /is/ really good.)

Final variation. Way back in the pan, while it was on the first side, beat one egg till it’s smooth. As soon as you flip the crepe pour the egg on top and spread it so it covers the whole crepe. Immediately add thinly sliced cheese to one half of the crepe. Once the cheese softens and if you wish add some thinly sliced meat or veggies (mushrooms, my favorite) over the cheese. Wait till the egg has firmed, and fold it over the top like a quesadilla. If you want, fold it once more into a quarter-circle. (If you’re doing this and you want to gild the lily, put a thin slice of cheese on top of the ‘bottom’ quarter before folding.) Let it sit for a moment both to let the egg finish cooking and to avoid burning your tongue while you eat. fork, or just tuck it into some paper towels and treat it like a sandwich.

Obviously you can skip the egg and/or use other fillings, but you get the idea.

Yeah, I like crepes. Easy, work for a small and large group cookings, and very flexible. (sorry for the pun).

Enjoy.

A bit of Tristan’s drones

(edit: An apology. I have a couple of blogs. One’s nominally devoted to gaming, the other to stuff in general. Guess who posted in the wrong blog?

Per my personal standards I won’t delete this. I’d rather admit error and go on, however wrong I’ve been. well, there are a few exceptions but this isn’t one. Again, mea culpa.)

So as I mentioned, I’m trying Eve online again. Way back in the early days of this blog I did a little bit of theory crafting. I decided I’d do it again for this my current interest.

Now before I begin, some old caveats. First, I’m doing this for my learning. So if you’re reading and you see I made a mistake by all means tell me. On the other hand if it’s “you noob” or “drones suck” you’re welcome to go away. Second, again due to me starting on this I’m probably going to do an update later with new lessons learned. Finally, this is almost purely “nominal target”. The enemy, especially a human PVP enemy, will do things to pull out of optimal. But if I’ve got a baseline I can start guessing what I need to deal with the new surprises.

I’m playing with a Tristan. That’s a frigate (smallest player ship for you non-EVE players). Its designed primary weapon system is drones with two turrets for supplemental weapons. Drones are pets. They can be – and in Eve actually are – pretty decent. But because they’re autonomous and driven by the AI they’re dumb. And they’re easier to kill than your ship. And they’re rather restricted in the damage that they can do. But a pack of them can be very worrisome. My goal here is to see how worrisome they are at base, and how much more so I can make them be.

Before I get to that let me point out the benefits the Tristan has for drone combat. First, it’s got enough magazine space for 8 lights or 4 mediums, though the lights are restricted by my ability to control a maximum of 5 drones (after training). I can also squeeze in a heavy or a sentry drone at the cost of 8 lights or 2.5 (well, 3) mediums. Lights are fast, both in base speed and tracking speed, and have the tightest signature resolution. On the other hand they have the smallest damage. Sentries move zero, track like slugs, have large signature resolutions, but have lots and lots of range and damage.

At first pass, then, it’s time for a raw damage comparison. For simplicity I’m ignoring “damage modification” for now. So base damage for a light is 15, for a medium is 25, a heavy has 48, and a sentry has 50. 5 lights base is 75. 4 mediums base is 100. If I toss a heavy or a sentry I can add three lights but even so that’s less than the four heavies. For this (and some other reasons I’m not going into right now) I am dropping the heavies and lights. I think there are situations where they’ll come into play, but not as a relative beginner.

On first pass, then, it’s “obvious” I should use four mediums. But there’s a problem. It’s not just the damage I can do if I hit, it’s hitting to do the damage. That’s where that signature resolution comes into play. Actually, let me take a moment to discuss the whole to-hit formula.

First, it’s derived, not displayed from CCP. That means that so far empirical results match it but it might be slightly wrong, and it might get changed a little bit if CCP deems it necessary. There are also some ‘levelers’ in the program that prevent strings of good (or bad) luck. We’ll ignore those for now.

Base formula simplified is: 0.5 ^ (((signature equation)*(tracking equation))^2 + (range equation)^2).

Signature equation. In simple, smaller ‘bore’ weapons have better accuracy. It’s not right, really, but let’s rephrase that as smaller ‘bore’ weapons have tighter shot groups. The bigger the target the less this matters. And in fact (still keeping this analogy because it’s working) the whole ‘signature resolution’ and ‘signature radius’ discussion can be thought of as ‘shot group size’ and ‘target size.’ If Res is smaller than Rad then obviously it’s going to hit – if everything else cooperates. However we don’t cap this at 1 (100%) because it gets multiplied by the next element, the tracking equation. On the other hand it’s never going to be zero – every target has at least a little radius.

Tracking equation. This gets a little trickier though it’s conceptually simple – it’s ‘how well are you aiming at that moving target’. A target that’s standing still – or is approaching or moving away in a straight line – is essentially stationary. One that’s in a circular orbit is a lot harder. How much harder depends on how many degrees (well, radians really) it moves per second. This is a matter of its range and actual speed.

You can ‘get’ this by simple math without going into trigonometry. Remember that a circumference is pi*diameter, and diameter is 2*radius. Now let’s set a pair of orbits, one 5 units out and one 10 units out. The first orbit is 30.14… units in ‘length’ (circumference), the second is 60.28… units. A ship moving at the same speed takes twice as long to get around the ship when it’s further away.

Now not only does the target move around the ship but the turrets have a limit on how fast they can move. This is their tracking (aka tracking speed). Obviously if the turret can rotate faster than the effective transversal speed then it’s easy to hit, but if the transversal is faster it’s a lot harder.

That’s the tracking equation. Transversal velocity (how fast is it moving from left to right, ignoring speed in or out) divided by the range times the tracking speed. It’s possible for this to be zero, but that’s almost totally under the control of the target.

Finally there’s the range equation. Yes, I know we already used range once but this is something else. Analogy first. Up to a certain range everything flies straight. Once it’s past that range, however, it can start veering a little off target. Here’s the way it works.

All weapons have an optimal and a falloff range. Optimal range is the “up to this range”. Falloff is where things start missing, and the way the formula works the formula winds up with a 50% hit probability at optimal plus falloff. How?

(Actual range – optimal range)/falloff range, limit 0. Limit 0 so no negatives can sneak in. From point blank to optimal range the number is 0, and 0.5 (the base number) to the 0th power is 1 or 100%. At falloff range the number is 1, or 0.5^1 = 0.5 (50%).

The tracking and signature equations are multiplied together and squared, and this is added to the square of the range equation. The squaring among other things cuts out the corner cases that might give a negative number. And since we’re adding two things together, if both sets give us “1” then we’ve got a 50% chance to hit.

Remember why I went to the gunnery equation? To show why the mediums weren’t an easy preference over the lights. There are two Big Deals. First, there’s the respective signature resolutions. Lights are 25. Mediums are 125. In general, frigates (like the Tristan) have signature radiuses (radii?) of 30-50, with some of the specialized ducks running 60, 65, or even 90.

The signature equation for lights against frigates, then, is less than 1. For mediums it’s 3 or even 4. 0.5^(25/30) is still 56% chance of hitting. 0.5^3, however, is 12.5, or about four and a half times worse. And 25 base medium damage is not four and a half times greater than 15 from a light.

That’s a lot of words but it gives us the base information we need for theory crunching. I’ll stop here and run some more in a bit.

meantime, have fun.

My current daily bread

I’ve been making oat bread a lot, lately. Basically Alton Brown‘s recipe, though I’ve a couple of things different I’ll get to shortly. But since it’s someone else’s copyright recipe and you can get it easily I’ll not copy it here. (notice that I linked the video but you can click on that to get to the recipe itself.)

One of the things I really appreciate about this recipe is that it’s a lot easier – and less expensive – to get oatmeal instead of ground oats, yet the breakdown for cooking isn’t too dissimilar.

The big reason for the sift to oat bread is that it’s better for me and my diabetes. The complex carbohydrates of oatmeal, plus the fiber, release blood sugar into my system slower than just straight flour – white or whole wheat. I can tell the days I’ve used white bread instead when I do my blood sugar check.

Anyway, the differences.
1. I don’t use agave syrup. Instead I use molasses. Same reasoning as the oats, really. Molasses is slightly slower in releasing the sugar, and it’s carrying other nutrients.
2. I use steel cut oats instead of rolled for the additional oats, and they’re not toasted. Yes, I am losing that toasted taste – but I found it almost too subtle. Besides, I’ve got something else.
3. I add 1/3 to 1/2 cup dried fruit. Usually dried cranberries, though I’ve chopped dried apricots as well. On the one hand this boosts the sugar making mockery of the rest of the efforts. On the other hand it adds a bit of the fruit requirements of my diet.
4. I have never managed an overnight raise with this. Even when I use oatmeal I’ve set in the refrigerator overnight so it’s cold and do the second rise in the pan in the refrigerator as well, I’ve got a good rise in an hour or two. If I let it overproof, the subsequent rise is both lower and more fragile. I’ve had it collapse on the way to the oven.
5. I don’t bother with the egg wash and oat topping. Yes, it’s pretty. Yes, it tells everyone that this is oat bread. But as it’s pretty much my daily bread the pretty is unnecessary – especially as even with the wash about half the oats come off before eating

Processing. I make the oatmeal, stir in the oil, molasses, and water, and put it into a container for leftovers and put that in the refrigerator. Actually I make two or three such containers. Then when it’s time for bread the messy part of the measure is already done and cool enough it won’t kill the yeast.

Day of making I dump a container in, mix up the dry (to include the fruit), and add it all to the stand mixer with a bread hook. I let this go on low for 7 to 10 minutes – that seems to develop the gluten to turn it into a soft ball. Yes, it’s sticky. I lightly grease my hands to handle it.

1 to 2 hours for the first rise, into the pan, and let it rise in the refrigerator for 2-3 hours. Or if I’m in a hurry, about an hour on the counter. Once the dough’s above the pan it’s into the oven and baked.

My current favorite thing with this? Toasted cheese sandwich (open face). Just a slice of bread, a slice of cheese, and under the broiler till the cheese is toasted to taste.

General status

I’ve been taking some time before this post because it’s a lot of little (and personal) pieces.

The simple is I’m officially diabetic. The fun thing is that it’s actually on the line between ‘pre’ and full type 2. I take a glucophage and watch my diet a bit and exercise a bit, but no insulin. Further what the doctor told me (and what the literature appears to say) is that it’s possible I’ll drop back out of it. It’s possible I’ll even no longer need the glucophage.

Now the reason I’ve delayed is that I wanted to see if I could actually sustain the lifestyle changes I made in reaction. So far, yes, and it’s been three whole weeks. (Don’t laugh.) I started getting at least one 1.5 to 2 mile walk every day, and some days I do more. I quit eating that last half-serving or extra spoonful. On the bad I still eat a couple of servings most meals, but that’s down from 2.5 to three. It was surprisingly easy to reduce desserts – mostly none, and when I do it’s just a bit.

And while doing this my blood sugar numbers have stayed low (except for the two times I ate like I used to). More significantly I’ve lost about 10 pounds. Yes, the scales go up and down, but the trend’s pretty clear. I was about 255, now my numbers are around 245. The goal? Reduce at about 5 pounds a month with an eventual goal of under 210.

Why so slow? So I don’t feel starved and yoyo by rewarding myself when I get to my goal. If I go faster while aiming slow, great.

oh, yeah, why 210, when the BMI charts say 185 or lower? Personal stubbornness.

I’m not convinced the BMI charts are ‘legit’ for weight, not when longevity numbers and life satisfaction numbers peak in the ‘overweight’ zone (25-30 kg/m^2, aka bmi). At my present height 210 pounds is a BMI of 30. Add to this the fact I know I’m big boned; used to be about 15, these days it’s 5 or 10 pounds of excess weight that isn’t fat or muscle. That’ll bring that number a little lower.

Anyway, the point of this is that this is going to be driving some of my posts. And if I brag every so often, well, context matters.

Have fun.