Playing Sherlock

©2023 michael raven

I’ve been doing some research after seeing an interesting pattern develop in my occasional forays into my DNA makeup at 23andMe. It’s taken me a bit to put enough stock into what I was seeing to really dig in, but I happened to get one of those regular emails from the service that tells me “X number of new relatives” have been added to the service in the past 30 days.

I decided to meander over to the map section and was reminded that their new prediction model release last July jiggered things around a bit with some interesting results.

Continue reading “Playing Sherlock”

Seeking conference cities

©2023 michael raven

I might as well throw this out there… I’m not expecting a response, but who knows?

Is anyone aware of environmental conferences occurring near your city in 2023? Preferably, I’d like to attend something with a focus on PFAS (those darn “forever chemicals”) or other emerging contaminants for my job as an environmental scientist working assessment and remediation. Data science and statistics also work for justifications.

I have educational funds and hours that I never seem to use and I would like to use them this year to travel someplace I haven’t been before (again, preferably). I’m thinking something completely out of North America, California, NW Coast, Alaska, Canada, New England, or New York/New Jersey. Maybe DC.

I’ll be honest. I’ll go to the conference to keep it in the spirit of my funding, but I am more looking forward to the experience of the destination. So far, the best I’ve found is a one-day conference in Central Park, NYC — and that’s not enough time to see the sights (and I can’t afford $350/night or more to extend my stay with my own dollars… although… it is on a Thursday and if I make it a early weekend…)

On the off-chance one of my readers knows of something… Post something below if you have heard of an opportunity in your area.

how to score with…

©2023 michael raven

Something is terribly pathetic in the fact that, in the course of trying to find humor in my gloomy outlook this morning, I stumbled on one of those instructional pages. You know the type, the kind that have cartoon characters and drawings that are meant to help you stepwise to change oil, wash a cat, bake bread, boil water… I forget the site, but they have everything under the sun.

The pathetic part was that what I stumbled upon was detailed instructions on “how to pick up a goth chic”.

I didn’t read any of it because I was looking for silly pictures in my search, not written sources of laughter. But the drawings of the toons that went with it were just plain sad and pathetic, about on par with what you would expect someone who knows nothing at all about goth culture on the best way to pick up goth women.

Why does this feel like a bucket list thing lately? Score with a goth girl…

And then I recall just how diluted the current “goth” subculture has gotten and I can see where some goths might be actually impressed by someone following these instructions. In my day (okay, old man), most of those tactics would have garnered a raised eyebrow if you got any reaction at all. Some of these suggestions are so phony, I can’t imagine anyone truly into goth subculture from my time falling for it unless they wanted to take advantage of the paramour for other reasons.

Call me a purist, but how interesting can someone be if they are easily swayed by weekend warrior versions of a goth guy who uses instructables to appeal to her?

Or, maybe, I’m just a bitter old man.

It’s okay — I’m heading back into my dark cave now to pull the legs off of flies.


©2023 michael raven

Interesting stumble-on:

While doing minor research into viability and premise of the pitch I made yesterday, I encountered a period photo of a house. The address listed as the location felt terribly familiar, so I went ahead and plugged it into Google Streetview to see if I was right about that sense of familiarity.

Sure enough: Different house, but the same street address as the place my grandmother lived at in Seattle.

How strange.

I “walked” around her neighborhood and was filled with nostalgia for the short time I lived with her before I found my own place back in the middle 90s.

Hate what the current owners have done with the house — it looks like crap now. But it was never likely to stand the test of time in that neighborhood, which suffers the same malady as any poor neighborhood in any big city suffers: Despair.

That said, I think I might be able to turn that pitch into something. I have a number of outlines for tales that could fit into the concept, both from the time period I originally started outlining the original pitch (2015-2016) and from other little projects I’ve sketched out.

We’ll have to see.


©2022 Michael Raven

I don’t write much about it lately, but I am still making bread and trying to find the perfect ratios (for me) of the primary bread ingredients: water, flour, sugar, yeast, and salt.

I still haven’t quite found what I’m looking for, but I’ve learned a lot in the meantime. First-off, there is a lot of variation in measurements and methods of measurement, and not all of them make a ton of sense. Take, for instance, the recipe that I tried out these last two batches, a standard free-form bread with all of the above mentioned primary ingredients. I was looking for something that was a little lighter, with more bubbles than what I had been finding with no-knead dough. While I like my bread dense and chewy, I also like it to rise a bit. The last few batches of bread before this recipe were sugar-free, but didn’t stand up well to the refrigerator treatment and were so-so when it came to terms of size and texture within, even fresh out of the bowl. So I started looking for recipes calling for a little sugar to aid the yeast to make something a little less… stonelike.

This is the second recipe that I’ve tried with sugar that was really, really, wet when I made it — too wet, in my opinion. The instructions called for adding flour as needed in 1/4 cup increments in both cases, but I don’t know what to look for until I pick up the towel after letting it rise and see that it still is going to be hard to work with because it just doesn’t want to keep form (perhaps desirable in a pan, but these have been free-standing loaves). The first time I made it, I thought i had maybe not been careful with the volume of water added, so I measured out the quantity based on mass (grams) instead of volume, and it was the same gooey mess trying to transfer to the baking stone. I felt like I was in a mad scientist experiment gone wrong. It’s ALIVE!!!

I started looking at a book I have written in the 80s-style checkout lane types of books for bread and, while the recipes are definitely skewed towards less “artisan” styles of bread and more designed to discuss add-ins for different flavor profiles, I noticed that the ratios of water-to-flour were about half that of this current recipe. This recipe was about 1:1 by mass (710g water to 750g flour, or 3 cups flour to 6 cups flour). Most of the recipes I was seeing in this book were on the order of 1.5-2 cups water to 6 cups of flour — that’s a massive difference! (pun intended). No wonder these loaves are so gooey. I looked at some of the other recipes I’ve been trying and, as you might expect, the ratios are closer to this bog-standard recipe book than they are to the one I just tried twice (with the same results both times, although I added nearly a cup of flour to the dough beyond the volume/mass given in the current recipe).

Lesson learned. You can’t always rely on internet recipes when it comes to baking, even if the star rating of the recipe is 4.5 over 40 people. The amount of water seems out of line with other free-standing rustic loaves (or bread baking in general). I recall the carrot cake made a few years back that called for twice the oil that anyone else called for (and noted well down on the comments that the oil quantity was off) and I ended up with a raw-center/burnt-edges carrot cake for my birthday. I should have learned my lesson that time.

What I might do is get something more reputable from the library for information about the science of the measurements. While these have been tasty, the texture is also a bit on the chewier side and less firm than I would like. I have a sense that I need some sugar for the yeast to munch on, at least when my drafty home is in the middle of winter — but I like the idea of bread without added sugar. As a scientist, I think I need to understand the chemistry a bit better to get better results via tweaking the recipes to better suit my desired outcome.

Until then, I’m still hunting for that ideal loaf.