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I ate 3 dandelion/cat's ear flowers today. They were not sweet. They tasted pretty similar to the green leaves, slightly bitter. The leaves were hairy, but not as unpleasant as chewing on under-ripe peach peel. I could probably eat a plate of it if I had to.

[Edited to add, 2017/05/13: I ate 4 more of the flowers today, after even more carefully peeling off the green parts than last time. They still don't taste sweet, nor particularly good. They taste a little like raw celery but without the crunch. Ie., not bad, but not special either. I wonder if "true" dandelions have any different flavor to them.]

A reminder that there are a lot of mis-facts on the web...
Nutritional Information on Dandelion Root : The image at the top of the page is neither dandelion nor false dandelion. It looks like coltsfoot.

Cat’s Ear: Backyard ‘Weed’ With Super-Antioxidant Properties : This page says: One identifying characteristic of cat’s ear is its leaves; they are sharply toothed and more asymmetrical than the leaves of dandelion. But that is not true. Cat's ear leaves are more rounded than regular dandelion.

I'm sort of amazed at the details I got in some of these photos. When looking at the flowers in the yard, they all pretty much look like the 5th one below. In the sunshine, the clump of unopened petals in the center of some of them aren't very noticeable.

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False Dandelions For Lunch

Dandelions, True or False?

Wild edibles: How to eat and identify cat's ear / flatweed / false dandelion (video, posted by wildsuperfoods)

Foraging Notes: The False Dandelion (video, posted by Survivalkraft)

Both people in those videos have said the false dandelion flowers are sweet. Now I am very curious, and am going to taste them in the coming days.
The leaves on my dandelions are close to the ground, so they tend to be dirty as well as hairy. But maybe I'll try some of them too. I'll probably need to cook them, as I don't even like eating peach skins, due to the fuzz that scratches my throat.
I've already tasted some root, raw, from 2 of the largest ones I pulled up while weeding last weekend. (Even so, they're fairly small and narrow). The root's not particularly tasty, but not bad either. It's rather dry, so I'm soaking the remainder in water to make it crunchier.
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I got my taxes done.

I made a pie with a chocolate filling. It's somewhat gooey, not what I was expecting from the photo on the box. But it's actually good, even though it also tastes oddly like it contains grape syrup mixed in with the chocolate. Based on the ingredients list, I can't imagine why. It contains alkalized cocoa, and the link I posted before indicates that the non-alkalized sort is the kind that's more likely to taste "fruity".

I also made some Waldmeister Goetterspeise which is a German jello with a unique flavor not found in the U.S. My aunt used to make it for me as a kid (with vanilla sauce on top!), and I still like it. The flavor isn't as intense as I remembered though.

I trimmed my hair a bit. It was tickling the back of my neck too much a few days ago. My torso gets itchy sometimes. When I scratch, the skin gets pinkish red, and small itchy bumps, widely scattered, appear. When I stop scratching, it goes away. I haven't figured out a cause. It's been happening for a few years now. (Of course, having written "torso" there, now a few spots on my arms and legs started itching.)

I'm over my cold, but still have a lot of phlegm. That always used to be the one of the worst parts of a cold, the weeks and weeks of snot that would only slowly diminish back to normal levels. So I did neti today for the first time in possibly 5 years. I stopped using neti around then, after reading warnings against doing neti with unsterile tap water. Well, I used tap water today, like I used to. Anything else is too much trouble. But after reading the warnings again, I may forgo the whole thing for another 5 years.

I used LJSec to delete my old protected posts from LJ, as that was something that had been on my to-do list for a while. There may not be much point in having done it, but at least it is off my list now. First, I did another import of all entries & comments from LJ over to DW, as well as a few backups of both my LJ and DW (with LJArchive), to make sure I wouldn't lose anything. The only problem with LJArchive is that imported comments don't show up with the user's LJ name like it does on the Dreamwidth pages, but rather with a generic ext_#### ID. If I have time someday, I'd like to see if I can update the utility to fix that.

A few weeks ago, I cancelled my Netflix subscription, as I was using it so rarely. Qiao has another Netflix account anyway, which I can use when I want to. He also has an Amazon Prime account for watching videos.

Last week at work, I was able to find the cause of another problem, and fix it. Well, I probably fixed more than one problem, but the last one is the one I remember. It gives me such a rush, a good feeling, being able to discover what obscure thing is making the code not work right and how to fix it, when I still don't even understand what half of the rest of the code is meant to do. I was thinking, I've been working on this same general code base, though it has undergone many transfigurations, for the past 22 years. I could spend my whole *life* working on it, and I still wouldn't understand it all, especially because it is constantly being changed. That made me think for a moment that maybe I should leave this job, just so that *whole life* part wouldn't come true. Eh. But whatever, this code or some other code, what difference. Hmm. Coming up on the end of the quarter. Wonder if they will have layoffs.

nut flavors

Friday, December 30th, 2016 10:40 pm
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While chomping down on some raw almonds, I hit a bitter one. I gagged on the horrible bitterness, but at the same time marveled at the intense almond flavor, which normal almonds don't have. I spit out the remains into the sink.

I already knew about bitter almonds, sort of, and I knew that apricot kernels were also sometimes used for almond flavor. (I know that persipan is to apricot kernels as marzipan is to almonds.) I remember a small bag of either bitter almonds or apricot kernels that my mom inherited from her mom, back in Germany. It was in her baking supplies. Maybe I tasted one back then, and that's where I learned about them, but I don't remember for sure.

But I didn't realize that basically all almond flavoring is made from bitter almonds and/or apricot kernels (and other sources), and none comes from sweet almonds. That explains why almonds don't taste like almond flavor!

The Case of the Tasty But Poisonous Nut

What to Use When You Can't Get the Real Thing
The most common sources of bitter almond taste, however, are almond extracts, which are distilled to be free of cyanide. "Pure" almond extract should contain natural oil of bitter almond, a colorless fluid, along with water and alcohol. "Natural" extract usually is flavored with benzaldehyde made from cassia, a relative of cinnamon. "Imitation" extract uses synthetic benzaldehyde, which is manufactured from a petrochemical.
a spokeswoman for McCormick, the nation's leading extract manufacturer, said: "The oil of bitter almond in McCormick's pure almond extract is derived from apricot kernels, in accordance with FDA regulations."


So that explains why almonds don't taste as good as almond-flavored things. And why simply blending up some almond milk doesn't give you a particularly almond-flavored beverage.

But it doesn't explain why the same may be said of pistachios and hazelnuts. I wonder where those nut flavorings originally came from, and if they are really found in the regular nuts themselves. (Ok, hazelnuts, when they are roasted start getting some of that nice hazelnut smell, maybe. But pistachios, good as they are, don't taste anything like pistachio flavor does. Well, maybe the problem there is that I've never had unroasted pistachios? Maybe the flavor comes from the raw pistachio nuts?)

Normally the pistachio flavoring sold in stores is artificial. So I checked whether there are any non-artificial ones, and there are a few online. But the reviews are mixed. Some reviews say they taste artificial and not good at all, making me wonder if the real thing really isn't anything like the normal artificial pistachio flavor used in ice creams and pudding.

Why does pistachio ice cream taste nothing like pistachios?
heavyLobster wrote: "Pistachio flavoring is mostly almond extract. Almond extract tastes different from normal almonds because there are actually two different types of almonds. Almond extract comes from bitter almonds, and the ones you eat are sweet almonds.

The chemical that gives almond extract (and pistachio flavoring) its characteristic flavor is benzaldehyde."


But pistachio flavor is different from almond flavor, isn't it?... Or is it just the artificial green color that makes it seem different to the mind???
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cupboard contents

A while back I bought a can of Cuitlacoche, also called "corn mushroom" or less flatteringly, "corn smut". It is considered a delicacy in Mexico, and was expensive - at least $4 or $5 for a small can. I don't recall ever having had it before, and suspected I might not like it, as in general, I don't even like mushrooms. But it being vegan, I figured I should at least try it.

It sat unopened in my cupboard a long time, as it being such a small can, it didn't seem worth the trouble of getting out my saute pan and cooking it.

Remember my trip to Kroger Marketplace, when I found the 89 cent bottle of date/orange/flaxseed/chili spread? (which by the way, makes a chili-bean-like tasting sandwich.) I went back to the same store a couple days later to get a shelf for supporting my keyboard when working standing up. I didn't end up getting the shelf, as it wasn't quite the right size. But this time, the special discount section had a bunch of Cuitlacoche cans, for only 39 cents each! I still didn't know if I'll even like the taste (especially after reading this review), but at least now I could buy enough for a whole panful, to make it seem worth the effort of cooking it.

I also got some other greatly discounted items - vegetarian taco filling, vegetable couscous sauce, and even some switchel drinks. Oh, and even a box of cinnamon raisin Matzo granola.

Man, that place is like a candy store.

Update - 2016/10/09:
I sauteed the cuitlacoche with onion and garlic in peanut oil, and ate it with cornbread and vegan smoked gouda cheese. The cuitlacoche actually tastes all right to me. I'm not sure how to describe it, but it's not at all mushroom-like. It reminds me of some food I've had before, but I can't think what.

omg, yum

Friday, August 12th, 2016 07:48 pm
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Goody Good Stuff - they have vegan cola-flavored gummies! Yes!!! (The "Cola Breeze" ones). I found them in a Winn Dixie store.

vegan frankfurters

Sunday, August 7th, 2016 06:31 pm
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These vegan Field Roast Frankfurters taste very good. They are very salty*, though. I think they'd work well cooked on a grill for a vegan cook-out, or sauteed, even though so far I've only had them microwaved.

The packaging is annoying. Each sausage is individually encased in a plastic film that you have to cut and peel off. So much work for a hot dog! I took the time to unpeel them all to begin with, and put them in a ziploc bag in the freezer, so that I could simply take them out whenever I wanted without all the work.

*If it weren't for that and the packaging, they'd be my new favorite. As it is, I suppose they're a tie with my other favorite, Yves hot dogs. For a while, I liked Tofurky Kielbasa the best, but over time I lost my taste for them, largely in part to them being so salty too. Which is odd, because in comparing them, the Kielbasa ones have the least percentage salt of the 3. My least favorite vegan dogs are the Lightlife ones; they seem bland to me.
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In this post from April 2014, I mentioned that WholeSoy was producing and distributing yogurts again. After that, I only saw their yogurts on the grocery store shelves a few times. Now I've read that WholeSoy went out of business in March 2015, which explains it.

Silk now sells large tubs of plain and vanilla yogurt again, in addition to the small cups of various fruit-flavored yogurts. The plain one is pretty good. I enjoy it with sugar stirred in.

Silk's yogurt has undergone several labeling changes over the years:
Silk Live! Soy Yogurt
Silk Blended Cultured Soymilk / Dairy-Free / fruity & creamy
Silk Dairy-Free yogurt alternative

It was the "fruity & creamy" strawberry-flavored one that I liked so much. When they switched the labeling the last time, they must have also changed the ingredient composition. Now, while still good, it doesn't seem quite as delectable as back then.

However, Daiya now makes a vegan soy-free Greek-style yogurt, with coconut cream. The strawberry one is very good! It might just be my new favorite.

Another nice bit of news is that Stonyfield O'Soy yogurts are now certified vegan. In the past, their cultures were milk-based, but 2 to 3 years ago, they switched to a vegan formulation. I tried the vanilla one, and it's pretty good.

doc martin! mole

Saturday, February 6th, 2016 09:41 pm
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They snuck in a new season of Doc Martin without me being aware of it. Now I'm already behind on the first 3 episodes.


A jar of Mexican mole sauce, which my mom gave me, has been sitting in the back of my cupboard for several years. I wasn't sure what to cook with it, and since the main ingredient is chili peppers, I was afraid it would be too spicy for me. I envisioned it being as spicy as some of those Indian spice pastes in jars.

But today I finally cooked with it, using the guidelines posted by user mexicanjl on this chowhound page. I used a can of diced tomatoes as I didn't have any tomato puree. I cooked some vegan chicken strips, poured the sauce over them, and had pasta along with it. The mole is nowhere near as spicy as I was afraid of. It tastes more like paprika to me than hot peppers.

The empty mole jar has a smooth rim and can even be used as a drinking glass.

buy / don't buy

Saturday, February 6th, 2016 05:28 pm
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Note to self (Buy/Try): TCBY has vegan non-dairy frozen yogurt. Several flavors, in fact: almond nog, chocolate almond, coconut, vanilla almond.

Note to self (Don't Buy): Target has a "Simply Balanced" brand of vegan meatless chicken/turkey in the freezer section. I was pleasantly surprised when I came across it, and bought 2 flavors - smoky chipotle (chicken) and mushroom miso (turkey). The first one I microwaved, and it was very unpalatable. The 2nd one I pan-fried, and it was ok (because I like most anything that has a crispy/chewy fried exterior and is vegan), but still not very good. So don't buy this brand again.

The few reviews I've seen praising the product all mention the Korean Barbeque flavor. So maybe that one is better. But it's probably not worth me trying, as I suspect the base product is the same for all the flavors, and only the sauce packet is different.

By the way, for anyone else reading this, the above is an anomaly. Most other vegan meat substitutes available taste very good to me. For example, Gardein, Kroger's "Simple Truth" brand, Beyond Meat, and Tofurky. That's why I was rather surprised about how bad the "Simply Balanced" one was in comparison.
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Note to self: Kroger's "Simple Truth" brand of dark chocolate covered raisins now includes milk in the ingredients. The front of the package even includes a small blurb "NEW FORMULA INCLUDES MILK".


Sometimes I intend to look up an answer a question I've had in my mind. Then after reading a bunch of webpages, I still may not have a clear answer, but have found a lot of interesting information. So I decide to put some links in a post, along with some text to explain why I'm linking it. And then what I thought would take a few minutes ends up taking hours and hours to finish...


I'm vegan as I want to minimize the suffering involved in the production of the food I eat, and as I don't feel it is right to raise animals in order to kill them. I don't believe that animals exist mainly to serve humans, or that humans have an inherent right to exploit them.

With meat, it's pretty obvious that meat production involves the killing of animals, and that the raising and slaughtering of these animals often includes suffering. With dairy products and eggs, it's also fairly obvious that large-scale productions involve non-ideal living conditions for animals and suffering. The dairy and egg industries are also closely tied in with the meat industry. On a small private farm, a farmer might choose to allow a chicken or cow to live until it dies of old age. But with large-scale production, that would be impractical. Female animals are slaughtered after their milk or egg production declines. Male offspring are either killed outright or raised for meat and/or for their sperm.

But the potential suffering involved in harvesting insect by-products is less obvious to me. I've never heard an insect squeal in pain, but to err on the side of compassion, I assume that they can feel pain and/or suffer in other ways.

In the case of honey, I've decided not to completely abstain from eating anything that has honey as an ingredient, but in general I avoid it. I could be wrong, but I think that beekeeping in general doesn't involve much suffering for the bees, and that the bees involved are still able to live a fairly normal life - living in their beehives with their normal social structure intact, and being able freely fly out to collect pollen. That the bees are robbed of their honey and given an inferior substitute in its place is troublesome to me, but I'm not sure that this causes them much suffering. However, what sticks in my mind is a long-ago news report where a truck carrying honeybee hives had an accident and overturned, letting loose the bees. Local authorities were called in to kill the bees.

Searching on honeybee hives truck overturned shows that those kind of truck accidents are surprisingly common.
Sep 29, 2015 - "Beekeepers and officers gathered as many bees as they could before 7:30 p.m., officials said. After dark, the bees became aggressive, so officials decided to burn the beehives."
Jun 28, 2015 - "A semi-truck carrying 400 beehives overturned on a busy freeway near the IRONMAN Triathlon course in North Idaho." "A similar truck wreck just two days ago released more than 20 million bees on State Highway 33 in the eastern Idaho desert."
Apr 17, 2015 - "As temperatures warmed and the bees became more agitated, firefighters sprayed a mixture of foam and water on the hives to slow down or kill some of the bees." "The overturned truck held 448 hives with as many as 14 million bees".

Why do trucks keep spilling swarms of honeybees onto US highways?
While there were only 387 beekeeping establishments in the US in 2012, commercial beekeeping is a multi-million dollar business, the US Department of Agriculture noted in a 2014 report. Many beekeepers – who work on a contract basis – live a semi-nomadic lifestyle, often transporting the bees long distances to reach farmers.

Each truckload of bees contains about 400 to 500 hives, with each hive containing a single queen and between 10,000 and 30,000 worker bees.
It is next to impossible to recapture escaped bees following such an accident. In most cases, emergency personnel have to kill the swarms to prevent them from attacking people.

So, while honey production doesn't intentionally involve the killing of bees, it does happen, and when it does, it often involves millions of bees in a single incident.

(This brings up another interesting question/moral dilemma: Why do I avoid honey because of the above, but not the fruit and nuts which are pollinated by the transported bees? And are the honey industry and the honeybee pollinating industry one and the same, or not?)


I also avoid items made with silk. Silk cocoons are usually boiled in order to kill the silk worms inside before the silk threads are extracted. There's been some research on how to get the silk without killing the worm, but that particular alternative - semi-paralyzing the silkworm and slowly unreeling the silk at the same pace as the worm produces it, doesn't sound so great to me either. I don't think a silkworm could have a very normal or pleasant life under those conditions.


All that was a prelude to the actual topic of this post: Lac, also known as shellac.

I had read in the past that "pure food glaze" or "confectioner's glaze" in food ingredient lists could represent various substances including shellac.

Shellac is a resin exuded by the lac insect in southeast Asia. I haven't been certain whether the harvesting of shellac involves killing the insect or not.

I've assumed that similar vegetable or mineral-based products were also available, and that surely these other sources were cheaper and more widely available than an insect byproduct from southeast Asia. So I thought that items containing "pure food glaze" and "confectioner's glaze" were only partially likely to contain shellac, and therefore haven't avoided them.

Today, I tried to find some more definite answers. How likely is "pure food glaze" to be shellac, and does shellac harvesting kill the bugs?

Almost all the sources I've found today indicate that "pure food glaze" and "confectioner's glaze" only comes from shellac. I only found 2 pages contradicting that:

On a message board, someone wrote that it could be palm-derived: "About confectioner's glaze or pure food glaze, I do have some good news for you all. While it should be assumed to not be vegan unless otherwise told, I contacted Sunridge Farms the other day and they confirmed for me their confectioner's or pure food glaze is indeed vegan. I believe they said it's palm derived (which may be something people try to avoid for other reasons), but they said it's for sure vegan."

This page indicates that it can be contain corn-based zein or beeswax: "Is there a vegan alternative to shellac? Of course! Zein, a corn protein, is a competitive non-animal-based product. Pure zein is clear, odorless, tasteless, hard, water-insoluble, and edible. It is already used as a coating for candy, nuts, fruit, pills, and other encapsulated foods and drugs. In the United States, it may also be labeled as ‘confectioner’s glaze’. NOTE: As well as sometimes being made from shellac, confectioner’s glaze can also contain beeswax."

So it still sounds like the item labelled as pure food glaze or confectioner's glaze can come from various sources, but I'm still unclear as to what percentage of it actually does.

Regarding the harvesting of shellac, from what I've read (more details in the links below):
The female insects attach themselves to tree twigs, and start sucking out tree sap. The sap gets converted into lac and exuded from their bodies, forming a thick coating over them and their eggs. The females die, and the larvae break out of their eggs and somehow migrate to new twigs, to begin the cycle all over again. The twigs are harvested, and then the shellac is scraped off and processed.

Now, if the harvesting happens after the encased females are all dead and the larvae have all hatched and left, I'd be ok with using shellac. But I'm not sure if that is the case. (And even if it were true in most cases, there'd doubtless be some percentage of insects that hadn't yet died or hatched when the twigs are harvested.)

The Story of Shellac

New World Encyclopedia's entry on Shellac
In Kerra lacca, the insect starts as a nymph that is only about 0.6 millimeters (3/128 inches) long (ASB 2008). It settles on a host plant gregariously and there may be on average 150 such larvae per square inch of twig (ASB 2008). The insects project protrusions into the tree, penetrating the bark, and suck up the sap, which is chemically altered in the insects' bodies (Bryk 2002). When exuded onto the tree branch, this secretion forms a hard covering. Larvae begin secreting this lac after a day or two of settlement. As the insects are in close proximity, the lac secretions from adjacent cells coalesce with each other and form a shell-like covering over the entire swarm (ASB 2008; Bryk 2002).

After the first molt, the male and female larvae lose their legs, antennae, and eyes, and after the third molt, the mouthparts in the male larvae become atrophied, the males stop feeding, and they fertilize with the female (ASB 2008). The females' lac output increases greatly after fertilization (Bryk 2002). The female may lay 1000 eggs before dying; after hatching, the new larva break through the crust and swarm out (Bryk 2002).

Orange Shellac Technical Evaluation Report (2014)
Young larvae of lac insects are red and measure about half a millimeter in length and half as much in width. After emergence, they settle down on the lac host and attach themselves to the host by piercing its bark. They suck the sap of the host and start secreting lac. Under this coating the larvae grow while they continue the secretion of lac from the inside. After eight to fourteen weeks, the male insect emerges out of its lac cover, fertilizes the female and dies soon after. The female continues growing and increases lac secretion until the egg laying period (Bose and Sankaranarayan 1963).
There are primarily four different non-synthetic substances that may be used in place of orange shellac as a component of citrus fruit waxes: wood rosin, carnauba wax, beeswax and candelilla wax.
A number of other non-synthetic and agricultural substances have been briefly studied as alternatives to or in combination with the four primary waxes, including corn zein, xanthan gum, grain sorghum wax, casein, soy protein, and chitosan.(Hagenmaier 1998; Krochta, Baldwin and Nisperos-Carriedo 1994)

Lac Insect

Large number of tiny red larvae of about 0.5 mm. long come out of each mother cell and settle on the tender portions of fresh twigs of certain trees called lac hosts. The larva is sufficiently mobile to crawl along the branches of trees to find fresh succulent twigs. When it has fixed its position and inserted its probocis into the trees it secretes a protective coating consisting of a dark red chitinous scale and a yellow to reddish resin called the lac resin. The insects mature under the protective covering of the resin which becomes hard. Wax glands near the vital pores - the oval region, the breathing pores and the anal pore keep them open by secreting wax filaments.

The larvae mould [molt] thrice inside the cell and becomes sexually mature male and female insects in about eight weeks. The female cell is roundish and the insect remains fixed to the twig. The male cell is somewhat longer with a round trap door through which the insect, sometimes winged, comes out, walks over the females, fertilising several of them and dies. Their direct contribution to resin production is insignificant.

The female insect increases in size to accommodate her large number of growing eggs. The secretion of the resin and wax now proceed at a faster rate and a continuous layer is formed by coalescence and coatings. in another 14 weeks, when the female insect is about to lay eggs, she begins to contract, allowing light into the cell which shows up as yellow spots. When hatched, the larve emerge to begin a new life cycle of about six months.

Life Cycle of Lac-insect (with pictures)

So, am I okay with eating items containing pure food glaze, confectioner's glaze, and/or shellac? Answer: still undecided.
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Gardein "fishless filets" - they actually taste like fish. I'm impressed.


The spring rolls at the Vietnamese Pho restaurant here include tasty slivers of pickled carrots and radish. A while back I pickled some daikon radish myself. Sugar, salt, and vinegar - a simple recipe. It ended up ok, but not what I had hoped for. Too sweet and zesty; not the mildly sweet crunchy flavor they have at the restaurant.

I kept the pickled radish in a jar in the refrigerator, eating a little with dinner here and there. After a week or so, it began to stink, even though it still looked and tasted ok. So I stopped eating it, and left the jar in the fridge, unsure how to dispose of it. Putting it in the garbage would make the bin stink. Flushing it down the toilet might cause a clog.

Today I finally got rid of it. I poured the liquid down the sink drain, and buried the radish in a hole in the yard. I washed the glass jar for recycling. I rinsed the sink with a good amount of water and detergent. I opened the house windows, turned on a fan, and sprayed orange air freshener.

Even so, the house smelled vaguely like a garbage dump for a few hours.


The weather here has been unusually rainy, misty and overcast for the last 2 to 3 weeks (similar to the weeks prior to the recent "flood event"). The temperature is fine, but sunshine would be really nice.

The sun room started getting a mildewy smell again, so I opened the windows down there and left them open. Better to have moist ventilated air, than moist stagnant air. That room is separated from the house by sliding glass doors, so having those windows open doesn't affect the rest of the house.

To find out how moist it is in the sun room, I used the remote sensor of our weather station. Inside the house, the humidity is ~74%, while in the sun room it is 94%. The 94% has been suspiciously constant for the last several days**.

Around 4am this morning*, a South Carolina humidity map showed most areas at or near 100% relative humidity. This evening, the numbers are somewhat lower, but there are still many locations at 100%. Considering that, 94% with the windows open seems reasonable.

*before going to bed. You'd think that the time change would make me feel like going to bed earlier rather than later.

**My suspicion was right after all. The remote sensor isn't updating its numbers, even after bringing it back inside. Unfortunately I'm having trouble with our other weather station too.

This morning it looked like it was starting to dry up outside. Yay! Then it rained hard for a few minutes. Hopes dashed. Then the sun came out. Wow! Yay! Then it got overcast again.

With the house windows open today, the humidity level in the house proper went up to 79%. Now it is back to 74%. This feels perfectly fine and normal to me. The weather has been in the upper 60s and 70s, so we haven't needed the heater or A/C turned on.

11/08: I finally got both weather stations working again last night. A cold front came through so it is much cooler today (still overcast and wet). The humidity in the house is now ~64%, and in the sun room ~70%.

olives & flowers

Wednesday, November 4th, 2015 12:19 am
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There are these "Botija" black dried pitted olives which are very expensive (I got the first packet on sale). But they are so good that I subsequently bought a 2nd packet at full price. If I had to describe the flavor, it would be "bitter, salty, oily", which doesn't *sound* particularly appealing. But they do appeal. Especially together with the chewy texture, and the fact that I can eat them with my fingers, without my fingers getting wet.

Eating them late at night doesn't help with a case of acid reflux though.


One of the things I like about Lantana is how the flowers go away but keep coming back all summer long, even up through now in November.

nary a cully

Monday, October 26th, 2015 09:58 pm
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Black-Eyed Pea Tempeh. I fried some up and tried it for the first time. It has the familiar tempeh flavor, but a different texture, in the same way that black-eyed peas have a different, mushier texture than soybeans.

Ackee. I'd had some back in 1999 during a trip to Jamaica. Ackee is a fruit that looks and tastes somewhat like scrambled eggs. If picked/eaten before fully ripe, it can be toxic. Around here, it is sold canned in the Caribbean food section of some grocery stores. Expensive and a delicacy. I bought a can a while back, and let it sit in my cupboard a long time, uncertain how to prepare it. But it simply needs to be heated in a saucepan, and served with margarine and salt. Yum. It has its own distinctive savory flavor, but yeah, scrambled-eggs-like.

Neat Egg - an egg substitute for baked goods, made from powdered chia seeds and chickpeas. When mixed with water as indicated in the instructions, it gels into an egg-white-like consistency. I tried it out with a box of brownie mix, and the results turned out quite well. I'll have to try it with cake mix next time. Neither of those usually work very well with my usual egg replacer powder.
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'Maya Kaimal' Spicy Ketchup - Yummy; spicy but not too spicy. Like a mix of ketchup and red barbecue sauce but not as sweet as the latter. Surprisingly, the main ingredient (after water and before tomato paste) is onion, though it doesn't taste of onion to me.

In the past I had bought a bottle of German "Curry Ketchup" (probably the Zeisner brand, but I'm not sure as I no longer have it), hoping for a taste like this, but that one was thin and overly sweet. I ended up throwing it away. This Maya Kaimal version is so good that I may order more of it if I can't find it in the store again. When I bought this bottle, it was on the "discontinued" shelf at EarthFare.

'So Delicious' Cashew Milk frozen desserts - None of the brands of non-dairy ice cream for sale around here have appealed much to me since they stopped selling Tofutti and Soy Dream. Not even the 'So Delicious' soymilk ones. But these cashew milk ice creams are delicious, especially the Dark Chocolate Truffle and Salted Caramel Cluster.

On the other hand, I tried Silk's new Cashew Milk, and didn't care for it. (I don't remember if I had the regular or unsweetened one). It lacked creaminess compared to Silk Unsweetened Soymilk. And it didn't taste nearly as good as the cashew milk I used to make myself by simply blending up cashews with water (though it's been a long time, so my memory might be inflating how much I liked the one I made myself).
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I'd been wanting to make these green tea cupcakes ever since Qiao gave me the fabulous vegan cupcake cookbook. I finally bought the essential ingredient - matcha green tea powder - last year, but didn't get around to actually trying out the recipe until last week. The cupcakes turned out soft, fluffy, and super-duper yummy, even without any marzipan flowers on top.


It is blackberry season. I've seen people gathering berries along the roads. On the way home from work today, I stopped by a patch and picked some myself. I'm glad I stopped at the place I did, as 2 other people were already stopped by the larger patches further down the road which I passed by later. As it was, after stopping my car where I did, it took me a while to gather my courage to get out of the car. I had a silly fear that someone would come out of the commercial building whose driveway I was parked in, and accuse me of stealing their berries. From the car, I couldn't even tell if there were any ripe berries in this patch. But I finally got out, and got me some lovely berries.

Thin dress pants aren't suitable attire for blackberry picking. A branch snagged my pants and tore out a few threads before I managed to get free. Denim would have been better.

After getting home, I checked the bushes across the street and picked some more berries there too. But those were tiny compared to the others.


I remedied the pinholes in the curtain black-out liners by using fusible web to iron on extra strips of black-out fabric over the seam lines.

The black-out fabric and/or the fusible web gives off fumes while ironing it at the necessary heat level. But at least those fumes were temporary.


Knoppix! I created a live disk and used it to boot my laptop to Linux. Neat! The last time I created a similar live disk and tried it on my old computer, I never got the internet working as that would have required finding and installing the necessary wireless drivers. But this Knoppix live CD had everything I needed - my wi-fi and internet worked, as did my external mouse and keyboard.

I was using Linux in order to reformat a 256 GB flash drive as FAT32. Windows didn't let me do it. Linux did.

The reason for reformatting the flash drive is a story for another time.


Partially inspired by this post by [livejournal.com profile] gfish, as well as articles such as this one, I've been trying to do more work standing up.

When we moved buildings, I was given a 2nd monitor. Rather than position it side-by-side with my other monitor, I put it on my cubicle's shelf, after moving the shelf down a few notches. That puts the top monitor at a fairly good height for me to use while standing. So now I have one monitor on my desk to use while sitting, and another on the shelf to use while standing. I can position my mouse higher by using a small stack of books. But I can't really get the keyboard high enough to be very comfortable while standing.

I was thinking that rather than moving the monitor and accessories up and down, it would be simpler to have everything up high, and to have a high chair. Then everything would be at the right height whether I was sitting or standing. Maybe someday.

For now, I can only manage to stand for a few minutes at a time before I start feeling tired/uncomfortable, or before I feel the need to sit down to do something that takes my full attention. Working while standing is sort of like trying to write with my left hand - I can do it, but at a slower pace and with more frustration.

Sometimes I stand in a spread-leg or horse-riding position, which brings my torso low enough to comfortably use the lower monitor and keyboard. But I don't do that for long either, as it makes my feet tired, and I feel self-conscious about looking weird to anyone who walks by.

Then again, I do full-body stretches in my cubicle a few times a day, which surely is a strange sight to see, too.

potent kraut

Monday, May 4th, 2015 11:32 pm
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When you store sauerkraut in a plastic container - even a glass container with a plastic lid, the plastic takes on the sauerkraut smell, and it is very hard* to subsequently rid the plastic of the odor.

I found a way to avoid the problem, by covering the glass container with a sheet of aluminum foil before putting the lid on. As I don't like to waste foil, I rinsed and reused the same sheet several times for the same purpose.

This last time, I was surprised to notice the plastic lid smelling of sauerkraut after I had washed it. The foil had accumulated several tiny holes in it, from being reused too many times. Even those tiny holes were enough to let the smell get through to the plastic.

*I do not recall having taped the lid to an outside window for a few weeks. It's a good thing I wrote that down; I suppose I'll be doing it again.

dinner burrito

Thursday, October 2nd, 2014 10:53 pm
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I love the color of the tortillas. Refried beans, vegan pepperoni and cheese, corn, and Italian parsley. This was before rolling it up and heating it.
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The Kaua‘i Cocktail - Highly toxic pesticides are being applied to GMO test fields on Kaua‘i at a much higher rate than on most US farms, an analysis of new data reveals

I'm not against the genetic modification of food in and of itself. There are beneficial uses of genetic engineering, and it will probably be very important for the future of agriculture. There can be risks in changing the very genetics of the food we eat, depending on the kind of modifications that are done. But the main issue I have with it is that in many cases the companies who are pushing GM are also pushing the use of pesticides - from what I've read, in most cases they are the exact same companies. Rather than using GM to make plants more resistant to pests, which could be a good thing, it seems that the companies are using GM to make plants more resistant to pesticides, in order to make more profits selling both the GM seeds and the pesticides. I don't think that spraying poisons on farmlands and elsewhere is healthy for the environment, animals, or people. That is why I prefer to buy organic food, which happens to also usually be non-GMO.
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Fried pickles at Bean Vegan Cuisine, in Charlotte NC.

Peanut butter cheesecake, from same location. The coconut whip cream on top was a little smooshed from being in a to-go container.

The above was delicious, but the mocha chocolate chip cheesecake at Eden - A Vegan Cafe in Scranton, PA, was arguably even more scrumptious.

Bright cloud:

Cloudy sky in Hartford, CT:

Oranges in vending machine! (A bit hard to see, due to reflections.)