Children of the Corn Meal

Continuing in our ever expanding line of torture devices for the modern kitchen, we introduce – The Corn Mill.


It slices, it dices, it … well, it just grinds really.  Remember the corn we shelled a couple of weeks ago?  Some of that was destined to be made into corn meal and this was the method by which we did it.

The torture comes not from the mill itself (though I’m pretty sure getting a finger stuck in there wouldn’t feel all that pleasant) but from actually grinding the corn.  It’s hard.  Damn hard.  Take your average kernel of dried corn and try to make it into a fine powder.  Not too easy.  Our tactics evolved into making multiple passes with different grades of coarseness.  That worked out pretty well. We ended up grinding more than the one cup we need.  Tackling the rest isn’t something I’m looking forward to but the end result … well, take a look for yourself.

Corn Bread, Corn Flour, Corn
Corn Bread from Corn Meal from Corn

Kindle-ing Interest

I got my hands on a Kindle this week.

For those who don’t know, the Kindle is Amazon’s eBook Reader.  The Kindle is lightweight and boasts that you can carry hundreds/thousands of books in one little tablet.  Quite a deal.  It’s also got wireless so you can do some web browsing or purchase your books while on the go.  eBooks and Readers are a big deal in the Academic world right now so we bought a handful of them here at Luther and offered them up for testing.

I’ll admit I went into this with skepticism.  Never once have I thought ‘Gee, I’d like to curl up next to the fire with a nice LCD screen’.  I gave the Kindle to Steph first and let her read a couple of books before I did any testing.  She and I agreed on most everything.

The Pros

  • Readability: I was pleasantly surprised by how easy and natural it was to read the text on the screen.  I thought that I’d be straining or struggling to pick out the words but it was nice.  You can also adjust the font size which is helpful for those with bad eyes.
  • Size: It’s small and easy to carry.  Lightweight too.
  • Text to Voice: This garnered some interest before with concerns about public readings, etc.  All garbage.  The feature is pretty well done though.  It still has the robotic/non-feeling tone but it moves a lot faster than any other text-to-voice reader I’ve used in the past.
  • A Thousand Books in Hand: That little device held a couple of dozen books with plenty of room left over for more.  If I was going on a long vacation, something like this would kick ass over lugging around half a dozen books (and I tend to read big books, not thin ones).  So right there is a big bonus.

The Cons

  • Reading:  It’s actually kind of a pain to read with a Kindle.  Steph’s first comment was that she didn’t know what to do with her hands.  Most folks hold a book on either side or in the center.  That’s hard to do with a Kindle because the sides are where the Next/Prev Page buttons are and it’s awkward to hold in the center.
  • The Screen: In relation to the above, the default screen is portrait.  For ease of reading, you can turn it to Landscape or even upside down.  Both of these come with their own problems such as how do you hold the Kindle?  Awkward through and through.  Hands down, the iPad and its instant rotation has this beat.
  • The Controls: Flat out, that little joystick fails.  I’m an experienced user and it annoyed the hell out of me.  Just let me tap the screen, damnit.
  • Losing Your Place: At one point, I did something (hell if I know what) and I was back at the main menu.   I had to Next Page through the first 20 pages to get to my spot.  If I’d just dropped my book on the floor, it would have taken me just a couple of seconds to find my place.
  • Taking Notes: The feature is there but it’s not a spur of the moment thing.  Again, a pain to deal with.
  • Can’t Loan It Out: Want to share a book with a friend?  Give them your Kindle  and forget about using it until they’re done.  Thank you Digital Rights Management!  Or buy an extra device at $250, register it to your credit card, and *then* share books.

Working in an Academic environment, I see what the students are lugging about and hear their complaints about the cost.  This is where I see some room for eReaders to have a positive effect.  Colleges could bulk purchase readers, load them up with core books, and sell them off to their students.  Do it in large enough volume and you might just save your students a bunch of money along with a couple of forests.

Of course, one has to face the facts that eBooks are not going to be cheaper just because they are not physical.  It’s simply not the case.  Rather than rehash that territory, check out the links in my previous post on Amazon vs Macmillan or Charlie Stross’ How Books Are Made (hell, read it anyways because its good).

Overall Verdict? Not buying one.

eBooks are the wave of the future.  I can see that.  They aren’t going to take off though until there is an reader that makes them worth reading.  The Kindle hasn’t done that.  Barnes and Noble’s Nook?  Maybe.  It’s specs claim to be better but I’ll withhold judgment until I get my hands on one.  Same with the iPad from Apple.  That is a completely different beast.

And until we do find that right reader, well, just give me a dead tree book any day of the week.

My Sick Super Power

While I don’t have vestibular neuronitis  (just congestion or maybe sinus infection mixed with a bitchin’ case of vertigo), Least I Could Do describes how I feel today:

Click to Enlarge

I am testing the theory that staying prone at home rather than being at work will speed up my recovery.  I am assisted in this endevour by Nurse Tim Tam.  He’s not as helpful as you’d might think.

Nurse Cat will see you now.
Nurse Cat will see you now.

The Weekend in Pictures

Instrument of Torture?

Nope, just a corn sheller.  One of the crops we grew this year was corn.  In past years, it’s just been popcorn but this year Steph decided to try another variety that will eventually be ground up for flour.  The cobs have been sitting in the basement all winter and Steph decided today was the day to get the work done.

See, the sheller is clamped to the board to hold it steady.  One person then holds the board in a plastic tub while the other person feeds corn cobs into the top.  Cranking on a handle pulls the cobs down and rubs them violently against some knobby plates that tear the kernels off.  Nice and convenient.

In a perfect world, the kernels drop right into the tub.  In reality, they act as though they’ve been shot out of a cannon like pint-sized grapeshot.  The stuff flies everywhere – ricocheting off walls, winging the cat, landing on the other side of the living room, and causing grievous injury to the poor sap charged with holding the sheller steady.

When we weren’t wounding each other or the household pets, we headed out to the fish hatchery to catch a glimpse of the local bald eagles nest.  This is the nest made famous by the Eagle Cam.  In person it’s even more impressive.  It was a lot larger than I expected it to be, probably 7 or 8 feet across.

Click to enlarge.

Oh, if you do check it out?  Don’t leave the site open all day.  It’s sucking a tremendous amount of bandwidth from the college and we’d rather use that for, oh, say, educational purposes.  Thanks.

Prying Eyes

I learned earlier today that some of my student employees read this blog.

Wow.  I’m humbled, honored, and slightly creeped out.  That aside, I know that many of them read during slow times on their work shifts.  To that I say:

Get back to work!

Oh, and thank you for reading.

Ways To Torture Your Spouse or ‘Matt has a Sick Day’

I’m sick.

Not in just a general sense.  I have a nasty cold in which my lungs are attempting to expel themselves from their body.  After a night of coughing, I’m tempted to allow them to do so.  They don’t want to be there, why should I keep them in?

That aside, I believe Steph is not looking forward to me being home.  This is because she knows that I am not a good sick person.  I get bored extremely easy.  By 10:00am, I will have finished every goal I set out for myself today and I can be pretty ambitious when I’m sick (all part of that ‘not thinking straight while sick’ bit).  Being that Steph works from home now, I think she’s fearing this.

So in an effort to distract me even further, she reached into the closet and pulled out a Christmas present my parents gave me.  This:

The Bop It
The Bop It

Click the picture to see a video of it in action.  As you can see, this is exactly what my wife, who desires peace and quiet during the work day, will enjoy.  And it was her suggestion.

She will rue the day.

A Rare Foray Into Politics

I rarely mention politics on the blog for the sole purpose that I don’t much care for it.  I have an extremely low opinion of both parties and those who toe the party line unquestionably.  Today, I’ve made an exception with two brief topics – Health Care and Budget & Debt.

1. Health Care

Q: What would you say to Hawaiians who say ‘I have government mandated health care and I love it’?’
A: They have that?

The Daily Show visited Hawaii while the Republican National Congress was having their little shindig there.  Since the biggest topic of the time was Health Care and how the Republicans were so concerned that the government could not possibly manage it, the Daily Show asked them how they responded to Hawaii having 40 years of government mandated health care.  Here’s the video (7 minutes long).  At the risk of sounding like an ass, being Republican should be considered a pre-existing condition for these morons.

Here’s another question – Why the F**k is a show on Comedy Central asking this question and not NBC or CBS or FOX or whatever?  Seriously.

2. Budget & Debt

Debt is growing out of control.  We got to get it under control.  So it’s up to the President, right?  Well…maybe not.  The New York Times has this very cool graph that shows what the budget is for 2010 and 2011.  It also shows what the Mandatory Spending is (i.e. – the things the President cannot cut by law).

In 2011, the budget is 3.69 trillion dollars.  Of that, 2.4+ trillion dollars is considered untouchable*.  About half the remainder is Defense spending which pretty much no one will touch since it’s practically political suicide.

Yeah, this ain’t coming under control any time soon.

* I may be slightly off on my numbers but we’re in the general neighborhood.  And I don’t think this takes into account Iraq/Afghanistan.

Tim Tam Talks

Our cat, Tim Tam, is twelve years old. With old age comes health problems and our poor kitten has been fighting a slight thyroid issue. He can’t control his own body temperature (which means he seeks out laps) and he whines (more so than usual).

To fight this, we have to give him a pill every day which is fun for the whole family because that’s just how many of us are required to get the damn thing down his throat.

A side effect is that he doesn’t eat as much food either, so he’s been losing weight. Tonight we picked up some canned food to see if that might entice him to eat more. He provided valuable feedback on our efforts.

Electrifying Humor

We follow a 3-1-3 schedule Luther which, as I remember from being a student, is quite a bit of fun.  You get to spend January taking one course and extensively studying.   One of my favorite classes – Murder, Magic, and Medicine – happened over J-Term.  Same with a Creative Writing course.

The downside is that we have a very short period between the end of J-Term and the start of Spring semester.  For my department, that means a lot of work that has to happen and inevitably, we can’t get it all done in time.  So it’s been a busy week.

We got a call that a certain lab wasn’t working.  We sent a student tech over and found out there was no power.  Flipped circuit breaker or something.  This means we have to send a request to the electricians to get it fixed.  Below is the text of that message:

All the outlets are dead in Brunsdale. We tried multiple electronic devices in each outlet and no power. I asked the student worker to make sure they are dead by sticking his tongue in the outlet however I have not yet heard back from him. Will you please look into this.

Heh.  Have a nice weekend.