Miscellaneous thoughts of July 2014

In the years since I’ve been signing petitions, a curious phenomena has occurred in my inbox. 99% of my emails are now requests for donations. So many of the causes are worthy, most often non-profit organizations trying to fund their legislative activities, but it’s still disturbing to realize the Internet has been transformed from an information-sharing platform, to a money-raising one. Evidently, everytime a petition is signed, this subscribes the signer to fund-raising emails. Recently, I got tired of one particular one, their emails had gotten increasingly shrill, and so I went and unsubscribed. Next thing I knew, this relatively famous person sent another request on the same subscription. So, I thought that maybe the unsubscribe didn’t go through, and I unsubscribed a second time. Wash-rinse-repeat, though this time a top CEO type contacted me, needing yet more funds. OMG.

I could use some funds, couldn’t everyone? I’m trying to figure out of there is a lesson in this for me, and if so, what that lesson is. What does it mean when non-profit or political or otherwise subscriptions no longer honor their unsubscribe requests?

I often look wistfully back on the Internet as it existed around the year 2000, the turn of the millennium. There was so much hope and promise for people to share information. I was hopeful my dear wife would finally get that promise she had worked so hard for since the early 1980s, find her fiction in print, and earn a decent wage for her efforts, instead of the hundreds of corporatist rejections she had received from the mid 1980s until the year 2000 or so. Well, she saw it, but only because we started a publishing company and printed the book ourselves, which was never part of the deal as corporate had insisted in all those 1980-era writing magazines, that if you could finish a book, a romance novel was I believe the genra pushed at the time, it would be published. Nope. In this process of decades, my wife taught me some very valuable lessons, one in particular, that perseverance is not the path to financial or career success, nor is it even a part of such success, it was merely work without reward, exactly what it appeared to be all those years. If you find yourself working and persevering and not receiving abundant, immediate monetary rewards, it’s well past time to quit.

Now, 14 years past the millennium, I find top search engine results are often highly flawed. A recent example is “faux maple syrup” (oh, I guess I should publish my recipe here, maybe I will one day). Sure, it’s not rocket science, nor is it the latest war, killing of children, sad story of destitution, or pillaging and destruction of the earth. This particular set of top Google search engine results point to directions that specifically do not invert the syrup, meaning any such recipe made will crystallize in short order. As of 2014-July-31, result number one is https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qOYlCHFWsb4 and result number two is http://www.wikihow.com/Make-Artificial-Maple-Syrup-at-Home. The video appears as an enthusiast amateur cook working on her fancy stove in a kitchen pretty much like yours or mine (though mine is more basic, with inexpensive instead of top-grade appliances). The second page is not a video, but it also misses the sugar inversion technique.

To transform those recipes into an inverted sugar syrup, like the pancake syrups you purchase, you may use those instruction sets, but when it gets to the boiling stage, instead use Wikipedia’s Invert Sugar Syrup instructions. This involves the addition of a small amount of acid at the ingredient addition stage, I use cream of tartar, 1% of the sugar weight, which is significantly higher than what’s given at Wikipedia. I use a water weight of 57% of the sugar weight, I’m not sure what the percentage is on those volume-based recipes (I now weigh all my cooking projects because I can so easily apply math to them, though weighing ingredients is slightly more time consuming). I bring it to 214-220 °F, and hold it there for 1 hour using a “thermostatic electric tabletop stove,” which is also known as a “hot plate.” I stir or whip then check the syrup temperature every 5 minutes with a digital thermometer, record the temperature, and adjust the setting up or down as needed. After 1 hour, I slightly increase the heat setting on the hot plate, and over the course of the next 15 minutes, bring it to a final temperature of 227 °F. Then it is removed from the heat, and a weight of baking soda equal to 45% of the cream of tartar weight is added and whipped into the syrup, which is both hot and sticky, so practice care in this step. This will foam up a lot: I use a very tall pan which contains the syrup’s foam, and I add the baking soda a little at a time. Then it is allowed to cool and settle, and I whip it occasionally. After an hour or two, when it is cool enough, I put it in a glass mason jar. When you have fully inverted the syrup, it may be stored for months on the shelf and it will not crystallize.

Why is it that there are such advanced cooking techniques available in the information age, but sub-standard recipes or techniques are loaded to the top of search engine results and appear as the norm?

I was recently trying to understand New Age spirituality and its relationship to Christianity, so I went to Google, and typed in “new age spirituality vs. christianity” (without the quotes). Out of 10 results, 1 was a video which I wasn’t interested in (I’d much rather read text because I can read very fast, much faster than listening to audio) leaving 9 results. Only one of those was from a non-Christian site, religioustolerance.org, all the others were Christian sites. Had I wanted those kinds of results, I would have instead typed “christianity vs. new age spirituality”, placing the “Christianity” word first. But I didn’t. I was trying to understand the placement of Christians within the New Age movement, not the New Age’s placement within Christianity. So, it seems that Google results are flawed, or perhaps Christian organizations have been aggressive about front-loading search engine results.

On the good news front, according to the White House, the economy is doing better than it has in a long time: The U.S. is now producing more oil than we import, and the economy is producing 200,000 new jobs every month, said better job creation than that which existed in the 1990s. Maybe my wife should put a PDF of her book up for sale on her website, since she already has the copyright to it and will for the rest of her life. Then maybe we’d have an independent statistic of whether the economy really was doing any better.

The only problem is that just means more work, work to update the website, the software and the HTML template which is frequently obsoleted by updated software, then figure out how to put a shopping cart on it, and undoubtedly, how to avoid false positives, which I’m guessing are as abundant as malicious comments and spam. All that work for not even a guarantee of one sale. Honestly, it doesn’t seem like that great of a bet, lots of work for most probably little income in return.

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