Welcome to my home page. I became blind at birth. I started programming computers at a young age. I also earned my general class amateur radio license, KA3TTT, a hobby to which I have returned with great joy. I practice Qigong and identify as a Taoist. I use Linux as my desktop and Android as my mobile OS. I eat gluten-free vegan meals. For the rest you'll have to read my blog.

How to Achieve Immortality with Chocolate Chip Cookies

June 19, 2009

While looking through the Emacs directory, I saw a file named etc/COOKIES. Curiously, I browsed it, and found a bunch of cookie recipes. No doubt everyone has heard the urban legend of the woman who writes to a company for their cookie recipe, and ends up spending $250.00 instead of $2.50, so distributes it. At the end, it had an easy recipe for Toll House Cookies.

Previously, I had purchased Nestles Toll House cookie mix, the kind you break apart and put on sheets. It tasted okay, but nothing beats home-made cookies. I always liked the name. It called to mind a friendly toll house with its happily ringing bell, and a quaint inn overlooking it. Actually, Kenneth and Ruth Wakefield purchased an old toll house in 1930, and remade it into an inn.

According to Nestle, the invention of the first Toll House cookie occurred accidently. That page has a link to an official recipe, which differs slightly from the one in Emacs, which follows:

Chocolate Chip Cookies - Glamorous, crunchy, rich with chocolate bits & nuts.

Also known as "Toll House" Cookies ... from Kenneth and Ruth Wakefield's
charming New England Toll House on the outskirts of Whitman, Massachusetts.
These cookies were first introduced to American homemakers in 1939 through
our series of radio talks on "Famous Foods From Famous Eating Places."

Mix Thoroughly :
        2/3 cup soft shortening ( part butter )
        1/2 cup granulated sugar
        1/2 cup brown sugar ( packed )
        1 egg
        1 tsp vanilla

Sift together and stir in :
        1-1/2 cups sifted flour (*)
        1/2 tsp soda
        1/2 tsp salt

Stir in :
        1/2 cup cut-up nuts
        6 oz package of semi-sweet chocolate pieces ( about 1-1/4 cups )

(*) for a softer, more rounded cookie, use 1-3/4 cups sifted flour.

Drop rounded teaspoonfuls about 2" apart on ungreased baking sheet. Bake until
delicately browned ... cookies should still be soft. Cool slightly before you
remove them from the baking sheet.

Temperature:            375 F. ( modern oven )
Time:                   bake 8 - 10 minutes
Amount:                 4 - 5 dozen 2" cookies


Personal comments :

I find it tastes better with a mixture of shortening and butter, as they say.

You don't need << all >> of that sugar, and it can be whatever color you want.

The nuts are optional. Feel free to play with the recipe. I put oatmeal in it,
reducing flour accordingly, and sometimes cinnamon.

I also find it useful to grease the cookie sheets.

I think I'm going to go bake some now ...

-- richard

I figured that any editor that comes with a file of cookie recipes has a strong spirit, and it inspired me to try the recipe above. It came out well enough, as I still learn the fine art of baking. It got me thinking about achieving immortality in the more classic sense of the word, living on through one’s works.

In exchange for printing the recipe, Ruth Wakefield received a lifetime supply of chocolate. She died in 1977. The Toll House Inn burned down on New Year’s Eve of 1984. Yet, the inn, Ruth Wakefield, and the original colonial toll house live on through a simple cookie.

The Editor Wars Continue WIthin

June 12, 2009

I know I have considered myself a born-again Vim user, and I love Vim, but I have recently begun investigating Emacs. It definitely has some interesting potential, including an audio desktop environment, which I have yet to even get into, my initial reason for doing this, so I could use my Artic Transport external speech synthesizer with Orca and Gnome. I’ll keep you up to date on this startling development, since many people either take one or the other. Apparently, Emacs and even read email and rss feeds, and perhaps browse web pages? I don’t know! I will have to keep reading, plus I took a LisP course in college, so can make use of that knowledge. Interestingly, nowadays both editors have begun becoming more like the other, and today’s modern systems make both load rapidly. I enjoy knowing both. I have always dreamed of a consistent environment for doing everything and one which uses Mayan dates. Emacs might have this ability.

Back in Slack!

May 02, 2009

I write this from a barely configured system. I sincerely hope I don’t need to reinstall it, but we shall see. I wanted to document what happened, in case some other poor hacker had the same problem.

I wanted to install Slackware 12.2 on this newly rebuilt dual-core system. I hoped all would go well, but every machine has its own challenges. I got to the configuration part well enough, but it stopped displaying anything after it told me that it had to run fc-cache to update my fonts. This happened in the FONTCONFIG dialog. I thought, “Great, something I don’t even care about, and it locked up.” I started poking around, and actually discovered that the fc-cache ran fine, and it had proceeded to the boot disk part of the installation. This took hunting around in the

/usr/lib/setup and /mnt/var/log/setup directories and in the processes, but I found it! Let me digress by saying that I love vim! Anyways, I discovered that for some reason, running `rescan-scsi-bus -l` locked it up. I still don’t know why. I ran

# chmod -x /mnt/var/log/setup/setup.80.make-bootdisk

and this fixed the problem. Actually, it didn’t fix the problem, it just skipped that part of the installation. I figure as long as I have the dvd I have a boot disk. Good enough. I just wanted to get this down. I hope it benefits someone. I’ll have more later. I need meditation and rest.

Moving to a New Machine

April 28, 2009

The time has finally come. I got my Windows computer redone with all new hardware. I thought I’d gradually get my other two Linux machines redone, and continue merrily along, but Goddess had other plans it seems. This Linux machine may have bad memory, or a bad CMOS battery, or some other evil problem, but it could crash at any keystroke. The other Linux machine, which handles all AuBroadcasting’s streaming and some other duties, has a long and weird history, too much to go into now. With all the talk of consolidation, downsizing, and the like, I have decided to consolidate everything onto one machine, and switch that over to Linux. The Windows machine, since it has reliable new hardware, makes the obvious choice, plus Windows “Repair” whacked it out so the TCP/IP stack works less than optimally. It can see other machines, but they can’t see it, so I would have to redo it anyway.

I always have had one Windows machine, considering it a necessary evil, so this represents a big step for me. Linux will become my primary OS, and I will try to get Windows running on a VM console so I can use the programs which require it, but this truly feels like stepping into my own, where the walk and the talk merge. I know in my heart Linux will provide what I need, but unfortunately some programs only work under Windows, and others use them, so I must as well, like many things in our world.

It really does feel like moving – packing up old things, checking all the nooks and crannies for forgotten long-lost items, and saying good bye to the things that enrage or comfort you, and finally and with a twinge of sadness shutting and locking the door for the final time, before surrendering the keys back to the universal void from whence they came.

This basically means that I will have a bunch of work ahead of me, and probably will go out of touch for a few days at the least. I will try to answer email, and read my twitter and facebook if I can, but I can’t promise anything, so apologize if anyone needs me. If you have my number, then call me if you need anything, or just want to check up, otherwise I’ll see you all on the other side.

Starting a Chess Course

April 10, 2009

I’ve wanted to become good at chess for a while. It seems like something I should do well in – I program, I meditate, I love music, all the traits one hears about in good chess players, but I always get my ass kicked by the computer. I heard that the Hadley School for the Blind offered a chess course. Initially, I wrote it off – I wouldn’t want to go to some lame blind institution just to take a chess course. While talking to another blind friend, she said: “It’s online!” It looked great – free, you get to go at your own pace, so I figured I’d give it a try.

I swore I would never go back to college. When I went to Widener, I called it the bane of my existence, and meant it. I’ll take this course, and see how it goes, and go from there – starting with something fun. They seem pretty cool, and today I got my materials for the beginner’s chess course, the first of two parts. The teacher sounded nice too.

Along with the book, which I will get to in a moment, it came with a booklet of raised diagrams, and a free chess board! Wow! I thought I’d firstly evaluate the board, since others have wondered. It has nice big squares, and a nice finish. It has a great vibe! Wood gives off a vibe. The pieces, however, either don’t fit in well, or fit in too well, and come flying out when taking out the peace. A pawwn, the Unknown Soldier, met this fate once already. It also doesn’t have a storage space for captured peaces, something other boards have.

Also unlike other boards, it has braille along all four sides. This actually makes sense, making it easier to identify coordinates whether playing white or black, where the coordinates become reversed. Weirdly, it uses dropped letters for numbers. In braille, the number sign denotes that the next letter represents a number. Nemeth, or math braille, uses dropped letters as numbers. It goes against the standard and messes with my head. The spacing feels off between the characters. An upside down number 1 looks like a dot-5-P, which means “Part” in grade ii braille. Oh well. I still appreciate the free board, and will try to use it and enjoy its nice feeling.

Now, on to the course materials, a book called Chess for Beginners. Unfortunately, they only offered the materials in braille or on cassette. I would have preferred an electronic text, but oh well. I chose cassette, since I can listen much faster than I can read braille. This, however, meant finding a working cassette player.

It seems so funny, everyone used to do everything on tape. As a kid, my mom got me the hundred greatest books on tape. “I thought you’d appreciate them when you got older, but now….. do you even use cassettes?” she asked. All my tape recorders have long since stopped working, or at least don’t work like they used to.

I found one, a Handy Cassette, a great recorder for the blind. I plugged it in, and it released the Magic Smoke. For those who don’t know, the joke goes that electronics run on magic smoke – when the smoke comes out, the device stops working. It freaked me out hard. My girlfriend had to help me out. I still feel hypersensitive. Don’t laugh! I’ve always feared exploding batteries. People have gotten killed from them! A friend will lend me a tape recorder, and I will get a free one from the Library for the Blind, so it should work out. I’ll let you know.

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