Author: Lisa

2020 Maple Syrup

Our taps are drying up — some of them were drilled on 03 February. The weather is getting warm; a few trees have leafed out. Our maple season is coming to a close. We’ve got five gallons of maple syrup canned:

18 Feb 2020 — 1st batch — ~3/4 gallon, a little scorched and used for cooking instead of canned
25 Feb 2020 — 2nd batch — 6 pints
10 Mar 2020 — 3rd batch — 24 pints
26 Mar 2020 — 4th batch — 10 pints


Potato Powered

I came up with a bunch of science experiments for Anya’s covid not-a-break. Some are really straight-forward, some are open-ended design challenges, and some are pretty tricky. I thought the potato powered LED experiment was straight-forward. A list of materials, step-by-step instructions, and a clear visual product. Except … one potato generated like 0.8 volts. Cut the potato in half, get some extra clips, and we’re up to 1.6 volts.

I’d read about a research project where energy production was increased by using a boiled potato … I needed to make lunch anyway, so I boiled a bit of potato. I also microwaved another bit of the potato — so we’ve got two raw quarters, a boiled quarter, and a microwaved quarter. All four produced about 0.8 volts. Reading the article, it looks like Wh capacity is what is increasing … not output voltage. Connecting all four quarters (plus finding more pennies, nails, and clips) produced enough power to light up our LED. Now we’re seeing how long the potato-powered LED lasts. From 3PM on 24 March 2020 until …

Excel – Including Current Date In String

Here’s a trick to include the current date in an Excel string — especially useful if you want to include the current date on a graph without having to actually type the current date each time. If you just include TODAY(), you get the integer representation. Wrap TODAY() in TEXT() and supply the formatting you want (“yyyy-mm-dd” in my example). Voila, a date like 2020-03-22 instead of 43912.

SARS COV-2 Visualizations

I see charts of the cumulative number of infections (‘the curve’) and the number of tests administered … but comparing the daily number of tests to the cumulative number of infections is not particularly meaningful beyond seeing that the increase in infections is still rather exponential.

A better visualization compares the cumulative tests to the cumulative infections (or, for less staggering numbers, the daily tests administered and the daily number of new infections identified). No, it doesn’t appear that ‘the curve’ is flattening. I’m curious to see, however, the impact of multiple states going into lock-down has in a week or two.

Looking at a number of infections, especially compared across the globe, provides a bit of a distorted view. Comparing countries by the percent of the population that’s been identified as infected instead of the raw number of identified infections avoids the appearance that small countries are less impacted (and that highly populated countries are disproportionately impacted).

News and Falsehoods

Even without watching the live mid-day briefings (which we do watch), I’m amazed at how much disinformation makes it to the edited evening newscast. Trump’s got a good feeling about some drug that didn’t have production scaled up for a bunch of “wtf, it cannot get worse” off-label use. Or, hell, his seeming claim to have legalized off-label use because it’s the only way we’re going to address the current health crisis.
Before this outbreak, it infuriated me to tune into the evening news and hear “Trump said X” when X was verifiably untrue. Sure, ‘Trump said the untrue thing’ was accurate … but without clarifying the veracity of Trump’s statement … saying “Trump said X” comes across as “X” to a whole lot of people. Hasn’t changed just because it’s more dangerous to say “Trump says chloroquine / hydroxychloroquine is a game-changer and is totally safe”. If nothing else, were I writing copy, I’d delve a little into the difference between the two drugs. Hydroxy- is a less toxic derivative … which doesn’t at all sound like “totally safe, slam some and see if it works” to me.

Low Yeast, Long Rise Bread

There’s been a run on yeast. Well, there’s been a run on a lot of things. But most things have viable alternatives. No broccoli, get some carrots. No tomato sauce, get diced tomatoes and use a blender. While there are unleavened breads, and breads leavened with baking soda … it’s not yeast bread. I’ve found some recipes using brewing yeast for bread, but I wanted to see how little baking yeast would make bread. Last night’s pizza dough used a quarter teaspoon of yeast. I took a cup of warm water, added about a tablespoon of sugar, and a quarter teaspoon of yeast. That sat until there was activity. Mixed together three cups of whole wheat flour, one cup of white flour, a few tablespoons of vital wheat gluten, and a teaspoon of salt. Added the water/yeast, then added enough water to make a dough. The dough sat overnight to rise. I gently deflated it in the morning, then left it to raise again. Gently deflated it around lunch time, and left it alone until dinner time. Very good crust — great flavor, nice crunchy crust to it. And beautifully leavened.