Wednesday, February 28, 2018

Beginner Baker

For the past year or so I've been slowly learning how to bake. My first step was making breakfast waffles from a box mix. I was whisking water, eggs, waffle mix and some oil. It was easy and satisfying, and it got me into the kitchen, but it was only the mechanics of baking.

My next step in proper baking was making simple breads. I progressed to the stand mixer, and learned to work with yeast, dough and the oven. My wife, an expert baker, let me flail about in the kitchen, forcing me to trust the recipes. When things felt ambiguous, I called her over for consulting.

I then learned how to make basic pies: key lime pie, chocolate cream pie, and pumpkin pie. More skills are brought to bear, but overall baking is about multitasking. While the crust is baking, the filling can be prepared, or vice versa. Even two or three things are a lot to juggle as a beginner.

I wish I had started baking earlier. Learning to bake has given me a deeper appreciation of my wife's cooking abilities. She has an immense amount of cooking and baking experience, and she applies it every day. I'm now glad I can help with dessert.

Wednesday, January 31, 2018

My 2017 Books and Movies

In 2017, I finished 26 books (see my profile on Goodreads).

I finished some terrific books, including Chaos Monkeys (Antonio García Martínez), The Underground Railroad (Colson Whitehead) and What Happened (Hillary Clinton).

My favorite non-fiction book read in 2017 was Héctor Tobar's Deep Down Dark, the accounting of the 33 Chilean miners who got trapped in a deep mine. Tobar moves easily between the work underground and the work above-ground to get everyone out safely. He heightens what is a simple rescue mission story into a moving meditation on work, love, faith, and hope.

My favorite fiction book read in 2017 was 4 3 2 1, by Paul Auster. Like A Tree Grows in Brooklyn, it's a coming of age book, but in Auster's hands it's a literary magic trick. The novel watches the growth of a boy into a young man, but Auster examines this life four ways, each life affected by different events and choices. Superb!

I watched 39 movies (see the list on my IMDb). My favorite from last year was Blade Runner 2049, a sequel that perfectly complements the first Blade Runner (released in 1982). The ideas, the cinematography, and the story are just perfect. I also liked and highly recommend Baby Driver (2017) and True Grit (2010).

Sunday, December 31, 2017

Review: A Tree Grows in Brooklyn

I opined to my wife that it would be impossible to pick a favorite fiction book, because there are so many genres and so many great works. She disagreed. "I have an all-time favorite novel: A Tree Grows in Brooklyn". I was surprised at her certainty and set out to read the book.

Francie Nolan is the main character of this novel that takes place in the years before the US entered  World War I. Francie is 11 years old when the book opens, and her precocious observations and sharp insights about Brooklyn and its people propel the book. She is both nostalgic and unsympathetic. As she grows older and sees more how the world works, she matures before your eyes. She is 16 at the end of the book, and you realize you've grown up with her.

The book is populated with her first-generation American family: a hard working mother, a lovable lout of a father, and a rambunctious younger brother. She has two aunts that add a lot of zest in her life. Everyone is poor in her part of Brooklyn, yet she has rich experiences because of her keen eye and imagination. So many vivid scenes from this book: her grandmother getting swindled out of her savings, her father's constant singing, getting vaccinated for school, the time she and her brother caught a large Christmas tree for the holidays.

The book brims with universal emotion and experiences. She feels loneliness as she longs for someone to understand her. She rebels against her mother as she starts to spread her wings. She takes bold steps to further herself and her family and you cheer. There is deceit and heartbreak, humor and truth, life and death.

"I'm in awe of this book," I told my wife, when I finished. It's a book about "what it means to be human", writes Anna Quindlen in the introduction of my edition. By the end, I could only wipe away my tears and agree.

Thursday, November 30, 2017

Root Canal: Part 2

The endodontist performed the root canal last month.

The procedure took about an hour and a half. The hardest part was receiving the first Novocaine injection. But after that sharp pinch, the right side of my face (the side with tooth number 29) began to disappear. I settled in as the doctor and her assistant started their work.

The sounds of drilling reminded me of road construction crews. I felt occasional sprays of water on my chin. At various points the doctor wore magnifying eye-gear. A few X-rays were taken. At no point did I feel any pain. Towards the end, the odor of incense filled my nose, as she announced she would add gutta-percha into the emptied canal.

My wife said the procedure would feel miraculous. It did. After a few hours of feeling tentative, I soon realized that chewing and cold drinks didn't induce any reaction. My mouth now feels completely normal. A few days later, my regular dentist put in a permanent filling in tooth number 29 to close the hole made by the root canal.

My first root canal removed my pain and kept my tooth whole. That's a good outcome!

Saturday, October 28, 2017

Root Canal: A Brief Post About Pain

Two weeks before my root canal, the pain underneath tooth number 29 ratcheted up. Big time.

I woke up at 4AM, my lower jaw throbbing with a crushing pain. It felt like my jaw was being squeezed by a vice. My big mistake was not reaching for some tylenol or ibuprofen right then and there. I decided to go back to sleep, but I was unable to get comfortable. I had a fitful few hours before I got up. I had some ibuprofen with my morning coffee.

"See if you can move your appointment up," my wife suggested. I demurred. The ibuprofen had made the pain manageable. But when I got to work, it was clear the pain wasn't going away. I see-sawed between pain levels 4 and 8, and I started a regimen of ibuprofen every four hours. I moved up my appointment by a week. (I'd later try to get an even earlier appointment, but I'd have to wait.)

The pain remained constant. Some hours it was almost forgettable, but other hours it was front and center. I inserted tylenol into my regimen, two hours after my ibuprofen dose. And in between, as needed, I swabbed tooth number 29 with Orajel. All of this dulled the pain, and allowed me to sleep better. And when I did, I dreamed about the root canal.

Saturday, September 30, 2017

Root Canal: Part 1

I have to have a root canal. My first one!

For the past month or month and half I have experienced a sharp stinging sensation in one of my lower teeth whenever I have my first sip of a cold drink. The sensation fades away after a few seconds, and at first I thought I had a loose crown. But then three weeks ago it started to feel painful chewing on that side of mouth.

My wife is well experienced with root canals. When I described my pain, she said I should make an appointment with the endodontist that she used. (An endodontist is a dentist with a specialization in treating the inside of a tooth, usually with root canal therapy.)

"Don't wait until the pain becomes unbearable," she said. This was good advice, since the pain didn't go away following my typical self-prescription of "wait and see."

I made my appointment with some trepidation. My wife said that they would try to induce the symptom by testing the affected tooth with a cold liquid. I wasn't looking forward to that!

The doctor indeed performed a cold test, but she applied the cold liquid to an instrument, and touched that to my tooth. She then had me raise my hand to indicate the sensitivity rising and subsiding. She also took a small mallet and rapped a few of my teeth, with me again indicating when I felt the sting.

After looking at some x-rays, she laid it out. My problem tooth was number 29. It has 1) symptomatic irreversible pulpitis and 2) symptomatic apical periodontitis. Bottom line: pulp in my tooth has to be removed to relieve the pain. This is done by a root canal procedure. That happens in two weeks, after which I'll write Part 2 (the procedure and aftermath).

Thursday, August 31, 2017

Now Now Now

Derek Sivers is always getting asked "what are you doing now?" On October 21, 2015, he announced to his mailing list that he made a web page describing what he was focused on at the moment. A programmer, Gregory Brown, decided to make a similar web page, and a movement was started.

For the past month, here's what I have been focused on:
  1. Trying to finish I Couldn't Keep It To A Tweet.
  2. Finishing a side-gig job.
  3. Reading "4 3 2 1" by Paul Auster.
Item 1 is the big item though! What are you focused on now?