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...and I guess it's working, insofar as it persuaded me to login for the first time in ages to receive my bribe.

Shifting the Goalposts

New NaNo Goal: 50,000 words total on main project by end of month.  If 50k isn't enough for a full draft (as seems a genuine risk), then I will at least have assembled what I've got into chrono order and outlined the missing bits.

Seems doable.

Suddenly, an update:

Hello there, internets.  It has been a while.  Some updates, kind of in order.

Yes, I finished my degree.  No, I am not likely to post the last semester's installment of final exams drama.  Respectable grades all 'round, in the end, and a completed thesis, but it was sufficiently horrible that I just won't go there.  If ever it becomes mellowed by age, such that it's hilarious in retrospect, then maybe.  But not now.

I missed Yuletide noms.  Then I missed Yuletide reg, by less than an hour.  Oh well.

This month, I must kick my ongoing job search into the highest of gears.  I must also finish knitting a cardigan for the Sibling Critter by Christmas.  For these reasons, I have just signed up for NaNoWriMo.

...No, that doesn't make sense to me, either.

I've actually already got ~24,000 words of my main project written.  My goal for November is to write an additional 50,000 words and complete a full draft of the story.

This will be interesting.

Further Adventures in Bread Baking

As predicted by the internets, my beer starter remained an unprepossessing, sour-smelling slurry all week.  It did eventually develop some bubbles, but not very impressive ones.  Nevertheless, yesterday morning I mixed up some dough using the following:

1 cup starter
1 cup water, warmed in the microwave
2 tsp salt
2 Tbsp olive oil
Sufficient whole wheat flour to hold together a dough
4 tsp vital wheat gluten

I left this in an oiled bowl under a damp tea towel all day, and kneaded perhaps another cup of flour into it when I got home from the lab, all-purpose white this time.  Then I abandoned it again and went to visit the Boy, leaving it to sit in its bowl and think real hard about rising.  Apparently it didn't, though, because when I came home this evening, it was only very slightly embiggened.

Having lost patience, I heated the oven up to 420 F (215ish C), plopped the recalcitrant dough into an oily baking pan, slashed the top of it, and baked it for 45 minutes.  It did rise a bit in the oven, but not much.

But oh, it is tasty and it is nice.  It's fine-grained and dense and has a nice tang to it.  I am eating it, still slightly warm, with cranberry-tangerine conserve and very sharp cheddar, and it is delicious.  Entertainingly, something about this combination of flavors is reminiscent of hops; the plain bread does not taste of them at all.

Meanwhile, the starter, which got fed 1/2 cup whole-wheat flour and perhaps 2/3 cup water when I started the dough, did noticeably better, and was nicely bubbly when I checked it this evening.  Encouraged, I have mixed up a second batch of dough and fed the starter again; having been in proximity to the oven vents, it is already bubbling away and smelling much sweeter (i.e. less like sour beer).  The new batch of dough is doing its thing on the countertop, and I'm already looking forward to it.

Happy New Year, internets.


New Year's Bread Baking

Every year since I was tiny, my family has baked bread on New Year's Eve.  In earlier years, we used the baguette recipe from the Preschool Power video series, which often turned out dense and chewy and typically tasted overwhelmingly of Fleischmann's active dry yeast.  Bleh.  After acquiring the River Cottage Family Cookbook, we started using the white bread recipe found therein and never looked back.  Recent years' bakings have included wholemeal, fruit, nuts, olives, and other tasty variations.

This has been my first New Year's not spent at home with family; I returned to school shortly after Xmas, and spent First Night with the Boy instead.  Fun times were most certainly had: we went skiing in the morning, then went out on the town for drinks and a surprisingly excellent concert by Prydein, and kissed at midnight with fireworks in the background.  All well and good.  But it just isn't a new year without bread.

Unfortunately, I forgot to buy yeast, but I had a bottle of Blue Moon (unfiltered wheat ale) in the fridge.  In the past, I've gotten good results from a starter which began life as ale lees; it took several feedings to really get the hang of eating flour rather than malt, but once it hit its stride, it made some tasty bread.  On the principle that yeast is yeast, on January 1st I poured it out into a pyrex dish, making sure to get all the sediment out of the bottom of the bottle, and added flour until it had the gloppy (that's a technical term) consistency of a sourdough starter, then stirred in a teaspoon of white sugar to kick-start it.

After googling around a bit, I found a recipe page which suggests that I basically did it right (scroll 2/3 of the way down).  It looks like I can expect to wait a week or so before doing any actual baking, but I'm hopeful (willow willow waly).    Based on the instructions linked above, and on this thread, it looks like I'm on the right track.  It's going to look pretty sketchy and dead for a few days, but apparently that's normal for beer starters, and it should take off and behave more normally after its first feeding.  We shall see.

Edited to add links.  Oops.


Systems: B+

Manufacturing: A-

Biomaterials: A+

Statistics: A-

Capstone Design: B+

Machining: A

So there's that.

Did adequately, if not precisely well, on Systems exam.  Manufacturing was a miserable slog through seventy short-answer questions in a row, but was tedious rather than difficult.

After nonstop brain work 0730 - 1600, went for Mexican food with the Boy because enough is e-fucking-nough.  Went to rapper practice, then went home and made slides for Biomaterials.


Biomaterials went very well- full marks for both the presentation and the paper, and a confirmed A+ for the course.  Statistics was easier than expected, and I feel good about my performance on it.

Aside from the fact that the difficult bits of it came off perfectly fine, most of the rest of Tuesday blew goats, starting with the bit at the beginning in which I didn't sleep properly and had to scrape myself out of bed at 0830 ill-rested and cross.  Studied Stats for three hours, revised slides for another hour, went to Biomaterials all keyed-up and panicky and desperate to get it out of the way so I could finish up my Stats revision...

...and waited in the hall for forty minutes, because we were all locked out of the classroom, and then waited another forty minutes while other people presented.  After presentations finished up, spent my last hour before Stats frantically reviewing my notes.

Finished Stats exam at 1815, leaving just enough time for me to go home and change, then turn right 'round and go to longsword training.  Which is exactly what I did, because I had earned it.

Know what's super therapeutic?  Hitting people with fifty inches of steel, that's what.  Also, hot baths, one of which I had afterward.

Edited to fix italics.

Oh, my state of mind is frightful...

...but the weather outside's delightful.  I may still be chipping away at my studying at ten past midnight on my first day of exams, but the Finals Week Snow is right on schedule, falling in fluffy white flakes after two weeks of unseasonably high temperatures.  In addition to being downright picturesque and a general balm to my soul, this bodes well for opening day at Bolton (this coming Saturday, postponed from yesterday due to insufficient snowfall).
So I had just gotten home and settled on the couch, when there came a sudden flash and a crackle just outside the window.  Looking out into the parking lot, I saw some clever young thing holding a lit firework tube in his hand while it launched various flashbangs and other incendiaries into the air.  He then lobbed the spent firework at someone's car and ran away... into the parking garage, which has even better CCTV coverage than the parking lot does.

I expect we'll be getting email from the management about this.

Sponsor Liaison is liaised-with, and Preliminary Design Report is in.  System Dynamics project is well underway, and I'm going to do some more work on it later.  It's a nice change to be working with a partner who actually gets shit done, although our third member doesn't seem to have improved much since the Freshman year design project we did together, lo these many years ago.

Tentative Schedule:

Saturday 12/8:

     Study Systems
     Study Manufacturing, and prepare equation sheet (1 x 8.5" x 11" sheet of paper, double-sided)
     Safety documentation for design project
     Extra-credit assignment for manufacturing
     First-pass review for Statistics
     Additional work on Systems project as necessary

Sunday 12/9:

     Study Statistics, and prepare equation sheets (3 x 8.5" x 11" sheets of paper, double-sided)
     Prepare and rehearse slides for Biomaterials
     Attend Statistics review session
     Review Systems material
     Review Manufacturing material
     Final revision of Systems project

Monday 12/10:

     Take Systems exam, and turn in project
     Take Manufacturing exam, and turn in extra-credit assignment
     Review Statistics
     Rehearse Biomaterials presentation

Tuesday 12/11:

     Biomaterials presentation
     Take Statistics exam
     Outline and draft progress report for thesis

Wednesday 12/12:

     Rewrite and polish progress report for thesis
     Send finished report to committee
     Study for Capstone Design Seminar exam

Thursday 12/13:

     Take Capstone exam
     Committee meeting

Friday 12/14:


Is it Friday yet?



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