I tried the coffee nap, and the coffee nap won

Last week, I read this article that said “Scientists Agree: Coffee naps are better than coffee or naps alone.” At first I thought we’d again seen a new branch in the “two great tastes that should never, ever go together” vein, like Peanut Butter Bacon Cookies or Chris Martin dating Jennifer Lawrence (ok, tastes may vary). But, no:

But here’s the trick of the coffee nap: sleeping naturally clears adenosine from the brain. If you nap for longer than 15 or 20 minutes, your brain is more likely to enter deeper stages of sleep that take some time to recover from. But shorter naps generally don’t lead to this so-called “sleep inertia” — and it takes around 20 minutes for the caffeine to get through your gastrointestinal tract and bloodstream anyway.

So if you nap for those 20 minutes, you’ll reduce your levels of adenosine just in time for the caffeine to kick in. The caffeine will have less adenosine to compete with, and will thereby be even more effective in making you alert.

Today, because my kid went down for a nap two hours earlier than usual (and also because she woke up three hours earlier than usual), I had not only the time for a coffee nap, I had the incentive — because she’s going to be all rested and rarin’ to go and “let’s play train-dinosaur-mall-tea party!” this afternoon. I, usually, will be like, “Let’s play couch.” Maybe the coffee nap could help.

So, I brewed some coffee. There’s a whole story here because there always is. See, I just got back from a seven-week vacation/work crew tour of the Midwest and South, and I think before I left, I also brewed a pot of coffee. And then I left. For seven weeks. The coffee pot I came back to had stuff crawling up the sides and out the top. I took some of it outside to the kiddie pool and threw it in and guess what? It wasn’t a witch, so that’s a relief. Because some of my two readers may drink coffee at my home in the future, I’m going to leave you in suspense as to whether I just burned the pot on the driveway and bought a new one or whether I cleaned it thoroughly with The Internet’s Best Friend (vineagar) and then used it again.

Coffee thus brewed, I read the instructions carefully about how I’d need to drink quickly. This was hot, strong coffee, so I added the one thing in my fridge guaranteed to make anything go down much more quickly: heavy cream. I drank the coffee as I walked back to the bedroom, kicking off my shoes as I drank for maximum nap efficiency. Coffee thus consumed, I set a timer for 20:30 and went into a half-daze nap.

The result?

At the end of twenty minutes, I woke up — and actually woke up. I didn’t have that awful post-nap muzzy feeling like usual, and I didn’t want to kill my phone alarm or its makers. I just got up, got my coffee cup, and went back to the kitchen for a refill. And then I wrote this. It’s possible that this reprogrammed my brain to function only on coffee (with heavy cream). I think maybe I don’t need water anymore. Or air. Or a job. This is the best nap stuff ever. I feel absolutely ready to take a five-question quiz, play a memory game, or spend a few productive hours playing Tower Defense.

Thanks, Internet.

(cross-posted to AllTheFussy.com, as I’ll probably do with most things baby-related).

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The problem with Ebola stories

It seems like most of the Ebola stories I’ve read recently have begun with some variation upon, “The Ebola strain that has now killed hundreds of Africans has now sickened several Americans so we should really start taking it seriously.”

Because clearly only once an illness affects Westerners, that’s the best sign that this is something we should all worry about. Like The Hot Zone.

Sigh.

Examples:

The Washington Post

USA Today

FOX News

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Just when I’m done with Keith Olbermann…

… he proves why I liked him in the first place. “Keith Olbermann Wonders Why the NFL Doesn’t Think Women Are Worthy of ‘Basic Human Respect'”

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But, life, what if you don’t like lemonade?

So, it’s been a rough six weeks here. There have been professional setbacks/layoffs. There has been a family emergency and some necessary, open-ended rescheduling of two major trips to which we were all looking forward.

Also, I’ve been working. This was going to be an easy term because 2 of my scheduled classes were canceled. I kept thinking this was going to be so easy, but now, I realize, I can say this term was hard. I taught 4 classes in three different subjects (English-Poetry, Writing-Comp, and Study Skills) on three different campuses in three different towns for two different schools. I traveled two days a week and taught my first night class since my daughter was born. I kept telling myself I wasn’t that busy, but you know what? Screw that, I was busy. I also made about 80 percent of the meals we ate at home, participated in two readings (with different work each time), and, oh yeah, I have an almost two-year-old girl at home who has never been to daycare and spent a sum total of 10 hours out of the presence of either parent in the last there months.

Anyway. So I was busy, and I was stressed out, and I kept feeling bad for being stressed out because this was going to be an easy term. Great combination.

Now, there are two things I do when I’m stressed out, and as to the first, I baked many, many things and ate many, many of these things. The second thing I do? I write.

So today, one month and one day after starting this new project inspired from all of that old writing, I hit my goal. You know why? Because it’s been a bad month. I don’t know that this is, yet, a good novel, but it’s nearly done, and I’m actually happy about that.

Screenshot 2014 06 21 15 55 43

Posted in jobs, writing | 3 Comments

500,000 Found Words

This week, I found roughly 500,000 lost words that I wrote over a 6 year period.

Backstory: In 2007-2008, I had two catastrophic computer crashes on two separate machines. Shortly before my thesis was due to my adviser, my iBook had a catastrophic crash. I had it programmed for automatic back-ups, so I didn’t lose anything, but the restore process left most of my files scattered over multiple .zip files, and I didn’t have time to untangle things then. (If you don’t speak computer: A zip file is like one of those space-aged storage bags, the ones where you stack up all of your winter sweaters and then suck out all of the air so it compresses. It’s great for saving room; it’s less great, sometimes, when you just want the one sweater in the middle of the bag). The next year, I bought a new computer (a MacBook) when that computer’s case cracked, and I transferred everything over in another big .zip hunk.

Then, two years after that, my new MacBook was stolen. Again, automatic backups saved me, and I didn’t lose anything, but now I had a .zip restore of .zip transfers of .zip backups. (Translation: A Space Bag holding another Space Bag holding another Space Bag, in which all of my files were sealed into individual Ziplocs). I restored everything to a temporary computer, an iMac. When I moved to yet another new computer, I left most of these files sitting on my old iMac because they looked like big piles of crap. The new computer was lean, clean, a fresh start.

About two weeks ago, we resurrected the old iMac for use in the kitchen. When I was searching for something completely unrelated (barbecue tools), I came upon a cache of these old files. Everything I wrote between, say, 2001 and 2008 is sitting on this computer, zipped into neat little packages.  It was the work of about an hour to get everything unpacked and uploaded to Dropbox and backed up to Mozy.com once again.

And now I’m digging through things. It’s — awesome. I don’t mean the quality. I mean the finding. I haven’t seen some of these stories in years; I don’t remember even writing some of them. There’s enough time separating me from most of the work that I’m not even (too) embarrassed by it. I found roughly 500,000 old words of mine this week, and they all make me want to write many, many more new ones. It’s the best unpacking I’ve done in years.

Posted in tech, writing | Tagged , | 2 Comments

Would You Have a Beer with Chris Christie?

All of this talk about Gov. Chris Christie misses the point — and the point isn’t what he weighs, how much he won by in New Jersey, how cooperative he was, or how mean he can be. The point is that he can’t win. The last three Republicans to win national office have done so on a “nicer than the other guy” character platform that has created the modern entanglement that we consider a Compassionate Conservative. Ronald Reagan was folksy, a silver-screen cowboy with a sharp wit; George H. W. Bush, even in his first run, appeared kindly and competent; George W. Bush ran on the written-about “would you have a beer with him?” platform of good times in bygone days.

Would you have a beer with Chris Christie?

For much of the middle of the country — and for their majorities that bleed and vote red every year — the answer seems like an obvious no. Christie has a resume that reads like the greatest hits of the Midwestern inferiority complex soundtrack. Governor of a tiny East Coast state? Check. Accent like something off of television? Check. Blunt? Yup. Well-versed in urban politics? Uh-uh. Outsized personality from a teeny-tiny spec on the map? And on and on.

Of course there’s going to be work done to blunt these effects. Christie’s new chairmanship of the Republican Governor’s Association will help. He may not be a friendly face, but he can be a familiar one in many of the on-the-border reddish rust-belt states. Maybe his

Look, Mitt Romney collected the usual run of red states because that’s what red states do. However, I think it goes beyond the evidence to say that Romney earned their enthusiastic support. Throwing an East Coast governor at the middle states again is going to cause some dissent in the ranks — maybe enough to get a noisy Rand Paul candidacy noticed at the Iowa State Fair.

So far, it’s hard to picture Christie in comfortable campaign mode in the warm western states. The first time he puts on a pair of cowboy boots or gets snuck into a sweaty high school gym and propped up in front of carefully selected folks in overalls, he’s going to look every bit like the Garden State candidate.

I say this knowing full well that the Democrats’ best chance candidate has exactly the same problems — but no one expects Hillary to win Kansas.

Photo Credit: Beer by HeadCRasher on Flickr via CC By-NC-SA)

Posted in current events, politics | Tagged , , , , | 1 Comment

No knead green olive baguettes

image

This weekend I discovered that you can grind your own whole wheat flour at our grocery store. Combine that with last weekend’s discovery off the tastiness of these vegan no-knead baguettes and you can imagine how strangely yeasty and righteous my kitchen is this morning.

I’ve been reading the newest Michael Pollan book, Cooked, and the newest Mark Bittman book, Vegan before 6, and I just got the newest Martha Stewart cookbook (Martha’s American Food) for mother’s day, so it’s shaping up to be a fascinating food summer around here.

Posted in food | 3 Comments

Another site change. Sorry, folks

OK, last move ever, I hope. Please update your bookmarks and RSS feeders and whatnots: This entire show has moved to just plain old Kepkanation.com. Same WordPress taste, fewer WordPress restrictions. Not that I really found WordPress that restrictive, but — it was time to own this place. The American Dream: Web site ownership.

I’ll be updating the links and all of that very shortly, so eventually, it’s going to look absolutely identical to here. Everything posted there still transfers to OpenSalon, too, so — there are just so many ways to read me.

There will be no new content here after this message. And eventually, I’ll erase it all together. All old posts have been imported to the new blog.

Huzzah.

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The newest entry in the eBook Martket: Kobo, from Borders

Borders is now taking pre-orders for the Kobo e-Reader, the newest entry into the eReader market. It’s just like every eReader you’ve admired so far — except this one costs only $149.

To reach that point, Kobo has cut (or changed) a few features. Unlike the Kindle, it doesn’t have 3G Wireless. Instead, you have to transfer books via good old-fashioned (ahem) USB cable or via bluetooth. It also has less storage (1GB) than the lowest priced Kindle (2GB).

That, however, is the end of the cons. The Kobo is 7″ tall and 4″ wide, slightly larger than a standard paperback, and weighs 8 ounces.

Comparison chart:

Name Size/Weight Storage Transfer Method Price Store
Kindle 10.3 oz./8″ x 5.3″ x 0.36″ 1,500 books/2GB 3G Wireless $259 Amazon
Nook 12.1 oz./7.7″ x 4.9″ x 0.5″ 1,500 books/2GB 3G Wireless $259 Barnes & Noble
Kobo 8 oz./7.2″ x 4.7″ x 0.4″ 750 books/1GB USB/Bluetooth $149 Borders
Sony 7.76 oz./6.25″ x 4.25″ x 0.4″ 350 books/.5 GB USB $149 Various

Like its closest competitors (the Kindle, the Nook) the Kobo uses e-Ink technology to display books in black-and-white. It’s white (like the Kindle and the Nook — catch on, folks, even Apple isn’t making little white gadgets anymore) and it holds hundreds of books without blinking. It has days and days of battery life.

Unlike the Kindle and the Nook, the Kobo is an eReader and an eReader only. It doesn’t promise wifi access, games, or quick updates of blogs and newspapers. It is a portable electronic book reader. No more, no less.

I’m in favor. The additional features of the Kindle and Nook have never called to me — in part because I already have a laptop and a Smartphone, neither of which I’m looking to replace, particularly with an interface as clunky as those. What I am tempted by is the possibility of having an easy-to-read, easy-to-tote electronic reader, for less than an arm and a leg (just an arm, I guess, is my price point on this one). I know it’s strange to crave single-purpose devices, but in this case, I see the logic. Sometimes, you just want to read.

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Tuesday Night Food: Tuna Pasta for A Vegetarian

I’m a vegetarian. I’ve been a vegetarian for something like 6 years now. Every once-in-a-while, though, I fall off the vegetarian wagon and onto a fish sandwich. It turns out, fried halibut isn’t such a bad place to land. Sure, you get a little greasy, but you also get an excuse to eat tartar sauce. Sometimes, as I gaze down from the veggie wagon at the Land of Meat, I think that perhaps these tiny adventures into Fried Fishyville mean I’m perhaps ready to take bigger strides back into the meat world: Strides like canned tuna.

Last week, when I was bemoaning my lack of The Silver Spoon Pasta (TSSP) cookbook, I asked the Internet for help — and I found what seems to be a now-dunct blog about someone who (like me) had a romance with The Silver Spoon, but who (unlike me) also owned the book at the time the romance began. She had made Spaghetti con il Tonno (Spaghetti with Tuna), and it looked delicious. Go ahead. Look at her blog. Look at those luscious photos, that creamy, dreamy sauce, that beautiful green LeCreuset tea pot, and tell me you aren’t filled with dinner envy.

I knew I had to have it: the recipe (with tuna!), not the tea pot, since one of these things requires about $5 and the other would require me to give more blood than is physically possible. Besides, who wants my wimpy vegetarian blood, anyway?

So I went to the store and found the most earth-friendly tuna imaginable, because there’s been an ongoing discussion at my house about the poor, endangered tuna recently. It goes like this:

Me: I heard on NPR that bluefin tuna are going extinct!
Boyfriend: What! Oh no!
Me: It’s true!
Boyfriend: But they’re so tasty!

The tuna I selected was packed in water that was probably actually the tears of angels, cradling it in un-salted comfort, after its death of old age at the happiness ranch in the middle of the least polluted part of the sea. It still cost only $2. Everything in oil was more expensive (can I blame the Gulf for this?). Anyway, tuna in hand, it was time to cook.

Spaghetti con il Tunno
(from The Silver Spoon Pasta):

3 T Olive Oil
1 clove garlic, minced
3 T Tomato Paste (yep, the stuff in the teeny little can)
2.5 oz. tuna packed in oil, flaked
12 oz. spaghetti
salt, pepper, parsley.

Heat the oil in a pan. Add the garlic and cook for 2-3 minutes, until lightly browned. Add tomato paste and about 1-2T of water and stir. Add tuna.

While all that’s happening, cook the pasta to al dente. Drain. Add pasta to skillet with tomato sauce; toss; eat.

Well, so that’s what they said to do. While I generally believe TSSP can do no wrong, I had this whole can of tuna — 8 full tuna-y ounces. Using only a fourth of it seemed wrong. It seemed wasteful. And it seemed very likely to make my entire fridge smell like tuna.

I dumped it all in. To make up for this, I added a full pound of pasta — what the hell, in for a penny — and the entire can of tomato paste. I didn’t have parsley, so I chopped up some fresh, spicy oregano that I’ve got growing by the window, shaded by a stack of unopened mail. The whole sauce took, maybe, 20 minutes to put together from start to end, including pasta cooking time.

The end result was a definitely tuna pasta. It was, in fact, too much tuna for me. A childhood of Tuna Casserole suddenly paraded through my mind; I kept expecting to find a cubed boiled egg in the plate, or a dash of non-fat mayonaisse. The tomato sauce was surprisingly good (god bless that oregano), but I couldn’t get over the tuna. It was — predictably — everywhere.

Boyfriend, however, loved it. He ate it with relish (not literally — no tartar sauce here), as though that tuna might be his last. He added some parmsan and some salt and had it for dinner last night and tonight; there’s still enough for a substantial meal tomorrow, too.

For me, it will be the last tuna, for a while. I’ve at least answered this question successfully: tuna is not at all a soft place to land, even when it’s endorsed by The Silver Spoon.

Posted in food | 4 Comments