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16 May 2016

LUEE Episode 108: Cryptozoology & Mythical Creatures

In this episode of Life, the Universe & Everything Else, Gem hunts cryptids with Laura, Ashlyn, and Lauren. Also on this episode: dubious advice, bad jokes, worse segues, and one very annoying pronunciation of the word "cryptozoology"!

Life, the Universe & Everything Else is a program promoting secular humanism and scientific skepticism that is produced by the Winnipeg Skeptics.

Links: Cryptozoology (Wikipedia) | List of cryptids (Wikipedia) | Modern Folklore, by Robert B. Durham (Google Books) | Thylacine (Wikipedia) | Maltese tiger (Wikipedia) | Mutant Big Cats | Loch Ness Monster (Wikipedia) | The Surgeon's Photo | Second Loch Ness monster video swimming in the Thames (Daily Mail Online) | Patterson–Gimlin film (Wikipedia) | Mange (Wikipedia) | Tom Biscardi (Wikipedia) | "Finding Bigfoot" a Howler (Center for Inquiry) | Kting voar (Wikipedia) | Cambodia's Mystery, the Horns That Never Were (NYTimes.com) | Pseudonovibos spiralis (Artiodactyla: Bovidae): new information on this enigmatic South-east Asian ox (Wiley Online Library) | Debate on the authenticity of Pseudonovibos spiralis as a new species of wild bovid from Vietnam and Cambodia (Wiley Online Library) | Rod (optics) (Wikipedia) | Man-eating tree (Wikipedia) | Manchineel (Wikipedia) | Raskovnik (Wikipedia) | Silphium (Wikipedia) | Vegetable Lamb of Tartary (Wikipedia) | Barnacle goose (Wikipedia) | Jackalope (Wikipedia) | Wolpertinger (Wikipedia) | Skvader (Wikipedia) | The world's scariest rabbit lurks within the Smithsonian’s collection (Smithsonian Insider) | Shope papilloma virus (Wikipedia) | Tourist dies on search for Pope Lick monster

Correction: In this episode Gem mentioned that some crytpozoology enthusiasts claim that Lake Manitoba is home to the Winnipogo Monster. While it's true that some believe that a monster swims the depths of Lake Manitoba, cryptozoologists actually claim that there are (at least) two separate lake monsters in Manitoba (although some sources treat them interchangeably). Lake Manitoba's monster is of course the Manipogo, with the Winnipogo Monster apparently confined to Lake Winnipegosis.

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23 April 2016

Mario Maker: Jumpman

Occasionally I have time to make levels in Mario Maker.

Bookmark: 598D-0000-022A-FDA1
Style: New Super Mario Bros.
Quality: ★ ★ ★ ☆
Difficulty: 👿
Secrets: 👻 👻

A quick, fun level that's not too challenging (unless you try to beat it without touching the ground).

10 April 2016

LUEE Episode 107: Solving Homelessness

In this episode of Life, the Universe & Everything Else, Ashlyn, Lauren, Gem, and Laura discuss strategies aimed at ending homelessness with returning guest Brendan Curran-Johnson. This episode also features an interview with Greta Christina and Alex Gabriel discussing The Orbit, a new blog network focusing on atheism and social justice.

Life, the Universe & Everything Else is a program promoting secular humanism and scientific skepticism that is produced by the Winnipeg Skeptics.

Links: The Orbit: Atheism, Activism, Culture | Help Launch The Orbit (Kickstarter) | Trends & Issues in Affordable Housing & Homelessness (Federation of Canadian Municipalities) | Better Off in a Shelter? (University of Toronto Centre for Urban and Community Studies) | Poor Housing, edited by Josh Brandon and Jim Silver | Cheating Welfare, by Kaaryn S. Gustafson | Hobos to Street People, by Art Hazelwood | Hand to Mouth, by Linda Tirado | Why We're Shutting Off Our Comments (Popular Science) | Basic income (Wikipedia) | Guaranteed minimum income (Wikipedia) | Guaranteed Annual Income (CanadianSocialResearch.net) | Mincome (Wikipedia) | The Town with No Poverty (Evelyn Forget) | Welfare trap (Wikipedia) | Humans Need Not Apply (YouTube) | Silicon Valley's Unchecked Arrogance (The Development Set) | Pathways to Housing: Supported Housing for Street-Dwelling Homeless Individuals With Psychiatric Disabilities (Pathways to Housing) | Substance Use Outcomes Among Homeless Clients with Serious Mental Illness: Comparing Housing First with Treatment First Programs (Pathways to Housing) | A multi-site comparison of supported housing for chronically homeless adults: "Housing first" versus "residential treatment first" (Tsai, Mares, Rosenheck) | Housing First for Homeless Persons with Active Addiction: Are We Overreaching? (Kertesz et al) | Outcasts on Main Street: Report of the Federal Task Force on Homelessness (Google Books) | The Plan to End Homelessness (Medicine Hat Community Housing Society) | Housing First (The Homeless Hub) | Housing First (Wikipedia) | Misandry Angie

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14 March 2016

Happy Pi Day!

Despite being a τ supporter (albeit one who admits that π isn't going anywhere), I'm always up for any event that involves pie. To that end, below I present my wife's cranberry pie recipe, which is truly the greatest pie in the world. (It's also vegan, for those who care.)

I love pie. I am also lucky enough to be married to an excellent baker, who kindly makes me a pie for my birthday every year. But before we get to the recipe, I'm going to tell you about the first time she made me a cranberry pie.

Several years ago—probably almost a decade; it was before we were married, anyway—Laura asked me what kind of cake I wanted for my birthday. I replied that I'd much rather have a pie, which is in all cases superior to cake.

"Okay," she said. "What's your favourite kind of pie?"

"Cranberry," I replied instantly. Cranberry is the best berry, so naturally it makes the best pie.

"Cranberry pie? I've never heard of that. But I'm sure I can find a recipe."

And she did.

She cut me a slice, and I took my first bite, and let me tell you: it was delicious. She describes the taste as "kind of like Fruit Roll-Ups", which doesn't really do it justice, but I can't come up with a better description—so my suggestion is to just make the pie and try it for yourself. But I'm getting side-tracked.

Laura was looking at me expectantly. "How is it?" she asked.

"It is great," I said.

"Best cranberry pie you've ever had?"

I hesitated. "Yes," I finally replied.

"Well, is it better than any of the other cranberry pies you've tried?"

I took a deep breath. "Well, I haven't actually ever had a cranberry pie before."

Laura was distinctly unimpressed, and I can't really blame her. I'm lucky that she puts up with me. But in my defence, I was right: it really is my favourite kind of pie.

Happy π day!

Laura's Cranberry Pie

3 cups of cranberries
½ cup water
1¾ cups sugar*
5 tablespoons corn starch (or flour)
¼ tablespoon salt
½ teaspoon almond extract
1 double pie crust (see below)

* I actually only use 1½ cups of sugar myself, but I like my tarts tart.

Preheat oven to 425° (why are all of my recipes in Fahrenheit?). Halve each cranberry, then add them to the water in a saucepan and bring them to a boil. In a mixing bowl, sift together the sugar, starch, and salt. Decrease heat and add the dry ingredients slowly to the boiling cranberries and cook, stirring regularly, until it thickens. Remove from heat and stir in the almond extract.

Allow filling to cool completely. This is a good opportunity to make the crust.

Laura uses a pretty standard Crisco crust, but whenever I make a pie I use this recipe that I poached from Greta Christina a few years ago (though it's evolved a little along the way). Here's a link to the original.

Greta's Double Pie Crust

2½ cups unbleached all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons sugar
1¼ cup cold vegetable shortening
¼ cup cold water
¼ cup cold vodka (or lemon juice, if you don't have alcohol handy)

Sift the dry ingredients together. Cut the shortening into small pieces and add it to the flour. Using a pastry cutter, break the shortening into small pieces roughly the size of peas coated with flour. Combine the water and vodka and sprinkle over the flour mixture, enough to make the dough hold together and roll out without making it too sticky. Liquid measures in a pie crust recipe are always approximate, so you may need less, or perhaps more.

(Generally, it's best to work the dough as little as possible while still combining the ingredients. Don't overwork it, and use as few strokes as possible to roll it out. You don't want the fat to heat up; everything that can be cold, should be cold.)

Break the dough into two pieces (divided about two fifths and three fifths). Sprinkle flour onto your rolling surface, place the larger portion onto the surface, and sprinkle it with flour as well. Roll the dough out from the centre. Place it gently in the pie plate and flatten the edges over the lip. Prepare the second portion of the crust as above and set it aside; it will be used to top the pie.

Fill the pie as desired, then place the second crust over top. Pinch the crust together where the top and bottom overlap then trim the remainder along the edge of the pie plate.

Bake for 35–40 minutes.

LUEE Episode 106: Parapsychology

In this episode of Life, the Universe & Everything Else, Gem, Lauren, Ashlyn, and Laura discuss the Ganzfeld Experiments, the Global Consciousness Project, Rupert Sheldrake, Daryl Bem, and a psychic dog, and then we finally find out exactly how psychic the panel is with a game of Psychic Fact or Psychic Fiction!

Life, the Universe & Everything Else is a program promoting secular humanism and scientific skepticism that is produced by the Winnipeg Skeptics.

Links: Parapsychology (Wikipedia) | Ganzfeld experiment (Wikipedia) | Global Consciousness Project (Wikipedia) | Global Consciousness (The Skeptic's Dictionary) | Rupert Sheldrake (Wikipedia) | Scientific Heretic Rupert Sheldrake on Morphic Fields, Psychic Dogs and Other Mysteries (Scientific American Blog Network) | Why science needs to publish negative results (Elsevier) | Daryl Bem (Wikipedia) | Feeling the Future: Experimental Evidence for Anomalous Retroactive Influences on Cognition and Affect (Daryl Bem) | Back from the Future: Parapsychology and the Bem Affair (CSI) | How much is that doggy in the window? (Richard Wiseman) | Methods of divination (Wikipedia)

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