Monday, September 12, 2016

Generating menu ideas with a simple Excel spreadsheet

I have often found it difficult to plan menus for our house. So I thought I'd try randomly generating menus, and I'm excited about the results. We've been using this system for about 3 weeks, and here's what I've learned:

  • The most important thing here was to make a list of entrees that we actually cook at our house. That alone is a great resource for planning new menus.
    • "Aaron likes lists, and solving a problem with a new list makes him happy" isn't really anything new. But this is the first time I've tried to make a relatively comprehensive list of meals.
  • We're trying to plan our weeks more tightly. It's ok if we change the plan mid-week. But I'm finding it more useful than ever to have a plan for the whole week.
  • This is of some use in avoiding letting food we buy go bad before we cook it, but only if I stay on top of that issue.

I'm only talking about dinners here. I tried to find the lowest-tech way I could do this fast, and also something that would keep whatever data I generated in a common format. So, here's what I did:

  • Made a list of meal options in one column of an Excel spreadsheet
  • Inserted random numbers in the next column, using "=RAND()" in each cell.
  • SORT the list using the column of random numbers as the sort key.
The sort trick isn't my idea, I got it from searching on ideas for how to randomly sort rows in Excel. 
That's it. I made it slightly fancier by writing a macro to do the sort and tying that to a key combo, but really I didn't do that until I had it for a while. 

Each week I sort the list and then take the top 10 or so options and pick the actual ones I feel like making, freely throwing out stuff we ate recently or that sounds too involved for this week. 

At first I thought I would be generating a list of 5 or 10 items,but sorting the WHOLE list and then just taking the top few items works fine. If I hate most of the top choices, I can just go deeper in the list.

Wednesday, August 17, 2016

Could you use JavaScript to make links that both rickroll and provide the original link as well?

I was thinking that it ought to be possible to use JavaScript to create a link that takes you to a rickroll youtube page, but also provides the original desired link in some fashion. That is, you get rickrolled, but then the actual link you thought you were clicking on is available to you.

But, I'm not quite sure how to approach that, and I don't find anything like that in a Google search, so I'm putting it out there lazyweb style to see if anyone else knows how to do this.

Tuesday, October 27, 2015

My story "The Van Helsing Women's Shelter" now published on Stupefying Stories SHOWCASE

I'm very pleased to announce that a short story of mine, "The Van Helsing Women's Shelter," is now available on the Stupefying Stories SHOWCASE website, just in time for Halloween. In a world where vampires are real, you could hope we might create a few institutions to deal with the problem.

This story was something of a response to one called "Bitten Women's Shelter" in Daily Science Fiction...a story whose premise I loved but whose take on the situation bugged me. So thanks to author Sean Vivier for blazing that trail.

You can find my complete list of publications here.

Sunday, July 12, 2015

Colorado having great success with long-term birth control methods to reduce teen pregnancies

...but funding is apparently drying up.

Thursday, June 25, 2015

Why people choose violence

I thought this article on Aeon was striking for its evidence-based approach to trying to answer the question of why people commit violent acts.

It has ramifications for our justice system and for attempts to reduce things like gang violence, and in general for understanding other cultures.

Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Beating a chess master with a queen sacrifice

Wow, long time no post. Here's a fun piece about how having good chess AIs available to all can change the way people train for chess. In it, the author describes how he prepared for a queen sacrifice gambit and then executed it against a much more highly rated player.

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

A storehouse of pencil and paper games

Here's a nicely organized collection of games that one can play with only pencil and paper. Really handy to learn a couple of these for entertaining kids on the fly.

I also found this interesting tic-tac-toe variation, ultimate tic-tac-toe:

...which has a smaller board inside each square of a larger one. The kicker is, you must make your move on the small board corresponding to your opponents last move.

Monday, November 24, 2014

"A Kiss with Teeth" by Max Gladstone, short story about a vampire father

I only read this for the first time yesterday and I kinda think it's going on my all-time favorites list.

It's perhaps the most mature vampire story I've ever seen. But I'm sure I'm biased by the fatherhood aspect. I'm starting to realize that short stories are more situational, seasons-of-life dependent.

So maybe the stories that really grab me now say as much about me or my current situation as anything else. However, that doesn't mean they aren't great. It means that a well-done story that his the right notes for me has more impact.

I think this story hits some deep universals. But maybe if you've never been a parent, those won't hit as hard. Feel free to give your own opinion in the comments.

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Tacoma art museum shows Western depictions of Native Americans and allows them to comment on them

Really interesting approach:

Tacoma Art Museum has just opened an entirely new wing devoted to a single collection of Western American art [depicting Native Americans and created by Europeans and Euro-Americans]. Because the work presented is culturally problematic, the museum has taken the unusual step of commissioning a handful of Native American people to write labels responding to the art. What results in the galleries can be frustrating, but it also breaks open the complexity of what's really going on both in the art and in the institution of the museum in 2014.
How Tacoma Art Museum Criticizes a Collection Without Angering the Donors