Two to Review, and Two to Stand Back From

Friday, October 27, 2023

A Friday Hodgepodge

1. Having encountered a list of words that deserve wider use, I was amused to see George Will use one of them, blatherskite, in a recent column.

I got about a third of the way through that list the first time and plan to return...

Image by y6y6y6, via Wikimedia Commons, license.
2. In honor of our impending move and in deference to my wife, who dislikes my old gumbo recipe, I plan to experiment with gumbo when we settle in the New Orleans area.

From Hacker News of all places comes inspiration in the form of a short gumbo primer by the Southern Foodways Alliance.

As always, I peruse the comments first at Hacker News, where I learned of egg and shrimp gumbo.

Mrs. Van Horn shot that one down instantly, so I'll play with that some time when she's out of town, or perhaps foist it on the kids for lunch when she's on call some weekend.

3. This once and perhaps future home brewer was intrigued to learn that a group of intrepid meadmakers are attempting to revive bochet, a style of mead requiring the "terrifying" process of caramelizing the honey:
The recipe called for water and honey, plus "brewer's yeast" and an assortment of spices, including ginger and cloves. That's standard fare for medieval mead, as were the steps describing fermentation. But the very first few steps were unique: "Put it in a cauldron on the fire to boil" and stir until the honey blisters and bursts, "giving off a little blackish steam..."
The author describes a safer-sounding way to do this, not that I'm thinking about branching out into mead.

I've tried mead a few times but, until our trip to Ireland early this summer, I hadn't liked it. I'd like to try this style of it and will keep an eye out for it, though.

4. My favorite science writer, Derek Lowe, comments on an entertaining tribute to TNT that recently appeared in Nature Chemistry and references a famous Roadrunner cartoon:
But while it's safe to say that the compounds described by the links in that first paragraph surely have higher detonation velocities than TNT, it's also for sure that none of those are going to replace it for any purpose whatsoever. That's because TNT has a number of other qualities that (taken together) make it still a useful substance even now. A big one is its melting point: it can be melted, poured, and cast without getting anywhere near its decomposition temperature, and that's a highly useful property. It also has low sensitivity to impact, to friction, and to electrostatic discharge, and all of those are keys to making sure that stuff only blows up exactly when and where you want it to. Which is the first thing we ask of any useful explosive. Remember, TNT is classed as a secondary explosive -- something else (a primary explosive in a detonator) generally has to blow up first in order to get TNT to go off at all.
I've said it before and I'll say it again: Never let a love for the new and shiny cause you to lose sight of the wonders of proven, reliable technology.

-- CAV

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