Dave Duncan

"Eat Well, Stay Fit, Die Anyway"

Archive for December, 2008

The Idiot-Proof Step-by-Step Guide to Baking Bread

There was a time when I thought baking bread was probably the hardest thing in the world.  It seemed like the kind of thing professional bakers or pioneering homesteaders could do, but not a guy like me.  Then, a few years ago, I asked my grandmother to show me how to bake bread at home, and I found out just how easy it is.

So, from my grandmother to you, what follows below is an idiot-proof illustrated guide to baking your own bread or rolls in the comfort of your own home.  The only really specialized tools you’ll need are bread pans, but you don’t need those if you want to make delicious dinner rolls instead, just use muffin tins.

I won’t assume any culinary knowledge whatsoever, so don’t be intimidated at all by this process, and if you DO have some skill in the kitchen, just enjoy the read and the photos, and take from it what you will.  The entire recipe is after the jump, and if you want to see a larger version of any photo, just click on it.

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SilentTalkie: Reluctantly Crouched at the Starting Line

In spite of some minor technical and logistical setbacks, all that is SilentTalkie is now back online and ready for action.  Every article ever written and published in the magazine’s former format is now accessible on the main site, which means you can re-live all your favourite (or not-so-favourite)articles in their former glory.

New content is coming soon, and this time it will come without the guilt-trip of asking repeatedly for submissions.  This time around, publication deadlines won’t be as fixed, so we’ll just update as we please with whatever content we have.  However, as always, submissions are always open for new content of any kind.

As a change, we have new venues of staying in touch with the ‘Talkie:

  • Twitter users can keep up with SilentTalkie’s tweets and even choose to follow her (which she’ll gladly reciprocate)
  • Facebook users can become a fan on SilentTalkie’s fanpage and join discussions, access articles by RSS, post or view photos and share their thoughts on our new format
  • Instant Message (IM) users can sign up for a new service offered by Big Time Design called Big Time Announce (it’s also available for this blog in the menu on the right).  Once signed up, you can receive special offers, announcements or new content as alerts through your instant messaging program.  It’s the new future of content delivery and it’s the bee’s knees
  • Fans of RSS can subscribe to the SilentTalkie RSS Feed and get content to their reader as it gets published.  To take full advantage of our format and features, I recommend having your reader open new posts on the SilentTalkie site

We’re really excited about the future of SilentTalkie, and hopefully you will be too.

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Roll Back, then Roll Forward

No, those aren’t directions on how to unstick your car from snow, although that’s good advice.  No, that’s a description on what’s been going on in here for the last 24 hours or so.

All my sites were moved to a different server, for better speed and service, but everything was pointing to the old server which had older versions of my sites on it.  That means that if you read this (or SilentTalkie) via RSS, I have to apologize for a deluge of ‘new’ posts.  Sorry about that.

My webhost worked with me well into the night to sort out the problem and I’d like to thank Lunarpages for their continued service and support.  Seriously, these guys are great.

Also great, ALL of the issues from Volumes I & II of SilentTalkie are now easily viewable in our new template.  It’s our Christmas gift to you, and believe me, it was a Festivus miracle that we got them all up and online.  While you wait for new content, check out the archives, or the cool new video Karim posted.  It’s the most recent post and he shot it himself this fall down in New Haven.  The soundtrack rocks and it’s the perfect thing to get you through a blizzardy Friday.

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Winter is Upon Us. Saints Be Praised!

I’m no scientician, nor am I a meteorologist, but I do have common sense.  Common sense tells me that when the first decent snowfall of the season hits, traffic on city streets will be worse than usual, which means buses will be running late.  It also tells me that any public transportation that runs underground, away from the effects of snowfall, should be running on time.

Why then, pray tell, was the subway running so freaking slow this morning?  Sure, some of the tracks run above ground, but by 8:30am, those areas should be good and clear especially since the snow stopped falling in the wee hours of the morning.  I guess it’s just one of the many secrets of the TTC.

What a gorgeous day outside though.  It looks like a Norman Rockwell painting and I’m actually starting to feel like Christmas is just around the corner.  I’m even looking forward to shovelling our walks and driveway tonight, mostly because I could use the exercise.

Speaking of exercise, I had a long wrestling match with my winter boots this morning.  At the end of last season, I shredded one of the laces, but figured I would replace it before the first snow this fall.  Classic procrastination that resulted in a flurry of searching for a bootlace substitute this morning and an even more frenzied attempt to take off the old, shredded lace and put on the new one (which is certainly NOT a bootlace, and will likely only last a few days).  Now, the search begins for winter bootlaces.  I guess that means a trip to Bootlaces ‘R’ Us sometime this afternoon.

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“No, I DON’T Believe a Person Can Get All the Protein They Need From Nuts”

It’s amazing how many people think that complete strangers in public places want to hear their opinions (note that I don’t mean blogs or the internet, so I’m not being a hypocrite because I do that in here).  I’m always amazed when someone starts lecturing someone else they’ve never met before for no reason in the genuine hope of changing their mind or habits about something.  Most of the time, I find it funny even if I’m the recipient, but in the right circumstances it can put me over the edge.

I was really tired on Sunday afternoon, even after a nice long nap, and the last thing I wanted to do was be out in public and being forced to interact with people in any way.  Sadly, we were running pretty low on supplies on the homestead, so I had to head to our local Price Chopper where it seemed most of the rest of the city was also trying to buy their groceries.

The fact that I didn’t lose it and kill someone before I got to the cash register is a testament to what was left of my self-control at that point.  People were standing idly in the middles of aisles, leaving their carts in awkward places while they went off in search of something, and there seemed to be hundreds of kids running amok and knocking over anything in the store that could be knocked over.  I even found myself answering people who asked me where certain things were in the store, when those items were in sight.  Sunday grocery shoppers.  Sigh.

When I finally got everything I needed and headed for the check-out, I selected one of the longer lines, but only because I recognized the cashier and knew that at least she would be professional and polite.  In front of me was a very heavily loaded cart, most of it being raw vegetables.

Once all their stuff was loaded on the conveyer belt and nearly half of their items were scanned, I started loading mine.  When I got to the chicken breasts and a package of hot dogs, I heard the start of the conversation I was sure would result in manslaughter charges:

“You know that meat is bad for you, right?  I can’t believe that anyone living in our modern enlightened society would even consider eating that.”

I did absolutely nothing to antagonize this man or his lady friend, who was now looking at me like I regularly consume live puppies aside from putting just two items that contain meat of the thousands in that particular store on the conveyor belt.

I looked to the cashier who looked as stunned and insulted as me, but realized that as the customer service representative in this situation, she was probably not going to hold one of them back while I eviscerated the other.

I’d like to say that I handled the situation with tact, but that would be a lie.  Due to my grumpy mood and general shopping frustration, my ability to take things on the chin was all but gone.  Words were exchanged between us, and I pointed out the plethora of pre-packaged goods in his purchases that contained countless preservatives and that we all make choices about our food every day and that I was letting him be free to make his choices so maybe he should return me the same courtesy.

Yes, that is what I said… only louder… and with the occaisonal off-colour word (he started with the blue-language before I did).  In the end, my friendly neighbourhood checkout girl suggested he finish bagging his groceries and make room for other customers, which I greatly appreciated.  He was in the middle of spouting statistics about how much sooner I’d die than him.

Once they were gone, the checkout girl mentioned that she sees him all the time and he often buys really gross stuff like cans and cans of creamed corn.  He’s the last person who should be dispensing dietary advice.  Apparently he once tried to convert an older woman in line who just kept repeating “F*** off” until he actually did.  Yeah, so these are my neighbours.

So, in summary, if you’re vegetarian, I wish you all the best.  You have made a life choice that you are clearly happy with and you can look forward to a lifetime of haggling with your non-vegetarian friends about what restaurants to meet at.  However, if you see me in line at the grocery store, don’t try to lecture me about my dietary choices, or you’ll have to have emergency homeopathic surgery to remove grocery cart parts from various bodily orifices.

You’ve been warned.

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The Future is Now. No, Really. It’s Now… and HERE!

I’m posting this on behalf of my friend Karim (whom many of you will know as the brains and brawn behind SilentTalkie, for what it’s worth) who is trying out a new service, and using me as a guinea pig…

Yuri Gagarin, Amelia Earhart, The Wright Brothers… Dave Duncan?

What do all of the above have in common? They are all pioneers. Some in aeronautics and others in web technology, or as Dave has called it ‘webnology’.

Near the bottom of the righthand column on this very website, you will see a link to tryout a new service from bigtime called ‘announce’.  With announce, you can get an alert everytime Dave updates this blog.  The alert is setup through your Microsoft Live Messenger, but can be received through e-mail, SMS text message and/or IM… the choice is yours!

Finally, you don’t need to constantly refresh your browser to get the updates you crave; announce will tell you when they happen and link you right back to the site.  It’s all done through big time’s partnership with Microsoft and some nifty development.

We’re rolling this out for a lot of different uses, but wanted to give a friend of bigtime the bragging rights to be first.  Oh those bragging rights are hard to come by.  Give it a try and let Dave and I know what you think.  If you’d like to have this functionality on your blog or even for your business, let us know!

Now Dave’s Mom can keep tabs on him at all times… you’re welcome Moms.

Feel free to sign up and let us know (via comments or email) what you think.  Just imagine how cool it’ll be to brag to all your friends that you were in on this from the beginning when it’s the new podcast, or webinar, or Digg.

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Rockin’ The Boat

There are few things that make you more sluggish on a Monday morning than heading to a bar to hear some live music on a Sunday night.  I sometimes still think my body is 18 years old and can bounce back like elastic, but in the morning I remember that it’s less like elastic and more like molten rubber.  That being said, I have no regrets about checking out a live show at The Boat in Kensington Market last night.

First off, the venue.  The Boat looks like… well, a boat.  It actually looks like a galleon if it was less of a ship and more of a ’70s porn set.  It’s safe to say that it only survives because of its location and close promixity to fans of ironic surroundings.  Drinks were cheap and plentiful, but watch out for the many buckets hanging from the low ceiling that indicate a very leaky roof.  Some of them are awfully close to lights.

Second, the music.  The opening act was ‘Gates, Gates, Gates’, a female singer-songwriter who is clearly very witty, and did very well for what appeared to be one of her first gigs.  I wish her the best of luck.  She was followed by, what I considered the main event… Silver Speakers, and they rocked the house.

They played an acoustic set (one guitar, one jingly Christmas stick) that was funny, heartfelt, funny and funny.  The crowd ate them up, and the songs were performed beautifully.  Now, since Silver Speakers is basically Tyrone and he plays with Slow Like Big Hams (aka Right-Click Properties), I am choosing to give him some Google-rank love through the wonder of links.  You’re welcome, Mr. Warner.

You can find Tyrone Warner‘s music through his site, his MySpace page or his Facebook group.  Not only can you find his music there, but you SHOULD find his music there, especially if you’re starting to get sick of the same old Christmas music.

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Suspension? Not Just for Bridges and Sean Avery

Ever wonder what would happen if your credit card company didn’t have your most up-to-date telephone number on file?  I don’t.  It seems that their automated system for determining suspcious transactions told them that my card may have been compromised based on some out-of-habit spending (gas from Quebec, some outlet stores and a grocery store).  When they tried to call to confirm that I’d made the purchases, they got my cancelled home line.

Fast forward to the gas station last night, where I was trying to preauthorize my card to fill my tank.  It seems my card was suspended for my protection, so I had to pay with what little cash I had on me.

Am I upset about this?  No way.  One quick phone call to a 1-800 number cleared it all up in a matter of minutes, and had there really been an issue, my credit would have been intact.  Kudos to my credit card company for taking care of me, the customer.  Well, they’re also protecting themselves, but whatever.

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