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Jan 3, 2013

The Show Notes

Happy New Year!
Evolutionary appeal of candlelight
Religious Moron(s) of the Week
     - Randolph Linn from Matt Trzcinski
     - Piero Corsi from Jim Phynn
     - Bishop Paprocki from Richard Lane
2013 Resolutions
PFA this Friday in Easton
     - Fire
Christmas cooking and new traditions
New Media Expo next week
Show close


Mentioned in the Show

Philadelphia Funk Authority
Friday at Rivals in Easton, PA.


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Hugh Yeman
over eleven years ago

Yes! There's nothing like connecting with family history through making food. My mother's side of the family came from Germany, so around the holidays my mother and grandmother would cook suet pudding and enormous sour cream cookies filled with a mixture of fruit and spices. And pies, of course.

Around 1997, when my mother was past the point of being able to bake, I took up the baton and started making pies. My first few crusts were OK, and by the third batch the crusts were somewhere near as good as I've ever made, which means they were frickin' amazing. So I echo George's sentiment: JUMP IN! You won't regret it.

This last holiday was particularly gratifying to me. I hadn't eaten processed sugar or flour since April of the previous year, and I found myself more at ease around food than I'd ever been. I made, but didn't eat, pies with my Goddaughter, with my daughter, by myself for my co-workers, and with my niece and nephew. For the first time, I was able to decouple the act of creation from the act of consumption. This left me in a wonderfully peaceful place, not only to share my family traditions with others, but to take a tradition of cooking that my grandmother had handed down to my mother, and pass it on reverently to younger generations.

over eleven years ago

George, I loved the story about your ushka making. Every year I make atleast one batch of gingerbread cookies, everything from cooking the dough to finished product, accoring to a recipe I got from my grandmother. Makes me proud to continue a tradition.

over eleven years ago

I so understand the Ushka story. My wife was born in Finland and there's a Finnish pastry called Pirrikas which my wife and her daughter make every year. Pirrikas are rye flour pastries stuffed with rice pudding. Every time I eat one I think of my wife's parents, especially her mom, who would always serve these with breakfast (with ham, cucumber and cheese) and dinner (also with ham but often just with jam).

The big meal with family and friends is my favorite part of the holidays.

over eleven years ago

I am a total LED geek, so lemme geek out for a moment or three:

LEDs exploit some neat quantum physics (REAL quantum, not Chopra-quantum) to make light in a fundamentally different way than we used to. You could kind of think of an LED as a little microchip that squeezes photons directly out of electricity...sorta. LED geek that I am, I don't really understand the gory details of the physics myself.

Anyway, inherent to the physics is the fact that a given LED can pretty much only make light of one wavelength, or color. This, plus the cheap cost of LED manufacturing, is why LEDs are so useful in making cheap, compact lasers; your garden variety laser pointers and the advance of cheap CD and DVD players is due to this fact. It's also why the colored LEDs in modern Christmas lights have such pure colors, instead of the old washed-out colors from painted white bulbs.

You're now hopefully thinking back to your physics classes and asking "But I thought white light was a collection of all colors, all wavelengths! How can LEDs make white light if they only make light of one wavelength?" And you'd be exactly right. White LEDs aren't white! They're actually blue. To make them white, we have to plop a dollop of phosphors over the LED chip, chemicals which absorb light of one wavelength and spit it back out at a different wavelength. Use a proper mix of these and you transform blue light into a whole range of colors, and viola! White light!

Sorta. As you noticed, the color is usually off. This is for a few reasons. Partly it's because of the blue LED under those phosphors. Some blue light leaks through. Partly it's because of the mix of phosphors being used, which make too much of some colors and not enough of others. Note this is the same reason many people dislike fluorescent lighting: Fluorescent lights use phosphors to transform light at radio-wavelengths into visible light, but the phosphor mix often makes a color people don't prefer. They COULD produce an "ideal" color; you can get fluorescent lights in just about any shade of white you want. But for reasons I don't fully understand (probably cost and established manufacturing habits), they are much harder to find and pricier to buy.

In the early days of white LEDs, you would often get some awful greenish-yellow shades out of the things that remind one of a nasty infection. The blue-white color you noticed is much more typical these days, and is also closer to the "daylight" color that people tend to not actually prefer indoors, thanks to centuries of yellowish flame and tungsten based lighting. But there is a trend toward less blue in at least some LEDs, especially those used for actual interior lighting purposes.

As for Christmas lights, enough people were unhappy with the ice-blue color that manufacturers have started offering "warm white" LEDs that look much more like the old incandescent white lights. But the ice-white color has caught on with some people, since it gives a clean, icy, "deep winter" feel. So my guess is moving forward you'll see both shades in displays based on personal preferences.

An interesting (to me) side note about blue LEDs: Blue LEDs were something of a holy grail for technology companies. They REALLY wanted them for a lot of applications. For instance, LED jumbotrons make sense but you need blue to have a color image. Blue-ray players need cheap blue lasers, because you can only cram so much data on a CD or DVD before the little pits on the disc are smaller than the wavelength of light used to read them, and thus invisible. But no one knew how to make blue LEDs; the color of an LED depends on the elements used to make them, but no one had found the right mix. Technically blue LEDs did exist, but they were way too dim and didn't last long, so they weren't commercially viable. Lots of major research outfits were trying, but it took an obscure employee tinkering more less on his own at a Japanese phosphor manufacturer to hit upon the solution, and we owe the modern crop of blue LEDs, as well as some of the brighter LEDs of other colors, to that research.

D. C. Wilson
over eleven years ago


I've had the same experience. My grandmother used to make sticky buns (we're Penn Dutch) every holiday. After she died, I took over making them and I've felt the same connection to her every time.

So, let me second your endorsement for keeping family traditions like that alive. Even if you botch it a few times, it is completely worth it.

Greg Dorais
over eleven years ago

LOVED the edit from "AMore" to "mORON"! Perfectly executed.

over eleven years ago

To add to your 'ushka" story. Not only were they great, but a wonderful surprise to your dad and me. Baba would be so happy and proud.

over eleven years ago

Best Captain Beefheart reference ever.