Synaptic Ellipsis

Despite all the computations, you could just dance to that rock 'n' roll station…

August 22, 2019
by emily

Dexter Cattle

Dexter Cattle Eating Dinner

My parents have some new neighbors – four Dexter Mini Cattle! One is especially mini because it is a baby. Dexters originated in Ireland, and are tri-purpose cattle that can be used for milk, meat, or as oxen. I’m not sure which purpose these are intended for, but I may not want to know because they are cute and very friendly.

March 9, 2018
by emily

Best Video Game Ever

Many thanks to ssweeny for buying me Horizon Zero Dawn for Christmas. I played through this game during January & February while I was hibernating for the winter. It doesn’t have any of the sexist rape culture shit that I complained about here. It does have:

  1. Female Protagonist(s)
  2. Open World
  3. Interesting Story
  4. Challenging Gameplay
  5. Beautiful visual aesthetics
  6. A satisfying conclusion

Thanks also to Guerrilla Games. I’m looking forward to the sequel, and I almost want to move to Amsterdam and help you code it.

August 3, 2017
by emily

Mom’s Best Banana Bread

My mother spent many iterations perfecting this recipe. The following is transcribed from her handwriting.

I suspect that my spouse strategically lets 2 bananas become overripe so that I will make this banana bread.

Sometimes I replace 1/4 cup of the flour with flaxseed meal, which is loaded with ALA Omega-3s and adds nutty flavor.

Mom’s BEST Banana Bread

Need 1 9×5″ loaf pan, greased & floured

Preheat oven to 350 F

In a large mixer bowl, cream together:

3/4 C sugar

1 stick butter, softened


2 eggs

2-3 RIPE mashed bananas

2 T lemon juice

1 T milk

1 t vanilla

In a separate bowl, whisk to combine:

2 C Flour

1 t baking soda

1/2 t salt

Blend dry ingredients into wet, half at a time. Stir until just blended.

Add 1 C chopped walnuts

Pour batter into pan evenly, until it is filled half way.

Bake 55 – 70 minutes, depending on oven, until a knife or toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean.

Cool 10 min in pan.

Turn out & cool completely.

Wrap in aluminum foil & keep in fridge.

It is better the next day!



June 10, 2017
by emily

Swing Set

In mid-May, my spouse and I were notified by my in-laws that they had purchased a swing set, and that it would be delivered to our house in time for us to assemble it before our daughter’s 2nd birthday.  When it was delivered to our house on a Friday afternoon, the UPS driver had to call for back-up, and he and another driver worked together to carry the 10 ft box up our driveway and front steps. That left it to Scott and I to carry it into our backyard and cover the box with a tarp so that it didn’t get wet in the rain.

The next afternoon, I began assembly during our daughter’s nap. The Equinox Swing Set came with all of the necessary hardware, so I just grabbed a drill and the necessary tools and got started.

Unassembled Swingset

Assembly was pretty easy – a couple of A frames and a cross piece. Once I had the separate sections together and it was time to connect everything, my daughter had woken up and wanted to help out.

Mommy’s Little Helper

Scott helped me with the taller sections, and we bolted everything together. We replaced one of the included swings with a Little Tikes Snug & Secure* swing and we were ready to go! The first of many afternoons of parental swing servitude.

Fully Assembled Swingset

Seriously, our daughter loves the swing. Whee! Thanks G and Pap!

* It’s a good thing we didn’t get the pink one!

February 16, 2015
by emily
1 Comment

How to remodel your kitchen in 15 easy steps

Once a upon a time there was a kitchen, and it looked like this:
Kitchen 1

This kitchen was probably quite awesome in the 1970s (estimated) when it was installed, but it had reached its end of life. The countertop was warped and rotting, and the cabinets were beginning to disintegrate. The leaf pattern on the upper cabinet doors was a nice conversation piece (Isn’t that leaf pattern… interesting? Is that contact paper? What festive cabinets you have!), but it had to go.

Enter my Mom: a Certified Kitchen Designer with 15 years of experience.

Also my Dad: a handyman hobbyist who loves to build & remodel stuff.

My spouse & I: engineers with a preference for tech and utility.

My Father-in-law and our Best Man: demolition and installation helping hands.

One of our primary goals was to add more countertop and cabinet space. The old kitchen had a blank wall where the previous owner had kept a small table. My spouse & I didn’t see any need for the table, so the wall looked like this:
Kitchen 3
(Our cat, Hines W., is featured in a couple of these photos.)

My dad extended the existing bulkhead across this wall:
Kitchen remodel step 1: build new soffit/bulkhead
We briefly considered ripping out all of the bulkheads, but there was plumbing from an upstairs bathroom, and ductwork for a vent fan hidden inside. So, we decided that in order to stay within budget, this was the better solution.

The next thing we did was rip out the existing tile, which we think had been updated when our house was put on the market. The tile was installed up to the front of the existing cabinets, so the footprint wouldn’t have matched our new plan, and my spouse and I both thought that it always looked dirty, no matter how many times we tried to clean it. MacBeth tile.

Out, Out, damned tile!
Kitchen remodel step 2: remove tile flooring. (Note "festive" upper cabinet removed for step 1.)

Next I removed almost everything from the existing cabinets,
Kitchen Remodel Step 3: Remove (almost) everything from old cabinets.

and demolition started. (No cats were harmed during the demolition of this kitchen.)

(So long, conversation piece cabinets.) We donated the cabinets to Construction Junction, so they may still be available (although CJ almost didn’t take them). Once all of the cabinets had been pulled out, we hired a plumber to move the supply and drain lines for the sink. Then, we tiled the entire floor with slate-patterned porcelain tile.
Kitchen remodel step 4: Tile.

We ordered Crystal Cabinets, which are my mother’s brand of choice. Crystal Cabinet Works is a family-owned company based in Minnesota. When the cabinets arrived, we were relieved that they all fit in our garage:
Kitchen Remodel step 5: Cabinet delivery
Next came a fresh coat of Olympic paint. The color is, “Cold Steel”.
Kitchen Remodel step 6: Paint
Once the paint had dried, we started installing the upper cabinets. Here’s my mom posing with her creation-in-progress:
Kitchen Remodel Step 7: Upper cabinets (featuring my Mom, the designer)

These cabinets were installed on the new bulkhead – hooray! They are Current Frameless cabinets in Alder with a Midland Door and a Toasted Rye finish.

Next we started on the lower cabinets. Two of these cabinets were very bulky and heavy: the lazy susan and the pantry. The lazy susan almost didn’t make it though the doorway into the kitchen, but we made it work. Our installation helping hands almost didn’t make it up the stairs while carrying these cabinets, but we made them work too (ha-ha… thanks guys!). It should be noted that we fed them filet mingon afterwards.

Here’s my dad standing in front of the lazy susan, holding a hammer that I borrowed from him for about 15 years:
Kitchen remodel step 8: lower cabinets ( featuring my Dad the chief installer).
Next we installed the built in microwave, which I am still very excited about:
Kitchen remodel step 9: long-awaited built in microwave! (Protective plastic will come off later.)

I splurged on a double oven electric range with lots of buttons:
Kitchen remodel step 10: new electric range
We hired an electrician to upgrade all of the electrical circuits and install GFCI outlets:
Kitchen remodel step 11: upgrade electrical
I splurged again on a counter-depth refrigerator with all of the doors:
Kitchen remodel step 12: Fancy refrigerator
My spouse had to re-level the still-ornery lazy susan before this quartz countertop could be installed, but it was worth it:
Kitchen remodel step 13: quartz countertop!
The countertop is Eternia Quartz, “Stardust”.

Next we installed cabinet hardware… and were informed that our dishwasher was backordered. Luckily our cool Kohler undermount sink was operational by then. We had been washing our dishes in the basement up until this point, so having a sink on the first floor was a big upgrade.
Kitchen remodel step 14: Sink, valance, appliance garage, cabinet hardware.

Then finally, our dishwasher arrived! My spouse and I installed it ourselves, with minimal swearing.
Kitchen remodel final step: install (backordered) dishwasher!
And we lived happily ever after!
Completed Kitchen 1

July 27, 2014
by emily

Sprawl, Sweet Sprawl

My husband and I went to a wedding in Detroit last weekend… well, actually White Lake, MI. The definition of Metro Detroit is ever-expanding, much like the associated suburban sprawl. We spent some time driving around the Waterford / White Lake area, and I couldn’t help but notice the repeating big box stores and housing plans.

I created a Google map that illustrates the distance between the neighborhood on the East Side where my Dad grew up to the hotel we stayed at for the wedding. I included a stop in Ferndale, because we visisted there, and also because Ferndale was developed in part because of the access to the city provided by Detroit Interurban Streetcars.

Metro Detroit job sprawl is the worst in the country. Access to the city doesn’t matter as much anymore, because the jobs have moved out of the city too. Where will the sprawl stop? Traverse City?


DISCLAIMER: I don’t live there anymore, so I’m not complaining… just wondering.


Optional Soundtrack

June 6, 2014
by emily
1 Comment

Them rattlin’ chains

I have been playing video games for a long time. I started out playing games on my family’s Atari 2600. My mom was really good at Ms. Pac-Man. After that, for reasons unknown to me, there was a  video game hiatus, until we acquired an Apple IIGS sometime around 1988. Thus began my enthusiasm for Sierra games, which survived our platform switch to a Gateway 2000 486 DX2 in 1993.

The last video game that Sierra Entertainment produced before it was sold in 1996 was Phantasmagoria, an “interactive movie” thriller, with, wonder of wonders, a female protagonist. This appealed to my teenage feminist sensibilities, except for, well, the rather over the top violence depicted in the game, including a scene with an attempted rape.

I’ll try to channel my fake teenage angst with this archive from my internal monologue:  “I finally get to play a character in a game that isn’t a guy, but I have to endure virtual abuse. What a load of crap!” (I didn’t really swear until I started writing computer software.)

Fast forward 17 – 18 years, to the following 3 games:

  1. Tomb Raider Reboot (March 2013)
  2. The Last of Us (June 2013)
  3. Beyond: Two Souls (October 2013)

Each of these games have 2 things in common: Female Protagonist (playable only part of the time in The Last of Us), and… attempted rape.

Here’s my adult outrage: “What the Fuck!?! Video Game writers have had my entire lifetime to come up with less oppressive plot devices, but they keep coming back to this!”

I realize that most successful modern video games are violent (that’s a topic for another blog post), but here is the basic difference between games with a male protagonist and those with a female one:

Male: I am a total bad ass, and I’m going to kill all of these bad people/monsters/aliens (and maybe solve some puzzles) to save the world!

Female: I am a total bad ass, and I’m going to kill all of these bad people/monsters/aliens (and maybe solve some puzzles), to save the world! Oh, and by the way, at least one of the bad people/monsters/aliens is going to try to rape me.

Video game writers, you can do better than this. As video games become more cinematic, please refer to the following examples of awesomeness from Hollywood:




April 7, 2014
by emily

Isabelle F. French, 1924 – 2014

My cousin Isabelle (once removed) passed away on March 1st.

Isabelle F. French

When I was growing up, she would visit her Aunt Marion (my grandmother) while she was travelling though Detroit on road trips.

I remember her dog, Marco Polo, and her modesty when we would talk about her accomplishments:

SWE Philadelphia Memoirs

National SWE Past Presidents

SWE Archive Interview with Elaine Pitts  (Transcript)

The last time I saw her was at the SWE National Conference in Birmingham, Alabama in 2003. She greeted me with a big smile and a big hug, and we went on a quest with a couple of her friends to find some good southern food.

She provided a great example of how to live with self integrity, and of how to be gracious and strong when doing so.

Isabelle Frances French – Obituary