Marmite: The devil’s umami (repost)

This post is copied from one of my Twitter Threads because why not?

A few days ago, I read something about how some people love Marmite, while others hate it. I’ve never tried Marmite, so why not give it a shot? What is Marmite, you ask?

Here’s what Wikipedia has to say: In short, it’s yeast extract paste. In 1902, a crazy German guy got the idea to sell the waste yeast from brewing beer as a foodstuff. Some crazy Brits love it and spread it on toast or use it in cooking.

The theme I picked up on is “crazy”. I Like crazy foods, so I bought some. Join me as I try Marmite for the first time.

Opening it, the texture is like thick syrup. It spreads easily like honey that has been run through a ferret first. I have some Carr’s water crackers (or “Craquelins à l’eau”, which sounds like a Cockney “allo!”).

And then the smell kind of jumps up into my nostrils and assaults them. This is definitely not an “aroma” but a “smell”. Maybe “stink”. It’s like extreme umami, like herring paste but not fishy. Maybe a hint of caramel hiding in it. This is… well. Hmm.
It reeks like an old man’s undies.

Time to take the plunge I guess.

First bite: OMGWTF, it attacked my tongue. It’s… like what I imagine rubbing a dried oily herring on the tongue is like, but it’s not olive oil — it’s motor oil. Then that’s swept away by just relentless salt.

Salt is the second ingredient. I might as well have poured some salt directly from the shaker into my mouth. Oh, man. That’s aggressive. People eat this? People pay money for this torture? Gah!

Salt is the second ingredient in Marmite.

Now there’s a stunning, lingering aftertaste. It’s the demon of beer yeast. Satan’s beer farts.

OMG, I need more water. And plain crackers. Anything. Anything to get this foot fungus out of my mouth! Gaaaa! That is definitely the worst thing I have ever put in my mouth. Eff me! More water! UK, what the hell is wrong with you?

Well that was fun. My stomach is grumbling angrily, and my tongue won’t even speak to me. Marmite. Damn.

What’s up with the identical obelisks in Star Trek?

Preserver obelisk in Star Trek E03E06 The Paradise Syndrome

WARNING: This post contains possible Star Trek Discovery spoilers.

I admit it. I’m a bit of a Star Trek nerd. I’ve watched every episode of every series, sometimes many times over. I grew up on the adventures of Kirk, Spock, and McCoy on the USS Enterprise. Now that Star Trek Discovery is deep into its second season, I’m completely hooked and linger on every detail.

For example, I need to know about the obelisks. As Jerry Seinfeld might say, what’s up with the obelisks? In our latest episode, Saru returns to his home planet, where the planet’s dominant species, the Ba’ul, use obelisks to exert power over Saru’s species, the Kelpians. Haven’t we seen that obelisk before, though?

Three appearances of a Preserver obelisk in Star Trek. Click to embiggen.

In fact, we have. In the original Star Trek series episode “The Paradise Syndrome”, a giant obelisk protects an idyllic planet of humans from collisions with asteroids (“I… am… KEE-ROK!”) It’s identical to the Ba’ul obelisk.

Spock eventually interprets some of the text inside the obelisk: the obelisk is one of many referred to as Preservers. The race that created them uses the Preservers to protect races in danger of extinction. (Source: Memory Alpha)

But wait! There’s more! In the third episode of Star Trek Discovery, Michael Burnham is shown a series of images from around the galaxy by way of the mycelial network. One of those images is of a landscape with the same obelisk that we saw in “The Paradise Syndrome”. Captain Lorca describes that landscape as “the moons of Andor”.

For whatever reason, the obelisk used by the Ba’ul to subjugate the Kelpians is the same as the previous obelisks, but inverted.

What can we infer from this? Is it merely Discovery series artists making an homage to the original series? Or are the writers building a connection between the Ba’ul obelisks and the Preservers? So far this season has been about pursuing the “Red Angel”, a powerful being that moves through time and space to preserve races from extinction.

Hey. Wait a sec! That’s exactly the same purpose as the Preserver obelisks. Is it a surprise, then, that the Red Angel appears in the same episode as Preserver obelisks? If there isn’t a connection between Preservers and the Red Angel, I’ll be very disappointed with the Discovery writers.

Cubey’s last ride: a challenge to Second Life aircraft makers

As a lot of my customers and friends have figured out, I’m not going to make any more planes for the metaverse — or anything else. It’s been an adventure creating so much content for Second Life and meeting so many extraordinary makers of virtual aircraft, but all good things, et cetera.

Over the years, I’ve shared content with the flight community. Flight scripts, airplane kits for newbies, complete vehicles, and more. Here’s my last offering.

Quad view in Blender.

Terra Twin is my last plane. I designed it with a nostalgia for the early days of racing planes: flowing lines, muscular airframe, and cockpit jammed so far back, the pilot can’t see where they’re going. Terra Twin exaggerates the most eye-catching features of mid-century aircraft beyond realism. It is my favourite design of the lot (and I made A LOT of planes), but I simply ran out of steam.

Rather than let it gather dust in my inventory, I’m going to send it out to the Second Life flight community where it might be useful.

The Terra Twin in Second Life, about to take off.

You get:

  • Blender files – the model and component parts in various stages of completion.
  • Texture files – the original textures. Some are in Paint Shop Pro format, so you’ll have to find a converter or just do your own.
  • Scripts – the main scripts that make it go, including the flight script, UI script, and more.
  • Rights – you get the right to use anything in the package for absolutely anything you like. Just include a prominent credit with my real name (Steve Cavers) and a link to this website.



Alexa, turn on the lights. Alexa?

We’ve all seen the ads on TV and the web showing happy people asking their Amazon Echo for something. “Alexa, call Susan.”  “Alexa, play The Black Keys.” “Alexa, turn on the lights.” “Alexa, give me a foot rub.” (Note: Alexa does not do foot rubs.)

A money-eating waste of time, technology, and hours of my life.

This, I thought to myself as I ordered one, is The Future™ at last!

It is not.

I spent the weekend trying to learn Alexa’s language. If you phrase your request even slightly wrong, it will either say it doesn’t know how to do it or just do nothing.

“Alexa, turn on the lights,” I say, enunciating clearly.

After a moment of lights spining and flashing: “I don’t know how to do that.” Grumble, grumble. I try again.

“Alexa, turn on ‘My Lights’,” I say, since that’s the name I gave to my lights.

Flashing, spinning. “Okay,” she says agreeably. Great, I think. Now we’ll see some—

Nothing happens.

Similar conversations went on all weekend. At it’s worst, I was listening to CBC Radio and Alexa thought it heard the command to turn off the lights. I was plunged into darkness. As I told CBC’s Stephen Quinn,

I’m not an expert in usability (actually, I am a bit), but I think there might be a bit of a weakness in Echo’s voice interface. It usually takes two or more tries to get a command right, if it works at all, but it will interpret random conversation as commands.

And then, to top it off, last night it decided that it couldn’t connect to the Internet. All of my other devices were fine, but my Echo couldn’t figure it out. I actually had to use light switches! Barbaric.

I need to unwind. Alexa, play some classical music.

“I’m sorry. I can’t find anything called ‘classical’. Would you like to listen to ‘William Shatner – The Transformed Man’?”

No! Alexa, you’re useless. And turn on the lights. Fine I’ll do it myself.

Cubey’s 2017 new year’s eve roundup

Note: This blog post contains the F word. Close the page now if you’re a dumbass who’s offended by the existence of certain words.

Here we go again. We’re wrapping up another year and heading into a fresh one. In reality, the date means nothing — it’s a completely arbitrary point in an annual orbit around the sun. One day flows into the next in the planet’s endless rotation as it hurtles around the solar system at 30 kilometers per second on gravity’s tether.

Dick Clark: Immortal god of the New Year.

But human beings need to break time down into easily-comprehended compartments. 20th century, 21st century. Nineties, two-thousands. 2016, 2017. December,  January. Gen-X, Millennials. Yesterday, today, tomorrow. Morning, afternoon, oh crap, I missed an important one o’clock meeting.

Each unit is assigned an identity and set of characteristics that our monkey brains can understand, like mapping out the geography of time with fleeting landmarks. It’s not real, but at least we can understand it. Or we think we do.

Continue reading “Cubey’s 2017 new year’s eve roundup”