Design and Sabotage

Here’s the temperature control from my fridge:

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Which way makes it colder inside?  Do “min” and “max” refer to temperature or to the amount of work done to reduce the temperature?

Also note how the numbers on the dial increase in the opposite direction to the min/max labels.  All in all, a well-designed control if your goal is to confuse people and sabotage their food.

For a while I’ve been having trouble with food in my fridge freezing, and I decided to do something about it – only I found I’m not sure what to do.  Knowing engineers, my guess is that 9 is coldest, but it really should be warmest – or the dial should just be labelled “colder” and “warmer” instead of using numbers.

The user manual may or may not reveal the answer, but I don’t have it.

Toronto day 7

2011/08/31

Today had three things in it: Shopping, the ROM and one last dinner with Nav.

Shopping

Remember all those stores I was reminiscing about the other day? I revisited a bunch of them today, without my camera bag so I could go inside.

I’m happy to report that the World’s Biggest Bookstore is still pretty good – it hasn’t degenerated into a gift card store like Chapters has.  Still two large floors packed with books, books, books.  It definitely is one of the biggest brick-and-mortar new-book stores in Canada still.

The Silver Snail is also still excellent.  They’ve got a good selection of new and old comics and action figures, but the real highlight is the busts and statues they have on display – very expensive, but amazing.  There were several variations on life-size Alien heads, a cutaway Millennium Falcon to scale with the old Star Wars action figures (of which they had many for sale), and best of all, some of Dr. Grordbort`s steampunk rayguns.

Active Surplus is not as diminished as I had thought.  They no longer have a storefront, but what they do have is stairs leading to a second-floor store that is still at least two thirds the size of what they used to have.  Plus it`s much better organized, so they may actually have more stock now – and they also have a second location now on top of it.  This store is an electronic nerd`s dream.  I grabbed a basket and walked every aisle, tossing anything that looked interesting in my basket.  I ended up spending well over $100 on random interesting junk, and could easily have spent more had I more time.

I went to check out Toby`s Famous Eatery, one of three restaurants claiming to inherit the mantle of my old favorite, Toby`s Good Eats. As a test, I had their Buster Brownie – the classic hot fudge brownie with ice cream dessert I love so much.  It was good, but nowhere near as good as it used to be.

I was going to go check out Bakka Books as well, but time was getting short so I skipped it.

The Royal Ontario Museum

I`ve always loved the old stone building that houses the ROM. I was distressed to learn they have grown this ugly crystalline cancer on the north side of the building:

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But thankfully they didn`t remove any of the old building – it`s all still there, including the old entrance on the east side:

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Due to time constraints, I concentrated on the two most interesting exhibits – paleontology and minerology, but also took a quick pass through the rest.  Assorted photos follow.

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the paleo exhibit is really something – it gives a dramatic reminder of just how big some of these extinct critters really were.

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Interesting headgear:

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Armadillo the size of a VW bug:

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Meow:

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Check out these amethyst geodes. The first one is more than six feet tall.  I`ve always dreamed of finding a geode, but finding something like this would be mindblowing:

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Slice from the largest black mica crystal ever found – three meters by two meters (can`t recall the original thickness):

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I like this art deco clock. Must make something like this:

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Dinner

Got together with Navtej one last time, and he took me to his favorite Indian buffet – the Tandoori Flame in Brampton.  It was great.  The food was at least as good as my favorite Indian place out west, and there was a much greater selection here.  I tried a bunch of new things.  Nav made me try their white pumpkin desert – it looks like an ice cube. Unbelievably sweet – I couldn`t finish a single bite without setting off my coma alert warnings.  I don`t think I have ever tasted anything so sugary – not even pure sugar or honey comes close.

Back on the road tomorrow. I`ve had a nice break from driving and am ready to resume my journey now, and I`ve done everything I wanted to do in Toronto.

Brandon to Winnipeg

2011/08/17

Not a terribly eventful day; just a short drive to Winnipeg, where I plan to spend two nights as there are some museum type things I want to do there.

Some of the farmers in this area grow sunflowers:

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I took a detour to check out the Spirit Sands desert in Spruce Woods park, but sadly the access road had been washed out – apparently the Assiniboine river flooded rather badly this year.  I did get to check out another, non-sandy hiking area nearby though. Weird landscape:

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Just grass, sage and trees – almost no mid-size shrubberies.

I like this area.  When we were shopping around for our farm, my mother and I looked at property near here.  I thought it was neat that it was basically just small trees growing out of sand, and there was sand everywhere.  Obviously we didn’t buy the place since it would have been impossible to grow anything there, but it was neat anyway.  I found the iron foot of an old claw-foot bathtub near a ruined house on that property, and it might still be in our shed on the farm to this day.

Continued on to Winnipeg, and made the mistake of driving downtown at rush hour. Aggravating.  Got a room for the night, then got a dessert from Baked Expectations at the recommendation of a co-worker – and boy was it good.  I will get more desserts there tomorrow, the next day and on my return trip.

Resurrecting an extinct dessert

Today is my birthday, and normally on my birthday I have scratch cake as a treat.  This year I decided to do something different, and attempt to reproduce my all-time favorite dessert, something I’ve never found a replacement for.

In my early teens we lived in Manitoba, and sometimes we would go down to Brandon for overnight shopping trips.  On a few occasions we ate at a restaurant called Aunt Sara’s, which had the best dessert I’ve ever had – a layer of vanilla ice cream between two warm cake layers, all covered with very thick hot fudge sauce.  I had it two or three times, then we moved away.

When I returned a few years later, the restaurant was under new management and no longer had the same desserts.  Since then I’ve been trying similar desserts at other restaurants looking for a replacement.  Injury to insult, Google tells me the restaurant has now been demolished.

ABC’s Hot Fudge Mt. Baker is similar in form but not in execution – the ice cream is sub-par, the fudge sauce is runny and insufficient, the cake is too fluffy and there’s way too much whipped cream on it.  Moxies’ White Chocolate Brownie is the best cake-and-ice-cream dessert I’ve found since (on the rare occasions they put enough sauce on it and remember to heat up the brownie) but it’s not the same thing.

Anyway, I decided to try and recreate the original Aunt Sara’s dessert myself.  I’ve been planning this for a few months and have tried several different cake recipes and fudge sauces.  In the end I settled on these.  Normally I’d use Haagen-Dazs ice cream, but I thought I’d try this organic ice cream I recently spotted.  It’s pretty good.

(And before you call me out for using gluten-free and organic stuff and not using a scratch cake recipe, I chose these for flavor and texture.)

Cake baked (with an extra egg to bulk it up a bit), chilled to make it cut more cleanly, then reheated in the microwave along with the fudge sauce. Cut a slice of the ice cream with a hot knife (not easy to get it out of the tub in slice form), and voila:

Although mine is a little sloppy, this actually looks pretty similar to the original (minus whipped cream, which is usually an annoyance anyway).  Flavor-wise, unfortunately, it doesn’t stack up to my memories of the original.  It’s close.  Closer than ABC’s version and closer than anything else I’ve tried since, but still not the same. Maybe I’m over-romanticizing my memories.  But it’s good and I’ll still call it a success.  Going to have to finished it over several days to avoid a sugar coma tnough.

Comparative Donutology: Honey’s result

Following up my second lead about rumored donuts superior to those of Tim Hortons, today I tried Honey’s donuts.

Yuck. They only had three flavors, and both of the two I tried were among the worst donuts I’ve ever had. Unappealing in appearance, taste and texture. They’re still infintely better than Krispy Kreme, but that’s not saying much.

Conclusion: Tim Hortons is still the top of the donut food chain.

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