Tuesday, August 24, 2021


Occasionally I make biscuits.  It is clear that the "Grands!" style biscuits, which Walmart has their own cheaper brand of "Jumbo" biscuits, are the best tasting, and I do like them, but it is no wonder they taste good since they have 5 grams of sugar per biscuit.  This might not be an issue for most people, but I want to avoid too much sugar.  So I looked for alternatives.  The smaller biscuits are cheaper overall, not that cost is an issue, and they have 40% less sugar.  It takes 3 small biscuits to equal the weight of one large one, and the label confirms this by listing 3 biscuits as one serving, which has 40% less sugar.

It is the smaller size that is the problem.  The instructions say to "cook until golden brown", but if you do that then the entire biscuit wants to turn golden brown and they can come out too dry.  You can undercook them, in which case they come out white and soft and pretty edible, but I don't like the small size for putting jam or peanut butter on them.  

So this got me thinking.  Since it is just dough, I can make whatever size biscuit I want with them.  I tried combining pairs of biscuits into balls and these turned out like little dinner rolls.  The first batch I overcooked and they were slightly crispy on the outside but soft on the inside, and this was interesting.  In the second batch, I cooked them less and they came out like soft dinner rolls and these were pretty good.

On my third batch, I didn't want to go to the trouble of combining pairs of biscuits into balls, so I just baked the biscuits with one on top of another.  I combined two cans of ten biscuits to get ten double-height biscuits.  Not only was this easier, but I felt like this was my best result yet.  I had to cook them for 20 minutes, but they came out like slightly smaller versions of the Grands biscuits, and they were pretty good.  They aren't quite as good as the high sugar biscuits, but it is a tradeoff.

Even though the instructions tell you to use an ungreased cooking pan, I find it better to use cooking spray to keep them from sticking.  I also tried smearing a small amount of olive oil on the bottom of the pan and this works too.


Sunday, August 22, 2021

re: Peak COVID cases

On Sun, Aug 22, 2021 at 3:51 PM Albert wrote:
 I keep hearing more and more reports of people transmitting the disease unaware that they are infected by COVID. This worries me a lot. I enjoy playing chess, but not at the expense of getting sick while doing so.

---------- Forwarded message ---------
From: John 

The vaccines are still effective at preventing serious illness, or at least mostly effective.  I am counting on a combintion of vaccination and caution.

I think that it is likely that we will get a new spike in cases worse than anything we have seen before.  If this happens, we might have to shut down the chess club temporarily.  At the very least, mask mandates will come back and many hesitant people will get vaccinated as the death toll goes up.

Best wishes,

John Coffey

Saturday, August 21, 2021

Ludwig van Beethoven: Ode an die Freude/Ode to Joy 1

I heard this song the other day. I had no idea what the name was. It bothered me that I didn't know. So today, it came to me.


Beethoven had been almost completely deaf for a decade when he wrote this. It is the final movement to his ninth symphony. At the premiere, he was not aware of the thunderous applause until he turned around and saw the audience.

The European Anthem is based on "Ode to Joy".

Ludwig van Beethoven: Ode an die Freude/Ode to Joy 1

I heard this song the other day. I had no idea what the name was. It bugged me that I didn't know. So today, it came to me.


Monday, August 16, 2021

Fwd: Booster shots


---------- Forwarded message ---------
On Mon, Aug 16, 2021 at 9:18 AM Albert wrote:
Most of the people I've spoken with have shown little interest in taking a booster. In their minds, the benefit of getting a booster is: you still wear a mask, you social distance, and you still get sick. So there are no benefits? What the heck!?

From: John 
To: Albert


Most areas are not requiring a mask.  Getting a vaccine provides much more freedom to do things that are much more dangerous without a vaccine.  If the vaccine starts to wane after 6 months then getting a booster is going to be part of that.

This sounds like defeatism to me.  It is like saying just because something is difficult, we're not even going to try.


Saturday, August 14, 2021

Fwd: COVID-19 argument

From a discussion on Facebook.  This person from Utah takes the same position as someone I know locally...


I mean no offense, but I think that everything that you have assumed about this issue is wrong. You have it all backward. You way overestimate the danger of the vaccine, which is essentially harmless, and you way underestimate the danger of the virus. You assume that your immune system will protect you.

The real choice is to get the vaccine or get the disease. The Delta variant has an R factor of 8 to 9. Among the unvaccinated, it is spreading like wildfire.

I have a close friend in Farmington who is anti-vax, and he said that he would rather get the disease than take a chance with the vaccine. Well, he and his wife have had the Delta variant for 4 weeks and they have found it completely debilitating. He is sleeping 15 hours a day and his wife is worse. He doesn't respond to emails, phone calls, and texts because he feels so bad.

A friend of mine in Indianapolis said that he got the vaccine because he doesn't want to inadvertently kill someone else. I completely agree with this reasoning, and the anti-vax people seem selfish to me because they want to make the issue just about themselves. You might be fine if you catch COVID, although I doubt it, but you could spread the disease to other people.

Not everyone who gets the vaccine is fully protected, I have an 81-year-old mother who is the nicest person in the world, but she has leukemia and is immunocompromised. She has been told that her immunotherapy diminishes the effectiveness of the vaccine, and she has also been told that she would not likely survive COVID.

If you make this issue just about your personal freedom, then you might be refusing the vaccine for the wrong reasons. The only way that we are going to get past COVID is if the vast majority get vaccinated or if the vast majority contract the disease. The cost of the latter is too high. Immunity might only last 6 months to a year, which means that people will have to keep getting one or the other.

Best wishes,

John Coffey

Wednesday, August 4, 2021

crazy anti-coke ad

Yes, maybe you can blame obesity on sugary drinks, but personal responsibility has to assume part or most of the blame.

I'm trying to eat healthily, but I have a tendency to want the foods that I grew up with.  In the 1960s and the 1970s, people ate fried foods all the time and thought nothing of it.  It was normal for us to go out to Kentucky Fried Chicken, Pizza Hut, or McDonald's.  We ate a variety of foods at home, but my mother also made really good fried chicken and this was my favorite.

I grew up drinking sugary soft drinks and didn't start drinking diet soda until I had a weight problem.  The diet soda didn't help, and it caused acid reflux so I had to give it up as an adult.

It wasn't till 2008 that I started listening to Dr. Robert Lustig who said that sugar is a poison.  Sucrose is a disaccharide that consists of one part glucose and one part fructose.  He claims that fructose gets processed in the liver the same way alcohol does.  The body can't use it directly and converts it to an unhealthy form of fat.  Too much of this can damage the liver, and sugar consumption is associated with a variety of health problems.   (He is actually not against fruit, because fruit has a variety of benefits.  Fruit is nature's candy.)

Prior to this, I thought that it was okay to have sugary snacks as part of my diet provided that I count calories.

We used to have long meetings at work, and sometimes they would bring in donuts or snacks as a way to keep people happy.  When meetings would finish, other people would raid the conference room for leftover snacks.  I used to do this too, and there was an informal network of people who kept each other informed, usually by email, about snacks available in the conference rooms.

---------- Forwarded message ---------
From: Larry

Sunday, August 1, 2021

1.5 years of COVID

I wrote this on Facebook...

I was very much aware of how devastating the 1918 Spanish Flu pandemic was. It is estimated that 500 million people got the disease, which was one-third of the planet. The exact death toll is not known, but it was estimated to be between 20 and 100 million people. It was worse for children, and in some areas, half the children died. They were stacking coffins in the street because they couldn't bury people fast enough.

This caused me to always wonder if something like this could happen again? I imagined a situation where people might have to seal themselves in their homes for a couple of months. I thought that it would be a good idea to have some food stored away.

In March of 2020, we went from fifty thousand known cases of COVID-19 to a million known cases in just 30 days. Looking at the numbers available on March 31st, which showed rapid exponential growth, I was predicting Spanish Flu levels of infection and death. Like many public officials, the horrible events of 1918 caused me to take this new pandemic very seriously.

I "sheltered in place" for slightly over a year. Initially, I had almost no human contact. I shut down my chess club meetings and encouraged people to play each other online. After a year, I was sick of playing online and desperately wanted to meet in person again. I resumed my chess club meetings once I got fully vaccinated.

For that year, I told people that I was living like a hermit, which was somewhat true. I didn't see family very often. Sometimes we would meet to share resources, like toilet paper and other supplies, but we would keep our distance as much as possible. After a few months, we started to get together more often, like maybe once per month.

In the evenings I would go for walks. I would see my neighbors, and we would talk to each other from a distance of 30 feet.

As result, I spent much time on the phone and on Facebook as a way of communicating with people.

This year of semi-isolation kind of took a toll on me. I was desperate for it to be over. I was so happy to get vaccinated.

COVID-19 is not done with us yet. We have new variants that are more infectious and possibly more dangerous. I have talked to a large number of people who don't want to be vaccinated and I find this very concerning. This creates a greater probability that new variants will arise.

The very contagious Delta Variant has an "R" factor of 5 to 8, meaning that each person infected might infect 5 to 8 other people.

One of my closest friends in Utah and his wife have caught the Delta Variant of COVID. For them, it is totally debilitating and they are into their third week with no sign of it getting better. My friend is worried that he is going to be one of the people who have symptoms that linger for months.

Best wishes,

John Coffey


Mask wearing and conservative talk radio

I always enjoyed listening to conservative talk radio, but the universal conservative response to the recent CDC recommendations that everyone wear a mask in public places is one of defiance.  People are saying that they are not going to cooperate.  Without exception, they see the mask recommendations as government overreach to take away their freedom.  They are unwilling to entertain the notion that the government is trying to save lives.  Naturally, they prefer to make their own decisions and not be told what to do.

The situation has changed.  It was pretty reasonable for vaccinated people to not wear a mask a couple of weeks ago, but right now the Delta Variant potentially threatens everyone.  Whereas the alpha variant had an "r" factor of around 2.5, which means that on average an infected person would infect 2.5 other people, the Delta Variant has an "r" factor of 5 to 8.  It is also much more likely to infect vaccinated people.  The reason for the change in the CDC recommendation is a study that said that with the Delta Variant vaccinated people can have as much of viral load in their nasal cavities as unvaccinated people.

I don't particularly like wearing a mask either, but if it becomes a mandate, I am not going to resist it.  Right now, I think that there are good reasons for wearing a mask.

My chess club meets at a Kroger store.  I saw an article saying that both Kroger and Walmart were going to start requiring masks for all customers and staff.  I called the Kroger to confirm this, but they haven't yet seen the change in policy.

BTW, one of my closest friends in Utah and his wife have caught the Delta Variant of COVID.  For them, it is totally debilitating and they are into their third week with no sign of it getting better.  My friend is worried that he is going to be one of the people who have symptoms that linger for months.