Monday, October 31, 2011

It's Halloween!

So, to celebrate the holiday, here's a Roasted Pumpkin Seed recipe:

  • 1 1/2 cups raw pumpkin seeds (from the pumpkin you carved, of course)
  • 2 teaspoons butter
  • Lots of salt.
First, boil the pumpkin seeds in salt water for 20 minutes.  Lay them out on a cookie sheet overnight to dry (today is Halloween, however, so we can't wait a whole night.  Blow dry them or something.)  Add a tablespoon of salt (or more, if you're a respectable individual) and 2 teaspoons of butter.  Spread the buttery, salty seeds on a cookie sheet, and bake them for 30 minutes at 300 ºF (149 ºC).

Then eat them.

  • Use garlic salt (or some other flavored salt) to *spice* up the recipe.  Garlic salt fits with the Halloween theme, I believe, but don't use it if you're a vampire.  Not that you'd need me to tell you.
  • Instead of butter, use some other oily thing, like olive oil or whatever.  Or margarine.  Or some combination of oily things.  Go crazy.

Also, here are some salt-related Halloween costumes (it's not too late to change your costume this year!):

 This guy knows.

 Baby version.

 DIY version/Jimmy Buffett Song?

 Brand loyalty.

 More brand loyalty.

 Veruca Salt from Willy Wonka (Is that Charlie next to her?)

Personal Favorite: The Morton Salt Girl.

Happy Halloween, everybody!

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Logistical Problems

As the title suggests, I've run into some logistical problems with this blog.  Now that I've taken the first steps at pursuing various methods of blog promotion, through blog directories and other such media, I've realized that a few things have to change.

No, I'm not going to stop writing about salt.

Rather, I realized some things that I had not considered when I created this blog.  For starters, the blog is called "F*** Salt," and the URL is  Now, I don't remember which pronunciation I had in mind when I started this thing, but I've since been pronouncing if in my head as the URL is spelled.

/ɛf sɒlt/

I also hadn't really considered how the phrase "F*** Salt" would be interpreted in a Google search.  It seems that asterisks have a weird effect on Google queries.  As of now, I can't find my blog by searching "F*** Salt," but if I search "F Salt" it comes up on the 8th page.  "Eff Salt" returns nothing, but "effsalt" as one word returns stuff related to me on the first few pages.

So it's confusing, and I should change it, right?  Unify it.  Cohesion is good.  The whole blog ought to be called "Eff Salt."  It's a bit more family-friendly anyway, as it encourages the one pronunciation over the other.  Sure, I'll have to update a few profiles around the web, but that's a minor inconvenience.  But am I missing something?  Are there any negative consequences to changing the name?

I'm already using a few different pseudonyms around the web.  "EffSaline" at Twitter, "EffIonicCompounds" on Youtube, but oh well.  They're recognizable.  I think they're sort of humorous spins.  They're just off-shoots of the blog anyway, chosen because "Eff Salt" was already taken.  (Not to mention the websites that allow spaces and those that require underscores...)

And this brings me to Google Authorship...

I think I set it up right.  Not that it matters right now, though, because when I do find my blog through Google, it doesn't link to a Google profile, and the little textual snippet is outdated anyway.

But oh well.  I'm a small-fry.  This is all in preparation for the growth that I hope to gradually achieve.  But there's another problem... my name.

 Get it? I hope the image is at least somewhat recognizable...

What was I thinking, putting an apostrophe in my name?!  Lot's Wife... didn't I realize that apostrophes wouldn't be allowed in like 90% of online profiles?  Not that it matters much on most websites; it's mostly blog directories.  But it mattered on a pretty important page: my Google profile.


Now, if Google Authorship does work, it's going to read "Eff Salt," like it does two pictures above, rather than "Lot's Wife."  The whole point of Authorship is to remind readers that there's a person behind the blog -- an author.  Now it's just a blog written by a blog.  And right now the names don't even match.  Yeesh.

So, in conclusion: my main question to everyone is...

Should I change the name of my blog to "Eff Salt"?  Why or why not?  God, I sound like a short answer question on a quiz...

It seems like an important decision to make before I go about promoting my blog in any serious sense.  It's also preventing me from making any real effort to create a nice looking blog header (or to enlist the aid of Dalf... wouldn't that be cool?)

I look forward to hearing everyone's input. Cheers!

Oh yeah, I changed my little profile image, because I was probably infringing on someone's copyright on quite a few websites.  It's probably not the last time it will change though... right now it's just a rudimentary picture that I whipped up in Graphic Converter.

And another thing: here's a code that I have to insert into a post for Technorati: HHATSMVT4T6C

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Veruca Salt

Today's post is only nominally related to salt, but I think it still counts.

No doubt many of us are familiar with the world of Willy Wonka, be it from either of the films or from the classic Roald Dahl book.  Consequently, one of the more popular characters (in a love-to-hate sort of way) was the spoiled, bratty Veruca Salt.

In the 1971 film, "Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory," Veruca is played by the young Julie Dawn Cole.  In the 2005 film, "Charlie and the Chocolate Factory," which shares its name with the original novel, Veruca is played by Julia Winters.  I find it a sort of interesting coincidence that both actresses have essentially the same name, were both plucked from obscurity (Veruca Salt being their debut film role), and were both cast at the age of 12.

Julie Dawn Cole in Veruca's big scene. Warning: May Contain Spoilers!

Part of the character's nastiness comes from, in my opinion, an apparent self-awareness.  Particularly in the above scene we can see that she knows that she's a total b****, and that just makes it all the more so.

In the original novel, Veruca's inevitable demise (I'll try not to give too much away, for those who are unfamiliar with the story) is caused at the hands of a troop of angry squirrels.  In the 1971 film, the squirrels are changed to a few rather indifferent geese, and Veruca sort of causes her own downfall.  In the 2005 film, the squirrels are restored.

Now, I read the book when I was a kid, and I've seen the original film, but I've yet to see the 2005 movie.  Something about Gene Wilder as Willy Wonka seems more appealing to me than Johnny Depp.  It's not that I don't like Johnny Depp, but I've grown rather skeptical of Johnny Depp/Tim Burton pairings (Burton being the director of the 2005 version).

And no, I haven't seen "Edward Scissorhands." 

By the way, the name Veruca Salt (my only real connection to salt for this post, after all), has an interesting meaning: "Veruca" is a manipulated spelling of Verruca (from the Latin Verrūca), which is the sciencey term for "wart" (eg. Verruca Vulgaris, Veruca Plantaris).  The word "salt" also has some negative connotations that suggest anger, aggression, and piquancy.

To me, though, "salt" means "love."

Monday, October 24, 2011

Boiling Saltwater: Part Two!

I don't even know if the last post was that interesting, but it's got a second part now.  Oh well.

Another picture of water boiling (I don't know if there's salt in this one...).

So we know that adding salt to water increases its boiling point -- that is, the temperature at which water boils (which it cannot exceed in its liquid form).  Presumably, this would mean that raising the boiling point of water with salt would make it take longer to boil.

But this is not so!

Rather, salt water reaches a boil faster than an equal volume of regular water.  Oh, sweet counter-intuition.  Here's why:

There's this thing called specific heat, which is the amount of energy required to raise a certain amount of a certain substance by a certain temperature.  Typically it's one gram of something by one degree Celsius.  Water (H20) has a specific heat of 4.184 g/J*ºC, which means that it takes 4.184 Joules (a unit that measures energy) to raise the temperature of one gram of water by one degree Celsius.  Water has an unusually high specific heat compared to other common substances.

Dissolved salt (that is, sodium and chlorine ions) has a negligible specific heat compared to water.  This means that all the sodium and chloride ions heat up really quickly -- so quickly, in fact, that we can basically ignore the energy that they absorb.  Therefore, salt water consisting of 70% water and 30% salt will heat up approximately 30% faster than 100% water.  Pretty awesome.*

 *If you think stuff like that is awesome, anyway...

Friday, October 21, 2011

Boiling Saltwater

Life takes its toll, even for the halophile...

But here comes another blog post.

Adding salt to water will increase the water's Boiling Point.  What this means is that it takes a higher temperature to make the water come to a boil.  At sea level, water boils at 100 ºC (212 ºF), though at higher altitudes the boiling point of water decreases, and vice-versa, due to some other non-salt-related phenomena.

The reason that salt increases the boiling point of water is fairly straightforward.  Salt (NaCl), as I've mentioned previously, is an ionic compound.  Many ionic compounds (particularly those including sodium) are soluble in water, which means that they dissolve.  When salt, composed of sodium ions and chlorine ions, dissolves, it breaks down into its individual ions.

These ions are nonvolatile, which means that they do not evaporate.  Instead, they just absorb heat energy which would otherwise be absorbed by the water (H20).  Now, you might think that this means that you can add any old thing (like a shoe) to boiling water to "steal" its heat, and that's true... but all you'd accomplish is to make the water to take longer to boil.  Once it reaches 100 ºC (or a slightly different temperature depending on where you live), it's going to boil.  Adding salt to water makes it boil at a higher temperature, which has its benefits.

This guy knows.
Whatever temperature water boils at is as hot as that water is going to get (in its liquid form, anyway).  Gaseous water can get pretty dang hot, but unless you're cooking with a pressure cooker (which also raises the boiling point of water, by the way), all the steam that your boiling water produces is just going to cool down right away.  The benefit to increasing the boiling point of water is that it allows you to achieve higher temperatures, which means that you can cook your food faster or more thoroughly. 

If you're at a high altitude and your water boils at a temperature that's too low to adequately cook your food, you can add salt to raise the boiling point.

To give an idea as to the effect of salt on the boiling point of water, here's a data table produced by a fourth grader from Mankato, Minnesota six years ago (I like to have credible sources):

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Congestion? Sinus headache?


You just need this:

Nasal Irrigation

Okay, so I know what you're thinking: "Her teapot is so fancy! I want to irrigate my nasal cavities AND be cost-effective."  Or maybe you're actually just thinking that it looks gross.

In which case you're right.  It does.  But that's just a minor detail.  If you can get past the Gross Factor, you might just find that you really like this.  I did.  (That's right; I've done this before).

Nasal irrigation originated in an Ancient Hindu medical practice called Ayurveda.  It is very old and just as intuitive.  Basically, you just pour water in one nostril and out the other.  There are a few key details though:

1) The water must have the proper salinity (oh yes, you didn't think this one wasn't going to be about salt, did you?).  The salt helps to match the salinity of, well, snot, so it doesn't hurt when the water goes in your nose.  You can purchase pre-measured salt mixtures at a pharmacy or health store, or you can prepare your own mixture at home.  A good recipe is one pint warm water, one teaspoon canning/pickling salt (more on this in a bit), and one teaspoon baking powder (to cut the acidity of the salt).  If you'd like, you can store this solution for up to a week.

2) Make sure to use canning or pickling salt, as opposed to regular table salt, because table salt is iodized and contains other additives that are abrasive to the nasal membrane.

3) Use warm water, as it is more comfortable than cold or hot water.

4) When pouring the solution in your nostril, tilt your head slightly, making sure that your sinuses are higher than your throat.  If you tilt at too sharp an angle, the water could go down your throat instead of out your other nostril.  This isn't a bad thing, but it's a little gross if you think about it (not that you don't already swallow like a quart of snot a day, or some other ridiculous amount).

 The sinus rinse family!

As gross as it is, nasal irrigation is very effective at easing colds, sinus infections, or any other such ailments.  More than just clearing out the nasal cavities, sinus rinses also help kill bacteria.  The first couple times I tried it, I was, not surprisingly, grossed out.  But I've since come to really appreciate its effectiveness.  And a little ickiness is a fair price to get rid of a headache.

Monday, October 10, 2011

Saltine Cracker Challenge!

Believe it or not, this is the best I could come up with on Google Images.
A few people mentioned the dryness of saltine crackers in the comments for my last post, and so I couldn't help but write about the Saltine Cracker Challenge!  (I'm also assuming that this is what SlogBlog11 meant by "cracker races," but I could be mistaken.)

Anyway, the Saltine Cracker Challenge! is known by a variety of names, and sometimes the rules vary, but the basic challenge is to chew and swallow six saltine crackers in a minute or less, leaving no crumbs, and without drinking anything to wash them down.  Like many things that sound simple, it's not.  Here's a video of the Saltine Cracker Challenge!:
Wow. What an alarming picture.

There's a Wikipedia page for the Saltine Cracker Challenge!, and in the entry is a section called "Game Variations."  This is the entire section as of this writing:

"Several people claim their version of the challenge is the 'correct' one. This section will itemize the myriad variations of the challenge:
  • California Saltine Challenge - This version of the challenge requires contestants to eat 7 saltines within 60 seconds and then whistle clearly. The saltines dry up the mouth making whistling near impossible. No crumbs are allowed to spray out of the mouth when the whistle is attempted."

  >myriad variations
  >one variation

Friday, October 7, 2011

Saltine Crackers

I thought saltine crackers would be a no-brainer for a salt blog, but can you believe that there are unsalted varieties?  Saltine crackers, sans-salt. I'm appalled.

That's just a cracker.

Anyway, if you like crackers and you like salt, then this is the perfect combination.  The ingredients: flour, shortening, yeast, baking soda -- and, of course, salt.  Saltine crackers are also called soda crackers because after the dough rises, alkaline soda is added to cut the acidity of the yeast.  I guess I can handle the idea of salt-free saltine crackers, but only if they're called "soda crackers" instead.  Not everything can have salt in it; I can admit that.

The holes in the crackers are so that steam can escape while they bake, making the dough rise uniformly.  The perforations on the edges are there because the crackers are baked in sheets and then broken apart into neat little squares.

Saltine crackers have been around since at least the nineteenth century, and they were first marketed as "Premium Soda Crackers," and later as "Premium Saltines."  The Premium brand was later absorbed by Nabisco.  Nabisco once held a patent on the word "saltine," but popular use of the word has since rendered the patent no longer extant.  Be careful using the word in Australia, though, because "saltine" is patented there by Arnott's Biscuit Holdings.  In New Zealand they have this:

Is that Spanish I detect? Hm...
So according to Wikipedia, saltine crackers are used as a home remedy to settle upset stomachs, which I guess makes sense, but Wikipedia mentions another home remedy called "Chelt," which makes little to no sense.  "Chelt" is a combination of saltine crackers and spearmint or menthol flavoring, which, taken before breakfast (I'm guessing this is very important), is meant to promote hair growth.  While I have zero faith in "Chelt" actually working, I'm also taking it's very existence into consideration (let's say with a grain of salt) because surprise, surprise...

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Bull Sharks

"Well, I'm back," he said.


Bull sharks today.

Bull sharks aren't, as I immediately assumed them to be, bull/shark hybrids, freely roaming both land and sea unchecked by natural predators.  In reality they have no bull parts, nor do they make the water-to-land transition very gracefully.  But they can live in both saltwater and freshwater.  Which means that, yes, there could be something dangerous swimming below your feet in that cloudy lake water.

Bull sharks are not the only saltwater species that can enter and thrive in freshwater, but they are easily the most intimidating.  In fact, forty-two other species among the subclass Eslamobranchii, to which bull sharks belong, can live in freshwater.  The way they manage this is through a process called osmoregulation, where the concentration of water in an organism's body is maintained despite changes in the external environment.  All fish undergo osmoregulation; bull sharks are just particularly good at it.  By controlling the concentration gradients of solutes in their bodies, bull sharks can ensure that the proper levels of water and solutes diffuse through them (by the way, this means that in freshwater bull sharks pee a lot).

I like a creature that knows how much salt it wants.

Here is an image of the geographic range of the bull shark:

The bull shark has been recorded approximately 2,600 miles into the Amazon River.  Now, to my American readers, I ask you, do you see the bit of blue on the map stretching up the Mississippi River?  The Mississippi is only 2,320 miles long.  Do the math.

A couple other things about bull sharks:

1) In Nicaragua bull sharks are known as "Nicaraguan Sharks," probably because Lake Nicaragua is one of their usual haunts.  I, personally, think it's a load of bull (pun absolutely intended) that Nicaraguans would be so presumptuous.

2) The bull shark's diet consists mainly of bony fish and other sharks.  (What is this world coming to?)  They also eat a variety of other marine life (including dolphins, how sad), birds*, and terrestrial mammals (by which I'm assuming Wikipedia means people).

*I've always wondered about those birds chilling on the water amid violent bloodbaths on Animal Planet.  I always assumed the sharks left them alone.  But now I want to shout at the screen, "Fly, birds!  Use your wings--they want to eat you too!"