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Every Single Box of Jiffy Mix, Baked and Tasted

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Jiffy baking mixes are iconic and adorable, but you’ve probably only used one or two—and one of those was probably the corn muffin mix. But there are many other mixes to explore and, because I am a dedicated investigative food journalist, I decided to test all of the little blue boxes I could find.

Honestly, most uses I know for Jiffy mixes are “off label.” I know someone who uses the chocolate muffin mix to make cookies, and my family has been using the corn muffin mix in our corn casserole for many delicious years. An entirely separate article could be written about these off-label uses, but I wanted to give the mixes a chance to break out of their supporting roles, and really shine (or wither) in their own right. So I ordered them all.

The experiment ate up a whole day in the kitchen but—besides all the standing—it was easy work. In addition to the retro-chic packaging, the real beauty of Jiffy mixes lies in how little they cost and how easy they are to prepare. Most mixes call for an egg (never more than one), and a little milk or oil, but some need nothing more than a bit of water. They also make about half of a “normal” sized batch of whatever you’re making, which is cool if you live alone and only want to scarf down six brownies in one sitting rather than twelve. As would be expected, some were good, some were mediocre, and some bad. We’ll start with the winners.

The Things I’d Buy Again: Brownies and a Few Muffins

There were four boxes of mix that I legitimately enjoyed eating, and I will present them in order of enjoyment (from first to last):

Corn Muffin Mix

No one should be surprised that this one did well. If you take a glance at the header photo, you’ll notice that instead of the usual “Compare & Save” label there’s a confident “America’s Favorite,” and I can see why. The muffins are nice and soft soft, a touch salty, slightly sweet, and full of corny flavor. They’re not quite cornbread—which, in my Mississippi-born opinion, should only be savory—but they are delicious, and slightly addicting.

Fudge Brownie Mix

I love a good brownie mix, and this one is pretty dang delicious. It’s only fault lies in the top: it’s a bit dull and lacks the shiny, crackly topping that is so firmly associated with box brownies. In spite of this shortcoming, I was pretty pleased with the batch. The edges were crisp and chewy, the centers were rich, dense, and fudgey, and the flavor was, of course, very chocolate-y.

Blueberry and Raspberry Muffin Mixes

“Healthy” muffins are made of lies. Like, quit trying to fool people. The amount of bran you have to add to a muffin to make it legitimately good for you affects both texture and flavor in an unpleasant manner, so let’s just focus on making muffins what they should be: slightly less sweet cupcakes without frosting. Both of these muffins fit the bill in that regard, and are fairly fluffy and sweet, with fruity flavors that remind me of breakfast cereal. (Have you had Blueberry Morning? Imagine Blueberry Morning as a muffin.)

The little dehydrated fruity bits distribute evenly throughout the mix and stay there during baking, meaning every bite is populated by at least a few tiny berries. Where the blueberry delivers a classic flavor that perfectly straddles the line between “just sweet enough” and “cloying,” the raspberry muffin is a little zingier, a little brighter,and slightly unexpected, kind of like if the blueberry muffin had a slightly more fun cousin.

The Bores: Beige Muffins and Biscuits

Then there were the goods that were merely okay. These mixes weren’t offensive in any way except for how forgettable they were, but for less than a dollar a box, how offended can I be? (Not very.)

Buttermilk Biscuit Mix

You can prepare these guys two ways: drop-style or roll-em-out-and-cut-em-out-style. I did both. For how easy these are to make—you literally just add water, mix, knead like three times, and drop or roll—they ain’t bad.

They’re also not great. Though they bake up just fine, all nice and fluffy, they’re pretty bland, and completely lack the “buttermilk” part of “buttermilk biscuit.” Blandness is pretty easily fixed however, and I had no problem eating them with a bit of butter. They’d also be a good, cheap, and easy option if you’re going to be using them as a vehicle for something super-flavorful. (Not sausage gravy though; biscuits and gravy is a dish that should be comprised of only the best biscuits and the most perfect gravy.)

The Other Beige and Brown Muffins

Besides the corn muffins (which I guess are more of a yellow anyway), all the beige and brown muffins are underwhelming. The banana reminded me of an ester oil I had to synthesize in orgo lab, the chocolate wasn’t chocolaty enough, and the oatmeal made me crave an oatmeal cookie and then failed to satisfy that craving. The apple cinnamon muffins were so forgettable that I almost forgot to mention them just now. My notes simply say “apple cinnamon—okay.”

The Disappointments: Cakes, Frosting, and Crusts

Now we must discuss the boxes that I wouldn’t mess with again. These were the baked goods I ended up tossing, because I didn’t want to eat them, and didn’t think anyone else would either. We’ll start with the least offensive.

Cake, Cake, Cake (and Frosting)

The cakes pictured on the boxes of cake mix are tall, proud, and fluffy-looking. The reality, however, is a much flatter affair. (This could be because I have no upper body strength, and thus the prescribed five minutes of manual mixing didn’t do much, but I doubt it.)

The yellow cake mix calls for a whole egg, while the white only calls for a white, but both have the texture and mouthfeel of a store-bought angel food cake. Both cakes were very springy, but a bit dry, and they stuck to my teeth in a way that made me not want to eat them. They were also a little one note, with that note being sweet, without any of the other buttery, nuanced flavors that usually come along with a baked cake. The frosting didn’t fair much better.

The fudge frosting had the most problems. I kept adding boiling water to it, and it kept refusing to spread. It was dull and stiff, tasted of Tootsie Rolls, and seemed to have a greater affinity for itself than for the cake.

The white frosting was at least spreadable, but it was painfully sweet, and did nothing to help the flavorless, but also very sweet cake.

Pizza Crust Mix

I almost feel bad judging this one, as I knew going in that it wouldn’t be that good. The pizza on the box doesn’t even look that good.

Basically, this crust tasted like school cafeteria pizza crust: bland, flat, and completely lacking in chew. I ate half a slice, got sad, then gave up and picked the cheese off of the rest of the pie.

But this wasn’t the worst crust.

Pie Crust Mix

Some of the issues with the pie crust are my fault. For one, my pie plate was too big. The mix is supposed to make enough dough for a 9-inch double crust pie, but I only had a 10-inch, deep dish pie plate, so I used that. For this reason, I didn’t expect to get enough for a double crust, but I still expected to have a little more dough leftover after rolling out the bottom crust.

But even if had used the correct sized pan, and there had been enough dough, it still wouldn’t have been a good dough. It wasn’t flaky, it didn’t have any flavor to speak of—there wasn’t even a hint of butter—and it was dense and mealy. In short, I did not like it.

I hate ending on a sad note, however, so I’ll once again profess my love for the corn muffins. Those corn muffins are without flaw, and that little box of mix will always have a place in my cupboard. I’ll be putting those brownies into rotation too; they’re hard to beat at that price point.

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jepler
1 hour ago
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Was looking at a box of jiffy mix at a friend's house. they still use animal shortening, wow.
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angelchrys
4 hours ago
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Overland Park, KS
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Report: Google Chrome Getting Ad Blocker to Kill Bad Ads

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chrome merge tabs

According to a report from the Wall Street Journal, Google, an ad company, is considering putting an ad blocker in its Chrome internet browser on mobile and desktop. The ad blocker won’t be a full blocker, though, but rather a blocker that targets unacceptable ads that likely ruin your experience as you dance around the web. 

The WSJ is under the impression that Google is readying the feature and could have it ready within weeks, assuming they do launch it because they could still scrap it altogether.

So wait, why would an ad company want to block ads? The thought here is that unacceptable or bad ads are ruining the experience for people who are then looking for full ad blockers to rid their lives of ads. If Google can block only the obnoxious types, then maybe ad blocker installations will stop increasing and the web won’t be so filthy with just Google’s ads in place. It’s kind of a wild idea, but hey, it makes some sense.

The types of unacceptable ads that Google could look to block or those that pop-up, auto-play video with sound, or are a prestitial, which would be those f*cking terrible ads that pop-up as you load a site and feature a countdown before you can even get onto the actual content you came for. Yeah, I hate those and that’s why you’ve never seen them on Droid Life.

I guess we’ll find out pretty quickly if Google is going forward with this.

Via: Wall Street Journal

Report: Google Chrome Getting Ad Blocker to Kill Bad Ads is a post from: Droid Life

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jepler
2 days ago
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give us extensions in chrome on android and we'll take care of the problem. ff on android isn't great, but I can install ublock0 on it so I do...
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angelchrys
4 days ago
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Overland Park, KS
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Plastc Swiped $9 Million From Backers, Now It Plans To File For Bankruptcy and Shut Down

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Plastc announced today that it is planning to file for bankruptcy and will shut down on April 20, 2017, after raising more than $9 million through preorders and shipping to no backers. "Plastc launched in 2014 with the promise of shipping a single card that could digitally hold 20 credit or debit cards that a user could switch between," reports The Verge. From the report: With that, all backers' money is lost, and no Plastc cards will ship. Plastc announced the news on its website today along with the fact that all its employees have been laid off. Its customer care and social media channels have also been shut down. The company explains that it thought it would close $3.5 million in funding in February this year, but that fell through. Another possible investment deal of $6.75 million fell through, too. What's not clear is how more than $9 million wasn't sufficient to get backers their orders. Backers will likely have questions and want their money back, but with no one to turn to from Plastc, they'll likely be out the cash.
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jepler
3 days ago
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how's that crowdfunding working out? ugh I hope everybody's learned not to preorder revolutionary products on these sites by now, so that we can stop getting these stories. no? damn.
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Hackaday Prize Entry: DIY ARM Scientific Calculator

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What does a hacker do when he or she wants something but can’t afford it? They hack one together, of course. Or, in the case of [Ramón Calvo], they thoughtfully plan and prototype. [Ramón Calvo] wanted a scientific calculator, but couldn’t afford one, so he designed and built one himself.

[Ramón] started off with Arduino but upgraded initially to Freescale’s Freedom KL25Z development board upgraded to an ARM Cortex-M0+ programmed using mbed. The display is an Electronic Assembly DOGL-128 128×64 pixel LCD. [Ramón] did a couple of iterations on the PCB, going from a large DIY one in order for the Arduino version to work, to the current, smaller version for the ARM chip with hand soldered SMD components. After that, [Ramón] looked into the algorithms needed to parse mathematical input. He settled on the shunting-yard algorithm, which converts the input into Reverse Polish Notation (RPN), which is easier for the software to work with.

[Ramón] has a ton of features working, including your standard add, subtract, multiply and divide operations, square root, nth root and exponentiation, trigonometry, log and log10, and factorial(!) There are a few things still on the to-do list, such as low power and a graphing mode, and there are a couple of bugs still in the system, but the overall system is up and running. [Ramón] has put up the schematic and KiCAD files up on his Hackaday.io project page along with the bill of materials.

We’ve had a few Hackaday prize entries in the form of calculators, such as this one with Nixie tubes and this one that emulates 70’s HP calculators.


Filed under: The Hackaday Prize



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jepler
3 days ago
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I considered a project like this, then decided I had better things to do :-P still would be cool though.
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The Regional Office Is Under Attack! is the most fun book I’ve read all month

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Manuel Gonzales’s novel The Regional Office Is Under Attack! — newly out in paperback — belongs to a genre I loosely define as “literary deconstructions of science fiction and fantasy/action-adventure tropes.”

That’s the genre where the Grossman brothers live, both Lev, with his what-if-Harry-Potter-had-an-existential-crisis Magicians novels, and Austin, with his take on what drives the psychology of the mad scientist in Soon I Will Be Invincible. It’s where Jonathan Lethem does his gritty, superpowers-will-not-save-you-from-late-capitalism novels, like A Gambler’s Anatomy or The Fortress of Solitude.

Works that fall into this genre are not, exactly, magical realism. They are designed to interrogate and break apart the tropes that drive genre storytelling and make it so fun, and to integrate genre plotting with the psychological insight of literary fiction. When done right, they marry the best of both worlds: Every time you start to get bored with the characters’ self-indulgent wallowing in their own problems, there’s a dragon; just when you start to lose track of the characters’ psychologies, there’s an existential crisis.

In The Regional Office Is Under Attack!, Gonzales doesn’t quite hit the ideal balance. But he has a hell of a lot of fun trying.

The titular Regional Office is, as far as most of the world is aware, a high-class luxury travel agency. But if you are in the know, and you approach the front desk and inquire about a trip to Atlantis, they will send you to the sub-sub-sub basements. There, you will meet Sarah O’Harah, the woman who is rumored to have a mechanical arm. Sarah will listen to your problems — whether they involve prophecies, shadowy global conspiracies, or any number of assorted forces of darkness — and she will have the Regional Office, its Oracles, and the superpowered young women whom the Office employs take care of it.

As the novel begins, the Regional Office is (surprise!) under attack, by mysterious forces. The story’s point of view toggles back and forth between Sarah, having the worst workday of her life; Rose, one of the superpowered young women infiltrating the office; and the bewildered office drones who previously had no idea they were anyone’s cover. Periodically, we get updates from an academic paper on the history and founding of the Regional Office, and how its history led up to its inevitable fall.

The beauty of this setup is that it allows The Regional Office to be a workplace novel with life-and-death stakes. When you start to get sick of Rose Die Hard-ing her way through an air vent into the building, bam, there are some employees snidely commenting on their inter-office rivalries as they half-heartedly work out an escape plan. (One of them tries to pretend he actually does have a plan, but his co-workers know better: “He obviously had no fucking clue what to do next but was trying to make it sound like he was unknotting some thorny but brilliant plan. We let him at it with the sad understanding that this delusional activity was all the glue holding poor William together.” Don’t we all know a William?) And when you get sick of the office politics, boom, there’s a bionic woman showing up to kick some ass.

The book’s fundamental weakness is that it is so arch, so rich with post-modern irony, that it has a hard time finding a well of sincerity. When it does manage to be sincere, it’s heart-stopping — the end of the employee interlude, when the collective “we” becomes a singular “I,” is killer — but mostly, it keeps its characters at a polite distance. For all its rote literary psychological examinations, the novel can’t quite take them seriously, and so neither can we. Which means that The Regional Office Is Under Attack! is stuck at the level of “a whole lot of fun,” instead of being as inventive and transcendent as its opening pages suggest it might become.

Still, “a whole lot of fun” is nothing to take for granted in a book. The Regional Office Is Under Attack! might not quite live up to its potential, but as it is, it’s a frothy and ass-kicking delight that’s a pure pleasure to read.

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jepler
5 days ago
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mass combat belongs in the monster manual

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D&D started as a hack on a war game, which is why OD&D depends on, but does not provide, mass combat rules. The original game included kingdom management rules and prices for castles and armies. The first adventure module, in the Blackmoor supplement, had rooms that contained hundreds of soldiers. You were expected to break out TSR’s Chainmail war game to use these things. In fact, as you got higher and higher level, Gygax expected that more and more of your time playing D&D would actually be spent playing Chainmail. That’s sort of like if you went to a Scrabble tournament and they said, “Good news! You guys are such good Scrabble players that now you get to play Monopoly.”

D&D went mainstream because audiences liked the fast, immersive, co-op game of the imagination, and they didn’t latch onto (or even understand the references to) the slow, rules-bound, head-to-head, miniature-requiring war game. So, in later editions, the Chainmail references were cut. Essentially, D&D’s intended end game, conquest and rulership, was removed. The middle of the game, grinding for money, was extended, even though there were now no castles and armies to spend the money on.

And this is a big loss for D&D. In any edition, high level D&D is not a solid product. High level fights are swingy, monster variety is sparse. And, worse, with epic battles and kingdom-building mostly offscreen, characters can’t leave their mark on the game world, except by saving it from ever more powerful dungeon monsters. Players and DMs alike generally try to keep away from war epics, because running big battles isn’t something D&D does.

To fill the hole left by the removal of Chainmail and epic-fantasy play, TSR and WOTC churned out stand-alone battle supplements every few years:

-OD&D introduced Swords & Spells, which was an updated Chainmail with special rules for each of the D&D spells and monsters. It technically allowed battling lone heroes against 10:1 (10 soldiers to a mini) figures, although it recommended avoiding cross-scale combat as much as possible.

-Basic D&D included War Machine: a sort of spreadsheet where you came up with a rating of each army and then rolled a percentile die to decide the battle.

-1e and 2e both published an edition of Battle System. This was another entry in the Chainmail/Swords & Spells tradition, but it came in a box with cut-out-and-assemble peasant houses, which was cool.

-3e had the Miniatures Handbook. Again, its mass combat rules were along the lines of Chainmail, featuring typical war game rules for formations, facing, morale, etc, using d20 mechanics.

-5e has two sets of playtest mass-combat rules, some iteration of which will presumably see official publication some day. The first playtest has traditional wargame-style rules, with frontage, etc. The second boils down every army to a single “battle rating”, in the Basic War Machine tradition.

All of these games perpetuate the flaw that kept Chainmail from catching on in the first place: in order to play them, you have to stop playing D&D.

D&D is not a war game. All the design decisions that make a good war game lead to a bad D&D game, and vice versa.

-Because war games are played competitively, they must be fair. D&D campaigns can only achieve longevity when they are unfair in favor of the players.

-Because war games are fair: war games must have complete rules. You can’t make stuff up halfway through without favoring one of the players. So you can only make a pontoon bridge if there are rules for it. D&D rules are incomplete by design. There are no rules in any edition for making a pontoon bridge, but if you can scrounge up some boats and lumber, the DM will let you do it.

-Because war games are complete: war games must have detailed rules. A good war game models the rock-paper-scissors of archery, cavalry, and spearmen, and provides big bonuses and penalties based on terrain, flanking, morale, fog of war, high ground, and anything else that might conceivably come up. D&D, on the other hand, features abstract combat rules that look nothing like reality. Core D&D combat is a barebones transaction of combatants trading swipes. More important than realism is simplicity, because most of D&D is not in the combat engine but in the DM and player improvisation that happens at the same time.

running an epic battle in D&D

D&D is great at handling small fights – say, five characters fighting a few trolls. Why can’t the same rules handle five characters, the town guard, and a dragon fighting against a skeleton army, a lich, and a dozen trolls?

What if the first edition Monster Manual had contained stat blocks for a skeleton horde, a town watch, and so on? Think of the stories we could have been telling all these years.

masscombatstatblock1swordsmen

masscombatstatblock5skeletons

My alternate-history army stat blocks are pretty simplistic, but that’s what I like about them. A requirement for war-game standards of rules completeness and detail has been holding back high-level play for years. A D&D combat is great because of all the rules that Gary Gygax didn’t include. Let me talk about the war game rules I think D&D can live without.

Casualties. When half your archers are dead, you can fire half as many arrows, right? Nah. Just as a D&D hero at 1 hp fights at full strength, A 100-soldier army, even at 1 hp, is still a 100-soldier army. After the battle, hit point damage can be translated into some ratio of dead, wounded, and fled, at the DM’s discretion.

Facing, frontage, formation. These rules appear in nearly every war game. We need that level of detail like we need the First Edition grapple rules.

Figure scale. War games are not designed for varying figure scales: every miniature on the battlefield needs to represent, for instance, 20 soldiers. A war-game fight between a lone hero and a 20:1 army unit is usually wonky or impossible. On the other hand, if every army is treated as an individual D&D monster, a tenth-level fighter can battle on fairly even terms with a troop representing 10 first level fighters, which can in turn battle a troll or a unit of 36 goblins.

Time scale. Most war games have realistic but D&D- incompatible turns of ten minutes or more. I’m sticking with D&D combat rounds. If a massive war is over within a few six- second rounds, that’s fine with me.

If anything, D&D-style fights can be too fast. To make it more likely that everyone gets a turn, I’ve added a special rule in my army stat blocks, capping attack damage so that no army can score a one-hit KO. This favors the underdog (and the underdog is usually the PCs). Still, this is a special exception and I wouldn’t be surprised if it were unnecessary.

Leadership bonuses. Many war games assign static bonuses to troops based on the abilities of their commanders. In a war game, which doesn’t allow for referee discretion, this is the best you can do. But in D&D, if a player delivers a speech and leads a charge, or comes up with a clever scheme, the DM can assign appropriate bonuses. The more the players act creatively, the more vivid the scene will be – just as in a standard D&D fight.

Spell rules. We do NOT want a Swords and Spells-style gloss on every spell describing its interaction with armies. Here are my abstractions:
1) Damage spells ignore area of effect. An 8d6 fireball does 8d6 damage.
2) “Condition” spells are all-or-nothing. If a Bless spell can target all the members of an army, it operates normally. Otherwise, it fails.

Morale, flanking, setting ambushes, charging, fighting withdrawal, high ground, and every special case I haven’t already mentioned. First and and Second Edition have explicit morale rules. In other editions, morale failure is by DM fiat. If the local morale rules (or lack thereof) are good enough for 10 goblins at level 1, they’re good enough for 100 goblins at level 10. The same principle, “use existing combat rules”, applies for flanking (present in 3e and 4e), charging (present in every edition but 5e) and so on.

Here are the stat-block templates I’ve used for turning any creature into an army of any size. I’ve done first and fifth editions (my current favorites).

masscombatstatblock1template

masscombatstatblock5template

(crossposted/lightly edited from here)

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jepler
5 days ago
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On grafting a wargame onto your RPG as players power up: "It’s sort of like if you went to a Scrabble tournament and they said, “Good news! You guys are such good Scrabble players that now you get to play Monopoly.”"
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