Log in

06 April 2012 @ 03:31 am
When xiphias first introduced me to Live Journal, one of the uses he described is that it's a good place to go when you need to rant in the middle of the night. Until now, I haven't actually needed to use it for that purpose, but the time has come.

Commence rant...
Recently, I've been staying in Texas, out in the country on the top of a very pretty hill with lovely views all around. The warm and friendly folk here have been asking me why I don't move here permanently. My answer to this question varies, but inevitably includes the fact that in Texas Nature is out to get you, bucolic beauty notwithstanding.

Case(s) in point: Snakes, spiders, and scorpions, all of which make this hill as much their home as mine. Snakes don't normally bother me much unless they're poisonous and an immediate threat, but spiders are a whole other story. And scorpions... Fortunately I haven't had to worry about them much, having moved to a part of the world where they're rare. But they're not rare here. They're particularly not rare when you're out in the country and have a doggy door with a half-inch gap between the bottom of the flap and the sill. Still, I have only another 40 hours or so until I return to the relative safey of New England and I've managed to see them before they saw me.

Until tonight that is. I was up late, trying to get stuff done that needs to get done, and finally gave in to go to bed. Moved the clean laundry off the bed, jumped in, and... OW! Great. A scorpion was lurking not ON the bed, but IN it, and got me on my toe. And here I was thinking I was about to make a clean getaway, insect-wise. So I go looking for Benedryl or some suitable substitute. Is there any in the house? No. Is there any reasonable substitute? Not unless you consider Zyrtec to be a suitable substitute, or a bottle of Benadryl gel with an expiration date of April, 2010. I'm a good half hour away from any place that's likely to be both open and a purveyor of Benedryl. For that matter, I'm a good half hour away from just about anything.

Now, it's been decades since I had to think about scorpion stings, so it wasn't immediately apparent to me whether I was in no trouble at all or in very big trouble. So I dial 911, explain the situation, and ask if this is something I should be concerned with. It depends, says the operator. Are you allergic to scorpion stings? I have no idea. I've never been stung by one before. She offers to send an ambulance. One of two ambulances which are available to cover a huge area. I envision someone dying from a heart attack while the ambulance crew evaluates the sting on my pinky toe. Not a good thought. It's been a few minutes, and there's no sign of incipient anaphylaxis, so I decline.

But now I'm well and truly annoyed because I have to sit up for another hour or so, waiting to see if I'm one of the few folks who are going to develop a nasty cardiac or respiratory reaction to the sting. I'm betting I'm not, which makes the whole thing even more annoying in a perverse sort of way.

Yanno, come to think of it, this may explain the sudden, odd headache I got this afternoon, and the cluster of itchy and painful marks in the crook of my left elbow which appeared right after I brought in the laundry. If so, I must not be allergic to scorpion venom, since there are a good half dozen bites of some sort in that area, and I'm not dead.

I tell you what, once I get the cats and dogs out of here, I'm gonna seal up the doggy door, spray this place with the most noxious, highly residual chemical I can find, toss in a pesticied bomb or three, lock the people door, and leave it to itself for a while.

End rant, for now at least.
Current Mood: annoyedannoyed
23 July 2011 @ 05:23 pm
In these hours of national tragedy, you are in my heart and in the hearts of people throughout the world. I grieve for those who were killed and wounded, for those who love them, and for all the people of Norway. The courage and dignity your leaders have shown are inspiring. This is how we should respond to cowardly attacks such as this!

May you be comforted in one another, and may those who would harm you find that they have weakened their own cause while making you even stronger than before.
29 June 2011 @ 01:18 am
Tonight I ended up working quite late because there are some days when things to be done are like potato chips; you can't do just one. So there I am at eleven-thirty p.m., alone in the building, tappity-tap-tapping away at my computer, when I had a sudden realization.

There was pretty much no oxygen.

I could breathe perfectly well. But breathing did not result in oxygenation. It was as though I'd somehow managed to exhaust all the oxygen in the office, which is a big enough space for a couple hundred people to work.

Granted, the ventilation had been turned off something over four hours earlier. Still, it was a surprising turn of events. That's a lot of cubic feet for one person to exhaust.

My guess is that the situation had existed for a bit without my noticing, because my initial reaction was "Hm. I'd better hurry up and get these last two or three memos written because, you know, no oxygen."

Such a reaction is not a sign of functioning intelligence.

A few minutes later I had another thought: "If I don't get a decent amount of oxygen RIGHT NOW, I'm going to pass out." This one actually managed to make contact with my self-preservation instinct, and I started shutting things down. Okay, I really should have left everything on and gotten out of there, but have I mentioned I wasn't thinking too clearly?

By the time I was heading for the door, I was not entirely certain I was going to make it that far. It was amusing to contemplate the uproar which certainly would result if the first person to arrive in the morning were to find a body in the hallway.

I got to the door, only to discover that it was oppressively humid outside.

Great. I'd gone from (nearly) no oxygen to oxygen that came accompanied by significant amounts of water. In such circumstances, your car's a/c is your friend, if not your savior.

Somehow, I think my enthusiasm for working late has just been dealt a serious blow.
28 May 2011 @ 03:46 am
I might be able to get a problem with LJ resolved.

Well, it's a problem for me. I don't know about anyone else, hence this post.

Since r79 (the new nav bar) was rolled out, the Communities Only filter provides access only to those communities already included in my default filter. Previously, it included all communities of which I was a member or was watching.

Now LJ staff have told me that there is no agreement between people who used the feature before r79 whether what I'm experiencing is intended or not. I've been asked to request that anyone reading this who also has noticed this change please post a comment.

Responding to my comment in the most recent news probably would be the best way to do this, if you feel like helping out. Here's a link to the comment itself.

If anyone feels like asking their own flist about this issue, that also would help.

Edited to clothe the naked link. (Sorry, James.)
Current Mood: discontentdiscontent
11 April 2011 @ 10:45 pm
So, I’m doing some research into internet security suites. First up is Avast. Anyone have an opinion about it? I notice they offer the option to encrypt passwords for storage and secure use. Among other things, the idea is that sending your password encrypted will keep anyone from using it if they snatch it en route. Does such an option offer a significant improvement in security over use of strong passwords and SSL encrypted websites?
02 January 2011 @ 12:29 am
So, it's midnight on the first night of 2011, and I'm eating a big bowl of conchiglie with homemade Bolognese sauce based heavily on Ragu alla Bolognese Ricetta Antica from Lidia's Italy.

Why am I doing this? Because the sauce has another hour or two to simmer but I could no longer stand to wait until it's done. The smell was killing me with anticipation. I thought I was going to make it tonight and eat it tomorrow. No chance.

One of the things I love about the cooking show Lidia's Italy is the chef's obvious love for the food and culture of Italy and also for her family. Her mother, son, daughter, and grandchildren all join her in her kitchen. Now, I realize that families are often different in public than in private, but this family seems to enjoy one another so unaffectedly on the show, that whatever their off-camera foibles may be, it's a joy to watch them.

But I digress. You may have noticed. Sorry; I'm distracted by the Bolognese. It tastes like love. This is a great recipe. It's so good, that even not having all the ingredients on hand doesn't diminish it.

When Lidia made the recipe on the show, she used veal, pork, and beef. (The on-line recipe just calls for pork and beef.) I don't eat two of the three, so I used turkey, bison, and beef. She used bacon. I'm out of the beef bacon I usually use in place of pork bacon, so I used anchovies. She used regular onions. I used spring onions. She used tomato paste. What I thought was tomato paste turned out to be tomato sauce. Oh, well. In it went. On the show, she used olive oil and butter to saute the vegetables. I used olive oil and ghee. Her pestata included a carrot. I didn't have any, so I used a parsnip.

That's a lot of substitutions. A lesser recipe would have collapsed under the sheer quantity of changes. Not this one. It isn't even finished yet, and it's already rich, complex, and luscious. Definitely not a bad way to start the year!
Current Mood: mellowmellow
11 December 2010 @ 03:31 pm
If you love rabbits, you may want to avoid pages 50 - 59 of this month's edition of Edible Boston. They have an article on rabbits as food, complete with photographs and recipes.

For those who may be wondering, Edible Boston is a free magazine given out in stores such as Whole Foods which support the local food movement in this area. The magazine profiles local farmers and ranchers as well as stores and restaurants that are committed to using local providers as much as possible. The magazine is attractive and I find it a useful resource.

By posting this, I don't mean to suggest avoiding the magazine entirely. Nor do I mean to make any statement about what others do or do not eat. But I got such an unpleasant shock when I turned from page 49 to 50, that I decided I'd try to spare others who see rabbits more as pets than as food that same experience.
24 October 2010 @ 05:50 pm
My hard-boiled eggs exploded.

Actually, it might be more accurate to say that they popped. "Explode" conjures up images of bits of egg all over the place. That's not what happened.

Here are the facts:
The eggs were fresh, but not right-from-the-hen fresh. I'd bought them a day or two earlier. Their sell-by date is Nov.3; the incident occurred Oct 19. They are organically-produced eggs from pasture-raised hens. The producer has not had any problems with salmonella or other contamination. (They're from Vital Farms.)

Rinsed a couple of eggs in cool water, and checked for cracks. (The rigors of transportation from store to home have been known to cause hairline cracks.) The eggs were pristine.

Filled a large-ish pot with water, no salt. Put the eggs in the pot. Noted that they probably had a little air in them, given the way they sat. This is normal for eggs that have been around a few days. Never been a problem.

Put the pot on medium heat and went off to do other things. When I heard the pot come to a full boil, came back to take it off heat. I've got a slow electric range, so this took a little less than half an hour. It's possible that the pot boiled earlier, and I just hadn't heard it.

Lifting the lid, I discovered that both eggs had popped. They'd each split exactly in the middle and in a smooth line all around the egg.

This had happened when the eggs were cooked enough that none of the egg drifted off in the cooking water. One half had some egg white and the yolk. The other half had egg white not only inside the shell, but protruding a full inch out from the edge of the shell. It looked much like a stiff paste would look if squeezed from a tube. The yolk was solid, but light yellow, not greenish around the outside as it would have been if the eggs had been cooked too long. The white was, well, white, and just firm enough to hold its shape. There was a tiny bit of white in the middle of the eggs that was still at the soft-boiled stage.

That's all I got. I've boiled eggs with air in them before. Pretty much all eggs except those you take from the hen personally will have some air in them. Most of the eggs I've boiled have had more air in them than these did. None have ever popped.

Any theories?
Current Mood: curiouscurious
04 October 2010 @ 11:19 pm

That's the summary, but I’ll elaborate for those who'd like to know more.

The first thing that I noticed about Think Tank is that these are very understanding folk. Half-blinded by torrential rain, I’d taken a wrong turn and ended up getting to the Kendall Square restaurant 15 minutes after our reservation. My dining companion was also running late and had not arrived, yet the hostess welcomed me warmly and seated me immediately.

While waiting for my friend to join me, I had a Black Manhattan. If you think of Manhattans as somewhat sweet, think again. The Think Tank Black Manhattan emphasizes the interplay of whiskey and bitters, combining Rittenhouse Rye and Meletti Amaro with barrel-aged bitters. This is a drink for those who love bitters and like their whiskey with more character than sweetness. Count me in!

With the Black Manhattan, I enjoyed the Naan flatbread. This garlic-scented flatbread is very lightly toasted, making it crispy yet tender. There’s just enough garlic to warm the flavor, but not so much that the taste of the bread itself is overwhelmed. It arrives cut into wedges for easy sharing and accompanied by edamame hummus. The pale green of the hummus and the barely-there golden hue of the flatbread are lovely together. The cool freshness of the edamame and the warm pungency of the garlic also pair beautifully.

When my friend arrived, she ordered the Asian greens. I decided not to order another dish before my entree because I didn’t want to over-indulge, but changed my mind when I saw the look on her face at the first bite. She proved herself a true friend by offering to split the order. The baby greens were so fresh they seemed just-picked and were fragrant with cilantro and fresh mint. The crunchy, paper-thin, radish slices added a spicy note. The salad was very lightly dressed with yuzu caramel vinaigrette, a delightful pairing of bright citrus and sweet brown notes.

We both succumbed to the lure of the bistro steak, a hanger steak sauced with mushroom demi-glace, which came with sautéed spinach and sweet potato fries. Hangar steak, although flavorful, can sometimes be a bit tough. That definitely was not a problem here. Both our steaks came out perfectly medium rare and meltingly tender. The classic combination of earthy mushroom with rich beef was as delicious as anticipated. The accompanying spinach sautéed with garlic added further earthiness, which was balanced by just the right touch of sweetness from the sweet potato fries. I was particularly pleased that the fries had been treated with the simplicity they deserved, being cooked quickly so that the sugars in the potato caramelized, then served with only a light sprinkling of salt.

For dessert we had the “coffee and donuts” (Turkish coffee mousse and warm beignet). The beignet were in the New Orleans tradition: squares of rich dough puffed into little pillows of air and deliciousness, lightly dusted with powdered sugar. In New Orleans, the sugar is applied with a heavy hand. This lighter dusting allows the pastry to shine through. The mousse was rich and silky, with just a touch of coarse salt working its magic to bring out the flavor and sweetness by contrast.

The service here is attentive but not intrusive. Our waiter, Ian S., was knowledgeable and engaging, and Mitch, one of the partners, not only stopped by to see how we were doing, but stayed to chat a bit. Together, they made us feel as though we were long-time regulars rather than newcomers on our first visit.

When I arrived shortly after seven, the place was rocking. So much so, I was a little concerned about whether my friend and I would be able to converse. But around seven thirty it quieted down a bit, although it remained lively. In retrospect, I remembered that there’s a DJ from 5 to 8 for the after-work crowd and live entertainment later in the evening. So if you’re looking for excitement and entertainment as well as excellent food and drink, your best bets are either from 5 to 8 or after 10 p.m., and if you want a quieter dining experience, then between 8 and 10 is for you.

Prices are also flexible. You can enjoy a drink and a satisfying snack for not very much or spend a bit more for a multi-course meal. Drinks range from $4 to $12, starters from $7 to $12, trending toward the low end of that range, sandwiches and flatbreads from $8 to $14, entrees from $15 to $24, and desserts around $7.

There were too many interesting dishes on Think Tank’s menu to try on a single visit. But that just gives me more to look forward to when I return, as I certainly will.
Current Mood: impressedimpressed
26 August 2010 @ 12:20 am
So, tonight I wanted something light and summery for dinner. A quick check of the refrigerator's holdings, and I came up with Light 'N Easy Slaw and Boiled Shrimp with Sweet Spices. As the subject line says, dinner tonight and lunch tomorrow. Since I'm sitting up waiting for some shrimp to cool enough for packaging, I figured I'd share the recipes at least. Not sharing the goodies!

Light ‘N Easy Slaw

½ small green cabbage, cored (about 5 inches or 12 mm in diameter)
½ sweet white onion
2 carrots
1 apple, cored but not peeled
splash of cider vinegar ( 1 tsp to ½ Tbsp, or to taste)
caraway seeds to taste (enough so you can see seeds scattered throughout the slaw)
2 heaping tablespoons Miracle Whip
2 heaping tablespoons plain fat free yogurt

Grate all vegetables using the large holes on a box grater or similar blade in a food processor.
Toss vegetables with caraway seeds and vinegar.
Mix the Miracle Whip and yogurt.
Add the dressing to the vegetables and toss to mix well.

May be served immediately, but will improve with some time in the refrigerator.

Makes about 4 cups of slaw

I used the food processor method for added “easy”.

It's a good idea to add the dressing in two parts, tossing in between. You may need more or less dressing, depending on the sizes of the vegetables used. The slaw should be only lightly coated, not drenched.

This slaw should be slightly sweet. If you substitute mayonnaise for the Miracle Whip you may need to add a little sugar or other sweetener.

Boiled Shrimp with Sweet Spices

2 lbs raw jumbo shrimp (21/25 shrimp per pound)

4 quarts water
2 bay leaves
1 star anise
pinch to 1/8 tsp pink Himalayan sea salt
½ tablespoon Simply Organic Grind to a Salt seasoned salt *
A tablespoon or two each of:
whole black peppercorns
whole cloves
whole toasted mustard seeds (un-toasted okay; toasted better)
dried red chili peppers with seeds

* Contains sea salt, mustard and celery seed, dried garlic, onion, and chili pepper, and a little black pepper. If you don’t have this, use celery seed and throw in a clove of garlic.

Slit the back of the shells and de-vein the shrimp, but leave the shells on, legs and all. The more shell, the more flavor.

Add the spices to the water and bring it to a boil before adding the shrimp. By the time it boils, the spices will have turned the water reddish. Add the shrimp and let cook until done, about 5 or 6 minutes. Do not overcook!

Drain and remove excess spices left clinging to the shrimp. Serve warm or cold. Peel them as you eat them.

The cooking time will depend on how hot your stove is and the size of the shrimp. When in doubt, it’s better to under-cook than to overcook shrimp. Overcooked shrimp have a lot in common with those pink rubber erasers you used in the first grade.

Despite the red pepper, these shrimp aren’t spicy hot. The predominant flavor comes from the star anise and cloves, with the mustard and black pepper adding depth.
Current Mood: satisfiedsatisfied