Thursday, January 31, 2013

Exception Stars

Went outside tonight before heading to bed. There were stars. Very unusual for living in a metro area as the city lights usually drown the starlight and only a couple of stars are visible even on the clearest night. The recent winds and storms seemed to have cleansed everything and the night sky is clear and bright. Orion's belt is directly overhead and you can clearly see all the constellation. What's more the owls are having a conflab and standing on the deck staring at the stars with the back and forth of the owls chatting each other up means a magical night. If the temperature wasn't dropping so fast I would still be out there listening to the hoots under the stars. I'll have pleasant dreams.

Sunday, January 27, 2013

Sunday Treat

Don't have to go to work until 2pm today so took the opportunity for a proper Southern breakfast. Yellow grits with Irish butter, two sunny side up cackleberries from the chickens down the road(thanks Carmen and Kelly), homemade sourdough whole wheat toast and Wright's Hickory smoked bacon. Madam had a girl's night out last night so she was sleeping in but I did fix her some buttered toast and a ginger ale when she finally appeared.

Friday, January 25, 2013

Some Things

Freezing rain today in Hotlanta. I was supposed to work 6a to noon but they came around at 9a and sent me home. The store was dead and there were extra cashiers as they weren't going to open the garden today with the cold and wet. Another 6a to 1pm tomorrow. Just as well since I have things to do.

Madam has requested a large mac and cheese for some do tomorrow night so I will whip that out this afternoon and just throw it in the fridge and she can run it in the oven for tomorrow night. I'll bake some bread, though it will be a straight up whole wheat sourdough instead of the sourdough malted wheat I dreamed up last week. It was an experiment and it didn't turn out too bad. Actually just my standard sourdough with a little additional honey and a handful of malted wheat.

All the seeds are on order except the Dixie Butter Peas. My regular source Park is sold out and I haven't found another. I must have waited too late. I have some seed left from last year but not really enough. Madam and I both are big on these little lima beans and they will be sorely missed in the freezer if I don't find enough seed for a good crop.

I have been complaining for years about the lean pork we get here in the states (well from the typical grocery). You can now find proper Berkshire pork if you work at it. I have been trying to duplicate one of my favorite dishes from my time in Lyon but have failed miserably because of the lean pork. I think I have discovered the secret. The other day I got a small loin roast from Publix and instead of my regular method of a hot oven I used a slow oven(300F) and cooked it for three plus hours. It turned out moist and tender and was very nice. I did put a couple of strips of thick cut bacon over the top but I think the real trick is the low and slow. I'll try it again this way to confirm but outside of finding a proper piece of locally grown Berkshire pig I might have have stumbled on the way to do a proper pork loin.  Now I can try to duplicate the recipe from France. A nice think slice of roast pork that has been quickly browned served over lentils. Now that I think about it the English translation for the dish was Pork cooked in the Ancient Tradition with lentils. Maybe the "Ancient Tradition" is slow roasted.....duh!

Anyhow, a little guitar practice and a little cooking are in store for the rest of the day. If you are North of Hotlanta try and stay warm and dry.

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Life and Coffee

A day off. It's cold but sunny and the urge for a pot roast hit me. It's in the oven braising now and it is almost time for the veges. Just getting caught up on stuff. The new lenses for my glasses came in and I just got back from having those put in my frames. Very nice to be able to see without the haze of scratches caused by yours truly useing Kleenex to clean them. Not very smart.

Also got my permanent hearing aids today too, as I was just using temporary(demo) ones. Pretty amazing little tiny computers they are. Multiple programs for different environments. I only have four set up now (everyday, outdoor, restaurant and work) but I'll better know my needs in a few weeks. Bought the Bluetooth interface so I'll be able to use the phone hands free and maybe even the iPod and Nexus as well. The little interface supports up to 8 devices so I could even get the GPS hooked in. I also have a pocket controller where I can adjust volume and program without having to use the tiny switches on the aids. Cool. Another cool thing is that they talk to each other. I change the program on one and it will notify the other to change as well. Same with volume.

Impressed with the POTUS speech yesterday and we'll just see how much things change. Still it could be Rmoney there so I'm pretty ok with it all.

It's 5pm and time for the veges to go in the pot and there is wine to drink....later peeps.

Oh! I almost forgot...I have a new coffee maker called the Aerobie AeroPress. I'm kind of a coffee snob and have been using a French press for my morning Joe for years. This new gadget is simple but it makes the best coffee I've ever tasted with none of the debris in the bottom of the cup that you get with the press. It's also very fast and a super easy clean up. I can't think of when I have been more satisfied with something. I very rarely find something like this that I can recommend without reservations. If you love a could cup whether it be espresso or cafe Americano then this gadget is a must have.

Saturday, January 19, 2013

Too Much Information

I don't think there is much dispute that dragging the President's daughters into the gun debate was a new low for the NRA...absolutely disgusting to the say the least but  I don’t think Glenn Kessler did the world any favors by reporting that Sidwell Friends doesn’t have armed guards. The freaks that just love their AR-15's and super magazines and just can't wait for the opportunity to blow some Islamic socialist away just hear “soft target” when they hear “Quaker school with unarmed guards”.

I guess someone needs to explain to me why Sidwell couldn’t have just said “no comment” on their security. WTF were they thinking why Kessler thought it was a good idea to tell the world.

Noisy Damn Place

My old hearing aids died a while back(well only the left one) and I finally broke down and got new ones yesterday (there is more than one meaning to broke as they are expensive). I previously had in the ear and now I have behind the ear which seem to be a bit more comfortable. Since I hadn't been wearing aids for a while I had forgotten how noisy the place is. Nearly every step incites a squeak from the floor. Cellophane is a nightmare as is getting a skillet out of the cupboard.
It is also amazing how much technology is in such a tiny device. The new aids are programmable with a small remote in addition to the tiny buttons on the device and with a tiny interface device completely Bluetooth capable so I can use my phone, ipod whatever completely hands free. How cool is that?
It will take a while to get used to using the things again but I should be good in a few days. This afternoon will be my first experience at work with the new devices and I'll have to experiment with the preset programs to see which makes the din bearable.

Friday, January 18, 2013

Needed Converstaion

Thanks to a heads up from Hecate I didn't miss this article from Yes. It's a worthwhile read and deserves wider distribution.

Here is a snippet:

The turning we humans must navigate to a viable future depends on a profound awakening to our nature as spiritual beings and our responsibility as participants in creation’s epic journey of self-discovery. This awakening will be partly experiential—a joyful reunion with our true nature. It will be partly intellectual—a larger and more nuanced understanding of the nature and purpose of creation and our human role in its continued unfolding.
To accelerate this awakening and actualize its possibilities we need an open and self-critical public conversation about the foundational stories by which we understand our human nature and purpose. That conversation must go far beyond an unproductive debate between doctrinaire Distant Patriarch creationists and doctrinaire Grand Machine social Darwinist evolutionists.

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Spring Is Coming

The middle of January is when I get my seed order together for the spring. I am going to limit myself to just a few catalogs this year. Here are the ones I find the best for me.

Park Seed (a Southern seed company so their varieties lend themselves to us Southern gardeners
Territorial Seed - lots of hard to find seeds
Seeds of Change - again lots of hard to find and organic
Seed Savers Exchange- the go to source for heirloom and open pollinated varieties

I may cheat and turn to a few others but most of my seed will come from the ones above. I have, of course, saved seed from last year's heirloom peppers and tomatoes.

The hard part comes into winnowing all the wants from the needs and not getting carried away with things that I won't have the space to grow. I went crazy with peppers last year and wound up giving away probably a hundred pounds. I didn't plant enough beans for drying because I used so much space for peppers and tomatoes. I'll to better this year and I am thinking hard about not using up so much space growing corn.

Homemade Pizza

A day off but another day of rain...even flash flood warnings and the temperature is a toasty 60F. We need the rain but I have stuff to do outside. Oh well. Still, I did get in a couple of hours in the gym and a few hours of guitar practice so all is not lost.

Thinking of something for dinner on this rainy day brought to mind pizza which I don't do as much as I used to since it involves bread which I try and limit but every once in a while it is a must have.
If you don't make your own pizza it home, from scratch, you are really missing out and if you go out for pizza you are going to pay dearly for a good pizza which are few and far between to boot.

Here is a quick recipe for making your own dough and sauce at home out of inexpensive (mostly) ingredients and it will produce a very nice pie that is way better than what you find at most pizza places. Cost out all the ingredients and you'll see that it is pretty cheap eats as well.

For speed and ease I use a food processor which takes a lot of work out of kneading.

In the bowl of the processor (with the regular blade) put

3 cups of bread flour (preferred for the extra chewiness) or you can use regular unbleached AP.
1 tsp of rapid rise yeast (or a packet) with the processor running add 1 and 1/3 cups of water and whirr it until the dough just comes together (maybe ten seconds) so that all the flour is moistened.

Let it rest in the bowl for about 10- 15 minutes.

add a Tablespoon of EVOO (extra virgin olive oil) and a teaspoon of kosher salt and then process it for another 30 to 60 seconds until it forms a nice smooth ball. Put the dough in an oiled bowl and let it rise covered for a couple of hours. You can also just put the bowl in the fridge and use it the next day which actually make a better tasting dough but if you are like me you decide to make pizza and you want it in a couple  of hours. Yes, this is a pretty wet dough and a bit sticky....just oil your hands and get it done.....hint.. move quickly.

This is an uncooked sauce and it brings a nice freshness to the party plus it is easy.

1 28 ounce can of plum tomatoes (San Marzano are good but not absolutely necessary) well drained with the liquid down the drain.
1 Tbl sp of EVOO
1 Tsp wine vinegar
1 Tsp kosher salt
a couple of cloves of minced fresh garlic
1 heaping Tsp of dried oregano
a couple of grinds (1/4 tsp) of black pepper.

Whirr it all in the food processor until it is smooth. Set aside for the pizza making.

BTW  for a really good pizza you should have a baking stone and you should set your oven for its highest setting..mine will go to 550F. No baking stone then a cookie sheet will have to do. The other option being to get some 6 inch quarry tile from Home Depot and line one shelf of your oven with them. Not ideal but it works.

When you are all ready and the dough is risen. Divide the dough into half and each half should make about a 12 - 14 inch pizza (depends on how thin you want it. I like mine pretty thin.) If you don't need two pizzas the extra dough will keep in the fridge for a few days and actually get more flavorful.

Spread the dough out on a floured surface or use parchment paper and using your hands spread and press it out until you get a 13 or so inch circle. If you want to use a rolling pin go for it but the loose dough should allow you to do it by hand. This makes a thin crust but I like thin crust and this is my want thick crust then use all the dough and make one.

Once you are there and you are ready to bake (your oven should be hot by now) spread the sauce thinly around leaving a small border. A couple of handfuls of fresh mozzarella and about a 1/2 cup shredded Parmesan (Use the good stuff Reggiano) and slip that puppy in the screaming hot oven. It won't take but about 15 minutes in a really hot oven but keep and eye on it and pull it out once the crust is brown and the cheese bubbling.

I'm a minimalist when it comes to pizza so all I might add to the cheese is some fresh basil or some baby arugula after t comes out of the oven. If you like other stuff just be careful not to overload it as it will keep the crust from doing what it should. A handful of pepperoni or sausage, a whisper of green peppers or onions or even some sauteed mushrooms(don't use raw, they will make the pizza soggy). You want to taste the crust and the sauce and the cheese but put whatever you like on it just in moderation.

Now I'm hungry.

Friday, January 11, 2013

Not Really Smart

I'm sitting here at the computer(1015p) after getting off (closing) and I have to open tomorrow at 6am. Why? There is just so much I believe I need to read I guess. I've caught all my regular blogs but I think Facebook and Twitter will have to wait. Good Night!

I didn't mention that it is way late but still 63F here in January. High of 75F for the weekend days. WTF?

Thursday, January 10, 2013

What's A WakaWaka?

On the environmental front there some small but good news. The good news is that individuals are not waiting for governments and have developed a solar powered solar lamp also capable of recharging cell phones to replace kerosene lamps among those without electricity. This will have a good effect on both poor people and climate change. They are called WakaWakas and more information can be found here.

 Unfortunately, the "gooberments" of the world are still way behind the curve and have dropped the ball spectacularly with repsect to addressing global climate change and while individual initiative is needed and may help force "gooberment" action it will not be enough. The people that make big money off fossil fuels have an advantage with all the money they have poured into their misinformation campaign and a lot of the public are highly misinformed about the seriousness of the problem. For a nice insight on how the bad guys are working against the world in the Netherlands take a look at Galileo and the Fireflies by NASA scientist Dr. James Hansen.

I thought I had come up with the term "gooberment" but I checked the Urban Dictionary and found that it is already out there. Still, I think it might be worthwhile to use the term when it applies.
 gooberment -Useless Government, political systems with their heads in the sand and/or not to be trusted. Slang term for Government being Gooberment.

Full Disclosure: I am a backer (via Kickstarter) of WakaWaka.

Focus On the Real Problem

It's now official, but all of us paying attention already knew that last year was the warmest year on record for us here in the United States and in many other places around the world. According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration the average temperature in 2012 was 3.3°F above the average for the last century and was a full degree warmer than 1998, the previous record holder. Not only was it the second most extreme year when it comes to average temperatures it also managed an unusually high number of droughts, wildfires and severe storms. Goddess! It's the second week in January and the forecast for the weekend is for the low 70's here in Atlanta.

Regardless of what the stupid say, here is no question that this is, for the most part, the result of man-made environmental impact. It is not only real but a growing danger to life as we know it. If we don't take drastic action the negative consequences are going to be unbearable in the very near future.

So here we are with the idiots in Washington obsessing over a deficit that is not even a problem and not focused like a laser on the environment and lessening man's impact. The question is, what is going to make them wake up to the real dangers we are all facing?  Not only is the projected deficit not the most important immediate problem facing the country, which is unemployment and the weak economy but how we expect our children and grand children to survive this environmental disaster if at all. Besides, the economy will actually fix itself sooner or later even without our interference which will not happen with climate change. Doing nothing is not an answer here. Only by concentrated effort and sacrifice can we even hope to make a difference.

What's it going to take to get us going in the right direction? Share This icon 

Tuesday, January 08, 2013

Hey Cheapskate

The more I use them the more I like them. Ebooks that is. I especially like free ones but I buy quite a few as well. Anyway, there is a new site for discriminating cheapskates:
If you’re a digital book fanatic, you probably know that Amazon offers a ton of free books, but it’s hard to get a good overview of them. Well, not anymore, thanks to our new site! Organized by category, and with options to search, order by average ranking, or filter by language, FreebookSifter makes it easy to peruse all the free books available for your Kindle or eReader.
Please pay special attention to the Added Today category. That’s where you can find the real treasures, which are only free for a limited time. FreebookSifter also offers a daily newsletter and RSS Feed with the newly added free books.

Thanks to BoingBoing for the link.

No Worries, Mate!

Yesterday, Australia experienced its hottest nationwide average temperature ever — 40.33 degrees C (104.6 degrees F). Today, the country's national weather bureau added a new color to official weather forecast maps, reflecting a need to predict temperatures higher than 52 C (125.6 F).

Not to worry though because it is all the way on the other side of the world and even in another hemisphere and we had snow in lots of places. Oh! And assault rifles and high cap mags for everyone!

Monday, January 07, 2013

Online Backup Headaches

Been working a lot lately and a lot of late nights. Seems like I am constantly not having enough time to get everything I need to do done. One of the things that have gone wanting is keeping my desktop backed up like I should and I thought maybe having an automated online backup would be the answer. I tried to enable Dell's online Datasafe product but it failed twice during the last phase of the install so I gave up  and thought maybe I need to find another product. When I got my Chase bill (for the card I use for online purchases) I find I was charged twice for the Datasafe product ($39) but I still don't have online backup.
Big mistake....I call Dell customer support. Obviously to some poor sap in India (Bangalore?) who then proceeded to pass me around to others who all apologized profusely but couldn't help. They finally passed me to customer care who then proceeded to tell me effectively...too bad we don't have a record of the charges bye out of luck...thanks for choosing Dell. That all took an hour and a half.
I then thought to actually go to the Chase site and see if there was a telephone number associated with the two charges...there was but it is either disconnected or changed. I then proceeded to go through process of disputing the charges with Chase. What a pain in the tush!

Can anyone recommend a good online backup provider other than Dell? I already us Quicken to backup my financial stuff but there is more I should be backing up.