Tuesday, February 09, 2016

Cold-Weather Food

     There's maybe a half-inch of fine, powder snow on the ground -- and the streets and sidewalks, the kind of stuff any self-respecting skiing outfit longs for.  Here on the flatlands, it does us no earthly good.  It turns the streets as slick as a greased weasel.  It's too thin to plow and too cold for road salt to do much.  Traffic slows to a crawl, except for the occasional optimist with a 4WD, fancy tires, and a soon-to-be-updated appreciation of classical physics, not to mention insurance.

     Weather like this, you need food that goes the distance -- hydration, fuel and maybe a little comfort.  I made leftover-chicken stew last night and here it is:

     1 medium onion
     3 or 4 carrots (or twice as many of those bagged-up washed & tumbled carrot sections)
     3 or 4 stalks of celery
     1 tomato or a little left-over chili.  You could try a small can of tomato sauce if you have neither.
     1 package of fresh mushrooms, rinsed
     About a pound of leftover chicken (I bought a couple of precooked chicken breast halves from the deli.  Leave the skin on or not, as suits you.)
     32 ounces of chicken broth or stock, home-made or store-bought (the low-sodium kind tastes just as good and allows you to salt you bowl to taste.  The low-fat versions are usually good, too, though some are too salty -- check the label.)

     In a good-sized pot over medium heat, put a little olive oil and butter, maybe a teaspoon each.  Have the onion chopped (about 3/8", you want spoon-sized chunks) and ready to go in as soon as the butter is melted and before it browns. Stir occasionally.   Mind the heat through this, you just want to gently saute the veggies. Chop up the carrot to similar size, and toss it in.  Stir that up and then chop the celery and add it.  If you went with a tomato, cut it up and add it now.  Cut up the chicken while watching/stirring the vegetables and when their colors start to get intense, add the mushrooms.  Finish cutting up the chicken (bribing cats if necessary) and stir it in.  A minute or two will get the chicken heated up, at which point you pour in the broth.  If you are using leftover chili or tomato paste or sauce, add it now.  (I had a cup or less of three-meat, no-beans chili from yesterday).  Cover and let simmer, stirring occasionally -- 20 minutes is about the minimum, an hour would be fine.  The broth will be a rich, deep red-gold.  The steam carries the distinct aromas of the main ingredients and should call diners to the table all by itself.  Salt and pepper to taste.

     You can add spices to this, though my version picked up all it needed from the chili.  Fresh garlic would be good if you don't mind it; paprika (hot or sweet) and/or thyme would work, as would some basil.  If you're anticipating a busy day of snow-shoveling and the like, you might want to add noodles, either good old egg noodles or some kind of pasta (rotini?  Elbow macaroni? Broken spaghetti?).  This will thicken the broth a little, too.  Just get the broth near boiling and add the pasta to cook for seven minutes or so.  You may need to punch up the spices a bit if you do this.

     Serves four easily -- or two people for a couple of days.  Frozen and reheated, it's even better.

Monday, February 08, 2016

Happy Monday!

     ...It's as easy to be happy about it as not.  So why not pick the better option?

     Man, with all this evidence of one, there has got to be a pony in here somewhere.

Sunday, February 07, 2016

The Horrible-Awful Whatever-It-Is

     No, no, not the Presidential candidate pool -- the cold or flu Tam is fighting.  If I have it, it's a mild case and has mainly triggered my headaches to flip from "dull" to "sharp"* along with sinus congestion and drainage.

     Maybe that flu shot helped.
* Because "agonizing" sounds whiny.

Saturday, February 06, 2016

We Aten't Ded

     Tam has a really awful cold and I'm playing nursemaid while trying not to catch it.  Just fed her chicken soup, rye toast and a blood orange.  (Plus a strip of bacon and an olive, as a treat.)

     Looks like she's gonna make it.

     Edited-To-Add, much later: I'm probably coming down with it, too.  Well, that was inevitable.

Friday, February 05, 2016

Nightmare In Glue

     Most of the past week has been a nightmare of swimming in glue, everything going ...tooooo....slooooowly... while the world lept by like lightning.  The completion of tasks receded at at crawl only barely faster than the glacial pace I was moving at, yet slipping farther and farther away the harder I tried.

     Why?  I don't know.  Swing shift weeks have always suffered from this and I try to go into them with plenty of sleep.  Maybe my "big excitement" of walking a small gun show last Saturday was too much exertion.  Sunday went well enough and I was in bed in intim to get up rested Monday -- but I fought to stay awake Monday and the transition from an 0300 start Monday to my usual midmorning-start was hard.  I didn't sleep well until last night and at that, I am only just now out of bed.

     But hey, I am out of bed now.  Might as well get to doing something.

Thursday, February 04, 2016

Low Blow

     Rick Santorum has dropped out of the Presidential race -- and here I'd forgotten he'd dropped in this time around.  He's given his support to Marco Rubio.

     Sheesh, Mr. S, what'd the kid ever do to you?  

Swing Shifts

     The older I get, the more difficult working a swing shift becomes.  I only have to do so one week in three, but even that takes a toll.  There's a seven hour swing for me, with the fist day starting five hours earlier than normal, the second seven hours earlier, and three on my usual day shift.  You'd think it would be easy, one slightly short night, one very long night, then back to normal--

     It's not.  Somehow, "normal" never quite returns.  I have trouble sleeping all week and trouble staying awake.  The weekend comes and I'm wiped out; things often aren't back to normal until Sunday or Monday.

     Whine, whine -- there are starving children in Africa who don't even have jobs.  But my sleep suffers and so do my moods.  Cue the tiny violins!

Wednesday, February 03, 2016

Manh(A)ttan: A Smallerizing Mirror

     Watched the last episode of the TV series Manh(A)ttan last night.  As TV drama goes, especially as night time soaps go, it was good.  Despite a few weak episodes, at times it was great.

     But it fails to give a clear or consistent sense of the scope of the Manhattan Project; it glosses over the chasm between theoretical science and nuts-and-bolts engineering and misses the vast sweep of the thousands who turned wet-behind-the-ears science into best-guess engineering not once but over and over again, in an interlocking network of efforts that ultimately worked out like a Fermi Estimate: a series of best guesses that staggered their way to a working end product.

     In place of a huge group of brilliant minds and distinctly different personalities, the TV series gave viewers a handful of Physics Gods and a few dozen platoons of presumably Ph.D. spear-carriers.  Facing down one of the most fascinating stories of desperate science, they blinked.

     It's good entertainment; it's just not how science works, it's not how engineering works and it is most assuredly not how the Manhattan Project worked.  The science parts of the TV series are too small, and too concentrated in too few individuals. 

     I'll give them a B+ nevertheless.  If the series had been dreamed up in a world where the A-bomb had never been developed, it would have been first-rate drama.  Alas, it was a mere flashbulb against the glare of Trinity.  A good flashbulb, a well-made one, but still--

Tuesday, February 02, 2016

Caucus Results

     On the Right, Elmer Gantry edged out Mussolini and the handsome guy from Sears & Roebuck menswear catalogs ran a close third.

     For the Left, Beria squeaked past Trotsky but Nikolai Yezhov sank without a ripple.

     Yessirree, any color of future you want -- as long as you wanted "bleak."  But at least they're narrowing down the choices, right?

     Today's vocabulary word: "sharashka." Remember, that's what you want, not the regular gulag, so be sure and eat all your calculus!

Monday, February 01, 2016

Information Matters

     'Cos this is funnier if you only have one meaning for "groin:"
By Clem Rutter, Rochester Kent - Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0, $3
     Words to live by, no matter how you read them.  Well, unless invited, of course.

Sunday, January 31, 2016

It's Late Night With Bobbi!

     Early morning, actually. I started early Saturday. The Data Viking visited and we walked through the Tri-State Gun Show, out at Stout Field National Guard Armory.  It was unusually crowded; it's generally more of a collector/hunter show but this one had a considerable number of what Tamara Keel calls "gen. pop.," the gun-owning Everyman.  This may be due to recent White House mentions -- or it may have simply been that the weather was unseasonably pleasant, upper 40s to low 50s and sunny, and people were motivated to get out.  We saw any number of interesting things and many familiar faces.

     One of the more interesting things at the show was a Spanish .32-20, a relatively close copy of a Colt that was made in Eibar;* another was a lovely nickle or chrome-plated High-Standard "Sentinel Deluxe" .22 revolver.  Fit and finish was unusually good and the (factory) plating was both bright and warm, which is why I'm not quite sure what metal it was.  The Deluxe versions look to run about $300; this was marked a dollar less.  I own three non-Deluxe Sentinels and it's a long time between paydays, or I would have been tempted -- this is still a "sleeper" among .22 revolvers, with very good stocks, light weight, smooth double-action and modern, large sights.  Other than the Deluxe, prices range around $200 - $250.  They shoot as nicely as any .22 revolver from Colt, Smith & Wesson or H&R and you'll have plenty left over to buy enough ammunition to get good with it.

     We ran a few errands and I was running out of steam; he left, I went to bed early and managed to get a full eight hours before my early shift.  Perhaps I won't have to fight quite as hard to stay awake.
* Eibar was a major center of gun-making activity in Spain.  It's also in just about the center of Basque country, which has enjoyed at least a degree of autonomy in Spain since 1979.  Make of that what you will.

Saturday, January 30, 2016

An Interesting Class

     Other than some useful review of the modular Incident Management structure, it was hardly a class at all.  Instead, it was a very useful bit of touching-base with county- and state-level Emergency Management people, along with a cameo appearance by a couple of Indiana State Police Troopers.

     The purpose of the class is enable technical personnel -- Engineering and IT -- in my line of work to get to locations where we have necessary equipment, but no regular staff, during various emergencies and natural disasters (or to get to work at all; during some kinds of Snow Emergency, for instance, when the roads are deemed closed and driver risk a ticket just for operating a motor vehicle on public thoroughfares).  At the end of the class, we walk away with some understanding of command structure (i.e., who to ask for, who not to bother and how to stay out of the way), some basic safety gear (hardhat, visibility vest -- we have to buy own own but that stuff s cheap) and a better understanding of how to handle interaction with emergency workers (see below) while they have picked up a little insight into who these crazy people are and why we might need past a roadblock, across a flooded stretch of road, or to be out driving in a blizzard.

     One of the better quotes: "The scene of a disaster is not the place to be meeting for the first time and exchanging business cards!"  In Indiana, the IDHS is the state-level coordinating agency for emergency response and they have periodic conferences of county Emergency Managers; one purpose of those is simply to get them in contact with one another before they need to go borrow a cup of snowplows or whatever.  It's a good idea.

     I found the class useful and the IDHS and EMA people were exactly the type I hope to see in such jobs: serious about the work, sincere in the belief the can make a positive difference.  It's easy to gripe about government, especially at the bureaucrat level and even more so when it's a wrestling-smoke job like managing emergencies.  Even the description borders on an oxymoron!  Maybe in An-Cap Libertopia, there's a market solution to disaster; maybe all your neighbors will pitch in (just as they often do in emergencies in this world.)  Here in the world of what is, these government agencies do exist.  They're not going away and given that, I would rather see them in the hands of competent folks who think the job is worth doing than some tired, cynical timeserver.

     For the people who moan, "Where were the Feds?  Where was the state?" when things go wrong, here's how it works: emergency response happens from the bottom up; first response is coordinated and supported at the county level if it needs it.  If the county finds it too big, they get help from the state.  If the state needs help, they yell for the Feds.  FEMA -- the good handing-out-water-and-blankets side, not the tinfoil hat fantasy seen in YouTube videos of rail yards -- is by definition the last on the scene.

     To close, here's a hot tip from the Indiana State Police: "Do not tiptoe up behind an officer at a roadblock and tap him or her on the shoulder!"
     (Entire class laughs.)
     "No, this really happens, and more than you'd think.  You don't know what that officer was just doing, helping pull a mangled body out of a car wreck, looking for an armed suspect -- they are making split-second decisions."
       The other officer added, "And please, for your sake -- can I borrow this smartphone? -- do not be doing this." He'd palmed the phone and put his hand behind his right hip; as he said "this," he brought his hand back into sight just above his holster and smoothly upward, and many of us flinched: it looked for all the world as if he was drawing his sidearm.  An effective lesson.