Wednesday, June 20, 2018

And Here I Am, Hurrying Again

     I'd like to post something interesting and complicated; I'd like to catch up on my online correspondence.

     Instead, I need to catch the 7:00 a.m. shower express, and see if maybe I can get to physical therapy on time.  My knee kept me up half the night despite an ice pack; I have been too sleepy in the evening to set up the Aircast icewater-sleeve system for days now, so at bedtime, I put on a big gelpack, good for a couple of hours, and then nothing.

     Wah, wah.  Won't get any better unless I work at it, and sitting here at the keyboard won't do that.

Tuesday, June 19, 2018

Up Early

     ...And off for more doctorin'.  Isn't this fun?  Not really.  But it beats what's in second place.

     Of course, work called, with what appears to have been a small problem, one I can shelve until later and which may even have cleared itself by the time I get a closer look.  Probably a power hit.*
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* In meetings at work during the run-up to Y2K, I made a number of suggestions about power conditioning and UPSes.  They were pretty routine and most of them were implemented before the year 2000.  In making them, I pointed out the power-distribution infrastructure was aging and there was a lot of construction around our two main sites, concluding, "we may be entering a time when commercial power is less reliable that we're used to."  There was much harrumphing at that crazy notion.  Now we're getting two or three glitches on the power every week, and ugly hits that take a fair amount of rebooting slam us a dozen times a year, despite a big UPS that carries the critical loads.  I'm not happy about being proved right. 

Monday, June 18, 2018

And It's Physical Therapy Again!

     My goodness, am I having fun yet? 

     Picked up some clothes for PT yesterday, much to the amusement of Tamara -- I was looking for opaque tights and she kept pointing me to some heavier spandex leggings on hangars.  Described what I was looking for and she sighed, "Oh, sure, they're right next to the leg warmers, in the 1980s."

     Not entirely true.  We eventually discovered even the big-box store has tights -- in your choice of black or black.  All right, then, black tights it is, just like I was a Theater student, though I was hoping for bright colors not found in Nature outside the Tropics. 

Sunday, June 17, 2018

I Almost Didn't Post Anything Today

     It was a busy day, and dreadfully hot.

     I mowed the lawn in the morning -- leg brace and all -- and in the afternoon, Tam and I picked up prescriptions, shopped at the big-box store for exciting things like cat litter and bottled water, then hit the grocer where, to my very great delight, Tam snuck off and bought a couple of lovely big steaks.

     The grill has been needing cleaned out, reusuable charcoal separated from ash, and the steaks were a good excuse for it.  Hot (somewhere between 95 and 100°F) and a bit messy but the results were worth it, a nice clean, hot fire of lump hardwood charcoal that did the steaks justice.  I cooked sliced mushrooms in truffle butter in a little grill pan on the upper level, and the aromatic smoke made them a real treat, too.  Added a salad (mixed greens with grape tomatoes, radishes, carrots and red bell pepper), and there's supper.

Saturday, June 16, 2018

Yeah, Not

     In a lousy mood this morning.  Maybe I'll be more entertaining later.

Friday, June 15, 2018

Bit Of A Blank

     It's Friday, and the work week is just about done -- and I have chores at home left to do from last weekend.  Miss Tamara is taking a nice handful of pills every morning, calcium supplements, OTC anti-inflammatories, a popular joint nostrum (Gluclosamine/Chondroitin*) and vitamins. My regimen is similar, plus exercises.

     We're getting better.   Far more slowly than we would prefer, but better.
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* Current medical research suggests that the combination at least does no harm.  Does it help?  They're not sure; different studies have produced different results.  MSM may be snake oil, though there haven't been as many studies, possibly reflecting doubt on the part of researchers.

Thursday, June 14, 2018

Onward! Because It Beats What's In Second Place

     Roseholme Cottage is a changed place these days.  With Tamara out of action for most household tasks -- it's a revelation how many chores are two-handed, how many one-handed expedients involve not having one arm in a sling and just how often we move both shoulders even when only one arm is in motion -- I'm "it" for a lot of what gets done -- or doesn't.

     So through the week, the housekeeping gets pared to an even smaller minimum than in the past, and weekends I find myself looking forward to clearing out the fridge or freezer, or a healthy session of flattening cardboard boxes.  With any luck (this translates as "a faint hope at best"), this weekend will include clearing out some of the interesting items clogging the living room (my bedroom) to make space for a small nightstand-type table.  Oh, the excitement!

     In the midst of all this the short story I've been working on has not been getting much attention.  Tam's urging me to collect some of the more recent "Hidden Frontier" stories into some kind of publication and I am planning to do so sometime this year.  It is unlikely to be very soon.

Wednesday, June 13, 2018

Physical Therapy Again

     "Twice a week," the prescription says, so twice a week it is, along with daily exercises.  Too early to tell if it's going to help, though I do have hopes. 

     Turns out my graceful and/or decorous habits are Very Bad for the old knee -- sitting with knees together and legs crossed at the ankle, or one knee over the other?  That's right out.  Moving from a seated position to standing and keeping knees together?  Nope, not supposed to.  They'll have me chewing tobacco and driving a pickup truck* next.  Perhaps I shall learn to say "ain't" or even "pas du tout" and stop depilating.  ...On the other hand, no.
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* Too late, I already did back in the mid-1980s, a lovely Ford F150 with a stickshift that was like rowing a boat.  The biggest problem with owning a truck is that all your friends and family know you have one, and are only too happy to borrow your services to haul things.  On the other hand, you're a lot more popular....  At the same time, my Dad's "second car" was a snarling behemoth of a 1950s International panel van, with a nose like a school bus, an electric-blue paint job and a shag-carpeted interior.  He'd bought it from a young man whose enthusiasm had outstripped his ability to keep the ancient thing running.  Together, we made quite the caravan, and could move quite a lot at one go.  Driving the International was a different experience -- it had a "granny low" first gear, used only to get the thing rolling when fully loaded or to climb vertical walls, and woe betide you if you forgot to have it in second gear at a stoplight: that first upshift needed to be immediate and even so, acceleration was glacial.  Once you were at speed -- 55 mph, if you were brave enough -- a hand throttle eased long drives, enlivened by the need to adjust it for any hills or valleys.

Tuesday, June 12, 2018

What's Hoppin'?

     I had my taste buds set for something that I hadn't made for a long time: Hoppin' John.

     It turned out Tam had not had the stuff in so long, she'd forgotten what it was!

     At the most basic, it's a fairly dry stew of blackeyed peas and smoked pork, served over rice.  Typically, good strong ham, some onion and a pepper of some kind are cooked with the two-tone beans, and the flavor can be anything from mild to hot.  "Foodie" versions found on the web use thick bacon* and that's a nice variation, but I had something else in mind.

     A chorizo sausage, some cubed panchetta, and a small package of diced ham.  The ham was mostly there to add some more meat; with Tam doing low-carb, the blackeyed peas couldn't dominate.  Once the meat was mostly cooked (and the fat poured off), I added half a red onion and as it cooked down, diced Anaheim and yellow bell peppers.  As son as they were bright, I added the blackeyed peas and the (rinsed) ham and let the whole thing simmer for about ten minutes.

     Easy and quick.  Served with chopped raw green onion and (pickled -- fresh is better if you have it) diced hot red cherry pepper for toppers.  Tam skipped the rice and pronounced the stuff delicious.

     If you like it hotter, capicola could replace the ham.  Mind the salt -- you won't want to add more if you use canned blackeyed peas, and inexpensive ham should be rinsed to reduce its saltiness.
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* If you like umami-range flavors in your food, try blackeyed peas with straw mushrooms and bacon.  The first two ingredients are sold canned; just fry up the bacon, drain it, and crumble it into the beans and mushrooms.  It's wonderful!

Monday, June 11, 2018

PT

     Up early today, so I can go get physical therapy for my bad knee.  Am I looking forward to this?  I am not.

     But I hope it helps.

Sunday, June 10, 2018

Sunday Grilled Steaks

     Sunday dawned nicely enough, and I planned a nice treat: good steaks, grilled over hardwood charcoal.

     The weather had different plans. Beginning in the late morning and continuing until the present time, a string of rainshowers and thunderstorms came thumping through town.  Grilling was out.

     Tamara and I had our mouths set for steaks.  I'd bought a couple of nice filet mignons already.  I thought about the cast-iron grill pan, but it's tricky to clean and I have no shortage of housework.

     So...  We had bacon, the good, applewood-smoked stuff.  I had some fresh Portobello mushrooms (Agaricus bisporus, which is the most common mushroom sold) and Tam had picked up a bag of dried chantrelles.  I got the steaks out and salted and peppered them and left them on the back of the stove to come to room temperature.

     Started the bacon in a good steel skillet, copper-bottomed Revere Ware that Mom gave me when she was no longer cooking, and let a couple of slices cook while the chantrelles were simmering in chicken broth in a small saucepan.  I sliced the fresh mushrooms, fished out the bacon when it was nice and crunchy, put in one more slice and the fresh mushooms, and let it cook and build up some lovely stuff in the pan.  That's important -- lacking smoky coals, you need to do something to add an extra layer to the flavor, and I don't mean shake another spice over the meat.

     The timing worked out nicely -- when the fresh mushrooms were done enough to set on paper toweling with the bacon, the chantrelles in broth were about reconstituted and I used a a few tablespoons of the broth to deglaze the pan and dropped in my steak, butterflied, and slid it around in the pan juices.  Over medium-low heat, it got five minutes to a side and a little more, and then I added Tam's steak, giving it two minutes each per four sides (it was a big block of steak!).  That put hers at very rare and mine at medium rare; I set her steak on a plate in the oven over the pilot light to rest and added the fresh mushrooms back to the skillet, snipping the bacon and drained chantrelles into small pieces and stirring it all around. 

     Meanwhile, the broth got poured through a coffee filter to clarify it.  Once I was happy with my steak (on the rare side of medium), I put it on a plate next to Tam's, poured the mushroom-chicken broth into the pan with the mushroom-bacon mixture, and deglazed and let it reduce a little.

     Served by spooning the mushroom-bacon stuff over the steaks, and they really needed nothing else.  Mine was a good a steak as I have ever made indoors, wonderfully tender and flavorful.
TAMARA KEEL PHOTO
     For sides, zucchini Parmesan (a fresh take-home-and-nuke item from the grocer) and baked potatoes with truffle butter for me. The small "Yukon Gold" potatoes got microwaved by themselves for a few minutes and then rode with the zucchini, which worked out well.  Do it properly and a "nuked" potato is as good as one that's spent a long time in a hot oven.

Saturday, June 09, 2018

Woke Up At Six A.M.

     It felt so self-indulgent.  Six in the morning, but my body tells me I have laid in bed until noon.

     This is the easy direction to turn my clock and I can usually do it in one go, or one and a half: got home at the usual time yesterday, went out to lunch (my supper) at a new place, came home and went into the "instant off" sleep mode that I have been getting the past few days.  Woke up five hours later, turned the bed back into a couch, did a very little housework, ordered in dinner for Tam and myself, and looked at television for awhile,* interrupted by a call from work wanting talk-us-through help restarting a computer after a power hit.  After all that excitement, I turned the couch back into a bed and dozed off with an ice pack on my knee and a hotpad under my back.  I woke up once to change out the ice pack and along about 0430, started drifting back towards wakefulness with the delicious slowness of a manatee rising, blimplike, from a  creek bottom nap to take a breath.

     Huck showed up at 0552 on the dot, in case the alarm clock failed.

*  *  *
     The "new place" is Next Door, located way down at 46th and College, several trolley stops south of Roseholme Cottage.  The slow wave of revitalization is picking up all the little "business corners" that had grown up at the streetcar stops and changed over the years.  Many have dwindled and come back in a new form more than once.  46th and College is an interesting one: for years, there was an independent gas station on the southwest corner (long gone now, underground tanks were suspect), a little block of shops in which tenants came and went on the northeast, a church with a lawn and parking lot on the northwest, and on the southeast, a remarkable bit of 1930s streamlined deco with a small parking lot, occupied by one of Indiana's local "7-11" minimarkets, later renamed "Double-8" and given a nice paint job in an ultimately unsuccessful effort to update their image.  By either name, the tiny grocer served the city's poorer neighborhoods and when the chain went under, their former clients were left with traveling miles farther to shop at the Dollar General and Family Dollar stores that are filling the niche.

     The building sat empty for a few years, with bright paint and a couple of florescent lights flickering though the increasingly dusty windows from way back inside.  It'd had a glorious beginning, when the old-fashioned, counter-service Kroger in the building on the northeast corner, outgrowing their space, decided to move with the times and open one of the very first self-service supermarkets!
     It was a gem of modern design.  Aside from paint and bricked-up side windows, it stayed very much that way until recently -- and the work that converted it to a restaurant largely restored the exterior, turned a few windows into doorways and added a nice fenced garden/patio area right outside the central entrance.

      Inside is very up-to-date and features a remarkably tasty menu.

     And a few nods to times gone by.
     Tam and I plan to return soon!
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* Falling Water, a series that owes large debts to Fritz Leiber's The Sinful Ones, L. Ron Hubbard's Typewriter In The Sky, and Philip K. Dick generally)

Friday, June 08, 2018

And Here's Friday

     I really didn't know if I was going to hold up.  The day is barely begun, of course, but this is about the point when I thought I might run out of steam.

     Had a bit of a start yesterday, when I received a text from the Master Control operator forty minutes after the beginning of my shift, "Are you here yet?"  I was, and I had been.  I'd even walked past his glassed-in room a couple of times in the path from door to desk to the duty position I get to run for ninety minutes.  He hadn't noticed, and it turned out he had a typewriter he wanted me to look at, a nice Olympia portable.  They're not hugely rare but they are good machines and I think he's planning to keep it.  (Along with what he described as "an IBM ball writer."  You mean a Selectric?  "Oh, yes, that's what they called them."  How soon it fades!) 

Thursday, June 07, 2018

Omelette Filled With Leftovers

     Our grocer sells what they call "Elote Corn Salad," a cold grilled-corn salad with some of the flavor of the Mexican grilled corn-on-the-cob treat.  They don't quite do the creamy sauce but it's got a bit of a nice pale cheese that is either the correct Cotija or a close substitute.  It has a tiny bit of onion and cilantro, a little heat and a slight, sharp bite of lime.

     I had some with my deli-counter supper the other day, along with a nice Italian submarine sandwich* that proved too big to finish, so there was corn salad left over and the clock was ticking.

     Remembering my Dad's great love of bacon grease (instead of melted butter†) on corn-on-the-cob, I cooked up a little bacon, poured off most of the grease (but none of the crunchy bits) and sauteed the corn salad in the remainder along with sliced-up bits of green onion.  Set that to one side, added a tiny bit of grease to the pan, and poured in a couple of eggs, already well-beaten with a few crunched-up tortilla chips and some spice mix in water.  Covered and let cook while I chopped up a little of the Campo de Montalban cheese, then layered in broken bacon, cheese and corn salad once the top of the omelette was barely set.  Cooked a little longer, folded it over and finished cooking: delicious!

     Of course, it is absolutely not low-carb.  Kinda worth it nevertheless.
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* It included, among other fine meats, nice, spicy capicola, something the big sub-shop chains rarely offer.  The deli counter makes the sandwiches in-house and they make full use of the grocery's wide range of meats and cheeses.
 
† Bacon grease on corn is wonderful.  It's not good for you -- but the melted better is not all that much healthier.

Wednesday, June 06, 2018

Are We Having Fun Yet? Are They Not?

     I'm getting a little tired of the supposedly "libertarian" individuals who want to filter every damn thing through a culture-war lens and aren't willing to concede that the entity that owns or controls an enterprise gets to make the decisions about how it runs (as long as they are lawful), even when onlookers disapprove.

     Take the recent announcement that a long-running beauty pageant won't be having swimsuit (at all) or evening-gown competitions (as such).  Oh, the complaining!  Never mind that the decision was, in fact, made by the President and CEO, the Chairwoman, and the Chair of Board of Trustees of  the organization that runs the Miss America competition -- according to well-respected libertarian thinkers, it's all part of the "effort to neuter this country," presumably by taking away that yearly opportunity to ogle attractive and scantily-clad young women on television, despite there being multiple channels of television featuring just that (and far, far more), 24/7/365.

     The swimsuit portion of the old Miss America is gone, just like Bert Parks (1914 - 1992) and the recording of him singing "There She Is...." (1955 - 2012, 2015).  Don't like it?  You're not obliged to -- nor is there anything keeping the grousers from setting up their own old-fashioned, Atlantic-City-style swimsuits-and-heels pageant and calling it the Miss National, in much the manner of sports leagues.  But no, the classic libertarian "let the market decide" wisdom is old-hat and it's much better to accuse some "they" -- women or liberals or possibly government fluoridators -- of ruining everything.

     I'm tired of it.  Looky here, it's a pre-ruined world and the only good stuff you can be even a little sure of are the things you build yourself.  They've changed the formula of Vienna Fingers cookies, 7UP is getting more and more difficult to find on store shelves and Levis dropped the rise of women's 512s to well below the natural waistline long before they offshored manufacturing and started getting snippy about politics.  Change is the only constant and you can either surf it or let it tumble you around like driftwood.  There are better ways to go through life than smooth, gray and abandoned on the beach.

Tuesday, June 05, 2018

Early Shiftage

     Yesterday was an eight-hour nightmare, despite no major disasters at work.  I had to help dig out from under the aftermath of an ugly power hit and managed my part of it by persistence rather than wit.  Found myself face-down on the desk once after having "just closed my eyes for a minute," and lucid-dreaming while sitting up twice.  I managed to get myself awake enough to drive home safely, though in hindsight I wonder if I could have passed a field sobriety test.  Claimed eight hours, was there rather longer but I can hardly claim all of it was productive.

     Clearly, I should have put a lot more effort into shifting my wake/sleep cycle than I did.

     One small delight this morning: I had picked up some cheese for my Pastrami Hash.  The grocer was down to pretty big blocks of manchego; I love it but it's priced like a precious metal (or at least copper).  They had smaller wedges of Campo de Montalb├ín, lower-priced per ounce, which looked like manchego and had a similar-looking but darker rind: turns out it's also from la Mancha, made with sheep, goat and cow milk instead of manchego's one hundred percent sheep milk.  A mild and slightly complex flavor, it played well with pastrami, potatoes, red bell pepper, green onion with an egg cooked on top.

     Didn't sleep terribly well but it added up to eight and spent an extra hour and a half (not all in one go) horizontal in the doing.  Hoping that will be enough.

Monday, June 04, 2018

On The Early Shift: Breakfast Again

     I was up a little early Sunday and had a short day, since I am on the very early shift this week.  I don't like it, but I think very highly of the tech who normally works it, and if he doesn't get some vacation time, it might drive him mad.

     Got up just in time to make up a pan of Pastrami Hash, which I hope will have enough left over for the next couple of mornings as well.  This is just exactly what it sounds like, cubes of pastrami rather than corned beef, cooked with diced potatoes.  I'm still working on cooking times to get the textures right, but this is pretty close and should get closer on reheating -- I started the pastrami in a little water and simmered it with a lid on the skillet while I cut the potatoes.  You want it moist but not soupy, so that takes some looking after (and occasional stirring) to maintain.  Add the potatoes, cook it lidded and moist, stirring from time to time, until they are pretty much done, then take the lid off and cook it down to whatever degree of dryness appeals to you.

     You can add onion (I sliced a couple of green onions in mine), bell or hot peppers, cheese and/or an egg on top (I fried an egg separately).  A little "Italian mix" spice on the potatoes before they went in seemed to work well.  You do need to remove really big sections of fat when you cut up the meat to keep the end result from being too greasy.  The nice people at the deli may give you a funny look when you ask them to slice the pastrami a quarter-inch thick, but that seems to be about the right thickness for this.

Sunday, June 03, 2018

Ah, Breakfast!

     Tam and Shootin' Buddy are essaying to breakfast and the Indy 1500 Gun Show.  Me, well, I need to ice my knee; maybe I'll drop by the show later, maybe not.  The sidewise slow shuffle is especially challenging.

     That leaves me with time on my hands and leftover supplies from Friday dinner, so I made an overstuffed omelette, filled with bacon, onion, Poblano pepper, little picked red peppers and Parmesan-Romano-Asiago cheese.*  The eggs were fortified with crunched-up corn chips and a little water (Tam's not a fan of the chips so I save that for solo breakfasts), along with some Italian-type spices.

     Leftover supplies were from this:

     Ribeyes started in a little bacon fat with mushrooms, onion, celery, Poblano pepper and little red pickled peppers, all cooked in black-truffle butter, mostly uncovered. Bottom steak is medium, top is rare, cooked 3 min per side and a minute on the long edges. Mushrooms start with first steak, followed by onion, then celery.   Poblano goes in right before the second steak, along with the little red peppers.  Steak salted, peppered and allowed to come to room temp before cooking.

      Timing on the first steak was 3 minutes per side, more or less, three times in a row, the last two with the other steak in the pan.  Mediumish heat or a little higher. Some fennel seed, parsley, garlic, basil added after the mushrooms had about six minutes to get interested.
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* Our grocer buys this in huge wheels, cuts paper-thin slices, packages small quantities and sells it as "Shaved Italian Blend."  There was giggling when Tam and I found it.  I mean -- really...!

Saturday, June 02, 2018

I Woke Up

     I got up, I took out the trash, I made my bed (into a couch!) I made breakfast, I made coffee and I am headed for the shower.  I want a cookie and a gold star on my daily report card.

Friday, June 01, 2018

Got Myself To The Doctor: I'm Internally Deranged!

     My orthopedic physician -- the guy who fixed my knee a decade ago -- has a first-rate assistant, essentially a specialist Nurse Practitioner,* who handles much of the intake and routine work (surgeons are better off spending their time in surgery and he's a particularly good one).  My blowed-up knee is pretty much the usual thing in her line of work.  They got me in promptly and took a set of X-rays showing all the standard angles (and the three remaining screws that hold the end of my thighbone together in a pattern that shows the path of the original spiral fracture).  She looked them over, then talked me through them, with a likely prognosis and conservative treatment plan.

     The cartilage on the distal condyle continues to wear.  There's a visibly smaller gap there (cartilage is largely radiotransparent)  compared to the other three bearing surfaces of my knees.  It's now officially both "arthritis" and "internal derangement."

     She gave me a steroid shot right in the knee:  "Try to relax."
     "I'm trying...."

     She's also sentenced me to four weeks of physical therapy, twice a week.   Like I have time for it?  But I can't not have time for it, so I'm off to see if there's anything nearby or, failing that, anything near work.

     Also, I'd switched from ibuprofen to aspirin for my 3x/day routine of acetaminophen and an NSAID, on the notion that aspirin has some hearth-health benefits and "vitamin I" is very much the other way.  Bad idea, she tells me --  ibuprofen is a much better anti-inflammatory, if you maintain a steady level.  So I'm back on that, three of 'em, three times a day.
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* Unless there's something in between N-P and M.D.; she's got that kind of no-nonsense competence and manner that bespeaks a great depth of knowledge and experience.  People who don't blink at my vocabulary or hold their own back are a delight to converse with and she's one.