Wednesday, August 15, 2018

Don't Politics Much Any More

    I still pay attention to politics, for the simple reason that no matter which of the two big parties hold the upper hand, I'm in their crosshairs, one way or another -- or more accurately, I'm in the crosshairs of some of their politicians, some of the time.  I'm too old, too female, I own too many guns or I like the Fourth Amendment too much, or the First, or the Second; I'm too pale or too well-off or I work in the wrong industry and no matter what, I'm far too willing to get along with those horrible liberals and those vile conservatives.

     So any more, I mostly just watch.  At the Federal level, the two sides -- and I understand that many people favor one over the other, for reasons they find to be good and sufficient, and feel even the suggestion of moral equivalence is offensive -- have egged one another into positions from which they cannot compromise, not even on the simplest and least controversial of matters.

     About all I can do is watch, note where the fire extinguishers are and keep an eye on the exits.  I'd add, "review the number for 911," but the FedGov is supposed to be its own 911 and that system is pretty busy right now, mostly with its own helmet fires.

     Hey, at least nobody's rioting under the colors of their favorite chariot-racing team, right?  Not so far, anyway.

Tuesday, August 14, 2018

Tetrazzini: As American As Apple Pie

     Possibly even more so; while the "Italian" dish you know as Turkey Tetrazzini was named for an Italian -- the extraordinary coloratura soprano Luisa Tetrazzini* -- it was invented here in the United States, either at the Palace Hotel in San Francisco, where the singer lived, or at the Knickerbocker Hotel in New Your City.

    Better yet, there's no fixed list of ingredients.  Turkey, a cream sauce of some kind, some sort of vegetable, usually served over thin pasta.  May or may not be baked....

     So when inspiration hit last night, I didn't feel constrained.
     A daytime TV show cooking segment had included the reminder that most ground turkey is optimized to be just about zero fat -- and that keeps you from getting the flavor.  The speaker recommended looking for ground turkey with dark and white meat in it, not the ultra-lean stuff, pointing out that turkey is already plenty lean.  It reminded me that I hadn't made Turkey Tetrazzini for a long time.

     Our market turned out to not have anything but low-fat turkey -- but the very lean turkey and some sweet Italian sausage, about 50/50 by weight, seemed like a good compromise.  Browned, with fresh mushrooms and green onions added near the end of the cooking process, it was a great start.

     I added some diced sweet peppers, the small ones sold in bagged lots, and some greens--  My "old standard" recipe calls for spinach, but there was some spinach/arugula mix that looked good.  Pushed the meat and mushrooms to the sides, poured in the peppers and let them cook while I rinsed the greens.   Snipped the greens in atop the peppers, covered and let it go until they started to brighten up, then poured in cream of mushroom soup and a drained can of diced tomatoes.  I saved the drained tomato liquid and added just enough to the pan to get a nice, thick texture.  Covered and let it cook until everything was warmed through and bubbling.  You can serve it over pasta, or not, and a generous handful of shredded Parmesan on top adds a nice note to the flavor.

     Tam thought it was pretty good -- and so did I.
* She seems to have been remarkably well thought of, with a bubbly personality quite at odds with the stereotype of an operatic soprano.  Her singing is effortless-sounding, even the highest notes.

Monday, August 13, 2018

An Unsquare Egg To Start The Day

     Call it Toad-in-the-hole, or Gashouse Eggs, whatever: an egg fried in a hole punched in a slice of buttered bread.  It's good-tasting and quick.  Make it with sliced white bread, and it's a "Square Egg."  Me, I'm not so fond of store-bought white bread; growing up, we had home-made bread* or Roman Meal, and these days, rye or pumpernickel is my choice.  That gives you flattened-oval slices, and it's darned good.

     You can cook the disc of bread you removed, or break the egg yolk, tear up the left-over bread into little pieces, and drop it into the egg.  It's good either way.
* Mom usually made two or more loaves, because fresh-baked bread is a delight that tends to get eaten up as soon as it is cool enough; so you make one for now, and more for later.

Sunday, August 12, 2018

The Seventeen-Year-Old Cat

     The Mouse-Baby Song has been sung, long, low-pitched and mournful, sung holding the stuffed toy in one's mouth, of course.  It must be so; it is the only way to be sure the Great Cat will hear, and bring the prey near our waiting-place. The Mouse-Baby Song has been sung, and the mouse-baby itself deposited dead-center in a doorway, as is required.

    The ceremony is complete.  Good eating is assured for one more day, despite the blithe, utter unconcern of the monkey-Mommies with the proper rituals as they sit there, staring at the box that make flat pictures that smell only of dust.  They're so unaware of the things that matter!

Saturday, August 11, 2018


     Saturday at last.  I'm still fighting pretty serious depression and general twitchiness, which is almost certainly from the darned steroid.  It was prescribed over my objections and I only took it because I was filling in on the early morning shift and back pain was keeping me from sleeping.  I couldn't take the muscle relaxant or prescription pain medication for fear of oversleeping.  In hindsight, I would have done better to have toughed it out with OTC stuff and stoicism.

     The shift is about eight hours ahead of my usual shift and it's difficult to adjust to -- starting or ending -- over the course of a weekend. Waking time is an hour past my usual bedtime. 

     Still, for a person of my age and formal education, the rate of pay is little short of fantastic.  For the ability to own a house, to drive a fairly decent vehicle, to indulge my hobbies, I'll put up with some mood swings.  I have had mood swings and a lousy income, and if I can't change they first, it's certainly easier with the second.

     Prednisone is right out, though.  Even knowing it's chemical, walking around feeling worthless and sad is as bad as back pain, and more dangerous.

Friday, August 10, 2018

I Think It Might Be Friday

     I'm hoping this is the end of the week, anyway.  It's been a busy one, complicated by medical folderol. 

     Tamara is back, after a couple of weeks house-sitting for a well-known SF author.  She seems to have picked up a mild case of the fancy-pens bug, and even owns a nice fountain pen, which she uses.  That's a big deal for a left-hander; I've known other left-handed fountain-pen users and there are a number of tricks to it, most of which the user has had to figure out alone.  Both the SF author and I are taking credit for Tam's newfound enjoyment of good pens, but the truth is, equability pens sell themselves: she saw a particularly nice rollerball pen online, bought it and found the writing experience so much improved that she looked around for more of the same.  Fountain pens take more looking after than the other kinds* but much like the Chemex coffeemaker, for some people, the extra effort is worth it.

     The lost parts at work remain a mystery; the fellow who stored them says they're not where he put them, and no one else remembers having even seen them.  My basic replacement assortment arrived yesterday and I'm probably going to keep them in my desk.  We're still sorting out our expanded workshop area and I don't want to have to go through this again.  The bulk is so small that I can file them in a manila folder.
* Liquid-ink capillary pens like the Rapidograph, often used as drafting pens, do need similar care and perhaps more, since dried ink will clog them. I used them for many years before deciding they were just too fragile to carry; points for the old-style Rapidographs had become all but impossible to find.

Thursday, August 09, 2018

It Kept Getting Worse

     Going back to bed would have been a good idea yesterday.  Blogging about it didn't make the problem go away and as I struggled to get ready for work, it was harder and harder to do routine tasks.  I finally called in sick-but-hoping-to-improve, slogged through the rest of my morning routine as slow as tar in January (and nearly as brittle), and decided to brave the roads a little after noon.

     It wasn't fun.  Everything was moving too fast and too near.  The intentions of other drivers were difficult to read.  The light was too bright--  Made it in, stuck to small, simple tasks and by four o'clock, I wasn't having to grab corners and doorways to keep from running into them.  Things got a little better and the drive home was only slightly worse than usual.

     Prednisone was already on my allergies list because of how it affects me.  The doctor made a strong case for it this time and I went along.  That was a mistake

Wednesday, August 08, 2018

A Bad Case Of The Klutz

     It's probably the prednisone.  Though I took the last yesterday, the stuff builds up and takes awhile to get out of your system.  Whatever it is, I have been clumsy and out-of-step all morning.  Woke up slowly and face-down and nearly fell getting out of bed.  Cooking breakfast went poorly -- the usual ballet that ends neatly with coffee ready, toast and egg done at the same time, juice poured and drank was instead a jumbled mess, bacon too cold, toast burned, egg barely kept from burning, coffee half-done.

      Later, I nearly dropped a book in the washroom sink.  Can't keep from falling over my own feet and if you saw this blog post before correction, the number of typos would amaze you.

     To make matters worse, yesterday, I was confronted what just how much of a steam-locomotive technician in an all-electric world I have become: I needed a few diodes for a project -- a couple of PTC205s or 1N4007s to sum two 5 Volt power supplies, a few 1N4148s to put across relay coils to suppress the inductive spike when you turn off the juice (and keep them pulled in just a little longer, a cheap "pulse stretcher" that can sometimes prevent problems).  We not only didn't have any, there wasn't even a place for them!

    In the most recent rearrangement and expansion of Engineering, we added three more workbenches and revamped parts storage.  We kept a good stock of connectors and basic passive components, mostly resistors and capacitors, a few relays.  The consensus was that our stock of TTL and CMOS discrete logic could go -- either to deep storage or a surplus dealer -- because it was long past its time.  Anything you once did with TLL or CMOS is either simple enough that now you can just use a relay, or complicated enough to merit an embedded microcontroller.  And as for transistors and diodes, we'd keep a few basic types that would cover most of our needs: 2N3904 and 2N3906 transistors are an NPN/PNP pair that will do for most relay driver and small-signal work, a fairly tough rectifier like the 1N4007 or PTC205 (1kV/1A and 1kV/2.5A respectively) for power supplies, and a smaller diode like 1N914/1N4148 or 1N4001 for other uses.  Add some three-terminal regulators (78nn and 79nn positive and negative regulators in 5V and 12V versions), and that's nearly everything you might want.  With 15-Volt regulators and NE5532As, we'd be set for audio work as well -- and that's not even a shoebox full of parts.

     Yeah, well, nobody saved the shoebox, as near as my bosses, peers and I can tell.  We used to have a wall of ICs, transistors and diodes, neatly sorted by type and number, and they're all gone.  Every last one of them, along the with the little drawers they were stored in.

     I have a few of the parts I need here at home, so I'm providing them for this project; I have ordered more for my employer and they'll restock what I have used.

     But think about it: a whole wall of parts vanished and no one noticed (except, presumably, the guy who threw them out).  Parts that were once critical to the kind of work I do.  At one time, I prided myself on having a foot in both camps: it was 1937 in my basement workshop, and five minutes into the future in my shop at work.  Any more?  Pick your flavor of "old," because that's all there is.

Tuesday, August 07, 2018

Oh, What Fun

     Transitioning back to my regular shift after a week on the 3:00 am - 11:30 am shift isn't easy.  Doing so while still on the Prednisone the doctor prescribed for my post-wreck back pain is...frustrating.  I go to sleep dizzy and wake up about 3:00 am, my mind racing.  Between the drug and the lack of sleep, I'm clumsy.  On the last full day of the stuff now, so it will pass, and at least the dose has been low enough that I haven't been too outspoken, but it's darned annoying.

     I made Swedish pancakes this morning.  Figured if I was going to be frustrated, I could at least get a treat out of it.  Rannie Wu was getting underfoot and at one point, I looked down to realize she was sitting, watching me, with her tail in a saucer of olive oil I'd poured for her earlier.  But it worked out; a lot of making those pancakes is letting them cook, which left time to scrub the olive-oiled tail of the Ancient Wu.  --It's a title of respect, she's got awhile to go before she's ancient in years.

Monday, August 06, 2018

Sunday Work, Sunday Supper

     Lawn mowed, a lot of the fallen branches picked up, another few feet gained on the "jungle" that grows in the narrow space between one side of my garage and the fence,* branches removed from the roof and the gutters slightly cleared, and once again a reminder that the very worn soles of my calf-high Carolina Pole Climber boots are not safe on the steep roof of the house.

     Cleaned up after that, spent a little while on a spare laptop with a too-full hard drive (it ended up needing a fresh start, and then more cleaning-up to get rid of the pre-installed stuff I didn't want), then went to the megamart and the grocer's for a start on the week's supplies.  On returning home, I discovered during the unloading process that the temperature and humidity had gone way up.  Just hauling bags in from my car had me perspiring.

     So I made myself a treat, Tam being busy elsewhere: pseudo reverse-sear New York Strip steak, a green salad, and the better grade of instant mashed potatoes.  (Yes, yes, but they're so much easier.)

     Grilled corn and a steak cooked over hardwood charcoal would have been nice.  At 91 degrees and humid, grilling was going to be pretty miserable work.   I seasoned the steak and let it sit out while I considered the options -- steak cooks better and tastes better if it doesn't start cooking cold. There was a little truffle butter left, so I melted that over low heat in a small frying pan, popped the steak in, put another little blob of butter on top of it and let it alone for five minutes.  Kept turning it every five minutes until it felt done enough, while boiling water for the potatoes.  Uncovered the steak and raised the heat a bit while making the potatoes -- "Remove water from heat, add potato mix, stir with a fork until fully blended, let sit for one minute" -- and I'd already made and dressed the salad.  Loaded a bowl of salad and put meat and mashed potatoes on a plate, ready for supper.

     This left a nice pool of pan drippings and truffle butter in the frying pan.  H'mm, mashed potatoes of the blander sort, and that stuff--  Dipped a finger in and gave it a taste, and it was better than I could have hoped, steak and truffle flavors blended.  I made a well in the potatoes and poured it in.  It didn't elevate the instant to match home-made, but it stepped them up quite a lot.
* Every Spring, I tell myself that this year, it's not going to get ahead of me.  With the knee problem, this year I didn't even reach the point of being able to lie to myself about it.  As time and weather permit, I have been chopping back a few feet and spraying it with brush killer.  I might reach the far end by Autumn.

Sunday, August 05, 2018

"Round Like A Circle In A Spiral, Like A Wheel Within A Wheel..."

     The windmills of....breakfast?

     I slept in and woke up, hungry and wanting a change from the usual.  A refrigerator check turned up one (1) round slice of Colby Jack cheese and nice deli salami, thin-sliced and nearly the same diameter.

     Several years ago, Tamara returned from a house-sitting gig* praising the usefulness of a single-egg frying pan for solo breakfasts.  You've probably seen them, about the diameter of a DVD, looking like dollhouse hardware.  They heat up quickly and most have a relatively thick bottom, so the heat is very even.  They'll fry an egg nicely in minimum time.  Of course, I had to buy one; they're inexpensive.

     At the stove, tiny skillet on the burner, a bit of butter melted, egg dropped in with a broken yolk† on top (I pour 'em in and then take a toothpick to the yolk) and cooked 'til the bottom's nearly done.  Flip, lay a slice of cheese on it and and a slice or two of salami over that.  The turned side will be cooked pretty quickly, so you flip the whole thing, add another slice or two of salami on that side of the egg, give it no more than thirty seconds and flip again for another thirty.  At that point, you will have strata of warmed-up salami, cooked egg, melty but not molten cheese and more salami.  The who thing should be set on doubled paper towel to drain and cool a bit.

   I had mine between two slices of toast, buttering the toast with what was left in the little frying pan.  It would be good all by itself, or with some other starch; hash browns, for instance.  H'mm, hash browns -- maybe I need a second one-egg frying pan for them!

     Oh, the post title?  Here:

* Yes, it's true: I send my lodger out to house-sit for science-fiction writers, hoping she'll soak up the ambiance and re-radiate it on her return.  It's just one of the little things I do instead of writing....

† You may prefer the yolk intact.  In that case, you'll probably want to drape a piece of salami over the egg before you flip it.  This should help with overcooking and breakage.

Saturday, August 04, 2018

Better Corned Beef Hash

     Canned corned beef, diced fresh potato, a little spice (parsley, onion flakes, black pepper) and a quarter-cup of water or a little more:
     Ten minutes in a covered skillet, flipped, cook a little uncovered to dry it, add an egg on top and give it five-plus covered, until the egg is as done as you like.

     Much better than the canned version.  You can beat it with deli or home-cooked corned beef brisket, but those take a lot more effort.