Monday, February 28, 2022

History Is Too Loud

      I can barely hear myself think.  Sorry.  Maybe tomorrow.

Sunday, February 27, 2022

You've Never Heard It Like This

      Rather than talk about all the troubles of the world, here's a lovely version of a lovely piece of music:

Saturday, February 26, 2022

How To Read The War News

      "The first casualty of war is truth," the many-sourced epigram holds.  Whoever first said it, and however they meant it, it's true.  In the battle, no one knows the entire picture.  While the "fog of war" is a lot less foggy for modern generals thanks to advanced technology, for ordinary troops, regular citizens and journalists things are as murky as ever, if not more so: social media is the latest extension of the battlefield, strafed with rumor and strewn with Photoshop landmines and poisonous memes.

      Reports of large-scale movement are likely to be approximately correct.  Everyone has spy satellites these days and while NRO-or-whoever is unlikely to show their cards, commercial imagery is widely available.  On the other hand, NATO is unlikely to be flying anything at all over Ukraine and bordering non-NATO nations (or at least anything but thoroughly anonymized drones, which of course belong to no one, no one at all) and if they did, they wouldn't tell Fox or CNN what they were seeing.

      From the Russian government,* we'll get bullshit and bravado; from the Ukrainian government, we'll get bravado and bullshit.  A lot of the "amateur reporting" supposedly from Ukraine has been shown to be faked.  Is some real? Certainly; but only the crudest fakes are easy to spot.

      One of the major products of war is dead people.  Count on it.  Not just soldiers; grandparents, babies, schoolchildren, grumpy bastards and nice young people have already died and more are going to die.  No sane person cheers for that.  But we can't stop it.

      Various sanctions have been implemented, more will be, and most of the complaining about this or that not having been done is based on profound misunderstandings of who runs what.  Take SWIFT, a secure financial-exchange communications system: it's owned by the member banks, all across the world.  It takes some doing to get them to agree to pull the plug on member banks.  The President of the U.S. can't order them to.  It's a pretty sure bet that NSA reads all of SWIFT's mail, too, and that can be a valuable source of intelligence info.  That's one tiny corner of the complicated picture, and it's all that knotted, or worse. 

      Most of the big-picture reporting will be reasonably accurate; most of the live coverage in-zone from major news organizations will be a mixture of official news releases (generally serving a specific end), whatever they can find out themselves or from locals (eyewitness testimony, which can be of variable trustworthiness) and live pictures (what's in-frame is real, and what's out of frame is unknown).  The heart-wrenching human-interest stuff?  Who can say.  War is terrible.  It's also chaotic.  We're always being told to "remember the Maine!"  We're rarely encouraged to find out what actually happened to the Maine.

      Be compassionate.  Follow the news as closely as you care to.  But don't be a sap (MIT has some hints) -- and don't cheer for the aggressor.  That'd be the side that sent tanks clanking towards the capitol city.
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* Which includes nearly all Russian media and they're working on the holdouts.  Ukraine is better off for press freedom, with independent press and both official government-run and independent radio and TV broadcasters.  But they're trying to report and run their transmitters, webservers  and printing presses from inside a war zone, so....

Friday, February 25, 2022

Useful?

      In case you were wondering, Ukrainian for "Wolverines!" is "Росомахи!" according to Google.

Thursday, February 24, 2022

Dead Archduke Time

      And time, yet again, for tanks rolling into Poland, er, Ukraine on the thinnest of lies.

      This will be on History tests, eventually -- presuming there's anyone around and current events don't eventually poke a hole in history big enough to throw a Dark Ages through.

      The Republican-aligned punditry are still talking about what a great fellow Mr. Putin is, as mechanized armor clanks in and the missiles fly.  Meanwhile, no few of the socially-conservative, limited-democracy, ex-Warsaw Pact nations so admired by the talking-head Right are turning to NATO and the EU, away from Gospodin Putin's smothering Russia.  Viktor Orban's for Ukraine sovereignty (wasn't it just last month he was cuddling up to dear old Rodina's muscle-boy for reactors and heating gas?).  Bulgaria, the Czech Republic, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, Romania and Slovakia have triggered the NATO bat-signal  -- okay, "urgent Article 4 consultations" -- over the Russian invasion.  Suddenly, those (well-armed) "decadent Western nations" of the EU and North America are looking a lot better to them than borscht and culture-war orthodoxy.

      It will be interesting to see how that plays out domestically.  Especially along the Trumpian MAGA axis. (Though watching the traditionally antiwar Left generate spin will be another fine show for one of the smaller rings in the media's Big Top.  It's all clowns, jackasses and elephants these days.)

      On the world stage?  My bet is that Mr. Putin still thinks he can have a nice, neat, well-contained war, pick up as  much of Ukraine as he cares to and break the remainder to saddle without the free world doing anything worse to him than weak economic sanctions and strongly-worded objections.  Is he right?  I don't know.  These things have a way of getting out of hand, one way or another.

      Europe was due for another war.  I wish they weren't.

Wednesday, February 23, 2022

Beef Stew

      The world continues to turn and you still have to have supper.  I had thawed a pound of stew beef.  There were a couple of parsnips in the refrigerator and a red onion and small, multi-colored potatoes in the cabinet.  Beef stew is pretty quick to make.

      I wanted a thick broth.  There are lots of ways to accomplish that (a little cornstarch stirred into cold water, added to the simmering broth and brought to a boil is a quick classic) but I wanted to try something.  I have a container of "Italian Panko," really just seasoned breadcrumbs with a fancy title.  I crumbled about a cup of them into a bowl with a little flour and cornmeal, salt and pepper, and snipped the stew beef into small pieces, across the grain.  With hot olive oil in my Always pan (this will be important later), I dredged them through the breadcrumb mixture a little at a time, adding the breaded meat to the pan as I went.

      Each batch was turned and pushed away from the center of the pan before the next was added.  By the time it was all in, there was a pretty fair coating of breadcrumbs on the bottom of the pan, very dark in a few places.  I deglazed those with a little balsamic vinegar (acidic liquids will take out the "burned" taste) and water and turned down the heat.

      Parsnips next, peeled, cut into small pieces and added to the center of the pan.  The onion got the same treatment -- I took my time, so the parsnips would cook longer.  Eventually, the diced onion went in, and I let it cook uncovered while I got out and washed three medium-small potatoes, then covered the pan while I cut them up,

      Once the potatoes were ready, the onion was getting translucent.  I added a cup and a half of water and deglazed again.  Not everything on the bottom was coming off, but the broth was a lovely dark brown.  I added some parsley and mixed seasoning (sage and some others), and as it got to bubbling, had a taste.

      Okay, but a bit bland.  I added a packet of powdered beef bone broth, stirred it up and had another taste.  That had done it! (Our corner grocer carries this brand, the version in a box holding several packets, each good for one cup of sipping broth.  It has a long shelf life and works well for cooking.)  It came to a low boil and I added the potatoes and covered it, setting a twenty-minute timer.

      That left me time to tidy up and wash a load of dishes.  It took twenty-five minutes before I was done, and the stew was ready by then, potatoes and parsnips soft, onions cooked down, and the beef remarkably tender, especially for the short cooking time, about an hour.

      Tam and I had dinner while watching an episode of Black Mirror.  I chickened out of the last half -- a complicated plot involving multiple murders, which I had sussed out* and was finding the drama being acted out just a little too much to take.  So I went to freeze the leftover stew and clean up the kitchen.

      Once I had poured the stew into a freezer bag, there was a pretty thick coating of cooked-down, gluey breadcrumb stuff sticking to the bottom of the pan.  I wiped out as much as I could with a paper towel, added a little hot water and wondered if I'd done in my fancy pan.

      I'd dished the stew out with a large, soft silicone spoon.  I poured off the water that hadn't been absorbed and tried scraping at the stuff with the edge of the turned-over spoon.  Success!  It peeled up cleanly in long strips.  I got nearly all of it up, with just a little scrubbing with dish soap and the little loofa provided with the pan* to get the last few spots before washing and drying.  So the breadcrumb thing works, but be prepared to use some elbow grease afterward, especially if you use a pan that isn't non-stick.
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* One thing about writing fiction is that you start to recognize where plots are going -- this character will kill again, that one will be a victim, this casually-introduced thing will be critical later, and so on.  I figured out early on that this episode, "Crocodile," was along the lines of a Greek tragedy and after the second inevitable murder, I found it too intense to watch.

* This wouldn't have occurred to me but it's a clever idea.  The non-PTFE nonstick lining is harder than Teflon but still too soft for a Scotch-Brite pad.  A loofa is just right.

Tuesday, February 22, 2022

Say They Threw A World War

      ...And everyone was invited.  There's nothing more inclusive than a world war, after all.  At least unless you're Swiss.

      Then what?

      The first fork is conventional or nuclear.  Nuke's worst; a "limited nuclear exchange" costs everyone an important city or two, the nations of the world freak out and stop fighting, and we all lay off milk for awhile.  Some governments may topple, but don't bet any big money on it.  Cancer cases will start to ramp up and it might even cure Global Warming -- but not in a good way.  All the actuarial tables will be out of date and if you thought the pandemic fouled up supply chains, you ain't seen nothin' yet.  Conversely, if it's an all-out slugfest, forget it.  We're dead.  (Indianapolis is the home of the Army's check-writing accountants.  I figure we're a second- or third-tier target if worse comes to worst.)

      So forget that fork.  If it's bad, it will be bad all around, think late 1929 - 34 only with more fallout.  If it's worse, nobody worries for long because the dead have no worries.

      Conventional war?  This is looking more like 1914 than 1939: one thread gets pulled and the whole garment unravels.  It will ramp up slowly; Gospodin Putin's Russia has pulled the "gradual warfare" trick before, a slow escalation that boils the frog without blitzkrieg, and it has worked so far.  This time, it might not.  Will the conflict stabilize along a new set of trenchlines or become a war of movement?  I don't know.

      Even if the war grows, pulling in European nations and NATO (and thus the U.S. and UK), I think the growth will be gradual.  We're probably not going to be saving grease and scrap metal for the war effort.*  But if it continues for long, things like cyber attacks will increase and can make a mess, adding to supply-chain problems that will probably also increase, just as slowly (or, dammit, quickly) as the war spreads.  Throw in a few larcenous hackers making use of whatever new things they can learn, and that sphere of battle can spread to places far from the contested territory.

      The pandemic may have given us some useful habits.  I keep a month's supply of paper goods on hand these days, and about six weeks worth of coffee, a month or more of canned good, weeks of meat in the freezer, and so on.  There is no coffee grown in the continental U.S. and very little tea, so if it is a necessity for you (it is for me), keeping extra on hand is a good precaution.

      Russia can no more be shamed world by opinion into doing the right thing than a tiger can be shamed into not eating meat.  Ukraine can't afford to back down unless they are willing to give up being a country (and if they go, the Baltic states had better worry).  Chess players and military historians may be able to visualize the game from there but it doesn't go in any good direction.

      There's a lot of BS circulating.  If you want to know who's really pushing for war, check to see who's doing the most active and numerous movement of troops, weapons and materiel to the contested border.  It's not the United States -- but we have been the free world's Plan B since the second decade of the Twentieth Century and I don't think that's going to change, no matter who is scuffing the White House carpets.

      Whatever happens, I am damned well unwilling to face it without coffee.  First World problems?  You bet.
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* I hate to break this to you, but it now appears that WW II scrap drives were mostly a morale effort; saved grease was a useful source of glycerin, and scrap iron and steel was helpful, but the rest?  Not so much.

Monday, February 21, 2022

So, Who's Keeping A Wary Eye On Actual Commies?

      Conservative media being largely preoccupied with goofball takes on the COVID-19 pandemic and getting alarmed at the President,* it has fallen to Pro Publica and the Gray Lady to pick up the slack:

      How Bots and Fake Accounts Push China’s Vision of Winter Olympic Wonderland

      It ain't pretty, what Winnie the Pooh's evil twin is up to.  And his old pal Uncle Vlad is even worse.  At least somebody's watching them.
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* When it ain't Your Guy in the White House, the resident of 1600 Pennsy is simultaneously senile or deranged, a puppet of shadowy forces and a ruthless, sneaky mastermind in his own right.  The image is little more than a cheesy copy of a Bond villain.  Just as soon as the office-holder is replaced by one from the other party, the sides holding this view flip, but the narrative never changes.  In my life, I have seen a handful of would-be "masterminds" get elected and dig in, and every last one of them was more concerned with getting re-elected than evildoing, incapable of really effective sneakiness and of only average intelligence or a bit higher.  Few geniuses, no morons.  But where's the excitement in that?  And thus, always, Presidential Derangement Syndrome from the opposing partly, as reliable as the full moon and twice as howling.  There are plenty of Presidents I don't think much of and a few who I think have intended and done actual harm -- but they have never fit the dumb/puppet/mastermind PDS mold, because no one does.

Steaks: Cooking And Cooked

      Steaks, plus Red Gold potatoes that were nuked and then baked:
TAMARA KEEL PHOTO

TAMARA KEEL PHOTO
     The asparagus was fresh, prepackaged, microwave ready with garlic butter and diced red bell pepper.  The hardest work was cleaning and prepping the grill -- and that wasn't very difficult.

Sunday, February 20, 2022

Sunday: Warm

      58 degrees when I stacked up kindling and hardwood charcoal.  It was windy, too, but not so windy I couldn't build a fire in the grill and make a couple of steaks.  With baked potatoes and asparagus, it was a good Sunday dinner -- specially for February.

      And by the way, truffle salt was amazing on the potatoes.  It only takes a little!

Saturday, February 19, 2022

Put Them Together, What Do You Get?

      If this goes on, we could see some weird stuff:

      NPR on "The Big Sort," as people pick up and move to areas where they'll be among folks who share their politics.  Red and Blue, Left and Right, lots of people are doing it.

      And then,

      "COVID Is More Like Smoking."  You can greatly limit the harm it does to you by changing your behavior.  Not everyone is willing to do so.

      Combined, we could eventually see some regions where COVID-19 is far more widespread, and others where it isn't.

      I think we're better off purple.  Annoying though it can be.

Friday, February 18, 2022

Actual Headline

      Headline seen elsewhere, "Why is Norway so good at Winter Olympics?"

      So, slept through Geography and Social Studies, did we?

Thursday, February 17, 2022

The Numbers Speak For Themselves

      The latest report from the CDC on case and death rates for vaccinated and unvaccinated Americans is about as clear a sign as anyone could ask for.

      We're running the experiment in the real world and -- surprise! -- vaccines work.  (If that really is a surprise to you, I have got some swamp land for sale, cheap.  Sure to be drained and improved soon!)

Wednesday, February 16, 2022

Standing In The Middle Of The Kitchen, Screaming

      That's what I'd like to do.   Instead, after a particularly vexing Kitchen Avalanche, I said a set of very bad words indeed, then dug in and sorted out one small corner of the long, narrow cluttered galley kitchen here at Roseholme Cottage.

      I am not a neat housekeeper.  I am oddly orderly; a lifetime of poor eyesight has me in the habit of always keeping things in the same place.  Open any cabinet or drawer (except the junk drawer) and it's organized.  But on the macro scale, there are heaps and piles and little if any open countertop space.  The pandemic has only added to that -- the various shortages and the inadvisability of spending too much time indoor with random strangers means I keep a lot more food and supplies in stock than I had been previously.

      So the kitchen gets piled up.  Add a (much smaller) set of snacks for Tam and her supply of soft drinks, and at times it teeters on the edge of minor calamity.  This morning, one corner tumbled over, breads, a box of bakery cookies, chips, plasticware and an unused set of large, disposable, freezer-to-microwave bowl slipping floorward.  A few items managed to make the whole trip.

      There was no easy fix.  I temporarily relocated the large stuff, excavated down to a thin strata of expired-in-2021 individually-sized snack bags, summarily disposed of them, sorted out fallen recipes (this is the cookbook corner, or it was supposed to be), got to bare countertop and put the area into some kind of order.  The bowls went elsewhere.  They looked like a good idea a year ago, but they haven't worked out.

      Who knows, maybe I'll tackle the longer stretch of countertop on the other side of the room later on.

Tuesday, February 15, 2022

Who Could Possibly Have Predicted It?

      Wages are steady or a little up and savings are up; productivity is still down a bit and has been down worse than that for a couple of years due to the pandemic.

      So, let's see, plenty of money chasing a shortage of goods....  However will that work out?

      The TV news this morning was reporting, with a note of surprise, that inflation was continuing (despite some very stern talk coming out of Washington and the prospect of the Federal Reserve possibly Doing Something) and what a mystery!

      Such a mystery that it wasn't fully described until the 18th Century.  You can still look to David Hume and Adam Smith for insight.

      Presidents bask in the glow of a good economy and cringe at the blame for a bad one.  The fact is, the United States is not and never has been Uncle Joe Stalin's Soviet Russia and our Great Leader in D.C. doesn't run the economy.  Neither does Congress, despite the best (worst?) efforts of Alexander Hamilton and Henry Clay -- though, and for the same reason, the Feds do lay a heavy thumb on the scales.  Nevertheless, there is no magic set of knobs on any President's desk or hidden in the back halls of Congress with dials for Prosperity or Inflation.  It runs on the same human behaviors Adam Smith observed and described, just as it always has.  Presidents and other politicians can cheer the economy on when things are good and try to cheer us up when they're not, maybe hand out some tax money that probably would do just as much good never passing through IRS.

      We're in for a ride until things settle down, and they won't settle down until production of scarce goods increases sufficiently to meet demand.  Until then, we'll want to go easy on the (semiconductor) chips and devices that use them, which is pretty much everything.  It's a much better time to buy a set of wrenches than a new car.

Monday, February 14, 2022

Too Much Monday

      Especially when it is the second day of one's work week.  Also, driving home in 12-degree weather?  I still don't like it.

Sunday, February 13, 2022

Because That's How We Are

      This is something I have been thinking about for awhile.  I've mentioned it in previous posts.  It's not entirely worked out, but I think it is still worth sharing.

     There's a lot of bad blood and "Nyah, Nyah" back and forth over the pandemic, over measures meant to help control or limit it, and vaccines.  There's a lot of sneering "Follow the science" from each side and cherry-picking of reports to support an existing opinion.  I don't intend to dive into it here.

     The truth is, our response to the pandemic does not have a lot to do directly with science, nor does it much matter who is "right" at any given time.  Eventually, our species will co-adapt with this thing, and the process will be painful or easy -- but probably it will be as it has been so far, a little bit of both.

     Early predictions said that if people in the U.S. did nothing to stop the virus, we might lose as many as 2.2 million people in the first few years.  We did some things; not everyone went along.  Vaccination rates are a good proxy for compliance, and Americans are still at about 66% vaccinated.  We're closing in on a million dead -- a bit less than half the worst-case prediction, and (per my proxy) a bit more than half compliant with protective and preventive measures.  For a first approximation, that's pretty darned close.*

     Let's talk about science: it's just a way to ask useful questions and test them against reality.  It's not magic; it never has all the answers and in the middle of a changing situation, "the science," the questions asked and the answers found and checked, varies.  Technology is applied science; it follows where science leads, and the more closely it follows, the more often it goes down blind alleys and has to back up and start over.   If you are vexed that CDC or NIH didn't have all the answers early in the pandemic, then maybe you don't quite get the way science works.  It is not Revealed Unchanging Wisdom.

     None of us quite get the way people work.  We'd all like to think we're all highly rational, right?  It's those other folks, over there, the ones who don't agree with us who are emotional, fear-driven, excitable....

     Nope.  Oh, it's nice to think that, and some individuals are more cool-headed than others, at least on some topics.  But for things like a planet-wide pandemic, that doesn't matter.  What matters is our aggregate response.

     As a group, we're clever, curious primates, easily bored, torn between caution and bravery.  Set us down next to a volcano and we will fear its worst behavior, then approach it when it falls quiet, slowly at first but ever more brave the longer it is dormant.  If it just rumbles and smokes, we will eventually take it for granted, even find it boring.  "Same old Vesuvius, so dull," at least until the day it erupts.  A group of humans encountering a sleeping or sick predator will creep up, maybe poke it with a stick or throw a rock.  We'll fall back if it roars and some of us will run away.  If it just lays there, we'll move closer.  Back and forth, bravado and timidity.

     That's how we have treated the pandemic, and that's how we will continue to treat it.  When case rates soar, when people we know become ill, we're cautious.  When case rates fall, when no one we know is in the hospital or home, sick, we're less likely to take precautions.  At any given time, some of us are more daring and others are more careful -- but overall, our behavior ebbs and flows with the pandemic, being driven by it and driving it.

     Omicron appears to be receding.  I think it is likely to prove the highest wave -- but it's probably not the last one.    We're bored, impatient.  Deaths per cases were way down.  Hospitalizations as a percentage of cases were lower.  The beast isn't roaring as loudly.  We are -- as a group -- going to be less cautious as Spring approaches.  That may get us another wave of cases.  Or perhaps when the heat of Summer has more people indoors in air-conditioning, we'll see a rise in cases.  But count on it, we'll see another wave, and I think it will be smaller.  And perhaps another after that.

     The virus will be endemic.  Like the flu or the common cold, it's going to be here with us and some years will be worse than others.  If you haven't have a COVID-19 infection yet, you probably will.  The latest information in immune response looks promising.  This is the first big pandemic doctors and other researchers have been able to study with modern methods, and they are learning a lot they didn't know before.  If you are vaccinated, or you get through your first COVID-19 infection without lasting damage, you are far more likely to have a mild case next time.  

     I'd still advise getting vaccinated.  The odds of a safe outcome are better -- much better -- than getting (and surviving) an initial infection.  But one way or another, we're all going to meet up with this virus eventually.
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* As a technician, as an occasional SF writer, I deal with this kind of a problem in a couple of different but similar ways:  Fermi estimates, which give you answers good within an order of magnitude (if the Fermi estimate is "10," then the answer's somewhere between 1 and 100, and probably closer to 10 than not) and slide-rule accuracy, which is three-digit accuracy within any order of magnitude -- pi is 3.14 on a slide rule and a year is 3.65 x 10^2 days.  This is good enough for nearly everything an average person encounters doing average things in an average day; it's not nearly as accurate as we hope the person making our eyeglasses or prescription drugs will be, but it's plenty good enough for big-picture analysis.

Saturday, February 12, 2022

And Now We Don't Know

      The mysterious crash appears to have been from the living room, where we finally discovered a small box had fallen on a folded camera tripod.  There may be an animal in the basement.  There may not.  Time will tell.

Friday, February 11, 2022

More Annoying Stuff

      Woke up to a mysterious crash from the basement.  After due consideration, Tam (having been up and decent for hours) investigated.

      There's an animal in the basement.  We don't know what kind.  Coffee, toast, a shower and proper clothing first.

      Where's my pith helmet?

      I'm starting to dislike this movie.

Thursday, February 10, 2022

Just Back From The Doctor

      The doctor's office has called in a prescription and they tell me I'll be feeling much better real soon.

      What and why?  I'd tell you, but I didn't just fall off the back of the hippo yesterday, you know.

Wednesday, February 09, 2022

Reading: Station Eleven

      On the recommendation of SF writer (and friend of a friend) Marko Kloos, I recently read Station Eleven, by Emily St. John Mandel.  It's an excellent book, well worth reading.*

      The storytelling is unusual, a complex interweaving of individual narratives that cross and recross over time.  The writer handles it neatly, seamlessly, through a harrowing a set of events.  Station Eleven fits within the broad category of "end-of-the-word stories," along with A Canticle for Leibowitz, Alas, Babylon, On The Beach,  Dean Ing's "Quantrill" trilogy and Cormac McCarthy's The Road. Some of them are mentioned in the end-matter of Station Eleven, but the work most like it is conspicuously absent and I don't know why.

      The novel begins in a comfortable world and ends on a note of hope, after a succession of terrible journeys.  So does Octavia E. Butler's Parable of the Sower.  Both include a new religion, too, though in very different ways. If you liked one, I think you'll like the other.  Butler, who we lost in 2006, was a talented writer but is often overlooked.  She shouldn't be.
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* Trailers I have seen for the HBO series based on the book don't resemble the story I saw as I read.  YMMV.

Tuesday, February 08, 2022

Monday, February 07, 2022

Spice Shelf

      The corner grocery sells many spices in inexpensive plastic packets.  Combine that with my collection of aged-out spices in glass containers, modern reprints of old blank labels and a typewriter collection, and what do you get?

     This.
     It's a small thing, but it makes me happy.

Sunday, February 06, 2022

Saturday, Chili

      A kind of chili: Stew beef, chorizo and Italian sausage slow-simmered in a little bone broth (and bay leaves), then cooked longer with a parsnip, red onion, celery, carrots, canned green chilis, canned diced tomatoes, two fresh poblano peppers and four pickled piparra peppers snipped into short segments.  Spiced with a little chili powder, garlic, basil, parsley and a hint of garam masala to go with the parsnips.

     Photos by Tamara Keel.

Saturday, February 05, 2022

The Fame Of A Frog

      I had no idea there was a sequel to the Chuck Jones classic One Froggy Evening, which introduced the world to Michigan J. Frog.  Nor had I realized the "Michigan Rag" isn't an historic ragtime song; it was written for the original cartoon.

      We get a few more lines in Another Froggy Evening.

Friday, February 04, 2022

Snow Clearing, Phase Two

      Phase Two was an all-Tamara effort, really.  I ran my car, brushed off the snow that had fallen since the previous clearing, and scraped the windows.  Having gotten the thick layer of ice out on the way early, it wasn't as difficult as it could have been.

     Long before I did that, Tamara did the heavy work, clearing all of our sidewalks and our next-door neighbor's front walk, too.  Another of our neighbors with a snowblower had been doing the public sidewalks and Tam said that was a big help.

     So we're ready for the next round of snow.  It's several days off and so far, looks relatively small.

Thursday, February 03, 2022

Snow Clearing, Phase One

      That was....  Work.  Tam cleared the front walk and a path to the garage.  I cleared a path to my car, brushed most of the snow from it, got in, started it up, and ran the defrosters while brushing off snow, scraping ice, and freeing up the windshield wipers.  All while snow continued to fall.

      Sweeping away snow drifting in the overhead door made a nice break, and then I was able to finish up the car and squeegee the window.  The snow was tapering off -- it's not done yet -- so I rocked the car back and forth from its parking spot to the alley, gave it a final going-over, and knocked off for now.

      We'll both be back at it later.

      My warm, bomber-style Winter hats have vanished; I thought I'd put them on the top shelf of my closet but they failed to turn up.  A knit cap and the hood of my jacket were good enough for now but I'm going to have to keep looking.

Beef Stew

      It turned out pretty good.  Maybe even better.

      We had a couple of nice oxtail sections, some skirt steak (!) and a little under a pound of stew beef.  I gave it some (truffle) salt and pepper and browned it, starting with the oxtail, then let it simmer in beef stock for an hour with a couple of bay leaves.  I set timers for one, two and three hours.

      Tam had bought a nice assortment of vegetables -- a big rutabaga, a tart Granny Smith apple, parsnips, fennel bulb, celery, large white onion, oyster mushrooms and potatoes.

      Rutbagas take a fair amount of cooking (and no small amount of peeling first), so the big yellow swede was the first in, cut into slabs, each slab seasoned with something different (smoked paprika, garam masala, garlic powder, truffle salt and pepper, vegetable spice mix), then diced into rough 3/8" cubes and tossed in the pot.  (This may be a silly way to add spices but it works).  The peeled and diced apple followed, with ginger and a little more garam masala.  While the rutabaga simply needs time to cook, my hope for the apple was that it would cook down and help thicken the broth, which it did.  By the time that was done, the first timer had beeped.

      I took my time peeling and chopping a couple of big parsnips.  Don't overlook these flavorful relatives of the carrot when you are making soups and stews.  Parsnips have a complex, spicy flavor that adds a lot to soups and stews.  The onion followed, then I did dishes to pass a little time and returned to the stove afterward to add a couple of stalks of celery and the fennel bulb, cut up.  That got to the two-hour timer.

      Followed with a few small, colorful potatoes -- purple, pink and white -- cut into quarters.  I cleaned the oyster mushrooms, cut the largest in half, and added them at the three-hour mark.  (The potatoes got about 45 minutes).

      While the mushrooms simmered with the stew, I set a half-hour timer and fished out the oxtails.  After letting them cool a little, I cut most of the meat off the bone, saved the fat for Tam, and put the meat and bones back in the pot.  It's best to let the bones cook as long as possible; there's a lot of flavor in them and it's the best way to get the last of the meat from them.

      When the timer went off, I gave the broth a taste.  It was ready, and so good!  We had a bowl and a half each, and froze the rest for later.   Savory and full of umami, the vegetables were just right.  That particular mix seems to go especially well with slow-simmered meat.

      The ice storm was was not as bad as it might have been, turning to snow before it built up too badly.  We never lost power.  It may yet happen, but the cause is more likely to be a motorist's misjudgement than ice-weighted trees or power lines.  The best part was standing outside, listening to the chiming crackle of tiny ice particles falling, colliding, and sticking the roof and ground.

Wednesday, February 02, 2022

Ice Storm Coming In

      There's an ice storm coming in.  I'm cooking a big pot of stew.  If the power goes out, we'll camp out in the kitchen and I'll keep it simmering.

      I'm feeling better today.

Tuesday, February 01, 2022

What I Wrote Monday?

      Still true.  Sense of taste and smell still okay, nose not especially full, coughing only rarely.  But I'm exhausted.  Made coffee and a bagel late this morning and went back to bed for several hours.  Did a sink-full of dishes and made eggs pomodoro about mid-afternoon (canned tomato sauce, spices, a little chopped carrot, Castlevetrano and chopped up Italian lunch meat, two eggs) and ran out of energy looking at TV afterward.  Went back to bed, out like a light, and woke up just a few minutes ago.

      Don't know if I want to use my saved-back COVID-19 test or not.  I'm off most of this week and hadn't planned on going anywhere, so it's not going to make a big difference one way or the other.