Archive for the '[Etc]' category

Better than the BBB

Jul 09 2014 Published by under etc

Our bathroom needs some work on the walls.

We have some peeling and chipped paint, some holes that need repair. The toilet paper holder was not appropriately anchored. It looks like our predecessors in the house glued one bracket to the wall when it pulled out. Its now unstable, to say the least.

I got a couple of recommendations for painters, and I had one come by yesterday for an estimate. She came in the house, and the cat came out to sniff her feet. Dottie, the feline, then rubbed her ankles and presented her belly for a rub.

How can I not hire someone who gets that kind of approval from the cat?

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What I'm Watching: Steampunk MacGyver

Jun 30 2014 Published by under What I'm Watching

Murdoch Mysteries have captured my attention for the past month or so. The setting is the late 1890s in Toronto where Detective William Murdoch employs the latest scientific techniques to catch criminals. He is assisted by a young Constable prone to flights of fancy. For example, when they fight a microwave death ray (aided by Tesla, of all people), Constable George Crabtree immediately perceives its commercial potential for food preparation. When reminded of the size of the equipment, he speculates that in the future, houses may have a room dedicated to "potato cooking." On another case, as the Detective maps the potential murder weapons and murderers in a model of a grand home, the Constable sees the potential for a board game in the proceedings.

The series includes strong women as well. The original coroner is a woman, as is her eventual replacement. Various romantic entanglements occur over time, of course. Right now, my interest has been captured by the efforts of the women physicians to distribute information about contraception. Discussing periodic abstinence or any other strategy to plan pregnancy was quite illegal. Yup, these ladies get to see the jail cells from both sides of the bars.

This plot line seems especially important at the moment when the rights of women to control their fertility are coming under fire from so many directions.

The first 3 seasons can be streamed via Netflix; all available episodes can be streamed from Amazon as well.

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Update from the Waterbath

Jun 27 2014 Published by under Recipes

My husband really appreciates the flavors I can achieve with the new sous vide setup. I do find it annoying that he now walks into the kitchen and asks what I'm annealing for dinner.

Tonight's menu includes pork tenderloin and corn on the cob, both completed via sous vide. Photos will go up on twitter.

Happy weekend, all!

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Dinner Dare: Under Pressure

Jun 25 2014 Published by under Recipes

At last week's meetings of the American Diabetes Association, we stayed at The Intercontinental and dined at Luce, their restaurant featuring sous vide cooking. Literally meaning "under vacuum" in French*, this cooking technique involves sealing ingredients in a bag and then cooking in a constant temperature water bath for prolonged periods of time.

Think about how we usually cook a piece of meat. We expose it to temperatures far above those at which we will consume it, either on a grill or in an oven. We then wait until the interior reaches a temperature at which proteins coagulate and bacteria are killed. Often this means overcooking the exterior of the meat. With sous vide, the meat can be cooked to the temperature desired. Most pathogenic bacteria can be killed at these lower temperatures; it just requires a longer period of time. In addition to avoiding the dried, overcooked exterior, the sealed cooking chamber keeps the flesh moist and allows seasonings to fully permeate the meat.

Sous vide won't give you a crusty carmelized exterior or crispy poultry skin, but these can easily be added just before serving with a quick trip on the grill or a blast from a kitchen torch.

Halibut with Citrus Buerre Blanc - Click for recipe

After a couple of delicious meals at Luce, I began reading more about the technique. Soon my own water oven was en route. Last night I cooked my first real meal with it, using a recipe from Sous Vide Supreme Blog, a valuable resource for ideas with this technique. Three halibut fillets were sandwiched between slices of grapefruit and lemon in a 1-qt vacuum bag with cubed cold butter. These were cooked in the water bath at 132 degrees F for 20 minutes, producing moist flaky fish with a light citrus flavor. While the fish cooked, I made a citrus buerre blanc starting with the juice from the grapefruit and lemon not used for slicing:

Citrus Beurre Blanc (From Sous Vide Supreme Blog)
Yields: 1 cup (8 fl oz/237 ml)

INGREDIENTS

  • 2 tablespoons (1 fl oz/30 ml) dry white wine
  • 1 tablespoon (0.5 fl oz/15 ml) fresh grapefruit juice
  • 1 tablespoon (0.5 fl oz/15 ml) fresh lime juice
  • 1 tablespoon (0.5 fl oz/15 ml) fresh lemon juice
  • 1 tablespoon (0.5 fl oz/15 ml) fresh orange juice
  • 1 small shallot, finely minced
  • ½ teaspoon sea salt
  • 8 ounces (226 g) cold butter, cut into 16 cubes

INSTRUCTIONS

  1. In a medium saucepan bring wine, citrus juices and shallots to a boil. Reduce to about 1 ½ tablespoons (0.8 fl oz/23 ml) of liquid.

  2. Reduce the heat to the lowest setting. Pull the saucepan from the heat and whisk in 2 cubes of butter; as it melts whisk in one more piece.

  3. Set the pan over the lowest heat setting and continuously whisk one piece of butter into the mixture at a time, making sure that each piece is melted prior to adding the next.

  4. Pull the saucepan off of the heat when the last piece is melted.

  5. Spoon immediately onto serving plates and top with fish. Alternatively drizzle over the top of fish.

A sauce this rich and delicious deserves to adorn more than perfect fish, so I put brown rice on the side to soak up some of its loveliness. Served with a green salad and a melange of red raspberries, blackberries, and white nectarines for dessert, it made a refreshing late meal when my husband's plane got in an hour late.

I will be experimenting with my new water bath and posting recipes this summer. So far, sous vide is a winner; I have never been able to produce fish this delicious any other way!


 

*Yes, a vacuum really isn't pressure, but you get the air out of the bag with a negative pressure. Work with me here...

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Name That Demon!

Jun 23 2014 Published by under etc

DemonThe Roman Catholic church rolls out saints on a regular basis, even though I rarely encounter anything remotely resembling saintly behavior in my daily life. However, demonic tendencies seem downright mundane, yet we do not denote it with any sense of shame...or achievement. Today I present my nominees for demons capable of transient possession to help explain some of the bad behavior we encounter on a regular basis. Please add your nominees in the comments.

Declinus Barometrus

This imp possesses my cat just before and during storms, leading her to race through the house like someone is about to bathe her. When excluded from my presence old DB produces howls such that one can only imagine a feline on fire, thus allowing her into the bedroom where she disrupts sleep ALL. NIGHT. LONG. The demon leaves with the thunder, and the cat immediately becomes cuddly as if to make up for her fears. Regular indifference resumes with the first light of day...

Ragius Stockcarus

A less benign devil, Ragius displaces the normally friendly soul of most Oklahomans the minute they slide behind the wheel of a car. Displays at first seem mild, like "rolling" stops or a bit of extra speed through the school zone. Once on the interstate, the full rage and horrible glory of RS can be felt, as normal drivers feel compelled to pretend they are on the Texas Speedway, going for the win. Exorcism of this spirit merely requires turning off the auto's engine and stepping away from the vehicle.

Reviewerus Treyus

Scientists who normally judge others with a fair and impartial mind become unreasonable fonts of minutiae and additional experiments once this bad boy enters their beings. Five years of experiments become mere preliminary data when the eyes are clouded by the third reviewer from the netherworld. If it's your manuscript under review, you better pray that your editor has the power to sense this evil presence, since good judgement is really the only countermeasure.

What other modern demons need to be named?

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Fair Warning

Jun 11 2014 Published by under Blog Maintenance

Tomorrow I am off into the friendly skies again, headed for that city on the bay for the 74th Scientific Sessions of the American Diabetes Association. That means my posts for the next week or so will involve diabetes and its complications, especially kidney disease.

Other random shiny objects sometimes catch my attention when I travel, so get ready for those as well.

 

 

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Oh, Crap!

Jun 05 2014 Published by under [Etc]

Insert your favorite term for fecal material in the title. That defines my week covering our inpatient service. Once again, we have more E. coli causing bloody (literally-not used in the British sense) diarrhea and more hemolytic uremic syndrome. This condition plus assorted other weirdness have once again moved blogging waaaaay down my To-Do List.

Feel free to start your own discussion in the comments. Someone may as well use this corner of the internet for a bit!

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Work Re-Entry After Travel

May 14 2014 Published by under Travel

Nothing on your backlog rates this response...

I have returned to my office/clinic/hospital after two weeks on the road. I often tweet "No trip goes unpunished" during this period, because I always find an amazing amount of catch-up, even if my travels took me to something work-related with no opportunities for fun.

Some things can make this adjustment more tolerable:

  • Return home a day early, or take an extra day off: I got home Saturday night, so some of the laundry and household stuff got handled before I had a single chore at work. It cannot always be accomplished, but it sure helps if you can swing it.
  • When traveling on business, organize receipts during the trip: For this past travel block, I had 4 separate conferences. Receipts must be kept for reimbursement and, when I am paying my way, for tax purposes. Having each meeting's receipts in a separate envelope improved my mood substantially as I scanned and organized them. Scanning en route provides the most efficiency (see my review of Expensify from last year) so your report can be assembled quickly, but some organizations still want hard copy receipts.
  • Even on vacation, scanning your email for 5 or 10 minutes each day can make re-entry so much more pleasant: at least two-thirds of the emails I receive can be deleted, often without reading. Most of the rest requires no action on my part or a quick reply via smart phone. After a week incommunicado, I could easily accumulate 500 messages. Coming back to 20 makes that first day less onerous.
  • Finally, prioritize: Many of these items have been on hold pending your return to reality. Most of them can remain on the back burner until it's their turn for action. You do not have to get everything done at once. If you try, you will make yourself crazy, and then you will just need a vacation (and do this all over again).
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A Little Break...OR IS IT?

May 03 2014 Published by under Travel

I previously related my two weeks, four meetings, cross-country travel extravaganza. Jet lag no longer troubles me; my body has no idea what time zone it inhabits, not which one it should be in. I now find myself about half-way through my travels, with a beautiful day of me-time.

Hand Held Scanner Cam

Hand Held Scanner Cam

Today I went to a DC hot spot I had never visited, the International Spy Museum. The museum brings you in via an elevator filled with flashing lights, up to a third floor where you pick an identity. I went with a 50-year-old female microbiologist (although she was born in Viet Nam and now resides in California). You watch a short movie about espionage (narrated by Linda Hunt), and then you enter Spy School.  From there you have more exhibits about gadgets and spy craft.  For example, at left is the "rollover" camera that took photos as you rolled it over a large document. Sound anything like, say, hand-held scanners?

Pigeon Cam

Pigeon Cam

 

At right is my personal favorite from the pigeon room, the Pigeon Cam. Carrier birds provided invaluable transmission of messages during WWI. Someone came up with this small, light, automatic camera that took photos as the bird flew its route. The most famous pigeon, Cher Ami, won the Croix de Guerre for delivering a message, despite fatal wounds, that led to the rescue of a lost battalion. While her story made this museum, her taxidermied body minus the leg lost in battle can be seen in the National Museum of American History in the Smithsonian. This bird also made Time Magazines list of heroic animals (in fourth position).

Remember Cher Ami next time you kick a pigeon out of the way or call them "rats with feathers."

As it says, a rectal tool kit, filled with sharp instruments...

As it says, a rectal tool kit, filled with sharp instruments...

The gadgets and gizmos section also showed a number of miniaturized tools that would make Q jealous. Many were developed for paratroopers who needed stuff when they dropped in behind enemy lines, but it had to be small, light, and not easily found. This led to knives, compasses, and other items secreted into shoe heels, uniform buttons, and other locations...although the next photo would be "above and beyond the call of duty" in my opinion (all puns intended).

This option never came up in the James Bond movies, although there is an exhibit of 50 years of Bond Villains in the museum. All sorts of movie paraphenalia is on display, and the biographies of each villain are outlined. My favorite portion here involved a giant touch screen. When you hit a button, it opened metal "doors" into a tank of sharks (no laser beams; sorry, Dr. Evil). After just long enough, a large, open, toothy mouth hits the screen, appearing to break the glass. I watched a young boy damn near wet his pants!

The day continued on with the 007 theme. Raymond Benson and Jeffery Deaver are the only two American authors that the Fleming estate has allowed to write Bond novels. They have assembled and edited a collection of stories of Cold War intrigue, Ice Cold. They did an hour of Q&A, discussing their writing techniques and how they approached an iconic character like Bond. They also discussed the books and movies, as well as their own stuff.

They deny having anything to do with Putin's latest activities that have raised Cold War images again (although clearly the book's marketers have got to love it).

I also got to give Jeffry Deaver a piece of my mind for the 6 months I could not take a cab after I read The Bone Collector. He told me a couple of activities I may shy away from if I read his latest novel, The Skin Collector. You know, I really won't miss my laundry room.

Tomorrow it's back to business after a train trip to Philadelphia for the fourth Vision 2020 Congress. Or is that really the purpose of my trip? Can anyone really be certain?

 

 

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When I Am Inaugurated: Poetry by @waitwait

Apr 25 2014 Published by under Wackaloonacy

Today, in honor of poetry month (who knew?), I listened to a number of poet interviews on Fresh Air. Many were poet laureates for various states, and a couple had read their work at presidential inaugurations.

I have no plans to run for office. My politics run too far left for a career in Oklahoma. But if it should miraculously come to pass, I would insist on limericks, the only non-Shakespearian poetry I really appreciate, at my ceremony*. I would hire the folks from Wait, Wait, Don't Tell Me to write the verse and get Carl Kasell to read the lines.

That's my platform. By November 2016, I may look like a viable candidate based on this proposal alone...

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*Of course, if someone figures out how to bring the Bard back to life, I would also feature Words by Will in iambic pentameter!

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