Tuesday, October 27, 2015

To Minsk and Back: a tale of Tourism, Politics and Drought

My last blog post described how I was going to be in Minsk while the MS ride was happening.  I wanted to prove that to you through some pictures and a few stories.

Minsk was a lovely city. While not on par with Amsterdam or Stockholm, it was great for a town that was 80% destroyed during World War II (or, as they call it, the Great Patriotic War). Besides the great people and beer, I learned two major things. The first was that there was a Stalinist style of architecture. This can best be seen in the two towers, known as the City Gates, rebuilt after the war. This style was significantly more ornate than I had counted on. The statues above the fifth floor represent the roles in the Communist ideal: a worker, a collective farmer, an engineer and a soldier. They are iconic buildings, directly across from the train station. I was glad to be there in the early fall, as the weather was quite temperate. It never got below 50F, although I 'm told that -40 is common in the winter.

The other lesson was political. I arrived two weeks before Belarus’s elections.  Lukashenko was running for his fifth five-year term as president.  There were banners for the election throughout the city.  This is a picture of a 12-story-tall banner, the largest I saw, on Lenin Square. What was strange was that I could see identical signs throughout the city (three from my hotel window, for example) but never any sign for a candidate. I’ll just say that the government locked down the opposition and Lukashenko won with 85.3% of the vote. If interested, you can see there views of the election from the apathetic voice of the people, lead-up to the election and the final results. It was refreshing to be back in the United States with our somewhat chaotic election process.

We also had torrential rains the weekend that I had to be a tourist. It’s been a long time since I saw rivers of water two inches deep coursing down street gutters.  After the drought of California, it was great to see. The rains finally did abate on Sunday afternoon, so I was able to go out and be a tourist in the city.

Speaking of drought,  I came home to the depleted reservoirs of California. I decided to see this first-hand on a mountain bike: two pictures show this very well. The first is the selfie, my first one posted on Facebook, of me as I biked out onto the old road, Old Santa Cruz Highway, which was in place before the reservoir was built. That is the picture from the ground level.  A week later I was hiking on the hill above the dam and shot the picture below. I put a red dot on the highway, just left of the center, where I shot the selfie. This gives you a perspective of the low level of the reservoir; it is currently at 18.7%, the lowest of any reservoir in Santa Clara County. If you are interested in the history of towns now coming back above water, this article does a great job describing what has been submerged at Lexington for half a century.

It’s great to be back home.

Monday, September 28, 2015

I'm riding in support of Multiple Sclerosis in Waves to Wine 2015.... in a way

With a well-deserved beer and my
Waves to Wine jersey and kit
at the end of the ride
I've been riding my bike for MS, or intending to, every year since 2003, and this year is no exception. While I did have this on my schedule and the ride is happening this weekend and September 26 and 27th, I had business plans that took me on a different route. I'm spending the weekend in Minsk in Eastern Europe, and am just finishing this on Monday morning.

People have accused me of being long-winded when talking about MS.  I’ll be concise this time.
  • While I had intended to ride and had trained for it, I traveled instead, flying out on Sunday, the 20th. I did do a ride in the 100+ heat last weekend, September 19, before I left for fundraising: I am still serious about supporting the cause.  You can see the map below. It was one of the tougher rides I have done, due to the heat and the fact that I supported myself rather than having a team of volunteers; I appreciated their work all the more.  I took two “time outs” at a Subway and Starbucks to cool down and hydrate, with a few quarts of water each time. But I finished the ride.  I greatly enjoyed a few parts, such as the trip in the hills east of Gilroy, back by Gilroy Hot Springs. I rode for an hour back there without another vehicle on the highway, and stopped to hear the woodpeckers and the breeze in the trees: quite beautiful. I also had a flat tire about 1/4 mile away from home. Of all the times it could have happened, this was the "best."
  • Close to three thousand people are riding on the 26th and 27th.They hope to raise $2.8 million dollars to support local and national multiple sclerosis programs and research. They need your support, so you can support MS and me by contributing at their website, http://main.nationalmssociety.org/goto/CharlesMyers2015
  • If you have donated to MS already, thank you.  If not, you can still make contributions to the ride and cause through the middle of October.
  • I’ll be riding again next year. And I'm not planning any trips to eastern Europe during that time.
I did do fundraising this year by postcard, custom printing the message and address with the software I wrote 39 years ago, Pager.  If you’re one of my email-only people, I did not do a custom email for you, but you can see a generic version of the postcard, both front and back, below.

Here are a few pictures for the ride
The 101 mile route, to Gilroy and back. It was about 4000 feet vertical
The 2014 thank you note, used for 2015. It was custom-published with software I wrote back in Chicago.
Thank you all for your continuing support.

Sunday, July 26, 2015

Bourbon-basted salmon from this year's book club party

We had our annual book club summer party at the Scott's last Saturday for the second year in a row. For those of you who don't remember it, the Myers had the party two years back... the recipes were blogged back then, including my special shortbread cookies. I'm continuing the blogging tradition, but without hosting the party.

Steve and Sally cooked their wonderful Salmon recipe both of these years. Here are the details.

The recipe Steve uses is Bourbon Basted Salmon from the Junior League Centennial Cookbook.
We have used the wild caught or the aquarium-approved farmed fish from Costco although the original recipe calls for 6 skin-on fillets.

The important thing is the marinade:

1/4 cup packed brown sugar
3 T Bourbon whisky (We use Jack Daniels)
3 T chopped scallions
2 T soy sauce
2 T vegetable oil

Marinate in zip-lock bag for an hour or more (we do it overnight sometimes)
Grill about 5-7 minutes per side, basting with reserved marinade: the more you put on, the sweeter the fish.

There are some great tips on buying and cooking salmon available online, including Better Homes and Gardens. If you're lucky enough to have a great thermometer like a Thermapen, I'd cook the fish to 130 as opposed to the 140 they recommend in the article.

Sunday, January 05, 2014

Twelfth night, king cake and 3D printing

Most people don't know that Christmas is actually a period of twelve days. The only remnant of this in our culture is the carol "The twelve days of Christmas." The aforementioned days of Christmas in the song are the twelve days between the birth of Christ (Christmas, December 25) and the coming of the Magi (Epiphany, January 6). What better way to celebrate this at a twelfth night party on the tenth night than with king cake, or in our case, king cupcakes. What I did not realize until I researched for this blog is that Mardi Gras begins on Epiphany and ends on Shrove Tuesday, the day before Ash Wednesday. Now that we have the liturgical roots handled, let's deal with how I made these cupcakes. [I should point out that the idea for the party and the cupcakes was Ann's idea... I just executed it and added the 3D printing into the mix.]

  • The cupcake recipe comes from King Arthur Flour. The recipe was very easy and the cupcakes came out great. Even though it's not a yeast dough, it was quick to prepare. And it gave me another place to use my favorite baking seasonings, Fiori di Sicilia.
  • The cupcakes looked great with the yellow, purple and gold sugars, but I was looking for a way to make it a bit more special. It turns out that I have a plastic manufacturing machine in my garage. I have a Makerbot Replicator 2 in my garage, and I'd given thought to how manufacturing fundamentally changes when you have the local means of production, as well as 6 different colors of plastic including yellow and purple. I went to Thingiverse and did a search on "crowns" and found a size ten crown ring. I scaled this up 20% for men, made a model for six of them and produced them in purple on the printer. I then produced another six for the women and smaller fingers at normal size in yellow. They were a hit at the party and I did have to give a tour to the garage to see the printer in action. This is the kind of item that you'd never go to a store to buy. But it becomes possible when you control the means of production and designs like this are openly shared and licensed.
Everyone enjoyed the cupcakes, and we checked to make sure that people were wearing their rings at church on Sunday morning.

Saturday, September 21, 2013

Report at the end of the third year of solar electric (photovoltaic) panels on our house

I'd written an article two years ago when we reached the end of our first year of solar power. This is just a quick report, but I'll summarize it as "the system is holding up well, and is still cost effective." It's interesting that many of my neighbors talk about their monthly electric bill regularly being $200-300, and can't believe that we pay roughly the same amount for a full year.

The factors that changed in the past three years are:
  • The overall production from the panels was down.  While it was 6.5Mwh in 2011, it was 5.8Mwh this year.
  • PG&E changed their billing in ways I can't comprehend. While the true-up was smaller in 2011 and had connection charges added, my bill this year was $30 less than the true-up.
  • The trees around the house were trimmed better in 2011, and have grown a bit.  It's time to prune back.
  • We had three people living in the house from September 2012 until April 2013. While it was great to have Claire here, it increased power usage.
Here is the report for 2012-2013.  We're being more aggressive with power savings, from improved appliances to a greater reliance on LED bulbs (my favorite is the Switch LED bulb, now available as 100W). I'm looking forward to reporting next year.

Sunday, July 21, 2013

Barbecue to die for

Ann and I hosted the summer couple's party of her book club this weekend in 2013. It's a fun group of folks, all around the same age as our kids all wet to school together.  With 20 people and wonderful weather, it only seemed appropriate to BBQ.  We had some great items, and I received many requests for recipes.  Some of these came out of tried and true cookbooks with family modifications scribbled in, and some brand new recipes were found online.  If you're planning a summer celebration, give these a try. You won't be disappointed! And yes, it did take two years for this to finally be posted, in 2015. I dated it back to 2013 to prevent timewarps.

The main component of any BBQ is the meat, and we had a couple choices.  This Bourbon-Mango Pulled Pork was delicious, and best of all, easy to make.  It's the epitome of a "set it and forget it" dish.  Nothing worse than hosting a party and spending the whole time in the kitchen!

Bourbon-Mango Pulled Pork

Recipe makes 10 servings

2 mangoes
1 4 lb. pork shoulder roast
2 Tbsp. ground black pepper
1 tsp kosher salt
2 tsp chipotle chile powder
1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
2 cups water
2 tsp honey
1 (1.5 fl. oz.) jigger bourbon whiskey
2 (12 oz) bottles of barbecue sauce
  1. Peel the mangoes and remove the pits.  Place the pits into a slow cooker, then roughly chop the mango and set aside.  Place the pork shoulder into the slow cooker, and season with the black pepper, kosher salt, and 1 tsp. chipotle powder.  Pour in the balsamic vinegar and water.
  2. Cover, and cook on low 5-8 hours until the meat is very tender.  While the pork is cooking, puree the chopped mango in a blender until smooth, then combine with honey, 1 tsp. chipotle powder, and whiskey in a sauce pan.  Bring to a simmer.  Reduce heat to medium-low and simmer, stirring frequently until the mango has reduced and darkened slightly, about 10 minutes.  Stir in the barbecue sauce and remove from heat.
  3. Once cooked, drain the pork, discarding the cooking liquid and mango pits.  Shred pork with two forks.  Return the shredded pork to the slow cooker, and stir in the mango barbecue sauce.  Cover, and cook on high 1-2 hours until the pork absorbs the barbecue sauce.

We also served Black Jack Chicken Breasts.  Black Jack Barbecue Sauce gets its name from the jolt of strong coffee that is added to it.

Black Jack Chicken Breasts

2 cups apple cider
1/2 cup cider vinegar
1 tbsp minced shallots
1 tbsp minced garlic
2 tsp salt, or to taste
1 tsp ground black pepper, or to taste
8 chicken breasts, bone in and skin on
2 cups Black Jack Barbecue Sauce

  1. To make the marinade: Combine the apple cider, cider vinegar, shallots, garlic, 1 tsp of the the salt, and 1/2 tsp of the pepper in a zip-close bag.  Add the chicken pieces and seal the bag, pressing out the air.  Let marinate in the refrigerator for at least 2 and up to 12 hours.
  2. Preheat a gas grill to medium-high; leave one burner off.  If you are using a charcoal grill, build a fire and let it burn down until the coals are glowing red with a moderate coating of white ash.  Spread the coals in an even bed on one side of the grill.  Clean the cooking grate.
  3. Remove the chicken from the marinade, letting any excess drain off.  Season with the remaining salt and pepper.
  4. Grill the chicken over direct heat until marked on all sides, about 3 minutes per side.  Finish cooking the chicken over indirect heat, covered, turning every few minutes and brushing with the barbecue sauce, until the chicken is cooked through (165˚F) and the juices run clean, 10-15 minutes more.
  5. Serve on a heated platter or plates.

Black Jack Barbecue Sauce

Makes 4 cups

2 tbsp vegetable oil
1 yellow onion, diced small
2 tbsp minced garlic
1/4 cup chili powder
2 tbsp minced jalapeño, or to taste
1 cup tomato paste
1 cup brewed coffee
1 cup Worcestershire sauce
1/2 cup apple cider vinegar
1/2 cup lightly packed brown sugar
1/2 cup apple cider or apple juice

  1. Heat the vegetable oil in a heavy 2-quart saucepan over medium heat.  Add the onion and garlic, and sauté until translucent, about 3 minutes.  Add the chili powder and jalapeño, and sauté for 1 minute.  Add the tomato paste and cook, stirring constantly, for 2 minutes.
  2. Add all the remaining ingredients and simmer, stirring occasionally, for 10-15 minutes.  Use immediately, or let cool to room temperature before storing in a clean, covered container in the refrigerator for up to 1 month.

It wouldn't be a BBQ without baked beans, and these are a surefire hit.

Baked Beans for a Crowd

1 (15 oz.) can cannellini beans
2 (15 oz.) cans butter beans
1 (16 oz.) can green lima beans
1 (16 oz.) can red kidney beans
1 ½ jars B & M baked beans
8 slices bacon
4 medium onions, chopped
1 green pepper, chopped
1 ½ cup brown sugar
1 Tbsp. dry mustard
½ tsp. garlic powder
1 tsp. salt
½ cup vinegar

Drain and rinse all beans, except B & M baked beans.  Fry bacon until crisp, and break into pieces, reserving drippings.  Sauté onions and pepper in bacon drippings.  Combine brown sugar, dry mustard, garlic powder, salt and vinegar.  Stir well.  Mix with beans, bacon, onion and green pepper mixture in large baking dish and bake at 350˚ for one hour.  OR cook in crock pot for approximately 3 hours.  Serves 16-20.
From the Los Gatos Eastfield Ming Quong cookbook from their retail store, The Butter Paddle.

And what would a party be without dessert?  This shortbread recipe from King Arthur Flour is one of my family's favorites, and is always a great choice for its simplicity and neverending possibilities.

Shortbread cookies

1 cup (2 sticks) salted butter, at cool room temperature
3/4 cup (5 1/4 oz) sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt (the recipe called for 1 teaspoon, but I have reduced it... also, use the best quality sea salt)
2 cups (8 1/2 oz).King Arthur Unbleached All-Purpose Flour

  1. In a medium-sized bowl, cream the butter, sugar and salt together with a mixer or by hand. Add the flour and blend until the mixture resembles fine cornmeal. To shape, roll the dough into 1 1/2-inch balls, press with a cookie stamp (or the bottom of a glass, dipped in sugar, to prevent it from sticking) and chill in the freezer for 30 minutes before baking. Or, form the dough into a long roll, 1 1/2 to 2 inches in diameter, cover with parchment paper, and freeze until very firm. [You can keep this in the freezer for weeks].
  2. When ready to bake, preheat the oven to 300 degrees. If you've made a roll of dough, slice the roll into cookies no thinner than 1/4 inch and prick each cookie twice with a form (or stamp with a stamp). Bake on ungreased baking sheets for about 20 minutes (or a bit more). Watch the cookies carefully - when the bottoms are a light sand color, remove them from the oven and transfer to a rack to cool completely.

The shortbread paired surprisingly well with our homemade limoncello! (and link to my other blog)

These were all hits at our party and helped make it a great time with great friends.

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Umunhum and Almaden AFS: One last post before the MROSD meeting

I've written numerous posts on Umunhum over the past few years. All of the writing and advocacy seems to be paying off, from the newspaper to change,.org petitions and even a website for the station(I may be .1% of that effort, but you do what you can) The final decision date on the fate of the historic landmark Mt. Umunhum Radar Tower is Wednesday, October 17th @ 7PM in the Historic Del Monte Building in downtown Sunnyvale (100 S. Murphy Avenue, Sunnyvale, CA). I will not be at the meeting, but this is a great time to refresh people on the issue and recent progress: the public is welcome (and encouraged) at the meeting.

Post-meeting update: The MROSD has elected to preserve the tower for at least the next five years, as more funding for preservation is lined up by supporters. You can read more in the Mercury News article on October 18.

Before you go to the meeting, you should read the two web pages that the Mercury News has set up. Scott Herhold has an opinion page, and the newspaper has an topic page. This has been a dynamic news area, as people have come up with creative ideas on how to shift ownership to Santa Clara Parks, donate money for preservation or just handle this well enough to open up the space, not destroy the cube and let other solutions develop. The Mercury News has done a great job reporting on this and being a public forum so that good ideas can come forward: they are fulfilling the role of local journalism.

I did attend the public meeting in Cupertino in July. The MROSD was prepared with clear charts and scale models and was open to public input. However, I think they were shocked at the number of people who attended: they had to set up almost twice as many chairs as planned and there were still many people standing. I give the district board the credit for having such a well run and informative meeting. There were over 200 people and, even after they brought in chairs to fill the room, there were still people standing. Above is a picture of the room around 9:30, when a few of the people had left. The E Clampus Vitus folks are in the foreground, in their red shirts and unique hats: I appreciate their appreciation of California history and the plaques that they have set up in so many remote and historical sites. [See the pictures at the end on dot-voting for public sentiment capture.]    

I would like to give a personal spin on things. First of all, let me explain that I am the child of an electrical engineer from Cold War. I grew up with plans of fallout shelters, and pictures of all of our missiles, from Talos to Nike Hercules. I even knew the difference between a Nike Ajax and Nike Hercules. My father worked for RCA on radar systems and television systems like Ranger, the first probe to the moon. Even if my dad didn't work on this radar system, he worked on its siblings.

It was sobering to hear the discussion of the Soviet threat and the effect of nuclear bomb blasts in Marin and the South Bay if there had been a nuclear war. We don't think of those things today (even if the threat of a nuclear accident with the world's aging arsenal is just as real now as it was then).

What impressed me the most were the stories from veterans of Almaden Air Force Base and similar radar stations that defended our borders and the engineers who designed and built the systems. These people brought a personal perspective that has been lost in many of the debates about the tower.

The first was a veteran from a similar radar station in Montana. He described driving to the top of that mountain in Montana with his young daughter, only to find that every trace of the base and artifacts of his service had been wiped clean. While the natural state was wonderful, it may be difficult to explain to his daughter what he'd done for years. His hope was that the tower at the Almaden AFB would remain a visible artifact of service that he could use to explain his service to his children and grandchildren.

Two other people drew analogies to other war artifacts. The first was Fort Point, the 1853 fort under the Golden Gate bridge. People called for that to be torn down as an eyesore when the bridge was constructed, but it was preserved. It is now a San Francisco destination. The other was Normandy, where Nazi bunkers litter the shores. These have been preserved as monuments to those dark times.

Finally, a few engineers from IBM brought us back to roots of the Valley. They pointed out that the radar and tower were the visible aspects of our SAGE air defense system. In its time, the early 60s, this was the most advanced computer system in the world. Remnants of this are at the Computer History Museum in Mountain View, but the tower gives evidence of this technology to millions of people and not just a select few who visit this museum.

This tower is part of our history, no matter whether we consider it as a pinnacle of technology, a monument to the service of our soldiers or a dark period in our civilization when we were poised on the precipice of annihilation. Let the tower be preserved.

Dot-voting public input

The MROSD worked to get public input quantifed beyond the speakers. They let the audience vote on what they considered most important. This input went to multiple pages once the "historic value" on the first chart was full. The areas with the most votes were historical value, public sentiment and input and visitor experience. They asked for our input: today is their time to act upon that.

Thursday, October 04, 2012

Sometimes it takes thirteen years for a market to develop

This is been a week for trips down memory lane: renewing old friendships and product ties. The first was on Monday, as I was at JavaOne working in the Datalogics booth, as they are now selling Adobe's Java PDF Toolkit. What made this memorable was that I was manning a booth 13 years ago as Adobe test launched our "Adobe Acrobat Viewer for Java." I wore the same shirt for part of the day and the picture (even with terrible backlighting and underexposure). All told there were five PDF vendors at JavaOne: I was impressed. The conference did seem to be booming, with the infusion of Big Data and Spring. It was not the giant conference from the starry-eyed days of fifteen years ago for Java, but certainly did seem to be a sustainable business.

One company, ICEsoft, was even selling a Java-based PDF viewer, ICEpdf.   While it wasn't clear that this was a major moneymaker for them, it did show that there was a market. It's just not clear that Adobe would've been willing to wait 13 years for the market to develop. 

A second and related Java development is that I am now consulting with Datalogics to aid the commercialization of Adobe's Java PDF toolkit and Reader Extensions for customers who choose to embed the Java PDF toolkit. Best why I was in the Datalogics booth and then contributing to their new blog, where I will be a regular contributor.
I am working on new things as well, but that will be described in the near future.

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Waves to Wine 2012: Flash Report

It was a great weekend for biking. On Saturday morning, at 7 AM (the official start time) the full Mike's Bikes team was in the lineup to roll out when Waves to Wine began. [That was a team record, as we have generally been 30 minutes late in the past.] The four of us stayed together through San Francisco, but one was lost at the bridge. The picture on the left shows three of the four in the motley team.

I felt great this weekend as I rode 104 miles on Saturday and 75 on Sunday. The weather was wonderful: not too hot and not too cold. The scenery, especially on Route 1 in Marin was spectacular as always. Inland Sonoma County with its many vineyards and grapes ready for harvest was also beautiful. I felt stronger and faster than last year. It was exciting to come home, sync my GPS bike computer with Strava and see the number of personal bests for segments of the ride; even segments where I showed my second best time were within seconds of last year. The major climbs were 5 to 10% faster than last year. I love Strava.

2300 people participated in the ride along with over 400 volunteers. MS is well on its way to reaching the fundraising goal: they had received $1.9 million of the $2.1 million goal on Saturday, but contributions and matching funds will continue to roll in until October 15 deadline. They are certain that they will surpass the fund-raising goal.

Thank you all for your contributions and support. 60 people have shown their support for MS and me. I went into the ride with the fundraising total of $3997.50, and another $560 has arrived since. I've only received a few matching funds from Adobe, so if you're procrastinating about going to the website to request matching funds, please do that now.

You'll see a more detailed report and thanks letter arrive in postal mail in late October: I have a personalized publishing engine working at last. If you know someone who wants to make a contribution, the MS chapter is accepting them through October 15. Just go to my personalized fundraising page.

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Umunhum restoration is in the news again: time for the public to be heard

From past posts, you've seen that I have had opinions on opening up the old Almaden AFS site on Mt. Umunhum for a while. There has been steady progress on the environmental remediation and cleanup of the base. But we're now at the point of public hearings on three options for the tower
  • Tear it down and restore the mountain;
  • Leave the foundation and part of its walls to create a public gathering place;
  • Leave the tower intact and make it available for viewing.
There are hearings coming up, with the first on Wednesday evening, 7/18/2012, in Cupertino. I encourage you to attend, or at least sign the petition at change.org. To be clear, I view that the last alternative above is the one that should be taken.

Background media on this topic can be found at:
A very informative video from KQED which aired on QUEST TV.
Almaden AFS Home Page

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

The entree course at the Albert Court Progressive Dinner

We had our first annual progressive dinner for our small cul de sac on Sunday. Twenty-four adults took part, and each of four courses (appetizer, salad, entree, dessert) were hosted at a different house. I celebrated having the use of both hands by cooking up a storm of Italian food. Many people asked for the recipes, so this blog documents it all, including links to online recipes when present, or to the cookbook. And I used some of my favorite cookbooks for this. In fact, these two cooks and their Food Network shows are what turned me into the Italian cook I am today. Yes, I do some fancier dishes than these from Mario's more advanced books, but I was cooking for quantity, not cuisine, this weekend. A number of people thought I was crazy for preparing five dishes at once. I revel in the challenge. I knew a project manager in Chicago who told me that he cooked Thanksgiving dinner for 45 people because he loved planning all the courses to be ready at once. I now understand that challenge and was happy to have pulled it off on Sunday.
The first two recipes come from Giada's Everyday Pasta. The dish on the left is Rigatoni with Sausage, Peppers and Onions. It was the hit of the night: all that we had left in the dish were some pasta bits, as all the sausage and vegetables had been devoured. And note that I was even a bit generous with the sausage, buying 30% more than the recipe called for. The secret to the dish is copious amounts of Marsala wine. The other dish was Spicy Baked Macaroni, from Giada's same pasta cookbook. The recipe is simple and easy. Don't be scared off by the "spicy" is from crush red pepper flakes. You can easily moderate the amount, and it would take triple the amount of red pepper before I would consider it spicy.
The third pasta recipe is from Giada's first cookbook, Everyday Italian: 125 Simple and Delicious Recipes. Pasta Primavera is one of my favorites. For those of you who don't know, Primavera is the Italian word for Spring. It's about a light and fresh dish with the best of vegetables. Everyone has their own way of doing this dish. Mine adds asparagus. The center of the dish is the fresh vegetables, chopped to uniform sizes almost like you would prepare for Chinese cooking. You can see them in the prep bowls in the picture on the left. Then, once you add the cooked pasta, you add copious amounts of pasta water to the combined pasta and vegetables. I add over a cup of water (sometimes more) for a pound of pasta. I had doubled the recipe, so I was very glad that I had the le creuset 7-1/2 quart bouillabaisse pot. I served it on the table in the cooking pot.
The three dishes above, even with the massive amount of vegetables in the Primavera, still left a feeling of imbalance. Pure vegetable dishes were needed. My current favorite cookbook is Batali's Molto Gusto: Easy Italian Cooking. I have tried dozens of recipes from this and they have all been easy and wonderful. I chose two recipes. The first, Broccoli with Pecorino Romano, presented itself at the Los Gatos public market. Two different vendors were selling "Italian Broccoli," which was actually broccoli rabe florets. This made for a wonderful dish which vanished rapidly... I should have made more. The other was green beans with charred onions, where the onions are sweet vidalia onions. That, in a dressing of balsamic vinegar, orange juice and olive oil makes for a very tasty dish. And yes, I do wish that I had young thing green beans, but I had to settle for very fresh beans from the West Valley market that Saturday.

The recipes can be found in the following books. The three of them have become my goto normal cookbooks.

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

An excellent web-marketing trends podcast: SoLoMo Show

I met one of the contributors to this podcast, Adam Helweh, back in December when he was doing a tutorial on LinkedIn to people that were just freed from full-time employment. I've stayed casually connected since then. He started a podcast on Social, Local, and Mobile issues early this year and I decided to listen to a few.

Like all efforts, it started a bit rough. Adam and Cory tend to talk a bit longer on a topic than they need to as they reiterate and reinforce each other: I enjoy the tighter editing of Marketing Over Coffee more. But SoLoMo is a livestreamed show and they serve up the recording in its entirety.

They have their act together quite well now. If you're going to listen to one episode to judge, I'd suggest that you listen to Episode 12: Deep Dive Into Pinterest. They dive deep into Pinterest and convinced me of the value; I like to cook, and have started both pinning pictures of food I cooked as well as recipes for the future. I am now part of the 3% of men on Pinterest and do see value, and my blog traffic has taken a nice turn upwards since I added Pinterest links back to it. Note that the SoLoMo blog has a table of contents and links for each of the chapters of their podcast. I do wish they they would put the chapter number or the time offset into the table of contents, as it becomes so much more accessible. But that's a tweak.

The other item that they shared was an infographic of the top 10 reasons that business blogging is better than Facebook. I have occasionally had second thoughts about having a blog; this infographic convinced me to stay with it.

Facebook vs Blog 10 Reasons Business Blogging is Better than Facebook [Infographic]

It's good stuff. Keep it up guys, and always be experimenting.

Monday, April 23, 2012

Restaurant Mental-Health-Code Violations: Humor from the New Yorker

Paul Simms wrote a single page of humor in the New Yorker this week that contained some of the funniest scenarios in dining that I've ever considered.

My favorite was “Server rapidly rattles off long list of beers on tap. One member of dining party asks server to repeat list. Server repeats list just as rapidly. Same member of dining party asks server to repeat list one more time. Everyone else in party wants to murder both server and customer, who ends up ordering a bottle of Stella.” I think we've all experienced this, although a more skilled server will refer to the printed list of beers on the third request.

A close runner-up, which I experienced in New York no less, is "Counter personnel at fast-food establishment being just ridiculous about one-napkin-per-order policy."

This writing gets a five-star Yelp review. You can catch all the humor in Paul Simm's New Yorker article.

I also have a bonus restaurant video from Portlandia. It takes about 20 seconds to set the scene, but then serves up a ludicrous view of both staff and patrons.

Sunday, April 15, 2012

Easy to make, delightful peanut butter and jelly muffins

Ann found a peanut butter and jelly muffin recipe a few days ago from a friend on Facebook. Now that I have my left hand working well enough to crack an egg (yes, it requires the use of the left thumb), I decided to make them today. The recipe came from Cooking Light, which takes the low fat/cholesterol a bit too seriously for my taste; I modified the recipe a bit, using a real egg instead of "egg substitute." I also measured the flour by weight but then had to add a bit to have an appropriately stiff batter. They were wonderful and a hit with the family when they awakened on Sunday morning. The strong nutty flavor of the whole wheat flour played right into the peanut butter: nobody even considered that they were whole wheat. These muffins may not be as showy as the cream cheese apricot scones, but they were simpler. I highly recommend them.

Friday, March 23, 2012

I have less than four days left with my cast

The crash happened on January 25, and the cast comes off next Tuesday, March 27, in the morning at 8:30 AM. I am counting the days, hours, minutes and seconds with the help of this T-Zero iPhone application. I recommend it to all who need to keep the end in sight. It's helped me.