Saturday, August 28, 2004

Vegetarian wait, vegetarian wait, vegetarian sausage

(Originally posted on Saturday, August 28, 2004 by Tim)

Cat and I don't watch any TV and we don't get a paper. I generally get my daily news on the CNN and BBC websites. While there, I always check the science news sections to see if there is anything interesting that I can link on my web page for my students. Many stories are not of much scientific interest, in fact, you get stuff that I think could easily be included in the National Inquirer's science section.

For instance, take this recent story on the discovery of a deep cave in Croatia.

Excerpt from story: At the foot of the Velebit cave are small ponds and streams, including one of the largest known colonies of subterranean leeches...

Now if we interpret the data a bit differently, we have a great National Inquirer story.

Excerpt from story: Explorers find worlds deepest hole.

I often find really great rant material in these stories, like the BBC's recent article about the use of genetic algorithms in blocking email spam. The introductory paragraph had this in it, "Few would have thought that when Crick and Watson discovered DNA, that it would help in making a tool to fight spam."

A H H H H H H H H H H H H H H H H H H H H H H H H H H H H !

Francis and Crick did not "DISCOVER" DNA. The DISCOVERY of DNA began shortly after the end of US civil war when Friedrich Miescher isolated it from the pus in surgical bandages. Between then and the 1940's, the covalent structure (which atoms are bound to which atoms) was worked out. In 1943, Oswald Avery, Colin MacLeod, and Maclyn McCarty conducted conclusive experiments demonstrating that DNA carried genetic information. Francis and Crick did not discover DNA. They elucidated the three dimensional structure of DNA. It was good work, but looking at it in the context of what had gone before, they've gotten a hell of alot more pretige than their contribution should merit. One or both of them was apparently very good at marketing.

Needless to say, I immediately linked the BBC article to my web site with the title "What's wrong with this headline!?!". Apparently people were beating the stuffing out of the BBC over the course of the day because Cat noticed that, by dinner time, they had changed the word "discover" to "unravelled" in the introductory paragraph.

When the BBC changed the text I immediately unlinked the article from my class page so as to not confuse my students. It seems to me in writing this that I could have left it in. Let's look at the sentence again.

"Few would have thought that when Crick and Watson UNRAVELLED DNA, that it would help in making a tool to fight spam."

The author or editor over at the BBC tried to be clever by using the weasel word "unravelled", but there are still two things wrong with this sentence. The first isn't so obivous unless you're a scientist. Watson and Crick discovered the three dimensional structure of DNA. In other words, they discovered the shape of DNA. The shape of DNA has pretty much nothing to do with the theories that would be applied to blocking spam. If they want to make this sentence more correct, it should read, "Few would have thought that when Gregor Mendel unravelled the principles of genetics, that it would help in making a tool to fight spam."

Ok, not exciting if you haven't studied this stuff. Let me rant about the obvious thing that is wrong. Watson and Crick determined the structure of DNA in 1953. In 1953, there was no interet, there was no email and there was no spam. Few would have thought the discovery would be helpful in fighting spam because SPAM HADN'T BEEN INVENTED YET! It's like saying, "Few would have thought that when the ancient Egyptians discovered gold, that it would help in the construction of super computers."

It's been almost 2 hours now, and I think I'm through ranting. This wasn't even the news article I had planned to write about. How about a recipe on how to make veggie breakfast meat.

Vegetarian Breakfast Sausage or Bacon (you decide which it most resembles)
10 oz Tempeh (cut into thin strips)
3 tbs soy sauce
1 tsp chili sauce
1 tsp cider vinegar
1 tsp sesame oil
1 tsp Pickapeppa sauce (in the catsup section of the grocery store)
3 cloves garlic (crushed)

Mix all ingredients well except the tempeh strips. Place tempeh strips in this marinade and allow to set several hours at room temperature or overnight to several days in the refrigerator. Fry up marinaded tempeh in a frying pan sprayed with Pam until slightly browned or really crispy depending on your taste.

Cat and I had these this morning with pancakes. They are more spicy than the Morning Star breakfast links we get at the grocery store. We tend to swap these in and out with the commercial links depending on our desire for spice and how lazy we are feeling.

Friday, August 27, 2004

Sweet and Savory Tofu and Vegetables

(Originally posted on Friday, August 27, 2004 by Tim)

Cat and I stopped by the Radford Faculty Club Friday social tonight and had a very nice time. I have to say that it is a very friendly environment. I think that we have been invited to dinner by a couple who are emeritus and near emeritus faculty. In addition, Cat hit it off with a guy in math who is interested in the web package she has been writing. There may be some commercial possibilities there. If nothing else, they got to have lots of web geek talk. "I use tcl to write my web package on an open ACS platform that runs on an AOL virtual server." (Cathy says I got it wrong)

Ummm...ok. I was busy drinking more beer than I have had in the entire previous year combined (2 beers). I see more beer in my future as you get a bottle of Samuel Adams for $1. I'm planning on requesting that they serve Bass as well (all beers $1) and that will make the place pretty much Heaven as far as I'm concerned. After we left the club, we went downstairs to the pool room and bowling alley (I'm not kidding). Now this room is open to everyone on Radford campus, but seems to be very under utilized. I think it must be related to the fact that they don't serve or allow beer, or sitting on the tables, or sitting on the butt height half walls, or marmalade shots (maybe it was masses shots), or gambling. Apparently they've had enough problems with gambling that it merited a sign. I'll have to say, that with all the rules chasing people away, they had some very nice tables. I mean they looked like 1970's bowling hall quality tables, but they were hardly used. Despite my remarks it's a nice little perk as it isn't crowded, no one is smoking there, and pool tables are $1.25 per person per hour. Bowling in $1.25 per game. It's very possible that our pool games may improve significantly over the next year. Enough of my rambling though, the title says I'm going to post a recipe.

This is a recipe that I have been meaning to write up for a long time. It is mostly my own. The idea for the sauce comes from a Japanese cookbook that I have.

Sweet and Savory Tofu and Vegetables
1 lb tofu pressed
1 red pepper (chopped into 1 cm pieces)
1 small or medium eggplant (chopped into 1 cm cubes)
1 head's worth of of broccoli florets
1.5 cups of uncooked white rice
1/4 cup sugar
1/4 cup soy sauce
1/4 cup sake
Toasted sesame seeds

Cook rice according to manufacturers directions. Steam broccoli for 8 minutes or follow the directions on your vegetable steamer. Spray a dutch oven with Pam and set to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Saute red pepper and eggplant for 5 minutes or until slightly browning. Add a half cup of water, cover and cook until eggplant and pepper are tender. While eggplant and pepper are cooking, mix sugar, sake and soy in a bowl.

Chop pressed tofu into 1-2 cm cubes. Add to eggplant and red pepper and increase heat to 400 degrees Fahrenheit. Immediately pour soy/sake/sugar mixture over vegetables and tofu. Stir fry until all sauce has been absorbed or boiled off.

Arrange broccoli florets in a circle on a plate. Fill circle with rice. Place a mound of vegetables on top of the rice. Sprinkle vegetables with sesame seeds.

I really like what this simple sauce does for the tofu and vegetables. You can substitute in for your favorite vegetables with this recipe and I bet a chicken/tofu substitution would be tasty as well.

Tuesday, August 24, 2004

Where's the Flood

(Originally posted on Tuesday, August 24, 2004 by Tim)

So a couple of weeks ago, Cat forced me to go shopping for new slacks to wear to work. Now it isn't like she knocked me out and then I woke up in the Gap wondering what had happened, but it was pretty darn close. I used all the excuses I could to get out of it and turned my wining up to level 9, but it was all to no avail.

"Gosh, I should mow the lawn, can't we go tomorrow?"
"I think I pulled something taking out the garbage, can't we go tomorrow?"
"There's three whole days before I have to go to work, can't we go tomorrow?"
"Modi looks like he's going to bite Sam, we should watch him, can't we go tomorrow?"
"I'd really like to rest up so I can watch the meteor shower tonight, can't we go tomorrow?"
"I've heard that the RCR (Rabid Christiansburg Republicans) are having a meeting at the mall today, can't we go tomorrow?"
"Hey, let's rewire the dining room!"
"I called The Gap and they said they have nothing in my size, but they are getting in a big shipment of "short guy" clothes tonight."
"Look! A moose!"

Needless to say, I really hate clothes shopping. I think it's because I rarely feel like I get it right. This is one of those anxieties that goes back to trying to fit in when I was in middle school. I could never manage to get the same look with clothes that the cool kids did. It's not like I couldn't look at the cool kids and make notes of what they were wearing. I also don't really remember any restrictions on what I could buy, but somewhere in there the connection wasn't being made. I'd either buy a whole bunch of clothes that weren't the right style, or a bunch of clothes that were the wrong size, or I'd do something else that just didn't get the look. Don't even ask me to start in on hair.

I particularly remember some of my foibles with buying pants. The worst was the year I bought five pairs of jeans that were all to tight for the fashion and were really very uncomfortable. That isn't what this post is about. Sometime before middle school, I had a set of neighborhood kids make fun of the fact that my pants were too short. The classic comment was, "Where's the flood?" Ever since I've always been paranoid about my pants/jeans being too short. This has coupled with the fact that I have 27 inch legs and mens pants start at 28 inches has resulted in my buying pants that are too long for at least the last 15 years.

Now it's not like I've been tripping over my pants/jeans so the too long thing really shouldn't be a big deal except that long pants tend to rub on the top of my shoes when I walk around. This rubbing was shredding the cuffs on my pants and the bottoms of my jeans rather quickly. Certainly more quickly than any other part of the jeans was wearing out.

Cat's solution to this problem was that we should buy me shorter pants. A brilliant idea except that it they don't sell men's pants any shorter. "They don't have anything in my size, in fact, no one does, can we come back tomorrow?" Well it just so happens that The Gap we were in was attached to a Kid's Gap. We figured that there are definately kids my size so maybe I would have better luck with boys sizes.

Boys sizes are odd. They're like women's sizes. Nothing useful like a waist size and a pant length size in inches. They are acending numbers without units associated with words like "slim", "regular", and "husky". I guess this scale is used, because Mom's mostly buy boys clothes and it's something they are used to. After some experimentation, we found that I'm closest to a 12 Husky. I actually think I'm a 13 Husky but, of course, there are no odd numbers. This leaves me with a choice of buying pants that are too long (14 Husky) or pants that are just a little too short. In the end, we went with a little too short. I'm hoping that it was the right choice. I've been really careful to pull the pants out of the dryer when we wash them for fear that they might shrink. I've also been collecting a mental database of relative pant leg length of male faculty at Radford. I think I'm in the right range, but I'll have to wait until the spring when the New River overflows and see if I get any personal emails from the dean calling me to action.

Monday, August 23, 2004

Pressing Tofu

(Originally posted on Monday, August 23, 2004 by Tim)

Ok, I know this is lame, but I've gotten into the habit of pressing tofu for many of the recipes in which I use it. Well, that's not the lame part. The lame part is I'm going to post a recipe on how to do it. Let's picture it as a sub-recipe. I've actually made this great sweet and savory tofu and vegetables dish that I want to post, but everytime I think about it I am overwhelmed by the thought of posting a recipe and describing how to press tofu. Yes, I know that I already posted how to press tofu in a past recipe, but it just doesn't seem fair to make you go back and read through an entire recipe of my rambling just to pick out where I discuss pressing tofu. Once I've completed this post, I can link to it. That will save you the trouble of wading through the wandering babble and it will save me the angst of having to describe pressing tofu again.

Pressing Tofu
Block of tofu
Collander (Corgi bite marks are OK)
Bowl just a little smaller than collander
Big plate
Cans of dense food
Heavy books

Place collander on plate to catch water that will be squeezed out of tofu. Place tofu block in collander. Place bowl right side up on top of tofu. Stack heavy cans and books in bowl. Let tofu be pressed by the weight of the cans for 30 minutes.

This is a wonderful way to firm up your tofu and make it take up more marinade or sauce in recipes.

Sunday, August 22, 2004

It's 9pm, do you know where your dogs are?

(Originally posted on Sunday, August 22, 2004 by Cathy)

Hmm. Pretty quiet around here.. where did all the dogs go?

Friday, August 20, 2004

The Robotic Bartender

(Originally posted on Friday, August 20, 2004 by Cathy)

A popular bar had a new robotic bartender installed. A fellow came in for a
drink and the robot asked him, "What's your IQ?" The man replied, "150." So
the robot proceeded to make conversation about Quantum physics, string
theory, atomic chemistry, and so on. The man listened intently and thought,
"This is really cool."

The man decided to test the robot. He walked out the bar, turned around,
and came back in for another drink. Again, the robot asked him, "What's
your IQ?"

The man responded, "100." So the robot started talking about football,
baseball, and so on. The man thought to himself, "Wow, this is amazing."

The man went out and came back in a third time. As before, the robot asked
him, "What's your IQ?" The man replied, "50." The robot then said, "So,
you gonna vote for Bush again?"

Wednesday, August 18, 2004

Mmmmm, grape!

(Originally posted on Wednesday, August 18, 2004 by Tim)

We have a row (isle, rack, stand, whatever you call them) of grape vines in the backyard. It was overgrown with five or so other types of plants when we moved in, but Cat hacked it back to grape vines and some plant with orange flowers in the first week. I was initially very excited about the grapes. We had a vine in the yard in Mukilteo, but it never produced much. The row of grapes here is much larger and was already producing quite a crop when we moved in. Unfortunately, my enthusiasm was somewhat dampened when I tried a few of the green beauties and found they were quite sour and seedy. I'd liken the experience to tasting vanilla extract for the first time. You're expecting something that tastes delicious, but what you get is quite bitter. Hmmm, seems there are a number of things in life that fit that analogy.

In any case, I assumed we had some sort mutant grape vine that was designed to grow well in the harsh Appalachian climate. Something designed to survive months of banjo music without chewing off its own roots. I stopped thinking about the grapes and gave up my hopes of making my own wine from them.

Two days ago, Cat pointed out to me that the grapes had turned red. On trying one I found it to be rather sweet, although still seedy. It's too bad the grapes ripened so close to the start of classes at Radford. I would have liked to try and make some wine, but I'm afraid I can't show up to class with purple feet (at least until tenure). I was trying to decide what to do with the grapes when I realized that we have run out of the blackberry jam we made in Mukilteo last summer. I looked on the Web and found the following recipe by Ellen Skennar of Herberton, Queensland. I ran a test batch tonight and it makes a very tasty refrigerator jam.

Appalachian Grape Jam
Red grapes from your backyard

Pick grapes from the backyard. Squeeze grapes and separate the skins into one saucepan and the pulp (with seeds) into another saucepan. Add a little water to the skins and simmer for 10 minutes. Also simmer the pulp for 10 minutes or until its structure breaks down. Press the pulp through a strainer to remove the seeds. Combine skins and pulp. Add a volume of sugar equal to that of the skins and pulp and simmer until jam gells. You can tell a jam has gelled by placing a little bit on a plate and allowing it to cool. If the cooled jam forms a skin when pressed with your finger, it is done. If you have a candy thermometer, gelling occurs around 220 Fahrenheit.

The next step will be to pick the vine in earnest and make a large batch of canned jam. If you're reading this and you're on our gift list, I'll give you three guesses on what you're getting for Christmas.

Tuesday, August 17, 2004

The Woodchuckinator!

(Originally posted on Tuesday, August 17, 2004 by Tim)

Well, there's good news and there's bad news. The good news is that Cat seems to be training Modi that the painful shocking sensation he feels when he charges the fence is a bad thing and that he should stay 2 to 3 feet away from it. I really didn't think that the shock collar was going to work. When we first put it on him, he just charged into the fence anyway and ignored it. Cat decided that he needed to be taught that it was the proximity to the fence that caused the shock and not something else. Here's what I think was going on in Modi's head:

Must bite dog!
Must bite dog!
Must bite dog!
ZAP! Hmmm, experiencing pain but in fight so this is nothing new. ZAP!
Must bite dog!
Must bite dog!
Must bite dog!

Now you could give him points for being tough, but he pretty much loses all the fights he gets into so he's gotta lose more points for being several slices short of a full loaf.

That was the good news. The bad news is that TY caught the woodchuck that was living in our backyard today. Cat and I were there for the whole experience. TY found it in the bushes near the fence and probably broke its back in the first second or so. Modi and Sam joined in while Cat and I tried to break everything up. On the dog side, we pretty much had no injuries except a scratch on Modi's nose. Needless to say we were a bit disturbed by the whole experience. We pretty much think of the dogs as adorable (in a neurotic sort of way) and it's a little bit upsetting to have them kill another animal in front of you.

I was thinking of posting a recipe today, but I think I'll wait until tomorrow. For now, I'll just leave you with the score.



Sam-All the bed

Thursday, August 12, 2004

This biog entry was serrated using handwriting recognition

(Originally posted on Thursday, August 12, 2004 by Tim)

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Yesterday. I'm not sire how In
going to use it yet, but it
has this. what? No! I'm
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think I was drink? As I was
Saying, It has this great hard
writing recognition tool. I was
thinking that Insight use it
as a blackboard 17%. no,
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sign, ole, as I was
saying - that that it would
be great to write on the tablet
instead of the black board and

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tern m t! It's " Anthe 9
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cart renumber the last time
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thru with you people

Wednesday, August 11, 2004

Money Pit is Working on a Darwin Award

(Originally posted on Wednesday, August 11, 2004 by Tim)

I am becoming more convinced every day that man has really screwed things up by playing with evolution through selective breeding. Let's take Modi for example. Natural selection generally weeds self desctructive traits out of the gene pool. Assume for a moment that an animal had the desire to smash its face into an object over an over again despite the fact that said smashing was painful and resulted in wounds with a serious chance of infection. Before man came along, such behavior would result in a decreased chance of the animal surviving to produce viable offspring and the trait would eventually cease to exist in that species.

Enter man with english accent: "This dog thing is great, but it would make a much better footrest if it had really short legs and an overlong body. Don't worry about rational behavior out of the beast, just make it shorter and longer."

Thus the English set out to breed the Pembroke Welsh Corgi. They sort of got the footrest thing right. Modi thinks humans make a great footrest, but he gets pretty grumpy if anyone gets their feet remotely near him.

Modi's newest stunt is to charge the chain link fence and try and bite the dog on the other side. In the process, he has opened and continues to reopen some rather large spots on his nose. The neighbors have an invisible fence system on the offending chain link and we have fitted him with a collar. Cat and I have tried the system out and it gives a decent shock, however, I don't think it hurts more than bashing his nose until bloody. Cat is currently trying to train him to stay away from the fence by walking him by the fence with the shock collar on the leash. He feels the shock when the bloodlust is not on him so maybe it will work. We'll let you know.

In the meantime, anyone want to buy a footrest?

Tuesday, August 10, 2004

Renaming Dogs

(Originally posted on Tuesday, August 10, 2004 by Tim)

I have decided that we need to rename dogs. I think that Modi, TY, and Sam are not descriptive enough names. They need something more along the lines of American Indian names. They need names that tell us something about them.

Actually, I know nothing about American Indian names beyond what I have seen in popular culture. Did American Indians generally have names like, ?He who always steps in bear poop in the woods? or ?He who is a couple arrows short of a quiver?? Being an academic and a liberal, I feel a little bad just assuming that this is how traditional American Indian names work without doing a little research. This whole stereotype could have started with one smart ass Indian joking around with the pilgrims at the first Thanksgiving.

Indian: (well, they?re not going to be able to pronounce my name anyway) ?Hi, I am ?Guy who always brings the store bought potato salad? and this is my friend ?Eats only protein and fat.?

If I had a better internet connection (DSL at the end of the week we hope), I?d research this stereotype, but for now I?ll just have to console myself by saying, ?Hey, I?m mostly vegetarian so there must be enough good karma in that to balance out.?

Regardless of where the naming convention comes from, dogs need more descriptive names. With these names, anyone who meets them will instantly receive insight into their personalities.

Chicken Dog: Sam earned this name when he began refusing to go outside after dark without a chaperone. This behavior actually began when we were still in the Seattle area. When he first did it, I was worried that there might be coyotes behind the house somewhere (I had seen one once). When it began to happen night after night, I realized that we had something else going on. Keep in mind that this dog, who refuses to go out before bed, gets us up at 7am by pacing and wining because he needs to go out.

Money Pit: Modi has been earning this one for quite some time, but it stuck with his second trip to the vet this month. It seems that we had a small thorn bush/branch on the fence line where Modi likes to run up and down barking at the dogs next door. It would slow him down to run around it, so he came in with a reasonably torn up nose yesterday. Add to this his ACL surgery and his eating the carpet, the moulding, the kitchen cabinets, and thus my damage deposit in my Bay Area apartment and he is by far the most expensive dog of the three.

When I feel like it: There were lots of nominations for TY. He used to be ?Mr. Fat Pad? due his being a bit overweight, but all of our dogs have slimmed way down with the big yard. We?ve actually had to substantially increase rations. Another possibility was ?He who barks at the neighbors in their house hoping that they will come out and throw the ball.? Can you spell bark collar? There was a stint in Seattle when ?Mr. Poopy Paws? was appropriate, but I won?t go into that one. In the end, ?When I feel like it? has always fit TY reasonably well. Currently, the main manifestation is trying to get TY to come in from the yard. If you yell for him and you can see him, he does come in, but very slowly. It?s not like he doesn?t know how to run, you should see him dash for the house when he knows breakfast is waiting. You can?t even get a fast walk out of him if there isn?t food in the house.

And there you are. Much more descriptive. I bet you feel as if you know the dogs much better now. By they way, did you want one of them? I can make you a really good deal.

Monday, August 2, 2004

The Kitchen Wiring is Done So Let?s Make Marinara Sauce!

(Originally posted on Monday, August 2, 2004 by Tim)

We still have a bit of reconstruction to do, but we have finished all the wiring in the kitchen. The ceiling fan is now controlled by a switch rather than a pull cord. Huzzah! We were able to wire the ceiling fan without conduit by using the drop ceiling and the molding where the tile meets the wall. The molding is almost 2 inches wide so we pulled it down (slightly challenging) and punched a 1 inch hole in the ceiling and in the wall in the under the molding space.

It turns out that kitchens are circuit hogs. To meet code, you need to have two small appliance circuits in the kitchen that do not share with anything else. In addition, we have a floor outlet circuit, a light fixture circuit, a dishwasher circuit, and a stove circuit. The stove circuit eats two slots in the breaker box bringing us to a grand total of seven circuits for the kitchen.

We actually didn?t make marinara sauce tonight, but I?ve been meaning to post my recipe. I think it?s my own original recipe that I made up in graduate school. However, in graduate school, I compulsively followed recipes to the letter. I actually did very little, if any experimenting with cooking then and would refuse make a meal if I was missing an ingredient. Needless to say, it seems a bit out of character that I would have made up a marinara sauce recipe, but that is how I remember it. If I adapted it from someone else?s recipe, la la la la la la I can?t hear you.

Marinara Sauce
1 can diced tomatoes (28 oz)
1 can tomato paste (6 oz)
1 can tomato soup
1 tablespoon dried basil
1 tablespoon dried oregano
½ tablespoon red pepper flakes

Mix all ingredients together in a saucepan and stir frequently over medium heat for 15-20 minutes. Cathy had commented that this sauce gets more flavorful with sitting in the refrigerator and I agree. It might be better to heat it over very low heat for a couple of hours. I seem to remember Mom and Grandma cooking marinara sauce for a very long time and that might be the trick. If so, this could be a great crock pot recipe. It could be set up in the morning and acquire flavor over the day?s work. I serve this with rotini because I find the twists in the pasta hold the sauce quite nicely. In addition, rotini are just the right size to eat with chopsticks.