31 December 2006

New Year's Eve dinner was an international affair here. We did hot and sour soup and Moroccan lamb, using a bone-in roast. I paid way too much for the roast at Central Market, but my knees were killing me. However, the quality of the meat was amazing. We changed our normal recipe and cooked it hot and fast. Wow.

Hot and Sour Soup

4  24 ounce cans of Swanson's Chicken Broth with a shot of sherry added

2 pounds venison, sliced into 1/4" square ribbons

16 ounces extra-hard tofu, pressed and cubed.

8 Tbsp dark sodium soy sauce

4 Tbsp regular soy sauce

9 Tbsp cornstarch

1 Tbsp sesame oil

2 large eggs

1 cup bamboo shoots, sliced into 1/4 strips

12 ounces fresh Shiitake mushrooms, stems removed and cut into 1/4 wide strips.

15 ounces white button mushrooms, sliced

1 pound fresh wood ear, cut into small pieces

1 cup dried lily buds, cut up into thirds.

1 cup canned water chestnuts, sliced.

8 ounces fresh Oyster mushrooms, whole.

10 Tbsp Chinese black vinegar

1 Tbsp chili oil

1 Tbsp white pepper

6 medium scallions, sliced thin

 Add the lily buds  to 2 cups boiling water to cover and let sit for 15 minutes and then drain. Use drained water where water is needed below. Done the remainder into the stock. Press the tofu between 2 plates with about 5 pounds of weight on top for 15-20 minutes. You should get a cup of liquid or more. Cut into cubes. While the tofu is pressing, slice up the pork chops. Beat together until smooth 2 Tbsp soy sauce, sesame oil, and 2 tsp cornstarch and toss the pork in. Mix well so pork is all coated. Let sit at 10-15 minutes.Mix the 2 eggs, 1 tsp cornstarch and 2 tsp water in a bowl until egg is well beaten and smooth. Mix remaining cornstarch with 6 Tbsp water in a bowl until smooth.

Heat the broth to boiling and reduce to a simmer. Add the mushrooms (Shiitake, Enoki, and wood ear), water chestnuts, and bamboo shoots and simmer 5 minutes so 'shooms are tender. Add lily buds, tofu and pork, stirring constantly. Simmer about 2 minutes and add the wood mix up the cornstarch and water mixture and add. Cook until it clears up, about 1 minute. Add the vinegar, chili oil, pepper, remaining soy sauce, and cayenne if need for heat. Stir well and let simmer for 3 minutes. Remove from heat so surface is still. Add the egg-cornstarch mix in long thin streams.  Let sit 1 minute and stir. Return to heat and stir as soup returns to simmer. After 2 minutes, serve with sliced scallions on top as a garnish.

Bone-in Lamb Roast

2 pound Bone-in Lamb Rib Roast

4 Tbsp ground coriander

4 gloves minced garlic

3 tsp cumin

3 tsp hot paprika

4 tsp crushed black pepper

1 tsp sea salt

1 tsp chipotle

1/2 cup olive oil

2 pickled lemon quarters*, skin only, chopped very fine

Grind all the dry spices together, add the lemon, garlic and oil, and mix well. Coat the roast heavily on both sides and let sit as the oven heats to 425. Cook uncovered at 425 F until the meat reaches 145 F internal. Remove and let rest 15 minutes before cutting apart between the bones. Serve with a sauce made from the drippings,  adding some butter, fresh mint, and a splash of red wine.

*Pickled Lemons

5 fresh lemons, quartered (try to leave attached)

3 sticks cinnamon

12 cloves

1/4 cup kosher salt

Lemon juice concentrate - (about a quart)

Rub the lemons with salt and pack tightly in a 1 quart jar with the cinnamon and cloves. Add the remaining salt and cover everything with lemon juice concentrate. Seal and let sit in the back of the refrigerator for a minimum of 2 weeks, althro I prefer to wait at least 6 months. The liquid is almost a syrup at this point and the lemons are kinda salty sweet. Remove a lemon quarter as needed, discard the pulp, and use just the skin.

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30 December 2006

Never eating out again, except maybe on a Tuesday: I just finished reading Kitchen Confidential. I stayed up way too late with it but did it bring back memories of working in a restaurant in college and of catering. However, if you routinely eat out, you might just want to pass.

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One day left: Narbonic ends tomorrow. <sniff> On a happy note it seems. I understand the author's reasoning but I am really gonna miss that strip.

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26 December 2006

Happy St Stephen's/Boxing Day

It's Boxing Day: Where are the gloves and that teenager? The goddess said that I had that wrong. And could you believe no one believed me when I told them about the Wren song? So for the doubters here below is what I can remember. I wonder if I can do this with a badger or something...

The wren, the wren, the king of all birds
St. Stephen's Day was caught in the firs
Although he was little, his honor was great
Jump up me lads and give us a treat

I have a little box under me arm
A tuppence or penny will do it no harm
For we are the boys who came your way
To bring in the wren on St. Stephen's Day


Mrs. Smith is a very good woman (repeats thrice)

for she gave us a tuppence to bury the wren.


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Christmas Recipes: Nothing traditional about yesterday's food. Crepes for bunch following service and then a meal of confit of venison with cherry sauce, sweet potatoes, fresh salad, and a flan from the Fort in Littleton, Colorado.  So here we go:

Crepes: Basic Crepes are something you should be able to do at anytime. I was in college before I learned the right name for these. I grew up calling them French pancakes.

3 eggs

1.5 cups flour

2 cups milk

2 Tbsp butter

1/2 tsp salt

Everything goes into a bowl and either a stick blender or mixer is used to beat it into a smooth batter. That takes about a minute and then you should scrap the sides and repeat. Now the recipes all say you should refrigerate for 2 hours minimum and that does make a stronger crepe, but I never bother.  Cook on a crepe pan or skillet with a little butter. The first one always is ugly so the kitchen help gets to eat it. Normally youcook one side until the uncooked side is showing bubbles and then flip them, using a spatula to break the edges free and then sliding underneath the crepe to free it. If you want extra coolness points with young boys, try flipping them tossing the pan after freeing the crepe with a spatula. It is easier than it sounds. If you plan to fill them, cook one side and remove them from the heat. Either way stack them separated by wax paper.

Crepe filling:

1 pound venison sausage

2 coarsely chopped tomatoes

2 boiled potatoes, cold and chopped into 1" cubes


Fry the sausage in a skillet until almost done (no pink showing) and added the potatoes to the mix. Cook until done and add the tomatoes. Lay crepe out and put filling on one end. Then roll the crepe up. You want the filling not showing at all. Then either return folded crepes to pan and cook the outsides until brown or heat them all in a 350 degree oven for 5 minutes or so until golden.

Confit of Venison:

4 -6 venison roast

2 pounds of duck fat

2 Tbsp juniper berries, crushed

2 Tbsp black peppercorns, crushed

1 Tbsp sage

1 tsp allspice

1/4 tsp cloves

1 tsp onion flakes

1 tsp hot paprika

1 tsp garlic powder

1 Tbsp Lemon juice

4 Tbsp Kijafa (Danish cherry fortified wine - any cherry liquor works)


Rub the roast with the spices and add 2 tbsp cherry wine and lemon. Let sit covered tightly for 24-48 hours. Wash well and remove all spices. Dry. Add to a large pound and then add 2 pounds or enough molten duck fat to cover. No meat should be exposed and you want 1" or more over the top of the roast. Cook at 200 F for 2.5 hours or until the meat temperature reaches 155 internal. Remove and let cool. Store at least 24 hours in the refrigerator. Remove, break off the fat, and save the liquid at the bottom. The fat can be melted, filtered, and stored in containers for further use. Reheat the venison at 425 until warmed and serve sliced.


The liquid from the bottom of the confit should be filtered, degreased, and then heated to a simmer. Add the remaining 2 Tbsp of cherry liquor and 2 tbsp cornstarch in 2 Tbsp cold water, stirring constantly. Let cool slightly and serve over the meat.


More on confit can be found here.


Flan: This is from The Fort Cookbook, who say they got it from the old Chili Pepper magazine. We dropped the carmel top they used because its too rich as it is and we haven't ever gotten that right. This was made in a tart tray.


6 eggs

14 ounces sweetened condensed milk

12 ounces evaporated milk

8 ounces cream cheese

1 Tbsp vanilla extract

Dump everything into a mixer bowl and mix until a smooth lumpless batter result. Pour into a tart tray that is cover with foil outside (Trust me. Don't not do this. You'll hate yourself later.)  Set in a pan and fill with water until 1/2" of the top of the tray. Cook in a preheated oven at 350 F for 40-50 minutes, so a knife inserted in the center comes out clean. Remove and let cool, then refrigerator overnight before removing from the tray. Slice and serve.

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25 December 2006

Merry Christmas!

"Today the very God Himself became flesh -and this is the difference between all other faiths and Christianity - so that all history now revolves around this one day in a cave in an unheard of town in a some unimportant occupied country. At this point, the world changed and religion can no longer be a personal thing but is now witness to an historic truth: the Infinite lowered itself to be made finite, He who contains Creation was contained in the womb of a virgin."


May you have a Blessed Christmas and a Joyous New Year!

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24 December 2006

Updates: Well, the knees are healing and I have been turned over to the tender care of the physical thera-nazis, for at least the next three weeks. I'm walking (hobbling actually) and the goddess has promised if I am a good boy, I can go to service tomorrow for Christmas. Other than a major backlog on both the manuscript, work and wooden gifts, things are good. The tendency to sleep 16 hours out of the day as I heal has sadly slowed up a lot of things, including blogging. One of the upsides is Audie sent me flowers, so I got roses from a much younger woman and the goddess didn't even mind. Cool! The biggest downside is Jessica's present isn't finished.

Ben is currently reading Gates of Fire, on the fall of the 300. I mention this because allowed to shop at a bookstore yesterday, with a chaperone, I was looking for some fiction for him and the clerk suggested that someone's standard fantasy would be too hard for him (they were out of the teen stuff.) Noah's comment on Ben's current reading got quite a startled look from the poor thing.

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The Holy Supper: The goddess decided no way was I going to church tonight for the Holy Supper, and in fact, I wasn't fasting anymore either. Something about healing...Anyway, we are doing our own with Mother, based on the ones she had a child. These are closer to the old Catholic fasting rules and allow both fish and dairy products. A total of seven dishes to be serve, including the ever-popular raw garlic and honey, bread, piroghi, fish, a couple of steamed vegetables, stewed fruits, and mushroom-barley soup. Recipes follow:


 2 cups flour

2 eggs

1/2 tsp salt

1/2 cup milk


2 Tbsp onion

1/2 tsp garlic

Mix flour, salt, and eggs together in a large bowl and add milk to form a soft dough (just past sticky stage). Knead until elastic. Divide into 2 parts and roll out one part until about 1/4" thick.  Cut into 2 "squares (about 18 of then). Drop a tbsp of filling in the middle of square and fold closed. We use squares for potato or meat filling, triangles for prune or cabbage. Add seperately to a large pot of boiling water and swirl so they don't stick to the bottom. Boil until they float to the top. (You can cool and freeze them now and do the next step after thawing.)

 Fry them in butter with the onion and garlic. Serve with melted butter as sauce.

 Potato Filling

2 large potatoes

1 Tbsp butter

4 ounces cheese (cheddar or jack)

Boil and mash potato, adding butter and cheese as it mashes. Season with pepper as desired.


 Fruit Filling

1 pound prunes or dried cherries

2 cups water

sugar to taste

Cook dried fruit in simmering water until soft. Drain. Using a food mill, run the fruits thru to seperate pulp from skins. Repeat with skins portion until they are almost dry. Add sugar to taste. Let cool. (I let it cool overnight in a strainer to thicken it more). Any dried fruit will work but these are the two we use. You can use fresh fruits but you have to cook them down to a butter. You can also just buy and use commercial fruit butters.


 Cheese Filling

1/2 pound dry cottage cheese (farmer's cheese)

1 beaten egg

1/8 tsp salt

2 Tbsp sugar

vanilla to taste

Combine all in a large bowl and mix until smooth.

Baked Fish: A really simple dish

2 pounds white fish (we used a mixture of frozen perch and striper we caught earlier this year)

1 cup breadcrumbs

1 lemon sliced.


Preheat oven to 325. Wash and clean fish as needed (you want skinless and boneless fillets). Roll fish in breadcrumbs (you can skip this. I often do and it depends on my mood).   Layer lemon slices in a pan and put fish on top of it. Dab with butter. Bake about 10-20 minutes until flakey but still moist.


Stewed Fruits

2 pounds mixed dried fruits

1 Tbsp sugar

1 cup sweet Marsala wine

2 cup water

1/4 cup diced walnuts

Dump the dried fruits into the wine and add the sugar. Mix well. Bring the water to a boil and add the fruit mixture. Reduce to a simmer and cook until the liquid is mostly absorbed. Sprinkle with nuts.


Mushroom Barley Soup:

2 pounds white or mixed mushrooms, cleaned and sliced

1 onion

1/2 cup uncooked pearl barley

4 Tbsp butter

4 cups vegetable stock (see here and read down to cleaning the frig - then delete the bones)


Sauté the onions and mushrooms in the butter at the bottom of a large pot. When they are soft and aromatic, add the pearl barley and the stock. Simmer about 1 hour while other things cook and then adjust seasoning with salt, pepper, garlic, etc. I normally add some sage and thyme. Serve hot.

The other stuff: Raw garlic and honey is exactly what it sounds like, gloves of fresh garlic with honey to dip them in. I've blogged on bread before and the vegetable can be either anything steamed or raw (the goddess likes a salad). None of this stuff is hard to do and that was the point because today was for services, and the feasting starts tomorrow after Divine Liturgy. We'll probably make the flan today and I am already working on a confit of venison.  I'm going to be too tired today to make a meat pie for the after church snack.

Sadly, we won't have straw under the tablecloth, extra place set, or the table legs chained together like in the old days. <sigh> My wife thinks I am a secret pagan when really I'm just a tad traditional.

Photos of the food and the cooks will be posted later.

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17 December 2006

Knee Report: Well, we got the surgery done and hopefully approved. I am finally coming out of the effects of the drugs as seen by it being 3 am and I can't sleep. This is actually a good sign as it is how my body handles these things. I get the sutures pulled on Tuesday and can ask qestions like what did they find, how did it go, and what did the surgeon mean when he said we need to talk about your hobbies? Connie said something about reducing impact.... That could suck because while I could live without doing martial arts, I'm not really sure why I'd want to. I mean I started at 10...

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13 December 2006

More on The Historian: It's just a great read. The descriptions of Hungary on the eve of the Russian suppression and of the relations on the border with Romania, especially Transylvania are very close to what I've heard from people with kin and friends there.  The descriptions of the food almost make me want to cry. The description of Turkey and Istanbul seemed dead-on. The writer is just great with the imagery and personalities she develops. Definitely something to loan so I have it in my heavenly library.

Noah on the other hands is devouring Freakonomics....which was kind of surprising. It's feeding his cynicism but he really seems fascinated by it.

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12 December 2006

I love worker's comp: The saga continues. The MRI on the other knee showed a tear just in the position my doctor said it would be, except the second opinion, whose has not looked at the films, says no way. So anyway, now we try for surgical approve again. They asked me to get some prescriptions just in case and you would not believe the paperwork it took to get those filled under WC. <sigh>

UPDATE 12-13-06: Looks like we are on for both knees tomorrow at 1. Say a prayer for me.

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Shelton in the winter: Why anyone ever settled and stayed in this place after the first winter is beyond me and I was raised up here. It's dark, cold, and gray. Ugh. I did get to see my brother and Mom. He did a fantastic job on the garage and the apartment for mother. Just amazing.

The trip was productive but fast as I am flying out in the morning. Still too long up here in the winter.

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9 December 2006

Hog on Ice Alert: Just when you thought it was safe to let the AHA know where you live, Steve posts his pizza recipe here. And  it doesn't look good, it looks magnificent. His brownie recipe almost got me molested by a dancer, in front of my wife yet. I shudder to think what this evil will do.

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Shipping it today: I finished putting together a box for Juan in Iraq. Jerky, nuts, sausage stick, photos, and some copies of CDs he asked for. Now, we add a nice card and some non-melting protein bars and then off it goes to my very favorite troll for Christmas.

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Finally an excuse: I got a new splitter for the table-saw at a closing sale last week and try to put it today. Sadly because its a Grizzly saw, very few after market toys fit and you have to hope the stuff made for the Delta or Jet do. Well, they don't in this case and that means I have to remove brackets, reform a few parts and make a couple of others. That means I need to fire up the little forge. It's terrible when these things happen, it is. <grin>

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A year for bears? At least as birthday gifts, since two of the ladies in my life have given me a large stuffed panda (from Rufel) and a made-to-order bear in a karate gi with black belt (from Audie). It looks like this one here except mine came from the Build-a-Bear Workshop and has adoption papers, heart, tracking unit (no kidding - just in cause a kid steals him I guess), and a name (Scritchmytongue). Noah also points out that via the news bears are ahead 13 to 1 in reported mauling, munching and general tasting of humans for 2006.

Did I mention the goddess got me a laser guided compound miter saw? <grin> Now that's a toy. I think I'll make some laminated bowls just to have an excuse to cut compound angles because its so much fun to use.

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8 December 2006

San Diego con't: The Lyophilization Conference continues and so far it has been very good. It's focus has been on the process rather than what I do, the sample characterization but it has really been a good overview of why so many people in this industry use DSC so heavily. We had a really great talk on the mechanics of drying (as to the molecular mechanics) and it was interesting to see how so many terms are used differently in pharmaceutics.

I got to visit Mark Ring, coach of San Diego's women's football team, and his kempo instructor, Parker Linekin while I was out here.  They practice the same basic style that Frank Garza, one of the best people I know, over in Plano does. Not only did they welcome me with open arms, but they asked me if I'd like to play. With this knee, that was not going to happen. but the warmth of the invitation and the offer to come back today and visit was touching. I also got to meet Karen, another person I know by name only. It was bitter sweet in a way as the welcome here reminded me of how much I missed visiting Toma's dojo this trip. I'll have to take a rain-check and come back when I can play...

The highlight of the trip was, of course, having the opportunity to share pizza with the ever lovely Da Goddess and her delightful chaperone, the delightful Mrs. Smash. (Mr. Smash wasn't available so I missed seeing him). It's not often that a man of my years and disposition gets to spend time in the company of two younger women. Heck, I normally don't even get to spend time with people during this time of year. Something about grumpy as sleepless bear... We ate at BJ Pizza, where they make Chicago style -as we call it where I was raised - something like pizza. I got to pick up my Blues t-shirts and Joanie gave me three really cool Blues CDs. I listened to one she really recommended this morning before practice and it was really fun. I liked the kazoo...

The Winter Curse continues. Corp travel just called and they messed up a change in my reservation so I need to call them as see if I get home before tomorrow...

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6 December 2006

San Diego and Irvine: One of the great pleasures, maybe the only pleasure of being a technoypsy, is when someone gets it. It doesn't happen as much as you'd hope but today -after a birthdayish start with a 5:30 swim practice, a right knee MRI, a shut down highway, and an hour of sitting on the DFW runway - I visited a customer who I trained on DSC techniques about 18 months ago. The way he has integrated it into his company's business and generated enough great data that the CEO told me what a great and incredibly useful instrument we make was amazing. It made for one of the most pleasant visits I've had in months.

Then for dinner, we went to this fish place that had a sampler of 6 different types of smoked fish and a main course of grilled sea bass, shrimp and bacon. By the time, we were finished I even missed the traffic to San Diego as it had cleared out. To finish it up, someone from a e-list I am on was kind enough to collect up all the birthday wishes and send them to my email as they knew I was not reading it right now. An amazing pleasant day for one that reminds you that you are now one day closer to death. The phone call from the knife-maker saying he won't be done in time for Christmas was much more what I expect.

Plane reading this time was Fr. Hopko's Women and the Priesthood. Several different discussions of what the deaconess really was (a lay position) and the degradation of the deacon over time. One interesting point was the rejection of the Western ideas of fairness and the right to be a priest and the need to not accept a question generated by an Augustinian legalistic viewpoint. Rephrasing the question from should we ordain women to the more Orthodox form gave "what is the implications of one's sex in the life of church and how does these roles relate to the relationship of the Church to Christ?" Interestingly, a middle eastern poem that compared roses and jasmine said the overall position best "Woman is not equal to man, but neither is man equal to woman." I am still pagan enough that Williams lines on woman being warned from the altar because she all ready shares in the sacrifice makes sense but that is no more Orthodox than the baba theology I was taught based on the iconography of Christ. That was actually a western intrusion as the Orthodox priest at the consecration is not a stand in for Christ. My favorite essay was not one of the ones that moved me to tears, but a look at the Scriptural positions that was detailed and balanced and ended with "when people ask me for the short answer, I say no." Compared to the nuanced discussion before, it was almost funny.

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Birthdays: A day to notice the ever declining number of emails wishing you a happy one (<sigh> - so many deaths this year it seems> and to reflect back on how little one has actually accomplished in life, and realize how the things this world holds will always fail and betray you. At 51, entering the last third of my life, its a good time to look back and ask myself just what have I done that means a damn thing or will last 45 minutes past the burial. I get to spend it in airports and LA traffic so this evening's posts should be a bundle of good cheer.  Connie and the boys did get me a sliding miter saw to replace the one that died on re-assembly (long but sparkly story starting with "Was that the cord I just cut?) and a chocolate cake with less candles than Ben wanted. So that was nice. I'll still be rolling in self-pity all day because, well, what else are birthdays for?

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5 December 2006

Reading on planes: I've had a bad run of luck at the airport lately and been therefore doing a bunch of reading. So if you need some suggestions, try Freakonomonics. It's a bit too light as he doesn't actually give the analysis and his personal bias shows, like where he says gun control is about controlling the misuse of guns. Apparently actually reading the Brady Campaign or their ilk's various statements is too much research. Otherwise, he might have noticed that for these guys misuse of guns really means any private ownership. It's really not that bad but  it is there in places. There were a few others biases in places. However, it was still a fascinating read... I think the problem of correlation and correspondence, which was addressed should have been emphasized more strongly, but other than that, it was a hard book to put down.

Charles Stross did this incredibly weird book called the The Atrocity Archives a bit back and just came out with the sequel, which read as well or better than the first. The Jennifer Morgue is not a burial place for cheerleaders from hell. Imagine a world where magic works by enough mathematics and you don't get unicorns and elves but instead the terrors of the Lovecraft Mythos. Now imagine some nut wants to invite them back in. It's a great romp and has a neat twist on the whole James Bond theme. Not only could I not put this down but its got Noah and Ben drawing Mandelbrot sets in a circle in the back yard.

Talk about an odd find- I found Primitive Archer, a magazine dedicated to shooting self and old-style compound stave bows at the Tampa Airport of all things. There must be 10 people in it selling Hungarian made Horse bows. Lovely find that I have never heard of and I have friends into this fairly heavy. Some cool classes in making self bows too.

Nancy Farmer's The Sea of Trolls, which Ben was reading, tells of a young boy who becomes a thrall and then a Bard after the Vikings destroy the settlements on the Holy Isle and haul him off as a souvenir. It's interesting to read in these days when the Democrats and the left are urging a return to isolationist so that the Islamic fanatics will leave us alone. " Don't make them mad" didn't work for the monks that ran down to welcome the Vikings and the seas surrounding them didn't protect the Saxons or the rest of Europe anymore than it protected the Saxons' predecessors in England. A good history lesson to learn young while the MSM media pushes "its the victims fault" at us and  in a well-told story filled with trolls, shape-shifters, shield-maidens, and heroes.

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If a reformed healthcare system is at all like worker's compensation, we're screwed: I've been dealing with the Worker's Compensation system in Texas due to a fall at work that torn some stuff in my knee. Last week I was told that we needed another MRI, which was scheduled for tomorrow. Today they threw the surgery request out of the system for incomplete data, and we now start from scratch. I fell on August 25, 2006.  Sure makes me want to let the government involved in the rest of my health care.

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3 December 2006

Glenn Geil

May his memory be eternal and may Perpetual Light shine upon him.

Michelle's father died earlier this week unexpectedly and, due to the weather that trapped me in Tampa, I was unable to make the funeral. Because the burial was at a monastery, the body was un-embalmed and things moved quickly after his death. We did drive down to the Greek Orthodox Monastery of the Holy Archangels in Kendalia, Texas for the burial yesterday. We made a one day trip out of it, which translated into 12 hours plus in the car with two boys and a sick goddess as well as four hours at the monastery and of course, feeding stops. Noah and I were honored to act as pallbearers, which here was more than pushing a cart. Bad knee or no, this is something you can't refuse. Michelle is very dear to us and we loved her father dearly. He is someone I saw seldom but alway enjoyed visiting with. I hope I use my last years as well as he did. The monastery is a lovely resting place for a man so devoted to his Lord.

 The Orthodox burial ceremony is simple, relatively short but deeply moving as the Monastery still uses open caskets,  add shovels of dirt to the grave, and lay flowers on top afterwards. It has a sense of ending that was lacking from the modern burial of my own father and a sense of peace I doubt I'd ever feel outside in the world. Afterwards, the abbot served us a light meal, unexpected by any of us, with his own hands. The spiritual father of this small band of monks waited on us with an attentiveness more waiters should have. It just fit in with the whole day. I see why Ben's godfather is so attracted to this place. It was nice to finally visit and also to see Ken, Michelle and Jessica again, but I wish it was for a happy reason. The goddess misses her goddaughter.

We left before Vespers, as much as we wanted to stay as the Monastery does not yet have guest houses and we really didn't want to stay in Austin on the way home. As it was, we crawled in later than we like since dinner in Johnson City took longer than we planned and traffic was kind of ugly at times. All photos here were taken by Ben of whom  - and if you don't hear about him as much as his brother, its only because he's younger and not as active yet - I am also very very proud of. His last shot of the monastery grounds follows:

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29 November 2006

Danged if I know why these didn't post but let's try again...

Libertarians aren't libertines? The dark lord himself, Glenn Reynolds, the legendary Instapundit who has claimed to be libertarian rather than conservative if I remember correctly, suggests otherwise. In this post on the study that reports 90% of singles between the age of 20-29% have had sexual intercourse (reminding sadly of someone I knew who at 28 gave it up just to give it up), his closing comment following this line:

The National Center for Health Statistics says well over 90% of adults ages 20-29 have had sexual intercourse.

was "I should certainly hope so."

 While religiously a Christian has to argue that sex is reserved for marriage because the act creates a permanent spiritual bond, the one flesh of St. Paul, and also because it is an icon of the relationship of Christ God and the Church (see St. John Chrysostom), I can see a secularist might argue either was. One can say sexual restraint limits abortions or single parent children, cuts down on STDs, and hence limits social cost, or counter-wise that your sexual behavior unlike drinking, smoking and eating trans-fats isn't societies business and that the experiences somehow makes you a better person. That latter point I'd need proof as I haven't seen any in my life. People's sexual behavior seems to be an expression of the rest of their moral compass. The one group I know that favors the idea that lots of young women are willing to sleep around is young males. Having been a child of the 70s, liberal girls were cheap dates, especially the ones out to prove how liberated they were. That probably says more than I'd like about my younger self's morality: I like to think I learned a bit since then.  Anyway, I've meandered around the point of this, which was that on reading the Instapundit's comment, my initial response was what kind of worldview thinks that is something to hope for?   Especially with the damage found on the female side that the goddess copes with daily at the clinic? (Liberal Editor: you know its just because all those women haven't truly accepted feminism? It's your danged patriarchal Christian worldview that is the problem.)

UPDATE: Mr. Mitchell thinks that the above is a slur and an insult on him (see comments) and wants an apology. It was meant as a joke and apparently it failed. Mr. Mitchell, my apologies.

UPDATE 2: There was no way to make the above read well without some editing, so instead of my original strikethrough of things the post was changed to reflect the original intent without the ill-considered joke. I'm not sure how that affect blogging ethics and really don't care but I feel obligated to mention it so the comments make sense.

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Proud of that boy: My oldest swam Monday night with a fever in about 5 events (3 officially and 2 to help teammates practice). He took a couple of fourth and came within 1 second of qualifying for state in the breaststroke. We're very proud of him.

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Posting have been light as I have a ton of travel right now and the manuscript for the second edition of my DMA book is due soon. Sorry.

21 November 2006

Macro Photography and Legacy Lenses: As I am getting ready to do a second edition on my book on Dynamic Mechanical Analysis, I have been doing a lot of shots using macro lenses with my Olympus E-500. I've made some observations on using the current 35 and 50mm macro lenses as compared to the old OM-1 series lenses and the tube system. For those not familiar with the legacy system, besides the 50 mm macro lenses, the OM series used an adjustable tube that allows one to increase the magnification of the system. The current system sells an expansion ring that increases the magnification (see chisel shots -larger is 35 mm Macro, insert is with the expansion ring)) but the OM-1 system is adjustable and has more magnification available .

First of all, both systems work well and perhaps not surprisingly, the advantage of instant feed back from a digital camera was wonderful. While I don't think I shot any less than I did with film, there was no worrying about whether any of the images were usable. Being in digital format and hence easily "photoshopped" was also a great advantage. There is no question that doing these digitally was a easier job than the old film method. A pro might not have the issues, but a chemist with a camera did.

The biggest disappointment, again not unexpected as depth of field always seems to be the biggest problem I have with macro shots, was that the auto focus features of the E500 don't work well with the higher magnification macro set-ups. Auto-focus seems to work okay with the 35 mm lenses but if you use the expansion ring, or the 50mm lens, it gets very focus. Since you end up using manual focus a lot, the major advantage of buying new lenses instead of hunting for the older series on Ebay is pretty much eliminated.  Considering you can find the tube system and an old  50 mm macro lens for under 200 bucks, when the 35mm Zuiko Macro lens alone costs more than that, I have to wonder why the heck I spent all this money on new glass. Especially as the tube system let me do the 3 shots of the knife's screw at different magnifications without changing lenses, and therefore no repositioning of everything. With the chisel above, I had to change lenses. Not a big deal unless one is doing dozens of shots.

The bellows or tube system really gives you a ton more flexibility. It's a lot easier to get better shots and more precisely control the image using that than using the current crop of lenses. I'm not sure why a modern auto-focusing bellows system doesn't exist. It would be nice, however considering how much I found myself needing to manually focus, it might not be worth it.

The focusing issue was a disappointment. As I age, and my near vision degrades, I find that the auto-focus feature is more and more useful. However, the Olympus system is a bit fussy under the best of conditions and for macro work, it was pretty much useless. What would really help would be an active LCD like Olympus has added to their 330 series, where a large image could be seen of the shot. If I continue to do as much of this as I have lately, I may seriously consider getting one for macro use.

Surprising the 35mm marco really shows an advantage of single focal length lenses over zoom. It has a lower f stop and that really helps in both low light and depth of field. I've found that even a ring flash isn't as useful as lots of spot lights to allow me to use as small an aperture as possible and get as much depth of field as I can. It's turning out to be real important in shots of the instruments: the DSC head shown here illustrates the problem. While the edge is in focus, the bottom of the cup, 5 mm away, isn't.

So I guess I'm keeping my old glass after all...

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18 November 2006

Why I haven't been blogging: well, besides that whole Christmas megrims stuff- is this. A kitchen that is 50" by 50"  of quarter-sawn sycamore in a  Shaker style with a oil finish. (Only 5 more coats to go.) There is a 24" wide leaf for the center that is not shown.


The quarter-sawn wood not only exposed the axial rays of the sycamore but appears to give a direction-specific refraction, so that different colors appear in the wood if it is viewed from different angles. The colors in the second photo are not camera artifacts.

UPDATE: Finished, waxed and in the kitchen before Mom C gets here...

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14 November 2006

Basketball, Swim meets, and Sycamore: Ben has started basketball practice and if the intensity of the training is any hint, they should have a good year. Stacy is really pushing them. I know you are supposed to support kids, but basketball was always the bigger sport where I was raised and as a swimmer, I hated those people. Now I got one...<sigh> At least he like to camp and rock climb.

Noah had his first high school swim meet today and took thirds in freestyle and in 4 man medley where he swam butterfly. He came in fourth in breaststroke too. Not bad for a first meet. Liberty won which was great as it was their first home meet ever as well as the first meet of the season. Now his grades this period...it appears computer access may be decreasing if math doesn't improve.

The sycamore table is progressing nicely, to the degree I really hate having to run over to Boulder tomorrow. The bottom is finished and the top glued up. I have to final mill and sand that, then make the leaf. It won't be ready before Mom gets here, but it will be by Thanksgiving. Sycamore is a lovely wood and I think I have enough left to make a goddaughter a 6 board chest. Now to finish the computer table, the candle-stand, and the cradles. Next year looks horrible for hobbies already so I got a bunch of this to get done now. Who needs sleep anyway? And deer hunting at Christmas too.

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10 November 2006

Why the Republicans lost - a personal example: There has been a lot of discussion on this and a lot of blame assigned - I favor that libertarians run from religion like roaches from light - but I think this is the best answer: they stopped listening to their base. I've been active locally as a Republican a bit and given the RNC some money over the years, so I get all this mail from them soliciting opinions and money. I took the time back in May to answer an email from the address chairman@gop.org with my own mentioning the border, the earmarks, and the refusal to take on the media's lies about Iraq. Never got an answer or even a receipt back until the day after the election when this appeared in my inbox:

Your message

  To:      Chairman
  Subject: Why are y'all trying to lose Congress?
  Sent:    Tue, 30 May 2006 10:59:52 -0500

was deleted without being read on Wed, 8 Nov 2006 15:12:02 -0500

I know they was no real reason to listen to me particularly but there is no real evidence this was not SOP for them. And that explains a lot, doesn't it? I mean even I know how to cancel sending a non-read receipt. Kinda says something about what they think of the base, no? Well, if Webb is an indicator, I may be able to vote Democratic again someday.

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4 November 2006

Getting it wrong again: The gap between the Media understanding of the very faith which formed our society and any of the variations of that faith is again highlighted his week with Haggard's disgrace. Despite what the news media says, calling him a top evangelical or the evangelical leader, neither is really true. It's a very loose structure with no formal head. Of course, a couple of months ago when Dotson made a fool of himself, he was the leader.

Similarly, the special place of hypocrisy as some sort of special evil also has no real bias in Christianity. Most people who believe something and don't live up to it are guilty of that just as all of us are guilty of sin. Sin does mean missing the mark. Yes its' wrong but unless you are totally morally bankrupt, most folks tend to try and hide acts they are ashamed of. Oddly, Reynolds got that one right. (Okay, my prejudice about lawyers may be showing...or maybe libertarians?) He's got a great quote too. It says something I think about the lack of morals and standards in our society that one has to point out that if you have ideals, you probably aren't going to reach them all the time and that your failures say something about you or the human condition not the ideals. People sin and fail all the time. I know I seldom reach the ideals I was raised to aim for. That failure, of things to be what they should be, has been the source of stories and songs for centuries. Only in the post modern west, do we somehow see it as abnormal and the ultimate evil. Well, for those with ideals. As O'Rourke has pointed out, when you are scum without any values except your convenience, then its not an issue. Hence Ted Kennedy, Bill Clinton, and John Kerry have no problems with it. However, one doubts future generations will remember their names with Washington, Jefferson, Lee, Lincoln, Grant, Chamberlain, etc.  Chesterton was right when he wrote of the little men who learn from tall tales that men were never tall: "Do not fear, you will not be a myth, I promise you."

What is still astonishing to me is the number of people who, gleefully and without even bothering to mask their hate, are gloating over this man's problems. People I know who claim to be open, caring, and tolerant are almost dancing with glee. Yet if you ask them about it, they tell you all those people deserve it and are evil and they somehow deserve for bad things to happen to them.  That's not unexpected because when you push it, its really hatred of  all things Christian and Christ that drives it. It's not that we weren't warned.

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2 November 2006

Tomlinson and Hopko - for Russ: I misquoted St. Peter  below from this poem so here it is in full. I suspect most western Christians would claim it Pelagian in nature but then the Orthodox Church was called semi-Pelagian. It's really more dualist, as Tomlinson earns neither a place in Heaven nor in Hell.

Now Tomlinson gave up the ghost in his house in Berkeley Square,
And a Spirit came to his bedside and gripped him by the hair --
A Spirit gripped him by the hair and carried him far away,
Till he heard as the roar of a rain-fed ford the roar of the Milky Way:
Till he heard the roar of the Milky Way die down and drone and cease,
And they came to the Gate within the Wall where Peter holds the keys.
"Stand up, stand up now, Tomlinson, and answer loud and high
The good that ye did for the sake of men or ever ye came to die --
The good that ye did for the sake of men in little earth so lone!"
And the naked soul of Tomlinson grew white as a rain-washed bone.
"O I have a friend on earth," he said, "that was my priest and guide,
And well would he answer all for me if he were by my side."
-- "For that ye strove in neighbour-love it shall be written fair,
But now ye wait at Heaven's Gate and not in Berkeley Square:
Though we called your friend from his bed this night, he could not speak for you,
For the race is run by one and one and never by two and two."
Then Tomlinson looked up and down, and little gain was there,
For the naked stars grinned overhead, and he saw that his soul was bare:
The Wind that blows between the worlds, it cut him like a knife,
And Tomlinson took up his tale and spoke of his good in life.
"This I have read in a book," he said, "and that was told to me,
And this I have thought that another man thought of a Prince in Muscovy."
The good souls flocked like homing doves and bade him clear the path,
And Peter twirled the jangling keys in weariness and wrath.
"Ye have read, ye have heard, ye have thought," he said, "and the tale is yet to run:
By the worth of the body that once ye had, give answer -- what ha' ye done?"
Then Tomlinson looked back and forth, and little good it bore,
For the Darkness stayed at his shoulder-blade and Heaven's Gate before: --
"O this I have felt, and this I have guessed, and this I have heard men say,
And this they wrote that another man wrote of a carl in Norroway."
-- "Ye have read, ye have felt, ye have guessed, good lack! Ye have hampered Heaven's Gate;
There's little room between the stars in idleness to prate!
O none may reach by hired speech of neighbour, priest, and kin
Through borrowed deed to God's good meed that lies so fair within;
Get hence, get hence to the Lord of Wrong, for doom has yet to run,
And. . .the faith that ye share with Berkeley Square uphold you, Tomlinson!"

. . . . .

The Spirit gripped him by the hair, and sun by sun they fell
Till they came to the belt of Naughty Stars that rim the mouth of Hell:
The first are red with pride and wrath, the next are white with pain,
But the third are black with clinkered sin that cannot burn again:
They may hold their path, they may leave their path, with never a soul to mark,
They may burn or freeze, but they must not cease in the Scorn of the Outer Dark.
The Wind that blows between the worlds, it nipped him to the bone,
And he yearned to the flare of Hell-Gate there as the light of his own hearth-stone.
The Devil he sat behind the bars, where the desperate legions drew,
But he caught the hasting Tomlinson and would not let him through.
"Wot ye the price of good pit-coal that I must pay?" said he,
"That ye rank yoursel' so fit for Hell and ask no leave of me?
I am all o'er-sib to Adam's breed that ye should give me scorn,
For I strove with God for your First Father the day that he was born.
Sit down, sit down upon the slag, and answer loud and high
The harm that ye did to the Sons of Men or ever you came to die."
And Tomlinson looked up and up, and saw against the night
The belly of a tortured star blood-red in Hell-Mouth light;
And Tomlinson looked down and down, and saw beneath his feet
The frontlet of a tortured star milk-white in Hell-Mouth heat.
"O I had a love on earth," said he, "that kissed me to my fall,
And if ye would call my love to me I know she would answer all."
-- "All that ye did in love forbid it shall be written fair,
But now ye wait at Hell-Mouth Gate and not in Berkeley Square:
Though we whistled your love from her bed to-night, I trow she would not run,
For the sin ye do by two and two ye must pay for one by one!"
The Wind that blows between the worlds, it cut him like a knife,
And Tomlinson took up the tale and spoke of his sin in life: --
"Once I ha' laughed at the power of Love and twice at the grip of the Grave,
And thrice I ha' patted my God on the head that men might call me brave."
The Devil he blew on a brandered soul and set it aside to cool: --
"Do ye think I would waste my good pit-coal on the hide of a brain-sick fool?
I see no worth in the hobnailed mirth or the jolthead jest ye did
That I should waken my gentlemen that are sleeping three on a grid."
Then Tomlinson looked back and forth, and there was little grace,
For Hell-Gate filled the houseless Soul with the Fear of Naked Space.
"Nay, this I ha' heard," quo' Tomlinson, "and this was noised abroad,
And this I ha' got from a Belgian book on the word of a dead French lord."
-- "Ye ha' heard, ye ha' read, ye ha' got, good lack! and the tale begins afresh --
Have ye sinned one sin for the pride o' the eye or the sinful lust of the flesh?"
Then Tomlinson he gripped the bars and yammered, "Let me in --
For I mind that I borrowed my neighbour's wife to sin the deadly sin."
The Devil he grinned behind the bars, and banked the fires high:
"Did ye read of that sin in a book?" said he; and Tomlinson said, "Ay!"
The Devil he blew upon his nails, and the little devils ran,
And he said: "Go husk this whimpering thief that comes in the guise of a man:
Winnow him out 'twixt star and star, and sieve his proper worth:
There's sore decline in Adam's line if this be spawn of earth."
Empusa's crew, so naked-new they may not face the fire,
But weep that they bin too small to sin to the height of their desire,
Over the coal they chased the Soul, and racked it all abroad,
As children rifle a caddis-case or the raven's foolish hoard.
And back they came with the tattered Thing, as children after play,
And they said: "The soul that he got from God he has bartered clean away.
We have threshed a stook of print and book, and winnowed a chattering wind
And many a soul wherefrom he stole, but his we cannot find:
We have handled him, we have dandled him, we have seared him to the bone,
And sure if tooth and nail show truth he has no soul of his own."
The Devil he bowed his head on his breast and rumbled deep and low: --
"I'm all o'er-sib to Adam's breed that I should bid him go.
Yet close we lie, and deep we lie, and if I gave him place,
My gentlemen that are so proud would flout me to my face;
They'd call my house a common stews and me a careless host,
And -- I would not anger my gentlemen for the sake of a shiftless ghost."
The Devil he looked at the mangled Soul that prayed to feel the flame,
And he thought of Holy Charity, but he thought of his own good name: --
"Now ye could haste my coal to waste, and sit ye down to fry:
Did ye think of that theft for yourself?" said he; and Tomlinson said, "Ay!"
The Devil he blew an outward breath, for his heart was free from care: --
"Ye have scarce the soul of a louse," he said, "but the roots of sin are there,
And for that sin should ye come in were I the lord alone.
But sinful pride has rule inside -- and mightier than my own.
Honour and Wit, fore-damned they sit, to each his priest and whore:
Nay, scarce I dare myself go there, and you they'd torture sore.
Ye are neither spirit nor spirk," he said; "ye are neither book nor brute --
Go, get ye back to the flesh again for the sake of Man's repute.
I'm all o'er-sib to Adam's breed that I should mock your pain,
But look that ye win to worthier sin ere ye come back again.
Get hence, the hearse is at your door -- the grim black stallions wait --
They bear your clay to place to-day. Speed, lest ye come too late!
Go back to Earth with a lip unsealed -- go back with an open eye,
And carry my word to the Sons of Men or ever ye come to die:
That the sin they do by two and two they must pay for one by one --
And. . .the God that you took from a printed book be with you, Tomlinson!"

Kipling's own belief, reflected in his many works, that deed not words or thoughts make the man is reflected in this poem. We stand or fall alone in his view and we answer to God for our acts alone. I found this interesting that the day after I quoted this, I was listening to Fr. Hopko's tape on the Revelation of St. John and he points out the book of life records the acts of the Saints. Not the writings, the believe but the acts. Similarly the one description of the Dreadful Judgment we have is based on actions: feed the hungry, visit the sick, etc. There is no mention of writing books, reading and studying, discussions, or such. Not that anyone says those are bad. It's just the examples of the Judgment don't mention those gaining you the reward. I could also point out the 5th book of the New Testament is called the Acts, not the belief or discussions. It comes down to that letter from James which Luther wanted to dump from the NT and Protestants have been avoiding since. The one that says if you say you believe, how does that make you different from the demons in Hell? What instead has that faith lead you to do? From the Orthodox perspective, there is no faith versus works argument. There is a faith and works requirement. Of course, not accepting a mind-body dualism nor sola scriptura tends to make that a non-issue.

I find myself asking, as much fun as blogging can be, isn't really another case of you have read, you have wrote, but what have you done?

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30 October 2006

San Antonio Bound: I drove down yesterday for dinner with a client and some folks from my employer's HQ. The food at La Fogata was as good as I remembered. The AAPS booth was horribly slow but I still don't understand how the average female member here is so much hotter than than those in the SPE or ACS. I found this cool book on Isothermal Calorimetry as well as a good dozen on kinetics No plans for tonight but tomorrow I'll have dinner with Martin and Wednesday lunch with Greg, the last person in either one of the hoshinryus who is speaking to me.

I really should be writing more as I've seen stuff that makes me wonder about the modern iconoclastism and the dualism it brings, on what lets someone call himself a conservative, why libertarianism like liberalism appears to ends in destruction, and the loss in our culture of honor and the ideal of dying like a man, but, more and more, as the year turns, I find myself like the Saracen knight of William's Summer Stars, baffled by the "gap between the queen's essence and the queen." As I sink into winter, its almost like blogging becomes one of those activities that the Devil calls Tomlinson on "ye have read, ye have thought, ye have wrote, Good God, and the tale is yet to run, for the sake of the body ye once had, what have you done?"

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23 October 2006

Only 10 months late: I finished the top for the goddess's sideboard yesterday. Here it is: solid cherry, dovetailed joints, 6 coats boiled linseed oil, and 3 coats wax. I think we had it in the house 10 minutes before the goddess started seeing how things fit in it.  I'll finish it this winter by making glass doors for it, after I find someone with the hinges I used on the bottom. Not bad looking for an unplanned addition...

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The Politically Incorrect Crime: Well, we can't close the border, we can't demand proof of citizenship to vote, but owning a gun that has no history of being involved in a crime gets you a "high risk" entry (translation - A police sanctioned home invasion where you get shot for looking at them wrong.) So apparently those who control the police in the LA area have decided that the crime rate is low enough that the police can be used instead to harass the politically incorrect. From the 50 Caliber Institute Newsletter:

Everyone is aware of the situation in California where at least two search warrants have been served on the homes of members of the fifty caliber community. For our members in California and neighboring states we feel obligated to keep you informed about the "Gun Task Force" in operation in the Los Angeles County region. As our Email Alert from October 11th indicates the California Department of Justice Firearms Unit may be involved too. We want everyone to review the provisions of the California Assault Weapons Ban and make sure you are not in violation of any of the provisions of that law. (You can find the entire document on the FCI web site at: www.fiftycal.org) Remember, AB-50 in California placed the fifty caliber rifle, (a single shot, bolt action, center fire rifle) under the control of their Assault Weapons Law simply because the bullet "was too big"! We now have to contend with the ramifications of that draconian piece of legislation and so far two of our members have had search warrants served on them.

We are not at liberty to provide intricate details regarding either of the search warrants, but you need to be aware of how something like this will affect you if it happens to you. First of all we are concerned because the officers are using "High Risk" tactics to make their entry. We assume this is because the search warrants are related to the possession of firearms and under California law the officers are allowed to use these techniques for their own safety. We do not encourage any kind of resistance to police officers engaged in the duties of their job. For those of you who have never been through something like this it will come as a shock and a big surprise. If it happens to you, "just do everything the nice police officer tells you to do when he tells you to do it". The officers will make entry hard and fast with a trained "entry team" who will have guns drawn giving you commands as they move. Just do what they tell you. When they are sure everything is OK they will explain what is going on to you.

Another thing about the search warrants in LA County that bothers us is the interpretation being placed on certain provisions of the Assault Weapons Ban (AWB) that are leading to the arrest of gun owners and the confiscation of their entire firearms collections. In one case the gun owner was charged because he had an M-1A semi-automatic rifle with a flash hider on it. This led to his arrest and confiscation of his entire collection even though the rifle was legally registered as an assault weapon in CA. In another case a firearms owner was charged because he had belts of linked ammunition that, according to BATFE agents, violated the provisions of the "high capacity magazine" clause of the AWB. Again this gun owner is a member of the fifty caliber community who legally owns several firearms that he registered in accordance with the provisions of AB-50 and the AWB. Another violation that is being enforced without thought to the consequences, is possession of projectiles that are not allowed in CA. Most people are under the impression you can have the projectile as long as they are not loaded as a cartridge. This is not so. Mere possession of the projectile is a felony in California. Please go through your inventories and if you have in your possession a projectile that is a tracer, incendiary, raufoss or any kind of pyrotechnic projectile, destroy it. This is regardless of caliber including pistol and shotgun "pyrotechnic ammunition".

Asking a local LEO what high risk entry meant was quite scary. Basically your door is being kicked in, armed people are going to rush thru it, and if you make any move to protect your family, you're dead. Lovely. I am so glad I don't live in California. I'm not sure what us none residents can do except try to prevent the same from starting here (Although with Arlington arresting businessmen in their hotel bar for having high blood alcohol levels, I think Texas is farther down this road than we want to admit.) I'm sure going try and influence my employer to do as little business there as we can.

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18 October 2006

Almost sharp enough: I fixed the chisel tonight one of the kids dropped last month. It's amazing what some work with your hands can do to your mode. I need to touch it up a bit but its getting close to right. The curl is cut cross grain and while its clean, it doesn't look polished. The edges are but the center needs some work. I used the ceramic stones and a buffing wheel so I need to use water-stones and go up a few grades. This is probably close to 8000 grit now.

And yes, I did get a new toy for the E500. The insert is done with the Macro Extension Tube on the 35mm Marco lens. The larger image with the 35 mm Marco alone.

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16 October 2006

Not going: My business trip this week to Hawaii was canceled due to earthquakes. So I actually get some time to catch up on my backlog and maybe even blog a bit.  I hope Wayne and Charles are okay?

UPDATE: Yes, they are and they both said that the damage and discomfort were greatly exaggerated by the media. I guess I should have gone.

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So what do you do with duck stock: Well, how about two quick soups? I forgot to take pictures but the first is really quite pretty with the bright red and green against the white noodles.

1 pound Udon noodles

1 pound snow peas

1 sliced red pepper

1 sliced onion

1 pound shrimp (large)

2 quarts duck stock

Add sliced onion to stock. Reheat duck stock to boiling and reduce to a simmer. In a separate pot, cook udon noodles until al dente and drain in a colander. Add snow peas, pepper, and shrimp to simmering stock for about 3 minutes. Rinse udon with very hot water. Transfer noodles to bowls. Add veggies and shrimp to noodles and then cover with hot stock. Serve. If noodles are pre-ccoked, this takes about 5 minutes to prepare.

1 pound halushki or gnocchi*

1/2 pound green beans

3 thinly sliced carrots

1 sliced yellow pepper

1 sliced onion

1 sliced shallot

1/2 pound shredded cooked duck meat

2 quarts duck stock

Cook dumplings as below. Add sliced carrot, onion and shallot to stock. Reheat duck stock to boiling and reduce to a simmer. Add the remaining vegetables and the meat. Simmer 3 minutes. Add dumplings. Simm34 2 minutes. Serve.

*To make halushki or potato dumplings,

2 cups flour

1 tsp. salt

3 eggs

½ cup water

1 large grated potato

 Combine, flour eggs and salt. Add enough water to make a soft dough. Blend well and drop into salted boiling water. Done when they rise to the surface. Drain and rinse with hot water.  If you don't have time, you can buy gnocchi at the store and just cook those as above. I don't cook either my noodles nor my dumplings in the stock as it makes the soup too starchy but some folks like to do it that way.

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10 October 2006

Aleutian Oil Donations: Glenn Reynolds linked to story about group of Aleutian communities that was offered badly needed oil by Chavez and basically told him to go to hell. (see also here) Their position can be summarized as you owe your president at least respect and loyalty and while we can say stuff about him, Chavez doesn't have that right in our country. I tend to agree with that - as much as I disliked Pres. Clinton, I didn't like non-Americans insulting him. You got to really respect a community that does the right thing when it costs them as they could use the help. Sadly that kind of honor is rare these days: most people suck up Citgo's oil donations like chocolate. So anyway, if you like to show your support of people who did the right thing for the right reason, you can help here:

Aleutian & Pribilof Communities refuse CITGO Fuel Oil Donation.

Donations to help the villages affected can be made at a
Key Bank account titled:
“ Unangan Energy Assistance Fund” C/O Key Bank # 729681009001
Donations can be made at any Key Bank Branch Nationwide or Can be mailed to:

Unangan Energy Assistance Fund
c/o Aleutian Pribilof Islands Association
201 East Third Avenue
Anchorage, Alaska 99501


Unangan Energy Assistance Fund
c/o Key Bank
P.O. Box 110420
Anchorage, AK 99510

Donations are tax deductible as a contribution to a 501 c 3 Not For Profit TIN # 92-0073013

If you go to their page, click on the more information link as it gives their press release on why they would turn this down. As many of these communities are Orthodox, those of you who read this and share the faith might want to spread the word for we have a double obligation there to help our own. BTW they also sell books and caps under products <is hint>

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Goddess-less Day 5: Roast Duck  Well, I got the kids off to school despite the thunderstorms. We filled the leftover crepes with fresh fruit and reheated them for breakfast.  I started organizing the shop to try and finish Connie's hutch this week as I am off for the rest of it. For dinner, we tried this duck recipe from Cook's Illustrated that involves a double cooking.

4-6 lb duck

1 1/4 red port

2 cloves minced garlic

1 tbsp dried thyme

Salt and pepper to taste.

Thaw the duck (if you are lucky enough to get fresh, cleaned and plucked duck, don't tell me. I'll just hate you) and remove the neck, giblets, and trim the excess fat for either end of the body cavity. Position the duck in a pot so it sits above the water level and steam covered for 45-50 minutes. Add more boiling water as 1/2 cups increments every 10 minutes Remove duck and let cool. Save the remaining liquid from the steaming in a refrigerator.

While this is going on, add the port, garlic and herbs to a saucepan and reduce to 1/4 cup volume, giving you a thick red glaze. I simmer it in a sauce pan until it starts to foam. That is just about 1/4 cup remaining for me. The glaze is visibly thicker. BTW I also will add a dash of dark soy sauce. It seems to sharpen the taste.

Cut off the legs and the wings from the duck and remove the breasts from the ribs. Cut off the tips of the wings. Since its mostly cooked, it comes apart quite easily. My biggest problem were this pair of scavengers I live with. Save the rest of the carcass for below. Roast the legs, wings, and breasts skin side down in an oiled roasting pan at 425 F for 20 . Then flip the breast and roast everything another 10 minutes. Remove the breasts and keep covered. Turn skin side up and cook the legs and wings another 20.

Glaze everything with the glaze. Turn the oven up to  and return the glazed duck to the oven for 3 minutes to reheat. We served it with steamed vegetables and rice. It was moist, crispy, and very fatty.

1 steamed duck carcass plus neck, giblets, and fat from trimming

Liquid from steaming duck, defatted

4 carrots*

1 parsnip

1 onion

2 shallots

1 bunch green onions

1 bunch parsley

1 sweet potato

2 regular potatoes

2 stalks celery

water to cover

4 Tbsp cider vinegar

Add everything to a large stock pot and then add enough water to cover. Heat to boiling and reduce to a simmer. Simmer for 6-10 hours. (Or you can do the whole thing in a pressure cooker for 30 minutes at 15 psi.) Drain off liquid through a colander. Discard remainder (you can remove and keep any meat from the carcass if you want) and cool the stock overnight. Remove any fat and use for soup.  I plan to add some halushki (potato dumplings) tomorrow if I get around to it.** Otherwise, we could make wontons for it.

*yeah, I cleaned the frig again.

** the goddess arrives at DFW at noon so I may not.


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9 October 2006

Goddess-less Day 4: Confit of Pork  We started the confit of pork on Friday and actually were surprised to find it was actually worth the work. We had worries during the middle. This comes from the book, Charcuterie, I mentioned before. Despite all the fun we are having cooking, I am really starting to miss things like her scent, her voice in the back ground, the sound of her moving around upstairs. I've gone looking for her twice today...<sniff>  Ah well, I can always take it out on my students.

4 lb pork lion

2 Tbsp kosher salt

3 bay leaves

4 cloves of garlic

1/2 a bunch of parsley (about 2 cups)

3 Tbsp black peppercorns

1 bunch of sage (about a cup)

1 whole shallot

1/2 tsp pink salt (Cure #1)

1 pound lard

1.5 pounds rendered duck fat

Grind everything together in a food processor (I powdered the dry spices in a spice mill first) until a smooth green paste remains. Rub the pork loin so it is covered with the paste and stick in the back of the frig for the next 2 days. After 48 -72 hours, remove and wash clean of the paste. Dry with paper towels.


Heat 1 pound of lard and 1.5 pounds of duck fat until liquid in a large Dutch oven. Add the pork lion (we had to cut off an end) and heat until the fat is simmering. Make sure fat covers pork by at least a 1/2 inch. (You can add more fat if need). Transfer the Dutch oven to oven set 200 F and let cook for 3 hours so pork is fork-tender and about 165 F or higher. Let the meat cool in the fat and then store at least 24 hours. You can store the confit for 3 weeks in the frig and up to six months in a freezer. If you plan on doing that, you should make sure the meat is covered by at least 1" of fat. You can also can it in the fat, which is how chicken fried steaks were originally handled according to some of the old books.


To serve, let the meat warm to room temperature. You can then remove the fat with a spoon - carefully as the meat was so soft a soup could cut it - and wash it in warm water to remove the fat. Spoon the fat into a pot so you can melt it and filter it to be re-used. Underneath the fat you will find a layer of confit jelly: save that separately to make sauces from. It's like very strong stock. The meat can be served cold as cold cuts (amazingly good) or reheated in a oven at 425 F until hot and served warm. Wonderful stuff that way, which was what we had for dinner with green salad and potatoes fried in some of the confit fat.

We also steamed the duck to roast tomorrow...

Now, off to scouts with the boys, finish up email and calls for work, and then for 4 days in the shop, seeing if I can remember how to turn.

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8 October 2006

Goddess-less Day 3: Gyros I'm cooking so much I can't really blog. It's a shame too because there have been a ton of cool things posted out there. I even missed the Blogging for Boobies fundraiser for the first time. Ah, well, I sent the money to Koman Foundation anyway. <sigh> I've been really bad about Mandolin practice these last two days too. And we got a housewarming to go to tonight. Today's cooking projects are Chicken Gyros a la Gerry and more work on the confit of pork. The pork today get simmered in fat for three hours and then we cool it until tomorrow night when we'll roast it for the final step before serving it. It's amazing how naughty poaching something in duck fat feels... Come back tomorrow for the rest of the story.

Today's its Chicken Gyros, and the first thing we realize was you always cut Gerry's recipes by 2/3...

8 lbs Boneless, Skinless Thighs 
6 Tbsp Oregano
4 Tbsp Onion Powder
3.5 Tbsp Garlic Powder
2 Tbsp Salt
1.5 Tbsp Pepper
1.5 Tbsp Phosphate Binder*
1 Tbsp Sugar
1 Tbsp Thyme
2  tsp pink salt (Cure #1)
1 tsp Cayenne
1 cup water with ice

Dump the dry spices to coffee grinder and reduce to a powder. Mix with the meat and let sit in the refrigerator overnight. Next day, we set up to grind meat. For us, that means putting the Kitchen Aid FSA attachment together. Put a bowl in a large bowl that is half filled with ice and add enough water to make a slurry. Grind meat fine and then mix in the 1 cup of ice water (total volume is 1 cup. Ice is crushed and its about 1:1.) Knead the mess to make a homogenous mass. Refrigerate the mess for 4 hours minimum to cure. At this point, you can stuff castings and treat as a sausage. We made a loaf  (well, 2) by lining a bread loaf pan with parchment paper and filling it with meat. We then cooked them in the oven at 225 for about 2.5 hours.  We drained the grease off the top and let them cool in the loaf pans until room temperature. The chicken loaf can now be sliced and fried or grilled as gyro meat. A bit salty but otherwise just like the real thing. texture is perfect.

Meanwhile as I blog this, the boys are eating frosting and cherry filling out of the can since Mother never lets them...<sigh> I'm going for a walk and then an hour of forms. I've already gained 4 pounds...

UPDATE: Sliced thin and grilled - they're awesome.

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7 October 2006

Congratulations Laxmi & Radhakanta

One of the students I work with, Laxmi, got married in a traditional Hindu ceremony yesterday at the DFW Hindu Center. I don't think she's ever looked prettier and that's saying a bit. The picture doesn't do her justice.  Dr. and Mrs. Reidy as well as the boys and I were guests from her department and the only non-Indians. It's a very interesting and elaborate ceremony and just about as long as an Orthodox Wedding. Ben was really impressed but he express dissatisfaction that, with Noah's Homecoming Dance and the goddess in Atlanta, we couldn't make the reception. Heck, we couldn't even stay for lunch with all the commitments of the day. It's a shame too because I can think of few other people I will so well. May God bless and prosper them.

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Goddess-less Day 2: Quail The day was going to be a bear (he-he) so we decided on a quick dinner. I brined some boneless quail and thawed some bratwursts. With a green salad and milk, these made a fast dinner as both cook very quickly on the grill. In the morning, I set up the brine:

1 quart water*

1/4 cup kosher salt or 1/8 cup regular salt

2 Tbsp sugar

1 Tbsp dried tarragon

1 Tbsp dried parsley

1 clove garlic, minced

2 bay leaves

1 chopped shallot

1 Tbsp ground black pepper

2 tsp lemon juice concentrate

6-8 quail, cleaned, ribs and backbone removed.

Put the 6-8 quail into a plastic container and cover with the brine. Let sit for 8 hours. The we heated the grill for 15 minutes (to about 500) while we rinsed the quail, rubbed both sides with oil and gave a light sprinkling of lemon-pepper. Cook for about 3 minutes each side, giving an internal temperature of 165 F. The bratwurst were cooked on the same grill for about 5 minutes a side. Served hot with a green salad on the side.

* If the brine is used overnight, double the water and keep the rest the same. One thing I learned from that book on Charcuterie was that brine concentration has to decrease with sitting time. That explains some salty roasts I'd had.

While this was going on, Ben made up what I call "garbage stock". He took the thigh bones and skins from the chicken we cut up to use on Sunday to make gyros and added it to a large pot. We then cleaned the frig...

5 lbs chicken bones and skin

1 bunch parsley, chopped

2 shallots, chopped

1 yellow onion, chopped

1 qt leftover salad*

4 cloves garlic, chopped

1 cup leftover green beans*

1/2 mixed vegetables*

1/2 raw sweet potato*

2 Tbsp red wine vinegar

Water to cover

Throw everything into a large stockpot and cover with water. Bring to a full boil and skim any scum that rises to the top. Reduce to a simmer and let simmer at least 2 hours but as long as possible. We simmered this batch for about 16 hours and the bones were falling apart. Add water as need to keep everthing cover. While hot, dump thru a colander into another pot and cool overnight. Skim off fat and use as need. This came out as a nice thick gel under 1" of chicken fat,  which Ben called chicken jello. So we'll freeze and use it when it gets cold to make soup with potato dumplings.

*This stuff varies depending on what is in the frig and needs to be used up. My grandmere used this approach and called it cleaning the kitchen soup. That probably sounded pretty good in French.

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 Growing Up: Noah is growing up faster and faster. He went to Homecoming last night, stayed around in case he called to come home early (he didn't) and when I picked him up at midnight, he was walking out with two giggling young ladies. He apparently had a great time, lots of his friends went stag, and everyone had fun. Very different from when I was a teen... I took my Dad's behavior as a role model and found a place to park and read, having already told him I'd come looking at 12:05. He was there at 12:03 and we got to skip the whole embarrassing part of your father dragging you away. Doesn't he look nice?

Ben spend the night hanging with me so we window-shopped at Gameworks, Borders, and Maggie Moo's... Well, I guess no one really window-shops at Maggie's. I'm still not convinced its as good as Amy's but Ben loves it dearly. It's interesting hanging with him as he is so sweet natured and wears his heart on his sleeve.  He stayed home when I went to pick up Noah to keep an eye on the soup. (see above).

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Congratulations to John and Gina: Gina gave birth to their second daughter, Julia, yesterday.  May God grant her (and the rest of the O'Brien family) many years!

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6 October 2006

Goddess-less Day 1: Chicken Cordon Bleu The goddess left today for the AAP meeting in Atlanta and told us to have fun. It should be. We got a Weboree Camping trip, a graduate students wedding, Wuzhong's house warming, and a homecoming dance this weekend. So the first thing I did after dropping her at the airport - we got lots of stares as these two older folks clung to each other like kids saying goodbye. TSA was smiling at our kissing over the ropes -was to hit the grocery store and buy 5 pounds of lard, 2 chicken breasts, 10 pounds of chicken thighs, and a pork loin, then off to Central Market to pick up a duckling, 4 pounds of duck fat, quail, and some twice stuffed potatoes. My cholesterol may be obscene but I got five days to try all the recipes she thinks are too. Doesn't this (right) make just make you want to report me to the Heart Association?

Our plans are to make a confited pork loin, chicken gyros, tea-smoked duck, grilled quail and sausage, and chicken cordon bleu. I'll blog them as one piece recipes even thro we started the confit and the gyros tonight. Otherwise, I don't think the recipe will make sense. As the boys worked on deboning and skinning 10 pounds of chicken thighs for the gryo, I made up the rub for the pork, rubbed it, stuck it in the back of the frig for the next two days, and then  made chicken cordon bleu to go with the twice baked potatoes I got.

2 skinless, boneless chicken breasts
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon ground black pepper
2 slices Swiss cheese
2 slices cooked ham

2 tbsp butter

1 cup of milk with one egg beaten into it.
1 cup Italian-style seasoned bread crumbs

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C). Coat a 7x11 inch non-stick baking pan with a light coat of olive oil.  Pound the chicken breasts to 1/4 inch thickness. (I didn't have one of them funny kitchen mallets so I cover the anvil with aluminum foil and used a 3 pound forging hammer. Worked great.) Season each piece of chicken on both sides with salt and pepper. Place 1 cheese slice, 1 ham slice, and one tbsp butter on top of each breast near the center. Fold up each breast so the ham etc is in the center and secure with a toothpick. Roll in the milk-egg mixture and then roll in the bread crumbs. Place in baking dish, and bake for 30 to 35 minutes, or until chicken is about 150 F. Remove from oven, remove toothpicks, and serve immediately.

We figured she would kill us if we didn't have a vegatable, so we made green beans with almonds by sautéing them in olive oil.

1 pound fresh string beans

1 tbsp garlic, minced

2 tbsp olive oil

1/4 cup sliced almonds

We heated the oil until it shimmered, added 1 tbsp minced garlic, and cooked until fragrant. Then we tossed in the green beans and cooked them, tossing frequently until they darkened. We added sliced of toasted almond and served on the side.

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1 October 2006

Now its Ben's turn - to learn to cook. We started today with cleaning the steak we purchased for jerky and then soaked the 1/8 inch thick slices in the following:

2 pounds beef, sliced very thing

1/8 tsp Pink salt

1/4 cup Brown sugar

1/4 tsp red pepper flakes

1/4 tsp black pepper

1/4 tsp allspice

1/4 cup salt

2 cups water

We then stuck them in the frig overnight before drying in the dehydrator. We noticed that cactus pears are ripe, but since we like having teeth skipped that experience this year.  I'll update with a picture and comments on the jerky in the morning. Here's a shot of how much jerky you get from 2 pounds of steak. Ben and Noah will probably have eaten this by dinner... Turned out okay but I really like the thai style jerky better.

After that we started on dinner, which was spicy pork and tofu. This is a great fast meal if you skip pressing the tofu. When I first learned this, I was a teenager working for Ping and Jim at Wah Ping's in Bridgeport. She used a soft tofu that tended to break up and make the dish more fluid. We prefer the way before but without the pressing, it takes about 15 minutes from the start of preparation to the serving on this. I liked on this in graduate school...

2 -14 oz containers of extra firm tofu, pressed

2 pounds ground pork

4 Tbsp olive oil

4 cloves garlic, minced (I used the jar)

2 Tbsp black bean paste

2 Tbsp soy sauce

2 Tbsp Hoisin sauce

2 Tbsp hot pepper sauce*

1/4 cup dry sherry

1 bunch green onions, sliced thin.

white rice, cooked.

First, we firmed up the tofu by pressing it. You take a 14 oz piece of tofu, put it on a plate, set another plate on top, and add a cup with 2-3 cups of water on top of that. Let sit for 4 hours or so. The tofu comes out firmer and drier.

Heat the oil until it shimmers and then add the garlic. Cook until fragrant and add the ground pork. Cook, turning frequently to break up as small as possible, until all the pork is browned. Add the tofu and stir together until all of it is hot. That's about 3-5 minutes. Add the remaining ingredients and sir well to mix everything together. Continue cooking until flavors blend, adjusting moisture as need. Serve over cooked white rice.

* Take 1-3 pound of  tien tsin peppers and smoke them for 5-8 hours in a smoker so they are dried and darkened out side. Dry overnight in a dehydrator and then  grind the dried peppers with enough olive oil to form a thick paste. Store and use as needed.

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