Wednesday, August 31, 2005

For those just tuning in, Christie's folks are safe, but we don't know anything yet about their house (they live in Slidell, LA, one of the areas hit hardest by Katrina). NASA released some satellite imagery of the flooding, but I was having trouble connecting it to actual locations on the ground. Which is why I created the animated GIF above. For those of you looking for hurricane info, I hope this helps.

Click on the image to see it full-sized.
This seems to be a good aggregation of all the information that's out there right now: Slidell Hurricane Damage Blog

Slidell's in an interesting position, in that it's a suburb of New Orleans, so it doesn't get nearly the coverage that the main city gets, but it was hit a lot harder by the hurricane. Added to this is the fact that they have no power, no phones, no cell phones, or anything, so they're something on a black hole, information wise.

Monday, August 29, 2005

Hurricane blogging. A shockingly human view of something we normally only see through helmet-haired automatons and lunatics in slickers.

Sunday, August 28, 2005

Just home from the 114th Annual Jameson Family Picnic in Jameson, Missouri. A good time was had by all, but we are, indeed, dog tired. Pictures are here. For the moment, though, all our thoughts are on New Orleans.

Friday, August 26, 2005

This reminds me of Christie and I's experience of watching Batman Begins as an escape from house-hunting/renovation blues. In the scene where the Batmobile is crashing across the rooftops of Gotham, both she and I were cringing over the ruthless destruction of a beautiful tile roof.
First of all, if you're reading this, you've clearly found the new space. No particular reason for the move, except that Yahoo closed the old domain down for reasons not entirely clear, and neithe my brother or myself were particularly excited about laying out cash money to resuscitate it. Well, he definitely isn't, and I'm still trying to decide. Anybody out there think it's totally worth it for me to have my own domain?

Nextly there are the two things which have been cracking me up lately:

1. Christie was out for a walk the other night, and almost got run over by a deer. She was on the sidewalk, the deer was in the road, and when a car came by and spooked it, it galumphed past her, close enough to feel the heat of it's body. I did not mention karma.

2. In the Middle Ages, the upper classes were "peers" and the lower classes "peons". I know neither name has anything to do with pee, but it still makes me smile.
What the hell!?

Thursday, August 25, 2005

I read something the other day reminding me that it can be, from time to time, a hassle to catch a cab. Now, I'm not a big city boy by any stretch of the imagination, but I had experiences on my last two trips to the Big City (different cities, BTW) that might be helpful.

1. It's five o'clock, I'm in midtown Manhattan, and I need to catch a cab to the airport. They're legally obligated to take every fare, as I understand it, but they're apparently not legally obligated to see you if you're obviously carrying luggage, and it's a time of day when all the money's to be made in midtown. Luckily, I was only in town for a couple of days, and my bag was small enough to be invisible when I swung it behind my back. I'm not saying the cabbies were trying to avoid an airport trip, but I got picked up almost immediately after I hid my luggage.

2. It's ten a.m., I'm just finishing up a business brunch in downtown Boston, and I've got just over an hour to get to the airport to get outta town. This is the first time I've ever travelled on my own to a big city, and I haven't got the first clue how to hail a cab in this town, and even if I did, I'm not seeing any. Not only that, but it's January, and the windchill makes standing still outside a frostbite risk. And I have to pee. (Aside: the scarcity of public restrooms is one of the reasons I hate big cities.) Luckily, I spot the familiar Hilton logo just down the block. I pop in the side door and head toward the elevators, then sidetrack to the restroom. When my business there is completed, I pop out the front door, where the doorman waves his magic wand and summons me a cab out of the previously empty air. Twenty terrified minutes later, I'm at Logan Airport, waiting for my flight.
Worth a read, if you're into puzzles: The Morning News - The Pre-Game Show, by Matthew Baldwin.

Tuesday, August 23, 2005

Her: Feeling a little more comfortable?

Me: Much.

Her: I can't believe you had your underwear on backwards all morning!

Me: I was really tired this morning!

Her: You should totally blog this.

Me: I might. Except I think I'll say it was you.

Her: Don't you dare!

Monday, August 22, 2005

I really, really, don't get this. In Smith County, Kansas, the sheriff resigned, and the state Republican party had the job of picking his replacement? Why is the sheriff a partisan office? Dunno. Guess it's just one more thing the matter with Kansas. But that's not what's weird.

What's weird is that they appointed a guy who used to be sheriff, but go fired for official misconduct and illegal wiretapping. Apparently, he bugged the police chief. Now, the prosecutor (another Republican) is refusing to work with him because he doesn't think he'll be able to successfully prosecute based on evidence from such an in-credible source.

The Republican party is refusing to back down or name someone else. This is what really blows my mind about today's Republican Party. Even when it's relatively easy to do the right thing, they screw things up and then refuse to back down.

The only explanation I can think of is that incompetence gets passed around like mono, and they were all drinking from the same can of soda back at the convention.

Friday, August 19, 2005

So, the roast chicken post:

The night I was supposed to make it, Christie had an inexplicable craving for beef, so we did kabobs instead. Nothing too special there.

Then we had to pop in to KC to hang with friends and family. Once home, it was another couple of days before we really had time to cook, but there were issues again. I found the roasting pan with no problems, but not the V-rack, which is pretty essential if you don't want a soggy bird. I decided to make a virtue of necessity, and roast it outside, on the grill, which was a housewarming gift from Christie's folks.

Now, when it comes down to gas vs. charcoal, I come down firmly in the charcoal camp. Hardwood chunks, actually. Not only is there romance in cooking with real fire, but you get great smoky flavors ifyou use wood. And then there's the chemistry of combustion. Burning propane produces a lot of water vapor, which changes the way you work the grill. On the other hand, charcoal is a pain to start, and a pain to clean up. I had my old charcoal grill for something like six years, and I've had the gas grill something like six weeks, and I've used the gas grill more in that period of time than I used the charcoal one in the whole time I owned it. It's like they say: the perfect is the enemy of the good.

So, how did I roast the chicken? Start with your basic roasting chicken. There's a woman at the local farmers market that sells organically grown, pre-brined roasting chickens that are absolutely divine, but this time around, I was just using your basic supermarket chicken. Be sure to remove the giblet and the neck from inside the cavity, then salt and pepper the inside. Chunk up one lemon, a small onion, and a few cloves of garlic, and use them to stuff the chicken. Tie the drumsticks together, and run and length of kitchen twine around the breast of the bird to hold the wings in close to the body.

Meanwhile, turn the grill on high, and keep the lid closed. You want the internal temperature of the grill to be around 400 degrees, if not a little higher. (Most gas grills have a thermometer in the lid.) This'll give you a nice initial browning on the bird. Now, back inside.

Take the probe of your handy digital oven thermometer and stick it into the thickest part of the breast or thigh (I used the breat, because I was cooking it breast up, and because was having trouble hitting the thickest part of the thigh). What, no digital over thermometer? Well, think about getting one if you cook meat, because they get rid of all the guesswork about just how done it is. They even make wireless ones so you can set it up outside, then go play video games on the far side of the house. Set the alarm to go off at 170 degrees.

Back at the grill, turn off the fire under one side of the grill. You're going to be cooking this bird with indirect heat. Rub some olive oil over the skin of the chicken, and put it on the side of the grate where you just turned the heat off. Keep an eye on the temperature for a bit, until it stabilizes, then adjust the fire until you get it to stay right around 350 degrees. Now, go do something else until the alarm goes off. It'll probably take about an hour, but that really depends on the size of your bird. (Which is why a temperature alarm is so much better than a timer!)

In other culinary news, I made a lemon meringue pie last night, but screwed up the custard, so it was more like lemon meringue soup. Damn. Oh well, what's life without challenges? And since the pie was for a party, Christie bailed me out by making a second pie this afternoon, after I made the crust over lunch. Her custard seems to have set up just fine, proving (to me, at least) that I am not the culinary genius of the household. She's got mad skillz, that girl.

Thursday, August 18, 2005

Via Profgrrrrl, here's an opportunity to do some good. Imagine being a broke grad student, struggling to get by. Now imagine that your husband is dying. Then imagine the medical bills.

Here's more background. Now go help.

Wednesday, August 17, 2005

I know I don't deserve your help, bad blogger that I am, but I'm going to Boston for business in a month or so, and I'm looking for advice on where to have a nice dinner. I'll be staying between Copley Square and Boston Common, and will be in town for a whopping 24 hours. Any suggestions?

Monday, August 15, 2005

In the textbook business, this is the rush season. Everybody and their baby sister is starting school about now, and they all need schools. Which means, for me, a good time to get working on the stuff that's normally at the bottom of my to-do list. Why? Because my rush time has been the past couple of weeks, getting ready for right about now. It's a bit like being in the artillery. There's lots of prep and number crunching, then an enormous, earth-shattering KABOOM, and then a long wait before you hear the next explosion. And then an even longer wait till you see if you hit the target or not.

In other news, the surprise winner in the "who will be the first junk mailer to find Mike and Christie's new address?" contest is ... Bass Pro Shops, with their 2005 Fall Hunting Classic. Page after page of shotguns, deer rifles, scopes, and blinds, with the only electronic toys in the whole catalog having been covered in camo.

As a dataminer, I am deeply insulted.

Oh, and Missy, if you read this, drop me another email. I read it, marked it so I'd remember to reply, and then deleted it. Or archived it, marked it as spam, buried it in soft peat and recycled it as a firelighter, or some damn thing. All I know is that it's gone before I got a chance to write back.

Thursday, August 11, 2005

I spent all last week prepping for bad news. After all, a friend's dad was going under the knife, and his heart was going to be put on a table to be worked on. This is not normal, and the list of things that could go wrong is lengthy.

Everything went fine, and I stopped holding my breath.

Today I got a phone call telling me that another friend's dad had died Tuesday of a heart attack.

Sometimes life zigs when you're expecting a zag.

Monday, August 08, 2005

I'm at work. Pulling data, running queries, crunching numbers, and trying my best to answer questions. How's this program going? What can we expect next week? Will we be ready for that program to launch? A half dozen balls in the air, of all different shapes and sizes.

But really, I'm just waiting for a phone call from Kansas City, and hoping that prayer works.

For those of you craving context, my best friend's dad, a force to be reckoned with in the last 20 years of my life, is having open heart surgery. Send good thoughts his ways, and prayers, if you've got 'em.

Update: All is good. Surgery went well (quadruple bypass!), and no damage to the heart muscle.

Friday, August 05, 2005

How to roast a perfect turkey or chicken - I don't necessarily agree with everything he says, but his temperature guidelines seem pretty much right, and so I'm bookmarking this as a reference for myself. I'm roasting a chicken tonight, and if it goes well, I'll document the process for posteriority.

Monday, August 01, 2005

This is appalling. Three Republican Senators are trying to pass legislation that would require all interrogations of enemy prisoners to comply with the Army Field Manual. In other words, no torture. How does the White House react? The President, who of course claims that there is no torture taking place, Threatens a veto.
Good jokes.