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Here I am. Don't know if I'm going to post here more often than LJ or FB... although I'm disturbed by LJ management these days, my posting problems are mostly time-related. This place seems kind of cool, though. Hope more make the jump.
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Movember is officially over. Thank you everyone who donated.

(you can still donate for a few days more: )

Final shot yesterday:

And today after my wife and daughter made me end the project:
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Day 15, halfway through the month. Starting to lay down a bit. Christey is counting down until Dec 1st.
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Wow, been almost a year since I've posted here. Life has been a little busy, and I've been taking the shortcut of < 250 words a post on Facebook (not that I post there a lot either).

So, I'm doing this Movember thing for cancer research. Men shave completely, then grow and groom a moustache through the month of November in the hopes of "raising awareness" and raising money for men's cancers. Movember started in Australia, where moustaches are a lot more common. In the States, moustaches alone are rarer than goatees or beards, but I have noticed this year that Movember is starting to get some mainstream press.

If you care to donate, my donation page is at:

I'm not big on the "raising awareness" thing. I don't think there are many people in my circle of acquaintances who would be surprised to learn that prostate cancer exists....or any other cancer for that matter. I'm in this more so that money is raised for cancer research, and I'm willing to make my upper lip look silly if it'll raise a few bucks. It doesn't have to be $100, or even $20. Even a $5 donation is money toward cancer research -- for want of a nail....

I also want to point out that I have no huge hangup about men's vs women's cancers. Any win against a particular cancer is a win against all cancers. I personally feel it is vital to research all types of cancers so that some fundamental link or understanding may be discovered. The end goal is to help make any cancer as common as smallpox. Maybe we'll cure prostate cancer first, maybe breast cancer, maybe thyroid cancer -- it's all a step forward to keeping all humans cancer-free.

The kids and me, before the shave:


Ready for the close-up:

I'll try to make regular posts, so everyone can see exactly how slowly my facial hair actually grows.
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I'm a cook and a father. So, the movie Ratatouille means a lot to me on quite a few levels. The kids like it, but it's also a really good movie about cooking (and, through cooking, life in general). Many animated movies have said: "An animated kids movie adults will love", but Ratatouille is almost the reverse: "An animated adult movie kids will love."

Thomas Keller, widely regarded as the best American chef of French cuisine in America, was the creative consultant for the movie, and his influence is tangible for those who understand restaurants. One of the big pet peeves I have is the casual use of the term "chef" (and I have been called a chef many, many more times than I deserve it by people who should know better). A chef is a leader of a brigade in a kitchen. In a sense, the word chef might as well be "Captain". A cook, like Auguste Gusteau in the movie (a not-so-subtle reference to Auguste Escoffier) can be anyone. Anyone can be a great cook but a chef is a term reserved for leadership. Me -- I'm a cook. A good one, I'd like to think.

Ratatouille illustrates this. Linguini calls Remy, who controls his cooking movements, his "Little Chef" -- Remy physically controls Linguini to create amazing food, and Linguini accepts Remy's leadership. But, when Remy's dad later asks Remy why he cares if a human restaurant fails or not, Remy's answer is: "Because I'm a cook!" The restaurant isn't going to live or die by leadership, but by the talent and genius of Remy's food. Yes, in one sense he's a chef (and a true one by the end of the movie), but above all else, Remy is a cook.

My favorite review of Ratatouille is Roger Ebert's, who starts off by saying: "A lot of animated movies have inspired sequels [ ...] but Brad Bird's "Ratatouille" is the first one that made me positively desire one.", and later perfectly captured Remy's French spirit (even though voiced by an American) by noting: "Does any other nationality have more ways of moving a finger and an eyebrow less than an inch while signaling something as complex as, "I would do anything for you, monsieur, but as you see, I have only two hands, and these times we live in do not permit me the luxury of fulfilling such requests." When Linguini tells Remy: "So I'm not crazy!!!" Remy's shrug encompasses the French knack of speaking a paragraph with a few gestures.

Ebert's review:

(And I can't wait for a sequel, though, alas, there is no news of one yet.)
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Inspired by [ profile] scearley who says he's the first in generations not to have military service.

My dad and his dad served, though Dad was drafted in the VietNam era, and my Grandfather was drafted in quick succession by the Latvian, Russian, then German armies in WWII. My mom's dad joined in WWII in the Navy and spent the whole war in the Pacific on a tin can destroyer. Before that, records are hazy about my ancestors -- the earliest ancestor on my Mom's side to step on American soil did so around 1900, and my Dad came over as a pre-teen.

Neither I nor my brothers and sister served. I almost joined up during Desert Storm, I was unsure about my major and bored with college. I had my EMT license and years of ambulance experience by then and a lot of stories were about the troops dropping from heat exhaustion, so I was considering joining as a medic, and maybe go pre-med out of it afterward. But the local recruiting Captain came on TV every night and said: "Join if you want, but we already have our quota. If you enlist, you'll be sent to Korea, and we'll take those trained troops over in Korea and send them to Kuwait, and believe me, you don't want duty in Korea." So I finished my degree and here I am. I've wondered a lot how my life would have been different if I had joined anyway.
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I casually mentioned this on Facebook, but I've been thinking about it all day.

With the Green movement and worries about carbon footprints, especially with shipping, I'm wondering if we couldn't bring back square-rigged sailing ships. Some of those suckers were 200-300 feet long and could hold 1500 to almost 3000 tons of cargo.

It would need to be relatively compact cargo -- no automobile transport, for example. Shipping cars wouldn't exactly be the business model for a low-carbon shipping company, anyway. Most things shipped overseas to the States include textiles, food products, and high tech (chips and parts).

I figure modern technology could improve a lot on the clipper ships. GPS, weather radar, instant communications with land. These ships could find the wind and avoid storms instead of sailing into the unknown. Maybe fiberglass composite over a wooden or composite frame, modern synthesized sails and rigging with some automated sail furling/unfurling to reduce the risk of most dangerous jobs. Diesel only used for power generation and perhaps emergency propulsion.

Maybe a modern cargo ship could carry the same amount of t-shirts as three or four modern clippers, but would people pay a couple bucks more, the way they do for organic food?

I think I would like to be a shipping magnate.
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Tomorrow is the most wonderful day in our political system -- the last day of campaigning. After tomorrow, all the signs and calls and polls stop...for about another 15 months.

This year has been pretty annoying as far as the robocalls. I still have an Atlanta area code on my cellphone (most of my clients are still there), but those crazy Florida politicians (all exempt from the Do Not Call laws) know I'm here anyway. Except I just got a call from some Sebastian Inlet pol who is 30 miles south of my district.

Worse, is the text messages. I got two texts in the middle of the night from some Christian conservative group warning that Crist and Meek will unleash gay Armageddon if they get elected. I have servers that text me when they go down and I have to reset them at all hours, so I was jolted out of sleep twice for dumb political hyperbole. I'd almost set a rule to vote for the opposite of whoever calls/texts me, except both sides have had almost equal amounts of foaming-at-the-mouth.

I'm still undecided on virtually everything except Florida's peculiar votes for adding constitutional amendments. But, I've always been a fan of Robert Heinlein's political quote:

If you are part of a society that votes, then do so. There may be no candidates and no measures you want to vote for ... but there are certain to be ones you want to vote against. In case of doubt, vote against. By this rule you will rarely go wrong.
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So, I can understand some of this on a mathematical sense -- the ratio of teeth between gears has to be integer ratios like 3:2. Vertices have to match the center of an edge with the polygons. Then, the guy throws in fish and jellyfish and trees...all of wood. This is amazing. You start to understand how people made clockwork automata actually work centuries ago.

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An American's attempt at poutine.

Home-made cheese curd, home-made fries.

Beef gravy with demi-glace and butter and shallots and black pepper and a light brown roux. (Christey couldn't keep her fingers out of the picture).

Not bad (actually, really, really good). I thought the gravy was too thick, so I thinned it, but too much. I should have left it as it was. Now that I think I have the basics, I'm going to expand on it a lot this weekend...

(I think it was too pale, too. Canadians, what do you think? Okay for a first attempt?)

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4 minutes to see who moves on in the Foodbuzz Project Food Blog contest. Not that I'm counting. Or worried. Or anything like that. Nope. What time is it again?

Edit: Made it through! Next, this weekend, cooking a classic in an unfamiliar (cooking-wise) cuisine.
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Christey and I are part of the Foodbuzz Project Food Blog challenge, where the winning blog gets $10k and a feature on their site for a year. There are a lot of judges and insider Foodbuzz bloggers who have a lot of weight with the voting, but there's also a Reader's Choice award which is an automatic pass to the next round.

So, if you would feel so inclined to help us :) Go here: and at the top, you can vote for us. You have to register, but it's free.

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We might need James Burke to disentangle this, but here's a recent series of Connections, with a startling result.

* A couple years ago, the price of gas goes up to $4/gallon. More ethanol gets produced as a gas additive. Ethanol is made (mostly) from corn. So, the price of corn goes up.
* The economy gets worse, so Americans tighten their belts a tightening their belts. Much grocery shopping is for staples only like bread and milk and chicken.
* The H1N1 flu hits, and people get worried they'll catch it from pork chops.

The result is high feed costs, and low demand for pork, so farmers back off a bit on the numbers of pigs they breed. Add to this:

* Global warming (or an isolated and coincidental series of summer heat waves, if you don't believe in global warming) causes pigs to sweat a lot and not eat as much, taking longer for them to fatten up.
* An explosion in foodieness over the last year, including a growing trend for pork, especially bacon and pork bellies.

The result:

A tragic and massive bacon shortage. In the last 12 months, pork belly prices are up 211.5%.
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Thanks for the birthday wishes, here and on FB! It was a nice relaxing day. Andy and I went canoeing and fishing and caught fish. Alas, no keepers, but it was fun. Probably caught the biggest snook of my life, but it snapped the line right before I could put a hand on it. Still fun!

I'm a little sunburned today.
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California Prop 8 overturned in California Supreme Court:

Probably headed to the US Supreme Court, but I'm not sure the Fed court would rule about a State's decision of what belongs in their own constitution. Seems like a 10th Amendment thing to my amateur legal scholarship.

Edit: Oh, except I just read that the ban was based on the US Constitution's 14th Amendment (States can't deny equal protection under the law). Based on that argument, I guess the US Supreme Court does have jurisdiction.
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Something I do every few years, just to see if I still have a chin.

Though, I have to say, when I was clipping/trimming it down to the point where I could shave, there was probably 50/50 gray.

Hello 43 years old (next month).

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I've been scarce and distant lately, and I figured I owed you an explanation. You see, I've been seeing another forum. It's not as bad as it sounds, there's not the FB/LJ commitment that I have with you...but you see, I have this boat I'm working on, and they understand me over there. So, while I'm trying to get this boat fixed up, I was confused, and they listened to me, and one thing led to another, and now I have a boat renovation thread over there.

I'm sure it's a passing thing, a phase. When my boat is ready for the water, I'll probably just laugh it off as a mid-life crisis thing.

So, are we okay?
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One of the things I love about high cuisine is the constant evolution. Carême and Escoffier wrote many books and articles in order to standardize the mother sauces that make up French cuisine...then listed hundreds of ways to alter them to show creativity. They used an almost scientific approach to figure out what makes up the core elements of every French sauce, then used an engineering and even artistic approach to modify the core.

They were French, of course, and many of the sauces were named in the last couple hundred years. France went through a flowery period, and a rational period, at various times giving the world Impressionism and the basis of the metric system.

So, there are poetic "Mother" sauces, and others with franco-centric descriptive names, like Sauce Espagnole -- so named because it needs tomatoes, which Spain was known for at the time, or possibly because it can need ham, which Spain was also known for.

Derivative sauces are also either flowery or named for the chef who supposedly invented it:
* Sauce Aurore (Mother Sauce: Velouté(stock and roux), but with tomatoes). Aurore is "dawn" in french, and the sauce is a pale pink.
* Sauce Robert (Mother Sauce: Espagnole, with mustard, onions, demi-glace). This goes back before the mid 1500s, and was probably named after the original chef, which "Robert" is debatable.
* Sauce Béarnaise (Mother Sauce: Hollandaise, with tarragon), probably originating in Béarn, France
* Sauce Chasseur (Mother Sauce: Espagnole, with demi-glace and mushrooms), translated to "Hunter's Sauce" as it's used with wild game.
* Sauce Mornay (Mother Sauce: Béchamel, with cheese), the classic Mac-N-Cheese sauce. Thought to be named after Philippe de Mornay.

Each of these (and hundreds of others) are well known, but don't necessarily give a novice a clue about the ingredients. Sure, Chasseur means "hunter" and maybe that sauce does go well with game, but it doesn't say that it's made with tomatoes, stock, mustard, onions, roux, beef and veal bones, etc. But if someone doesn't know French cuisine, what does Mornay or Robert mean to them?

In the late 70s/early 80s Nouvelle Cuisine hit the States. The pendulum swung to the other side, and the ingredients, and sometimes even the techniques of classic high cuisine were shunned. No complications above all else. Simple presentation, simple ingredients. No roux, no cream, no lard (though butter, thankfully, was just fine). One of the offshoots of this, because it was so nouvelle, was the lack of history behind the dishes. Mornay didn't name the sauce after himself, history did. Similarly, Paul Bocuse and Wolfgang Puck weren't about to name Sauce Bocuse and Sauce Puck to a single sauce, when they were cranking out different meals each week in their restaurants. Customers were becoming more interested in the ingredients as well, for good reasons (no carbs/fat) and bad reasons ("I don't like asparagus"). So, Nouvelle Cuisine introduced and popularized the concept of naming a dish after the description of ingredients, instead of creating a flowery, poetic (or eponymous) names.

These days, menus say:
"Maine lobster ravioli with a Spanish saffron, California champagne cream sauce with shaved French black truffles, local organic chervil, and red Hawaiian sea salt."

There's nothing inherently wrong with this. If you check out I do it all the time myself, even though I'm a culinary Francophile. But, sometimes I think there's something missing from the simple descriptive names of French cuisine.

Christey was at a Florist convention in Boston tonight (her Aunt is a florist bigwig) and the menu kinda spawned this post:

It all sounds seriously good, but other than "Mousse Bomb" (and man, I'd like to see that!) and maybe the word "torte", everything is a description, not a name. Even to the word "noodles".

Maybe we foodies should start coming up with outlandish, French-like flowery names for dishes. "Sauce Ethereal" or even "Halibut Latitude 28". If one or two names out of hundreds actually catches on, maybe it'll bring back some of the romance to cooking.

We can always list the ingredients underneath :)

Boat Pics

Jul. 6th, 2010 12:03 am
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I wish I had a pic of the boat when I first dragged it from under the tree. One of the tires on the trailer had sunk into the sand up to its rim, and when I pulled it out, the rubber had disintegrated and I had to get a new tire.

Here's the engine after being dunked mostly underwater a couple years before.

Read more... )
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I'm itchy.

My boat engine is pretty much done, just need an exhaust pipe and it's ready to install. Except the boat deck is rotten around the engine, so I have to fix that now (recap: got the boat basically almost free from a friend, a 19' family runabout that had been dunked once halfway up the engine, then parked under a tree for two years. When I got it, there was a 3' sapling growing out of the bilge).

So, I need to dismantle the deck and rebuild it. This is the second boat deck I've rebuilt and I kinda was over it the first time around with my other boat, but here we go again. Happily, this time, the stringers (the fore-and-aft supports under the deck) are nice and clean, and those are the tricky ones. A couple bulkheads (the side-to-side supports) are rotting, and I'll need to fix those, but I'll take crumbling bulkheads over stringers any day. Stringers are like load-bearing walls in a house -- you can't just take them out and replace them without making sure the tensions and forces are balanced at the transom. So, if they're fine, the bulkheads don't do as much on a 19' open boat except support the deck.

The seat boxes are rotted to pieces, so I'm taking them out, and I'm going to put a bench in on one (port) side, and just a captain's seat in front of the helm. I want a family boat, but I'm also going to be fishing a lot, so I want room to walk around.

Today, I did a little exploratory work (i.e. ripping into them with a reciprocating saw) to see how long it would take me to take out the deck and seat boxes, and it looks like it'll go quickly. That's probably a negative since the plywood is so rotten some of it just crumbles in my hand, but then again, the hull and the stringers are excellent wherever I look. But, here it is, July in Florida, so I'm sawing away in shorts and a T-shirt and now I have little invisible shards of fiberglass embedded in my arms and legs and it itches like fire ants.

Have I mentioned I've been working on this boat for two years now? I kinda had to take a year off due to professional reasons (last year was pretty rough), but I love pulling into the home stretch with this. The decking, assuming I have the time to work on it (last year I was looking for more work, this year I have too much) will go quickly, then I can remount the engine and see if I actually rebuilt it correctly, time it, then start the cosmetic work.

I'm hoping to have it in the water by Labor Day, which is kinda funny because most of the country pull their boats out of the water for the season after Labor Day weekend. But in Florida, boating season can go right up to New Years.
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