Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Slow Cooker soup

My slow cooker is a neglected kitchen appliance. Like my pressure cooker, I love to use it, but don't think of it often enough. Part of the problem is my habit of not considering a meal in advance, or when I do that not breaking free of my cooking habits. After all up until a few years ago I never owned a pressure cooker so why would I consider using it for my meals (except for risotto which is infinitely easier to make in a pressure cooker)? I've owned the slow cooker for much longer, but it requires that advance planning that I am unaccustomed to doing.

Saturday offered me the perfect time to consider the slow cooker. I was hanging out at home after work and had to consider dinner alone. In fact, I was vacillating between a quick and easy meal and a more involved one. I settled on the fast meal, but while deciding what to do I opened my copy of Slow Cooker Cooking by Lora Brody. For a couple of weeks I've been toying with using some of my dried beans and making soup. Lora's book offered a recipe for white beans in a soup that was flavored with rosemary, thyme, fennel, and garlic. It was perfect for making a batch of food to be eaten throughout the week.

On Saturday night I made olive oil infused with rosemary in the slow cooker. Just add olive oil and chopped rosemary, turn on low and walk away for a long time. While it cooked I made my rice and stir fry dinner. Once done, strain the oil and store in a sterilized jar in the refrigerator. Then I set the beans in some water to soak over night.

The next morning, I put the beans in the slow cooker along with a chopped onion, 1 28 ounce can of tomatoes and their juices chopped, 3.5 cups of broth, garlic, rosemary, parsley, thyme, carrot, salt and pepper. Turning the cooker on high, we made breakfast and then did yard work. About 5 or 6 hours later the beans were soft, but not mushy. I added some cooking greens (recipe calls for spinach) and turned off the cooker after a little bit.

At this point the cook boils some pasta and adds it to the soup to finish it. We had a birthday party to attend, so we put that off until we got home last night. It made for a quick evening meal. I boiled the pasta, reheated the soup, then added both to bowls. We topped the soup with a little drizzle of rosemary flavored olive oil and a scraping of fresh Parmesan cheese. Served with a side salad, it made for a tasty meal. We both went for seconds.

When storing this dish, I decided to keep the pasta separate from the soup. Pasta when it is part of a soup like this can sometimes get too soft and tends to continue to absorb some of the moisture. Your soup can soon look like stew. We'll combine the two as needed for meals or combine them right before storing extras in the freezer.

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Now playing: Basil Rathbone - The Masque Of The Red Death
via FoxyTunes

Quickies

They were put off for a while, but things appear to be reaching a boiling point in Turkey with regards to the PKK and their Iraqi cohorts. I've been expecting this for quite some time. I wonder if the US will try to turn this into a win for themselves by getting the PKK to focus on Iranian territory more and ignore Turkey for the time being?

Iraq's government has decided to remove immunity for foreign security forces. It's about time and it comes on the news that the Blackwater folks received immunity from prosecution from our State Department officials.

More on Iraq: Their largest dam is in danger of collapsing, according to U.S. officials. The Iraqi's insist that the danger is not imminent and that they are addressing it. A 65 foot wave could swamp Mosul.

The UK pound hit a 26 year high against the dollar. It still has a ways to go before it sees the highs of 1980 and 1981, but we're close enough that we can begin discussing them again. For those old enough to remember, those years weren't exactly bell weather, celebratory years for the U.S. economy. Reagan and Thatcher may be praised by some these days, but many of us remember those as grave years. Nice job, Bush and Co!

Texas - you know, conservative Bush country - has just produced a report (668 pages long, mind you) that declares that the state produces too many reports. The producers of this latest report want to assure folks that their work is vital:
For the report to be effective, it must be ongoing
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Now playing: Tom Middleton - Shinkansen
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Pet peeve

OK - just ran across another pet peeve, the phrase "HIV virus". It's redundant. What the hell do people think the "V" in "HIV" stands for?!!? I AM so glad that they bothered to tell me that it's a Virus virus, lest I be confused that it's a Virus bacteria or a Virus parasite. This one is so widely used that I'm afraid we're stuck with it for a while. I heard a radio host correct a researcher about a month ago in order to clarify the topic. The researcher said something to the effect of "When studying HIV in patients..."

The host, interrupting: "You mean the HIV virus, which causes AIDS?"

The guest, a bit dazed, "Um, yes, HIV, which causes AIDS."

The host continued to use the redundant phrase and eventually the researcher did as well. Ugh...

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Now playing: The Gloaming - goldbricking
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Monday, October 22, 2007

You are corn

This new video from Boing Boing TV is a report on a documentary about corn and how pervasive it is in the American diet. I found it pretty fascinating. Similar material was reported in The Omnivore's Dilemma.




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Now playing: Aretha Franklin - Chain Of Fools (Unedited Version)
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Friday, October 19, 2007

It's been some time since I published a Friday Random Ten. In fact, one might say that I've been rather random about posting them. Oh, well, that's what happens when hard drives crash and carry your music away. Anyhow, here's an updated one:

Mark Ronson - Stop Me
Quantic - When You're Through
Nina Simone - Consummation
The Gossip - Eyes Open
Sandee - Notice Me
Carla Bruni - Before the World Was Made
Tone, Inc - Con Mi Sombra
Tuxedomoon - The Waltz (live)
Wire - Outdoor Miner
Paul Weller and Andy Lewis - Are You Trying To Be Lonely

Note: I'm trying out publishing this list from GoogleDocs. Here's hoping it works!


Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Two customers

A young couple came into the store. They approached the counter separately. They were definitely "together" but they were probably on an early date and still going Dutch. The guy gets to the counter first and I ask to see his ID. I'm sure that he's over 21, but he's under 30 so I check it. He looks surprised that I asked (he's only 25). I tell him, "I like to look at pictures."

Thinking he didn't hear me correctly he asked what I said and I repeated the pictures comment. He starts laughing nervously. I smile, thank him for the ID. Next I tell him a story about making that same comment to a couple of guys in the store and one of them replied, "Well, so do we, but not that kind." This puts him more at ease and he laughs harder.

The girl comes to the counter. I don't ask her for her ID as she's getting it out of her wallet before I ask. The guy says, "He needs to see your ID!"

She looks annoyed with this statement. "I know. I'm getting it out."

"He likes to look at pictures. He's gonna love that one because it's hot!" He says this with a tad too little cheese and a tad too much excitement in his voice.

She doesn't reply. Instead she turns towards me and rolls her eyes slightly. He cannot see that response. She definitely is annoyed with him.

Time for me to loosen up the mood a little. "Oh, I only like to look at pictures of the boys. For the girls I actually read the license." She was 26, by the way.

She thought that was a very funny comment and laughed. He laughed too, albeit nervously. He made a hasty exit. "I'll wait by the car for you." This made her laugh harder.

"Thanks for the laugh. You may have made my night," she said to me on her way out the door.

"No problem. Take care and make the best of it."
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Now playing: Heaven 17 - Honeymoon In New York (B.E.F.)
via FoxyTunes

Game Launcher in Windows Vista won't launch

A little over a week ago I purchased a game via MSN games for the PC for my partner. She played for several hours when we first got it. She played the next day as well. I played it a little and then ignored. She went back to it last night and it didn't work.

This morning, while tracking down a separate problem with a different program, I noticed an entry in the Windows Vista error log for the game. I promptly ignored it and hoped that she had gotten to play. Alas she reported to me this morning that it wouldn't work under her login nor mine.

I attempted to launch the game and got an error message indicating that the Game Launcher would not launch and was closing. Hm...I Googled the problem and noted that a lot of other people were reporting the same problem, but did not have a solution. I sent an email off to MSN and to the game's manufacturer asking for a solution or a clue to find it.

I tried an uninstall and noticed that it had a repair function. Cool, I thought, I'll do that. All that did was give me a window to find the install package. I pointed to the directory with the install package and I got another error saying that it couldn't find the package. It asked for another directory. For kicks, I tried the programs directory. That didn't work either. Finally I decided to just uninstall and reinstall. Both completed successfully, but I still got the error message regarding the Game Launcher.

Then I recalled that in order to correct the other program's problem I had changed a setting in Windows Vista that may have caused this problem. So, I've got Windows Vista Ultimate and this worked for me. It may work for you. Go to Start>Computer and right click to Properties. Click Advanced System Settings and when the dialog box pops up asking for permissions to run the program click "Continue". Click the "Advanced" tab. Under the Performance heading click settings. Go to the tab labeled Data Execution Prevention. Make certain that the radial button for the following heading is on: "Turn on DEP for essential Windows programs and services only". If it is not, then click that on and click Apply. This will require a system reboot to apply the changes. After that, my program worked fine except for one thing: it won't fire from inside the Games menu. I created a shortcut and left it on the desktop as clicking the executable file works fine. Probably another uninstall reinstall will fix that. In any case, the program works fine now.

Also of note: Simply clicking "Run this program as administrator" did not resolve the issue. Only following the steps above did the trick. Now, how did I get DEP turned on for all programs? I did it myself while trying to track down the problem with Ad-Aware 2007 (still haven't found that problem yet, but I'm pretty sure it's within the program). The result of turning DEP on for all programs was that my error log was reporting that several different programs were failing to run as expected. So, tracked that down...now back to Ad-Aware which is hanging whenever it gets to the GUID scan of the registry. Hm, perhaps running it in XP compatible mode would do the trick? Reminder: if it doesn't reset the control back to the way it was before moving on to the next "solution".

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Now playing: Rufus R. Jones - Boogie Man
via FoxyTunes

Saturday, October 13, 2007

Bush sought eavesdropping before 9/11

That's the claim from this article in the Washington Post. The standard refrain from the Liar and Thief is that "everything changed after 9-11". Hence, their insistence that after the terrorist attacks they had to eavesdrop on phone conversations in order to protect the public. Telecos have gone along with this reasoning not only complying with the presidential request, but also seeking immunity from lawsuits after the program was revealed. Note: the program violated the Telecommunications Act, or that's what the lawsuits claim.

In the article, the former CEO of Qwest, who was convicted of insider trading, claims that members of the current administration approached him shortly after taking office about such eavesdropping. He claims that he refused and that the government retaliated for his refusal by denying his company millions of dollars in contracts.

None of this comes as a surprise to those of us paying attention to the direction of this government. Even if the charges are not true, we are prone to believe that they are valid based on prior actions, lies, and hubris of officials of the government. It's at times like these when I really wish we had something more of a parliamentarian system. I suggest to you that the government no longer represents a majority of the people in this country and that it has not done so in a long time. Under a parliamentarian system we might be able to bring down such a government as it has become illegitimate. Under the current system we'll just have to muddle through it, as painful as that will be. A couple of relevant quotes from the article:
A former Qwest Communications International executive, appealing a conviction for insider trading, has alleged that the government withdrew opportunities for contracts worth hundreds of millions of dollars after Qwest refused to participate in an unidentified National Security Agency program that the company thought might be illegal.

In the court filings disclosed this week, Nacchio suggests that Qwest's refusal to take part in that program led the government to cancel a separate, lucrative contract with the NSA in retribution. He is using the allegation to try to show why his stock sale should not have been considered improper.

Nacchio was convicted for selling shares of Qwest stock in early 2001, just before financial problems caused the company's share price to tumble. He has claimed in court papers that he had been optimistic that Qwest would overcome weak sales because of the expected top-secret contract with the government. Nacchio said he was forbidden to mention the specifics during the trial because of secrecy restrictions, but the judge ruled that the issue was irrelevant to the charges against him.

Nacchio's account, which places the NSA proposal at a meeting on Feb. 27, 2001, suggests that the Bush administration was seeking to enlist telecommunications firms in programs without court oversight before the terrorist attacks on New York and the Pentagon. The Sept. 11 attacks have been cited by the government as the main impetus for its warrantless surveillance efforts.

Sunday, October 07, 2007

Quickies

TPM has a post up about the shameful treatment of troops returning from Iraq:

The 2,600 members of the Minnesota National Guard recently ended a 22-month tour of duty in Iraq, the longest deployment of any ground-combat unit in the Armed Forces. Many of its members returned home, looking forward to using education benefits under the GI bill.

For example, John Hobot, a platoon leader, said, "I would assume, and I would hope, that when I get back from a deployment of 22 months, my senior leadership in Washington, the leadership that extended us in the first place, would take care of us once we got home."

It's not working that way. The Guard troops have been told that in order to be eligible for the education benefits they expect, they had to serve 730 days in Iraq. They served 729.


Scroll down this Congressional Quarterly report to read how one Republican Senator attempted to get Homeland Security to give him dirt on political foes. This was before it was called Homeland Security. To their credit, the FBI provided minimal assistance. From the article (referring to former CIA chief George Tenet and Republican Senator Richard Shelby):

Tenet got back at Shelby in a little-noticed passage in his memoir.

He recounted how, in December 1996, shortly after President Bill Clinton nominated his national security advisor Anthony Lake to be CIA director, Shelby approached him after a committee briefing. (Tenet was then deputy director.)

“George, he drawled,” according to Tenet, “if you have any dirt on Tony Lake, I sure would like to have it.”

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Now playing: Gotan Project - LunĂ¡tico
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Friday, October 05, 2007

You don't look Chinese

She was about 5 feet tall. Her hair was black and cut very neat and short. She was an older, Asian woman. She walked right to the sherry and port section of the store.

A man walked in and stepped just a foot inside. He was older, Asian man. His hair was gray under a nice tan hat. His entire outfit was tan from jacket to shirt to pants to shoes. "I'll wait for you in the car!"

The woman did not turn. In fact, she appeared not to hear him at all. She just stared at one portion of the sherry section. The man crumpled his lips tightly. "I said, I'll wait for you in the car!" He began to turn and leave.

"No, come here. I'll only be a minute."

"I'll just be in the car."

"Come here," she repeated. "I'll just be a moment. You can carry it to the car for me."

The man shakes his head. He's clearly annoyed. Also clear is that this is how they relate all of the time. It's their pattern. Still, like most people, he's a creature of habit and will play his role as expected. He walks inside and approaches his wife.

"I usually get this one, but I wonder if I should..?"

"Oh, for god's sake, just pick one and let's go."

"But this one is more expensive. I wonder if it's any better?"

The man approaches the shelving closer. He squints through his glasses as he attempts to read the prices. There's only a difference of 64 cents in the price. He reaches for the more expensive one. "Come on. Let's go."

"Wait. It's more expensive, but that doesn't mean it's better."

"It's not much more expensive." He turns to me and asks, "Is it better?"

I nod. She was comparing a no name Italian sherry to Taylor and Taylor, while not very good, was probably better.

"OK, he says it's better. Now, come on." He walks up to the counter. She stands her ground. He looks as if her lack of movement is causing him pain. "Come oooon" he says, voice growing tired, annoyed, louder.

I follow him to the counter. We stand together. He smiles at me, asks how I'm doing. We exchange pleasantries. He turns to his wife.

"Oh, geez, woman. This is fine. Let's go."

"I'm just trying to decide." She hasn't budged from her spot other than to pick up a bottle of the stuff she normally gets. She's reading the bottle looking for some sign, something that will confirm that it's better or worse than the Taylor. There is no such sign. Nothing will help her make that decision. What if she doesn't like the Taylor and finds that they just wasted $4.52? Could she give it to someone? That would be rude, giving someone bad sherry you don't like.

"Will you come along?!!?" the man pleads again.

She finally turns and begins to walk to the counter. "Thank god. Is this OK?"

She makes no motion to indicate that the Taylor is indeed "OK". In fact, there is no response in either her actions or her face. She looks completely unconcerned about his pleas. She's still thinking over her choice. When she reaches the counter she tells her husband, "I was just trying to decide which would be better to cook Chinese food with."

I intervene. This is something I know about. I prepare Chinese foods on occasion. Recipes call for a dry sherry and the Taylor is a dry sherry. The other sherry is not dry. "The one that he's got would be better," I say.

The man perks up. "This one will be better?" I nod. "There! He says this one will be better. Let's get out of here. Fine. How much with tax?"

The woman looks at me with still no sign of emotion. She's calculating a response. She turns to her husband. "For Chinese food? He says this one will be better for Chinese food? What does he know about Chinese food? He doesn't look Chinese."

This from a woman who has no accent of Asian origin in her speech at all. This from a woman, I smile inside as I think about this, who, instead of going to one of the numerous markets in the area and buying a Chinese wine to cook with is looking at an Italian product for her Chinese cooking. Yet, she's worried that I'm not Chinese enough to cook Chinese food.

"Can we just take this and get out of here?"

She nods, more out of resignation than approval. The woman then turns to me and asks if we have any boxes that she may take. I direct her to the pile and she walks away.

"Oooh, we don't need any..." and the man trails off. He realizes that this is a lost cause. He pays for the sherry and shrugs his shoulders. We chat while his wife looks over the empty boxes. While he waits he decides to buy a miniature bottle of Gallo merlot to try it out. His wife eventually settles on 2 boxes and says, "Now we can go."

Before leaving, he smiles and thanks me. She smiles as well and whispers "Thank you" and they leave.

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Now playing: Muslimgauze - Exit Afghanistan
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Now playing: Andy & Paul Weller Lewis - Are you trying to be lonely?
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Thursday, October 04, 2007

Am I?

Am I the only person who thinks of mashing the Broadway/Vegas musical "Stomp" with the Larry Craig scandal? I imagine three or four men prancing into stalls. Once dropping trousers they seat for a brief moment in pause. Then, the feet start a tappin', building into a rhythm accompanied by a musical crescendo into a full fledged, lower third, dance number. At some point the doors to the stalls open and the men inside "come out" singing, dancing, and prancing like the fops that senators are (despite their pretensions).

Wednesday, October 03, 2007

Ungrateful

I'm standing in line at Starbucks and a woman gets in line behind me. She's wearing a low cut black top that barely covers her ample cleavage, black pants and shoes to match. Her hair, dark brown with eyes to match, is in what I would call a corporate style. She looks harried. She interrupts the man working behind the counter heating up a bagel for another customer who waits patiently at the front of the line.

"Excuse me," she begins, her voice sounding anxious, "I'm here about a lost wallet." At this point the woman holds up a card and some sort of letter. I recognize the logo on the business card - she's a Microsoftie.

The man looks over her material.

"Someone called me about my wallet. I lost it," she says.

The man smiles and says, "I'll check on it." He approaches the employee at the cash register, who partly overheard the conversation and begins to answer before he finishes his inquiry.

"It's in the safe. We'll have to set the timer."

The man returns to the woman and informs her of this and that "We have a timer on the safe. It'll take about ten minutes to open."

The woman's eyes get big and she's angry. "I don't have TIME for this. No one told me about this when I called."

Rather than telling the woman that her bitching wasn't going to open the safe any faster, rather than explaining to her that it was her fault that she left her wallet at the store, rather than explaining to her that proper manners should inform her that she should be grateful to get the wallet AND any of it's contents back, rather than reminding her that graciousness is a virtue and kindness is a gift we should give to everyone, the man chucked all of that aside, relied on his good nature, good training, his own manners and lack of completely knowing her situation and smiled and said, "I'll check with the manager" at the exact same time the employee at the cash register made the same suggestion to him.

The manager was running the espresso machine. He told his employee that the wallet was on a shelf in the office. The woman showed her business card and letter again, dancing with her feet as if she had to use the toilet. She bolted out the door and did not say "Thank you."

I'd have been happier if the wallet were in the safe.