Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Only one more hour!

Only one more hour!

New Year's Eve

Which, of course, means that this terrible horrible year is nearly over.

I have my AAS slides nearly done, and I can easily get my KITP slides done next week, since I should have a good amount of time in the evenings.

I still don't know who's driving me to the airport on Sunday, or who will be looking after my apartment. That's a bit of a concern.

I have an interview lined up for AAS, and it's for a job that I'm fairly interested in, because it'll be doing similar things to what I've done in the past. Hopefully that means I'll have a job this year.

I think the main problem with all this, is that within a week, I'll be out of Lansing for the longest period of time in eleven years. Beyond that, I'll probably have moved out of town by summer. This drastic change is causing a low lying level of dread that I expect will just grow as it gets closer.

We'll just have to see what the New Year brings.

Monday, December 29, 2008

WTF? One Week?

In one week, I'll be in Long Beach, and will have attended the pre-conference banquet.

For some reason, that's terrifying. Maybe it's the fact that next Tuesday, I'll be giving a talk in front of a hostile audience about how maybe all of them need to go back to photometry school and learn how to do it (also, a good background in math and statistics wouldn't be a bad thing, if they're in the mood for suggestions).

And a week from then, I'll have to give a talk about all my research to a group of people who will actually know if I'm bullshitting them. That's not fun either. I'm confident that I've done things correctly, but I don't think I give super great talks.

Oh well. New Year's, Airports, Hotels, then Talks (and more Airports, Hotels, Rental Housing, Public Transits, Conferences, Talks, Conferences, and then Bizarro Workshop thingies). Let's all celebrate when we get to Valentine's day. Maybe I'll even go out by myself and celebrate not dying through all this. Hey, if I'm lucky, I'll have a job by then.

Sunday, December 28, 2008

Working at dinner

Nom nom nom.

The pizza was good, as were the boneless hot wings, I got a lot done, and everything went well.

Except for the stupid ice that formed on the inside of my windshield.

DIAF, ice that formed on the inside of my windshield.

Saturday, December 27, 2008

Death is a futon

I received notice yesterday that someone in Japan is now following me on twitter. I decide to back-follow, or return-follow, or whatever the word is, after seeing that they seem to be astronomy related. Plus, cute bunny sketch.

The problem of course, is that I don't read or write Japanese. So when I saw a tweet today that was in Japanese, I went to google to get a translation. This reminded me of playing Translation Tennis, something we used to do way back in undergrad. One of the people I knew at the time wrote a perl script to automate the process with AltaVista. Google makes it easy with a convenient "swap languages" feature. The result:

Initial post: 寒っ。布団から出ると死ぬ
Going cold. Die and get out of the futon

Tennis results:
  • 寒っ。布団から出ると死ぬ
  • Going cold. Die and get out of the futon
  • 風邪だ。死ぬと、布団から抜け出す
  • is cold. And die, get out of bedding
  • 寒いです。そして、布団から抜け出す死ぬ
  • It's cold. The escape from death futon
  • 寒いね。死布団からの脱出
  • It's cold. Escape from death futon
  • 寒いね。布団から脱出死
  • It's cold. Escape death from the futon
  • 寒いね。布団からの脱出死
  • It's cold. Death out of the futon
  • 寒いね。死には、布団の
  • It's cold. Death is the futon
  • 寒いね。死は、布団です
  • It's cold. Death is a futon
  • 寒いね。死布団です
  • It's cold. Death is a futon
And it's over. Still, nine iterations before convergence isn't bad. Plus: "Death is a futon." That's great.

Thursday, December 25, 2008

Summary and recap

I guess I've drunk all my cognac, so I have to go with the backup of Laphroig.

Thinking back, this is probably the best Christmas I've had since 2005. I fucked up 2006 pretty badly, and 2007 was just a disappointment of parents and depression. If I can get a job this year, then I'm pretty sure that Christmas 2009 will be even better. :)

My cooking was good, and I'm pretty happy with all that. Having good food on Christmas is about the most important thing, I think, after maybe having friends and loved ones around. I guess I'll take what I can get.

We're a week off from New Year's. Hopefully 2009 will be better than 2008 was.



It's gooey.

Puff Pastry with chocolate ganache and sliced half-macerated strawberries. Drink: Vodka and cranberry juice.

I think I needed to precook the strawberries to pull out some of the liquid. Alternatively, I could have cooked it longer at a lower temperature. There's just too much liquid, and it's kept the pastry from puffing the way it wanted to.

The taste is good, but it's a bit of a disappointment after the rest of the meal.

Second course

I sent this picture to Julie, and she hates me now. :)

Beef Wellington a la Gordon Ramsey. The rest of that shit didn't get eaten, because it's like eating cardboard next to the wellington. There's garlic/thyme mash potatoes and green been casserole with some tasty american cheddar. Didn't matter.
I paired it with the "Montgomery Cheddar" from Zingerman's, which Cheese Girl assured me was their best cheddar. It was very good, and gave a nice complement to the Wellington. The drink pair was a Jeffrey Rowland (vodka and bourbon over ice).

It's good that I had that salad before, otherwise I'd have just eaten more Wellington.

Holy crap That's a lot of wellington

It was only a 1.5lb roast, but since it's the loin, there's no waste. It's all good. I think if I slice, and individually wrap the slices, that'll work best. This is definitely a ~6+ person recipe.

Edit after slicing: Including the one I ate, I have 5 inch+ish slices, plus two end bits that just have the duxelle/prosciutto wrap. So yeah, cutting it reasonably would give you 6 servings.

$16 Chateaubriand
$5 Puff Pastry
$3 Mushrooms
$7 Prosciutto
~$2 Mustard
$33 / 6 person Wellington = $5.50 per person.

At that price, how can you not make this everyday? That's cheaper than eating McDonalds. Sure, there's a lot of work involved, but still. CHEAPER than FUCKING McDONALDS!

First course

Cross section of heart of romaine with walnuts and balsamic vinaigrette. Decorated with slivers of Comte cheese.

Drink pairing: Martini.

Very good. If I make it again, I'll slice the romaine one more time, and balance the top on the bottom with the Comte in the middle. The pieces of lettuce were a bit large and hard to eat.

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

I Believe in Father Christmas

They said there'll be snow at Christmas.
They said there'll be peace on earth
But instead it just kept on raining
A veil of tears for the virgin birth.
I remember one Christmas morning
A winter's light and a distant choir
And the peal of a bell and that Christmas tree smell
And their eyes full of tinsel and fire.

They sold me a dream of Christmas
They sold me a silent night,
And they told me a fairy story
Till I believed in the Israelite.
And I believed in father Christmas,
And I looked at the sky with excited eyes,
Till I woke with a yawn in the first light of dawn,
And I saw him and through his disguise.

I wish you a hopeful Christmas.
I wish you a brave New Year.
All anguish, pain, and sadness
Leave your heart and let your road be clear.
They said there'll be snow at Christmas
They said there'll be peace on earth.
Hallelujah noel be it heaven or hell
The Christmas we get we deserve.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Christmas lights

Driving around past fancy houses.

Today was not very "worky," but was quite a bit of fun. Julie and Colby stopped by ostensibly to grab Omi for a late lunch. It quickly degenerated to a full fledged all day thing, with a trip to the bank for them, the comic book store for me, and then back to my apartment to burn a linux install disk for Julie's new computer. Once that was done, there were thoughts of more food, which led to dinner at Old Chicago.

This wasn't my original plan for the day (which included taking out the trash and vacuuming and generally picking up my apartment), but was certainly more fun. After dinner, I took a drive around the various subdivisions where the faculty live to look at Christmas lights. This year is probably the worst I've seen in a long time, probably due to the general economic malaise. Still, it's nice to see that the crazy people in the house above are still decorating (here's what it looked like two years ago).

Monday, December 22, 2008

Hiding in my apartment until the holidays are over

The downside of living right next to the mall is that the traffic this time of year is hard to deal with. I ran effectively all my remaining errands today. I picked up the last few things I need from the office to work from home, got lots and lots of groceries, and even went out to pick up a scarf (the downside of losing like a foot of hair is that you get cold a lot easier).

I'm slowly zeroing in on a final Christmas menu. The Wellington looks easy enough (Goodrich's had no foie gras, so I'm going with prociutto). I've made garlic mash and green bean casserole enough times I could probably do them in my sleep. I'm thinking I'll do a salad (I picked up some romaine today) as well, just because GBC doesn't seem like a veggie to me.

Dessert will be an assortment, as I plan on making magic cookie bars, rum balls, and spiced nuts tomorrow or wednesday. I also got some fruit (including "holy crap $6?" strawberries. They look good, and have a nice smell, so it'll be worth it), so I might use leftover puff paste to make some sort of tarts.

I did forget to grab cream while I was out, so I'll have to pick up some soon to make sure the mash tastes right.

And I have no idea why, but I'm pretty jazzed about this scarf. It seems snuggly and warm.

Sunday, December 21, 2008


Went to Zingerman's today with Julie and Colby. It was as delicious as ever, and I totally made a pig of myself with sandwich (the pastrami and corned beef combo one), knish (fried in oil that was clearly not hot enough, as it was greasy and not cooked correctly), mac and cheese (om nom nom nom nom nom nom), pop (cane sugar black cherry since their fountain was broken), and gelato (gianduia + dulce de leche, all words that blogger thinks I've spelled wrong). It makes me wish I could convince myself to drive to Ann Arbor by myself to eat this tasty stuff.

I also picked up mustard (the fancy Violette stuff), pastrami (the fatty kind, because duh), and some cheese (comte and cheddar) to cover what I need for christmas dinner.

My current menu plan for that includes:
  • Beef Wellington (using the Gordon Ramsey recipe, I'm thinking)
  • Mashed Potatoes (with garlic of course)
  • Green Bean Casserole?
  • Some Rolls? (although Julie still has my baking book, and I think I might have given it to her as a gift Friday night while drunk off my ass)
  • Some sort of Baked Apple Dessert Thing.
  • Possibly a Spinach Salad, because it Sounds Good.
  • Corn Chowder? I kind of want to make a soup or something.
The cheddar was important, as I want something to snack on with the Wellington, and a proper English cheddar seemed most appropriate (Stilton would probably be better, but I hate Stilton). The mustard fills the place in Ramsey's recipe, although it's totally a French mustard. Sorry, Gordon. Take this as me rebelling against you being such a total prick on all your television shows. I'm also thinking I'm going to replace the prosciutto with foie gras, depending on it's availability at Goodrich's.

All in all, I expect it will be an enjoyable Solstice/Saturnalia/Mithras-tide/Sol Invictus/Christmas, if not due to food, then definitely due to drink.

Saturday, December 20, 2008


Not mine, of course.

Julie was beautiful in her dress, Colby was calm and confident, and it all went well. Assuming you're willing to overlook the foot of snow that dumped itself all around the state. I stayed in the area instead of driving home, so I didn't get back until today.

I'm glad for them, because they work so well together. Congratulations, Julie and Colby. You have many years of happiness ahead of you.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

It was snowy today

I took a short walk around campus after doing some shopping on Grand River. Since I'll be spending six months in California during the best part of winter, I wanted to make sure I got the most out of the winter I have.

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Some people are dumb

party woo!

Although in hindsight, it wasn't so much a party, as me joining people who still follow semesters, and used that break as a reason for drinking. I brought good gin (Beefeater), because I was concerned that there'd only be beer and bad liquor (so I'm an alcohol snob, whatever).

Basically a fun time, and it's moderately disconcerting to notice how much lower other people's tolerances are. It's sad, really.

Friday, December 12, 2008

Thursday, December 11, 2008

The 5 year isn't significantly better than the 2

Andrew asked me today if we were having an astro Christmas party. I guess this is the problem with arranging things in the past: everyone expects you to continue to arrange things. I had originally planned on doing so, but with Charles's thing yesterday, and me being generally lazy, I never did anything. I suggested that we could do something next week, and that in any case, the PA full department party was tomorrow at 2. Andrew countered that he was gone next week to work in Ohio (with collaborators, I assume), and in any case, Astro only parties are always better than PA full department parties. Because, as is a well known fact, physicists are generally lame.

So, while driving home today (in what could be a blog post in itself), I decided to stop and get stuff at L&L for rumballs. If we weren't going to have a party, I could at least add some sort of cheer for the last day of fall semester. L&L keeps all the liquor behind the service counter, to make you wait in line with Lotto Larry and Smoky Sally.

I checked when I first arrived that they had the rum I wanted, and was initially disappointed. They had a thousand different types of Captain Fucking Morgan, but no Cruzan. As I was about to give up the whole plan, the girl behind the counter said, "oh wait," moved her stool, revealing the line of Cruzan rums. However, once you exclude the flavored crap, they only the the black label 5 year at (750ml for $19). I usually buy the red label 2 year (at 1l for $13ish).

The 5 year is noticably smoother. The main flavors are the same, but the sharp alcohol bite is missing from the 5 year. It's definitely a better rum, but I can't claim that it's significantly better given the price differential. Hence the title of today's post. I also seem to think that the rumballs are better with the 2 year, as that sharp alcohol bite cuts through the chocolate more. We'll see tomorrow.

The title picture today comes courtesy of Julie, who sent it while I was writing this post. It wins the "most cutest squirrel picture evars" or at least the secondary prize of "most cutest squirrel picture today."

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Pokemon Christmas Bash

The lamb came out wonderfully. Despite my new probe thermometer periodically freaking out and claiming the lamb was 300 degrees. The recipe I used is a bizarre combination of Alton Brown, Julie Child, Betty Crocker, and the old school stuff from my Ranhofer book:

1 leg of lamb (about 6 pounds) boned (yielding something like 4.something) and with silverskin and excess fat trimmed (so like 4 pounds usable)
5 Tbs "Strong Mustard" (so not French's yellow. I mixed like 1 part Grey Poupon to 2 parts grainy stone ground)
~6 cloves garlic
~2 nice sized shallots
1Tbs brown sugar
1Tbs kosher salt
2tsp black pepper
2Tsp olive oil
some mint (1/2 tsp?)
some rosemary (1 tsp? )
some sage, coriander, thyme (you know, to taste)
a few pounds red skin potatoes (enough to cover pan bottom)
a leak (cleaned and chopped into two large chunks)
head of garlic (cut in half)
vermouth (just bring the bottle)

Combine the sauce in the food processor, and mix until smoothish.

Bone and butterfly the leg of lamb (it's not that hard, just kind of zen it), and then clean off excess fat and silverskin (it's the tough outer membrane of the muscles. It doesn't dissolve into gelatin, so it needs to be removed. I usually leave a decent slice of fat on the outside part of the leg. That's the side without the ball visible.). Rub the sauce all over the inside of the leg, and then roll up into the best roast you can (good luck!) and then tie with twine.

Heat some olive oil in the pan (I used my fancy Martha Stewart pan, but a roaster would work fine), and then sear the outside of the roast. When browned, pull the roast, put the potatoes in (in hindsight, these should be rubbed down with olive oil and salt first), place herbs in the center, put roast on top, and then put the leak and garlic around the outside edge. Add some vermouth around everything (for funsies), and chuck in the oven.

Now, Alton uses a grill, Betty says 325, Julia says 350, and Charles wants us to use a spit and roaring fire. Hmm....Let's go with Julia on this one. It's probably going to run about 1.75 to 2.0 hours to cook, and if your thermometer doesn't fight you, you'll want to cook it until the temperature reads 130.

At this point, I had to drive over to Charles, so counting on the MS pan to stay a billion degrees, I dumped in more vermouth, put the lid on tight, and drove. On arrival, I put it on the stovetop (covered) until the liquid simmered, to let it braise for the 30 minutes or so until everyone arrived and was ready for food.

The party consisted of:

Me: Roast Lamb
Charles: Ham
Catherine: Green Bean Casserole
Dave: Cookies
Eric + family: Pies
Carolyn: ?
Phil: Noodles with cheesy, bacon-y, tasty sauce
1st-year Grad Girl: Hummus
1st-year Grad Boy A: croquettes? latkes? They were good.
1st-year Grad Boy B: chips?

So, no bread. :( Everything was pretty good, and my lamb seemed to go over pretty well (Catherine's comment was "the only time I eat lamb is when you make it."). The movie list was "Home Alone," "Dinner for One" (A German short Phil brought), "Grinch," "Garfield Christmas," and "Snoopy Christmas." All in all a good thing.

The picture above is all that's left of the roast. I picked up a can of chicken broth at QD (they don't sell beef? WTF?), and it's all on the stove right now slowly being converted to stew.

Last tip on the lamb: Don't leave you oven set to 350 while you go to a party. Probably not the best strategy.

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Rain, Snow, and Ice

So I took this picture, planning on continuing my posts from last month about the Dread Pirate Fuzzbottom. However, he was clearly having a bad day. His fur was all puffed out to try to stay warm and dry, since it was raining all day long, with occasional bursts of snow and ice pellets. Those are the worst, because they sting when they hit your face. I'll put out some nuts for him tomorrow so he stays fat and happy.

I'm thinking that tomorrow is a work from home day. I can't justify driving in to work just to leave early so I can roast a leg of lamb. I just made the mustard sauce, so it'll have a night to blend and mellow. I thought about boning the lamb as well tonight, but I think I'll wait until tomorrow afternoon for that. If I think this through correctly, I probably will need to roast it for like an hour and a half. Given the expected time to drive over, I'll probably have to start prep and cooking between 4 and 5. It always takes longer to do the butchering than I expect. I'm thinking I'm going to try to slice the muscles enough such that it's "flat" in some fashion. Then the old sear, roast, rest, nom routine.

Monday, December 8, 2008

Martha Stewart and French Toast

I've been looking at enamel cast iron pans for years now. The big problem with them is that they tend to cost a bajillion dollars. I decided that since I make the big money, I should probably get myself something fancy for Christmas. After looking around online and debating things back and forth, I finally decided on the Martha Stewart one from Macy's. The main component of this decision was the fact that Macy's has them on sale, so the 7qt round dutch oven I bought was only $80. That puts it at some crazy 43% off, and moves it from "excessive" to "good deal." Amazon has it cheaper, but I wanted it now.

The reason for that is that I think it's probably the best way to cook the lamb I'm making for the Astro Christmas Bash this Wednesday. The strategy now is to line the bottom of the pan with red skin potatoes, and use them as a "roasting rack," and have them cook in the drippings from the lamb. If it works, they should be super tasty.

As a test run, I decided to make French Toast, using the tasty Challah bread I got at the store. I used a simple modified version of the Betty Crocker recipe (it was the easiest cookbook to find):

2 eggs
1/2 c milk
2tsp sugar
some vanilla
some cinnamon
4 thick cut slices of challah
butter (of course)

Throw butter in the pan, and make it all bubble-tastic. Beat everything else together, and then dip bread in the mix, and throw into the butter. Fry about 5 minutes per side.

I fried up some sausage ("Dr. Beef's Sausage I Had in My Freezer") first, and then covered the French Toast in the maple syrup I bought at the Apple Butter Festival. Finish off with some apple cider, and nom nom nom.

Who's been stealing apples?

Saturday, December 6, 2008

blah christmas

Julie calling asking for ingredients for spinach artichoke dip reminded me of two things. One, getting a phone call from Julie is always like walking in on the middle of a conversation. She's already gone over the introduction and explanation before calling, so you're just going to have to learn to catch up quickly.

Two, Charles is having a Christmas party on Wednesday, and I offered to make roast leg of lamb. I haven't decided on a recipe yet, because Greek style and BBQ style don't seem to match well with "Christmas." The complication is that I probably have to cook it nearly all the way on Tuesday, stick it in the fridge, and then warm it up on Wednesday. That's going to be tricky to keep moist. Alternatively, I can just skip out that day, and cook it all at once. That still doesn't answer what flavor to do. I'm kind of thinking of knocking together a Moroccan style thing. That's totally in the spirit of the season. Morocco is like Christmas central, right?

Friday, December 5, 2008


Son of a bitch.


You know they'd be delicious.

Thursday, December 4, 2008

My back hurts,

and it has hurt all day long. I do not know why this is the case, as I have not done anything in the past forever to hurt it. I'm hoping it gets better tomorrow, because it sucks when you can't twist or bend at all.

It's been a week since Thanksgiving, and I still haven't written up my review of everything. I guess this is as good a time as any.
  • Thanksgiving kitchens need doors or gates or something. It's hard to accomplish things when people wandering in and out. I think that the first step for this would be to put drinks out in the people-zone, and get them out of the food-zone.
  • Probe thermometers are super important for roasts. The turkey was a bit dry, which was my fault (I kept it in after I decided it was probably done, because I figured poisoning a dozen people wasn't a great plan). Had my probe thermometer not decided to just make up numbers, I would have known when it was done, and could have pulled it appropriately.
  • Electric knives are cool, and make carving easy.
  • My next apple pie will have bacon on it
I thought there was more, but I can't think of it now. All in all, it was a success, and I totally enjoyed myself. We'll have to see what next year brings, I guess.

Wednesday, December 3, 2008


I saw this in the grad student office today. I have no idea who owns it, or why they felt it necessary to bring it to the office to listen to. Wouldn't music like this be less conspicuous as mp3s? You could name them like "Totally Awesome Cool Music: Track 1" or something.

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Monday, December 1, 2008


Finally back home. Today's travel stuff was probably set up the best, given the circumstances. The security line at Austin was about a half hour long, because of all the people returning from Thanksgiving. I guess I wasn't the only one with that idea. This didn't complicate anything, as pretty much all the flights out of Austin this morning were at least an hour delayed.

The flight to Minneapolis was largely uneventful, and I spent it in some mix of "sleeping" and "totally passed out." My trip had a 2.5 hour layover scheduled, so the flight delay didn't really hurt anything. I got to sit next to two kids on the flight to Detroit, which was fine up until the one sitting next to me spilled his pop. How does that even happen, Captain Spazz? They make those cups nearly spherical for a reason.

I didn't feel that hungry when I got to Detroit (I'd had a burger at Disappointment King in Minneapolis. It was, as you'd expect, disappointing.), so I just got a hot fudge sundae at Coney. Nom nom nom.

The return trip of the Michigan Flyer was late, which meant I got to sit in the fumes section of the airport for an extra half hour. Yay! Still, taking the bus was the correct choice. It snowed the entire way back, and when I got back to East Lansing, all the roads were slushy and slick. I had originally planned on getting a pizza at Pizza House, but switched over to just picking up a Hot-n-Ready. My car was happy and warm sitting in the new ramp on campus, at least until I made it drive back to my apartment and sit in the parking lot. I'm probably going to be pissed at the amount of snow I need to scrape off it tomorrow.

coney not coney

Already started eating.

Bear paws



Not as blue in real life.

Holy crap security line!

I thought today would be better.