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September 26, 2006

Dow Jones

I just have a brief comment to make in this entry. The Dow closed at 11,669.39 today, up 0.81% from yesterday. Today's closing value is the second-highest for the index in its 110-year history.

Can you guess when the highest value was? They say it was September 3, 1929, when the index hit 381.17, which presumably inflates to something outrageous. According to this American Public Media web site, it then went on to bottom out at a whopping 41 points in July of 1932.

Is this something for which we must plan? Will 2009 bring such economic deficit to America as 1932 did?

Maybe I'm being over-cautious, but with bond yields rising and real estate tanking while the DJIA is looking surprisingly good and the market is showing signs of bullishness, perhaps it's time to reconsider where that mutual fund money is invested?

September 25, 2006

Signs of Autumn

As the weather gets colder and the skies grow whiter, the landscape changes in step. The first part of the transformation from lush summer greenery to the harsh lifelessness of winter manifests itself in the appearance of the trees. Some of the trees around me have already changed color completely, and some don't show any signs of that.

I present to you some pictures I took in my back yard yesterday. Click them to enlarge.

My favorite is the photo of the silhouette of the trees against the brightly-lit evening clouds.

What signs of autumn have you seen so far?

September 21, 2006

29 Sausages

I guess I have to get this post out of the way, despite not having enough pictures to do the event justice.

The story is that, a few weeks ago, I asked my neighbor if he liked sausages. With a puzzled look on his face, he said yes, and in order to answer the question posed by his facial expression, I told him I make sausages and that I was looking forward to the next time I could do so.

Well, word got around that I make sausages, and that fit in quite nicely with the other neighborhood cooks: a Bolivian baker, a Japanese chef, and a good old American house-wife. And, so, I was compelled to order some sausage casings and start thinking about eventually making some sausages and sharing them with my neighbors.

About three weeks ago, one of my neighbors, Yusuke, caught me as I was walking from my car to my back door: "When will you have sausage party?"

It was my turn to display the look of bewilderment, and my only answer was, "What sausage party?"

Yusuke was under the impression I was going to have a full-blown barbecue with sausages as the main course,
Some of my ingredients, about to meet their demise, thanks to my trusty santoku knife! Click to enlarge
and while that's basically what ended up happening, I had no idea at the time that this would be expected of me.

I ordered sausage casings from the usual guy in Georgia, slowly bought and froze a total of about 11 pounds of pork tenderloin, and started thinking about the types of sausage I could make. As the sausage party drew near, I had an epiphany: I would use fruit! I would make peach pork sausage, apple pork sausage, and normal pork sausage! Ah, but it would not end there.

Last Thursday, Yusuke caught me again as I was walking inside, and he wanted me to set an exact time for the party to start. I really hate planning things because it makes me nervous, but I acquiesced to his request and, after some debate, said the party could start around 6:00 on Saturday.
Minced fruit and veggies. Clockwise from top: garlic, peach, apple, pear, habanero pepper. Click to enlarge
This set events in motion, and for most of last weekend, I had one and a half things on my mind: sausages and that pesky photonics homework that was due Monday.

I finished the homework on Sunday with plenty of time to spare, by the way, so that turned out to not be worth the half-worry I gave it.

As Friday wore on, I had to consider everything I would need to make sausages: wet room temperature casings, thawed meat, chopped fruit, meat grinder parts I could find, and so forth. I don't think I actually did anything about these things on Friday, but I certainly thought about them.

But, I had to work those things out on Saturday, and luckily, everything just fell into place. I even had my laptop in the kitchen, belting out songs from Frank Sinatra and Bruce Springsteen that could be heard beyond my open back door.
Eleven pounds of pork, topped with strips of lamb fat. Click to enlarge

Unseasoned pork and lamb, just through the grinder for the first time. Click to enlarge
Before long, passers-by could hear the growl of my meat grinder's too-powerful motor, churning away at the eleven pounds of pork and the lamb fat I added to the mix.

After I ground the meat the first time, I had to consider the question of the day: what kinds of sausage would I make? But, would I even bother with this before actually making them? No way. I flew by the seat of my pants, and when I finished grinding one type of sausage, I washed my hands and looked over my ingredients to decide what I would make next.

Over about five hours, I performed all the tasks associated with the preparation and clean-up of an afternoon of sausage-making and, meanwhile, made the following sausages!

  • 5 x Polish sausage with Turkish aleppo pepper
  • 5 x Garlic, habanero pepper, and basil sausage
  • 4 x Garlic and rosemary sausage
  • 5 x Pear and sage sausage
  • 5 x Apple, chili pepper, and black pepper sausage
  • 5 x Peach sausage with venison sausage seasoning

That's 29 sausages in all, comprised of six distinct flavors.

Some time around 5:30, I had cleaned up as much as I was going to clean up for the evening, and my sausages were nicely wrapped in aluminum foil in the refrigerator.
Everything is ready to go! Click to enlarge
There were about 30 minutes remaining before Steve and Anneli would be over to join in the festivities, so I could relax for a few minutes. Phew, the whirlwind five hours of sausage making had come to an end.

In these 30 minutes, I joined a backyard party's infancy and helped light two charcoal grills (by the end of the night, three grills had been used to cook a variety of meats).

I started cooking sausages, Steve and Anneli showed up a tad late, and the beer and conversation started to flow like water! The peak attendance was somewhere around 15 people, and everyone had a great time, and they all loved the sausage.

Most peoples' favorite seemed to be the Polish sausage with the Turkish aleppo pepper, but those of us who could stand a lot of heat preferred the garlic, habanero, and basil sausage. After a few bites, that habanero pepper really got the eyes watering... amazing stuff. Oh, and the habanero pepper I used was supplied by Katy. Thanks, Katy!

I think I finally went back inside my house during the midnight hour, so the party was a definite success. My neighbors totally get high marks for coolness, and I guess I get high marks for sausage. :)

September 20, 2006

Small Magnets

My lab now has 25 small magnets that are magnetized across the diameter, as you can see in the photo to the right.
Diametrically magnetized cylindrical magnets configured into a smiley face design
The magnets are for use in my capsule endoscope project, but they may just become toys because we've nearly decided we want to use smaller magnets with different shapes. By way of attracting along the diameter instead of along the axis like typical cylindrical magnets, they can make some pretty cool designs. We should have bought 100 just to take neat photos.

My favorite thing to do with them today was line them up next to each other and put each end on a magnetic surface so that the loop of magnets looks sort of like a noose. In this configuration, I could tap them from any direction, and the whole magnetic link would wobble a bit and then settle down. It looks pretty cool, anyway!

In other news, my mastery of sausage-making led to a party this past Saturday, and while I have lots of pictures of making the sausages, I don't have any pictures of the actual party, where people delighted in eating them for about four hours! I made 29 sausages of six different varieties. I'll write about them at some point... really.

September 12, 2006

Kosher Spam

Lately, I've noticed my spam filter has been catching some interesting emails. In particular, the word hillel has appeared several times!
A hillel email in my spam catcher
I'm not sure what to make of this, but maybe the spammers are trying to appeal to the Jewish crowd?

I don't really want to open the emails to see what's inside, and I doubt it would actually end up being anything relating to Judaism. But, at least I know if I ever want kosher spam, I have to look no further than my own email!

In other email news, I received one from a professor this morning, stating the classroom for our class is changing. This is mostly beneficial because the first room really wasn't conducive to teaching engineering material. It was in the Center for Fine Arts... for whatever reason... but, now it's in the mechanical engineering building, Scaife Hall. My only disappointment is that we'll no longer have the neat view of north Pittsburgh afforded by the large windows in the room in the CFA. Ah well.

September 10, 2006

Many More on the Blogroll

I have changed my blogroll again, adding five more food blogs to the mix. I read these regularly in my RSS reader, and I really enjoy the diversity of the entries and the comments. If you're at all into food, check them out. I especially recommend Lobstersquad, the food blog with drawings, written by professional illustrator and food lover extraordinaire Ximena Maier, from Madrid.

In my own food world, I must confess I ordered take-out Chinese food tonight. I don't normally like Chinese food, in general, but I sometimes feel like I have to have an egg roll Right Now, and that's basically what happened tonight. I ordered from How Lee, just up the road at Shady Ave. & Forbes Ave., and while the delivery took somewhat longer than I expected, the egg rolls and spring rolls were quite good. So were the few bites of orange chicken I ate. My order also included pork fried rice, so I have tons of left-overs, which I will eat over the next several days. Too easy!

September 09, 2006

Poor Old Gaspare

I finally removed Gaspare from the image of my family at the New York Stock Exchange in the marquee at the top of my blog. Poor old Gaspare just happened to be looking at the camera when the broker took the picture. The family photo from the NYSE, with Gaspare in the background. Click to enlargeAlas, while it took me a year to get around to changing the photo, he no longer appears there. By the way, creating the selection path in Photoshop along my mom's hair was ridiculously difficult, which is probably why I've spent a year getting around to doing it again.

Today is another lazy day, I guess. The weather is very nice, and I have many of my windows open. I have some emails to write and some research to do, but perhaps all that can wait until I have another cup of coffee. Indeed, they will wait until then.

I also need to call Steve because he has invited me over to his place in Greenfield this evening. Seeing what he has done to his house over the past year will be very cool; he's certainly put a lot of time into it.

My mom told me she plans to visit Pittsburgh for a while during my dad's next extended trip to Argentina. I'm looking forward to hosting her for a while; it'll be fun!

September 08, 2006

Wow, It's a Dorian!

I was going to post some of the pictures of Pixel I have on my camera, but I found this wonderful (somewhat modified) picture of Dorian and decided it needed its own entry. Good kitty!

I'm listening to Pink Floyd and being generally unproductive tonight. When The Division Bell is over, I'll probably watch a movie. Uneventful Friday nights tend to make a person feel lonely, non?

Oh, and by the way, to hell with rice cookers. :)

September 04, 2006

Massachusetts Shellfish

As predicted by Tamara, I ate tons of shellfish while I was in Massachusetts.

It started with a dodgy place in Salisbury called the Olde Town Tavern, that served televised Keno and a casserole of scallops and shellfish, with a side of three lobsters for the price of two. The casserole was, um, "interesting", and somewhere near two-thirds through it, I decided I didn't want any more. But, the lobsters saved the day with buttery goodness, and although I didn't actually order them, my mom did, and she happened to be sitting next to me.

In Newburyport, I ate world famous (partly because I tell everyone about it) clam chowder at The Grog, followed by two heaping lobster rolls. Unlike many places where lobster rolls are on the affordable side of expensive, these actually have lots and lots and lots of real lobster meat in them. I dare say they could even use a little more mayonnaise. They also come with a reasonable amount of French fries, with which I ordered mayonnaise and refused the ketchup. I was feeling a little Dutch, perhaps?

And, to top off the shellfish extravaganza, upon noticing I had a little less than two hours before my flight back to Pittsburgh today, I wandered a few gates over to Legal Seafood and ate their cherrystone clams on the half shell while drinking gin and tonic and reading Stranger in a Strange Land. I don't normally like Legal's fish, but I thought their raw bar would be pretty good, and I was quite correct. What a wonderful way to top off a vacation that had undertones of shellfish!

As for the rest of the trip, it was really great to see Taylor off to college (her dorm room looks really cool), and the family gathering (including Fritz) was wonderful. Hurricane Ernesto also dropped a bunch of windy drizzle on the island on Sunday, so that cooled things down to sweatshirt-wearing weather. Overall, very nice!