Sat, Nov 30, '13

Locked out!

Well holy moley. Nearly another year. Again I’m logging in to post here because something’s gone wrong.

Facebook, which has become my way of communicating with friends while too busy to see anyone in person, has locked me out, asking for a government issued ID to prove I am who I say I am. I had no idea why on Thanksgiving day, when it happened. Did I annoy someone in a public feed, and they reported my account as a fake account? Did I get hacked? Did Facebook just get sick of me? Some combination of things?

Well, at least one thing is becoming more clear. Someone is actually trying to get into my accounts. Facebook locked me out, but then the Apple ID notifications started coming, until they locked down password changes. Now I’m getting notifications from Netflix.

I’m under some kind of attack for the passwords associated with my Gmail account. So I’ve changed that password and a number of other key passwords. I keep a secure password database, which makes this a little bit easier. All my passwords are different. But, as of this morning, there are 223 of them. Changing even a substantial fraction of those would be a real pain.

Either this lame account-thief will get into one or more of my accounts, or they will fail and move on. Since I’ve added 2-factor authentication to my email account, I should be able to rely on the ability to put everything back if I do notice a breach somewhere.

If you happen to be following me on other services, could you please let me know if you see unusual activity? Thanks.

Also, after 2+ days of this lockout, I miss my friends. I’ve started posting to Google+, but except for a couple of friendly folks, posting there is like screaming into the void.

Hmm. Kind of like posting to this blog after so many years of neglect.

Posted by James at 8:47 AM | | Comments (38)

Wed, Dec 26, '12

And a year went by

I was prompted to come back here and post something because I needed to log into Movable Type to remove a code that prevented individual entries from loading quickly. Some blog-related service died (blogrush) over the last year and made it difficult to get to old recipes on Aces Full of Links.

That’s what I (and certain friends) still use this blog for. Recipes that are stored here. Although I have started moving some of those to my databases in Springpad and elsewhere.

Until those services die. :)

Anyhow, If anyone is still checking here, Aces Full is kind of dead, but I am not. Which means it may return someday. The world has changed. We all use “social media” more than we used to use blogs to stay in touch. The fact that this remains a useful and searchable resource for recipes shows one of the weaknesses of Facebook. I can’t find a damn thing I have posted to Facebook.

I am about to sign up for this year’s Little Compton Scenic Winter Road Race. Time moves on. We are all still here, and I hope we stay in touch by whatever means we can. That is what is important.

Cheers.

Posted by James at 5:17 PM | | Comments (5)

Fri, Jan 7, '11

Tomorrow



Posted by James at 8:10 AM | | Comments (0)

Fri, Oct 22, '10

CORNERED

You and I need a secret signal. When I send the signal I need you to call me, or come rescue me from a bad conversation. Will you do that for me?

I was sitting outside of our offices yesterday, about to make a phone call to Maggie before my class started. Before doing so, I sat down in a chair and checked my phone for emails. While this was happening, I overheard a conversation a man was having about his interest in being trained as a math teacher. I didn’t listen in to it; I heard it was happening.

As I was about to dial my phone, the man walked by me and made a comment to me about UMass having a presence in the building. I looked up and realized that I knew this fellow; he was a classmate from my undergraduate days long ago. I didn’t want to be rude, so I said “Hi, A——-. Yeah, some centers are located here because the university has a deal with AT&T.”

A——- asked me if I was the director of one of the centers (I guess I was relatively well dressed yesterday as a result of my internship meeting) and I said “No, I’m a student in the program here and I work on research projects as well. You’re interested in becoming a teacher?”

I was mainly trying to be polite. I admit, I wasn’t actually that interested, because this was a fellow I never really had much cause to interact with. Even so, I am interested in mathematics teaching and I thought we had some common interest that was genuine. It turns out that I was wrong.

A——- told me that his knowledge of technology was what got him interested in teaching, because he’d heard that technologically savvy teachers were needed. But he didn’t have a math background that the state would have required. That much is fine. But with nary a pause for breath, A——- launched into a discussion of specific technologies, computer chips, operating systems, programming languages, the size of memory chips, RISC processors, the Makerbot and other extremely technical details completely out of any sort of context that would make them interesting.

“…so they put C on the chip and it’s 64K I think… well, there were chips that were 32K, but the 64K chip works better because…”

I think I was polite. After 8 minutes of this, I started to signal my wish to end the conversation by saying things like “Well, I hope you have good luck in your…” but I couldn’t even finish a sentence like that because he would immediately tell me something like:

“… well the Mindstorms brick has an ARM in it and that was originally made in the 1980s by Acorn, and so ARM stands for…”

Ok, people. I’m not saying I am never interested in some of this stuff. But the stream of consciousness bombardment was too much for me. No context. And no conversation - this was completely one way. But it gets worse.

After the ARM discussion, I tried to turn the conversation to some of our common experiences, and I referred to when we were in college together. This was about 15 minutes into the conversation, or, more accurately, my captivity. He looked back at me confusedly. It was the first pause of more than 2 seconds in the conversation.

“Who are you?” he asked me.

He didn’t know we went to college together. He didn’t remember me. He had cornered me to tell me all this barely coherent stuff about computer engineering, and he thought I was a stranger. I started to tell him who I was, but he interrupted me and started on again about how small the pins are on some chip or other. Or how many pins it had. Something like that.

My boss walked by to the men’s room. He didn’t see me with my hands clasped together, trying to shrink into the wall. He did not admonish me for being away from my desk; my prayer was not answered. I realized, I was starting to feel an urge to visit the facilities as well.

I tried for the 5th time to extricate myself from the conversation by asking if we could start walking towards the men’s room. He didn’t skip a beat in his talking and just followed me as I walked that way. When it looked like he was going to just follow me inside, I stopped walking. I was not going to let him corner me in the men’s room.

My boss came out of there. He did not make eye contact. Damn.

We were now near the elevator. As he stepped toward the elevator I realized that 25 minutes had gone by. I fantasized that the elevator doors would open and I would push him through them and make my escape. Not every version of this fantasy involved a waiting elevator behind the doors.

After about 5 more minutes, my phone rang. As A——- rattled on about not being able to remember what company made some chip that he wished dearly could run Python code, I checked it; it was Maggie!

“Oh, it looks like I have to take this call. Sorry! Well, good luck with your…” he wasn’t listening to me, he kept talking.

I put the phone up to my ear and said “Hi” to Maggie, and A remembered what company made that chip, and started telling me why they made the chip. THIS IS NOT HOW YOU END A CONVERSATION. I had to tell Maggie to “hang on” (I HATE doing that to a caller).

I “let” him tell me a couple more things as I waved my hands and the phone, indicating the conversation should be over. He continued talking as he stepped into the elevator. “Thanks for having a sympathetic ear.” He told me. Gah. Well, not so sympathetic, I am afraid. I am interested in many things. But none of them is being cornered and talked at. I feel like the chair would have been as good a participant in this discourse.

So, please, people. We need a secret sign. I promise to rescue you someday, if you need it.

Posted by James at 3:03 PM | | Comments (4)

Tue, Sep 14, '10

ZOMBIEBLOG! IT LIVES!!!

Okay, not really.

So, I just decided yesterday that this blog is going on a sort of hiatus. It’s slipping into low power mode, at least for the semester, possibly until 2013. This will be of high interest to the 2 people (including me) who still read the blog. (Thank you, RSS feeds!) Thing is, I still have stuff to say, and a number of issues here (psst. the software) keep me from wanting to make this my daily haunt. Plus, blogging feels like more of a drive-by affair lately. So, I’m switching to microblogging.

When you’re too busy to blog… get yet another blog, right?

My new blog is called Rabbits of Mind (http://rabbitsofmind.com). If you care, you can check out that blog’s RSS feeds. Lucky for you, it pretty much autoposts to Twitter and Facebook as well. It’s a Tumblr blog, so if you’ve got a Tumblr account, you can follow me that way.

I installed a Disqus commenting system on there which (hooray!) should be completely spam and maintenance free! It requires authentication, but you can use your Twitter account. Eventually Facebook accounts should be recognized, once I get that working.

What will happen to Aces Full of Links? I still use it. All my recipes and such are here. I search it nearly every time I cook. I’ll probably still post my recipes here, so I have a place to find them. But for the short term, my conversation has moved over to Rabbits of Mind. And Facebook and Twitter.

See you there?

Posted by James at 7:57 AM | | Comments (12)

Mon, Aug 16, '10

The Mosque

I rarely tell my parents this, but I am often very thankful for my upbringing. Do all people feel they were “raised right?” I don’t know, but I am frequently thankful for the example of trusted family members, and for the experiences my parents gave to my sister and myself. My memory is full of formative experiences.

In one such memory is of a trip to Morocco with my sister, parents and aunt and uncle. I remember wandering around looking at the beautiful tile work near some sort of mosque. At the time I only barely understood what a mosque was; I was 6 or 7 years old. But I did know that the people who built the mosque were not the same religion as we were. Despite that, my mother’s fascination with everything we saw helped to instill in me an appreciation for the beauty of inspired human accomplishments, no matter what inspired them. I credit that experience with strengthening self-awareness of subjective judgment. But, really, I thank my parents for allowing me to see more things by looking past certain obstacles that society installs in our brains.

This idea of an Islamic community center within blocks of the site known as “Ground Zero” has caused many to balk, to comment on the craziness of the modern world, to cry out with offense, and to claim insult.

Were the 9/11 attacks carried out by an entire religion? I think that if we begin to attribute the motives of some who call themselves religious to all who share their name, we have a lot of tiring work to do condemning people.

That said, people clearly are offended, insulted and hurt. Some of these people are folks I care about. Some ascribe nefarious motives to the builders of the center; they lament that some will interpret its existence as a sort of triumph. Those feelings are real. But what, in the end, is the consequence of them? That is a decision we must make between our desire to save our feelings and our desire to stand by American principles. Is it important to deprive some extremists a thing they will see as a symbol (when extremists snap their fingers, do we jump?) or is it important to show the majority of Muslim Americans that we really are a nation of laws and principles?

We do not have a right not to be offended or hurt. This is fortunate, even though we and our friends will be unhappy at times because of it. It’s fortunate because the principles at stake are much more important than the whim of personal feelings, even if those feelings are strong and shared by many. An ability to see past feelings to principles makes us better than extremists and shows that we believe in our principles; we don’t just spout them meaninglessly.

Some people risk their very lives and even die for these American principles. Others of us make a different sort of sacrifice when we bear the brunt of an offense in the name of a difficult to defend principle. Both are noble.

Posted by James at 1:14 AM | | Comments (8)

Fri, Aug 6, '10

Rendering Equations in GMail and Elsewhere

I just found out this workaround for rendering equations in GMail and it was so awesome that I felt I had to share it. Even if you don’t use GMail, you might find this useful, if you ever have to work with equations online, because I’m going to show you 2 tools that help you with mathematical equations.

First, the “problem.”

Have you ever wanted to send someone an email with an equation? This happened to me today when I wanted to send Dr. McCabe some math I was working on for a problem he threw at us on Wednesday. He likes to pop by the office and give us math problems to keep us on our toes. I’ll give you guys the math problem when I find out for certain that I have the description correct.

Anyhow, I wanted to add a couple of equations to the email, but I wanted them to look nice. Let’s say these were the equations:

x=sqrt(34765)-65

(x/2)/1997 = 43/56+x

It’s much nicer if they look like this:

CodeCogsEqn(2).gif

CodeCogsEqn.gif

Lots of word processors have equation editors, but GMail does not. There is a cool workaround that’s also very easy to use.

You have to enable the ability to insert images into your GMail messages (it’s a Google Labs feature) and then, instead of inserting an image from your hard drive, you choose to insert an image from a url. Here’s the cool part: there’s a website that will generate an equation image from a URL. It’s called http://texify.com

If you type your equation using LaTeX syntax in place of the angle brackets in the following url, you’ll get the rendered equation:

http://www.texify.com/img/<>.gif

The cool part is that if you type the above first and then add the equation, GMail gives you a live preview as you’re typing.

The first equation looks like this in LaTeX: x=\sqrt{34765}-65

My web editor messes up the link, but you can take this URL:

http://www.texify.com/img/x=\sqrt{34765}-65.gif

…and paste that in your address bar and you’ll see that it renders the equation. Neat! For documentation on how texify works, check out http://www.texify.com/.

But what if you don’t know LaTeX? There are some good online editors that will generate the LaTeX for you, and show you what the syntax is. This is a good one.

Even better, if you don’t use GMail, that equation editor will render the image for you and allow you to download a gif and paste it into any application. So, just for fun, you should go send some mathematical equations and expressions to people.

Credit: I found the idea in this thread of people making suggestions for GMail features.

Posted by James at 11:09 AM | | Comments (0)

Sun, Aug 1, '10

Better than a Coolatta

For a few years I’ve been trying to duplicate the Dunkin Donuts Coolatta at home so that I can have one whenever I like, but also so I can make one with a lot less sugar. the real Coolattas are the liquid equivalent of cheesecake.

I’ve made a few attempts and got pretty close, but have always been somewhat disappointed, especially with the texture. You need a powerful blender. Trying to get the crushed ice just right is tough. Also, the milk will tend to go foamy on you. I suspect that the filler they use in the “for recipes” Splenda was contributing to foaminess.

The closest I’ve come was when I used a recipe out of one of Todd Wilbur’s Top Secret Recipes books: Top Secret Recipes Unlocked. Todd found that one of the distinctive flavors in the Coolatta is hazelnut. If you don’t order a hazelnut Coolatta, you still get hazelnut flavor in your Coolatta. Even with that knowledge, I didn’t love my recipes.

Finally, I’ve got a substitute I like, but it’s nothing like an actual Coolatta. It’s essentially like an iced latte, but I like it better than the slushy drink I used to buy at Dunkin Donuts. I make these without measuring, but I am giving you a recipe below so you can try to recreate it for yourself if you care to (and so I can remember). My recipe is low calorie, but you can make an even yummier one if you use real sugar and whole milk. It’s up to you.

Also, this is fairly sweet because that’s what a Coolatta is like. If you don’t like your coffee sweet, omit the Splenda altogether, taste, then add one packet at a time to your taste. Remember, the flavored syrups are sweetened.

DrMomentum Low-Cal Hazelnut Latte

Ingredients:

  • 20 ounce cup or larger
  • 3 or more ounces of very strong-brewed coffee. (Preferably espresso or Italian coffee made in a bialetti stove-top pot. Espresso roast. Fresh beans ground just before brewing. Chilled if you have time, use extra ice if not.)
  • small ice cubes
  • skim milk
  • Fat free half & half (optional)
  • 2 packets of Splenda
  • Torani Hazelnut flavor syrup
  • Any vanilla flavored syrup for coffee (I use sugar-free, Torani or Archer Farms from Target)

Half fill cup with ice.

Empty 2 packets of sweetener onto the ice.

Add 1 tsp of each of the syrups (eyeball a splash of each).

Pour 3 oz (that’s essentially 2 shots) of espresso onto the ice. If your cup is >20 ounces, add another ounce or half shot. If your coffee is not that strong, you need to use more of it.

Add a splash of fat free half & half if you’ve got it. We’ve always got it because Maggie uses it every day.

Top up with skim milk and stir.

The important thing here is the strong coffee. Remember, you’re diluting it with the milk and ice. If you want a milkier latte, use less ice so you have room for more link.

Brewing strong coffee / espresso substitute

To brew really strong coffee, I use a Bialetti Moka pot on the stove and I take it off the heat before it’s done brewing so that the coffee in the pot is concentrated (the coffee that comes out later in the brewing process is less strong). I stop the extraction by running cold water over the bottom of the pot, or wrapping the pot in a frozen kitchen towel.

How do you make really strong coffee? let me know in the comments.

Posted by James at 2:14 PM | | Comments (3)

Thu, Jul 22, '10

Kettlebellery

Kettlebells

Fitness is infectious because being in decent shape feels good. Maggie has recently cautioned me against going crazy with my exercise, probably because she knows I can go overboard sometimes. “Extremism in good health is no vice” — didn’t someone once say that? I guess not.

Maggie’s right; it’s not smart to go overboard. But part of my plan for the summer is to get an exercise routine in place and habitual enough that when the semester starts again, I won’t have to think about it.

Running is great because, if you can do it, you don’t have to put much thought in it. You just run. Unfortunately, for me, almost any other exercise carries with it a learning curve because I am really unfamiliar with strength exercises. So, I’m starting from scratch, no matter what I try.

Are you starting out there, too? Then you might be interested in kettlebells. After some initial interest in kettlebells after reading about them on a Twitter-friend’s website a while back, I recently got re-interested when friends told me their trainers had them try out kettlebells (for fitness and for rehab purposes). It just so happens that I would like some exercises for my off-running days. Usually I just do shorter runs, but I would like to both give my feet and lower legs a rest and get some core and upper body fitness. I like the idea of kettlebells because people tell me:

  1. They help you burn fat and tone your core instead of bulking you up (which is why they also have a large female following).
  2. They combine strength training with cardiovascular so that you get multiple benefits at once.
  3. They don’t concentrate on one muscle group, but spread the benefit out over many muscle groups, which is both a time savings an advantage for general fitness.
  4. The equipment is relatively cheap, compared to home gyms.
  5. The equipment is small and portable.

Still, there’s a learning curve because you have to understand how to do the basic exercises without hurting yourself. The most basic exercise stems from the “box squat” which teaches you how to bend over and pick up something heavy without hurting your back. Essentially, you plant your feet and bend down by creasing at the waist and throwing your behind back while keeping your knees above your feet. You can practice that with your arms straight out horizontal in front of you without a weight until you get it. Then you can try it by standing about 8 inches from a wall, facing the wall with your arms out from your sides. This will tell you if you’re doing it correctly without leaning forward.

Once you’ve got that form, you can do swings and cleans and other fancy moves that are quite challenging.

I can tell this is going to challenge my weak upper body (I have problems doing even one pull-up) and help tone my relatively strong lower body. But, we’ll see. I will post my progress (my learning curve progress) here; I’ll let you know in the future if I am able to continue with this, or whether I have wasted my time.

(P.S. Here’s a gal demonstrating what a kettlebell routine might look like.)

Posted by James at 3:52 PM | | Comments (0)

Sun, Jul 18, '10

Inception

A few people are interested in this film, so I figured I would pen a quick review of Inception. It’s one of those films that makes it tough to say too much about, but I promise to be careful.

Cobb (Leonardo DiCaprio) is a special kind of freelance agent; he has learned enough about people’s minds so that he now has the ability to enter their dreams and learn their most valuable secrets. This skill is called “extraction.” However, his own secrets are kept closely guarded even from his closest associates.

It is these associates whom he must convince to help him pull off a new job, one that will not only bring them wealth but will help Cobb deal with some trouble from his past. And convince them he does. Soon he has assembled a team to perform a daring feat that none of them are sure is even possible: “inception.” That would be the placing of a thought into someone else’s mind in such a way that they believe it is their own idea.

This quickly becomes a science fiction mystery film wrapped neatly into the trope of a heist film. With a bit of a con job thrown in, the fast pace keeps you from dwelling too long on the details. It’s safe to say you will see bits and pieces of all your favorite films and genres here, because Christopher Nolan borrows heavily, but he’s taken these elements apart and rearranged them. Ghost story? It’s in there!

Ariadne (Ellen Page) is the new recruit on the team, a hotshot dream architect who acts as the audience’s way in to the complex maze of Cobb’s own mind, which might be just as challenging to unravel as how our heroes can succeed in their plan as things (inevitably) begin to go wrong. Her curiosity forces us deeper into Cobb’s own story (which he actually seems to give up a bit too willingly, one of the forgivable flaws in my opinion). As Ariadne wonders whether they’re even safe on Cobb’s journey, we simultaneously wonder where he’s taking all of us.

Inception reminds us that when Christopher Nolan isn’t making movies about the Batman, he likes to mess with our minds. In this film, he’s mixed taut action sequences with unsubtle psychological gymnastics in an attempt to give us everything at once. It’s an enjoyable effort, if a bit messy at times. But Mr. Nolan probably doesn’t want us to come away with too neat a view of this world he has constructed; he’s left us to fill some of it with the projections from our own dreams.

Posted by James at 10:42 PM | | Comments (4)

Sat, Jul 17, '10

Run Training That Worked For Me

I have recently had the good fortune to be able to increase my running distance far beyond what I thought I would ever be able to run. I thought this would be a good subject for a blog post for anyone who might be dealing with issues with their running or workouts.

Background

I like running because it’s a workout you can do almost anywhere. However, numerous foot problems have always prevented me from getting my routine running distance up to 3 miles, which is often considered “fitness” distance - a decent chunk of running you could do a few times a week as a fitness routine. Heel pain (plantar fasciitis) and later Achilles tendinitis limited my running, because I always felt the telltale signs creeping back when I increased my distance.

Finally, last semester I gave up entirely after trying a Couch to 5K training program on the iPod. My tummy doesn’t tolerate NSAIDS (like ibuprofen) so when I felt the Achilles pain start, I figured I was done.

Base Workout

I dropped back to a base workout of alternating running and walking on the treadmill, using the pre-programmed workouts on the treadmill to burn some fat while I dieted. These workouts alternate running and walking, usually with an incline on the walking portion to keep your heart rate up. They keep you aerobic without killing your tendons and muscles.

Because I was limited in my distance, and because my doctor suggested it, I began exercising every day instead of every other day, in an effort to head off blood pressure problems (I had an elevated reading over the winter break).

Then I Ran Farther

Then something happened and I was able to run farther. I don’t know exactly what it was, so I can’t give you a single recommendation. Instead, I’m going to list these as guidelines for myself for what has made this year’s run training so productive for me, and why I think I was able to increase my distance.

1. Maggie, Running Outside

First, I began to run with Maggie on her running days. Her schedule is 6-6-10. Twenty two miles over three days in a week. I couldn’t do those distances, of course, so I would just run some distance out and then walk back. Sometimes, she’d catch back up to me and I’d run with her back home, making my workout a run-walk-run.

This helped my motivation. Running with someone else is motivating. Running outside is motivating, if you like outside. Also, somehow, running outside is easier than running on the treadmill. It is very difficult for me to run on the treadmill for longer distances. I do not know why.

I continued to work out every day, but I ran outside when Maggie ran.

2. Slow Down

Maggie has a slower pace than mine. I slowed down to match her pace. I think this was key to increasing my distance. I always wanted to run fast, but speed definitely stresses my legs. Slowing down allowed me to extend my workouts and avoid injury.

The slower you run, the more exercise you’re getting per mile (mostly because it takes you longer). So, running slow is a good fitness choice. If you don’t have a person to pace you just try to consciously slow down to the point where you’re just barely running. (Some people call this jogging. I call it running slow.) You can always speed train later.

3. Ice and Heat/Ice

I began to ice my tendons every day. I keep two ice pads in the freezer. Any pain I had after a run I would ice. If I had no pain, I would ice the places where I usually had pain.

At night, I would use a heating pad on my habitual injury areas for 20 minutes and then ice them for 20 minutes. I am amazed at how this reduces soreness. And I have not injured myself during the time I have used this practice.

4. Slow Increases / Don’t Run Through Pain

“Don’t increase your weekly run mileage more than 10 percent” is an oft-repeated guideline. I kept this in mind as I slowly increased my peak-day mileage to approach Maggie’s base-day mileage. But I also judged by how my tendons felt. Any indication of heel or tendon pain and I figured it was time to walk.

5. Protein / Calories / Water

At the time I began to increase my mileage, I stopped dieting as strictly as I had been. This was a welcome change! It means my weight loss has slowed way down (and even reversed on some weeks) but it takes calories to build muscle and repair damage, and it takes carb calories to efficiently burn fat during aerobic exercise. So, this gave me a (small) license to eat.

Immediately after a run, I would make sure to have some protein-rich food. Usually an egg substitute omelet. Sometimes yogurt.

I don’t think it’s good to cut your caloric intake way down when you’re training, but if you have to, at least get decent amounts of protein.

Also, it’s important to stay hydrated. I carry water with me when I run, by strapping a water bottle to my hand. Take a gulp of water every once in a while. Gulp it down to help your body get it out of your tummy faster, and get it t your muscles. I got that advice here, along with some other pre and post workout eating advice.

6. Get actual running shoes

Have your gait analyzed at a good runner’s shoe store. This is something I did years ago, and it has helped with my crazy foot-planting.

7. Achilles tendon strap

I mention this last because I’m not sure it applies to anyone else, but it might apply to you if you have a history of Achilles tendinitis.

I was afraid enough of re-injuring my tendon that I began taping my foot before a workout to see if I could prevent heel and Achilles pain. Actually, I had slightly re-injured myself after my last attempt at Couch to 5K, and so I was taping in the hope that I could continue exercising without making my condition worse.

The tape seemed to help, but I hated having to constantly tape myself up. So, I bought an Achilles tendon support strap. This strap supports the tendon by applying gentle pressure with a soft, rubberized buttress. See this video to see someone applying the strap.

I have used this strap on almost every one of my runs. It seems to be making a difference in preventing the recurrence of my Achilles problems. I am not a doctor, and I did not begin using this strap on the advice of a doctor. But I think it has helped me avoid re-injuring my Achilles.

In Summary

I hope this has been helpful. My general advice to everyone is do some exercise you’re comfortable with. Increase slowly. Don’t get lured in by speed; running fast is not necessarily running well. The most important thing in your workout is to stay healthy. Try to listen to pain cues from your body. And try to work out every day to see the best results.

Posted by James at 9:14 AM | | Comments (4)

Mon, Jul 12, '10

Turkey Scallops

Earlier today on Facebook I mentioned that I was doing a foodsperiment by wrapping some of my scallops in bacon and some of my scallops in turkey bacon. The purpose of this exercise was to see whether an especially low fat turkey bacon would make a good wrap for scallops. Here I present the findings of my research.

First, I must apologize for not including a photo. As often happens, we were hungry and tucked into the scallops almost immediately. I like to take pix of my food, but did not have the energy to try to set up an attractive arrangement. Presentation is, admittedly, not my strong suit in cooking.

Why do this at all? Because scallops are a good and delicious source of protein, which I would like to get more of at meal time. Scallops taste great wrapped in bacon, and this method of preparation makes them both easier to keep on a skewer and allows them to cook more evenly. However, the fat in the bacon makes this a less attractive dish from a diet perspective. Turkey bacon is half the calories (this particular brand) and so I wanted to see what the difference was.

Back to the research. I had 2 lbs of dry boat-run sea scallops. I had a pound of Oscar Mayer bacon. and a pound of Oscar Mayer turkey bacon.

WRAPPING and SKEWERING

Wrapping the scallops was slightly easier with the turkey bacon. Every slice is the same, and it’s less important where you skewer the bacon. However, real bacon is slightly stretchier, which gives the sense that you’re making a tighter wrap. Still, the advantage here goes to turkey bacon.

GRILLING

On the grill, both kinds of bacon shrunk slightly, tending to hug the scallops, giving them more structural integrity and a better presentation. Regular bacon takes longer to cook, probably because of moisture content.

Regular bacon becomes slightly more solid, so it turns out that concerns over where you skewer the bacon (through a meaty part or a fatty part) are not too relevant.

One huge difference between the two is the amount of fat that drips on to the grill. Unfortunately, the real bacon renders a lot of fat which can catch fire in the grill. Large amounts of burning bacon fat can cause soot to deposit on the scallops. Greasy soot is an unpleasant grilling product; avoid the scallops from touching flames. This is much easier to do with the turkey bacon.

Advantage turkey bacon.

APPEARANCE

Turkey bacon cooks up somewhat similar to strips of bologna. This is actually better than it sounds. The finished color is reddish brown and each wrap came out a consistent width because of the similarity of the artificial bacon.

Real bacon is more variable, and presents a varied appearance in how it cooks. Where two scallops touch, the bacon stays soft, fatty, and pale. On the other hand, where the bacon is cooked on the external sides, it looks like scrumptious fried bacon.

This is a toss up.

TEXTURE

The variability of real bacon, and the variability in how cooked it gets makes it difficult to compare texture. The real bacon will have very cooked spots and soft, fatty parts. Turkey bacon has a slightly rough, chewy mouthfeel.

However, the richness of the bacon fat fills your mouth with flavor. The advantage here is with the real bacon.

FLAVOR

As you might imagine, turkey bacon cannot compete with true bacon in the flavor department. This comparison goes to real bacon.

ANALYSIS

The question here was not only to compare these two preparations, but to get a sense of how different they were, and whether turkey bacon could perform satisfactorily. I am interested in answering these questions:

  1. Does the turkey bacon prevent scallop shrinkage?
  2. Does the turkey bacon enhance the flavor of the scallop?
  3. Does the turkey bacon taste good?
  4. Does the turkey bacon introduce any unpleasant aspect that prevents enjoyment of the recipe?

And so:

  1. Turkey bacon does protect the scallop from shrinkage. They allow the scallops to cook and they help prevent overcooking by limiting the number of surfaces directly exposed to the drying effect of the drill’s heat.
  2. Yes, turkey bacon imparts a meaty/salty/smoked flavor.
  3. Yes, though your opinion may vary.
  4. No, there was no unpleasantness introduced by the turkey bacon.

In addition, the lack of large quantities of rendered fat in the grill means it is easier to cook the turnkey bacon scallops.

CONCLUSION

I would use turkey bacon again and, considering caloric intake, will probably prefer to have turkey bacon wrapped scallops. It’s bacon-wrapped scallops with slightly less guilt, but all the scallopy goodness you expect.

Posted by James at 1:31 AM | | Comments (7)

Sat, Jun 26, '10

The Rivet

St.-Germain-Bottle-Standard.gif

Yesterday we had a “stats day” at the Center, which I sat in on partly as a review and partly to deepen my knowledge about the methods we use to find interactions among the variables in the the data we gather. Since I’ve spent a lot more time on qualitative methods in the last year than quantitative ones, it was nice to help keep me thinking about a variety of methods.

After that, Ryan twisted our arms for a well-needed visit to the Pour Farm (OK, not much of a twist was needed) where we ran into Ryan’s friend Nick.

We also ran into a new cocktail. The liqueur in it got my attention when I saw Stephen examining the bottle. It’s pictured to the right: a distinct bottle containing a concoction of citrus flavors and elderflower. I don’t know what that means, but when they mix it with Hendricks Gin, it’s awesome. I took a picture of the menu.

Pour Farm cocktails

A “Rivet” is Hendricks gin, St-Germain, fresh lime juice, shaken and served like a martini. This drink was similar in flavor to a gin and tonic, but frankly more awesome. There was a good deal of sweetness to offset the sour of the lime, so I’m guessing that St-Germain is somewhat sweet on its own.

I am going to enjoy experimenting to get this recipe right, but it looks like a gimlet without the simple syrup. And, lo and behold, the St-Germain website lists a “French Gimlet” cocktail recipe which is 2 parts gin, 1 part St-Germain and 1/2 part fresh lime juice. I have a feeling someone thought “Rivet” sounded more manly. Let the fun begin!

Posted by James at 11:32 AM | | Comments (1)

Mon, Jun 14, '10

Pork and Voting

Later today, my town will have a special meeting to determine whether the people want to regionalize with Berkley and accept a bunch of help from the state to build a new, combined high school. I’m for the plan because our current high school building is falling apart and we’re already effectively regionalized with Berkey, except that they have no say in how the school is run.

Also, nobody seems to have an alternate plan for the future of the high school that doesn’t involve crossing our collective fingers and hoping that the state wasn’t serious when it said that this was the only way they were going to provide money for a new school. Playing chicken with the state is not a plan. So.

On a more interesting and unrelated note: pulled pork! I don’t have a smoker, so I have to settle for slow cooked pork. But, I assure you, I have now found the easiest and best slow cooker pulled pork.

Applewood Rub

Here’s the simple recipe. Get some of the stuff pictured on the right: McCormick’s Grill Mates Applewood Rub and rub it all over a 3-5 lb pork roast. Put it in a slow cooker. Add apple juice to roughly 2/3 the way up the side of the roast. Cook on low for 8-10 hours.

After the pork is cooked, remove it to a big glass bowl. Reserve some of the cooking broth. Pull out the bones from the meat and any hunks of fat you don’t want to eat. Shred the pork and put it back in the slow cooker with a bottle of your favorite BBQ sauce. Add some of the reserved broth if the meat seems dry.

Serve it on buns, and you’re done! I got the dry rub suggestion from the Al Dente blog here. Their version of the recipe suggests you bake it in the oven to finish. It does improve the flavor, but not necessarily enough for me to justify messing up another pan when I’m busy.

Needless to say, I have one of these cooking as I type this. The house is about to smell incredible.

Somersettians, see you at the special town meeting tonight. Whatever your political views, a sandwich is something everyone can agree on. (And we can argue endlessly over what type of sandwich, but at least that’s fun.)

Posted by James at 9:42 AM | | Comments (5)

Mon, May 24, '10

LOST Ending

This post is light on the spoilers, but I open up the comments for FULL SPOILER ALERT if anyone wants to talk about the ending.

In short, I enjoyed it. They went for a (what I think was) fairly conventional heroic ending, explaining the gimmick of the season and focusing on resolution for the characters if not for the mysteries of the Island. In other words, they chose not to give us too much cheese to criticize, and hoped that the fans would come away thinking the writers had respected the characters.

Have at it, if you feel the urge.

Posted by James at 9:57 AM | | Comments (2)

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