New gravy recipe?

[SimplyRecipes][] has a [giblet gravy recipe][SRgravy] that looks interesting. I haven’t used mirepoix in my Thanksgiving gravy before, but that certainly sounds like a worthy addition!


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Atari lives!

I got one of my two Atari 800’s out and fired it up today. My 30-year-old computer is still kicking!

My 1982 Atari still works!

My wife and/or kids started typing on my old computer, and their opinion is apparent! 🙂

The old programming cartridges (Action!, assembler, and BASIC) still work, but I currently have no way to store any programs I write. (I didn’t even bother to test the old cassette tape drive, because I’m almost certain that the drive belt has disintegrated.) So my first project to resurrect this box will have to be some hardware and software for serial communication. The “software” will have to be burned onto an 8k EPROM for the right cartridge slot. Fortunately, Make Magazine just published a [circuit board for Atari 8-bit computers][1] in their most recent issue.

I’m enough of a geek that I’m actually looking forward to this!


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The Dark Tower

Back in September 2011, I (and many other geeks) was introduced to NPR’s “Top 100 Science Fiction and Fantasy Books” via [SFsignal’s amazing flowchart][flowchart]. I had already experienced about half of the books, but that still left quite a few books to push onto the TBR stack, one of which was Stephen King’s *The Dark Tower* series. He began this in 1978 with a novella(?) titled “The Gunslinger”. Over the next 20 years he expanded that first story to a novel, and published three more volumes of the saga:

1. [The Gunslinger][dt1]
2. [The Drawing of the Three][dt2]
3. [The Waste Lands][dt3]
4. [Wizard and Glass][dt4]

In the Foreword of the 2003 edition of [The Gunslinger][dt1], he mentions that while preparing to write the final 3 volumes of the saga, he took the opportunity to go back and clean up the earlier books. Here is the complete saga, as (re-)written circa 2004:

1. [The Gunslinger][dt1]
2. [The Drawing of the Three][dt2]
3. [The Waste Lands][dt3]
4. [Wizard and Glass][dt4]
5. [Wolves of the Calla][dt5]
6. [Song of Susannah][dt6]
7. [The Dark Tower][dt7]

The links above are for the post-2003 editions available through the [Sacramento Public Library][spl] system.


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Quilt shop update

About seven months ago, we got a notice from Sacramento County about our expired permit for the quilt shop. We renewed the permit (to avoid ever-increasing penalties), and now we’re just days away from having to call for an inspection or have the permit lapse again. Looks like it’s high time for me to get busy on the wiring and lights in the shop!

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Chicken with peanut sauce

This is my adaptation of Martin Yan’s recipe for glass noodles with peanut sauce from [A Wok For All Seasons][wfas], currently out of print. If you like this, I highly recommend that you ferret out a copy of the book! It’s filled with excellent recipes and useful tips.

[wfas]: “Martin Yan, ‘A Wok For All Seasons’, ISBN 0385243863″

Before assembling all the ingredients, put the chicken in the freezer for an hour or so. This will make it easier to cut.

I usually wait until everything else is ready before I cut up the aromatics (onions, garlic, ginger) so they don’t lose any flavor sitting on the counter.


– 2 T + 6 T soy sauce
– 4 t shao xing wine (or use dry sherry)
– 2 large boneless skinless chicken breasts
– ½ c smooth peanut butter
– ¼ c rice vinegar
– 2 T chicken broth (or water)
– 2 T sesame oil
– 4 t sugar
– 4 t chili oil
– vegetable oil for the wok
– 4 t fresh ginger (about 1” piece), minced (see note)
– 2 cloves garlic, minced (see note)
– 1 medium red onion, thinly sliced (see note)
– 1 English cucumber, cut into matchstick pieces
– 2 medium carrots, cut into matchstick pieces
– 1 c roasted unsalted peanuts, coarsely chopped


1. Cut the chicken into matchstick pieces
1. Combine 2 T soy sauce and the shao xing wine in a bowl, add the chicken and stir to coat. Marinate for 15-30 minutes.
1. In another bowl, combine the peanut sauce ingredients: 6 T soy sauce, the peanut butter, rice vinegar, chicken broth, sesame oil, sugar, and chili oil.
1. Heat up your wok over high heat and add some oil. Drain any excess marinade from the chicken.
1. When the oil’s hot, add the ginger and garlic, stirring until fragrant (about 5 seconds).
1. Add the chicken and stir fry until opaque, about 1-2 minutes.
1. Add the onion and stir fry for about a minute.
1. Add the carrots and cucumber, stir fry for about 30 seconds.
1. Add the peanut sauce, stir and cook until slightly thickened.
1. Transfer to a bowl and sprinkle with peanuts.

Serve over rice or (even better) Chinese noodles.

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“Terms and conditions”, another observation

Back in 2007 I wrote about [RSS feeds for “Terms and Conditions”][tandc_rss] updates. But this week I have been traveling, hooking up to a lot of free wifi hotspots, and agreeing to a bunch of T&C’s, mostly [without reading said agreements][preposterous]. (I know, it’s preposterous. I should be worried about becoming a HUMANCENTiPAD at this point.)

However, I *have* read enough of these T&C agreements to know that I agree with many of the standard clauses, e.g. I promise not to spam people, engage in illegal online activities, etc. Perhaps if these standard clauses *were* truly standardized, with well-known identifiers, I could pre-agree to them. Then it would just be a matter of checking the non-standard (or not-agreed-to) clauses.


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Cucumber salad

This salad is cool and delicious on its own, and it also makes a great palate cleanser between courses. I used a 2mm (about 1/12 of an inch) slicing disc to cut the cucumber very thin, sort of like pickled ginger.

I’ve seen similar recipes with additional ingredients: Thai basil, oil, pepper, unseasoned rice vinegar. I have tried all these, separately and in various combinations. The recipe below is my favorite.

Servings: 2-4


– 1 large English cucumber
– ¼ c seasoned rice vinegar
– 1 t sugar
– 1/8 t salt
– 2 T sesame seeds, toasted


1. Combine the rice vinegar, sugar, and salt in a shallow bowl, large enough to toss the cucumbers.
1. Cut the cucumber into lengths that will fit in the food processor. Cut each piece in half lengthwise.
1. Slice the cucumber very thin. I used the 2mm blade on the food processor for this.
1. Add the sliced cucumber to the vinegar mixture and toss.
1. Let stand for a few minutes or up to an hour. The texture and flavor will change over time, so keep checking until it seems right to you. Cover the bowl and put it in the frig if you won’t be serving it right away — it’s better chilled than at room temperature.
1. Heat up a frying pan (no oil!) over low heat. Add the sesame seeds and toss or stir them in the pan until you smell that wonderful toasted sesame aroma (about 1-2 minutes). Remove from the pan immediately.
1. Drain off any excess liquid from the cucumbers, add the toasted sesame seeds, toss, and serve.

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Pork baos

We make these pork-filled buns for our family Christmas gathering every year. This is an Americanized dim sum recipe from the 1979 Sunset Chinese Cook Book. (Some good recipes in there, buy a copy if you can find one!) We use our KitchenAid mixer for this, so adapt it if you use a food processor or hand kneading.

Makes 12-16 buns

Dough ingredients:

– 1 pkg active dry yeast
– 1 c warm (~110° F) water
– ⅓ c sugar
– 2 T salad oil
– 1 t salt
– 3¼ to 3½ c all-purpose flour

Dough method:

1. In the mixer bowl, combine warm water, yeast, sugar, oil, and salt. Leave in a warm place until bubbly (about 10-20 minutes). Tip: pre-warm the bowl with hot water!
1. Add most (3 cups?) of the flour, mixing at low speed until the flour is hydrated. Add more flour as needed until it forms a ball.
1. Switch to the dough hook and knead on medium speed for a few (2-3?) minutes until the dough is smooth and elastic.
1. Grease a large bowl (at least double the volume of the dough), turn the dough into the bowl and cover with plastic wrap. Let the dough rise in a warm place until doubled, usually 1-2 hours.

Pork marinade ingredients:

– 1½ lb boneless lean pork, cut into ½-inch cubes
– 2 cloves garlic, crushed or minced
– ½ t fresh ginger, minced
– 2 t sugar
– 2 T soy sauce

Pork marinade method: Combine all ingredients in a bowl. Marinate for 10-15 minutes.

Pork filling ingredients:

– 2 t sugar
– 1 T cornstarch
– 2 T soy sauce
– 1 T shao xing wine (or use dry sherry)
– ¼ c water
– cooking oil
– the marinated pork (above)
– 1 medium onion, chopped
– melted butter


1. Combine the sugar, cornstarch, soy sauce, shao xing wine, and water.
1. Heat up your wok over high heat and add some oil. Drain any excess marinade from the pork.
1. When the oil’s hot, add the pork and stir-fry until browned.
1. Add the chopped onion and stir-fry until limp.
1. Stir the sauce and add to the pork, cooking until the sauce thickens.
1. Transfer to a bowl and allow to cool.
1. Lightly flour a work surface, turn out the dough and knead for a minute or so.
1. Roll out the dough and cut into 12-16 equal size pieces, and divide the pork filling appropriately.
1. Roll each piece out to a ~4-inch diameter circle, thicker in the middle and thinner around the edge.
1. Put some pork filling in the middle of a round of dough, pulling the edges up and twist to seal.
1. Put the bun on a greased baking sheet, seam down, spacing about 2 inches apart.
1. Repeat for the rest of the dough and filling. Once all the buns are prepared, brush the tops with melted butter and cover with plastic wrap.
1. Pre-heat your oven to 350°F.
1. Let the buns rise in a warm place for about 30 minutes.
1. Bake for about 15 minutes until golden brown.

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Blue Mandarin martini

Add equal parts Absolut Mandarin (orange-flavored vodka) and blue curaçao over crushed ice in a cocktail shaker. “Shaken, not stirred.” Pour into a martini glass, garnish with a half-slice of orange.

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Bill Meara has a cool [SolderSmoke blog post][SS] about the [Reverse Beacon Network][RBN]. Unlike regular (“forward”?) beacons where a station automatically transmits specially formatted messages, the Reverse Beacon Network listens for real operators calling CQ (“Does anybody wanna chat with me?”).

I have a little bit of a problem with forward beacons because it doesn’t involve 2-way communication between people, just a couple of pieces of hardware. I think this reverse beacon idea is superior because it’s taking advantage of existing communications. Also I’m guessing there are a lot more people calling CQ than there are beacon transmitters.

I think this would be a fantastic use for my [30m SoftRock][] kit once I finish it!

[30m SoftRock]:

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