Sunday, September 25, 2011

Old Books!

The British Library is releasing some of their old, rare artifacts as scanned ebooks!

One of William Blake's journals, one of Leonardo da Vinci's notebooks... Squee! They don't have much up yet, and they're not yet supporting kindle - but it's things like this that sometimes make me love the internet!

Saturday, September 24, 2011

Say that again?

When searching for a phrase to accurately and quickly apply to a situation, I don't always censor for origin. Fortunately, neither my new management nor my coworkers recognized the following phrases that I used when being interviewed or training /motivating them.

1. Slow is smooth, and smooth is fast.
2. Two is one, and one is none.
3. "Hey, it's all in how you look at life! You look out there and see a horde of undead brain-eating zombies. I see a target-rich environment."

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

New job

I am very grateful for a new job.

I am also out of state at training, and verra verra tired after work. Expect posting to resume when I get a handle on the job, and it either ceases to be like trying to herd ferrets... or until I get back in the ferret-herding groove.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Legumes and Heresy Chili

Look, I know the Chili Has No Beans(tm) debate, and it has its good points - but when you're stretching a tight budget, beans are a whole lot cheaper than meat, and provide their own tastiness in the meal. When I feel flush in the cash reserves and optimistic about the economy, I'll make a no-bean chili (see me after November 2012, and I'll still put you off for a few months until we can judge someone by the content of their character, and their actions.)

Until then, Cheerfully Heresy Chili

1 pound ground beef
2 medium onions, diced
3 cloves of garlic, minced
1 teaspoon cumin seeds
1 Tablespoon olive oil (optional if your ground beef is fatty)

1 Tablespoon chili powder
1 Tablespoon chipotle chile powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
1/2 teaspoon oregano
1/8 teaspoon ground cayenne
1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes

1 can tomato paste
1 can diced tomatoes with jalepenos
1 can diced tomatoes (plain)
2 cups red wine
1/2 teaspoon white sugar, if the wine is dry

1 can kidney beans, drained & rinsed - or 1 cup dry beans, soaked and cooked
1 can black beans, drained & rinsed - or one cup dry beans, soaked and cooked

The night or day before, soak the kidney and black beans in about 6 cups water. (Soak at least 6-8 hours). Drain, rinse, put in a pot with at least 6 cups water, NO SALT. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to a simmer. Simmer for roughly an hour - may take an hour and a half for kidney beans. Or drain and rinse a can each. More expensive by far, but far less time-consuming.

Saute the onions and burger. When the burger is browned, add the garlic and cumin seeds, and saute until the garlic's browned, too - doesn't take long. Add the spice mix and stir for a few seconds, until everything is coated. (If you don't have cumin seeds, add a teaspoon of ground cumin here).

Add the can of tomato paste, and stir it in. Stuff should be sticking to the bottom of the pan - dump in the undrained cans of diced tomatoes, and deglaze (scrape the tasty browned bits off the pan bottom) with the juices. Add in the wine, stirring well. If cooking with something sweet, you'll have enough sugar to cut the tomato acidity - if dry, add the sugar.

Stir some more, add beans, stir a little more. When it starts to simmer, turn the heat to low, and put a lid on so it keeps cooking but doesn't splatter. Stir every now and then, but mostly let it simmer to itself for at least twenty minutes. Which, coincidentally, is the amount of time it takes for rice to cook, and allows for time to make the salad and set the table, too!

Like a good tomato sauce, it'll get better and better as you let it simmer and blend - if you want to let it reach proportions of awesomeness, make this before work (beware tomato sauce splatters!), stick it in a crockpot on low, and let it create food alchemy all day.

Serves 6, when served with rice/pasta/potato, and salad - garnishes might include, but are not limited to, a little shredded cheddar, sour cream (or Greek yogurt, for a healthier substitute), or salsa.

Sunday, September 11, 2011

September 11

You can hurt us. You can get a sucker punch in. You can try to trample us down. You can try to control us, in the name of safety, security, Allah, Climate Change, or whatever rationale you choose...

To hell with you. We're still flying free, celebrating our freedom however we feel like.

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Challenging Hunger (Sausage Stroganoff)

The 2011 Hunger Challenge is going to kick off at some point, with all the breast-beating and moaning about "raising awareness" of the plight of those who mooch food stamps off hard-working taxpayers and bitch about wanting more of their "rights" from "the guvmint." During the challenge, a bunch of disorganized people, especially bloggers, will try to feed themselves for $4.72/day, possibly even for a week, while setting up a bunch of arbitrary rules like "no free samples or food bought by friends!"

Which only proves that they're idiots. If you're truly hungry, you take food anywhere you can get it. If you're going to be short on cash for a long time, you get smart about acquiring and preparing food for the least amount of cash for the most amount of tasty calories. If you're whining about how you'll have to starve an entire day while the office holds a buffet, and can't have any coffee because a mocha costs too much, you're not hungry enough.

By the way, that $4.72/day represents the amount you get for food stamps alone, which are supposed to supplement your food budget, not replace it. Whining idiots.

As for the inanity and insanity that feeding yourself is impossible for less than five dollars a day, let's look at the true cost of breakfast.

1 Box Aldi's store brand bran flakes: $2.50
Sevings per box: 18
Cost per serving: $0.14

1 Gallon store brand Vit D milk: $2.89
Cups per gallon: 16
Cost per cup: $0.19

Cost for a bowl of cereal: $0.33

Let's try this again with a heartier breakfast like two eggs and a bowl of grits - a better breakfast if you're going to be on the run, and want the calories.

Eggs: $1.28/dozen = $0.22 for 2 eggs
Grits: $3.40/box with 14 servings = $0.25/serving

Cost for two eggs and about half a cup of cooked grits = $0.47

Either way, breakfast costs less than fifty cents. You could have that for all three meals and not break $1.50 - but we're moving on to lunch.

My Housemate goes through a loaf of bread, a jar of peanut butter, and a 3-lb bag of apples a week. ($1.82, $1.79, and $3.49 respectively, as we buy a name-brand bread)
This means over 5 days, his lunches cost $1.42 a working day.

Last night, I felt lazy, and cooked from prepared ingredients, making dinner a little more costly than usual. Balancing this, I was testing out some bratwurst found on sale. And no, I'm not going to be idiot enough to make stupid rules like "Use the full price if you bought it on sale." You know what? If it had cost full price, I wouldn't have bought it. I'd be using a different meat bought on sale, a meatless dish, hunted meat, or really darned good cow that I personally eyed before its death and feel is worth every penny I paid to farmer and processor.

So, Bratwurst Stroganoff
1. Start water boiling for rice - one cup water per person, to which you'll add a little salt and 1/2 cup rice when it boils, cover and turn down to simmer for 15-20 minutes. Remove from heat when done, even if the rest of dinner isn't finished yet.(3 servings = $0.57 cents)
2. Dump bratwurst in pan. Set to medium-high. (0.89 cents)
3. Roughly chop an onion. Add to pan. ($0.25)
4. Stir to ensure sausage browns, and onions saute in bratwurst grease.
5. Add a little paprika. Contemplate, and add more to taste. Add a dash of black pepper, and some garlic. ($0.02)
6. Add one can mushrooms, drained. Let everything brown some more. ($0.59)
7. When everything well browned, deglaze with one can mushrooms, undrained. Look in fridge, shrug, and add half a cup of white wine, as well. ($0.59 and $0.60)
8. Add can of condensed cream of mushroom soup. ($0.69)
9. Stir, set lid on, turn to low, and let bubble to itself. Clean up everything, set table.
10. Pull bag of spinach out of freezer, dump in bowl, add a little water, and microwave by directions. ($2.20)

By the time the spinach is done, the sausage stroganoff has melded together, the rice will be long done, and the table is set for dinner. Serves 3 for $6.40, or $2.13 each, and you'll likely have leftovers.

That's a day's meals for $3.89 to $4.03, depending on breakfast, and accounting for an expensive unusual ingredient - wine - in my dinner. You'd have to have two more bowls of cereal to even get to the $4.72 the government extracts from me at gunpoint and gives to others in the form of food stamps.

This wasn't even a "I'm feeling tight budget" day, this was a "let's try this on-sale meat to see if I should stock up in the freezer with more" day. For tight budget times, I have lots of beans and rice recipes that'll keep body and soul together.

I'm in favor of young people out on their own starving every now and then - if you don't grow up learning to save, budget, cook, and clean up after yourself, the inevitable realization that paying all the bills leaves less than $20 to feed yourself for a week is the slap in the face by reality that forces the thoughtless to become thoughtful, and start to take the painful steps toward being responsible for themselves.

I'm not opposed to safety nets, but I am opposed to ones extracted from me by force and presented as a "right" to people who feel entitled to take it and demand more instead of accepting responsibility and getting back on their own two feet. If you're making Stroganoff, you're not hungry enough to really feel motivated to spend less elsewhere, or jump for something that'll bring in more food on the table.

Therefore, based on this experiment, I meet the hunger challenge and prove that really, the government should cut food stamps by at least $2.00/day.

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

These Are My People

If the last four days had gone by any faster, you'd still be hearing the sonic booms.

Traveled down to Dragon*Con with Oleg Volk and Michael Z. Williamson. The oversocialization the weekend before with Tam's GunBlogger Meetup was merely inoculation for plunging into 35,000+ geeks and gamers in four hotels.


A few blocks away, we started seeing people in costume, and stranger for me, people I knew. Except they weren't. In a small pool of geek, nerd, goth, gamer, otaku, and dork, everybody is an individual. In a large enough crowd, body types and hair styles are sterotypes, not an individual. All weekend, I kept turning around and seeing old roommates, housemates, gaming group partners, friends... and they weren't the people I knew, but they sure looked and acted alike. It was like meeting thousands of your old friends, who turn out to be new friends instead. Yes, these are my people.

I met a lot of awesome folks, including Larry Correia (who is an awesome gentleman, as well as a New York Times best-selling author), Howard Tayler of Schlock Mercenary and Writing Excuses, Dan Wells of great horror fiction like I Am Not A Serial Killer and the Writing Excuses podcast, Julie Cochrane who wrote several Posleen War books with John Ringo, John Ringo and his absolutely wonderful wife... so many authors I've lost track, and even the editors of Baen Books! (Okay, some geeks really want to meet the actors of Firefly. Me, I really like meeting the editors and authors. I may be a dork, but I'm a happy one!) Not to mention all the really cool people from the internet in the flesh! (Thanks, Ryan! You are awesome!)

And then there was dinner at the Brazilian Steak House. I think I'm still full! The only thing that kept me from falling into a meat coma was the concert later that night.

After 10 years in Alaska, with almost no concerts since I moved there, Sunday night moved into Monday morning with Jefferson Starship opening for the Cruxshadows, and I had more fun than my tired mind has words to express. After all, y'all probably are looking for something more profound than SQUEE!

Monday, despite being bathed in rain and sweat from the heat and humidity, we got people off to the airport on time, and out on the road in time to drive through the remnants of a tropical storm. While the drive itself was long and rainy, there are worse fates than being in a car with Mad Mike and Oleg Volk, both of whom are great guys. Though I think my water bottle is still in Mike's van - good excuse to visit in Indianapolis, eh?

Life is good, and I definitely have to bring Calmer Half next time.

Hey! If you like good scifi, go buy Mike's book Rogue! It comes out today, and sales in the first week drive the New York Times bestseller list - now only is he a great guy, but also a great author!