Starry Wisdom

Entropic Words from Neilathotep

Sunday, October 26, 2008


And by pickles, I mean kosher dills. I “put up” two quart of them tonight, filled mostly with produce that I bought at the Alemany Farmer’s Market yesterday. Well. the cucumbers, garlic and dill at least. The salt and “pickling spice” were store bought. While it is true one can just buy dill pickles at the store, I find them uninspired. They do not take my back to my childhood when my Grandma would make her own pickles from cucumbers grown in her garden. Therefore I’ve taken to making my own – where taking to is one abortive attempt and one successful attempt last year, and one attempt starting tonight this year.

A few things to keep in mind when making these pickles:

  • Pickles don’t like to be too warm or too cold when they are fermenting (because kosher dills are fermented, not vinegar pickles. Keep them in a cool place, not the fridge,and do not let them get over 80 degrees, or you might end up with mush. If it is very cold the fermentation will be slow to non-existant.
  • Again on the subject of mush, evidently the stems contain an enzyme which can break down vegetable matter, so make sure to cut the stems off to remove all traces of them
  • Try it! It’s easy, arguably fun, and the results are tasty if you keep the top two points in mind

Dill Pickles:

A quart jar can hold approximately 1 pound of cucumbers.

1. Into the bottom of each quart jar place:
1 heaping tablespoon kosher salt or coarse sea salt
1 heaping teaspoon pickling spices
2 peeled cloves of garlic
3 sprigs of fresh dill

2. Fill the jars small cucumbers, stems cut off, sliced in half or quarters if they are very stout. Pack them in fairly tight but leave some room on the top

3. Place 3 more sprigs of fresh dill on top of the vegetables to prevent them from floating.

4. Fill the jars with cold water right to the brims, put on the screw caps and invert the jars enough to dissolve the salt. Slightly loosen the caps to allow the escape of the fermentation gases and the brine to leak out. Put the jars in a cool dark place, with plenty of newspaper underneath to soak up any overflowing brine.

5. Check the pickles every few days, and if you see any scum on top, scoop it off and replace the new brine (1 tablespoon of salt to 12 ounces of water).

6. Leave the pickles for about 2 weeks. Check them for the degree of doneness. At this point they would be considered “half-sour” or “young”, and are ready to eat. If you prefer a more intense flavor, you can let them ferment longer, up to a year. Top off the jars with more brine (1 tablespoon of salt to 12 ounces of water) Wipe off the rims and recap the jars tightly. Can or refrigerate the pickles to stop the fermentation process.

posted by neil at 8:12 pm
under cooking,food  

Friday, October 24, 2008

Ballot Measures and Moral Corruption

People in California, as well as those aware of current politics might be familiar with Proposition 8 on California’s ballot this November:


Proponents of this measure, (funded in large part by the Mormons, but we don’t have to get in to this yet), have been relying on lies and FUD to encourage people to vote for it. The measure not passing will not endanger the tax-exempt status of any church that refuses to perform same-sex marriages and will not require kindergarteners to learn that same-sex marriage is anything special. The measure not passing will certianly not cause any damage to marriage, which already has a high divorce rate in the United States. The only excuse for voting for 8 is bigotry and closed-mindedness. This is not the point of this post however.

The point is that the Yes on 8 crowd has reached a new low:

SAN FRANCISCO (AP) — Leaders of the campaign to outlaw same-sex marriage in California made an offer to businesses that have given money to the state’s largest gay-rights group: Give us money or we’ll publicly identify you as opponents of traditional unions.

I am not quite certain when extortion became a family value, and when it was considered righteous, but there we have it. It’s important to note that this is direct from ProtectMarriage, the organization behind the misguided ballot measure. There are plenty of shennanigans being perpetrated by No on 8 folk – even including publishing the names of Yes on 8 folk, but to my knowledge, never contigent on getting a matching donation to avoid the publication.

If you have the inclination, consider donating to the No on Prop 8 people. Maybe you too can be extortioned. And if you are in California please vote no on 8 – because equality is best.

posted by neil at 1:51 pm
under politics  

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Minor ramble

I’m sitting at work, waiting for my friend Adam to call me back. He’s just arrived at the airport (from Boston) and once he gets his bag I will head over and pick him up. He’s in town for a conference, but is spending the night at my place, since the conference doesn’t start until later tomorrow. After I pick him up and get him settled off at home, I’m going to head over to the Fillmore to see Stereolab.

posted by neil at 6:35 pm
under rambling  

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Obama Anecdote

Today I volunteered for the Barack Obama Campaign for Change by phonebanking from a cafe in the Mission. We were calling up voters in Indiana, finding out who they intended to support in the election, and encouraging early voting. Based on my calls, people in Indiana support Obama over McCain at around 2 to 1. I made about 120 calls, and talked to twelve people. Of those, 2 of them wouldn’t tell me anything (fair enough), 3 were for McCain, and 7 were for Obama. Strangely there were no undecideds that I talked to.

Anyway, Indiana is considered a weak McCain state by fivethirtyeight but my results were sort of heartening.

posted by neil at 5:09 pm
under travel  

Saturday, October 18, 2008


No, I didn’t go to the Redbull Soapbox Derby in Dolores Park today – although I did want to. Instead I am watching a cat derby in Sunnyvale.

My friend Erin, who lives in Sunnyvale, is in Salt Lake City this weekend, so I am keeping tabs on her two kittens (Or are they young cats? They are about 5 months old. Not fully cats yet for sure, especially in behavior). I have some birthday festivities to attend back up in San Francisco tonight, but I want to make sure the kittens are well attended, so I am staying here until early this evening. The upshot of course, is that I am missing the Dolores Park silliness. The kittens are pretty silly (they are wrestling in a bit of sunshine on the carpet not), at least.

It’s actually kind of weird being here alone. The last time I was here alone was probably back in March, when I was watching Sneakers, before she got really sick and Erin was willing to leave town. It’s also weird that because, while Sneakers was very much my cat too, these girls are not. Granted they love me, and are really friendly and adorable, but it’s still a bit weird. But I can’t help but think of Sneakers – as I look up at the “mantle” over the TV I can see the lovely wooden box that her ashes are in. She’s been gone for almost 3 months now; I still miss her.

So I don’t end on a down note, here is a photo of the kittens investigating the toilet (they didn’t drink form it but they were sure interested):

posted by neil at 1:07 pm
under emo,rambling  

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

The past weekend

My mom was in town from Thursday evening until Monday morning. I will go over some highlights of the weekend:

After picking her up from SFO and dropping her stuff off at the house, we went to eat at Liberty Cafe in Bernal. I had a pot pie and I burned my tongue a bit on it. This was unfortunate because the next day we went up to St Helena and Calistoga.

While “up north” we took a tour at Ehlers Estate Winery, which is an organic and not-for-profit winery – all their profits are invested in cardiovascular research.

We happened to be there on one of the last few pressing days of the year, so we got to see some sorting action, and sample the cabernet sauvignon grapes. They were actually remarkably delicious – quite sweet, but not cloying, and with a rich flavor. The put green globe and red flame grapes to shame!

After the tour we had a tasting of their merlot, cabernet franc and cabernet sauvignon wines. They were all pretty good, but die to my tongue burn I think I might have missed some nuance. Regadless, I like the franc enough to buy a bottle of it.

After the winery we had a decent lunch in Calistoga, and then went up to the Petrified Forest. This was a rather interesitng, albeit overly touristy place. Still, giant fossilized trees are rather impressive.

I decided to take my mom to dinner at my favorite sushi restaurant, Sakae in Burlingame. I discovered it soon after she left the last time she was in the area, so I figured it would be nice to take her there. We both greatly enjoyed our meals (it was the first time I had really good (not from Mollie Stone’s) sushi in months. After dinner I took my mom to Lucky 13 where people I knew were meeting for happy hour. We hung around for an hour of so, and my mom got to meet some of my friends.

Saturday we visited the newly opened California Academy of Sciences. Parking was a bit of a mess, but we actually managed to find a street spot about half a mile away from the museum. While walking across the plaza between the De Young and CAS we came across a guy registering people to vote, and we each donated a dollar for an Obama button. And then we entered the zoo that is the CAS on Saturday two weeks after opening.

The first thing that we did was get tickets for the planetarium – it was 12:30 and there were tickets for the 3:30 show, which seemed reasonable enough. We spent the next 3 hours looking at most of the exhibits – the overall highlight was the living roof, for me, but there were some good tanks in the Aquarium. The one major exhibit we did not visit was the rain forest “dome”. The line was just too long. The planetarium show was indeed neat, and it should be something on everyone who visit the museum’s agenda.

After the museum we headed back to my place and got ready to go to dinner:

You might be asking yourself “Oh, why are they dressed so nicely?” The answer of course is that we were going to Gary Danko for dinner. I could bore you with details of the dinner, but I will just give you a capsule summary: exquisite. Seriously it was fantastic from the physical restaurant, to the food (well one dish was only REALLY REALLY good, but the rest were so good, I am willing to overlook that) to the staff. We had a great time and a fantastic meal. And we were very full.

Sunday was a chill day – mom had to grade some papers, so we hung around the house for the morning, then went down to Sunnyvale that afternoon to visit with my friend Erin and her two young cats (just a little old to be kittens now). We went to dinner at my favorite mexican place, Vive Sol, and that pretty much was the end of the weekend. I took mom to the airport Monday morning before going in to work.

posted by neil at 6:45 pm
under adventure,emo,politics,rambling  

Sunday, October 5, 2008

Peas and Disease

This is a recipe based on food one of my roommates in college and I created. The name is actually as misnomer – there should be no disease in this food, but the name is based off of a Sanford and Son joke:

Julio: Buenos Dias, Mr. Sanford.
Fred Sanford: And beans and disease to you, too.

There was a release of this show on video around this time (1997-1998) and the commercial for the set was in heavy rotation during the later hours. So clearly, when we bought chicken breast, frozen peas, frozen broccoli, egg noodles and a jar of Alfredo sauce, we had to name the resulting food after that line. If it makes you feel better, call it chicken alfredo with peas and broccoli.

Peas and Disease:
(serves 2-3)

~1lb skinless boneless chicken breast
2 tbsp olive oil
1 package egg noodles
1 cup broccoli florets (fresh preferably)
1/2 cup frozen peas
1 cup heavy cream
1 tbsp butter
1 tbsp flour
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/4 small onion, finely diced (about 1/4 cup)
1 tbs dried herbs (oregano and basil)
1/4 tsp nutmeg
1/2 tsp pepper
1/4 cup parmesan cheese

Heat a nonstick pan over medium heat. Add the olive oil, and once it starts to shimmer, add the chicken breast. Cook until done, about 8 to 10 minutes. Move to a plate lined with paper towels to drain. Drain the fat from the pan and return to the heat.

Add the noodles to the boiling water. Begin steaming the broccoli. Microwave the peas with 1/4 tsp water for about 1 minute.

Add the butter to the pan. Once it melts add the garlic and onion. Cook until the onion is tranlucent, about 1 to 2 minutes. Add the flour and stir for 30 seconds. Turn the heat down to low and slowly stir in the cream, and stirring constantly slowly add the cream. Add the pepper, herbs and nutmeg. Stir in the parmesan. Once the cheese melts turn the heat back to medium and allow it to boil briefly to thicken the sauce. While the sauce is heating, cut the chicken in to bite sized peices.

Add the peas, chicken and broccoli to the sauce. Serve over the noodles.

posted by neil at 9:40 pm
under cooking  

Sunday, October 5, 2008

Light Switch

I replaced it, that was rather easy. The new one hums, even at full power. I’ll suffer it, though, for having light in my room controllable by the door.

I had an idea for a neilcast the other day but I’ve forgotten. If I remember, I might post one today.

posted by neil at 9:40 am
under adventure,rambling  

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Landlords (and lack thereof)

Who is my landlord now? Is it the old landlord? I tend to think now, since there is still an auction scheduled for the house, even though it was pushed out a month. Is it the bank who holds the mortgage? I think so. But I don’t know who this bank is. And I think they don’t know I exist. So what’s the upshot of all this.

1) I am obligated to pay rent, or I violate the terms of my lease, evidently. And since I wasn’t told otherwise by anyone, I paid the old landlord (but there is a good record of this payment), I’m sure this tickles him pink.

2) There is no one to call for basic repairs. In particular the dimmer switch for the track lighting in my room burned out last week. I have a table lamp, but not having a light switch near the door is quite a drag. I actually bought a new switch, and spent time figuring out which circuit the switch was on, but when I opened up the workbox, well the wires made no sense, and it was just a spaghetti mess. I didn’t feel like hacking around to get it to work, so I sealed it back up. So, the upshot is, I have no working lightswitch, and no one to MAKE fix it for me. I guess I will call the tenant union tomorrow and ask them what is the right thing to do in this situation.


posted by neil at 9:18 pm
under meta,Uncategorized  

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Wine in a box

Yesterday I bought box wine. Well, tetrapak wine, to be more specific. A 1 liter package of Three Thieves Bandit Pinot Grigio:


It was cheap, and I’ve been wanting to try these newer box wines for a while, so I figured, oh what the hell. I would have preferred a red, but all I had the choice of was Chardonnay and Pinot Grigio, and I wasn’t in the mood for oak.

It’s really not bad stuff. Not to say that it is fantastic, but at 7 or 8 bucks for a liter, something that is incredibly decent works. In fact, it was good enough that I drank four solid glasses of it, so basically a bottle’s worth. I was a bit drunk for a while last night, but wise enough not to finish the box.

posted by neil at 10:05 am
under food  

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