Saturday, January 31, 2009

Fitness Update: End of January

Weight = 192.2 lbs (-5.4 lbs)
Body fat = 28.5 % (+0.4 %)

Visceral fat = 10 (no change)

Resting metabolism = 1845 kCal (-37 kCal)

Since I'm now on to my natural food challenge, I will only torture my few readers with these "beefcake" photos once a month. I think photodocumenting really helps show the differences in fitness. I've lost five pounds this month, but I think I've really just lost the holiday pounds and nothing more since my body fat percentage has gone up and my resting metabolism has gone down. That's what I get for being out of work for four weeks. I should have spent the whole time exercising. Live an
d learn.
I made a graph, using Excel which is why it sucks, of my weight in pounds and my body fat percentage since I first started keeping track in July 2007. I started out close to 210 lbs and at 32% fat. I made decent progress reducing it until the end of the year when I went to my parents' place and ate nothing, but crap. I came back, muddled around and then got serious in about April of last year and made great progress. Last fall, I was around 190 lbs and 27% body fat. I don't know how accurate my scale is in an absolute sense, but I trust the relative sense and losing 5 percentage points seems pretty significant to me. You can see the end of the year spike due to Christmas gorging and then a weight drop this month, but not a fat drop.

I really need to get back exercising again. I don't like how the body fat has been creeping up steadily since last fall.

Friday, January 30, 2009

Not right in the head

Ever since I came back from San Diego, I haven't felt quite right in the head. I don't think anything bad happened to me there other than I got an ultra-mega large dose of cat hair and I know I'm allergic to cats. The weather changed from rainy to sunny as well and I always feel weird when the pressure changes. I think it's because my full sinuses act like a barometer. Sweet. What I'd really like to do is to jam a vacuum hose up my nose and vacuum out all the sinus funk. I think I'd feel a heckuva lot better.

Having all this free time hasn't been too good to me either. It's hard to enjoy it when you know that you're off for bad reasons (struggling company) rather than good reasons (paid vacation). I'm going back to work for at least next week so that'll be good. I'll have to get my brain in shape though.

A former colleague also came through with some good suggestions for startups to check out. One of them is even looking for someone like me. Pretty sweet though I'd like to see what happens with my current work first. I'll have to brew up a good cover letter as well.

Thursday, January 29, 2009

Crappy economy

This bad economy has got me down. Tech companies are laying people off left and right around here which is going to make it tough for me to find a job. My big advantage is that I'm an American, but some of the thousands of people laid off are also probably citizens as well and they have more experience.

My biggest problem is a lack of publications. I'm well-qualified to work in industry because they don't really care about papers, but I think most of the jobs available to me now are in academia or with the government. Those folk definitely care about publications. Maybe I can quickly write two or three this weekend and get them published. Heh. Fat chance of that since I'll watch the Super Bowl on Sunday.

I've still got my house down payment in the bank, but that isn't going to last long since the cost of living around here is fairly high. I'm willing to relocate to other states, but would really prefer to stay around here since I like the combination of weather and culture. There are also more jobs in my field here so if one company goes under, there are others to work for. That's not going to happen in New Mexico or wherever.

Gah. I'll try to think positively, but it's tough. The longer I'm without work/pay, the harder it gets.

Trip to the Wild Animal Park in San Diego, CA

Last Friday I drove down to San Diego to visit two friends from college, John and Julie, who married each other a few years ago. It's 470 miles from Sunnyvale to SD and takes about 8 hours if you don't stop too much nor get caught in a lot of LA traffic. I had a great time chilling and relaxing. I even got on a good schedule because they have two kids under the age of 5. It's been a long time since I've eaten dinner at 5, but I didn't mind and eventually started to get hungry around that time.

Here's a picture of their cat Rhys on the cat tree.

That Sunday we went to the Wild Animal Park which is run by the San Diego Zoo. I'm not a huge fan of zoos, but this one gives the animals a lot more space. We took the tram tour through their African exhibit and saw a lot of different kinds of animals. Most of them are some sort of gazelle or bok, but I can't remember the difference so there are no captions for the pictures.

Thoughts on Portland 88, Charlotte 74

Charlotte beat the L@kers in LA last night in double overtime, but lost their best player, Gerald Wallace, to a broken rib and a punctured lung courtesy of Bynum's lazy defense. I figured they would be tired and outmanned and it looked that way in the first quarter, but they battled all game to keep it close. It didn't help that Portland turned the ball over 17 times though some were on questionable traveling/carry/offensive fouls. The refs called a really strange game in the third quarter.

Portland was active on defense and on the glass and pounded it inside early which is the thing to do against Charlotte. They started Adam Morrison in Wallace's SF spot and he plays no defense and you don't even really need to guard him anymore. He was a great college player, but hasn't done squat in the NBA.

This game was one that Portland should win at home and they did. Sweet.

Individual observations:
  • Brandon Roy had a fairly quiet night until the fourth quarter, but ended up with 17 points. He barks too much at the refs.
  • Sergio Rodriguez got the start again and had 7 assists, but no points. He also had 5 turnovers though a couple were just bad calls. He had trouble guarding Felton, but did alright. His play this month has earned some burn when Blake comes back.
  • Greg Oden had 14 points, 14 boards, 3 blocked shots and a lot of shots that he altered. He looked active and aggressive. He didn't get any stupid fouls so was able to play 30 minutes. He's really come along this month and is playing like people expected when he was drafted. He looks like he's having more fun on the court as well.
  • LaMarcus Aldridge had a great game with 25 points and 9 rebounds. He was aggressive as well and played solid defense. Most of his shots were close range which is to his benefit.
  • Nicolas Batum played 16 minutes and got 5 points and 6 boards. He needs to get his stroke back and drive to the hoop more. He did provide energy and defense and that's pretty much all that is asked of him.
  • Rudy Fernandez had a tough night shooting. When his three pointer isn't falling, I'd like to see him go to the hoop more or run around a la Rip Hamilton. Like Rip, he might benefit from a bit more upper body strength.
  • Travis Outlaw scored 9 points and grabbed 5 boards, but didn't do too much. He still takes a lot of crazy shots, but they weren't falling tonight.
  • Jerryd Bayless scored 11 points, but had too many fruitless drives to the hoop. Teams are also learning to press him since his handle isn't that great. Once he learns to set up his teammates on the way to the hoop, he'll be more effective. His defense is solid so you can leave him out there in the fourth quarter.
  • Joel Przybilla had a quiet night because Oden wasn't in foul trouble. I'd like to see the Blazers run a play or two for Przy just to keep the other team honest. I think he can offer more than just defense and rebounding, but maybe not with that broken left wrist.
  • Channing Frye and Shavlik Randolph got garbage time minutes and did nothing.
A good win for the Blazers since they were supposed to win. They never knocked Charlotte out, but they were active and aggressive.

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Fun at the dentist

I've got the time and I've still got health insurance so I thought my furlough would be a great time to get some dental work done. It wasn't anything all that major, but I needed to get some of my amalgam fillings replaced. Unfortunately, there was enough decay underneath two of them that I needed onlays. Fortunately, my dentist is up on the high tech stuff and has her own milling machine. It's pretty cool to watch it work and saves me a trip and also means I don't have to rock a temporary. Those suck because you have to be careful it doesn't pop out when you eat stuff or brush your teeth or whatever. The first onlay went in a couple of weeks ago and the second was done this morning. My dentist had trouble getting the software to make an onlay for the new tooth and not the previous one so I had to go back home with a temporary. Fortunately, the rep straightened her out and I was back this afternoon and am good to go. My mouth is definitely sore and tired of having dental equipment jammed in it. Sometimes I think my dentist is trying to see how much stuff will fit before she asks me a question. All I can do is mumble something incoherent. I still need two more fillings replaced, but they aren't urgent and won't require onlays. Sweet.

You might think that I eat a lot of sweet stuff and don't brush or floss, but it's not true. I just have bad enamel and it runs in the family. Pretty weak, but I've been taking good care of my teeth now and haven't had a cavity in years.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Inauguration and a new president

Ah. It's good to know that Bush's reign of terror is over. Was he the worst president we've ever had? That's a tough question, but he is certainly in the running. The past eight years have seen the US sucked into two quagmires in Iraq and Afghanistan, a craptastic economy and eroding consumer confidence. We also witnessed the most anti-intellectual period seen since the Dark Ages.

I woke up "early" yesterday to watch the inauguration. Most of it was pomp and circumstance, but I was inspired by Obama's address. He gave a message consistent with his campaign rhetoric and seems to have a good idea of what to fix. I was also pretty stoked when you said we should return science to its rightful place. Amen to that. I don't know if he'll be able to accomplish everything, but I think he'll give it a good shot. I feel much better about voting for him.

If I were president or had the powers to effect change, but I would start up a big public works program. The economy is in the crapper because consumer confidence is shot. There isn't really a shortage of anything and there is money, but it's locked up because banks no longer feel like lending it out. I don't think throwing money at the problem is really the answer and hasn't worked to date. We gave AIG and Citibank a pile of cash and they spent it on parties and retention bonuses. Uh...yeah. You definitely need to retain the financial wizards that thought it was a good idea to give people on welfare $800k mortgages.

The real solution is for the government to spend money, but it has to do it in the right way. Warren Buffett put $5B into GE, but he didn't just give them the money, he got preferred stock, which means he has a significant voting stake. Why the government didn't get seats on the bank boards in exchange for the money is beyond me, but then I remembered that Bush's primary goal was to enrich his friends and other rich folk. He's a modern day Nibor Dooh - robbin' from the poor to give to the rich. Crazy. What's even crazier is that we let him do it. We voted for him twice - well, I didn't, but somebody must've. I have no idea how he won his second term.

Anyhow, the government needs to spend money to stimulate the economy and to generate jobs, but should get something out of it. The best way is to repair our crumbling infrastructure. We need to repair roads, lay down fiber optic cable for true broadband (not 5x faster than dial-up which is barely faster than Alexander Graham Bell's setup) and most importantly fix our power grid. I don't have the numbers, but I know that our grid is inefficient enough to waste many, many megawatts of power. Fixing the grid would create a lot of skilled labor jobs and laying down fiber optic cable would do the same and boost orders for routers and other telecom products.

Hopefully doing all of that would have a trickle-down effect on the rest of the economy.

Sausage dinner

I got some jalapeno-cheddar sausages from Dittmer's to grill up and fixed them last night. Also shown is some stir-fried red mustard greens from the farmer's market. It's amazing how much the greens shrank when I cooked them. I had gotten two bunches and it seemed like way too much, but turned out to make only two and a half servings. Interesting. The sausage turned out well and had a little kick to it. The greens turned out really well. They were tender and tasty for sure. I had never had them before, but I would definitely get them again. Part of my six-month challenge is to try new stuff.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Thoughts on Portland 102, Milwaukee 85

Portland put the smack down in the second half against an undersized Bucks team. Greg Oden went off and got a career high in points and tied his career high in boards. Roy shot poorly, but made up for it by distributing the ball. Sergio also had a good game and seems more aggressive. Of course, Milwaukee is milquetoast, but a win is a win. Portland was a little shaky from the free throw line again.

I bought a half-season subscription to NBA League Pass Broadband for $50 because I was tired of the crap quality of the quasi-legal Justin TV feed. Games on national TV are blacked-out on LP, but I'll still have access to around 40 games a week and can watch the Blazers nearly every game they play. I'm tempted to watch through my PS3 on my big ass TV, but I also like to chat on a Blazers message board during the game. Hmmm...maybe it's time to get a media PC. Heh. Something to think about when I've got money coming in.

Individual notes:
  • Brandon Roy had a rough shooting night, but got 6 boards and 7 assists. He doesn't look 100 percent physically.
  • Sergio Rodriguez got the start again, shot poorly, but got 7 boards and 7 assists. He played a heady fourth quarter as well and was much more aggressive than earlier this season.
  • Greg Oden showed what he can do when he faces weaker competition and is not in foul trouble. He threw down for 24 points, 15 boards, 2 steals and 2 blocks in 35 minutes. He also seemed to be having fun out there which is good for his confidence and development. He needs to work on his free throw stroke though.
  • LaMarcus Aldridge hit a lot of outside shots in the first half, but didn't play much in the fourth quarter. He still contribued 22 points, 9 boards and 5 assists. He wasn't aggressive tonight, but took what the defense offered.
  • Nicolas Batum played his usual 22 minutes and got 8 boards and 2 steals. He shoots too much from outside, but it'll take time for him to feel ready to drive to the hoop.
  • Travis Outlaw had a solid game with 18 points, 8 boards and 2 steals. He was more active on the boards than usual and played credible defense.
  • Rudy Fernandez shot well and scored 13 points. He hangs around the three point line a lot and I still haven't seen the Fernandez from the '08 Summer Olympics. I suppose the Blazers coaches have given him a slightly different role. Too bad. The Blazers need a slasher.
  • Jerryd Bayless only got 14 minutes of burn because he was in foul trouble - too much reaching. He doesn't look to pass, but got 7 points - definitely still a work in progress.
  • Joel Przybilla was mostly invisible and had trouble handling the ball since he has a broken bone in his left wrist.
Not a great win by Portland, but they beat a team they should have. Cleveland is up next on Wednesday. Hopefully it isn't blacked-out.

Monday, January 19, 2009

Grilled pork chops

I hadn't had pork chops in a long time so I got some from Dittmer's on Saturday and grilled them last night. I marinated them for about an hour in a mixture of garlic, lemon juice, salt and pepper. I also grilled up some asparagus and peppers. The pork tasted great, but was a little dry because I think I grilled it too long. You don't want to undercook pork so I erred on the side of caution.

You can also see a small puddle of homemade mustard on my plate. I mixed up Coleman's mustard powder and water. Apparently the water acts as a catalyst for the essential oils in the powder. The oil is what gives mustard a kick. It was really spicy with a strong mustard taste.

All in all a great meal. I'll have to watch the chops more carefully next time.

Jesus wept

I fear for this country: Songsmith.

Sunday, January 18, 2009

New pool cue

Last night was a Yahoo groups pool night so I got to try out the stick I got for Christmas. It's a Cuetec with a fiberglass shell over a wood core. The fiberglass makes it a bit slick, but ding resistant. I was happy to learn that it's a pretty good beginner's stick according to folks in the know who were there. I didn't shoot well at all, but I'm not going to blame the stick. I think my problem is that I over think shots. I didn't scratch on the eight ball nor did I give anyone ball in hand on the eight. I even won a few games with some pretty good shots. Not too shabby eh? It was distressing to find out that I would rank out as a 2 in pool league rankings - they go from 2 to 7 in eight ball. I guess I knew I was a beginner, but I didn't realize that I was a bottom-feeder. Rather than cry about it, when my work situation settles down, I'll join up with a team in a pool league. I'll get to play about once a week. The team can have up to eight people, but only five get to play. However, there is a skill cap for the five - add up everyone's ranking - so they like to have chumps like me to be well below the cap. We'll see.

It was another sausage fest last night and two of the few women that did show up bailed early. One of the best players there is a Japanese woman and I was teamed up with her a couple of times and got to watch her work the table like magic. She told me that she got better by joining a league, but it turns out that she really got better by dating a dude who teaches people how to play. Heh. Maybe I should date her and she can teach me.

Getting lazy

This furlough is not doing much good for my motivation. I need to have more discipline so that I don't sleep the day away. I need to get out and get some exercise as well and take advantage of this nice weather.

Heh. I'll start that tomorrow since there are two football games on today.

Thoughts on Charlotte 102, Portland 97 (OT)

Fortunately, the game started at 4 my time so it finished before it was time for me to head out for pool night. Unfortunately, Portland didn't really show up and looked tired from the get go. Not much analysis is needed other than Portland's pick-and-roll defense is terrible and Portland had a terrible night from the foul line, 16-31. These kind of games happen, but was pretty brutal to watch.

Individual observations:
  • Brandon Roy played aggressively in the fourth quarter, but didn't get much done before then. He ended up with good numbers, but was only 3-10 from the free throw line. He also tends to try to take over the game at the end rather than looking for teammates. He seemed pretty tired as well.
  • Sergio Rodriguez got another shot and I thought he played pretty well. He held his own defensively and was aggressive going to the hoop. He did get 5 assists in 21 minutes which isn't too bad, but he tends to dribble too much.
  • Greg Oden was plagued by foul trouble and looked lost on the offensive end. I think he's thinking too much out there and isn't letting the game come to him. Hopefully he'll get his legs back so he can jump again.
  • LaMarcus Aldridge hit a good number of outside shots, but also got in foul trouble which kept him out of a lot of the fourth. He tends to foul when he gets frustrated.
  • Nicolas Batum played just 17 minutes (about par for him) and didn't do much. He was primarily out there for his defense and hustle. He doesn't look to drive as much as he did earlier this season and that's not good.
  • Rudy Fernandez scored 15 points off the bench, but doesn't seem to do much other than shoot three pointers. He doesn't look like the same guy who led Spain to a pretty good run during the Olympics. He gambles a lot defensively.
  • Jerryd Bayless had another solid game with 14 points, but didn't record an assist. He's a bit small for a shooting guard and needs to look to pass more, especially when he drives to the hoop and gets quadruple-teamed. He played great defense though.
  • Joel Przybilla filled in well for Oden off the bench and got 10 rebounds. He's not an offensive threat, but he does set great picks. You can tell his broken left wrist is bothering him a bit.
  • Travis Outlaw jacked up a lot of shots as usual, but few of them went down. He doesn't rebound well for a dude who's 6'9" and his defense is suspect. Every now and then he'll have a big game, but he needs to be more consistent. He's another Blazer that needs to go to the hoop more.
Charlotte's Gerald Wallace had a great game on both ends of the floor. Portland is rumored to be trying to get him in a trade. Charlotte would be stupid to trade him, but you never know.

Saturday, January 17, 2009

The best steak ever?

I got a ribeye from Dittmer's when I was there last week. I froze it until Wednesday and then pulled it. I marinated it last night with apple cider vinegar, barbecue sauce, tabasco sauce, Montreal steak seasoning, mesquite, salt and pepper. I grilled it tonight for dinner and had a salad to go along with it.

I don't know if it's the grass-fed beef or not, but it was one of the best steaks I've ever had. I forgot that grass-fed beef cooks faster so it ended up a bit past medium. Still, it was tasty.

I'm really liking my six month challenge because animals raised on what they'd prefer to eat taste much better than the factory-farmed animals. I don't think I can go back.

Fun at the beach

The weather is unseasonably warm and I've got the time so we decided to drive to the beach today. Firstly, we drove to Half Moon Bay. Below are some pictures from San Gregorio State Beach. The weather was fantastic.

I don't know why, but I take pictures of dead animals at the beach. Below are some dead birds.

There were two dudes fishing, but I'm not sure for what. Crabs? I saw some big shells on the beach.

We drove down to Santa Cruz on CA-1 and stopped for lunch at the Gazos Grill. I got me a crab salad sandwich and a vanilla shake.

Then we hit the boardwalk in Santa Cruz. I ended up napping for a bit. Not a bad way to spend a Friday for sure.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Tastes like chicken

I picked up some chicken thigh at Dittmer's since it looked pretty good and wasn't too expensive - something like $3.50/lb. That's pretty good for free range chicken from Sonoma County. I cooked it tonight in oil and added some carrot and green onion. I also cooked up some rice and mixed it all up with curry sauce from Trader Joe's. I have to say that the chicken had a pretty strong... chicken flavor. I know that sounds stupid, but the chicken was really flavorful and had great texture. I definitely think I made the right choice trying to go all natural and it hasn't hurt my wallet too badly.

Monday, January 12, 2009

Thoughts on Portland 109, Chicago 95

Thanks to a quasi-legal feed from Justin TV, I watched the Portland Trail Blazers take on the Chicago Bulls in Chicago. Portland won 109-95 which is even more impressive given their crappy first quarter. Chicago has shooters, but no real identity as a lot of their main dudes like Hinrich and Deng have been hurt this year. They have the #1 pick, Derrick Rose, but he was pretty much a non-factor.

Portland was much more aggressive this game in getting to the rim as Chicago has a soft front line.

Nate MacMillan coached a good game and had the right players on the court to give Portland favorable matchups.

Thoughts on individual players:
  • Greg Oden played great. He was aggressive on both ends of the floor and seemed more in-sync with the offense. He finished with 17 points and 13 rebounds in 25.5 minutes of game time. Of course, it didn't hurt that he was mostly guarded by Drew Gooden.
  • Travis Outlaw had a great game as well and took over the scoring load in the third quarter. He finished with 33 points, 7 boards and 3 blocked shots. He still took a number of goofy shots, but he was aggressive going to the rim and played good defense. He's not really a favorite of Blazers fans in the know, but he has his moments.
  • Steve Blake shot well with 16 points, 10 assists and 3 steals. His play is steady and he was able to get to the rim more on Rose than I expected.
  • Brandon Roy shot poorly and looked to be tired. He hit some key shots in the fourth though.
  • LaMarcus Aldridge had another maddening game where he couldn't really get on track. He took too many outside shots and didn't post up a soft front line as much as I think he should have. He grabbed six rebounds, but it didn't seem like he was boarding all that well.
  • Nicolas Batum played his usual 15 minutes and did alright. He's mainly in there for defense and hustle and provided both. He was called for some ticky-tack fouls, but he is a rookie.
  • Rudy Fernandez doesn't shoot as well as I think he can. He also doesn't go to the rim as much as I'd like or as much as he did in the Olympics. It's almost as if someone has told him to make his living behind the three point line. He seemed to have his hurt his foot when fouled hard dunking over Nocioni so we'll see if he's good to go in the next game.
  • Jerryd Bayless got a little more than 9 minutes of playing time and did score 7 points and was aggressive. He got no love from the refs, but rookies rarely do.
  • Joel Przybilla was hampered by foul trouble and his broken left wrist seems to be holding him back a little.
  • Sergio Rodriguez played fairly poorly in limited minutes. He often drives to the hoop, but to no avail. He doesn't finish well nor does he find the right open guy. I think he would do better in a different offensive system since Portland doesn't run much. I'm not sure how much trade value he has now though.
All in all, it was a good road win for Portland and I was happy to see some aggressiveness in driving towards the hoop.

Nice weather

I don't think I've lived here long enough to get used to 70 F in the middle of January. There are some clouds out, but not many. I took advantage of the nice weather to hoof it over to the Sunnyvale library to return some books and to get some new ones. The library was packed and not just with families and old people. I guess a lot of companies are on furlough this month. That's definitely not a good sign for the economy, but hopefully Obama can introduce some legislation to jump-start everything.

Tasty pizza

I hadn't made a pizza in a while so today was the day to change that. I made the crust this morning:

3 cup whole wheat flour
1 cup corn meal
2 tsp kosher salt
3 tsp active dry yeast (1 tsp for every cup of flour)
2 tbs olive oil
1.25 cup water
Minced fresh garlic
Italian seasoning
Red pepper flakes

Whole wheat flour is hard to work with, but I put my food processor to work. I combined the dry ingredients first and then poured in the oil and water until it formed a nice dough ball. You can let it rise at room temperature for 1-2 hours, but I prefer to let it rise in the fridge for 6-7 hours. I think when it rises more slowly in the fridge and this is preferred. I'm no expert though. Take the dough out about an hour before you're going to work with it. Let it relax at room temperature and it'll be easier to work with. The corn meal provides a crunchier crust though also makes the dough tough to work with. I'm not sure I would use whole wheat and corn meal if I'm mixing and kneading by hand.

I used natural ground pork, natural Italian salami, red pepper and sweet onion for the toppings. The red sauce was homemade from fresh tomatoes. The mozzarella cheese came from Safeway. Heck, I know I'm no saint, but the pizza is nearly sustainable. Heh.

It turned out really well and made a lot of leftovers so I'll be grubbin' down this week for sure. I put a couple of pieces in the freezer for later.

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Tasty breakfast

I was pretty hungry after my track work this morning so I fried up the pound of bacon I got from Dittmer's yesterday. I also made some pancakes since I still have a lot of batter left over. Holy moly, the bacon was fantastic. I didn't overcook it and it has quite a bit of flavor. Sure, it's more expensive than bacon you get in most stores, but this bacon was certainly worth the money. It's also from pigs that have lived a better life than most food pigs so that's good too. My new six month challenge is definitely providing some good eats.

Saturday, January 10, 2009

The Name of the Wind by Patrick Rothfuss

I finished this book last night and actually stayed up later than expected just to finish it. It's a fantasy book, but is more about people than magic or dragons or stupid stuff like that. It's mostly told in first person and is about a dude who can do nearly everything yet ends up a broken down dude tending an inn in his middle age.

I thought it was well written and definitely engaging. I don't like it quite as much as Martin's Song of Fire and Ice books, but those are the gold standards for fantasy books these days. I do highly recommend this book and I'll try to get the second one when it gets to the library.

Thursday, January 8, 2009

Tasty lamb dinner

At Dittmer's last week, I also got some lamb loin chop because the sheep were raised right here in California and I like lamb. I basted on a mixture of olive oil, fresh minced garlic and lemon juice and grilled it. It turned out really well and tastes different from lamb I've had recently. I'm not sure if it's better or not, but it's certainly different. I also had a salad and a fruit salad. A pretty tasty meal for sure so my six month challenge is going well so far.

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Somewhat sustainable whole wheat pancakes

Since I've got the time, I thought I would make some buttermilk pancakes using a family recipe. I guess it originally comes from my aunt's husband grandmother, but my parents have been using it since I can remember.

This recipe is ok to double.

0.5 C butter (whole stick)
1.5 C flour
1 T baking powder
1 t soda
1 t salt
3 eggs
1 T sugar
2 C buttermilk

Melt butter and set aside to cool slightly. Mix eggs and sugar in large bowl. Sift together flour, baking powder, soda and salt in separate bowl. Add melted butter to egg mixture. Alternately stir in buttermilk and flour mixture to egg mixture until batter is moist, but not stirred too much.

Slightly grease griddle and cook at 450 F for pancakes. Batter is also good for waffles.

My batter looks a little darker than usual because I used whole wheat flour. It's "better" for you, but does provide quite a bit of bulk to the pancakes. They're good with maple syrup, butter or fresh fruit. Blueberries and bananas are also really tasty baked in.

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Fun with facial hair

I decided enough was enough and shaved off my vacation beard. I did it in stages though for comic effect.

Here's the before picture:I know it's dark, but I was too lazy to take another. You can see that the beard is pretty healthy and that my hair is pretty funky because it's all one length.

Here's what happens when I leave the plumber's 'stache:
Yes, it's a-me, Mario! It's more of a Mario 'stache than a porn star one, but it's funny nonetheless.

Here's the after photo:
I knew when I took it that my eyes were at least in the act of closing. I'm not sure how I knew, but sure enough. I didn't take another because this one cracks me up. I look like some serious white trash or maybe Steve Nash stoned.

Yeah, I know I need to find something a bit more substantive to keep me busy during my unpaid sabbatical.

Monday, January 5, 2009

Partially sustainable prawns and eggs

Since today is Day 1 of my unpaid "sabbatical," I thought I would take the time to make a more interesting breakfast than my usual oats. I scrambled two cage free eggs with wild prawns from Texas and organic red pepper and yellow onion. Plenty of protein to start the day and pretty tasty for sure.

The meal is only partially sustainable because the eggs are from cage free hens, but I'm not sure they ate and the prawns had to come from Texas which uses up a lot of fuel.

Sunday, January 4, 2009

Sustainable fajitas

I had a hankering for fajitas so I got some grass-fed flank steak at Dittmer's. It wasn't cheap, but I'm not too concerned about that. The cow wasn't completely grass-fed and was finished with a little bit of corn, but I guess that's ok. It came from the Midwest too, but I've had trouble finding local meat.
I cut the steak into thin strips and marinated them in cumin, olive oil, Insanity Sauce, tabasco sauce, salt and mesquite flavoring. I browned it up with some organic red pepper and yellow onion. I have to say that the grass-fed meat tastes different than corn-fed. I don't know if it's better, but it's definitely different.

The whole wheat tortillas were pretty easy to make. I put whole wheat flour, salt, oil and water into my food processor and let it rest for a few hours wrapped in parchment paper. I divided the dough into six parts and then rolled out the tortillas, frying them one at a time. As you can see, they actually look like tortillas, but they were a little denser than expected.

I used jalapeno jack-flavored almond cheese to add some more flavor to the fajitas. They weren't too bad, but I think I need some sour cream or guacamole to cut the dryness of the tortillas. Neither of those fits in my no-processed rules, but I think I can bend them a little in order to pimp my meal.

Saturday, January 3, 2009

Eating locally

I had my first sustainable/local meal tonight for dinner. Yeah, I know it's only 5:30, but I got hungry early so I ate early. No big deal. I used ground beef from Marin Sun Farms to make my burger. I put in barbecue sauce, mesquite flavoring, Montreal steak seasoning, Insanity sauce and some tabasco sauce. It cooked much faster than usual and tasted great. On top there were some pickles, cheddar flavored almond cheese and red onion from the farmer's market. I don't eat as much bread so that's why it's bunless. The salad is mostly from the farmer's market as well except for the goat cheese crumbles.

Yeah, yeah. I know not everything is local nor sustainable, but the important stuff is and that's what counts.

Friday, January 2, 2009

The Omnivore's Dilemma

I got this Michael Pollan book for Christmas and finished it off a couple of nights ago. Fan-fucking-tastic. I mean, it's not high literature, but I agree with his premise completely: why are people more concerned about the price of food than the quality or consequences? Obviously food affects our health and the environment so why do we eat a lot of chemicals? His book has convinced me to swear off processed food and to buy only pasture-fed animal products, but it's going to be tough. I can get organic vegetables that are local at the farmer's market, but meat is another thing. There are local ranchers, but they either sell in bulk once a year or to grocery stores that are far from me. I checked out one local organic store, Country Sun in Palo Alto, because they have local pasture-fed beef, but the store is small and the meat was frozen. I'll have to try Dittmer's in Mountain View, but I don't know how much of their meat is local. It defeats the purpose to get food that has traveled a long ways (I make exceptions for bananas and other tropical fruit because I'm a hypocrite like that).

The other amazing part of the book is how much corn we eat. Corn feeds the cows, chickens and pigs we eat, corn is used to make high fructose corn syrup to sweeten stuff and other parts of corn are used for additives. All of this corn eating is possible only because the corn is subsidized. Otherwise, how could it be cheaper to process corn to make a sweetener rather than just get sugar from sugar cane? It's also not good for ruminants like cows to eat corn since it messes with their digestive system. Cows are designed to eat grass. By feeding them corn, they aren't as healthy and aren't as natural. I'm trying to get closer to the food chain to avoid the industrialization of food because I think natural food tastes better and is healthier. Unfortunately, a lot of organic food has been industrialized so I can't trust that label either. I don't care if the corn is organic or not; it shouldn't be fed to cows.

I also only want to eat animals that get to do what they want. Sure, they're being killed so I can eat, but I want their time to be well spent rather than cooped up in a cage in their own filth. That isn't ethical. Some vegetarians might argue that not eating them is even more humane, but animals in the wild die gruesome deaths all the time.

Thursday, January 1, 2009


My parents got me a yoga DVD designed for men with back trouble. I tried it out this afternoon and learned just how inflexible I am. I wasn't able to do all the poses properly, but I've heard that's common for beginners. The "workout" is about 25 minutes long so I should be able to do it at least every other day if not every day. My back is a little sore, but I think that's a good thing. I asked for a DVD to help me improve my posture since I do a lot of sitting at work. It was a little tricky following along since I watched the instructor to see where all my limbs should go so I didn't smoothly transition into anything.

Eatin' right

Well, my new six month challenge will have to wait a day since the natural food store I want to try out, Country Sun, is closed today. I hope Safeway is open or I'll be eating applesauce all day long and I'm not sure my gut can take that. Maybe I'll get some crap today to start my six month challenge with a bang.

The good thing is I'll have more time to look up some recipes. I'm going to try to make my own tortillas. I've never done that, but I'll have some time since there are four playoff football games on this weekend.

Happy New Year

Well, 2009 is upon us. It doesn't feel any different than 2008 so far, but I'm only eight hours into it. I guess it's time to make my new year resolutions. I would really like to get into shape, but I think I've got something more important. This year I resolve to be a better person. I'm not really sure what I mean by that, but I want to treat everyone with respect and honesty. I really worked on that last year and I think I made some good progress, but I've got a ways to go yet. I would also like to be more consistent so that I'm an easier person to be around. It's not that I overly care what other people think about me, but I want to be someone that people want to be around. You can't change your core, but you can certainly emphasize different parts of your personality.