Monday, January 31, 2011

Random thought for the day

I'm supposed to drive down to Fishkill every other Wednesday, but there has been a lot of snowstorms on those days.  It looks like there is another this week.  I wonder if it's just coincidence that these storms are every two weeks on the day I'm scheduled to drive.

Sunday, January 30, 2011


Tonight's dinner was also from a recipe courtesy of Zorana, Djuvec. I'm not sure what it translates to, but it has pork, vegetables and rice in it. I'm surprised it's authentic Serbian since there isn't any paprika.

It turned out well, but too soupy again. The picture she's got up shows it to be fairly dry. In the future, I'll add a lot less water in whatever recipe I get from her. I was able to sop up the liquid with bread, but the water adds quite a bit of volume.

I would make this dish again since it's healthful. It's a new recipe to me so it counts towards my challenge. I've got just six more to go.

I'm ready for spring.

Some snow is nice, but we've gotten a lot this winter season and I'm ready for some warmer weather so I can get out and about. I just spent 1.5 hours shoveling snow and I didn't even shovel all of my upper driveway. I shoveled enough to make room for three to four cars, but I've still got more to go. I had to stop when my arms started to Gumby on me.

I did hear a lot of birds though and saw three bluejays in the front. The birds like the stream/pond that forms there.

This spring I'll get a beefcake snowblower to avoid this situation in the future. I can definitely use the exercise of shoveling, but I don't want to spend ten hours a week doing it for ten weeks.

Random thought for the day

Today is the first Sunday without meaningful football since August.  I normally watch around six hours of football per Sunday so it's going to feel like the weekend is six hours longer.  I guess it'll be a good opportunity to do some cleaning.

I thought about shoveling my driveway, but we're supposed to get some snow mid-week so there isn't much reason to shovel out before then.  Gah.  I should've gotten a snowblower last year.

Saturday, January 29, 2011

Potato casserole

Tonight's dinner was made using a recipe from my former colleague, Zorana, for Serbian potato casserole.  She's a good cook and her recipes are easy to follow.

I think I put too much water in, but it still turned out well and I sopped up the extra liquid using some bread so it's all good.  It was also filling and healthful.

I would definitely make this recipe again and it's new to me so it counts towards my challenge.  Just seven more to go.
Even though mine doesn't look as cooked as hers, everything was completely cooked.

Random thought for the day

The Blazers' schedule is pretty goofy this season.  They have a crazy number of back-to-backs, but then they'll have a stretch, like now, where they have five games in three weeks.  Weird.  They just had a bunch of home games which are tough for me to catch because they start around my bedtime.

Fitness update

Rather than updating every week, I decided to update every month. I still take the measurements every week though.

I'm not sure what happened in 2010 because I chunked out like crazy. The strange thing is I feel like I'm in better shape now so perhaps my scale is inaccurate, but it certainly tracked the changes when I dechunked. Very curious.

I started up one of the programs in Mark Lauren's You are your own gym and have lost about half a pound of fat since then. I think I expected at least half a pound a week so I'm off pace. Exercise is actually just a small component of weight loss, but I thought I had been eating well. I cut out most sugar and eat often. I'll have to check my food journal to see if I'm eating too much.

I also play basketball once a week and shovel snow frequently, but I'm looking to add one more night of exercise. I'm thinking of a martial art, but I'm not interested in becoming an MMA fighter, but I don't want an aerobics class either. Hmmm... perhaps boxing is the way to go. If I learn to punch correctly, I can get a punching bag and speed bag for my basement. Working both of those will probably burn a serious amount of calories.

The grainy picture taken in my bathroom shows some definition starting to show in my torso, but the love handles are still there. Even with that chunk, I still don't feel like someone who's supposedly ~30% fat.

It's hard not to look at these plots without getting frustrated because 2010 nearly undid all the hard work of 2009. I definitely need to remain vigilent and to keep at it.

Friday, January 28, 2011

Random thought for the day

TMQ's Gregg Easterbrook claimed this week that the government's no-risk (to Tesla) loan is bad for consumers. I disagree because I think the government needs to help jump start some of these industries with high barriers to acceptance. I think most people agree that fueling our transportation with electricity is preferable to using fossil fuels since electricity can be created in a number of "clean" ways. However, most of us are comfortable with our gas guzzling cars and would be reluctant to switch to hybrids or plug-ins without financial incentive.

Tesla, the Leaf and the Volt are fairly expensive compared their gasoline driven equivalents, but they'll never become cheaper unless people buy a lot of them and people won't buy a lot of them if they're expensive. The government is needed to break the vicious cycle.

Easterbrook's main beef with the Tesla is that it's a sports car. Sure, but it demonstrates that you can have your cake and eat it too. Many Americans think electric cars sacrifice performance, but Tesla proves them wrong. Tesla has plans to create the Model S which is a sports sedan and Tesla is in partnership with Toyota to provide some of the innards for the electric RAV-4.

You free market people might argue that the government shouldn't try to pick winners and losers and I might partially agree with you. Perhaps the government could encourage electric cars by dramatically increasing the taxes on gasoline. However, some people can afford neither the higher gas prices nor the fancy electric cars. The gap between the rich and poor is large enough now so why increase it?

What else can be done to make electric cars more affordable?

[Full disclosure: I do own Tesla stock]

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Random thought for the day

I need to get my life back on track.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Random thought for the day

I was exhausted last night for some reason so I went to bed at 21:30.  I woke up at 3 and realized it would be stupid to get up then so I went back to bed.  I slept until my alarm woke me up at 5:30.  I was pretty groggy and thought about going back to bed, but I went down and did my exercises instead.

Exercising is a good way for me to wake up and I definitely think I'm getting leaner and stronger.  I'll probably crash around noon today, but at least I got to work early enough to get a good parking spot.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Random thought for the day

I should look to see if there is anything I can wear to prevent my ring fingers from getting jammed when I play basketball.

Monday, January 24, 2011

Random thought for the day

My car's thermometer said it was ~ -12F on the way in this morning.  Holy moly.

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Hot and spicy braised peanut chicken

It's Sunday so dinner was out of the slow cooker.  My mom sent me a slow cooker recipe book and so I thought I would try something out.  I chose a peanut chicken dish.  I have to give it an incomplete.  I was in a hurry to eat it because I was hungry and so I forgot to add the coconut milk and peas at the end.  I'm not sure it would've helped since it was not spicy and didn't have much flavor at all.

I do not recommend this recipe.

It does count as a new recipe for me so just 8 more to go towards my challenge.

Meat samosas

This morning I made some meat samosas from Bittman's The Best Recipes in the World.  The recipe is too long to post and they turned out just ok.  I'd much rather get some pre-made ones in the frozen food section at the grocery store.

Here is the filling.  I made mine with ground buffalo.
I made my own dough, but I didn't let the butter warm up enough.  As one of my ex-girlfriends will tell you, I'm bad at judging how to divide food stuff evenly.  The first dozen samosas are a little small.
I had some filling leftover which I ate out of the skillet.
I think I might've cooked them a little too long since they were a little...chewy.
I don't think I would recommend this recipe because the ones you can buy at the store aren't that expensive nor are they all that bad for you.

This recipe is new to me so just 9 more to go towards my challenge.

Random thought for the day

Now that my new toilet is installed I think it's time to posse up some people for a board game or poker night.

Who's in?

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Random thought for the day

I took a dump in the new toilet this morning and it flushed everything down like a champ.  The POU has lost some luster though.  It provides hot water quickly, but the supply runs out a bit faster than expected.  Maybe I don't realize how quickly 4 gallons can be used.

Friday, January 21, 2011

Pimpin' out my bathroom

Today the plumber and his assistant brother came to install my new Toto toilet and an Ariston POU heater. The old toilet wasn't flushing well and there was a leak such that the tank slowly drained out. It's the toilet guests use and I want to have a rock solid toilet. Enter the Toto. I got a 1.28g per flush bad boy with cyclone action and Sanagloss to keep it nice and shiny. I even got the soft close seat so it won't bang shut if you let go of it. The cyclone action is pretty cool and my plumber claims you can flush down a cantaloupe, but I don't want to test that theory out.

It's also the toilet installed for the super fat guy so it should be pretty sturdy for the rest of us. You won't find Toto at Home Depot or Lowe's, but it's much more cost effective than a Kohler or American Standard. It's a toilet you'll find in a commercial building because "it just works."

My tankless water heater provides endless hot water, but it took more than 60s to reach that bathroom's sink. I don't know about you, but I don't want to run water for a minute to heat it up. The Ariston electric POU will keep about 4g of water at 120F and it gets hot instantaneously so there's no wait. He hooked up the cold water to the unit or my tankless would short cycle which just ends up providing hot water to the pipes and not the sink. It takes up all the room under the sink, but I didn't have anything down there anyhow and that bathroom has a large storage closet. He installed a separate breaker for the unit because it'll use 1.5kW of power. If you were to run the hot water and a hair dryer, you'd definitely blow out a fuse.

I wasn't home during the install, but it went off without a hitch. Unfortunately, it took us about 45 minutes to get his rear-wheel drive van turned around since I didn't shovel my driveway. I'm thinking I'm going to need to get a snowblower since I can't be wasting his time and energy.

Random thought for the day

Gran Turismo 5 is a lot of fun and is pretty realistic, but I didn't expect it to take more than an hour to install.  I do have a pretty old Playstation 3 though.

It looks great on the big screen.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Random thought for the day

I realized this week that I'm actually pretty close to insolvency.  Crikey.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Random thought for the day

I haven't brushed nor combed my hair in about two weeks.  Awww yeah.

Monday, January 17, 2011

Why do we need progress?

Why are people constantly obsessed with where things are going?  What's wrong with living in the moment if it's enjoyable?  Why do people need to overly complicate life?  Am I just too primitive?

Random thought for the day

I'm addicted to the smell of orange-scented Air Scense.  I'm tempted to take a whole package of Ex-Lax just to have a reason to spray it.

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Cheesed off

I'm a little cheesed off this morning because another pair of my jeans is too tight.  It's not because I'm chunkening, but because they shrank in the dryer.  I've now got three pairs of jeans which no longer fit which cost me about $100.  Sure, $100 isn't a huge sum over a year or so, but I don't like to waste stuff.

I could sell them on Craigslist or whatever, but I think I'll just donate them to the Salvation Army instead so some entrepreneur can buy them for $10 and sell them in Japan for $400.  Heh.

The other pair of the same size still fits because I was smart enough not to put it in the dryer.  Lesson learned.

Random thought for the day

I realized last night that I need to shovel the entire driveway so the plumber can get his truck up to my house.  The sun is out and it'll be good exercise.

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Random thought for the day

Grace Park is wicked hot and was a great Cylon, but she's miscast in Hawai'i 5-0. I got an episode on demand yesterday and couldn't suspend my disbelief that she's police.

Friday, January 14, 2011

Random thought for the day

I think some little jerks are gnawing on one of my blueberry plants.  Just the stalks are left so hopefully they won't chew down until it dies.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Tex-Mex chicken with chiles and cheese

Tonight's dinner was Tex-Mex chicken in the skillet using a recipe from my chicken book.

Tex-Mex chicken with chiles and cheese
Serve with rice pilaf or wrap the chicken in warm corn tortillas
Serves 4

1.25lbs boneless, skinless chicken breast halves, trimmed and sliced 0.25" thick
1.5t chili powder
0.5t ground cumin
Salt and ground pepper
0.5C flour
3.5T unsalted butter
1.5C fresh or thawed frozen corn kernels
1 medium jalapeno, seeded if you like and thinly sliced
1 large clove garlic, minced
3T lime juice
1T fresh oregano
1C grated sharp cheddar

Position a rack about 4" from the broiler and heat the broiler on high.  Toss the chicken with the chili powder, cumin, 0.75t salt and 0.5t black pepper.  Lightly dredge the chicken in the flour and shake off any excess.

In a 12" ovenproof skillet (preferably cast iron), melt 2.5T of the butter over medium-high heat.  Add the chicken and cook, stirring occasionally, until browned, about 5 minutes.  Transfer to a plate.

Add the remaining 1T butter, the corn, jalapeno, garlic and 0.5t salt.  Cook, stirring until the corn begins to brown lightly, 2 to 3 minutes.  Add the chicken, lime juice, oregano and 0.5C water.  Cook, stirring, until the chicken is just cooked through, about 2 minutes.  Sprinkle with the cheddar and transfer the skillet to the broiler.  Broil until the cheese melts and browns on top, about 3 minutes.  Serve with lime wedges.

This recipe turned out really well and I would definitely make it again.  I ate it in a tortilla, but I think it makes 2.5 servings rather than 4, but maybe I was just hungry tonight.

Just ten more recipes to go.

Random thought for the day

My mood improves about a hundred fold when I exercise. Thus, I should make sure to exercise on a regular basis.

It doesn't hurt that the sun is out either.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Random thought for the day

I think I spend too much on food each month, about $400.  Is that amount excessive for a single dude who likes natural/organic stuff?

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Random thought for the day

I left my badge at home and didn't realize it until I got to work.  When I was driving back home to get it, I got really angry.  When I got really angry, I could feel something coursing through me.  I wonder what physiological changes we undergo when we get angry.

Monday, January 10, 2011

Random thought for the day

Few drivers in the Albany area know what to do when you flash your lights at them.

Sunday, January 9, 2011


It sucks when you realize your game is weak.  I need to take a class or something.

Random thought for the day

It's really windy out and I noticed that there are a lot more crows in my yard than usual.

Rolled pizza

Last night's dinner was rolled pizza using a recipe I got from my friend, Zorana. I made mine with mushrooms and turkey pepperoni and I used red sauce instead of tomato paste and water. It turned out well, but I didn't get as many rolls as she did. No worries. I think it can stand to cook a bit longer than 15 minutes as well. The cheese didn't quite get brown, but I got hungry and there was some oil in the bottom of the oven causing quite a bit of smoke.

I thought about making the dough by hand, but I used my bread machine instead because I spent the morning shoveling snow.

Anyhow, it turned out really well and I would definitely make it again. You can use whatever pizza toppings you like so the recipe is pretty versatile.

Just 11 more recipes to go until I finish this challenge item.


It started snowing Friday night and I ended up getting about six inches of powder at my place.

Here's the view from my office window:
It looked pretty cool with the trees covered.  However, it meant an equal amount of snow was in my driveway:
After about 1.5 hours of shoveling, I was able to clear most of the upper driveway and enough of the lower driveway to get my car out.  With each snowstorm, I keep thinking I should get a snowblower, but a decent one is $500 and I don't know if I'll be here long enough to justify one.  I definitely need the exercise and, if it gets really bad, I can pay someone to plow it.

The after shot:
It hasn't snowed since and the sun was out a bit yesterday so I'm sure it looks much clearer this morning.  There is definitely much less snow on the trees since the wind is blowing.  I see some new deadfall out there which makes me nervous because there are a lot of trees which overhang my house.

Saturday, January 8, 2011

Random thought for the day

If I ever invent an erectile dysfunction product, I'm going to call it "Stiffy in a Jiffy."

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Need to get healthy

I stayed home from work today and spent most of the day sleeping.  I was supposed to drive down south, but I slept right through my alarm and didn't wake up until late.  I got up, used the bathroom, ate something and then went back to bed for a couple more hours.

I'm not exactly sure what's wrong, but I suspect it has something to do with my sinuses.  My head has been cloudy since I got back from vacation last week.  I took a decongestant this morning, but it hasn't really done anything.  It's possible I have a sinus infection or it could just be due to the weather change.

In any case, I need to work this weekend to make up for lost time.  I also need to do what I can to get in better shape so I'm less easily brought down by funk.

Monday, January 3, 2011

On my way to good fitness

This morning I started the first day of a new exercise regime. I'm using the program in Lauren's fitness book. Before I was just doing exercises out of the book willy-nilly. I would do seven or eight different exercises to failure, but I wasn't seeing much benefit. His program has you focus on doing four exercises for 7.5min each. I didn't quite make it past 5min for the "let me ups" because I'm still recovering from my tendon problem from break, but I was able to do a fair amount of pushups, "let me ins" and seated dips.

My ego did get bruised a bit when I realized I would have to start with the basic program, but no worries. It's not a competition. The program is 10 weeks long and I'm confident I'll be able to move on to the next class. It should get easier as I cut sugar back out of my diet. The holidays are always rough on those of us who like the sweet stuff.

50 questions that will free your mind

Continuing to answer 50 Questions:

Question #7: Are you doing what you believe in, or are you settling for what you are doing?

An interesting question because I'm not sure my line of work is something you can believe in. I'm a semiconductor engineer and my work goes into helping make computer chips. I suppose some of them could end up in military hardware, but who is more evil, the gun maker or the gun user?

I guess I could interpret the question as to whether I'm happy with my job and I'd say yes and no. I like the type of work I do, but the environment where I do it could use some improvement. I think we're working on it, but who knows what will really happen because the industry is consolidating and it's difficult to predict in which direction it'll head. Electronics have almost gotten too cheap so profit margins are quite small. If you don't sell a large volume, you're screwed, which is what happened at my previous job.

I could also interpret the question as to whether I'm happy with my type of job. As I mentioned in the previous 50 questions post, I like to make stuff. As long as I get to make stuff, I'm happy.

I don't believe in settling though. Our goal should be to maximize our happiness without minimizing others'. The last part is the tricky one. If resources are finite, does me owning something mean someone else can't have one? Should I feel bad or guilty?

Sunday, January 2, 2011

Country style pork and beans with sausage

It's Sunday which means football and food in the slow cooker. Today I made something from my mom's Cook's Illustrated Slow Cooker recipe book.

Note: this recipe is for a 6.5qt slow cooker. If yours is smaller, scale the recipe back.

"Slow-Cooker Country-Style Pork and Beans with Sausage

1 pound dried great Northern beans, rinsed, picked over, and salt-soaked overnight or quick salt-soaked (see below)
2 T vegetable oil
2 medium onions, minced
6 medium garlic cloves, minced or pressed
2 T. tomato paste
1 T minced fresh thyme leaves, or 1 tsp dried
1 cup dry white wine
2 (14.5 ounce) cans sliced tomatoes
1 pound kielbasa, sliced one inch thick
2 3/4 cups low sodium chicken broth
2 bay leaves
3 lbs. bone in country-style pork ribs
Ground black pepper
1/4 cup minced fresh parsley leaves

Technique: Salt-soaking beans

Overnight Soaking Method: Pick through and rinse the beans. For every pound of beans, dissolve 2 T salt into 4 quarts cold water. Combine the beans and salt water in a large container and let the beans soak at room temperature for at least 8 hours, or up to 24 hours. Drain the beans, discarding the soaking liquid and rinse well before cooking.

Quick-Soaking Method: Pick through and rinse the beans. For every pound of beans, dissolve 3 T salt into 2 quarts boiling water. Combine the beans and hot salt water together in a large container and let the beans soak at room temperature for 1 hour. Drain the beans, discarding the soaking liquid, and rinse well before cooking.

1. Drain and rinse the beans and transfer them to the slow cooker. Heat the oil in a 12 inch nonstick skillet over medium-high heat until shimmering. Add the onions, garlic, tomato paste, and thyme and cook, stirring often, until the onions are softened an d lightly browned, 8 to 10 minutes. Stir in the wine, scraping up any browned bits.

2. Transfer the mixture to the slow cooker and stir in the tomatoes with their juice, kielbasa, chicken broth, and bay leaves until evenly combined. Lightly season the pork with pepper and nestle it in the slow cooker. Cover and cook, either on low or high, until both the beans and the pork are tender, 9 to 11 hours on low or 6 to 7 hours on high.

3. Let the cooking liquid settle for 5 minutes, then gently tilt the slow cooker and remove as much fat as possible from the surface using a large spoon. Remove the bay leaves, stir in the parsley, and season with salt and pepper before serving.

Note: recipe called for 1 tsp fennel seeds which I would omit."

This recipe overfilled my 5.5qt slow cooker so I had to remove some of the liquid. I used canned beans and water instead of wine. It turned out alright, but could use some more flavor. Maybe some other seasoning in addition to the thyme. I probably wouldn't make it again.

It counts as a new recipe so just 12 more to go.

Saturday, January 1, 2011

Beef stroganoff

Tonight's dinner was beef stroganoff over rice, cooked using a recipe from Bittman's Best Recipes in the World cookbook.  I'm not going to list the recipe because it turned out pretty bland.  The meat wasn't as tender as it could be, which is my fault, but there wasn't much to it either.

It's not terrible, but nothing memorable.

At least it counts as another recipe.  Just 13 to go.


In an effort to cut down on the amount of sugar I eat, I'm trying to eat only desserts that are homemade. I felt like something to celebrate the new year so I made an appletorte using a recipe from Bittman's The Best Recipes in the World.

Apparently, it's a Scandinavian dish and the recommended apples are Cortland, Rome, Golden Delicious or McIntosh

Pinch of salt
1t baking powder
1t ground cinnamon
2C flour
0.5lb butter (two sticks), softened
1C sugar
3 eggs
4C peeled, cored and sliced apples (about 4)
Ice cream, creme fraiche, sour cream or sweetened whipped cream for serving.

1. Preheat the oven to 350F. Combine the dry ingredients in a bowl. Use an electric mixer to cream the butter and sugar together, then add the eggs, one at a time, beating after each addition until the mixture is smooth. By hand, stir in the dry ingredients, stirring just to combine; do not beat. Stir in the apples.
2. Grease and four a 9- or 10-inch springform or tube pan and pour in the batter; sprinkle liberally with sugar. Bake until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean, 45 minutes or a little longer. Cool on a rack, then remove from the pan and serve with the ice cream or other topping.

As you can read, this recipe is pretty simple, but I had trouble mixing everything together. The butter-egg-sugar mixture gets thick and the dry ingredients didn't want to combine. I also had a hard time mixing the apple slices in well as you can see from the picture - most of the slices ended up on one side. In any case, I had a piece with Cool Whip and it was pretty darn good so I would definitely make it again.

It took about 55 minutes to cook for me.

86 recipes down so just 14 to go.

Time for a new dishwasher?

I've noticed my dishwasher doesn't seem to get my dishes as clean as I'd like.  I thought I did a pretty good job pre-washing them, but there comes a point when you pre-wash so much that you obviate the need for a dishwasher.  I had read that the environmentally friendly detergents don't work as well so perhaps I should try some of the phosphate loaded ones before shelling out for a dishwasher.

Let me check Amazon to see how much one would run...Wow.  It looks like I would need $600-1100 to get a good one.  Pretty steep.

No more swearing

Today I'm going to start using a swear jar.  My goal is to not swear for an entire year.  If I do, I'll put a quarter into the jar.  I'm not sure what I'll do with the money at the end of the year.  Maybe I'll let my readers decide.

Happy 2011

I checked my challenge list and I'm not making very good progress so I need to step up for sure.  I need to get smarter about my money so I can afford some of the items on there.  Will I be going to the Super Bowl this year or the next?  Hell no, but I can't even think about trying to get tickets because I'm swamped.

The holidays haven't been kind to my fitness.  I took my usual Saturday measurements this morning, but they're too bad to share.  I don't think I'll continue with the weekly fitness updates because they're depressing.  Instead, I'll post when I hit some milestones.  I signed up to play basketball through the town on Monday nights so at least I can dechunken a little bit.  I'm thinking of signing up for some boxing classes as well.  I'm also going to start one of the ten week programs in my fitness book.  I'll start with the beginner one because I'm not sure I'm able to do anything but.  Very sad for someone who was a good athlete in high school and college.  I've let myself go for far too long.