Sunday, December 31, 2006

GRAVLAX RECIPE

TOO GOOD TO BE MISSED. Try it! Enjoy!
Based on a recipe in the New York Times Cookbook (Revised Edition)
GRAVLAX
1 (3 1/2-to-4 lb) center cut of salmon, filleted but with skin left intact.
(OK, we've often bought skinless farm-raised salmon at Costco. It's fine. Having the skin on makes it easier to cut after it's done, especially near the tail. OTOH, the skinless Costco fillets don't have any brown fat along the lateral line. Most people prefer not having that part, though)
3 tablespoons peppercorns (OK, LARGE, crushed peppercorns, via the supermarket) but not ordinary ground pepper
5 tablespoons sugar
3 tablespoons kosher salt or sea salt (coarse)
2 to 3 bunches (about 1/4 lb. dill sprigs

1. Carefully run the fingers over the boned surface of the fillet, especially over the center line. Use a pair of tweezers to pull out and remove any bones that may remain. Discard the bones.

2. Put the peppercorns on a flat surface and crush them coarsely with a mallet or the bottom of a clean skillet, or crush them in a mortar. If you have a peppermill that grinds coarse pieces, use that. Put the pepper in a small bowl and add the salt and sugar. Mix. Of course you can simply BUY coarse ground pepper. That's what WE do.

3. Cut the salmon fillet in half crosswise and place the two halves skin side down in one layer. COAT LIBERALLY the two pieces of fish with the salt-pepper-sugar mixture. Food TV Emeril doesn't cut it in half. He also adds vodka. Be creative.

4. Find a roasting pan or tupperware large enough to hold the larger half of the fish. Line it with aluminum foil that’s more than twice the size of the pan (you’re going to wrap the fish in it). Put a layer of dill on the foil. Put the larger fillet skin down on the dill. Put another layer of dill on the top (flesh side of the fish that’s coated with the mix). Now put the other fillet flesh down on the dill, and add a bit more dill on the skin side that’s now on top and facing you. Close the foil around the whole thing.

4. It’s going to leak! (Your fingers will smell soooooo nice.) Take the foil pack out of the pan and wrap it up in freezer paper, and seal with masking tape. NOW wrap THAT in a plastic grocery bag, squooshing out the air. Seal IT with masking tape or similar. Yeah, it'll still leak. Put it back in the pan. Get something flat, like a cutting board, and put it on the package. Get a brick, or free weights, or even a couple of cans from the pantry, and put it on the flat thing, so that the fish is being pushed down. NOW PUT IT IN THE REFRIGERATOR.

5. Turn the fish package in the morning and evening at the very least, so you are weighting down each side two or three times a day. If you can schedule the turn every 8 hours, fine. OTOH, some people say that the turning is unnecessary. Perhaps, but then, you wouldn't FEEL like you're actually doing anything, so, TURN THE DAMN THING!

Emeril says that 24 hours does it, but we go 2 1/2 days. I think that's a half day too long, but the boss insists. The longer it goes, the drier it gets. Why fight? It's still wonderful.

6. Wash everything off (we wash off most of the pepper) and dab dry with paper towels before slicing thin-thin-thin at an angle. Lately, I've been cutting the filets in half (the long way, down the fish's lateral line) before slicing. The resulting pieces are smaller and it's much easier to cut than going all the way across. The pieces are also closer to bite-size and fit nicely on crackers, plus the smaller slices plate nicely.

7. Eat the traditional way on a bagel (I prefer a bialy) or even just plain!

The Scandinavians dip their gravlax in a mustard sauce.
1/4 cup prepared spicy-brown mustard
1/4 cup Dijon mustard
6 tablespoons white wine vinegar
6 tablespoons sugar
Salt and pepper to taste
1 cup corn, peanut or vegetable oil
1 cup chopped dill
2 tablespoons cognac

1. Put the mustards, vinegar, sugar, salt and pepper into a mixing bowl.
2. Start beating with a wire whisk whilst adding the oil in a thin, steady stream. At the end, add the cognac.

We don't do the dip. We just put it on a bagel, or a bialy, or even on a cracker with chive cream cheese. A local shop makes the cream cheese with chives daily (aren't WE lucky!). A few capers and/or onions or scallions are a nice touch on top if you make canapes.

Eat. Share if you must.

Did you try this recipe? How did YOURS turn out? (ours is always wonderful.)

###

Tuesday, December 26, 2006

How I built a Macintosh G4 Tower. Sort of.

(Actually done November 2007)

Trash to treasure - build a G4 Macintosh from junk parts.

Well, my trusty G4/867 Quicksilver bit the dust. When I bought the new G5 iMac, it was relegated to the upstairs loft, where my wife used it for email, solitaire, mah jongg and some word processing. Nothing really important, but it was her computer. AND it was dead. AND she was starting to complain about using MY computer. I offered her the vacation home G5 iMac, but noooooo, she wanted to keep using the 17" video display.... So not only was the computer dead, things around the house were starting to get a bit... noisy.

SO, I took a look at it. What the hell, it does have that nice side door and loads of room inside, and I AM a ham radio guy, so I figured I'd at least give it a look. You can't kill something TWICE, after all, so in I went. Once I unplugged it and removed the cables, it was obvious (logical, anyway) what had happened -- all the vent holes were sealed shut with seven years' worth of grime. It seemed apparent that the power supply had simply baked itself to death.

But I had a good investment in this baby. Over the years I had swapped out the CD-RW drive for a CD/DVD SuperDrive ($275) and it DID have that thousand dollar 17" cinema display, after all.

I sure didn't want to spring for a new power supply, either. Not only the cost, but simply removing the old and installing the replacement looked daunting.

What to do, what to do? The answer turned out to be on eBay. Right there in front of me was a G4/867 on a one-day auction. Easy enough. I bought this baby for $89 (!) plus shipping cross-country -- $140 in total.

Then I took apart the dead one. The Superdrive came out, the RAM and the 60 gig hard drive. A little research said that I could stack the two HDs together in the eBay special; I just had to move a jumper on one from Master to Slave position. So now there are 2 HDs (60 + 40) in there. No data lost, either. Wifey's original 60 gig was perfect. I swapped out the CD drive for the SuperDrive easy enough, and combined the RAM to 1.28 gigs (near double what I had previously). Plugged it in and VOILA! -- A like-new (well, a working) Quicksilver. Almost. Seems that the previous owner must have poked out the speaker (a common problem with that design). So, back to el morto Mac and I removed the internal speaker. This speaker doesn't have a jack (at least I didn't find one) -- so I had to clip the speaker wires -- but it's out and ready to be soldered into the eBay special. But, because I have the original Mac clear acrylic globe speakers plugged in, I haven't bothered to take it apart yet and wire the speaker in.

All of this work took less than an hour. You gotta admit, an hour and $140 for a G4/867 Mac ain't bad.

Plus, I now have a spare video card, some other card, a CD RW drive, a dead power supply to play with, a replacement motherboard, two spare 128 meg DIMMS, a spare internal ZIP drive, AND a box. I could have used one special tool -- a small Phillips head screwdriver with the clip on the end to hold the screw in place until the threads catch. You need that for changing the optical drive (or, you can do what I did and just use some scotch tape to hold it for a few seconds).

So yes Virginia, there IS a Santa Claus. You can kluge together a G4 Mac for next to nothing. Buy a couple of identical Mac towers and build your own. Try to find ONE with a SuperDrive, and lots of of RAM. The G4 has three slots and they don't have to be filled with identical DIMMS. Look for Macs with 896 megs of RAM (512 + 256 + 128) or more so you have a nice assortment to combine (512 + 512 + 256, or even another 512 if you get really lucky). Mine ended up with 1280 -- not bad since the machine maxes out at 3 512s, or 1536, so it's "close enough" to max. Not bad, if I say so myself. It's also running 10.4.11, and (because it's a G4/867) is even Leopard-compatible.

And don't forget to vacuum those vents on the back every once in a while.

Edit: 12/3/2008 -- The FrankenMac stopped working!! Horrors!! I opened it up and wife, who was standing there, took one look and pointed, saying "is that a battery?" So I went into the attic, yanked the battery out of the old parts Mac, and... TADA!!! All's well with the world again! (I ordered a new one on the web right away). 12/9 -- the battery came, and it's in and running well. Thank you, Apple, for making the battery very easy to find, and pop-outtable (not soldered in). Then I downloaded the Widget MAINTIDGIT and installed it. Wow! The crons haven't run for 6 months! I forgot to repair permissions, though; that's the next job. Still haven't soldered in the internal speaker yet, either. I wonder where I put it....

Edit: 7/30/2009... It's dead again -- won't turn on. Maybe the power supply. Not worth fixing any more, so I'll pull out all the parts and try to sell them on eBay. I wanted an excuse to buy a new Intel Mac, anyway. Maybe even an iMac AND a MBP! Time to upgrade. Wife can have one of the the G5 iMacs and I'll sell the other. Divorce can be so painful (and expensive).

Edit: 3/24/2011... In two days, all my G4 Quicksilver stuff will go into the back of my pickup and hauled off on my county's annual electronics recycling day. Out it goes. I already have one G5 iMac surplus to my needs. I guess I'll keep the 17" cinema display and try to sell it on eBay, but all else is destined for the recycling fires of China.

Thursday, September 14, 2006

Ouch!

All of the following took place in 2006.
I've learned that some of you have been watching this space and studying my recovery timeline. I hope that your recoveries go as well as mine. In summary, 4 months after the break, I'm walking with a limp and climbing stairs O.K (going DOWN is more difficult to me), and driving my manual transmission truck is easy. I opted out of rehab, claiming that I'll walk a lot and climb lots of stairs. If any of you have opted FOR Physical Theraphy, let me know how it's going and if you recommend it or not. Or just tell me what you're doing along those lines.

Jan. 16, 1 PM. I slipped on a patch of ice whilst brushing some snow off the truck's windshield. While still on my ass, I notied that my left foot was gang aglay. It moved back with a pop. So I crawled back to the house and rang the doorbell. When Laurie answered it, I think I said something, in a cool and calm manner, like "Please, dear, phone 911 and tell them that I've fallen and believe that my ankle is broken." Actually, it wasn't quite that collected, and I don't think I actually used those words...
End result: Broken fibula at midpoint, and broken tibia, at the back, at the ankle. Temp splint on it for tonite, and tomorrow I call the orthopedic guy. I'll probably need surgery to fix torn ligaments, too.

Observation: You cannot move 300 lbs on a pair of crutches.

Observation #2. I'll probably miss Stamford this year (2006), too. That REALLY hurts.

1/17 follow-up: Orthopedic surgeon looked at my leg. He wants me to see an ankle specialist. Tendons are torn pretty badly. Another day or riding around and waiting, waiting, waiting... Renting a wide wheelchair tomorrow. I'll probably buy a walker, too. Hate them crutches.
1/18 follow-up: Saw the surgeon today. Only the fibula is broken, and also the tibia at the ankle, which is all messed up. I'm going to get SCREWED! Next week, they will put a screw into the bone and pull it all together. The tendons and sinews and whatever will then heal by themselves. We shall see.
1/21 My builder came by today to see about building a wheelchair ramp. He'll do it early next week. A nice temporary one, about 20 feet long. It was 61 degrees here today! Hard to believe that I fell on the ICE to do this to myself!
1/24 NOW they tell me I need a pre-op blood workup. It's astounding that when I was at the surgeon's office and they told me that tomorrow they'd be operating, that they just didn't stick me then and there and take out their vial of blood. My last test was 10/25 -- apparently too long ago (and I told them when it was) but now I'm supposed to hobble out of the house and somehow get down the stairs and into a car so they can do a simple withdrawal from my vein. Such an effort is huge. Oh. Let's not forget that Medicare wants a week to even approve the blood test!!

Now the two doctors are "discussing" it. They'll "get back" to me.

P.S. Well, they DID get back to me at 10 AM - Thank heavens for small favors: I have to be at the hospital tomorrow at 7 AM. They will do blood and EKG then, and surgery in the afternoon, I think. Why 7 AM? Who knows. So I have to leave here at 6, in the dark, and with ice crystals on the walk, no doubt. My guess is that I'll be there at the appointed hour, and then spend most of the day waiting and waiting. Did I say that this "surgery" involves putting a screw in my ankle, and that the entire procedure takes less than 10 minutes? I will bet that I won't get home until tomorrow night. At least I don't have to move my fat body today at all! Hoorah!!

Oh. I called my builder. The ramp won't be done until maybe Thursday. So tomorrow I'll have to drag my fat ass up a couple of steps when I get home from surgery. I was really hoping for that ramp!
1/28 Things didn't quite go as expected last Wednesday. In pre-op, when they cut off the splint, they didn't like a few things (discoloraton that could have indicated a clot, and a skin condition that might have been an infection), so they decided to admit me and put me on IV antibiotics, I also had doppler (ultrasound) of the leg. No clot, and the "infection" was just cellulitis. Today (Saturday) at noon they finally brought me down to the OR. They clamped the bones together from the outside and put two screws into the ankle. Also a plaster cast for the nonce. And, yes, about 6 weeks before I can put weight on it.

Oh! The ramp is EXCELLENT!
1/30 Wife loves the ramp -- says it's great for bringing in the groceries. I have to watch my step. I'm getting cocky and am taking longer strides on the walker. This will definitely lead to a fall. Builder came by for his money. I asked hin to cut a wood floor for the shower stall to bring it even with the shower door bottom trim. Then I can slide across-and-down to get out. Now I have to lift-swing-across-and-down to get out. This additional lifting and swinging is very difficult.

2/2 Last night I had some real pain. Not in the ankle, but in the ball of the foot - like a muscle knot. Took a couple of Motrin. I hope this is a good sign that things are happening down there and healing has begun. Man! I can roll around in bed and sleep on either side easily. Today I saw the doctor.



2/9 The big splint came off and a fiberglass cast is on. 5 weeks in the cast! Next appointment 3/16 (exactly 2 months after the accident).

2/10 This cast, which I now call my EXOSKELETON, is heavy and uncomfortable. I liked the splint better! It's rough, hard as a rock and tight, though I understand that my leg will shrink in it over the next few weeks. This is not going to be fun! Here's a shot of the exoskeleton:

2/13 HOLY SHIT! Today I got a statement from the hospital for my 4 day stay. Between the emergency room and the 4 days, I owe the hospital almost TWENTY THOUSAND DOLLARS!! This doesn't include doctors, either. I'm covered under Medicare and also Aetna as a secondary so I don't think too much of that will have to be paid by ME. But, we shall see. We shall see.

2/18 OK. The 1400 dollar ER charges will come to $165 on my end, and I can handle that. The 18,000 hospital stay is still up in the air. Keep tuned.

3/2 The exoskeleton seems to be getting looser. Probably a combination of the swelling going down and atrophy. Anyway, 3 weeks are gone and 2 to go until the cast comes off. No new communicaions from the hospital.

3/16 The cast is off, and now I have an inflatable boot! Jeez, It looks like I'm about to go skiing! I have to wear this for a month until my next appointment. I'm allowed to put weight on the leg, but still need the walker. At least I can take it off and take a REAL shower without plastic bags, and sleep in comfort. It looks kinda cool, dontcha think?
4/3 So far, MY share of medical bills are about $1000, with more to come. It's early in the year, and there are deductibles to be met -- apparently about 2K, so it's explained away. Still, I'm well on my way to an itemized income tax return next April.

4/8 I haven't used the walker now for several days. Not at all. I can hobble down the ramp and walk to the mailbox (300') so I'm really on a roll now. Still wearing the boot/walking cast thing, and if I get up in the middle of the night, I can walk on my unsupported leg, but I'm very wary of doing so. I sorta walk without moving the left ankle. But -- it's PROGRESS!

4/20 I am back from the doctor, and have been freed from the "boot." I walk gingerly, and with a limp but I have been FREED from my chains. I'm taking a strong antibiotic for a small infection around the scar, but otherwise I'm pretty good. The new X-rays of the leg show great healing of the broken fibula. It's amazing how the bone ends reach out to each other and mend themselves. Total time from the break -- just about 3 months. My next appointment is May 11.

He has no intention of removing the screws. Ever. If they break, fine.

I cleared boat work with the doctor, and I'm O.K. to start, but Laurie has some rehearsals, concerts and choral group management things yet ahead, so it looks like a very late start to the season. If we can find a few contiguous days with good weather, we'll head down to MD to start work.

May 10 -- a milestone. I took the ramp apart this morning. Tiring work. Tomorrow I'll get out the circular saw and cut the 4 20' planks down to 6 footers so I can take 'em down to MD in the truck. Half the screws on the boards broke, so I'll be working hard with a vise-grip to remove them. Yeah, I'm still limping. I have an appointment tomorrow with the doctor, and we'll pack up the wheelchair and walker so we can return them to the drugstore.

May 11 -- MD says I'm doing fine, and not to come back until mid-September. I should walk a lot. He expects 4 - 6 months more for a complete recovery. Returned the wheelchair, but the walker is now mine (paid for). I tried to give back the boot for charity or something, but it was refused. Apparently Medicaid pays for them for the indigent.

May 27 -- I'm walking down the stairs facing forward again. Slowly and carefully, but more normally. Things ARE improving.

September 3 -- Well, here's an update. The foot is still swollen. I didn't go for PT, and I now regret it. Forced exercise would have been much better than no exercise. At least I have a ton of stairs to negotiate at our vacation home, and that's fine exercise several times a day. I still have some minor discomfort around the ankle. Look. I'm almost 68, vastly overweight and lead a sedentary life. All things considered, my progress isn't bad. Fall (Autumn, that is) is upon us, so pleasant walks in the woods will become more regular. Next doctor's appointment is September 14th. And, would you believe... I'm STILL getting bills from hospital personnel I don't even remember! What a fricken ripoff. You go in the hospital, you come out. All the charges should be on that one piece of paper. Everyone's a damned independent contractor. It's easier to pay for building a new house than it is to pay for a stinkin' busted leg and ankle. No doubt about it -- Medicare's getting ripped off!

September 14 -- All things come to an end, and today this saga is over. Been to the doctor, I'm fine (even though there's probably some scar tissue inside the foot) and unless I have some pain in the ankle, I'm on my own again. The bad news is that I have an appointment with my periodontist on January 16 -- the same day I broke my leg, going to the same periodontist. I'm not superstitious, but I DO intend to be very, very careful.

November, 2006 -- I made my hotel reservations for the Crossword Tournament in Stamford 2007. This is probably the last one to be held in Stamford, and I don't want to miss it. I'll tell you ONE thing -- I'm pertty damn careful where and how I set my foot down now. Once was enough.