Saturday, March 24, 2007

MSF Acronymns

Speaking of motorcycle safety and useful mnemonics...

These are from the MSF, which (despite their current Borgish behavior) will teach you skills that (if practiced) will save your life.

T-CLOCK stands for:
  • Tires
  • Controls
  • Lights
  • Oil level
  • Chassis
  • (Kick)stand(s)

FINE-CC (start-up checklist; things to check when starting the bike)
  • Fuel valve (irrelevant on fuel-injected bikes)
  • Ignition switch (the key)
  • Neutral (where to put your gear shift)
  • Engine kill switch (what your buddies are always fooling with at gas stops)
  • Clutch (pull in the lever, even if you ARE in neutral)
  • Choke (also irrelevant on fuel-injected bikes)

On a fuel-injected bike like my GL1800, I would edit this to NICE
  • Neutral
  • Ignition on
  • Clutch level pulled n
  • Engine switch on
or perhaps NECK
  • Neutral
  • Engine switch on
  • Clutch lever in
  • Key on

The current SEE
  • Scan the environment
  • Evaluate the situation
  • Execute your maneuvers
used to be the far more useful SIPDE
  • Scan the environment
  • Identify possible hazards
  • Predict what is going to happen
  • Decide what you're going to do
  • Execute your move
PLP = Parking Lot Practice; going out, finding a big empty place, dropping your bricks, and working on low-speed skills. I don't do this nearly often enough.

Honda provided a nice little booklet for PLP with my bike. There's a great page of advanced stuff from the Alameda County Sherrif's pages available as both html and ad a pdf. But I'd try to get good at the basics first.

Having been taught the Smith system of defensive driving way back in the day, the MSF emphasis on watching people around you and always predicting what will happen and knowing what your reaction should be was marvelously useful. I still remember the pop quizzes in drivers' ed where the instructor would cover the rear view mirror and ask me what was back there. Always be aware; always know what your route to safety is.

BTW, the Smith system is basically:
  • Aim high in steering (look way down the road)
  • Big Picture (what is happening and how does it all relate? How will this one guy's actions affect everything else?)
  • Scan (keep your eyes moving; know what's everywhere)
  • Know your out (always have an escape route)
  • Visibility (make sure everyone sees you)

This is as good for motorcycling as it is in a cage.

Chromed Tires?

On 10 July 2006, I rode 1200 miles to see my brother in Austin, TX. The next morning, when I did my morning T-CLOCK exam on the bike, I noticed that my rear tire had cracks in the carcass. So as well as catching up with a brother I hadn't seen in over a decade, I spent part of Skylab Day 2006 getting new rear rubber. It was a Metzeler ME880, the only rear tire for my bike that was in stock. It has been a decent rear tire. Good grip in the rain, and it was wearing quite well. Was.

Last Thursday night, I changed my spark plugs and checked the tires. It looked to me like I was going to get another 10K out of the rear, and it had not lost a single pound of pressure (I've only had to add air once since I got the thing, and I think that was only from the little bit that escapes every week when I check.) Little did I know.

While riding in to Lake Lure to pick up a couple more riders (Phil & Barb), I thought my leg was twitching. Then I realized that it was my foot peg that was pulsing against my foot, and not vice versa. Cruising slowly through Chimney Rock, I noticed a wobble. It was not the dreaded decel wobble. It happened most severely ~20 mph, accelerating, decelerating, or holding steady. As we headed up NC 9 toward Black Mountain (and coincidentally crossing the eastern continental divide), I rode more conservatively than I usually do and paid closer attention.

I wondered if maybe the front tire were severely out of balance, and was dreading the talk I was going to have to have with the shop that only a couple thousand miles ago rebuilt my 80K front end. Tapered bearings gone loose? There was no clicking, so I didn't think it was wheel bearings. But those handlebars sure did want to dance. By the time we got to Black Mountain, I was wondering whether and how we would be getting home.

I mentioned this over a lunch of some fine smoked brisket (really; you HAVE to go to Perry's) and there was a good bit of discussion as to possibilities. I didn't want to actually put hands and gauges on the tire until it had cooled down and I had filled my belly, so this was a good delaying tactic. And people suggested the things I had been mulling over. Phil mentioned a possible de-lamination, which I had NOT considered, but which has been a problem with E3 fronts (built by management during the recent Dunlop strike). My front is a Stone.

A couple of us poked & prodded the front end a bit and found nothing obvious. It took Dan walking up from behind and asking, "what's on your back tire?" to spot the trouble. What Dan was seeing were the steel belts on the left side of the tire. I HAD had a de-lamination and had thrown the tread off the rear. Steve mentioned that while following me over 9 at one point he had though that I had picked up some road trash when he saw something fluttering on my rear tire. Ah.

I had had well over 1/8" of tread in the center of that tire a day and a half earlier; a good 1/4" toward the outer edges. Now I had steel belts. How do you measure thread depth? Does steel grip well in the corners? Can you have it chromed as the ultimate Wing accessory?

After a brief discussion of best course of action, we put Lizzy behind Jim (sorry, Dixie) and Phil took point toward MR Cycles in Asheville. I rode second, and the other seven bikes rode behind, making sure no one ran over me should the worst happen. We even took some of the BRP this way to get around Asheville traffic. MR had an E3 in stock, and 90 minutes and $221 later, we were back on the road.

For the record, that tire had 9774 miles on it. (Yes, I know -- only 10K miles in 8 months; I'm not going to make my average this year. I blame it on the new commute; only 20 miles a day instead of 50, and I won't have as much chance to catch up this summer, given the nature of our vacation plans.) I ran it at 42 psi.

And thinking about it now, I'll bet that this explains why the back end has felt so squirrelly in a lean lately. I was just talking about trying to sort this one out last Saturday at McGuire's in Summerville. Every time I've leaned aggressively lately, the back end has slid a bit to one side. I haven't touched a peg down in months.

So... Good news: 1) I've still been sensitive enough to notice when there's trouble and to adapt my riding style as necessary. 2) The steel belts held well enough to get us up NC 9 two-up and then over to MR Cycles solo. 3) No get-off, no harm, no foul. 4) MR was fast, friendly, and reasonable. I can see why Phil & Barb ride up from Brevard to use them (aside from the fun roads betwixt & between). 5) We didn't hold up the group ride too long. 6) Mike Parks bought a new helmet. 7) We met some new riding friends. 8) Excellent brisket. 9) Fun roads. 10) 400 miles with an average 40 mpg for the day, with lowest top up at 38 and highest 42.

Bad news: 1) I would have sworn that the problem was in the front. I should have been able to tell that it was in the rear. My backside used to be more sensitive than that. 2) The frikkin rear tire threw off half its tread! We coulda died!

Next steps: 1) Write a letter and send a picture to Metzeler. 2) If there's a ride next weekend, sit it out and give our guardian angels the time off. They must be exhausted.


Update: Lizzy has also blogged about this, and has included a couple of pictures. She has also put in her linked photo album some of the pictures sent by Jim and Mike.

Saturday, March 17, 2007

Cicero on the nature of graduate studies

Cicero is referring here to training in oratory, which was the Roman equivalent of going for a professional degree. If you wanted to take your place in and make your mark upon Roman society (upper-class male variety, of course), you had to learn to persuade groups of people; you had to study oratory. I think the parallel is obvious.

Pro Caelio sec. 19/46

"An vos aliam causam esse ullam putatis cur in tantis praemiis eloquentiae, tanta voluptate dicendi, tanta laude, tanta gratia, tanto honore, tam sint pauci semperque fuerint qui in hoc labore versentur? Obterendae sunt omnes voluptates, relinquenda studia delectationis, ludus, iocus, convivium, sermo paene est familiarum deserendus. Qua re in hoc genere labor offendit homines a studioque deterret, non quo aut ingenia deficiant aut doctrina puerilis."

"Or do you suppose, in the face of such rewards for eloquence, such pleasure in speaking, such praise, such favor, such honor, that there is some other reason why why there are and always have been so few who turn themselves toward this endeavor? All pleasures must be obliterated; all pursuit of enjoyment left behind; games, jokes, bonhomie, nearly all conversation with friends must be forsaken. It is for this reason that this sort of endeavor is offensive to people and turns them away from its pursuit, and not because the youth are lacking in either ability or prliminary education."

Think on this as you apply for grad school.


Eco on the 'Puter Wars

While I'm filing good stuff from Eco, here's a nice piece on the state of Mac -v- PC wars from the mid-90s. Remember, aging readers, that back then Windows still had a lot of command-line work to do, and that the old MS-DOS was still seen lurking behind the Windows darkly. This was pre-Windows '95. This was Windows 3.x.

who still remembers CPM dot commands and WordStar, which were the de facto standard in many offices when the Mac showed up

English translation of excerpts from Umberto Eco's back-page column "La bustina di Minerva" in the Italian news weekly Espresso, 30 Sept. 1994:


Insufficient consideration has been given to the new underground religious war which is modifying the modern world. It's an old idea of mine, but I find that whenever I tell people about it they immediately agree with me.

The fact is that the world is divided between users of the Macintosh computer and users of MS-DOS compatible computers. I am firmly of the opinion that the Macintosh is Catholic and that DOS is Protestant. Indeed, the Macintosh is counter-reformist and has been influenced by the 'ratio studiorum' of the Jesuits. It is cheerful, friendly, conciliatory, it tells the faithful how they must proceed step by step to reach - if not the Kingdom of Heaven - the moment in which their document is printed. It is catechistic: the essence of revelation is dealt with via simple formulae and sumptuous icons.

Everyone has a right to salvation.

DOS is Protestant, or even Calvinistic. It allows free interpretation of scripture, demands difficult personal decisions, imposes a subtle hermeneutics upon the user, and takes for granted the idea that not all can reach salvation. To make the system work you need to interpret the program yourself: a long way from the baroque community of revellers, the user is closed within the loneliness of his own inner torment.

You may object that, with the passage to Windows, the DOS universe has come to resemble more closely the counter-reformist tolerance of the Macintosh. It's true: Windows represents an Anglican-style schism, big ceremonies in the cathedral, but there is always the possibility of a return to DOS to change things in accordance with bizarre decisions; when it comes down to it, you can decide to allow women and gays to be ministers if you want to....

And machine code, which lies beneath both systems (or environments, if you prefer)? Ah, that is to do with the Old Testament, and is Talmudic and cabalistic...

Umberto Eco

A recent e-mail question about Umberto Eco provoked the following response, which I'm storing here for later reference.

Well, I'm a big fan of Eco in all three of his guises: semiotician (and literary critic), novelist, and columnist. I'll paste one of his columns/essays into the end of this note.

Eco the Semiotician
For anyone who has about had it with modern literary theory, I highly recommend Eco's LitCrit works. He has given us back Intentionality -- although he agrees that the author's intent (intentio auctoris) is not the best guide to interpreting a text, he argues for the intention of the work itself (intentio operis). That is, he makes a credible argument that a work of literature is trying to communicate, and that the best method of interpretation is to try to listen to what the work WANTS to tell us and how it achieves (or fails to achieve) that intended communication.

For my money, far too much time is spent with tools like Deconstruction, which has, I have to admit, its uses. The ability to gain anthropological insight from literary texts is especially attractive to people who work with the ancient world. But I just know that some day at a conference some deconstructionist is going to ask me a question and I'm going to treat their question like a text and deconstruct it rather than answer it. This would make absolutely clear something that I believe about deconstruction: it's rude; useful at times, but essentially impolite.

[*he slips into a fantasy*

Question from the floor: I agree with your presentation overall, but wonder how you would distinguish between gendered issues and power issues in the Late Republican period.

Answer from the lectern: Notice that this very brief text, a questioning text, begins with a first person singular pronoun. This reveals the academic's self-involvement; she has given the self-referent a privileged position, and so privileges herself. Further...

*he comes back from the world of dreams*]

What was I saying? Oh, yes. The primary focus of deconstruction is on what the work gives away about the culture in which it was produced. This is fundamentally rude. It ignores what it trying to be said in favor of what the reader's agenda might be. It is a useful anthropological tool, but should not be the first, and never the only, tool brought to bear in interpreting a text. The first question should always be, "what is the message? what is being said?" And Eco has given us back the right to ask such questions.

The best introduction to his work in this area is a seven lecture series in which Eco gives the first three, three LitCritics from other schools respond, and Eco replies. It's a slim volume published by Cambridge UP entitled Interpretation and Overinterpretation. From there, take a peek at The Limits of Interpretation and his earlier work, The Role of the Reader.

Eco the Novelist
As for the novels, they are all very different. Easily the most accessible (and the only one made into a movie) is The Name of the Rose. A mystery set in a medieval abbey with riffs on Dante, assumed knowledge of theology and Classics, and footnotes in Latin. Look for the edition that has Postscript to the Name of the Rose in it. It's a nice essay.

If you're into conspiracy theories (like Dan Brown's ubiquitous book), Foucault's Pendulum might be the place to start. It is set in a modern vanity publishing house, but ranges throughout the late medieval and early Renaissance periods. Don't try to follow the evolving logic of the knights-templar-ridden plot; I think you're supposed to feel disoriented while thinking "that makes sense". If you read and like this one, try his non-fiction The Search for the Perfect Language.

The Island of the Day Before is set in the same age-of-exploration world as Dava Sobel's Longitude. It dabbles in alchemy and is a great introduction to the errors of courtly love. I used to have a sig from this one:

"He thought that he would become accustomed to the idea [of being orphaned], not yet understanding that it is useless to become accustomed to the loss of a father, for it will never happen a second time: might as well leave the wound open."
-Umberto Eco, Island of the Day Before, end of Ch.7

There are also Baudolino (which Otter once described as "Forrest Gump for Medievalists") and his memoir for an entire generation of Italians, The Mysterious Flame of Queen Loana. (Which, for a change, does NOT turn out to be a father-quest.) For a long time, I had as my sig a line from Bishop Otto in chapter 4 of Baudolino:

"The world condemns liars who do nothing but lie, even about the most trivial things, and it rewards poets, who lie only about the greatest things."

Eco the Columnist
Eco used to write a weekly column for a local (to him) paper. Some of his best essays have been collected in several volumes. Travels in Hyperreality, which includes a great piece on the semiotics of wearing pants; Misreadings, the shortest and funniest if you have a background that includes lots of academic nonsense -- several good pastiches of scholarly papers here; and How to Travel with a Salmon, probably the best for a general audience. The entire essay that I'm going to paste in below is from that collection.

But first, my favorite take on postmodernism, from the PttNotR. Enjoy.


~~~Begin Quotation 1~~~

Umberto Eco on postmodernism:
But the moment comes when the avant-garde (the modern) can go no further, because it has produced a metalanguage that speaks of its impossible texts (conceptual art). The postmodern reply to the modern consists of recognizing that the past, since it cannot really be destroyed, because its destruction leads to silence, must be revisited: but with irony, not innocently. I think of the postmodern attitude as that of a man who loves a very cultivated woman and knows that he cannot say to her, "I love you madly," because he knows that she knows (and that she knows that he knows) that these words have already been written by Barbara Cartland. Still, there is a solution. He can say, "As Barbara Cartland would put it, I love you madly." At this point, having avoided false innocence, having said clearly that it is no longer possible to speak innocently, he will nevertheless have said what he wanted to say to the woman: that he loves her, but he loves her in an age of lost innocence. If the woman goes along with this, she will have received a declaration of love all the same. Neither of the two speakers will feel innocent, both will have accepted the challenge of the past, of the already said, which cannot be eliminated; both will consciously and with pleasure play the game of irony.... But both will have succeeded, once again, in speaking of love.
Postscript to The Name of the Rose [Harvest combined edition 1994] 530-1
~~~~End Quotation 1~~~~

~~~Begin Quotation 2~~~

"How to Justify a Private Library" from How to Travel with a Salmon & other essays (HBJ 1994) by Umberto Eco

Generally speaking, from my childhood on, I have been always subjected to two (and only two) kinds of joke: "You're the one who always answers" and "You resound in the valleys." All through my early years I believed that, by some strange chance, all the people I met were stupid. Then, having reached maturity, I was forced to conclude that there are two laws no human being can escape: the first idea that comes into a person's mind will be the most obvious one; and, having had an obvious idea, nobody ever thinks that others may have had the same idea before.

I possess a collection of review headlines, in all the languages of the Indo-European family, going all the way from "The Echo of Eco" to "A Book with Echoes." In the latter case I suspect the printed headline wasn't the first idea that came into the subeditor's mind. What probably happened was this: the editorial staff met, they debated some twenty possible titles, and finally the managing editor's face lighted up and he said, "Hey guys, I've had a fantastic idea!" And the others responded, "Boss, you're a devil! Where do you get them?" "It's a gift," he must have replied.

I'm not saying that people are banal. Taking as divine inspiration, as a flash of originality, something that is obvious reveals a certain freshness of spirit, an enthusiasm for life and its unpredictability, a love of ideas--small as they may be. I will always remember my first meeting with Erving Goffman, whom I admired and loved for the genius and penetration with which he could identify infinitesimal aspects of behavior that had previously eluded everyone else. We were sitting at an outdoor café when, looking at the street after a while, he said, "You know something? I believe there are too many automobiles in circulation in our cities." Maybe he had never thought this before because he had had far more important things to think about; he had just had a sudden epiphany and still had the mental freshness to express it. I, a little snob infected by the Unzeitgemässe Betrachtungen of Neitzsche, would have hesitated to say it, even if I thought it.

A second shock of banality occurs to many people in my condition--that is, people who possess a fairly sizeable library (large enough in my case that someone entering our house can't help but notice it; actually, it takes up the whole place). The visitor enters and says, "What a lot of books! Have you read them all?" At first I thought that the question characterized only people who had scant familiarity with books, people accustomed to seeing a couple of shelves with five paperback mysteries and a children's encyclopedia, bought in installments. But experience has taught me that the same words can be uttered also by people above suspicion. It could be said that they are still people who consider a bookshelf as a mere storage place for already-read books and do not think of the library as a working tool. But there is more to it than that. I believe that, confronted by a vast array of books, anyone will be seized by the anguish of learning, and will inevitably lapse into asking the question that expresses his torment and his remorse.

The problem is that when someone says, "Eco? You're the one who always answers," you can reply with a little laugh and, at most, if you want to be polite, with "That's a good one!" But the question about your books has to be answered, while your jaw stiffens and rivulets of cold sweat trickle down your spine. In the past I adopted a tone of contemptuous sarcasm. "I haven't read any of them; otherwise, why would I keep them here?" But this is a dangerous answer because it invites the obvious follow-up: "And where do you put them after you've read them?" The best answer is the one always used by Roberto Leydi: "And more, dear sir, many more," which freezes the adversary and plunges him into a state of awed admiration. But I find it merciless and angst-generating. Now I have fallen back on the riposte: "No, these are the ones I have to read by the end of the month. I keep the others in my office," a reply that on one hand suggests a sublime ergonomic strategy, and on the other leads the visitor to hasten the moment of his departure.
~~~~End Quotation 2~~~~

Brie in pastry with red onion confit

Among the things we served on the last night of our Winterim cooking class was crostini with goat cheese mousse and a red onion confit. The goat cheese mousse was dead simple:
  • set out a six ounce tube of goat cheese to warm
  • chop about a tbsp of parsley
  • whip up about a quarter cup of heavy cream
  • fold everything together
  • season with kosher salt and freshly ground pepper
The confit went like so:
  • slice 2 lbs red onions (about 4 large onions)
  • simmer in a pan with
  • 1/2 c. honey
  • 1/2 c. red wine
  • 5/8 c. (1/2 c. + 2 tbsp; 5 fl. oz.) red wine vinegar
  • until the mixture is the consistency of marmalade
  • S&P to taste
Upon tasting the confit, Lizzy proclaimed that it would be good with brie. So last Sunday night, that's what I did. I cheated with the pastry and used a small thwack packet of croissant dough.[1] I just twacked the tube, pulled out the four ready-made croissants, and instead of rolling them up, I rolled them out into one big sheet. (I used a small tube because of Lizzy's diabetes-induced bread restrictions, but next time I will probably use a regular-sized tube of dough.)

I made a quarter recipe of the confit (one huge red onion, 1 oz each of the honey & the wine, and splash more than that of the vinegar).
I took one six inch brie wheel and cut it in half.
I set the brie in the middle of the croissant dough to make an impression, then took it off and set it aside.

I put half of the confit within that circular impression on the dough, put half the brie down, put on the rest of the confit, then the rest of the brie, then wrapped the dough over the brie and pinched it closed. I then flipped it (smooth dough on top) and baked it in accordance with the instructions on the thwack tube.

It was very tasty.

Next time, I will do at least two things differently (apart from more dough, which was requested by SWMBO). 1) Chop the onion instead of slicing it. 2) Add some walnut pieces to the confit that ends up on top (the bottom layer as it is assembled). And Lizzy suggested adding raisins to the confit close to the end, but this is getting very close to a chutney, don't you think?


[1] Are Lizzy & I the only ones who call those biscuits that come in tubes "thwack biscuits"? I think that Pillsbury is the best known purveyors of these things. You know the ones. You peel the outer layer off the tube and then there's that cardboard with the line tha says to press here with a spoon. But why press when they usually pop open on their own? And when they don't, isn't it much more satisfying to thwack the tube sharply against the edge of the counter?

Friday, March 16, 2007

Speaking of omelets

There's a scene in the movie Deep Blue Sea (about intelligent sharks and an isolated research station; essentially a haunted house story) where LL Cool J's character (Sherman 'Preacher' Dudley) believes that he is about to die, and all he has is a video camera, so he figures he should record his last words. What does he have to say in this, his final hour? He looks into the lense and says, "We will start with the perfect omelet, which is made with two eggs not three. Amateurs often add milk for density. This is a mistake."

Truer words were never spoken.

Among the few good things I'm known for is my ability to turn out a tasty omelet. So in the interest of full disclosure, I should mention that the cream in the omelette Lyonaise was a departure for me; I did it only because the recipes all said to. My usual omelet procedure runs thus:
  • Put a hefty skillet on medium heat (a heavy pan makes for more even heat transfer; lower heat & longer time make for a fluffier omelet).
  • Whisk two eggs.
  • Prepare your fold-ins (cheese, olives, whatever).
  • Toss a lump of butter into the pan, and slide it off-center on the burner (if your stove isn't level, you'll want the uphill side of the pan on the center of the heat).
  • Pour in the egg and give the pan a quick wobble to spread the egg evenly.
  • Put your fold-ins on the side of the omelet that will stay down.
  • As soon as the side directly over the heat will no longer run, fold it over the other side.
  • Slide the skillet over so the other side of the pan (with the folded omelet) is over the center of the heat.
  • When it starts to puff up, slide it onto a plate. It's done.

The keys for me are 1) medium heat and 2) not bothering it too much. Just let it sit there and cook. (This despite that wonderful reconciliation omelet scene at the end of Big Night.)

A word about spinach. I like it. I like omelets. It was inevitable that I would try a spinach omelet. The recipes had me wilting the spinach in the skillet and pouring the egg on top of it. I didn't like the way this dried the spinach that stayed in contact with the pan. I tried wilting the spinach, removing it from the pan, and treating it like any other fold-in, but I found the spinach just a bit too moist this way for my tastes. What I do now is
  • whisk 2 eggs and set aside,
  • wilt the spinach in a skillet (throw a lot in, it shrinks way down),
  • remove it from the skillet and whisk it into the eggs,
  • pour eggs and spinach into the pan, and
  • cook that omelet.
  • I often fold in a little cheese (brie or a sharp cheddar both work admirably well).
That's a spinach omelet I can eat.

Omelette Lyonnaise

Also known as a half-baked onion omelet. Well, half-broiled anyway. But half-baked sounds better.

The first step will take the better part of an hour. The finish will take less than ten minutes.

Step one: carmelize a pound and a half of onions. I used sweet onions, cause we have quite a few in the fridge. I was going to slice them with a knife, but decided that I could get them thinner with a mandoline. Now a pound and a half of sliced onion looks like an awful lot, but it will cook down to a large handful. To carmelize 'em:
  • melt a few tablespoons (it looked like ~3 to me) of butter in a large saucepan on medium
  • add the onions
  • let 'em simmer until the onions start to sweat out their liquid
  • make sure you have nothing else to do for a long while
  • turn up the heat
  • stir continuously until the onions turn dark brown
  • remove from heat
Now at this point, all the recipes say to put the onions into a pan and pour the beaten egg mixture onto them. I did not do it this way.

I had previously whisked up four eggs and a three tablespoons of heavy cream and set this in the fridge. When the onions were ready and I could finally stop stirring, here's what I did:
  • remove onion pan from heat
  • place large skillet on heat, turn down to medium
  • turn on broiler to preheat
  • whisk onions into eggs & cream
  • pour into now-warm skillet
  • let cook for ~3 minutes (until the bottom is cooked and the center is starting to firm)
  • remove skillet from heat and put under the broiler for about 2 minutes (until the top is browned)
The recipes say that the omelet should be slightly runny, but Lizzy doesn't care for eggs that flow downhill, so I cooked 'em a little firmer.

Cut that baby in half, toss it onto a couple of plates and splash on some balsamic vinegar.

Note that this did nothing to diminish our supply of strawberries. We had some for dessert with coffee. Lizzy made a couple of quicky drop-biscuit shortcakes for hers (bread may now be her enemy, but she still needs some), and I whipped up a little cream for mine. (Why would you ever buy that stuff they call whipped cream in tubs and tubes when it's so darned easy to toss a little sugar, a splash of vanilla, and some cream into a bowl and whip it up all tasty and fresh?)

I have a feeling my next recipe might be for a shortcake. It kind of depends on how tomorrow's ride down to McGuire's in Summerville goes.

Yet another use for little-visited blogs: Recipes!

I've been experimenting a bit lately and thought I'd put here a few recipes that have worked well. It beats leaving them on the hard drive until a catastrophic crash. We'll start with last night.

I brought home a mess of strawberries from the Freshman Strawberry sale at school (for two people, half a flat is definitely a mess -- not a half-mess, a whole mess). They smell very ripe and on the verge of going bad. They are, sadly, not local, but shipped up from Florida. So despite their smell, they are very hard and not very sweet. Be that as it may, I knew we needed to use some. We also have a hefty supply of spinach, so I figured it was time for a salad.

I've made berry vinaigrettes before for other sorts of salads (berries, white balsamic, sweeten to taste, stick blend till pour-able; toss with olive oil on the salad). But berry vinaigrette on a berry and greens salad seemed like too little variation. So I went searching for a different dressing. Some of the ingredients I found recommended seemed verrrrry odd. Nevertheless, it came out quite tasty. Here's what we had:

  • 10-12 oz. spinach, washed & large stems removed
  • ~2 oz. goat cheese, tossed into the spinach to evenly coat the leaves
  • 1.5 cups whole strawberries each, sliced after measuring
  • 1.5 hard-boiled eggs each, sliced
  • pecan pieces, toasted (2 minutes in our convection toaster oven does the trick)

  • 1/2 c. sugar
  • 1 tbsp. minced onion
  • 1 tbsp. poppy seeds
  • 1/4 tsp. paprika
  • 1/4 tsp. Worcestershire sauce
  • 1/2 c. light olive oil
  • 1/4 c. red wine vinegar
  • 1 tbsp. balsamic vinegar
Stick blend to a smooth emulsion

I know it sounds odd, but trust me on this one. It's quite tasty.