cougar

April 2014

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Apr. 2nd, 2014

wilson

The new generations of dreamers

My mom and I were discussing something that I had been mulling over since I woke up.

WWII, the space race, computers, geeks, and how does acting come into this, anyway?Collapse )

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Mar. 11th, 2014

cougar

The gospel of the green apricots

Have I really not posted my green apricot recipes? I thought I had.

Well, in any case, early summer will soon be upon us, and if we have any luck with flowering right now the apricot trees will be full of little fuzzy green fruit. Blenheim apricots in particular are known for getting overloaded to the point where they look like clusters of grapes; those clusters have to be thinned to avoid damage to the tree, not to mention a harvest of small and poor-quality fruit.

When I thinned a friend's tree last year, I ended up with three or four gallons of little greenies. I thought that it would be a shame just to toss them, so I looked online. Sure enough, you can cook them in various ways -- and as I discovered, those ways are often tasty. I like apricots just fine, but green apricots are almost better.

Don't try to pit them before cooking; it's a nightmare. I find the best way to handle them (since my food mill has trouble with anything larger than a cherry pit) is to cook them, cool them, and take the pits out with my fingers. I sit and watch TV while my hand is immersed in fruit pulp, which is not the worst way to spend a Saturday night. The whole fruit or the pulp can be frozen with no ill effect. As for how to cook them:

Green Apricot JamCollapse )

Green Apricot ChutneyCollapse )

Either one will keep in the fridge for a while, if you don't feel like canning. The chutney obviously keeps longer, and it gets better with age, ending up beautifully balanced with a warmth that won't bite anyone but the most heat-averse. The jam has a wonderful balance of tart, sweet, fruitiness, and the strong almost-bitter flavor apricots sometimes get; the allspice shows it off to great effect. You could also do straight-up candied apricots in heavy syrup, I expect. And I once made an incredible vindaloo using unsweetened apricot pulp and dates for the sweet-and-sour flavors -- the pulp is a decent stand-in for tamarind.

Bottom line: don't toss these guys. They're worth the effort.

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Mar. 7th, 2014

cougar

Recipe: Garlic powder

If you like garlic powder, don't buy the commercial stuff in jars. You're paying too much and (worse) it's weak. If you put in a little effort once or twice a year, you can have the really good stuff.

How to make the best garlic powderCollapse )

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Feb. 26th, 2014

cougar

Recipe: Seville orange bars

I decided to make a variant on lemon bars the other day. I mean, you should be able to use any tart citrus, right? Limes were a possibility, though what I wanted was some good yellow grapefruit... but the produce market didn't have any grapefruit, oddly enough.

What they did have were Seville oranges.

And we embark on an adventure...Collapse )

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cougar

Recipe: Twice-cooked coconut curry chicken

I'm back at the recipe-book again. This is one I made entirely from my working knowledge of Indian food; I could probably give it more of a South Indian/Malaysian flavor with the addition of some fennel or cardamom, but I like this the way it is. (Though it could probably take a bit more black pepper.)

I like this recipe because the only things discarded are the chicken bones, and they help make the broth first. It's also unusual because it contains no tomatoes.

Twice-Cooked Coconut Curry ChickenCollapse )

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Feb. 5th, 2014

gardening

Vegetable planting seasons (SF Bay Area/Contra Costa)

Okay, my brain is turning to mush and I need a cheat sheet. So, right here where everyone can use it, thus:

Central Contra Costa vegetable growing seasonsCollapse )

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Jan. 30th, 2014

gardening

And now back to growing things

So it rained yesterday.

You have no idea how much of a relief that was to me. The people I spoke to immediately qualified it with "well, it was barely anything" and "it's not enough to make a difference"... I know that. What makes me breathe a little easier is that the thrice-bedamned high pressure system is breaking up. I had worried that it would persist into late March and we'd REALLY be screwed. Now we're probably still looking at a dry year, but we can handle that, at least in the north. It's the "no rain at all" "worst drought year since 1850" thing that had me worried.

Besides, I walked outside this morning into the smell of wet walnut leaves. Everything is all right now. :)

Garden natteringCollapse )

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Nov. 18th, 2013

wilson

Obamacare

Just so we don't lose sight of the real issues here:

I have a documented disability which would make it physically difficult to hold down a 40-hours-a-week job. Also documented is the fact that I need fresh air and regular exercise to maintain my physical and psychological health. I have student loans to pay, among other expenses. So, to support myself, I started my own business. It's nearly 14 months old, and I'm still building a client base and a reputation, so it's not yet profitable. I'm relying on my slim savings to tide me over until it is, as I have no wish to take out more loans.

The work is active, and has the potential for physical injury (I work with ladders). I am at high risk of tetanus, so I have to stay current on my vaccinations. I rely heavily on clear, accurate vision, supplied by prescription eyeglasses. If I were to get injured badly, I have no resources past a couple of thousand dollars; uninsured, I would have to rely on friends and family for a bit more than that, or (above that) have the bills go unpaid and ruin my chances for financial independence. This is not a remote possibility.

I have been denied coverage by a major insurer due to preexisting conditions, despite the fact that I have not sought a doctor's treatment for my disability for years; I manage it with lifestyle changes and occasional massage therapy. I got the diagnosis for accommodation at school, in fact. Beyond the disability, few would deny that I am quite healthy, and I rarely see a doctor -- mostly for routine things like pap smears. I take no prescriptions.

Without Obamacare, the only way I can get affordable health insurance (more than catastrophic, which doesn't help if I break my wrist) is to stay poor enough to qualify for the county's low-income health plan. It's what I have now, and while it's decent, I have to be well below the poverty line to keep it. As I don't want to be dependent on social services, as I want real financial independence, this is not attractive. But as soon as I got into the black and really supported myself with my own labor, I would lose that coverage, and have bleak prospects for replacing it.

With Obamacare, I can buy my own health insurance without being denied again. If it's a little more than my young business can afford, I can get tax breaks to make up the difference. Right now, while I'm still running a deficit, I've been offered MediCal, the state insurance plan, which I never qualified for before. It gives me the services offered by the county plan, plus (I'm told) a bit of dental, and a vision plan. I haven't had dental or vision since I finished grad school. I need to investigate the dental, but if it takes the cost down for cleanings, I'll go get my first one in two years. I've been paying out of pocket for my vision prescriptions and glasses (and believe me, my glasses are not cheap), and relief there would be welcome.

The sheer amount of anxiety I was carrying about all this, without knowing it, has started to fade. I can focus more easily on the things I have to pay attention to, like running my business and keeping costs down. There is no longer the looming cliff of losing my healthcare when I make too much money to keep it, and the semi-yearly question of whether the county will cancel my coverage has gone away. Many of you, who have worked for major employers your whole lives, probably have no idea what that feels like. Believe me, it's huge.

I understand that there's been a bunch of chaos, partly because of the law itself, partly because insurers have taken advantage of the confusion. I know some people are concerned about their payments going up (do take a look at the subsidies, though, they're not only below the poverty line). I trust, however, that when things finally settle we will be no worse off in general; the politicians are certainly motivated to make this work for as many people as possible. And I, among many others, will be far better off than I was.

Helping a sole proprietor stay healthy and fiscally solvent is a tangible goal of the ACA. For all of you muddling through cancellations and rate hikes and media FUD, think about the fact that you are helping me avoid disability and (ultimately) get off government assistance altogether by smoothing the transition from poverty to prosperity. I am extremely grateful, and once I've made my living, I promise I won't forget it. I've always believed in giving the next person a leg up... and it might even be you, fallen on hard times. Life is funny that way.

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Aug. 15th, 2013

cougar

On privacy

"This guy's a lawyer. He could claim prejudicial treatment, your whole life would become public record."

"I have nothing to be ashamed of."

"We all live in glass houses, Catherine; you gotta be careful where you take your shower."

-- CSI 5x22 "Weeping Willows"

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Jul. 11th, 2013

cougar

Choose your game. [f:f]

From G+:

I have decided that if I were a computer, I'd be some sort of gaming machine: a decent CPU, a really cheap math co-processor, and a massive GPU. If you want to do statistical analysis or code compiling, you'll be disappointed... but give me something visual, and I'll blow your mind. Take that, code monkeys. :)


(Do you have any idea how much processing it takes to lay out a rock garden in proper visual proportion? To prune a maple for aesthetics? To figure out the possible biological means by which a plant is showing a particular symptom?)

(Hell, I scored a 0 on the color-matching test, without shenanigans like resizing the window or tilting the monitor. Yes, that's good. Bring it on, bitches.)

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