Having been out of town for most of August, I’m just settling back into my groove at home & work finally. Selinsgrove never quite happened; a conference came up that I was recommended to attend, so that’s where I ended up instead. First week of August was in Madison, WI, followed up by a couple weeks back in Minnesota & North Dakota visiting my family & friends. Despite coming down with some sort of a cold at the end of the conference, I kicked that pretty quickly afterwards & did manage to enjoy most of my time in Minot, Fargo, and Minneapolis.

Coming back to Toronto was rough. The twelve or so hours to get from Madison to Toronto is a long (albeit not terrible) drive. Then to get back and immediately throw the laundry in, unpack everything else, and realize my apartment still needs a sweeping/vacuuming, I really should have taken an extra day to get most of that under wraps. Instead, I just charged back into the work week & powered through it.

Thank god for the long Labor (Labour?) Day weekend. Gave me a chance to catch up with everything: sweep & mop the floors, clean the bug guts off the car, cook some dinner, buy some groceries1, do some laundry, run some errands, and just catch up on some goddamn sleep. I even snuck in a trip down to the Canadian National Exhibition early Friday afternoon, but much like the trip to the Minnesota State Fair over the vacation, I killed an entire afternoon & evening seeing the sights & devouring the food2. I meant to get around to watching Se7en & Ali G Indahouse3 as well, but I’m just a bit hooked on finishing season three of The Walking Dead right now.

I’ll get around to posting about the rest of the summer a bit. World Pride, once I finish up postprocessing all those photos. Madison. Minneapolis. Minot. Fargo. Minneapolis again with the State Fair. One last stop in Madison before the long haul back. But for now, it’s getting back into that groove between work & home. Except this time, I’m trying to play the juggle between my work & personal life a little more generously.

1I had hardly anything to eat besides leftover pasta sauce. I couldn’t realistically expect much of my usual staples to keep for three weeks in the fridge…
2The big reason for both of these events was to really just consume the food!
3This is suddenly on my “to watch” list because I had no idea Martin Freeman is in it, in an utterly atypical role for him!

02. May 2014 · Write a comment · Categories: Random · Tags: ,

Concentrated stares…glowers unbroken…

I sat down next to a fellow on the streetcar on my trek home this evening. He was collecting his bag to make his adjacent seat available for the filling streetcar. Keeping his pad/binding of paper close to his bag, face down into it, pen still in hand. He’d stare off into space, then fixate on people standing up to leave.

Unwavering gaze, before he would suddenly break focus and scribble on his paper. Put it back face down. Stare. Occasionally focus on someone else in the forward view. Scribble away briefly. Put it away.

I fear he was taking notes on people…scribbling away random observations about them as they left…or potentially worse…

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Having had the year to settle into Toronto, it’s time to finally get back to some summer adventures while I still can. At least get out of the city a bit more. Some camping trips to the north will be in order, but I’ve yet to setup plans for those. I have, however, set some up for south of the border, back in the United States later this summer.

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I mentioned that I was going to get around to talking about this stuffing I’ve made for years, so it’s about time I finally did so. It was passed down from a professor back at my doctoral institution. As part of it, you need to prep a pretty solid bird stock first, so let me detail that briefly.

You’ll need some dark-meat bird parts first, be it the neck (ideally) or thighs. Take three of them (mix & match as desired), put them in a pot or saucepan large enough to lay them flat, and fill the spaces & cover the turkey parts with onion, carrot, and celery (don’t need to chop it finely at all). Add a generous helping of sage, thyme, a bay leaf or two (if you have them), some peppercorns, and salt to your liking (I usually don’t bother), and then cover the whole mess with water. Cover it, bring it to a boil, then reduce it to a simmer for at least two hours (I let it simmer for three). Pull all the meat out (mind you, the meat will literally fall off of the thighs), and strain out the remaining parts by pouring the mix through cheesecloth. Once the vegetables have cooled enough to handle, mash them up a little (still in the cheesecloth) and then wring the last of the juices from the vegetables. So much more flavor hiding in there, so don’t neglect to do this step! Afterwards, feast on the delights of the amazing meat you’ve just prepared, and you have a batch of delicious stock!

Now, with that out of the way…onto the best part…the stuffing!

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Easter brought about another feast of food, as per usual. Any holiday that I can make a fancy meal for, I like to. Especially for company, but for myself if nothing else! Anyhoo. As with any bird-based meal that I prepare, I’ve got to make some stuffing. Fantastic stuff, this recipe.

I’ll be posting that in the near future, but I wanted to get working on some of the backlog of posts I’ve been meaning to do lately. With summer coming up soon, I’m slowly getting more & more of my evening time back, with the largest chunk coming back once I’m commuting via bicycle again! So without further ado, click on through for the deliciously smooth bacony-laced (although not bacon-laden…which is equally doable, clearly) mashed potatoes.

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I made a surprisingly fantastic batch of beef stroganoff Monday night. It’s really not any different than the typical recipe I use, but I took some extra time to really take advantage of some Maillard-infused cooking and sear nearly all the ingredients over pretty high heat. The meat & the mushrooms were ridiculously savory, and the onions turned out so sweet that the sauce dabbled on the sweet side.

It was a beautiful—yet unexpected because of the sweetness—combination. As it stands, it might turn out even between with some white wine during the cooking stage to complement that bit of sweetness that the onions contribute. I will have to give this a dry next time if I have a dry white to cook with next time!

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…my tonsils around, apparently. Fighting off something, but it’s trashing my tonsils more than anywhere else. One in particular; I’ve never seen it push out a crypt like this before. I fear one of these days I really will have to get them removed. In my mid-30s. Not looking forward to that.

Work has kept me crazy-busy again. The chapter review is almost done. I’ve been frying my brain comparing & working on protein structures. I’ll be ecstatic to be off my ass and back on my feet doing experiments this week. Maybe sneak some walking breaks in at work when we thaw out again.

I’ve been taking a crash course of sorts into Python. The new graduate student who joined my doctoral lab just before I left is taking the bioinformatics course I took when they first started offering it. We used Perl at the time to do most of the data/text manipulation, but they’ve since switched over to Python (with good reason, too, as it’s more useful to the sciences). The first year for that, apparently! The students are struggling through it, and the prof hasn’t completely adapted the homework (and corresponding lectures on commands) to the new language. I’ve been helping her work through that, which has necessitated a crash course on much of the different syntax & commands to work with it. At least this will leave me well situated to take advantage of Python to write those data-manipulation scripts I was looking to make for pruning PDB files for APBS calculations.

I’ve also had some cooking experiments that came to fruition. Particularly on the pickling front. I will have to get those jotted down when I get a longer moment to catch up on things!

I’m also getting stir crazy from the winter, and my knees are feeling the weather a bit. Walking in the wet snow is rougher on my legs than I expect (especially when I’m walking a mile or two in it), and I’m anxious to get to cycling again (hopefully easier on my knees). It saves me time getting to/fro work (seriously, takes half as long as transit), and obviates the avoidance of the rush hour commute, since I won’t be riding on sardine cans anymore!

Time to nurse this malaise—whatever its source may be—with some sleep!