mtbc: maze B (white-black)
I have mentioned how I enjoy the tart flavors from flowering plants. On Saturday we stopped at Tesco and I bought my standard treat of a pair of fools: gooseberry and rhubarb. I like lemon too but more easily get that flavor otherwise. Excellently these Tesco-brand fools' pots are made of card, for disposal that is more friendly to the environment.
mtbc: maze B (white-black)
I rather enjoy The Taste of Tea (2004) but I have in mind the more generic topic of the taste of black tea. I have a memory of sometimes drinking really tasty tea. I have occasionally tasted a strong hint of this particular desirable flavor in good tea loaf (and its Celtic cousins). However, despite some effort in my own tea-making over recent years, I appear to not be recapturing it at all, let alone reproducing it reliably.

Perhaps there is some systematic reason I am failing to make such tasty tea. I could be using the wrong kind of tea; generally I favor Assam. I do not usually add milk or sugar but perhaps either or both are important for the taste I have in mind. Maybe I need harder water or even the correct kind of metal teapot rather than brewing in a ceramic mug. My memory could even be faulty: I may be pursuing a ghost though would be happy to try a range of tea loaf to render it again corporeal. Whichever is so, for the meantime the puzzle continues to linger unresolved.
mtbc: maze B (white-black)
In Michigan I bought some whipped cream for a pumpkin pie. Whipping had the desired effect. I wondered, what if I had whipped double cream instead or even single cream? What is special about whipping cream? As I thought further, I realized that I could not remember how one turns milk to butter. I recalled that churning it is somehow important but where does all the water go? I clearly have not had enough intercourse with milkmaids. Upon asking [personal profile] mst3kmoxie she reminded me of separating curds from whey so I guess something like that is involved. I am losing touch with some basic aspects of the real world: I couldn't help but be reminded of Robert Webb asking David Mitchell, So then how did they turn the cheese back into milk? They needed kilns! Now that I read more about butter production I further wonder if cultured butter is easily bought but I have not even yet managed to find ewes' milk locally.
mtbc: maze B (white-black)
I was arranging beefburgers of two different kinds on a baking tray and I chose to use a sort of nested arrow shape to make it easy to determine which burgers were of which kind even after rotating the tray. Our oven heats unevenly so it helps if the information encoded in the cunning arrangement of the food survives reorientations.

It occurred to me that there must be some mathematical theory that applies well to arranging beefburgers on baking trays. Relevant factors would include how many burgers wide and deep the tray is, or perhaps the theory generalizes to non-rectangular trays with different degrees of rotational symmetry that lend themselves to different patterns of arranging the burgers: for instance, three kinds of burgers on a pentagonal tray. Maybe there is some standard library of patterns of burgers comprising a toolkit that can be employed for every situation.

Of course, bakers of pies may avail themselves of the more straightforward approach of scoring the pastry lids differently according to kind of pie. I am not aware of an easy comparable approach with burgers, especially if they begin frozen and may be flipped once or twice during baking.

I once developed a sensor fusion system that, given inputs from radars and cameras, could bootstrap from some knowns to determine where in space the remaining targets and sensors were. The algorithm could make use of detected features for disambiguation; perhaps sometimes one cannot tell which kind of burger is which but can tell which burgers are of the same kind. Anyhow, the sensor fusion code would not be a great solution but it occurred to me that it could be used to verify arrangements of burgers: only a good arrangement should leave the system able to confidently determine the orientation of a camera that has the burgers in view.

Beyond my beefburger placement problem, which may already be well-known by some entirely different name, the sensor fusion system offered two interesting mathematical digressions. One is how the geometry of each situation affects the number of solutions for how a camera is located and oriented according to what it sees of targets whose location has now been determined by other sensors. The other is the heuristic of guessing which targets may correspond to which as viewed by different sensors: there may be intractably many combinations but, for example, a simple trick may be to guess that targets close together in one sensor's view are also close together in another's. More certainly, an object in between two others from one perspective will also be so from another.
mtbc: maze B (white-black)
Television shows about how to cheaply feed one's family are currently popular. I notice that they seem to rely heavily on use of refrigerator and freezer space. A consequence of our being short of money since moving to Scotland is that we do not have a large kitchen with much storage space, cooled or otherwise. It is typically not possible for us to employ cunning strategies that involve buying near-expiry perishable items, using only part and preserving the remainder, nor can we usefully buy in bulk or make multiple day's meals in large batches. It seems that these shows are more suited for those who were somehow able to buy a nice house with generous fittings despite British property prices and only now find themselves having to budget carefully.
mtbc: maze B (white-black)
July 4th started out fairly gray and damp. It was still cool and overcast later on but was at least dry after I got home from work so I was able to barbecue steaks and hot dogs; afterward the children toasted marshmallows. It was a good rehearsal for doing likewise with [personal profile] mst3kmoxie's mother who is presently en route from the Midwest to visit us here in Scotland.
mtbc: maze B (white-black)
I have Thermos® desk mugs and find them to be a most welcome boon. An exception to that praise: while green tea seems fine, I find that black tea tastes odd from them even though I would not have expected a reaction with the stainless steel. For variety I thus have to hand bags for making various infusions such as rooibos and peppermint.

There are some advantages to having insulated mugs to hand. One is that I can make two cups of tea for myself in one bout of effort. I make one cup in a normal ceramic mug, the other in an insulated mug, take the bags out and bring the mugs to my place of work or repose, then I have one ready to drink and another still quite warm later when I want another. Of course, the ceramic mug gets the black tea.

Another advantage is that I can have a cup of tea waiting for me after a meeting. I make it in the insulated mug a few minutes before I go to the conference room then it is ready to be picked up on the way back to my desk and drunk.

An insulated mug also helps to cause me to take more brief breaks from being seated at the computer. For some drinks where the bag can simply stay in the mug for a long time I get to take two walks from my desk: one to add the bag to the hot water when I anticipate wanting a drink, the other to retrieve my mug and dispose of the bag when the time of my want arrives.

Finally, my work comes with many distracting interruptions: if I forget about my tea halfway through drinking it then in the insulated mug it is less likely to be cold by the time I remember and finish it. This works best if on being called away from my desk I replace the mug's lid.
mtbc: maze B (white-black)
Last weekend I enjoyed a lamb shish kebab from takeout in Perth. This weekend I enjoy döner chicken pizza: neither of the kids seems to like it so all the more for me. I am coming to wonder if I ought to learn more about the herbs and spices that are used. After suspecting that in liking sage and onion stuffing what I actually like is simply the sage, similarly perhaps there is some element of kebab seasoning that is particularly why I enjoy the döner kebab meat.
mtbc: maze B (white-black)
I have mixed feelings about alcohol. Now that our population has access to potable water one imagines that on health and safety grounds alcoholic drinks would not be publicly available at all were they not so easily made. However, I do quite enjoy some drinks and they have a long tradition of social acceptance.

I am intrigued to find that in later life I drink less than I once did. Twenty years ago I might have been happy to drink over half a bottle of wine or a few beers over the course of an evening. Drinking was pleasant enough that I would go for the occasional week teetotal just to make sure that I still could.

These days, mostly I don't drink at all and, on those evenings that I do, it feels quite sufficient to have a bottle of beer, a quarter-bottle of wine or a double of whisky. I still rather enjoy the taste of many alcoholic drinks, I just stop sooner. This habitual moderation is not out of any pursuit of virtue, my tastes have simply changed. I do not know why I now drink less but it certainly was not planned.

I can still drink plenty if people kindly ply me with free drinks or there are open bottles of good wine that would otherwise go to waste but those happen rarely and that is just fine. In a big difference arising from moving back from US workplaces to UK workplaces there is often free alcohol available at work but I rarely have any because I could not then drive home. Additionally, British coworkers are more likely to drink together in the pub outside work but I avoid that also for cost reasons.
mtbc: maze B (white-black)
I noticed that in household conversations we give odd names to some of our foods. For instance, today I bought butter. Our butter dish has the outward appearance of a ceramic hedgehog. So, to refer to butter from the block in the dish we speak of hedgehog butter. Or, the connection may be looser: for example, we eat Star Wars cheese: comparevisual styles. ) In their attempts at specificity I wonder what names other families come up with. In that latter case, perhaps the same as we have.
mtbc: photograph of me (Default)
I mentioned toward the end of last month that the drive belt snapped in our small electric lawnmower. Our large gasoline-fueled mower in Ohio had a mighty belt that wound around various things. This one has just a small belt with grooves on one side.

In Ohio I had many tools and space to work but here I have little of either. I am also not the most practical person but I can learn and experiment. For our incapacitated mower here I obtained a replacement drive belt and was then stymied because it appeared that to gain access to the pulleys I had to remove the mower blade which our adjustable wrenches weren't loosening.

Today I now have decent offset ring wrenches in hand. It took some effort but I did finally loosen the blade. (I believe that it is meant to be tightened to 25Nm. I find it weird that torque is in units of energy.) I gained access to the pulleys but a further challenge was in getting the replacement belt on: some sideways pushing while firmly holding the belt and turning the pulleys worked in the end.

I reassembled the mower and mowed the front lawn as a dark cloud passed overhead and did not rain on me. Afterward I checked the blade and I think it may have loosened slightly so I retightened it and will keep an eye on it.

I let the supplier of the non-OEM replacement drive belt know that it fit my mower fine and they have kindly replied with a discount code for me to use on a subsequent purchase.

In celebration I baked myself tortilla chips with fresh tomato and grated cheese on them and for dessert I have plain yogurt mixed with frozen berries.
mtbc: maze B (white-black)
For me a pleasant easy dessert is canned fruit. I do not have much of a sweet tooth so I prefer the fruit to be in juice rather than syrup. Asda sell some canned fruit cheaply but the labeling of their own-brand cans is annoying: they tend to give nutrition information only for the drained contents. I do not know why I would be expected to buy the fruit in juice then pour the juice away down the sink. Is that what people normally do or is it just a cheap tactic to make the numbers smaller? I submitted a comment through their website about this and heard nothing back.
mtbc: maze B (white-black)
The weather today is not quite inviting enough to have me out on the deck barbecuing burgers. Still, in minor celebration of Memorial Day starting summer, we baked the burgers in the oven instead. They turned out well.

Part of what worked for me was trying salad cream as a condiment on the accompanying bun. It has been popular in the UK for many decades, a bit like mayonnaise but with a sharper taste. I am unconvinced by Miracle Whip but I hear that proper salad cream has been becoming available in the US in recent years.

[personal profile] mst3kmoxie is minded to now try using the oven to also make s'mores. We do not have graham crackers but we do have chocolate digestives and marshmallow.

So, different countries, similar foods.
mtbc: maze B (white-black)
I mentioned craving chips (in the British sense) with sliced melted Cheddar (again, in the British sense) atop them, perhaps with some beef gravy in which to dip them. I made some today and the children and I found them to be a pleasant experience. We happened to have some good local steak and pork sausages that went with the instant onion gravy. Of course, for calorie counting I had to separate my oven chips and my own cheese for grilling so that I could measure the weight of each. For taking the cheese from the block I used my Rollschnitt hand-held slicer which works nicely.
mtbc: maze B (white-black)
I occasionally mention simple food that I enjoy. This evening I had crispy bacon with mashed avocado and a slice of tomato on brown buns and they were most pleasing. On the side I had a chunk of Double Gloucester cheese.

Today I have an easier time eating a high fraction of my permitted calories: I ate some girl scout cookies after lunch and this evening I eat some macarons made by [personal profile] mst3kmoxie who also this morning bought us fudge donuts from Fisher & Donaldson, a local baker.

Update: In the end I needed plenty of time and a couple of cups of tea before I could make it through the second half of the donut.
mtbc: maze B (white-black)
I have mentioned being rather partial to hot buttered toast; I sometimes more specifically desire a couple of fried eggs or somesuch on toast. On my walk through Dundee yesterday I noted that a butcher near work sells duck eggs and it occurs to me that just one of those would agreeably suffice on a slice of toast. Recently I grilled myself some sliced Cheddar cheese atop sliced tomato on toast, which worked well. Lately I have craved chips (in the British sense) with sliced melted Cheddar (again, in the British sense) atop them, perhaps with some beef gravy in which to dip them. Also, appropriately for life in Scotland, I have desired oat porridge: tonight I made myself some, for the first time in perhaps years. It turned out well considering that I guessed rather about proportions and cooking time. We have some light syrup to hand so I added a hearty drop of that as a pleasant flavoring.
mtbc: maze M (white-blue)
I was shepherding a child to Dundee's Central Library so, while there anyway, I asked an librarian about a book. I was amused to find that she checked Amazon before their own catalog but I guess it makes sense if she was not sure that the library's system would even know of the book at all. I also made the mistake of glancing at the science fiction: I came away with Baxter & Reynolds' The Medusa Chronicles and Bester's The Demolished Man before noticing that if I'd gotten barely past the B's and already grabbed two novels then I had better stop there.

On wandering along Murraygate there were predating I-think-Mormons. When I am taking things easy I may stop to chat with them a little, not sure if that is a rare relief for them, but it also seems a bit of a waste of their time if I am unlikely to be converted. Still, I got to wondering about some of my friends who have directly experienced God and become Christians. One thing I noted is that it has been a while since I prayed and invited God to change my mind too. Another is that I wondered if these revelations to friends have generally been a vaguer inspiration, perhaps involving Jesus' love and using the power of God to have the strength to help others and whatnot, or if there has been any detail specific enough, doctrinally or otherwise, in these divine communications to assist choice of church or denomination.

As I walked in the pedestrianized retail area I found a selection of socialists and communists and whatnot under the banner of Dundee's Trades Union Congress. They seemed to be wrapping up so I did not get to hear what they had been feeling exercised about lately. I have doubted that it makes much sense for me to join a union given that I am salaried and not interacting with students: my contract is that I am to work whatever it takes to get the job done so if I go on strike then I am just inconveniencing myself. However, today it occurred to me that I suppose I would be indirectly supporting other strikers if my union subscriptions were somehow making it more possible for them to strike, e.g., with hardship payments.

I noticed a couple of what seemed like Mexican fast food places: there was somebody advertising a local Mexican Grill and on Nethergate I noticed a new-to-me Wee Mexico. As Nisa is now closed I stopped in at Tesco Extra to buy some whole milk and in interacting with the self-checkout machine I repeatedly failed to properly place the milk. If anybody becomes aware of a store whose machines do not care one jot what items are placed where around the bagging area, or that at least give me an extra shelf on which to put my hat and whatnot, then I would gladly preferentially shop there even more strongly than I avoid those who routinely give discounts to loyalty card holders so for privacy I have to keep swapping the cards with others.

Then, my mother telephoned, so after putting the milk in the trunk of the car I continued to chat to her for a while, sitting on a bench at the university. I have a campus parking permit so on visits to Dundee it makes sense to use it. My mother mentioned that The Red Flag, which I suppose we now associate with Jeremy Corbyn's wing of the Labour Party, is sung to the tune of O Tannenbaum.
mtbc: maze B (white-black)
Bodmin Moor is somewhat familiar to me. Though, it is to the northeast of the long-established town of Bodmin, on the way to Launceston, and I am more familiar with the town's southwest, including Goss Moor. In crossing Bodmin Moor tourists may notice Jamaica Inn, where Daphne du Maurier set her novel, though in recent weeks they are more likely to have noticed the construction as the A30 is widened to a divided highway. Anyhow, the moor has the Goen Brenn Winery, the name being a rendering of the Cornish for Bodmin Moor, and I have a now-mostly-empty bottle of their mead in a kitchen cabinet.

It is oddly difficult to find mead in stores here. I am curious about its lack of popularity. It is but a simply made drink of ancient heritage; it is hardly exotic or offensive. Perhaps I ought to look into making it myself as I hardly want to order whole cases of it online. In counting it for my diet I take it as a generic dessert wine: nutritional labeling of alcoholic drinks is quite poor in the UK.

As an aside, I note that Bodmin had a couple of communities of monks in medieval times; one sometimes associates mead with monasteries. I am not aware of any significant present-day ecclesiastical community there though; when I think of town institutions I am more likely to remember the old mental hospital there, or the historic jail that I think they are partially turning into a hotel.

I have been trying to include a little more milk and honey in my diet. The Torah strongly suggests that they are rather desirable foods. If people who are living in a good situation get plenty of them then maybe I should try to have some too. Admittedly, I am not eating syrup made from dates, but I figure that regular honey sufficiently substitutes.
mtbc: maze B (white-black)
I am most partial to the Simnel cake manufactured by The Cake Academy; it is their product I had in hand when mentioning it last Easter. Alack, though they do still make and supply it, it has failed to turn up on local grocery store shelves. Ah well, perhaps next year or, if not, I could always switch tradition and make some charoset.
mtbc: maze B (white-black)
Tonight's cheese was Dragon-brand mature Welsh Cheddar (if that's not an oxymoron*) which I found to be very pleasant. I picked it up in a Tesco Express when in South Wales; not much else is open late on a Sunday afternoon there. I rather liked it: not only was it creamy but it pleasantly surprised me with a hint of spice in the flavor.

I also read that Lancashire cheese melts well so I plan to try it on toast when I can next get some. Unfortunately, the regular grocery store version is significantly inferior to buying it at a proper cheese counter in that part of England so I shall have to wait.

*Cheddar is in Somerset, not Wales, though it's not as if this week's Shropshire Blue is likely to have had any connection with Shropshire.

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mtbc: photograph of me (Default)
Mark T. B. Carroll

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