Tuesday, June 09, 2009

SQL & Socks

Firstly, the techie stuff (as I'm also watching Star Trek) and woolly stuff later on down.

Geek Stuff

I've been troubled with heat, slow speed, program lockups, and general vanishing hard-disk space on my laptop. I run MS SQL Server 2005 and VS 2005 on this machine for development, and, more and more often, running both intrfaces has locked them, with one or the other usurping the processor, taking 97%+ of cpu time.

This evening I was checking disk ocupancy to try to discover why I was running out of space. I was using a copy of FolderSizes, and found that at some time in the past I had been experimenting with scheduling backups for a database, and obviously never turned it off. Now turned off, I've removed several GB of backup files and life is better.

Something else I saw was that the log file from one database, itself 2 GB in size, had increased to about 25 GB, causing my system to run short. Truncating the log file got it back down to 2 MB! Here's the code:

use DataBaseName

backup log
DataBaseName with truncate_only

dbcc shrinkfile (
DataBaseName_log, 1)

This is definitely a wake-up call for all of you small-system DBAs: SQL Server documentation is quite clear that the database retains the log data until you clear it out. What the docs cannot tell you is how big it will get nor how quickly it will grow - that is totally up to your application. I managed to use up 25GB because I started with 2 GB of data and spent about a month doing analyses on it. Pretty soon I'll be able to get rid of the original database itself - phew!


Here's something nice to eat. It should take you about 30 - 45 minutes from the time you enter the kitchen to the time you're mobbed as you sit to eat. It's called Mike's Bacon-wrapped Chicken, and I serve it with corn and couscous. I'm not going to be absolute with quantities - obviously you'll need more for more people.

Firstly, get all your ducks (chickens ?) in a row - this'll make everything go lots quicker, and get you to the table sooner. You'll need a sharp paring knife, tongs (like you might use barbecuing), but not huge, a cooking spatula and spoon. To cook in, a frying pan and two cooking pots. You'll also want 2 or, maybe, 3 bowls to put cut veggies into. Determine what people will want to drink before-hand and arrange someone to handle that for you.


Start with a smallish onion. Peel it and chop it in to pieces about two tenths of an inch in size. Put them into a bowl and reserve. Add about three or four crushed and chopped cloves of garlic to the onion. Chop up one or two peppers (any colour, but one of each is best). Make sure you dump the central area around the stalk, and all the seeds. Reserve them into a bowl (or two, if needed). Get out Rosemary, Thyme, Salt, Pepper, and (optionally) Nutmeg.

Put water into one pot and frozen corn too: put the heat under that to medium. Put some butter into the other pot - again dependent on how many people / how much couscous. You'll need almost a cup of couscous per person, together with chicken broth for the couscous and either white wine or more chick broth for the main dish

Take a chicken breast per person, wash, and dry them (just in case there's bone fragments from butchery). Trim the extra fat off each and cut each breast into roughly 3 or 4 equal-sized pieces. More important than being perfectly equal is that you cut the really thick parts of the breast parallel to the table to try to even up the cooking times for all the pieces. Finally, you'll need some wooden cocktail sticks - about 3 or 4 per chicken breast.

Take out one strip of bacon per piece of chicken but keep it aside with the cocktail sticks.


Start medium-high heat under the frying pan and put some cooking oil in to warm. Personally, I use Safflower as it has a high smoke-point, so things get brown nicely, and it also doesn't taste the food much at all. Get the oil reasonably hot and put in the onion and garlic mix in to start cooking.

Once the onion is beginning to look cooked - about a minute or two - add in some salt and pepper, stir up to mix, and then start adding in the chicken. Don't worry if it doesn't all fit in - two stages will be fine. Raise the heat at this point and fry off the chicken for about two - three minutes a side. We want the chicken to be browning now, but not cooking in the middle.

Once the pieces of chicken are browned, take them out (tongs!) and put them on a plate to cool. Put in any that are still waiting and cook them. As soon as the chicken is all done, replace it with the peppers, some Rosemary, Thyme, and Nutmeg, and lower the heat to let them fry gently in the onion and chicken juice.

Meanwhile, take each piece of chicken, wrap a rasher of bacon around it, and pin the bacon on with a cocktail stick. Store in one of the bowls used for the veggies now in the pan.

As soon as the chicken is wrapped, return it all to the pan or, of it won't all fit, get another pot and transfer some of the veggies there, follow with the chicken, and add the rest of the veggies. Not add wine or broth. If in the pan, then about half-way up the pieces of chicken; if in a pot then until you just begin to see the liquid level. Either way, as soon as the liquid is in you should raise the heat to bring it just to the boil before lowering it again to a simmer. We can best keep this simmering for about five minutes or more.

Next, raise the heat on the corn to bring that to the boil before letting it just keep warm.

Now the couscous. This is a starch that cooks incredily quickly, so we can afford to keep it until the very last few minutes. You'll find the butter in the pot: it should be melted by now. Raise the heat to about medium-hot and add the couscous grain. Use a spoon to keep stirring the grain as it gets coated with the butter and starts gaining temperature. If you listen (yes, listen!) to the pot closely you'll be able to hear it start to hiss as it starts to fry. This is fine for a while, but eventually the couscous will start to brown (from a golden-yellow to a brick-red) and tat that stage it gets bitter, so you don't want to go too far!

Once the couscous is hot you can pour in the chicken broth. Start with a cup for two of couscous - as it hits the bottom of the pot there should be a kind of a "whoomph" sound as the broth turns to steam. This is good, as it pushes liquid all through the grain, cooling it quickly. Put enough broth in that all the couscous is in a very slightly soggy mass. Don't be scared to put in too much broth - too little leave "raw" grains with will seem like grit. Take the couscous pot off the heat and continue to stir quite quickly. It will absorb the liquid: if it looks to be too dry then add some more!

Now you are happy, leave it off-heat for a few minutes and turn off the corn, pour it through a sieve, and put into a bowl to serve.

Next, use your tongs to take out the bacon-wrapped chicken from the pot or pan into a serving bowl and raise the temperature under the rest to max. Add more wine or broth if needed: we want a kind of gravy here with lots of bits, so it needs to reduce for a minute or so: to do that it also needs something to reduce from !

While the veggies / broth mix is boiling, take a fork and stir up and finally fluff up the couscous. Pour it into a bowl to serve too: and fluff it up again now. Aerating the grain will let steam percolate better and make sure that grains still in need of moisture can get it.

Now everything else is ready for the table, kill the heat under the veggie-liquid and pour that into a bowl. Bring everything to the dining table to serve.

That may seem like a lot to do, but in all honesty it takes me about 30 minutes to make enough to feed four and have enough for four more little lunches to take to work. Don't expect to do it that fast to begin with - in fact, get someone to read out the instructions to you as you go, to save stopping and finding your place every few seconds.


It was the spawn's birthday last week, so among other things, he got a pair of wool short-socks. Well, he will do, when the AG finishes the second one!

We went to Woolbearers last week, so there are three balls of black yarn waiting to go into the AG's Witches Hat for Hallow'een. Tomorrow it's the Grindhouse Café in Haddonfield for Stitch 'n' Bitch. If you're there, come and meet us all.


1 comment:

Tola said...

No, I finished the Witch Hat. The three new skeins of black Cascade 220 is for my Pirate Hat. I'm kind of in a knitting funk right now, so I hope I can get it cast on tonight at Woolbearers. I might have to break into my super-special sock yarn stash though. This is a bad funk.