Saturday, July 29, 2017

Computers Accumulate!

[Tech - Work]
Having moved a little while ago to Tacoma, I now have a new manager and today was the day of the new team's first meeting. So, a trek from Tacoma to Bellevue (about 75 minutes) and a really long one back (about 3 hours) because of at least one accident. Oh well!
It was really nice to meet all the people that I'd only seen as names on emails up to now - they're a really great bunch and really exhibit the qualities people notice about Microsoft People - very friendly and very bright!

[Tech - Home]
Looking back I saw a blog entry here from October 3, 2010 where the Tech entry mentioned that I'd shed a pair of tower computers and that the household was down to just six computers.Phones didn't really count in those days. Right now we're at a high spot again
In 2010 I would have had a Sony VAIO laptop for home and recording off TV, and a 17" Acer Aspire laptop for work. The Sony, along with another amazingly tiny Sony laptop acquired out of curiosity from a thrift store, are retired but not shed, and the two remaining desktops of that era were shed in 2016. In 2011 I bought a System-76 Bonobo (17.5", 32 GB, etc) - in short, a small server masquerading as a laptop (you'd need knees of steel!). We also have two Windows-based netbooks, an Asus netbox for on-monitor mounting, 3 ChromeBooks (so convenient it's untrue!), and an Acer Switch tablet with keyboard. Very similar to the SurfaceBook from Microsoft that I use for work.
In addition there's a Samsung tablet lurking somewhere, but that hasn't been seen since we moved!
Twelve machines plus two iPhone SEs. Like I say, they accumulate!

Salmon, basil, tomato, garlic, and some pepper. Heat and eat!

Well, not quite so simple, but here's how I've been doing it.

Many years ago I owned a contact infra-red grill by a company called Rima. It was a gift from my father while I was away at university. It was a 240v beast, so never made it across the Atlantic with me, and the company is long gone now.
The nearest thing that I've found is the
George Foreman grill (right). Here in the US they cost about $50, but can often be found in thrift stores for $10 or $20. They're fairly easy to clean, being Teflon coated, but unfortunately the plates don'e come off for washing as they did with the old Rima.

1 cup Couscous1 oz Butter
4 Salmon piecesBasil
One large Tomato, sliced thinlyGarlic powder or flakes
Plum Tomatoes

  1. Melt the butter in a pot, then bring it to a "boil".
  2. Add the couscous and stir well so that the hot butter is well coating the couscous.
  3. keep this on medium heat for a few minutes
  4. Add a cu of water or, better, chicken broth
  5. After another minute or two on heat, remove from heat and leave for couscous to absorb the water
  6. Prepare the salmon. Mine came frozen in pieces this time, but basically you will need to cut it into pieces each about half of what one will want to eat.
  7. If you have fresh Basil then roll some leaves and then slice the roll. This gives you long thin strips like tinsel that are easy to drape onto the salmon. This time I used dried basil from Trader Joe's as an experiment. It came out rather well.
  8. Sprinkle the salmon with some pepper and some garlic powder or flakes.
  9. Add the basil onto the salmon.
  10. Lay tomato slices onto the pieces of salmon.
  11. Cook the salmon and toppings in a George Foreman grill for about 4-5 minutes (depending on the thickness of the salmon).
  12. Place the cooked salmon on a plate, add the couscous beside it, and garnish with plum tomatoes and chopped celery.

Bon appetit!


Sunday, July 23, 2017

Power On The Go

What's the most common sight you see in an airport or hotel or meeting or bar or coffee-shop these days?
I would suggest that it's the sight of a poor human searching desperately for an unoccupied pair of holes in the wall (or wherever!) that can be used to provide food for his or her trusty electronic companion, which is currently powerless (sorry !) !
I've also been one of those poor humans, but took steps to try to fix my problem. Yesterday, however, the problem visited a friend of my wife's, and I was able to help (in a small way), so I'd like to share. Maybe it'll help you, dear reader, avoid her situation. By the way, this is not an advertisement for Amazon or any of the products described here - it's simply what you might term a PSA - Public Service Announcement!

My wife and some friends went with some others to a small festival about 40 miles from where we now live, and I turned up, as arranged, to meet my wife when they all returned. Goodbyes were said and everyone made for their cars - it was about 85F at the time - and most people left.
My wife and I spent a little time getting things in the car sorted out, and then we looked up to realise that one of the other women, who I'll name "J" to minimise her embarrassment, was still trying to get into her car. I was about to get out to ask if I could help when she got the driver's door open and got in - "panic over", I thought.
However, a few seconds later, J was again out of her car, so I also got out to see what was wrong. It turned out that her car wouldn't start (it turns out that the battery had died, but that would be another story) and her large iPhone was also completely out of juice - hardly even registering a red line!

She said that she didn't live that far away and that her husband could come and get her, if she could only contact him. So, obviously, the first thing I did was hand her my phone and say "use it!" - she did.

She was happy to wait there in the shade for him, but my wife and I weren't happy just leaving her alone with no communications, so I loaned her my battery and cable, and here is the point of the story.

I had already used the battery to top off my wife's iPhone SE from about 50% that day. I don't know how long J's iPhone took to charge, but apparently it charged fully, and I got the battery back the next day with 50% of its capacity still remaining!

The picture on the right is of my battery - search for "intocircuit" on Amazon. Right now this one, holding 11,200 mAh, is being withdrawn and replaced with one holding 15,000 mAh. I have had this one since August 2015, carry it with me everywhere (including in aeroplane carry-on) and it never fails me. The reason, I believe, is that there is a nice meter to tell me how much it is depleted, so I always know when to recharge it well before it runs out of power.

The moral of the story: if you have a phone, carry a battery too, and another in the car! Make them as large as you can afford (this one is about $20; the replacement about $27).

One extra note: cables are a real pain to carry around; try this (on the right) for an idea. It's a retractable spring-loaded cable that offers USB-A to Lightning. Great for charging your iPhone from the intoCircuit beast above.
On the left, however, you see the reason for that strange little loop on the Lightning plug ... it stops you losing it, because the cable actually ends with a micro-USB connector, and the loop attaches an adapter from micro-USB to Lightning. So you can use the same cable to charge that battery and then charge either an iPhone or an Android phone.
These cables cost about $6 each - there's another company on Amazon (Miger) with essentially the same product at $12 for two. I haven't had the ones above for very long, so I can't report on longevity. I did buy some 1:4 retractables some 5 months ago and 1 of 4 just died on me.

Be safe and in touch!

Friday, July 14, 2017

The Wonder of Chicken!

I follow a blog called French Letters, by  a lady from a town near Nîmes, and a couple of posts ago she described how she'd got addicted to a particular chicken dish. So, I decided to try it out.

I should warn you that while this is really easy,
a. it has peanuts
b. no pictures until next time - it was so good we scarfed it all down!

You'll need alarge frying pan and an oven pot, such as a Pyrex or Arcopol glass bowl with a flat base and lid (I used an arcopol 26).
So, to start, there's two parts that come together during the process.

1. The Meat.
2. The Gravy

The Meat
This was chicken. She used thighs, but I used two chicken breasts double cut to make four thin pieces.
Preparation here is simple; heat maybe two or three tablespoons of oil in a large pan and fry the chicken on each side until it's cooked and browned just a bit. The first couple of times you turn it, sprinkle a little salt over the top before the turn, so it heats and melts and flavours the meat as it heats up.
When the chicken pieces are done place them flat in the bottom of your oven-proof dish.
Turn your oven on to 350F.

At this point I started rice in my rice cooker; you have just enough time to do this and have it be ready when the dish emerges from the oven.

The Gravy
The ingredients are these:

Diced Red Bell Pepper         1 tsp Cinnamon     
Chopped Cilantro 1 tsp Paprika
Chopped Spring Onions 2 tsp Ginger
Peanut Butter A little Salt
1 can of Coconut Milk Pepper to taste.

I used a bunch of eight small Spring Onions and chopped them completely (excepting the roots and dried tips, of course!). I used a small box of Cilantro from the supermarket and one really large but very firm red Bell Pepper.
Using the oil left in the pan after the chicken has been cooked, add the vegetables and fry them for about 3-4 minutes until they begin to wilt. Then add the spices (right-hand column) and stir them in to the frying vegetables. After a minute or so, add two good dollops of peanut butter and then the Coconut milk. Mix all the ingredients well, stirring so that the peanut butter mixes in to the cocout milk.
Pour this mixture over the chicken breasts in the pot
Cover the pot and cook in the oven for about 25 minutes.

Remove pot from oven, uncover, and let it start to cool.

At this point my rice was cooked, so I could fill plates with beds of rice.

Plate your masterpiece, serve, and bask in the applause from your family and guests.