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April 24, 1999
a year ago

A Night and Day Quests

Just little stuff. John surprised me, last night, by volunteering, completely, to cook dinner. That was a good surprise in a lot of ways, and it was fun to not have to deal with it. We went into town to wander through Whole Foods again, just for the fun of it.

There aren't all that many grocery stores that I know of that can just overwhelm me with what they have. Most grocery stores are set up according to the economics of shelf space, the more that a single company can take up of the shelves, the more they'll sell. Even when it's complete crap, someone will look at all the space it takes up on the shelves and go 'Oooo... gotta have it'. Or something. Whole Food is probably the antithesis of this method of sale. There's probably only one depth row of any one thing, and then there seems to be as many companies of the good varieties of that thing all crowded together.

As an example, they had possibly half a dozen aged sharp Tillamook, next to possibly half a dozen Wisconsin aged cheddar, next to a Vermont cheddar of about the same age, then came the smoked cheddars, the younger cheddars, the aged but not that sharp cheddars, and then the mixed white and yellow cheddars. With about three of four companies of each type in evidence. This is just one kind of cheese. I won't even list all the goudas, goat cheeses (some with organic goats.. huh?), and brie. There were dozens of different kinds of green olives as well, and John happily got habanero, garlic, and onion stuffed olives.

It's like this for the *whole* store. Everything from beef cuts to canned tomatos. It's wild every time I walk in I get overloaded. It's so fun.

Of course, I picked up at least three things I hadn't really been planning on buying. And then there was the Cozy Shack pudding cups. In Seattle, Cozy Shack sells my favorite puddings, rice pudding and tapioca pudding, but they only sell it in huge tubs, there. So I'd get a tub, and since John really isn't that much of a pudding fan, I'd have to throw about half of it away a month later, 'cause eventhough I like pudding, I don't really eat it every day, and I forget about things that are stuck in the fridge, eventually. But Whole Foods had the little one-serving cups of Cozy Shack rice and tapioca pudding! So I now have pudding.


Anyway, the reason John decided to cook dinner was that he thought I was going to go up and used the new computer and get the dictation stuff to work on it. I first started some of the sourdough, though, for waffles this morning, and then went up to do that with my newer microphone.

It didn't work, either. That frustrated me a little. But the microphone clearly wasn't the problem. Something about the machine's sound system really wasn't doing well enough for the software. John went up after dinner and futzed with it for hours, and it never really got better. Sometimes I am glad of the parts of me that are willing to give up after a while.

This morning, I mixed up the waffle batter, and then put it back into the incubator and then I went out and took my bike out and rode around the development again. Long sleeves, sweat pants and sunglasses were what I wore. Outside the sky hinted of sun, but there was still some snow on the ground and puddle of water from the meltoff. I hit the first arm, and just winced as the wind bit right through the long-sleeved t-shirt. I half thought that I'd just go back, but when I turned around, I found out that I'd been riding into a headwind, and it was much better this way, with the sun on my back as well. That felt really good and made it seem doable.

It was really odd to ride and not care how fast I was going. What I cared about was how fast my legs were going and that they stayed in constant motion. My main goals were just to keep heartrate and breathing up and it was relatively doable. So long as I didn't care how fast I was going and I kept swapping gears, all over the place, to keep the resistance about the same the whole time. That felt really good.

When I got back, I did a bunch of arm and hand exercises and then did a lot of stretching. Both of my arms and back and shoulders and of my legs, doing the stretches recommended for my knee. The cooling down felt good, and my hands have been feeling pretty bad, so the stretching really helped them out. Just tired, no nerve warnings, just tired.

Breakfast in sunshine, then out to the computer place to see if something was the matter with the sound board. By installing the software on the same sound system in another machine, and finding out that it sucked badly there, too, we figured out that it's just the sound system. It just sucks. Probably have to find another one that's better enough that it can be used for the software. Luckily, even 32-bit sound systems aren't terribly expensive anymore.

So, now we're at work. What geeks. A few more problems to solve. Another weekend day at work. Though, admittedly, no one else is here, so I feel kinda better about it in odd ways. It's good to know that, as a company, Xilinx doesn't seem to encourage this kind of behavior.

The afternoon was an adventure. A few small quests, a lot of wandering, and an eager if slightly disabled horse. The sunshine was like a boon, warm and comforting.

First grail was some car parts from Napa Autoparts; but we got diverted by suddenly realizing that the place we were driving by looked exactly like where the clean Asian market was. The one without things spilling into the aisles, where things were actually organized and the shelves were clean, instead of piled with the accumulation of what looked like years and years of product with the old stuff never quite cleaned out. This one was cool and organized and right near a Comp USA. Ooo... Comp USAaaa... thar's sound boards in them thar stores!

We went into the Asian market, first, got an armful of things I'd wanted to get, and found out that while they didn't sell char shu, they did sell the sauces, marinades, and mixes that could be used to make it at home. What a concept! I hadn't ever thought about making it. I think that some of that block was from knowing just how much red dye it must take to make the top surface of the pork that pink and just not wanting to really have to think about it. They did have bottled Chinese BBQ sauce, that was from Taiwan, by the same makers of the hoisin that I like best. It didn't look that red, but the sales lady said that it would make char shu for me. So I bought that and John and I sat down to eat two of their char shu bow as we hadn't had lunch. That was yummy.

In the middle of eating, though, John looked at his watch, looked consternated and said, "Uhm. Napa closes at 4."

I didn't get the connection, as it was still really light outside. Oh... yeah. Time travels to a different sun here, so we raced off to Napa. I stayed in the car, reading package contents while John raced into the store, on foot. He got in. Three minutes later, disgruntled guys peered into the store's windows and swore. But John made it, got oil for the Range Rover, and was triumphant.

We drove across the street to the grocery store, a Leevers, which is an ordinary kind of grocery store, and the selection of pork roasts showed that. It was hard to figure out what to get, but I managed to pick up a roast of some kind. They had probably five different cuts of pork all labeled as 'roast'. I also found some celery, much more easily.

Back to the Comp USA, and we pounced upon a row of sound cards, and stood there, debated specs, the DragonDictate web page on compatible sound cards, and price for about twenty minutes. This after a wandering clerk told us that one sound card for about one hundred bucks was 'totally awesome, it makes helicopter sounds like you'd think it was flying right over you!' *sigh* We finally ended up with the Ensoniq board for about thirty bucks, though two other boards that qualified were in the fifty dollar range, we figured the only thing I'd ever do with it is the speech recognition stuff. No helicopters. Thank you.

I then spent the next three hours in meditation, and yow was I sore afterwards.

The moving meditation of cooking really gets at the legs and back and hands. I pulled the center carcass out of the chicken without slitting the skin along the back. It was disconcertingly like undressing the bones. Then in went a very, very large amount of bread stuffing with cranberries and mounds of fragrant, crushed sage. I figured without the internal bones, I could put more stuffing into the chicken itself, and I was very much correct. I fit about twice as much stuffing in, and then put it in to roast. I then tackled the pork roast only to find that it was actually a loin roast, which is a bunch of loin pork chops in a row, with the bone in. So I cut the bone out, sliced the loin into strips and then marinated them all in the BBQ sauce (mainly by playing like mud pies with the thick sauce and coating everything, including my hands, some of the kitchen counter, a bowl or three, two spoons, a plastic bag and, oh, yeah, the meat with the stuff) and stuffed them into a plastic bag in the fridge for overnight.

I rested after cutting up the yams and boiling them. Just a few moments, which was when I could feel it all in my back, knees, and thighs. But there was more... I pulled the roast out of the oven when it was done and levered the bird carefully into a serving bowl. Then poured off all the fat, rendered the juices down to crystal, poured more fat off, and then added chicken broth to pull the juices back out of the crystals. A bit of cornstarch and water and I had a dark, thick, smooth gravy, nearly as rich as a beef gravy but distinctly tasting of chicken. John made salad and then we dug in and ate.


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