sat, 07-apr-2007, 09:45

old and new

old and new range

frying bacon

frying bacon

Last weekend we decided to upgrade the coil elements on the stove that came with our house (the ugly yellow thing in the photo). We went to the Borg, looked at the replacement options and decided we'd better make sure we knew what sort of elements we had before buying anything. We tried to look up our stove at GE's website, but our model number didn't show up. I took apart one of the burners to see what the element looked like (pre-1992, hinged) and we went back, this time to Lowe's (they're across the street from one another, if you can believe it). Nothing matched. So we drove across the street to Home Depot. Nothing matched. Tired of trying to figure it out, and in keeping with the 21st century culture of consumerism, we gave up and decided to buy a new range.

It's one of those fancy electrics with the ceramic-glass top and large elements that can be set to more than one size to fit the cookware you're using. The one we chose has two single-size 7 inch burners in the back, one large 12 / 9 inch burner in the front, and next to it, a 10 / 6 inch burner. Lots of variety, and more importantly, two large burners up front. With our previous stove, it was impossible to cook an omelette and bacon at the same time, and even on the largest burner on the old stove (8 inch), I had to move the bacon around continually to keep it in the hot zone at the middle of my twelve inch cast iron pan.

This weekend was my first attempt at cooking bacon and eggs at the same time. I cooked bacon on the large burner in my large pan, and the burner heated the entire surface of the pan to the same temperature. No more hot spot in the middle, and the improved output and coverage resulted in perfect bacon. Without all the movement and cold spots, it cooked in half the time as on our old stove. The lower image on the right shows the bacon cooking evenly, and an IR temperature reading from the edge of the pan. Best of all, I cooked an omelette on the other front burner in my smaller ten inch cast iron pan.

I haven't baked bread in it yet, so I don't know how the oven will compare to our old one, but I can't imagine it could be worse. The smaller elements that sit inside the larger coils on the two front burners are a little weaker than I'd like, and as a result, it takes longer to boil water in our kettle than on the old stove. And the elements aren't variable; they're either on or off, so they're always clicking on and off at lower temperature settings, which is a little strange. But all in all, I'm really liking it. Someday we'll get a dual fuel, gas cooktop and electric oven, but for now, I'm happy with what we've got.

tags: food  house 
sun, 01-apr-2007, 19:19

opening day 2007

opening day, mets scoring

In Alaska, winter seems to turn to spring very quickly. That's especially true this year because we've had more than six weeks of well below normal temperatures. Suddenly this weekend, it's above freezing, the snow on the roof is starting to melt into the gutters, and the deck is dry for the first time since the baseball season ended last October.

Right on the heels of the warm spell is the start of the baseball season. We've been so busy this winter with dog mushing that I haven't actually missed baseball that much, but listening to tonight's game between the Mets and Cardinals at New Busch Stadium brought the game, it's intricacies, and the excitement back. The game wasn't a nail biter, with the Mets scoring two unanswered runs in both the third and fourth innings, but there was plenty of defensive excitement to go around. Some spectacular double plays, a perfect strike from center field to nail David Eckstein at home plate, and a great pitching performance from Tom Glavine was a great way to start off the 2007 season.

Tomorrow the A's start their season in Seattle without Barry Zito, but hopefully with an improved offense and some better luck keeping players healthy. A full season of Rich Harden and former Alaska Goldpanner Bobby Crosby should go a long way to another AL West title.

tags: baseball 
sat, 31-mar-2007, 14:41

the road

the road, cormac mccarthy

Books Acquired

  • Jim Crace. 1999. Being Dead.
  • Dave Eggers. 2006. What Is the What.
  • Kazuo Ishiguro. 2005. Never Let Me Go.
  • Cormac McCarthy. 2006. The Road.
  • Tom McCarthy. 2005. Remainder.
  • Scarlett Thomas. 2006. The End of Mr. Y.
  • Dave Eggers. 2002. You Shall Know Our Velocity.
  • A. L. Kennedy. 2005. Paradise.

Books Read

  • David Mitchell. 2004. Cloud Atlas: A Novel.
  • Zadie Smith. 2000. White Teeth: A Novel.
  • Cormac McCarthy. 2006. The Road.
  • Dave Eggers. 2006. What Is the What.
  • Scarlett Thomas. 2006. The End of Mr. Y.
  • Tom McCarthy. 2005. Remainder.

I haven’t decided if I really like the Hornby format or not. I like that it provides a nice monthly summary of what books I’ve read and picked up, but a month is a pretty long time to remember enough about a book for me to adequately say what I think about it. The books I didn’t like so much sort of fade by the time the end of the month rolls around.

Cloud Atlas

I had a hard time getting into this one, mostly because the first (and last) story in the book wasn’t very compelling for me. The concept of the book as a set of mirrored and weakly connected stories through time (the pattern is abcdefedcba) was kinda cool, and Michell does a great job at switching genre from one story to the next. The problem with the book, however, is that once you’ve seen the structure and appreciated the skill involved, how does it really add to the novel as a whole? I didn’t find much in the way of an overall theme that connected the stories together, so it was easiest to just read the book as a set of six short stories, split in half. As such, I really enjoyed the middle three, and especially liked the replicant’s story (e) and the language she used (AdV for TV, Corpocracy for the government). Hopefully not as prophetic as it seems at this moment.

White Teeth

I’m really not sure what all the excitement was surrounding this book. The characters behaved in really strange ways, many of them weren’t fleshed out at all (Archie, Clara, Irie, specifically), and I thought Smith could have done a lot more with the "experiment" of sending Millit back to India while Magid stayed at home. Maybe the point was that it doesn’t matter? I did enjoy the Iqbal’s and their relationship seemed the most formed, realistic, and humorous.

The Road

Now that Oprah has selected it for her Book Club I probably don’t need to go on and on about this one, since everyone and their brother will be reading it now. But in case a nod from Oprah is a negative for you, let me say that this is a stunning work of prophetic fiction. I was amazed at how clearly I could picture (and still can several weeks later) the places and action from the book. It’s not the world we live in now, but it’s uncomfortably close. You won’t soon forget it.

Like this reviewer from the California Literary Review, I read it in one sitting. I didn’t fix myself a stiff drink afterwards, but I understand the sentiment expressed in the review:

I read this book in one take late at night and immediately headed downstairs to kick up the fire and drink some bourbon. I was cold, chilled emotionally, stunned, awe-struck by McCarthy’s words. I mentioned The Road to a singer/songwriter friend and all he could say was “That one put me off my feed for a few days.”

“Put me off my feed” is such a great expression.

what is the what

what is the what: a real, sewn hardcover

What Is the What

If The Road is an all too likely post-apocalyptic nightmare, What Is the What is the all too real nightmare of so many places in the world right now. The surprising thing about this book for me was that despite all the horrors Valentino lives through and recounts during the book (boys getting eaten by lions and crocodiles, villages burned and pillaged, slavery, starvation, years and years of boredom waiting to leave the refugee camps, etc.), the book isn’t at all depressing. The voice Eggers gives Valentino (presumably his real voice) is so matter of fact, and at the same time somehow optimistic and funny that the book was a genuine pleasure to read.

A quote from page 200 of the hardcover:

It was a broken world, I knew then, that would allow a boy such as me to bury a boy such as William K. [Note: They’re seven years old when William dies of starvation on the way to Ethiopia]

One other note: the hardcover is published by McSweeney’s, and is a real hardcover with sewn sections and everything. The last hardcover book I bought that wasn’t just a paperback with hard covers pasted on, was the Pevear and Volokhonsky translation of The Brothers Karamazov, published by the now defunct North Point Press (oh yeah, and the books by Edward Tufte, published by Graphics Press). I plan on buying more McSweeney’s books, if for no other reason than to support the idea that a $20 - $30 hardcover really should be a well-produced, durable book, rather than a cheap paperback styled to look like a hardcover. Like Against the Day, they’re not doing numbers right, and the looped characters (lower case d, q and p especially) look a little funny, but other than that, it’s a really nicely produced book.

the end of mr. y

the end of mr. y: bad body font

The End of Mr. Y

I had high hopes for this one, and I really enjoyed it for awhile. But some of the exposition was too drawn out, almost like Thomas was trying to teach us something by leading the character to a conclusion through a dialog with another character that already had the idea. As the book progressed, I also grew more and more tired with the fantastical aspects of the book. One very interesting idea I’d never though about was that if the uncertainty principle governed the first particle of the universe before the big bang either God observed it, causing it’s state to be known and triggering the big bang; or there was no observer, the particle’s state at the time was governed by a probability function, and the big bang happened at any and all of the infinite states the particle could have been in, resulting in a multiverse. So: God or multiverse? My vote is for the multiverse, including the World Without Shrimp.

I also got a nasty stomach flu right in the middle, so some of my bad feelings might be because my reading was forcibly interrupted for several days in the middle of the book.

It is a book of ideas, though, and this means that I will probably enjoy her other books. I’ve got PopCo in my queue, and I expect I’ll like that one more because it appears to dispense with the fantastical.

Also: terrible typography. The body font was horrible. What’s next, Comic Sans or some Brushscript font? Give me Minion, Garamond, Sabon, Caslon or something actually designed for easy, comfortable reading. Not something designed for decorating someone’s Christmas newsletter or part of a ransom note.

Remainder

A lot to like, especially the idea that re-creating events in every detail could make living the event more real than the first time around because you can consider the events more carefully as they’re happening again. Sort of like forcing the eternal recurrence without dying. Unfortunately the main character is a sociopath, and as the book progressed, he became harder and harder to understand or figure out what the hell he was thinking. Maybe he thinks he’s become the Nietzschen Übermensch, but as interesting a concept as that is, I wouldn’t want to meet him, and reading a book from inside his head wasn’t very enjoyable.

tags: books 
mon, 26-mar-2007, 08:18

swing, wheel dogs

tsuga, kiva, piper & koidern

buddy

mr. buddy

It was colder on the second day, -15°F when we got up, and around -18°F when we got to the race track at 8:00 am. By race time, the sun was out, and the official temperature was up to 0°F. The wind was calm, so the sun started warming things up pretty quickly.

Andrea and the dogs had a clean run on the course, finishing in 17 minutes 46 seconds, 14 seconds faster than yesterday, and her best time in Tok. That finish time, combined with a bad tangle between two earlier teams allowed her to move up to 18th place (out of 30 teams), one second behind the 17th team and six seconds ahead of the team in 19th place.

It was a fun trip. We left Tok after the awards ceremony and made it back home around 9:30 last night.


tags: Buddy  dogs  Kiva  Koidern  mushing  Piper  Tok 
sat, 24-mar-2007, 16:27

setting up

setting up


after the race

after the race


salix, frog dog

salix, frog dog

The first day of racing is now over. The skies cleared from last night and it got down to -10°F before the time the sun came up. The six dog class started at 9:00 am, so it had only warmed up slightly when the first team went out. There was still enough of a breeze to give you a chill if you were facing into the wind and my feet and cheeks got cold from standing around outside most of the day.

Andrea drew the fifth position last night, and the racers go off at one minute intervals from each other, so Andrea went out at 9:04 am, just a few short hours after we got up for breakfast. By 9:30, the race was over for our team. Andrea and the dogs had a finish time of 18 minutes even, which was 55 seconds better than her time on the first day last year. All the dogs did really well, and Andrea was very happy with them. She borrowed Elway and a yearling named Tsuga from her friend Bonnie, who was racing in the eight dog class. In the middle photo you can see Buddy and Elway in lead (closest to the camera), Piper and Koidern in swing (the middle), and Tsuga and Kiva in wheel.

18:00 was good enough for 20th place in a field of 30, but Andrea is only 3 seconds behind the 19th place team, and 4 seconds behind the 18th place team. With a good run tomorrow and some luck, she could move up a few places in the final standings.

Bonnie and her team did really well, coming in fifth place in the eight dog class. She ran a team with four of the yearlings from the same litter that Tsuga came from. The last photo on the right shows one of them, a dog named Salix, who flops on the ground after a race to cool off.

A good day of racing. We're relaxing before dinner, maybe catching some sleep before tomorrow, since it'll be another late night tonight taking care of the dogs.


tags: Andrea  Buddy  Carol  dogs  Kiva  Koidern  mushing  Piper  Tok 

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