Pickled String Beans with Ground Pork (rou mo jiang dou)

Pickled string beans with ground pork (rou mo jiang dou).

Posting here because I engendered some discussion on Facebook about this last week: looking for a recipe for a dish I’d only had in a few restaurants, I found only this one (a transcription of the one in Fuschia Dunlop’s Land of Plenty), with which I had some conceptual issues.  Dunlop’s recipe calls for pickling the beans in a salt brine, in a refridgerator, for three days: I’m convinced that this was some sort of editing or transcription error: I don’t claim to know jack about sichuan cuisine, but I know a little about pickling, and you’re not going to get much of a pickle going in three days, and especially not in a fridge.  Salt-brine fermentation takes time — minimally a few weeks — refridgerator pickling uses vinegar to give the veggies their bite.  Three days in the fridge will just give you damp, salty beans.1

So this is a mixed recipe: the meat marinade and general prep is Dunlops, but for the pickling I used the recipe that Jarvis found here — except adding all of the spices from Dunlop’s recipe: the ginger, the cinnamon, the sichuan peppercorns, the chilis and the star anise.

Verdict: tasty!  Not exactly a dead ringer for the restaurant dish, but that’s nearly impossible to do at home with any Chinese dish, just because there’s no way to get the wok hot enough.  The beans taste similar to what I had at Classic Sichuan, but I think next time I will attempt to do a proper brine pickle.

1 To be clear: I haven’t tried this, I’d just be very surprised if it worked.

meanwhile, somewhere at apple

You know, I don’t think iTunes is bloated, baroque or feature-overstuffed enough yet.  How can we fix that?”

Dude, we’ll totally ad a social network to it!  The kids love those!”

(Alternate version: “YO DAWG, I HEARD YOU LIKED SOCIAL NETWORKS…”)

Mostly, I snark to note that in here in C.E. 2010, “…we’ll add a social network/connection to facebook” appears to have supplanted “…we’ll make it read email” as the default end-state of software project management gone metastatic.  The wheel turns.

dear publishing industry

Today it finally happened: on my way out of the house this morning, I realized that I’d just finished the last book I was reading, and it was therefore time to pop the next one off the to-read stack.  The next one being a luscious-looking hardcover volume.  I looked at it, looked at my backpack, felt my shoulders a bit, took a deep breath…

…and pulled out my iPhone and ordered the same book from the Kindle Store, so I could read it on the phone.  A book I’d already bought: a mistake I won’t make twice.

Dear publishing industry: Mene, mene, tekel, upharsin.  Amazon is in the process of doing to you what Apple spent the last decade doing to the music industry.  It’s not going to be pretty, and a lot of you basically deserve it.  But I’d really like to see my local awesome specialty bookstore not go out of business as a result of your general incompetence. 

So maybe, just maybe, act a bit less dumb than the record labels?  (You allegedly do less coke than them, so this shouldn’t be that hard, right?)  The music companies insisted on getting as close to pay-per-listen as the law (which they often had a hand in writing) would allow them, and their reward was a generation of no-longer-really-customers who think that downloading albums off bittorrent is just fine.  Those that do pay money do so into walled (or at least strongly fenced) gardens (Apple, Amazon, Rhapsody) where johnny-come-lately tech companies skim off huge profits in return for decimating your physical media sales.  All of their attempts at creating their own supply chain for electronic delivery were crashing failures: they couldn’t compete with Apple on convenience, and they sure as hell couldn’t compete with bittorrent on price.

What I’m saying here is: I just happily handed someone $30 for a bound pile of wood pulp.  Of that $30, you got the lion’s share.  I’m the sort of person who does this regularly.  Want to convince me to do it again, despite the drawbacks of print media?  Stick a mini-CD into the dustflap with a PDF copy I can read when I’m not on my couch.  The pirates will continue jacking your e-books whether you do this or not, but at least this way your local customers won’t all be fleeing directly into Jeff Bezos’ hungry arms.

adventures in parenting

In no less than 18 years, she’ll probably kill me for this.

the first rule of baby club is, you don't talk about baby club

dear lazyweb: pimp me on your iphone headphones

I am, apparently, a slow learner.  Three-plus years of replacing the Apple-supplied earbuds in my ears every ten paces when they fall out is quite enough, I think.  So, my omniscient readers, pimp me your headphones.  Here are my meagre qualifications:

  1. Must be relatively small and lightweight.  I’m not necessarily married to the earbud form-factor, but this will be for walking around in, and I already look ridiculous enough on my own without adding a set of enormous cans to the ensemble.  So Grado SR-60s are probably out.
  2. Must be comfortable, duh.
  3. Must stay put.  If they fall off any time I walk faster than a saunter, they’re no improvement on the status quo.  But that said…
  4. …no in-ear earbuds.  I already have (and love) a set of Etymotics, but anything that blocks out that much external sound is, IMHO, simply not safe for urban maneuvering.  If a car is coming up behind me quickly, I need to have a fighting chance of hearing it.
  5. Must function as a full iPhone headset: minimally there needs to be a mic and an answer/hangup button.  Volume control would be nice, but isn’t essential.
  6. I don’t pretend to be an audiophile, and we’re talking about listening to mp3s here, but given those caveats it’d still be nice if they sounded good.  Decent but not overwhelming bass response would be helpful given my taste in music.

Needless to say, I would also like a pony.  Lay it on me.

grading on the curve

[Pre-explanation: my erstwhile employers subscribe to an employee evaluation system of “OKRs”, AKA “Objectives and Key Results”.  Shorn of management-consultant babble this means that at the start of every quarter you write down what your goals are, and then at the end of the quarter you grade yourself on a scale of 0 to 1 of how many of those goals you fully completed.]

OKR Grading for Paternity Leave:

- Survive solo-parenting trip to east coast: 0.8

Timing a with-baby-sans-mom trip to NYC and Philadelphia during the middle of the worst July heatwave in recorded history may not have been the smartest bit of planning I’ve ever done in my life, but nobody died of heat prostration, and after one thoroughly miserable night of sweaty non-sleeping, a rough circadian equilibrium was re-established.  As a side-note, if I’d known that having a child was what it took to finally get my mother to buy an air conditioner, I’d’ve tried much harder to get my teenage girlfriends knocked up.

- Introduce solid foods: 0.7

The “stretch goals” of cheerios and bread crusts are blocked waiting on the delivery of molars.  Pureed fruits and veg are completely go, however.  Pureed meats being evaluated on a case-by-case basis.

The output side of the I/O algorithm is increasingly polluted, but this may be an inevitable side-effect of processing more diverse inputs.

- Crawling: 0.5

The subject is clearly* capable* of crawling, but her ability to remember and apply the skill is still strangely situational.  Some obvious bugs: she will back herself into a corner or wedge herself under the chaise, and not understand that she is capable of crawling forward to escape.  She will, on the other hand, crawl quickly and reliably toward the cat who is most likely to swat her when she approaches, which possibly bodes poorly for her dating habits in 15+ years.

- Baby-proof apartment: 0.5

Established a gated “enrichment center” in the living room (delivery of Weighted Companion Cube still pending), which the subject will occasionally tolerate being placed into without direct supervision.  Successfully swapped out the CD shelf for one with locking doors, so the music collection is secured.  Still waiting on delivery of the door-enabled stereo stand, but a wall of couch pillows is sufficing as a stopgap measure to keep the subject from chewing on the electrical cords.

- Retain ability to communicate with adults: 0.3

Hopefully the urge to initiate greetings by checking my corworkers’ diapers will fade after a few days.

I may yet turn into a crazy person ranting on street corners

I’ve been trying very very very hard not to say much in public about the “Ground Zero Mosque” (which is not at ground zero and not a fucking mosque), because I find that it’s all too easy to go from zero to frothing angry maniac in about 0.0021 seconds when the subject comes up, and that’s always a drag at parties.  Breathe, breathe, it’s just the month’s round of American circle-jerk stupidity, it’ll be something else next month, no point getting worked up about it…

And yet.  And yet.  Through no fault of my own except that I occasionally make the mistake of turning on my computer and poking through the internets, I am confronted with statements like this:

“Rabbi Meyer May, the Wiesenthal Center’s executive director, tells Crain’s the proposed location is ‘insensitive’ to the families of 9/11 victims, adding that ‘religious freedom does not mean being insensitive…or an idiot. Religion is supposed to be beautiful [experience]. Why create pain in the name of religion?’”

Insensitive to the families of… okay, hold on a minute here while I go pound my face into the desk until my nose bleeds…

[pounding sounds]

Still here?  Good.  Now it’s a funny little thing, but I am apparently the last person on the face of the fucking earth who remembers that 9/11 was an actual event that happened to actual people in an actual city.  That city being New York City, a place where a more-or-less functional police and fire department did, in the aftermath, what police and fire departments are pretty much required to do when something blows up and kills people, which is identify the bodies.  And the names of the people who died on 9/11/01 are not unknown, not classified, and in fact you can look them up on this here internet thingy.

Here, let me google that for you!

So here I am, armed with nothing but a laptop, an internet connection, a search engine and two fucking brain cells to rub together, and I can already tell you, from a quick glance, that among the names of the people who died in lower Manhattan that day, there are:

Three people with “Mohammed” as their first or last name.

One person named “Ahmed”.

One “Shah.”

One “Shahid.”

One “Khalif.”

Two people named “Khan”.

One “Suleman”.

…and at this point I got bored, because actually only a complete moron would have assumed that it was possible to kill three thousand random civilians in downtown Manhattan without several of them being Muslim, because duh.

So tell me, Rabbi May, just how far away from Ground Zero should the families, friends and co-religionists of those victims stay in order to make you feel warm and fuzzy?  And while you’re contemplating important questions, could you please kindly go fuck yourself?

can we lease Steve Jobs out to some other industries on a contract basis?

Oh for the love of god, Canon.  TWENTY-FIVE separate consumer camcorder models?  Coupled with a website that lets you compare — hold your breath for the awesome here — a whopping three models at a time?

Lordy.  It’s like looking at Apple’s product line circa 1988:  “Do I want the Centris 610, the Centris 650, the Performa 455, the Performa 457, the Peforma 503, the Quadra 700 or the Quadra 900?”  Only actually worse.

No wonder Flip/Cisco swallowed the consumer video market whole.

(A friend with a hell of a lot more patience than I possess actually dived in and realized that most of the different model numbers actually correspond to the amount of built-in storage: there are actually just five camcorder bodies being sold here.  Models with three-digit numbers are the ones that are bring-your-own storage only, and hence the ones that sane people will buy.  I assert that any unpaid web design intern on the planet could have figured out a simpler way to convey this information.)

fascinating

Apparently you can get all the way through journalism school, work your way up through the ranks, become an editor — perhaps even editor-in-chief! — at a renowned institution such as Time Magazine, and still not understand the difference between the past, present and future tenses.

fruit-picking

Over the weekend, we went to a peach/nectarine/apricot orchard out in the far east bay. This turned out to be an excellent excuse to take stupendously cute baby photos. If that floats your boat, enjoy!