Archive for November 2013
The zoo levee passed! I had been volunteering as a social media ambassador. Good to see that voters in Hamilton County passed it with 80% of the vote.
I submitted a profile to the Cincinnati Metro‘s November, 2013, newsletter.
In my post about “The Day After,” I mention Able Archer 83. On You Tube, I found a great documentary about it, “1983: The Brink of Apocalypse,” which shows just how dangerous that time was. It is definitely worth the watch–you really get the sense that that was truly the closest we came to the Cold War going hot.
eHarmony for Bananas
Buzzfeed used one of my fennec fox pictures in their post, “10 Animals That Will Always Be Fun-Sized”
A leaf on the skylight can be a cause for concern.
I made a lot of good stuff for our contribution to Thanksgiving. As I usually do, I made pecan pie.
My challah is always popular.
This year, I made a roll version of the Hawaiian honey bread. Our test roll was excellent!
The World War Two Oatmeal Molasses Cookies really feel like a fall treat.
I made cocoa brownie bites with peanut butter buttercream. In honor of the overlap between Thanksgiving and Hanukkah, I decorated them with turkeys and dreidels.
After all this baking, I had to give my mixer a break.
Santos, the ocelot cub (“ocelittle”) at the Cincinnati Zoo is about the size of Eddy when I first met him. I have to remind myself that he was only two weeks old, and will sleep a lot more than he plays. I decided to check on him today, at the three-week mark. He was still a sleepily little boy.
Love the chin!
But he did start to wake up a bit. I got to see his eyes!
Clearly, he’s more capable. I got to see him walk around a bit…
And even play with a keeper, and the plush animals in his enclosure.
I was a bit crazy going out to the zoo–the temperature never saw above thirty. I stopped into Night Hunters, in part to warm up. A black footed cat was in plain sight.
And a sand cat fell asleep on top of his hill.
The bobcat looked like he had some news for me…
Miss Caracal was back!
I hadn’t seen her since at least the spring. I don’t know where she was, but I was getting a bit worried. It was really good to see her again!
While humans weren’t fond of the cold day, snow leopards live for it. Renji and Nubo were up front, and happy to have a chat.
Nubo was a bit of a show-off.
Renji maintained her mysterious composure.
While there are plenty of unusual animals in the official collection, there are “wild” animals that pass through. The problems squirrels were causing made news lately. Today, I saw a domesticated cat, probably a stray, on the grounds.
I had mentioned I didn’t get to see puffins too often. My wife pointed out the Cincinnati Zoo had them, we just don’t go in the exhibit that often. I was passing it, it looked warm, so I popped in.
I also got a family picture of all three red pandas!
While cold, it was a good day to see the zoo, and I am glad to see little Santos growing up.
A it chilly…and windy.
I’ve been wanting to write up my gumbo recipe for a while now. In part, to document it, but also to share it. I’ve never been big on “secret family recipes.” My recipe is one of my own devising, taking influences from a number of sources, including my mom, as well as a few other blogs.
The catch is, I’m not entirely sure I have a recipe. I put more or less the same stuff in my gumbo, and the process is more or less the same, but the recipe is very tolerant–I can add more of one thing one day, and less of it the next.
However, as my wife and I have been tracking what we eat, I was able to get a good feel for a baseline.
- 1/2 cup olive oil
- 3/4 cup all-purpose flour
- 3-4 bay leaves
- 61 ounces chicken broth (I use Swanson’s 99% fat free)1
- 1 pound chicken breast
- 1/2 pound sausage (I use a light turkey sausage)
- 1 bell pepper (approximately a half-pound)2
- 3/4 small onion (four-tenths of a pound)
- 4-5 celery stalks (a third of a pound)
- Filé to taste3
Making the Gumbo
- Pour the broth into a large pot, along with the bay leaves. Bring to boil. Add some filé.
- Make a roux with the flour and olive oil. Basically, you are slowly browning the flour in the oil. I like to use a cast iron skillet over medium heat, whisking it in until it turns a brown about like milk chocolate. A good write-up on making a roux is here. Bottom line: it will take time to get it there. Add this to the broth.
- Cut the chicken into bites. Add to broth. It will be in there for at least an hour, so it will be fully cooked by the time you eat it.
- Dice the bell pepper, celery, and onion, and place in a mixing bowl.
- Slice the sausage, and place in skillet. Brown one side, then flip over and add the vegetables. Cook (stirring as needed) until onions turn translucent. Add to broth.
- Bring everything to a boil, add some water, then reduce heat to medium.
- Cook for sixty to ninety minutes, adding water and filé as needed. You’ll want a slightly thick liquid. Total volume should be around 16-20 cups.
- Serve over rice.4
1This works out to a 32 ounce “box”, plus two 14.5 ounce cans. Varying the amount to be two 32 ounce boxes (64 ounces total), or four 14.5 ounce cans (58 ounces total) would likely work well.
2Bell pepper, onion, and celery are called “trinity” in Cajun cooking. I’ve been known to dial up some of this, particularly the bell pepper, a bit. Green bell pepper is traditional, though I like to use red. It’s both visual interesting, and brings good flavor. Yellow works. Orange does, too, but looks funny (makes me think someone put carrots in my pot!)
3If I had to guess, I’d say I use 1-2 tablespoons of filé (pronounced fee-lay) over the course of the cooking, delivered a quarter-teaspoon at a time. No, I don’t actually measure it.
4This is not rice. DO NOT put my gumbo on that. Make some real rice. It is not that hard, and tastes so much better.
This month, scientists announced the discovery Panthera blytheae, the oldest member of the big cat family. The modern big cats include tigers, lions, jaguars, leopards, and, by most accounts, snow leopards. It is snow leopards that Blythe’s panther, as it is know, is most closely related to. As you may recall, snow leopards make their home in Asia, which is where Blythe’s panther was discovered (Tibet, to be exact). This puts the origin of modern big cats in Asia, rather than Africa, as was previously thought.
Fossils of seven individuals have been found, dating back to around five million years ago. In contrast, saber-toothed cats such as smilodon, go back around two-and-a-half million years ago.
This is a fascinating find, and helps clarify how the cat family evolved. I’m particularly interested, as it now shows a relative of one of my favorite cats, the snow leopard.
“An astronaut is someone who’s able to make good decisions quickly, with incomplete information when the consequences really matter.”
Astronaut Chris Hadfield was on two space shuttle missions, as well as commanded the International Space Station earlier this year. He became well known for for savvy use of social media and music to get people excited about the space program. In his new book, An Astronaut’s Guide to Life on Earth, he continues this mission.
As you might expect, Commander Hadfield’s book is filled with stories from his time in the space program. But, what’s more, he explains the mindset of an astronaut. This mindset is one which I think can be applied to any field–I know it would work in my job. It can be characterized by hard work and preparation (“sweat the small stuff”), and thinking about how what you do can contribute to the overall operation, and learning everything you can, in case it becomes necessary.
A good example of thinking about how your contribution impacts the rest of the mission comes when he talks about aiming to be a zero. Hadfield talks about how you can be a “plus one” (a fully beneficial member of the mission), a negative one (who causes problems for the mission), or a zero. When entering a situation, Hadfield suggest being a zero: even if you think you can make significant contributions, holding back observing, and trying to not create problems. Once acclimated, start to ease towards “plus one” status.
I highly recommend this book. Not only does it give a fascinating look at the modern space program, but a great way to look at life.
There were two generations of kids who grew up in the Cold War. The first generation was the Baby Boomers, who were taught to duck and cover. Their parents built fallout shelters, and tried to figure out how to surive a nuclear war. I’m a member of the second generation, the children of the Boomers. We were a bit more fatalistic: if there was a nuclear war, we would likely not survive. I remember very animated discussions where classmates debated the dark question that lurked in every Gen-X mind: if there were a nuclear strike, was it better to run for the hills (and try to eek out an existence), or towards the blast, for a quick death?
Looking back, 1983 was perhaps the scariest year of the Cold War. Reagan took office in 1981, and started a weapons build up, ratcheting up the tension between the United States and its rival, the Soviet Union. In September of 1983, Korean Air Lines 007 was shot down, mistaken for a US spy plane. Later that month, a Stanislav Petrov, a Soviet air defence commander, came close to responding to an erroneous RADAR reading with a nuclear attack. The Soviets were convinced that the Able Archer 83 exercise was a prelude to a first strike, and made preparations for a response. That the Soviet Union would fall by the end of the decade seemed laughable.
I was twelve in 1983, when the movie “The Day After” was aired. It was billed as a relatively realistic telling of a nuclear attack on a college town in Kansas (a card at the end aparently noted the effects of the attack were downplayed for the sake of the story). It aired thirty years ago today, and, at the time, was quite the sensation. Toll-free numbers were set up for people who had concerns after the broadcast, and a panel discussion followed. President Reagan was even affected by it, changing his thinking on nuclear war. It’d be a stretch to say that this movie alone ended the Cold War, but it definitely help cool the fires that were burning.
I actually didn’t get to see it. My parents didn’t allow me, fearing it would give me nightmares. In the short term, they were probably right–it would have had a lot of immediate worry and sleepless nights. However, it also prompted me to read anything I could get my hands on about nuclear war and its effects. I’m not sure if it was comforting or troubling. Gradually, the obession faded, along with the threat.
I’m actually rather surprised that the thirtieth anniversary is not being marked in any way. I haven’t seen any articles on the web, much less an anniversary airing with a special explaining context. It just seems like other relics of the Cold War, everyone is content just to put it behind us.
I still haven’t seen the movie, aside from a few clips here and there. It pops up from time to time on SyFy, almost as a B-movie. Part of me still carries the worry of nightmares and panic. However, as it has moved from warning to a cautionary tale of what might have happened, I’m glad to let it be something so absurd as to seem like a waste of time.
Almost all of the photos on this blog are hosted on Flickr. You can click on them, and get taken to the photo page there. A couple more clicks, and you can find the original size of the image, as opposed to whatever it happens to be scaled to here. As noted, I use Aperture for post-processing of my images, and a tool called FlickrExport to upload them to Flickr. This allows me to upload them directly from Aperture, get them into sets and groups, etc.
Today, I wanted to put a photo of Nubo as my wallpaper on my work laptop (“WorkTop,” as it is pseudo-affectionately called). I went to the page in Flickr, then to show all sizes, so I could get one that would most likely fill the screen. The biggest one was 640×480–way smaller than I expected from a 16 megapixel DSLR. I poked around a bit, and all the last several rounds of photos were like that.
It dawned on my what happened. Sometime between World Rhino Day and our trip to Rowe Woods, I think I was troubleshooting something. I set the upload size on FlickrExport to 640×480, and never set it back. In other words, I had a PEBKACK issue–Problem Exists Between Keyboard and Chair.
I reset the setting, and did a test upload–that was it. It is going to be too much work to re-upload correct sizes to Flickr, then update the blog, so it will stay this way. If there any photos you want better than 640×480 resolution, let me know. I still may go back and upload full-size versions, as I just like having the right one up there.
One thing is for certain: I will double check that from now on!
I saw a video on Friday morning: there is a new ocelittle at the Cincinnati Zoo! I texted my wife, who replied that zoo just got added to our to-do list.
Santos come to the Queen city from the Arlington, Texas, zoo. He will be joining the cat ambassador program next summer. While we were there, he mostly just slept.
But, when you’re only two weeks old, and a cat, what more is required of you?
Even big cougars are known to take cat naps.
The snow leopards, on the other hand, had a serious game of chase-and-pounce going on.
Running all over their enclosure!
I was going to mute the sound, of only to not have to hear the kid call them “cheetahs,” but I liked hearing their footsteps.
They took turns. Here, Renji is preparing to pounce on Nubo.
Nubo, sitting unaware she’s behind a rock. Look at the tail on this handsome cat!
I fond one break in some trees along their enclosure, and Renji looked right at me. I talked to her a bit, and I’m afraid that, right after I took this picture, Nubo pounced. I guess I distracted her.
Eventually, Nubo wound down and yawned. I suspect a nap was forthcoming.
The zoo also had a baby red panda. I think this his him.
He was ups tree with his mom–the opposite reaction I have when I see my daughter up that high.
I’m sure we’ll be back to see Santos, hopefully, when he’s awake.