We enjoyed a quiet Christmas at home, mostly binge-watching The Great British Baking Show. In the evening, we watched the Springsteen Broadway special. The dog got a couple of new toys, as did I. Marcia was surprised to get a couple of things, too, since we’d already got her “Christmas presents” a couple of months ago.
With Christmas gone and New Year’s Eve tomorrow, another year’s gone by, and each goes faster than the one preceding. But here at Hovel Bilbrey, we’re continuing to do okay. The big changes of the year involved first ramping up our involvement with the theater company, then backing off to just enthusiastic patrons and subscribers. Too much sausage making, relative to the amount of sausage. Marcia’s ramped up her quilting, and is enjoying that a lot.
Speaking of sausage, I have a chili and another dish that I like making from a hot Italian sausage. But two weeks in a row, no hot Italian at the food warehouse. But there was picnic shoulder there, so I’ve made my own sausage. Here was the setup:
We’ve had the meat grinder accessory for our Kitchen Aid forever. But I’ve used it only rarely. So I ground once, seasoned the grind, and reground it. Now it’s resting in the fridge, and I’ll cook from it on New Year’s Day. I’m very pleased with the results.
No new casualties were reported by DoD. Elsewhere, I hold out hope for either an outbreak (a tiny one at least) of sanity in our nation’s capital … or a giant asteroid strike. So, win-win.
Turkey coma, that is. We roasted a full bird for the first time in a few years, and it was certainly one of our best. We started with a fresh Butterball, and Marcia dressed it and put it in the roasting pan with a cup of water to keep the humidity up. That trick worked a treat, and the bird was flavorful and moist. The other winner of the evening was also of Marcia’s concocting: a wonderful apple pie. Since then, leftovers, including a turkey tetrazzini that I made this evening, using … the pasta that Marcia made yesterday. So good!
We did make a few phone calls here and there, to family and friends. Happily, everyone seems to be in good health and spirits.
Saturday evening, we attended the official opening night (and press opening) of this year’s production of A Christmas Carol at Annapolis Shakespeare. Wonderfully, even better than last year! The marvelous Dexter Hamlett took Scrooge and made the character his own. The whole cast brought the show to life with a minimal set, and superb mood setting with judicious use of a smoke machine and back-screen projections to set the place for each scene. Highly Recommended!
Next up from ASC: A Broadway Holiday: song and dance on the main stage.
I’ve wrapped up patching for the month, and I’m in the middle of my on-call week. One thing I’m looking forward to is spelunking through the Beta of the new Red Hat Enterprise Linux 8. The thing they refer to as App Streams interests me most, I think, as it should permit use of newer applications than the RHEL series have been able to provide in the past. More when I know more.
On dead trees, I’m still reading Cloudbound, from the splendid Fran Wilde. On the phone, I’ve been reading The Improbable Adventures of Sherlock Holmes, a collection of Holmes stories intersecting with multiple genres, written over the last 25 years, and edited by John Joseph Adams.
On the “other entertainment as required” front, our background noise over the last week or so is binging the first two seasons of Amazon’s The Grand Tour, in preparation for a probable early December start to Season 3.
Our condolences to the family and friends of Sgt. Leandro A.S. Jasso, 25, from Leavenworth, Washington, who died on Nov. 24, 2018, in Garmsir District, Helmand Province, Afghanistan, as a result of wounds sustained while engaging enemy forces in Khash Rod District, Nimruz Province, Afghanistan.
More rain. Seriously. And we live close enough to DC that the rain-hole that exists there shadows us a bit – we got just a bit over half of the 22 inches that BWI got in the same time span, and that’s less than 30 minutes drive. We’re at 15 inches in the last two months. That’s four month’s worth of annualized rainfall. And I’m tired of it. Oh, yeah… the app on the phone says each one of the next 24 hours has rain due, better than 50% chance.
I count Fall as officially started on the first night that temps drop below 50 degrees Fahrenheit. We’re two days into Fall by the calendar, but I don’t even see overnights below 60 forecast in the next 10 days. Yikes!
I had a dream that while climate change in the form of global warming was happening, the “consensus” blame of rising temperatures on anthropomorphic causes was in fact a cover-up for a geo-solar interaction that wasn’t going to stop at two or three degrees Celsius of warming. But we have a couple of hundred years to go before things start becoming untenable, so the thinking at certain levels is that the hordes won’t panic and kill civilization just yet if they think that (a) there’s a happy ending possible, and (b) somebody will take care of it. A current day rocketry entrepreneur is enlisted to work towards getting some miniscule (rich) percentage of humanity off towards a healthier star before the world economy goes to hell.
Food and Friends
I started my Saturday at the theater, doing a couple of maintenance/setup tasks of the sort I’m useful for. Then I came back home to stay out of Marcia’s way, and clean house. The former was because Marcia was making lasagna. This began with making the fresh pasta, which happened while I was gone. She also made a pot full of something mostly resembling a bolognese sauce (okay, gravy) which made the house smell super-awesome. Oh, and enough for the Italian army, because reasons.
Mid afternoon, as my cleaning blitz was winding down, Marcia assembled a couple of trays of the lasagna, with the blanched and shocked pasta, a meat/herb blend, fresh mozzarella, and the gravy, in multiple delicious layers. Those heated in the oven, and came out just as Mike and Linda joined us for a lovely evening of food and Cards Against Humanity. And now you know why I was cleaning house, too!
Speaking of the phone, I’ve taken an early plunge into IOS 12. I have nothing useful to report yet except the following:
This was one of the fastest updates I’ve applied to an Apple phone yet.
The phone was not bricked.
There have been reports of color/screen issues after update; This has not affected my phone (a year-old iPhone 8)
The apps I’ve used so far all still work as expected.
Seems like a low bar, doesn’t it? Well, sure. But one does “hear” reports of problems, and it’s easy to internally discount the unhappy customer bias of the news reporting cycle. Happy people just get on with their lives. Unhappy ones go on crusades.
The Comedy of Errors opens with previews this Friday the 29th at Annapolis Shakespeare. The show runs for five weeks. Tickets available through the website, or call the box office. I can recommend the deal to be gotten by getting a season flex pass, though. Great value, and in so doing can get a 50% discount on the 12 (well, 11, now) Cabaret nights that are sprinkled through the year.
Capclave, a lovely small literary Science Fiction / Fantasy / Horror conference, runs Friday through Sunday next. Not in Gaithersburg this year, but Rockville instead. So bypass the REM recommendation, do go back to Rockville, and enjoy a wonderful, small, inexpensive, respectful, and inclusive convention. Online registration via the website (https://www.capclave.org/) is now closed, but the walk-in price for the full three days is but $70.
Busy times – I managed a fair bit of yardwork this last weekend, and we wrapped with Sunday at the Annapolis Shakespeare Company’s August Cabaret Night, featuring Christine Asero. What a talented, lovely lady. From show tunes to her own country songs, she put on a hell of a show.
Marcia got herself a pasta accessory for our Kitchen Aid stand mixer. She put it to good use yesterday:
Homemade pasta, garden tomato and chili
Marcia made the fettuccine pasta, we got the sauce out of a jar, adding sauteed chicken. A tomato from the garden, shared, and a serrano chili for me. Yum!
Note to self – arrange to go to WorldCon someday. Today, however, is not that day.
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Our condolences to the family and friends of Staff Sgt. Reymund Rarogal Transfiguracion, 36, from Waikoloa, Hawaii, who died on Aug. 12, 2018, of wounds sustained when an improvised explosive device detonated near him while he was conducting combat patrol operations in Helmand Province, Afghanistan.
Cleaning yesterday; shopping, mowing, and roasting coffee today. So that’s a productive weekend. On the way to shopping, I stopped at the local family-owned nursery we use for plants, etc. I needed some fresh tomatoes to supplement what little is coming out of the large tomato end of my garden. With those, a lime, some garlic, a couple of small yellow onions, and a handful of mixed peppers from the garden, I made a small artisanal batch of salsa – no more than four or five cups worth. Yup, we finished that all, with chips, as a mid-afternoon snack.
Part of the reason the larger tomatoes aren’t happy is that we’re up to over 8″ of rain in my back yard since July 20. Depending on the next couple of weeks, we could end up with 1/4 of a year’s average rainfall in less than a month. Not that any of the folks around here that are suffering through the aftereffects of flash flooding are very happy about any of this.
Oh, hey – we had a lovely time at Linda and Mike’s last night: being ignored by their new-ish cat Kafka, eating a lovely supper, and playing a deeply inappropriate game of CAH. Much laughter ensued.
In my copious spare time, I’ve been working on learning a bit more about containers, with Docker on deck. I haven’t had to use them professionally, but they’re important technologies that underpin a lot of what’s going on in cloud these days. So, I’ll learn more. Key to long life, learning more.
DoD reported no new casualties in the last few days. Now, back to reading…
Well, I guess it’s been a bit. I participated in two long painting days at the theatre last week, and by Sunday, after chores, etc, I was plain tuckered out. Since then, I’ve just been either busy or forgetful … I can’t remember which.
Upcoming is the last weekend of Love’s Labour’s Lost presented by the Annapolis Shakespeare Company at St. John’s College in Annapolis. Also, still running through late September, The Miser is on in the courtyard at Reynold’s Tavern. We’ve seen and loved them both (and we would, even if Marcia wasn’t volunteering as a part time office manager, and I wasn’t on the Board). The next season is going to be a joy, too! Get tickets, bring your friends, see the work, love the work, become subscribers. That’s precisely how we got hooked!
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What I’m reading in my copious spare time: Fran Wilde’s Cloudbound (book two of her Bone Universe trilogy; I loved Updraft, and Horizon is on deck – she signed all three for me at Capclave last year, yay!). These are wonderful, extravagantly envisioned works of fantasy. Fran crafts characters that I care about immediately, and gives them a consistent place above (and in) the clouds for them to love, contend, and try in their own ways to save themselves and their society. Inevitable conflict is the main story. However, the little touches of side story show that this author is superb at building a universe much larger than we can see, and showing us just what’s necessary for the story. I love these books, and I think you will, too. You can find them at many booksellers.
I’m also reading V.E. Schwab’s A Darker Shade of Magic, set mostly in three Londons. Magic missing, magic mostly in balance, and magic as weapon … then there’s Black London. I’m enjoying the tale a lot, and I’ll probably pick up the rest of the series. Then there’s my late night bedside re-reading of some of Iain M. Banks Culture novels – love those a lot.
I’ve been listening to a lot of David Bowie, The Eagles, and Amanda Palmer of several incarnations, of late.
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The garden has been producing a quart or so of cherry tomatoes every couple of days, which is delicious and wonderful. Last night I made a south-of-the-border-ish dish with pork, rice, shallots, a couple of serrano peppers and a double handful of halved cherry tomatoes. Yum.
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Recently roasted coffees include single origin beans from Guatemala and Burundi.
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DoD announced no new casualties in the last week and a half.
I don’t have anything particularly amusing going on just now that is pertinent to April Fool’s Day, but there’s always an RFC, so here’s one of two from this very day: Internationalizing IPv6 Using 128-Bit Unicode. If those terms aren’t in your weekly vocabulary, then you’re probably not going to find much distressingly funny about the other end of the link, but I had a chuckle or two.
We had a lovely week, with my niece Alex joining us for much of it. She got some quality museum time in, and saw some friends from elsewhere. She also joined us at The Glass Menagerie Friday night at Annapolis Shakespeare. She found the play to be as powerful and strongly performed as we did. Still highly recommended, and there are eight shows left over the next two weekends! Alex also kicked our butts playing assorted board games (it’s good to be young, eh?). We also ate well this week: Shrimp scampi, chicken and 40 cloves, spicy marinated pork chops … and pizza. Today we did an Easter brunch, which was also tasty. All good things come to an end, though: we put her on the plane this afternoon.
I spent a fair bit of time trying to migrate an old interactive site to a new platform last week, to no avail. Now I’ve got to figure out what Plan B is, since leaving it on the old platform for much longer isn’t really an option.
I did get the front gardening cleanup done, and first mowing of the lawn, too.
From last weekend:
Lexi, after vet visit
Yep, betrayed, she mopes all the way home.
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Our condolences to the family and friends of Master Sgt. Jonathan J. Dunbar, 36, of Austin, Texas, who died on March 30 in Manbij, Syria as a result of injuries [caused by] an improvised explosive device (IED) detonated near his patrol.
Merry Men’s Shopping Day, if you celebrate that… Me? Shopping and wrapping all wrapped up weeks ago.
Today, after the weekly shopping, I spent much of the day cleaning house, as one does on Christmas Eve. That and we had cookies and leftover mac’n’cheese for the celebratory supper. Yes, leftover. We have had lots of foodstuffs arrive here at the hovel as gifts of the season. The selection from my brother and his family included several delicious Spanish cheeses. We enjoyed them here and there on crackers and such, then decided yesterday to make an extravagant mac’n’cheese with them. So:
Saute on medium: 1/4# of thick cut applewood-smoked bacon, cut in 1/2″ strips, in a high-sided 12″ pan, with a splash of EVOO. Cook until all the bits are brown.
Deglaze the pan with a splash or two of chardonnay (Glen Ellen, in this circumstance), then add 1 large yellow onion, chopped fine. Cook until translucent, stirring occasionally.
Add several tablespoons of additional EVOO and three+ tablespoons of butter, then perhaps 3/4 cup of AP flour. Lower heat and cook the flour down only to light brown. We’re going for getting rid of the flour taste from the roux, not to get additional color.
Bring the heat back up to medium high, and add milk (low fat, because that’s what I have). I started with about 3 cups, and stirred constantly until the sauce thickened. I added a bit more milk, and then a bit more, until sauce stayed at a consistency for a medium even coat on the back of a spoon
Then add all three of the cheeses, shredded, plus a little Mexican blend, and stirred until sauce was fully incorporated. Sample, then add salt, pepper to taste. Remove from heat.
Cook noodles to al dente (we used elbow macaroni for that classic style), drain (but don’t rinse – leave the starch for the sauce to stick to) and put back into the pot.
Add sauce to the noodles. I made enough sauce for twice the amount of noodles, so that’s reserved for another night. Stir gently, and let rest for a few minutes, for the noodles to finish cooking and taking up some flavor from the sauce.
Serve and eat. I top with a twist or three of fresh cracked black pepper and a sprinkling of shredded Parmesan.
Stop eating before food coma sets in.
Nope, no pictures. It was too tasty to slow down and document at the time.
Enjoy your holidays, best as you can.
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Our condolences to the family and friends of Spc. Avadon A. Chaves, 20, of Turlock, California, who died on Dec. 20 at Al Asad, Al Anbar Province, Iraq, from a non-combat related incident.
Wow. Am I a slacker, or what? I’ve been really busy. Work is keeping me on my toes, and (wonderfully), we’re finally cooking with gas!
Cooking with gas
We got a KitchenAid Dual Fuel range – a natural gas range (that could be converted to LP if needed) with two electric ovens. Yay! Getting the range was Marcia’s birthday present, and she got the gasfitter to run the line for Valentine’s Day. No massacres yet!
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On the professional front, I’m working on the options for extending my Red Hat Certified Engineer status. I’m probably going down the automation path, with Ansible, for a variety of reasons. So I’ve got to spend a fair bit of time building test environments and building my skill set with the range of capabilities that Ansible offers today. I’ve been using it for a few years now, but not taking advantage of all that the tool suite has to offer. Should be fun.
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Books: I finally finished reading Leviathan Wakes – Book One of The Expanse by James S. A. Corey. Wonderful space opera set believably in our solar system (so, no light speed drives required to move the action along). Miller and Holden. Holy cow. If you’ve not read, you should. I’ll be reading the books before I start watching the series, which I hear is also seriously awesome. Next up, Born To Run, by the Boss.
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Lazy lookout guard
Lexi had her annual check-up last weekend, and flew through with flying colors. The nail trimming and first round of shots didn’t make her very happy, though. She’ll be even less happy when she goes back for two more shots in a couple of weeks. The rabies vaccine booster was part of this year’s regimen, so the vet likes to split up the shots when there are a bunch, for a little dog like Lexi.
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Our condolences to the family and friends of Pfc. Brian. P. Odiorne, 21, of Ware, Massachusetts, who died on Feb. 20, in Al Anbar Province, Iraq, from a non-combat related incident.
Windy, cold day today. Quite a shift from yesterday’s 70° loveliness. That’s okay. I stayed busy all week and all weekend. Today, for example:
0645-0800 – Start laundry, start coffee, then patching a set of production linux systems
0800-0845 – Walk dog, breakfast
0845-1030 – Shopping, food organization
10:30-1200 – Email, patching another set of production linux systems
1200-1300 – Walk dog, lunch
1300-1400 – Roast coffee (an Ethiopian SO bean from Sweet Maria’s)
1400-1600 – Putter about, relax for a couple of hours
1600-1800 – Cooking
1800-1845 – Feed and walk dog
1845-2000 – Dinner, make bed, email, blog time…
Marcia is doing great. She’s done with the cane, mostly. She did most of the laundry work today, other than the “carry bits up and down the stairs” part. Strength is going up, pain is going down, and she’s weening off the last of the heavy pain killers in the next couple of days. Next up: Driving!
We enjoyed watching the first episode of Amazon’s new car show: The Grand Tour this week! I’d missed having those blokes doing new, fun things with cars. Sorry, BBC – your B-Team isn’t nearly good enough!
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Our condolences to the families and friends of these fallen warriors:
Sgt. John W. Perry, 30, of Stockton, California, died on Nov. 12 of injuries sustained from an improvised explosive device in Bagram, Afghanistan.
Pfc. Tyler R. Iubelt, 20, of Tamaroa, Illinois, died on Nov. 12 of injuries sustained from an improvised explosive device in Bagram, Afghanistan.