Baby Update

June 19th, 2009

So this morning I rubbed I.'s tummy and he looked at me. First time I've seen him focus on something deliberately.

Ah, the stuff we have to learn!

Shawarma-style chicken with Garlic Tahini Sauce

June 17th, 2009

I love Chicken Shawarma, but my attempts to make it (or something like it) at home have heretofore been tasty failures. Good, but not fantastic, nor really what I was aiming for.

What I'm trying to recapture is the fantastically delicious flavor of the Chicken Shawarma I used to get from Habibi's restaurant in the Durant food court adjacent to UC Berkeley. This was more than fifteen years ago, and Habibi's is long gone, but the rose-tinged glow of his Shawarma lives on in my memory. So I continue to experiment.

Anyway, I came the closest yet on Monday, and I shall share the delicious recipe with you! It's also cheap and quick - such a bargain!

First, I grilled a couple of flattened skinless chicken breasts. My butcher will flatten them for me with the side of his heavy cleaver, but of course you can use a meat smacker (aka 'tenderizer') at home if yours won't. The flattening lets the chicken cook much quicker - only a few minutes per side - and you get more of the Shawarma-style outer meat with the grilled taste to it, versus the wetter interior meat.

(This is why I call it Shawarma-style chicken. It's not actually chicken from a vertical rotisserie, simply because I'm feeding only three people. I would very much like to cook with a vertical rotisserie, but outside of throwing parties I can't see the sense in it. Fortunately, grilling flattened breasts on my standard grill comes close to the same output.)

While you are cooking the meat, cook some white rice. I like Basmati rice but any rice should work fine.

Then you make the sauce. Ingredients:
1/2 cup tahini. Key here is to not buy the most common store brand, namely Joyva. Joyva tahini tastes fine but is like stiff peanut butter and very hard to mix. Buy a softer brand in a glass or plastic jar - I like Sadaf brand - where the consistency is much more like catsup.
1/3 cup lemon juice. Yes, it's a lot of lemon juice.
2 tablespoons crushed garlic. I buy the jars of pre-crushed garlic, but feel free to dice/smush your own if you like.
1/2 cup olive oil.
1/3 cup water. The water is actually important, it helps smooth the sauce out.
1 teaspoon salt. The salt is also very important, it's not a lot but it is critical for blending the flavors properly.

Feel free to mix the proportions to your taste - as I say it is important to have some salt and some water, but everything else you can add more or less as you see fit. I tend to play fast and loose particularly with the olive oil.

Mix the sauce to uniformity, with a spoon/whisk if you are a real cook or with a blender if you are a little girly cook.

Chop up the meat into small pieces, with a cleaver if you have it and like a bit of fun, or with a kitchen knife if you are like me and fear meat flying all over the kitchen. Aim for Shawarma-size pieces, i.e. bite-size and smaller.

On each plate, lay down a bed of your favorite white rice, pour the chopped meat over it, and then generously drizzle the sauce on top. Viola!

Vegetables are left as an exercise for the reader.

Applied SCIENCE!

June 16th, 2009

WD-40 really is a miracle substance. My new office chair for my desk at home had begun squeaking terribly whenever I would recline; as had the doors to the guest room and the bathroom. So yesterday I went to the hardware store, purchased a large can of WD-40 for $5.99, took it straight home, and applied it.

I thought I might have to work it in, jiggle the chair/hinges so that the WD-40 could get into the cracks, apply it a few times... nope. One spritz (with a paper towel on the other side to avoid overspray) on the exterior of the squeaking component, and viola! Complete silence.

WD stands for "Water Displacement" and the number 40 from it being the 40th formula which was tested. What they were originally looking for wasn't a lubricant, it was corrosion protection - but what they found was pure magic. Er, science.

In 1969 the "Rocket Chemical Company" renamed itself the "The WD-40 Company" after its only product. It's still a publically traded company, with 2008 sales of $317 million.

The Goat Tower

June 12th, 2009

Had you asked, I would have said that it was unlikely I'd ever link to an article on ("for everyone in agriculture interested in latest new products and ideas"). And yet, here it is: 31 Ft. Goat Tower Keeps Animals Fit, Happy.

A goat tower. What a cool idea.

The Y2012 Problem

June 11th, 2009

The Mayan Long Count Calendar turns over in 2012 []. Mayan date will occur on December 20, 2012, followed by the start of the fourteenth cycle,, on December 21st.

The end of the thirteenth cycle would break many megalith calculations — which conventionally use only the last four numbers to save on [the expense of erecting additional] standing stones — with fears of spiritual collapse, disruption of ley lines, Ben Goldacre driving the chiropractors back into the sea and the return of the great god Quetzalcoatl and the consequent destruction of all life on earth.

Megalith programmers from 4000 years ago are being dredged up from peat bogs and pressed into service to get the henges updated to handle the turnover in the date.

"It could be worse," said one. "I could still be programming COBOL."

(from David Gerard)