Archive for November, 2008

Chapter 3: In which Leon cooks all day long

So, you ask, how did the duck go? Well, for starters, buying a duck at a Chinese store (Ranch 99) means that I got more duck than I’d expected. In particular, it had a head and feet. They weren’t hard to cut off, but still I hadn’t expected to have to behead it with its beady little eyes staring me down. 

I made a plum sauce according to the advice of Nancy, another grad student: I sauteed shallots in butter until they were translucent, then added “a tart liquid” and my plum jam, and simmered that for a while. The recommended tart liquids included vinegar (augh, the most horrible liquid invented) and sherry, but I used pomegranate juice with a small splash of vinegar. In any case, it ended up being very good, and I’m writing it down here in part so I can look it up for next time.

Then, while the duck baked, I cut the fat from its neck and used that to fry up some potatoes, which ended up quite tasty. Seasonings: onion powder, garlic powder, paprika, cayenne pepper, salt. I’ll have to do that again.

Frankly, the duck didn’t end up as well as it should have. It was supposed to have a crispy skin, but the skin on the breasts should’ve been cooked longer. I have a theory that my oven isn’t as hot as it’s supposed to be. The duck’s meat was tasty anyway, especially with that delicious plum sauce, but next time I’ll try to do it right.

And, how did my date like the duck? Well, she’s apparently sick right now, so there was no date. I’m not entirely sure that she wants a second date at this point, but I’ll try to stay reasonably optimistic until my final rejection. I really did think our first date went well, but since then I haven’t exactly gotten positive signals. I mean, really, I haven’t gotten any signals, and this is a case where no news certainly isn’t good news.

While waiting for rejection, though, I’m doing everything I can with that duck. I’m boiling its bones (and neck) for stock, and I rendered its fat. I don’t know how to make jewelry from its bones, or I’d probably try that, too. I have a vision, though: matzo ball soup, in duck stock, with matzo balls made with duck fat. That will be far and away the most exotic use of matzo I’ve ever made.

Oh, and between the many uses of duck and the chocolate mousse I made for tomorrow’s Thanksgiving potluck, I really was cooking all day. Consider: 4 hours of duck baking, 4 hours of stock making, and the interim was filled with all the other stuff. I guess I’m nearly ready to be a stay-at-home father.

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Chapter Two: In which Leon cooks a Duck

sketch of ducks

On Sunday, I went on an excellent date with a Woman of the Net. Yes, I’m practicing Internet dating, because the Computer Science department doesn’t have many women, and I don’t have occasion to interact with many people outside of the department. In any case, I met a very interesting and attractive woman, we saw a great taiko drum performance, and we already have a planned date for Friday evening. I happen to have a duck in my fridge right now, and I’ll cook it up, and she’ll bring wine, and everything will be splendid.

So here’s where you come in: how can I prepare the duck in a fancy way? The Joy of Cooking tells me how to bake a duck, and it sounds good, but I’d like to take advantage of my special ingredients: I have homemade plum jam and homemade pomegranate molasses. Surely one of those will go well with the duck. Now, the Internet has a little bit of advice, but the recipes I found all call for cooking the duck at a much higher temperature than the Joy of Cooking does, and I’m inclined to trust the Joy. The Joy has a recipe for orange sauce to go with your duck, and I could probably adapt that to use plum jam instead of orange marmalade, but it’s not clear that’s best. So what can I do with a duck and some plum jam, or maybe some pomegranate molasses?



On the chopping block

So, there’s a great interview with Palin here. It’s not what she says that’s so great, it’s the setting. It took me a while to figure out what that guy in the background was doing, but once I did it was funny. I particularly enjoyed the reporter’s question around 1:15 into the video.


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The most memorable part of Neil Gaiman’s movie MirrorMask is the flight of the monkeybirds, which you can see in this video. Sadly, searching the internet for “monkeybirds” doesn’t bring references to that part of the movie to the top. Still, I thought I’d share.

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The how-to guide I really need

I saw this book in the bookstore:

Do-It-Yourself Numerology

Um, it was on the discount shelf, fortunately. But that suggested other titles that need to be written:

“Ghost-Busting for Dummies”
“Chicken Soup for the Disembodied Soul”
“Warlocks Are from Mars, Witches Are from Venus”
“Voodoo and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance”

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Amazing what you’ll see if you even venture out for an hour or two

The weather has been gorgeous in Berkeley, so I thought I’d go outside to work. Predictably, I didn’t get too much work done, but I saw a number of interesting things at the Marina.

For starters, at the Berkeley Marina, the main entertainment is flight. The wind wasn’t good at first for kites, and I saw many people fail at getting their kites to fly. But I looked up at just the right moment, and I saw a spider drift by. I ran after it–it was clearly “ballooning” on strands of its own silk! I’d heard of such things, but never seen them. It didn’t seem to be using just one strand of silk–it looked more like some sort of structure, but it was hard to make out any details. I didn’t see any others, but that alone was amazing enough. I was particularly amused that the nearly-brainless spider was succeeding where all the humans couldn’t get their kites to stay up.

The low winds were good for more than just spiders, though. I saw a remote-controlled helicopter! It didn’t do the fancy tricks you’d expect from, say, Pieter Abbeel’s AI-controlled helicopter, but it was cool to see anyway. I also saw a remote-controlled glider, but it wasn’t able to soar until the wind picked up and the kites started flying. (The wind came from the east! At the Marina! If you’re a Berkeley resident, you know how weird that is–usually in the afternoon at the Marina there’s a strong sea breeze.)

In addition to the spider, I saw a little more good wildlife. By being very still, I was able to get some nice close-up pictures, so here’s a little sequence:

cut for many pictures



Sweet centaur! just played the song “History” by Funeral for a Friend, and I had a funny mis-hearing moment.

The song really goes, “I don’t care about your sweet scent or the way….”

I heard, “I don’t care about your sweet centaur…,” which is frankly much more awesome.


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Apparently I’m just not that interesting



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People suck

Every election I lose faith in people. Sure, Obama won, but it was a close thing. And Proposition 8 looks like it’ll succeed in banning gay marriage in California. I’m disturbed by how many terrible people there are in the world. You could claim that such people aren’t terrible, but then why are they trying to do such terrible things?