Archive for the ‘Video’ category

Owen Dance

September 28, 2011

I often take many photos in rapid succession. When reviewing them later, I have this habit of repeatedly toggling two or three photos back and forth if the result looks funny. Sometimes I do it until my eyes tear up. Here is an example set to music. Hopefully Owen will forgive me…some day.

Feral Kittens

October 31, 2010

My brother rescued some feral kittens two weeks ago. Beth and I were fortunately visiting for my Dad’s 58th birthday just 2 days after they were rescued, so we got to meet them.

The kitties hid inside the space under the dishwasher for some of their first 48 hours indoors. Apparently new kittens hiding inside a dishwasher is common enough that numerous people have posted questions about such a situation online.

My dad constructed a kitty scooping device using a candy cane lawn decoration, but it was not very successful.  I think leaving the kitties alone with the room quiet and a source of food, water and litter outside the dishwasher is the best approach.  They’ll want to come out eventually–and so they did; From the dishwasher they migrated to the under-space of the refrigerator. Here they’ve been blocked from getting back in there again, but they still liked hiding next to the fridge. They climbed around back there for a while, alternating which kitten was on top. I couldn’t tell whether they found it preferable to be on the bottom (and therefore protected by a feline shield), or on top and more mobile. After a while, I moved them to an alternate safe space—a pet taxi with food and water plates and a towel to lay on. They seemed to realize it was a preferable haven compared to the canyon next to the refrigerator. Here they are munching on some chicken in there:

I’m amazed that wild kittens can know how to use a litter box the first time they see one. They understood what it was for right away. After a meal, we put the orange tabby in the litter box, and he scratched around then stood up on two legs to relieve himself—a bizarre technique. I wish I’d captured it on video, although perhaps you will be glad that I didn’t. He’s quite good at standing. The calico cat liked to hide behind the litter box when she wasn’t in the pet taxi, as Kanye is pointing out here:


After all the offering of fingers to kitties, we made some mushroom/asparagus risotto. Kanye was not invited:

End of story.

Alpine Adventure: GEM 2010

July 7, 2010

Two weeks ago I attended the 2010 GEM (Geospace Environment Modeling) Summer Workshop. This was maybe the fifth time I’ve attended GEM. It is really a fun science meeting because it is always in a nice hikable western environment, and it is much smaller than many other meetings (less than 400 people). So it is easier to talk at length with many other scientists about a relatively small number of topics. I wish all meetings were around that size. The past two years this meeting has been in Snowmass, Colorado, which is a ski town across the valley from the perhaps somewhat more known, Aspen.

I brought my banjo with me to the meeting, despite the fact that I was flying United, and everyone knows that United breaks guitars. At first I wasn’t sure how to pack the banjo because I have just a soft gig-bag, and I was pretty sure I’d be forced to check it at least on the small plane from Denver to Aspen. However, I realized that I could easily pad the banjo if I disassembled it and stowed it in my internal frame travel backpack. It turns out that disassembling a banjo is really easy. I had the thing completely unstrung and disassembled in about 4 minutes. I hadn’t thought about that advantage of an instrument held together by bolts rather than hide glue. Here’s how the Deering Goodtime looked when I arrived in Snowmass:

Within 25 minutes it was strung up and tuned again—tuned to itself anyway; it was about a minor third flat until I downloaded a tuner.

On the first day of the meeting I decided to go on a hike up the mountain behind the hotel. In the middle of an awful headache the next morning I read that “to avoid altitude sickness when traveling to locations above 8000′ one should avoid strenuous activity and alcohol for 24 hours after arriving at altitude”. The views were nice though, and I found an impressive pile of snow at the base of a ski jump:

I also found a deer or elk print in the mud:

Where did this mud come from? It came from this gurgling mountain stream (such as might be referred to in a Coors Light commercial). Taste the Rockies (but watch out for giardia):

The meeting week also featured my favorite phase of the moon, the waxing gibbous:

I’ve always thought waxing gibbous could easily be the name of a primate species.

Sun Rips Tail Off Comet

March 24, 2010

The video below shows the process that I study (magnetic reconnection) in the context of solar plasma. The narration is a bit cheesy, but I think the observation (0:48-1:08 in the video) is pretty impressive.

Unrelated, catching that on camera was probably about as likely as getting the “Battle at Kruger” on camera (a battle between a pride of lions, a herd of buffalo, and 2 crocodiles):

Homemade Pita

February 2, 2010

If you’ve never eaten soft, warm pita straight from the oven, frankly I feel bad for you. So, this post will chronicle the results of some experiments I’ve done in home pita baking.

Like many breads, freshly baked pita is so delicious and so different from the room temperature, dry feeling, store bought, plastic-bagged version. On top of the delicious end-product, I enjoy watching the pitas magically puff up while they bake. Have you ever wondered how that pocket gets into the pita?

Well, when they come out of the oven, pitas can be almost spherical, and are filled with a pocket of air. The loaves collapse as they cool, leaving the stuffable pocket in the finished loaf. You can see the puffage in my low-tech time-lapse movie:

These events actually spanned a period of five minutes.

If you want to make pitas from scratch, I highly recommend reading this post by Farmgirl from 2005. Her recipe makes delicious pita, and I’ve achieved a successful puff rate of  at least 70-80% with her recipe. I don’t think I can improve on her recipe at all, without doing Cooks-Illustrated-style experiments involving 50-100 batches.

But a few weeks ago, I got to thinking, “Hmmm, you know, pizza dough is made from almost identical ingredients in almost identical proportions to that pita dough. I wonder if I could make pita from pre-made store-bought pizza dough?” If this worked, it would mean that I could bake fresh pita after work, and still eat at a reasonable hour.

Rising and kneading time account for most of the delay when making any yeast bread. Generally freshly baked bread proves to be totally worth the wait. But sometimes, I don’t have the foresight to know what I want for dinner tomorrow. I think to myself at lunch time that I’d like pita and falafel for dinner. Such was the case one day last week. So I executed my pita-from-pizza-dough experiment. The result: a total success!

I began with some refrigerated, Hannaford-brand whole wheat pizza dough (Hannaford is our regional grocery chain):

I opened the package, divided the dough into 8 parts, covered them with a damp tea towel, and allowed them to warm up to room temperature:Preheat your oven to 500°F. With well floured hands and a well floured board and rolling pin, roll each ball into a 3/16″ (5mm) thick circle. Perfect circles are not important. Uniform and appropriate thickness are important.

Thick, corrugated cardboard or some higher quality hardware store paint stirrers have about the right thickness to make good depth gauges. Just place the sticks on the edges of your board and roll the rolling pin on top of them. When the pita is as thick as the stirring sticks, it will be uniformly the proper thickness. Now that I’m thinking about it, I bet a National Geographic magazine might make a good depth gauge, too. Here are the rolled out proto-pitæ:

Place the dough disks on a piece of aluminum foil. If you have a pizza peel, it will be handy for getting the pitas into the oven. If not, no big deal. The pitas go into the oven sitting on only the foil. No cookie sheets. No baking stones. Just the foil on the oven rack. The bottoms of the pitas harden too quickly on a stone or baking sheet, inhibiting the puffage. Bake the discs, two to four at a time, for 5-7 minutes. You want the insides to be fully baked, but the outsides to still be soft with just a little golden brown coloring.

After the pitas come out, place them into a paper grocery bag, and roll the bag shut, or wrap them in foil. This will keep the loaves soft as they cool.

As you can see, everything worked fine out with the whole wheat dough. However, I repeated the experiment with white-flour pizza dough from Trader Joe’s. Not surprisingly, the white-flour loaves puffed up much higher. Also, I found the first batch of pitas to be a little small. So, I’d recommend dividing the package of dough into only six parts (for a 20 oz package of dough).

Spotted Dragonet

January 31, 2010

We also saw this Spotted Dragonet (Synchiropus picturatus) in the California academy of Sciences. These guys live on reefs in the Indian and western Pacific oceans where they mostly eat small invertebrates. I like the way the fish seems to look right at the camera around t=00:30
Musical Artist: Ad Libitum, Title: Liber Manualis

Adventures in Cheesemaking: Paneer Butter Masala!

January 4, 2010


I was looking over my past posts and thinking it’s been a while since I’ve posted any cooking or recipe entries.  The total lack of any Indian cooking posts actually surprised me because I love cooking Indian food. (Sometimes I think I cook Indian meals enough days in a row to wear out Beth’s taste for them). So, Indian food post, your time has come.

One of my favorite dishes to cook is paneer butter masala. This dish consists of (more…)

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