Saturday, August 29, 2009

Henovins - recipe

I mentioned in my grocery posts that I found some Cornish hens, split in half, for $4.99 last weekend. So I cooked them up for the mega birthday lunch today. Oh, yeah, I am now the lovely age of 36.

I haven't done Cornish Hens in several years, so I had to look up recipes again, then I merged three of them together into something that came out quite nice if I do say so myself. The key was that N has these stacks of leftover bottles of wine from a wine tasting her company did like a year or two ago. Because we had the wine for free, the following recipe was possible. It's basically a sort of coq au vin, or Hen au vin, um, hence my Englishized (yes, I know anglicized is the correct term. if a linguist can't make up words to please himself, who can?) title Henovins. Isn't henovin a liquor?

Where was I?

2 Cornish game hens, split down the middle. Ours came this way, so I can't offer advice on how to do it.
garlic powder
"italian seasonings"
red wine
2/3 cup flour
2 T butter

I stuck all of the above seasonings and a bunch of red wine into a bag. Then I added the hens inside and let it marinate for about an hour. I am sure a longer marinade would have been better. Oh, and put a whooole bunch of the italian seasonings in.

Melt 2 T butter in a big big pan with a cover. Put 2/3rds cup flour in another bag with salt, pepper, and more italian seasonings. Mix the seasonings and flour in the bag. Take the half-hens from the marinade and place in the flour bag. Shake your money maker until it's covered in flour. Place in the skillet and brown on both sides. Add 1 cup red wine into the skillet and cover. Simmer for 45 minutes until super tender. I cooked some rice to go with it. After removing the hens and putting on a serving plate, you can put a little flour or corn starch into the remaining wine and make a gravy. Pour the gravy over the rice and hens as desired. Munch. You'll need napkins, cause picking the hens with your fingers, the only appropriate way, is messy.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

the magic number is... 100

I've had this bee in my bonnet the last couple weeks to attempt to feed our family for a week on $100. What this really means is that I only spend $100 at the grocery store for the big week's shopping. In fact, we've spent more than $100, because I pay $1.90 for a lovely elementary school breakfast each morning, usually buy a tea from a vending machine during the day, and B's lunch money is not part of it. Oh, and we usually eat out somewhere once a week. But, at least, the major shopping has a direct $100 limit.

Mixed results so far. It would be quite easy to do if we lived on ramen and oatmeal, but I'm trying to do actual balanced meals with, you know, a starch, a vegie, and usually a meat, for dinner. We want to eat "regularly" just affordably. We pulled it off quite handily in week one, but we ate most of our meats out of the freezer. Those are now gone. Due to my meticulously adding up each item, I've been able to concentrate more on just where the money is going. Turns out I can get a whole bunch of vegies and fruits (well, not exotic ones) for $30 or so. Really not bad. Then the Crystal Light drink mix was $7. Meats are butt expensive. It has caused us to experiment a bit more there, such as the cubed steak, and they bizarrely had 4 frozen guinea hens on sale for $4.99. I've also been a bit creative with the exact meal. For instance, today and tomorrow's lunch is red potatoes, inch-long asparagus, and a can of salmon with a vinaigrette.

Not sure yet how I'm going to handle big multi-week purchases. For instance, the only real way to have salmon regularly without paying 7.99, 8.99 a pound and such is to buy the big package of frozen filets at Costco. Since we eat them, it's definitely a good deal over time, but the initial purchase is a bit hefty. The obvious solution would be to have, like, $400 for a month rather than $100 a week.

So what little money-stretching gimmicks have you found for the grocery aisle? Any favorite, cheap recipes?

Perhaps I should start watching Clara and her Great Depression cooking show again. Mmmm... dandelion salad.

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Movie - Precious

Just the trailer to this movie makes me bawl like a baby. There's no way I'd be able to see the movie.

It's apparently based on the novel Push by Sapphire. Maybe I can read the book; I don't know.

Friday, August 21, 2009

Wibbly Wobbly Timey Wimey

I'm spending all of my days copying and pasting data from one spreadsheet to another, so in the meantime, I bring you this enlightening quote from Doctor Who Season Three about the nature of time.

Incidentally, it is from the episode Blink, which is one of the best episodes in seasons 2 and 3, so I recommend watching it. If you have Netflix, you can watch it right now on their Instant Play feature.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Hoppin Paca

This is my pseudo sorta kind of take off on Hoppin' John um -esque.

Package of the 15 bean soup. If no 15 bean, black-eyed peas
Package of Hillshire Farms sausage
one onion
half a package of frozen okra
cayenne pepper
black pepper
garlic powder
sriracha or tabasco

Soak the beans in 6 cups water over night. Drain. Slice up the onion and cook it 5 minutes. Slice up the sausage and toss it in. Brown. Add the beans, seasonings, and 6 more cups water. Bring to boil and simmer for one hour. Add in the okra and simmer for 30 minutes. Cook some rice up. To eat, one scoop rice, ladle over the beans, splash in some of your favorite hot sauce.

The End.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

I believe in you

Lambchop performing a cover of the classic tune "I Believe in You", most famously recorded by Don Williams.

They are in some alley in France.

CAE Lamchop #2 - "I Believe In You" from La Blogotheque on Vimeo.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Not looking good enough

I have to analyze a whole bunch of data and then report back. I'm about to go on an Excel and Graph bonanza for the next few days.

Monday, August 17, 2009

It's looking better

My exciting committee meeting isn't until tomorrow (Tuesday), but I spent a lot of time in the lab this evening and things are suddenly looking a lot better.

I've t-tested and ANOVAed and Levene'd and Welched it; I've standard deviationed it and meaned it; and suddenly my results are looking a lot more promising. The key was to remove the two outliers more than two standard deviations from the mean.

Oh, the results aren't clean at all. No, there's one experiment that's just come out wacky and I still have no idea why, but everything else is tending towards my predictions. Tending means usually there's a 85-90% chance I'm right. The random threshold in the social sciences is that there has to be a 95% chance you're right, and it's pretty categorical. 95% chance = publish and get a job! 94% chance = education is its own reward!

Anyway, I've now gone from having almost no idea what I wanted to say to my committee other than "help!" to having a pretty clear idea what the three next best steps would be. So I'm happier now.


Saturday, August 15, 2009

Academic Rock

It's 2:30 AM on a Friday night / Saturday morning, but I finally - finally! - resubmitted this paper to a journal that's been lingering far too long. I think it's much better than the first submission, so I hope it makes it.

Moreover, while revising the Forever Paper, I discovered a little bit of theory that might help me finally publish this set of data I've been sitting on for 4 years. If I am right, I should be able to whip that publication up pretty quick, since all the data gathering and analysis is done. I just need to tell people now why they care.

So today I officially rock academically.

In seemingly more important news, I meet with my dissertation committee on Tuesday. I don't know what's going to happen. No matter how bad they think the results are, they aren't going to kick me out of the program. The question is only what the next steps would be, and how big. That will determine when I graduate.

We will see....

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Random idea number one billion

Yet another random idea.

You know how a blogger named Julie (something, yes I could google it) fixed every recipe in Julia Child's cookbook, later wrote a book about it, and then it got turned into a movie? There are similar other stories of someone doing something exhaustively: living biblically for a year, living on so odd many dollars, etc., etc.

Well, after I brought you that delicious "chicken in a can", I thought, hey, each week I should try some new thing at the store. Something dubious. Not necessarily gross, just doubtful. So I bought some kippers, those little fish in a tin. In many places, those are still eaten regularly, but I myself have never opened a can of sardines, kippers, or any tinned fish.

Um, they're still in that tin, though.

Anyway, after hearing about Julie and Julia, I declared that I would:


Notice the big font with the big concept. Then I remembered that there are things like $75 bottles of balsamic vinegar and the like, so the new concept became:


I think about it some. But there are practical problems:

1) there must be 50,000 things in a modern American grocery store. What should the actual scale be?
2) How do I keep a list to see what I've done? And they change things. I was wondering if I could get Safeway to sponsor me. Hee hee. Seriously, though, if there was a very popular blog featuring the foods and variety of a brand every few days, that seems worth something.
3) I need to figure out better photography.

Maybe I should just start with the fruits and vegies. I've eaten the same 5 vegetables for 35 years.

But I do have a name for this amazing blog.


There's a family story there. Smoochie was my grandmother and she told the story each holiday for years. As her mental abilities declined later, she would often tell the story several times in a single meal. The story is simply that my older brother was being picky about foods and not eating this or that. In Smoochie's words: "And Paca just go soooo disgusted with Pacabro that he said, "smoochie, I'll eat ANYthing."

The thing is that I don't. I'm only not picky compared to some incredibly picky siblings. Different types of chicken breast were beyond the pale for PacaBro. In fact, however, I eat the same collection of foods over and over again. I have no idea what to do with a dragon fruit, for instance. Entire sections of vegetables that look shady have never crossed the threshold of my lips.

So there's the latest dumb idea. Advice appreciated.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Conducting an interview

I'm currently in the waiting room at the dentist waiting to get a filling. Wahoo!

In other news, I am hoping to conduct an interview in the future. A few of my intrepid blog readers have conducted interviews on their blogs in the past, such as on BookRoast or elsewhere. What did you use to conduct the interview and what was the procedure? Email, gmail chat, phone? Did you edit the interview for space, grammar, coherence, etc.? How did you do it?

Thursday, August 06, 2009

Paca's Long Term Balanced Budget

This is really rough, but I need to do real research to make it better, so let's go with this for now.

With regard to budgets, we in the U.S. are typically offered two choices: 1) no balanced budget rules or 2) an annual balanced budget. Currently, 32 states have a balanced budget amendment in their constitution while 11 more have statutory rules. That's 43 of 50 states. Meanwhile, the federal government has none. As is obvious to anyone watching, there are problems with both solutions.

The major problem with no balanced budget rule is clear: government has a huge tendency to spend for the now and end up with a growing permanent debt. The current national debt, according to this debt clock is about 11.5 TRILLION dollars or $38,000 a person. It could be worse. In WWII, the debt was even higher than now as a percentage of GDP, so we can recover, but that doesn't mean this is good. I'm getting some different numbers depending on where I look, but it seems that we currently pay around 500 or 600 billion dollars every year just on interest payments for the debt. Just 2 years of that interest pays for the entire trillion dollars over 10 years proposed health reform package currently being debated. That's more than the budgets of homeland security, education, HUD, energy, VA, EPA, FDA, and more combined. If I'm reading this correctly, the amount that the U.S. spend on paying interest on our debt is about the size of the UK's entire budget. The whole thing. pdf link, page 12 We could pay interest... or fund the entire government of a major European nation. (Crap! I just remembered that's pounds, so it doesn't work, but it sounds so good that I'm leaving it.) An annual balanced budget rule prevents a government from getting into a hole like we have over the long term by preventing deficit spending.

But there are problems with an annual balanced budget as well. Often we think of deficit spending as inherently bad, but it's actually a very common occurrence among the most fiscally responsible people. The greatest example of routine deficit spending is called retirement. When you retire, you often spend more money than you bring in. However, this can be just fine assuming you have saved enough to make up the difference. The problem with deficit spending comes, of course, when you have no savings.

What an annual balanced budget essentially does is force state governments to operate paycheck to paycheck. Yes, they can save under such requirements, but the motivation to do so evaporates, because you aren't allowed to use those savings when times get tough later. It's like telling people they should save for retirement, but by the way, when they are retired, they can never spend more money than they are bringing in while retired. The motivation for saving would be greatly reduced, because it enforces privation whenever temporary revenues fall. I think this is an important point. Why would someone save for retirement if there's a rule in place saying they can only spend what they earn in social security? Saving for retirement become useless.

Moreover, cutting during bad times, which all the states are doing, can feed right into increasing the bad times. Revenues are down, so you cut all the workers who then don't buy anything, which then decreases revenue, so you cut more workers....

So what's the solution? Why not a longer term balanced budget? Something greater than a year. Here's a guy who says it should be five years. Instead of trying to find the magic year though, it might be better to require the right behavior: Force the government to save when times are good and then allow them to spend when times are bad. How can you do so?

How about requiring a certain percentage of growth in revenue during times of GDP growth to go into savings, and then allowing those savings to be spent only when 1) GDP is declining, 2) there is a major war of national security with a state of war formally declared by Congress (so nothing post-Korean War would count, I don't think), or 3) reasonable leverage, a term to be "defined" later.

Easy ideas so far, but exactly how much are you required to save and how much are you allowed to spend? That's the million dollar question, and not one easily answered. One way to tackle it is to specifically save so as to replace the drop in revenue during a recession cycle. We need three main numbers: 1) percent drop of revenue per annum during downturns, 2) number of years of typical recession, and 3) the distance between recessions. Add 1) and 2) together to get the amount you need to save, and then save a percent in growth years based upon 3), so that it matches 1) and 2). This gives the savings requirement.

OK, I just spent longer than I should have trying to figure out the formula, which it turns out is exceedingly difficult for little old me who's never taken an economics course, but I think the principle is clear. The government is required to save a percentage of growth in good years to replace drops in bad years.

But what about the spending requirements? How much over current yearly revenues can be spent? One answer is that you can spend whatever was saved beyond current revenues, and that's it. Apart from savings, you operate entirely on a year-by-year balanced budget.

But that's a limited answer, because it assumes the government will never have a justifiable reason to take out a loan, even though we allow individuals and businesses to do so all the time. Reasonable leverage is an accepted part of most business models. But what is "reasonable leverage" and what is "stealing from our children"? I haven't figured out the answer, but I have a few ideas. First, reasonable leverage must be deficit neutral over the long term. I have in mind here something like using money now to make medical records electronic which will save more money later. But you can't just say that and let it go, hoping it turns out okay. There has to be a real plan that can be tracked. You must write up a plan saying when the savings will come and then monitor that progress. If it's a 10 year plan and you haven't gotten the money back within 10 years, then the gig is up and you've got to find the lost money from increased revenues or cutting spending. If the program is so vague that nothing can be tracked or it might help our general economy one day... well, that's not "reasonable leverage". That's just something you think is a good idea and must get funded without running a deficit for it. The next requirement is that it must meet some standards for being a safe amount of leverage. I have in mind something like the ratings given by Moody's or Standard & Poor. I have no idea how those work; the key is that reasonable leverage is safe and deficit neutral in the long term.

What I'm ending up with here is not really a balanced budget, but a small set of requirements that all together keep the financial house in order:

a) The government CAN run a deficit, but only in three ways: 1) it can use savings to do it, 2) it must be trackable, verifiable, and small "reasonable leverage", or 3) there's some national emergency such as a state of war (I mean a real state of war per the Constitution, not a police action) when deficits just pale in comparison.

b) When the economy is growing, the government MUST save a portion exactly calculated to compensate for drops in revenue during inevitable recessions.

c) Everything that isn't covered under a) or b) must follow some sort of PAYGO model.

Tuesday, August 04, 2009

23 years and nothing

I've spent 23 years of my life in various levels of school, earning a masters in philosophy and becoming a doctoral candidate in linguistics, and, yet, I just spent some time looking at positions in independent secondary schools, and all evidence indicates that I am qualified to teach nothing.

Monday, August 03, 2009

Prove it!

I have until Friday to convince my chair the dissertation is going somewhere interesting. After that, it's committee time.

Fun fun!

And if you think my chair is tough, you should talk to my table (he says with his best Groucho Marx impression).

Saturday, August 01, 2009

Movies better than the books?

It's a cliché that movies made from books are always worse than the book. But I do think there are exceptions. For instance,

I really enjoy the movie The World According to Garp, with Robin Williams (and transgendered John Lithgow!) from the early or mid 80s. It's a weird movie in that you can interpret it entirely differently depending on your mood at the time. Is it a comedy with some serious moments or a tragedy with a little quirk? It goes back and forth. But then I read the John Irving novel, and, well, I never even finished it. I think I gave up when the bears at the hotel jumped on unicycles. Or something.

And there's The Razor's Edge with Bill Murray. Another great movie that really challenges one's world view. Is it a tragedy or a Buddhist meditation on non-attachment or what? Many layers. I read M. Somerset Maugham's original, but it didn't live up to the movie.

The Jurassic Park movie was better than Crichton's novel, too. Crichton stretched the chaos theory metaphor far more than it could be stretched. When you've got dinosaurs running around eating people, it's hard to step back and worry about chaos.

One theme here is that I saw the movie first and read the novel later. But despite very well regarded authors (at least for what they do) in Irving, Maugham, and Crichton, I won't re-read these books, but I will see the movies again one day. I wonder if there are any books/movies where I read the book first, but liked the movie better. I'll have to stew on that.

How about you? Any movies from books where you like the movie better?