Sunday, December 9, 2018


For a while now I've been intrigued by the notion of sous-vide cooking. Basically, you seal whatever food you want to cook in a plastic bag and put it in a hot water bath at a very specific temperature for a long time until it slowly reaches that temperature. It over complicates something while being more precise which somehow appeals to my nature. Typically a sous-vide device attaches to a large pot of water and circulates that water while maintaining a very exact temperature. The cheapest one on Amazon is $50 but you can pay well over $100 if you feel you need for wi-fi and bluetooth connectivity. It occurred to me that I could use a temperature controller I have on hand along with a hotplate to perhaps achieve the same results.

Last night I ran an experiment. It also happens that I wanted to hard boil some eggs. So I set my temperature controller to 170 and threw in some eggs, and left them for an hour. My temperature controller has a high and low alarm which I set to 172 and 168*. The alarm never went off which means the temperature was within a single degree of the 170 mark. I'd love to tell you how the eggs turned out but I make them for my lunch so I won't know until Monday.

Today I wanted to make a real go of it and sous-vide some steaks. Wendy and I stopped by Wal-Mart and picked up a couple NY strip steaks, 1.23 lbs total or about 10 oz each. $12.26 for the pair. We followed these instructions. It took a minute to dial in the hotplate and temperature controller. Turns out you want to set the hot plate to just barely enough to keep it at the desired temperature. If you simply put it on high it will heat the water too much and bounce well above your set point. That website recommended from 129 to 134 degrees for medium-rare. So I set the temperature controller to 130 and set the high/low alarms to 135/128*. The only time the alarm went off was when I felt the need to mess with the equilibrium by moving the steaks around. After an hour we started our side and after an hour and a half we took out the steaks and gave them a sear on the stovetop. Fear not Pop, I'm totally down with the Maillard reaction.

I have to say, it was about the best steak I've ever had. Wendy liked it too. The only seasoning we did was to salt and pepper them before putting them in the bags. We actually bought some A-1 steak sauce while we were getting the steaks but I didn't need that at all. It was so juicy and delicious and wonderful.

All of the sous-vide units sold brag about their precise temperature control, to within a tenth of a degree. But all sous-vide recipes give a range of temperatures. So why do you need control to within a tenth of a degree if there's a 5 degree window on the recipe? That being said I might actually shell out for a standard sous-vide device. While doing research I read reviews that suggested something pretty awesome. You can use those devices in an igloo style cooler. And they even have sous-vide balls to put on top. Can you imagine cooking in a container insulated on all six sides? I can't fathom getting much more efficient than that. One drawback of this method is that all the steaks are cooked the same. So if the family can't agree on how they're cooked it's a no go. But as Wendy found in an article she read online, if you want your steak well done *cough* my ex *cough* then why are you bothering with sous-vide?

All in all, it was a grand success.


*respectively. Of course, it's respectively. What kind of lunatic would say a pair of this and a pair of that and it wouldn't be respectively? Saying respectively is redundant.

Sunday, September 9, 2018

Emergency Room Visit

I'm fine...but I did go the emergency room late Saturday night. The short story is I had an extremely sore throat that was cutting off my airways that turned out to be strep. It started Friday evening with a mild sore throat. All day Saturday it got worse and worse. It got to the point where it was both extremely painful and extremely difficult to swallow. I was gritting my teeth every time. This, however, still isn't enough to warrant a trip to the ER. The real problem is when I went to take a nap Saturday. The moment I fell asleep my airways relaxed and closed and I woke up gasping. I thought maybe it was a sinus thing (turns out, definitely not) so I went and bought some (generic) Sudafed. That evening I tried to sleep again. This time in a recliner chair so I was propped up a bit. Plenty of time had passed if the Sudafed was going to do anything. I had the same problem, the moment I fell asleep my airway closed and I woke up gasping. This was the point it became untenable and went to the ER. I drove a very unhappy Adam home first and went in. Seeing as I had a non-life-threatening problem on a Saturday night I was braced for a long visit.

There were, blessedly, only two people in front of me. The throat culture (also blessedly and unfathomably) only took 20 minutes to run. They gave me a single shot for the strep throat. Which is pretty cool in and of itself that they can cure strep with a single, if not quite painful, shot. It still hurts today. They also gave me a couple pills for the swelling. I told the doctor my airway was being cut off but I couldn't help but notice when he referenced it he said it felt like my airway was being cut off. The second time he said felt I pressed him on it. It turns out the sensation I was feeling as I fell asleep probably wasn't actually cutting off my airways. It felt like what it feels like when I fall asleep on my back and I snore terribly. It did occur to me before I went in that that snoring sensation may not actually cut off my airway. But when I snore all night I wake up with a sore throat and a swollen uvula. So if I'm starting out the sleep session with a sore throat and some very swollen tonsils (did I mention the super swollen tonsils?) then what sort of state am I going to wake up in? It wasn't quite as bad as cutting off my airways but still untenable* enough for an ER trip. The nurse said the pills would reduce swelling for 24 hours. He also said the shot would cure the strep in 24 to 48 hours. That math was not missed by me. So I asked specifically to make sure the swelling would be reduced until the strep was cured enough not to swell up again. He laughed and assured me it would.

Here's the best part of this story, I've been saving it for last. When I was waiting in the lobby for the strep swab test results somebody come to get me. She said something along the lines of we'd like to put you in room 8 with an I'm-sorry-about-this look on her face. I said I'm sure room 8 is fine, I'm not picky. She said it's a little weird, there's only a bed in the middle of the floor and nothing else. No chairs, nothing. But the doc only has to go over the test results, give me some meds, and I should be in and out. I said I'm sure it's fine and I love the sound of in and out. As we went to room 8 another person asked where she was going with me? Like, we're full, where you going? She said room 8, the look on the other lady's face was fascinating. A look saying, wow, really? And she didn't say another word, oddly so. Upon arriving in room 8 I thought about taking pictures. In retrospect I really wish I had. I didn't wan't anybody to see me taking pictures so I didn't. Let me describe room 8. It was basically the psych ward of ER exam rooms. Imagine a padded room, without the pads. Imagine a jail cell without the weird toilet sink combo unit**. There was in fact only a bed in the room, right in the middle of the floor, high enough to sit on comfortably. This bed was not easily moved, possibly impossible to move, I didn't try. Made of solid wood. There was a very prison-esque mattress in that it was vinyl covered foam. Although I must say, decidedly thicker than a prison mattress**. There was a fairly standard pillow and sheet. Other than that there was utterly nothing else in the room. Including door handles on the inside of the two doors. Let me repeat, the doors had no handles on the inside. It was like the hospital was saying, "It's not quite enough to lock you in here, we must remove the handles so you're clear there's no hope of escape." While I was in there the door was propped open. As a couple funny asides, when the nurse gave me the shot it was in my rear so he wanted to shut the door but propped it open first. Before doing so he said to someone outside that if he's not back out in five minutes to come get him. Also, the administrative lady that talked with me about billing accidentally knocked the door as she left and it started to close. You've never seen someone jump up as fast as I did to catch that door. You'd think I just got another shot in my ass. And finally, I'm ending with the best part of this room, the wooden bed had a strip of molding going down the middle of both sides horizontally. There were 3 inch slots every foot or so. Perfect if you wanted to strap someone down.

The next time you visit the ER you might tell them you're fine with room 8. You'll look like you have inside knowledge and it should trigger an excellent expression. Of course, it's unlikely you'll ever go to the ER for anything quite as trivial as strep throat so you might actually need a medial device or two in your room.

Man o man, I wish I had taken some surreptitious*** snapshots. And wow has this turned into the longest email about a minor ER visit. That room 8 was just so cool. We should totally make an escape room and call it room 8. That's such a good idea. People would ask why we called it room 8 and we could say it was based on an actual room at the hospital. And once in a blue moon a medical person would come through and ask how I know about room 8 and I can look them right in the eye and say with a ominous voice, "Because I've been there."


*Great word, I can use it twice.
**Yes I'm embarrassed but just a little bit proud that I know this.
***Great word and an alliteration

Sunday, June 25, 2017

​Wendy and I decided to take the kayaks again from Alcova to Casper. We've had an ongoing problem with our sleeping mats separating in the night as we cuddled together. In the past we've tried clamps meant for tarps, and even made holes in the sides and used nuts and bolts to hold them together. Nothing worked. So Friday night I had yet another bright idea and thought maybe I could make a sleeve out of fabric to keep them from separating. So we picked up some fabric from Wal-Mart. I hemmed the sides and sewed it into a tube.

Not being in any particular hurry we gathered all of our stuff, made yet another trip to Wal-Mart and headed out to Alcova. We dropped off Wendy's Acadia at Robertson road and went
​  to the Chalk Bluffs campground where we planned on spending the night. Our plan was to just stash some wood to make a fire but there was so many people there that Wendy suggested that we pitch our tent to claim our spot. I was down with that and seeing as we were leaving our tent we thought we might as well leave all our clothing and whatnot. We paid for our spot and left our stuff. As a side note when I grabbed an envelope to leave our money somebody else has unwisely left their money filled envelope right there where you grab them as opposed to the secure spot where you leave them. Well we laughed and put their money where it was supposed to go, along with ours. So off to Alcova we went.
We left the Accord at Gray Reef and launched with little drama (for once). Both kayaks held air like a champ. This first trek would take 6 hours according to this pdf. We managed it in 4. We sang many songs on the way to entertain ourselves.

Back at Chalk Bluffs for the night we made a camp fire and I think we were both counting the minutes until dusk, super tired from the day. Dusk fell and so did we. We like a little candle lantern of ours. It provides a little light, a little heat and frankly makes the tent seem homey. Come sunrise the candle lantern was out and wax was everywhere. It leaked in the night. It wouldn't be so bad if it wasn't for my hand made 750 fill power down custom made quilt. So many hours went into making that thing. But as I said to Wendy at the time it's much like a hard hat in a construction site. If your cap looks brand new it just makes you look green. A few war wounds are a good thing. And the super lightweight fabric I used to make the quilt shed that wax like nobody's business. So we packed everything up and left the tent again to pick up later. The sleeve holding our mats together worked great.

Their was a nest in the top of the pavilion we camped under. The nesting pair was none too impressed with our presence.

The nest

Our unimpressed feathered friends.

She returns in spite of us.

We trekked on down the river. We stopped at Bessemer Bend for some lunch. As we were leaving some gals in floats asked if we had a pump. Their electric one had failed. We let them borrow our hand pump. One of them got over enthusiastic and broke it. They tried to fix it on the sly but it just wasn't working right. I came over and opened it up, there was a gasket that got out of whack. We put it back in place and it worked again. Yet another time they got over enthusiastic and broke it again. They knew we were waiting on them. Again I opened it up and this time the main stem came loose but I got it working again. There were multiple times where Wendy or I was trying to tell them to mellow out a little. But eventually all their floaties were aired up and we carried on our way.

When we landed at Robertson road we were deflating and loading up when there were another group of even younger girls and a guy with floaties and the type of pump you'd use to fill up a bicycle tire. I offered our pump to them as well and they gratefully accepted. Their floaties were beyond repair and could not be inflated. Eventually they asked if I wanted the pump back. Only kids that young could think returning the pump was optional.

All in all the second day took 6 hours as opposed to the pdf referenced above that said 8. I won't lie, by the end of it my arms were just plain dead. But we made it. And I'm sure we'll do it again.

Saturday, April 29, 2017

Car camping... literally

Wendy mentioned earlier in the week that she was hoping to go camping this weekend. I am, of course, always down for camping. But with the rainy weather we didn't think it would happen. Well while we were grabbing a bite Friday I suggested that maybe we could camp out and sleep in her Acadia. The weather was terrible so she wasn't too impressed with the idea and I completely agreed.

So we're headed out of town on 220 to go camping. We actually got pulled over for having a head light out. He let us off with a warning but the funny part was when he asked where we were going. We said quite truthfully "camping". Snow was quite literally falling and I'll be damned if he didn't raise one eyebrow. Apparently camping in the snow is pretty low on the list of bizarre destinations that the police hear.

Wendy maintains these BLM  campsites with her (developmentally handicapped) participants at NOWCAP. Well she knew of a campsite that had some wood somebody left behind that they would have to carry off next week. So we stopped by and picked it up on our way to where we were camping. We also brought some nice dry wood from the gas station and after some difficulty with everything being wet we got a nice fire going.

We inflated an air mattress in the back of Wendy's Acadia and piled on many, many blankets and after the fire died down went to bed.

The sun woke us up at an ungodly 6:00 in the morning. We remained quite snug in all our blankets for a while but eventually we built another fire and cooked pudgy pie cinnamon rolls. The best breakfast ever. We went for a walk and our campsite was right near the river. As we passed a boat ramp I mentioned that I was pretty sure I needed to get in. Snow was still around us and we could see our breath. Wendy, naturally, flat refused to let me get in the river.

So I grab may favorite Absorber Synthetic Drying Chamois towel and head back to the boat ramp. I don't have a swimming suit but no one is around so I strip down to my altogether. As my feet enter the water there is no other way to explain it other than pure pain. Like little knives stabbing into my skin. I wade out to about my knees, turn around, give Wendy a smile as she shakes her head. And plunge full body and head into the icy water.

I emerge and panicking hustle toward the shore. Half way there I stop, gather myself, take a deep breath, and walk the rest of the way more stoic. I dry off with the help of the angel Wendy. My poor toes as this point, the first in and that last out, are completely numb. After getting dressed my first few steps were pretty wobbly just from having no sensation in the little piggys.

We doused the fire and packed up camp which was pretty easy considering we slept in the car. The drive back was uneventful and eventually my toes regained feeling.

It's a sickness. I have to get in.