Not Awful Offal!

Haggis, that
is. 

haggis

I’ve heard haggis described as “a sheep, turned inside out”. 
Traditionally consisting of all the bits of a sheep you weren’t going
to serve up in recognizable form (the “offal”) made into a sausage and
cooked in the
sheep’s stomach.  Well, you asked.    And before
you get disgusted, set
down that forkful of breakfast sausage you have in hand, and give it a
good, hard think:  its ingredients aren’t a lot different.

Anyway, I’ve enjoyed haggis from and in Scotland.  Sadly, it’s not
the sort of thing that is easily importable, anywhere, labeled as
food.  As I’ve only ever managed to get to Scotland once, it
occurred to me that the only way to get a haggis fix would be to figure
out how to make it myself…  though I drew the line at having to
cook it in a sheep’s stomach.

Pictured above is Haggis the Second.  Haggis the First was
pleasant, but really more of a  lamb hash — made with ground lamb
and rolled oats, it tasted far more of, well, lamb than my recollection
of something slightly chewy, spicy, and oaty.  I decided I needed
to tackle the oat problem, as well as introduce some of the more
“intense” bits of meat (offal).

First up, the oats.  And, here’s a visual aid:

oats

Clockwise, from the top
left: 

  • old fashioned rolled oats,
    made from oats that have been parcooked and pressed through rollers
  • Irish, or steel-cut oatmeal,
    oats that have been literally sliced into pieces
  • Scottish oatmeal,
    stone-ground oats
  • Quick-cooking rolled oats,
    same as old fashioned, but flaked into smaller pieces

Naturally, I decided I’d better go Scottish for this application. 
Unfortunately, I didn’t have any in the cupboard.  Wasn’t really
sure where to find them around here, either.  So, I took the
simple route, and ordered online from the
MegaOnlineEmporium.   I was only mildly put off by the fact
that I had to purchase 4 20oz packages (5lbs).  Then there was an
unfortunate collision betweent their choice of CutRateShipper and some
bad weather in our area, which lead to me exercising my Angry Customer
Rights when the 2-day delivery still hadn’t shown after 5 days, and
another box was sent (free of charge, overnight, free of charge, with
ReputableShipper).  Never mind that there was more weather — the
second box was on my doorstep the next day.  And a few days later
(making it a week late), the first box.  “Sorry, no returns on
grocery items”.  I had 10lbs of Scottish oatmeal (in convenient
store display boxes):

a lot of oatmeal

For reference, that is enough for Haggis the 2nd through 16th.

Moving on.  To get that nutty flavour, I toasted the 2 cups of
oats:

toasted oats

And then the trick was to get the proper meat texture.  Apart from
the 1lb of ground lamb pictured above (beside the toasted oats), I
boiled 1/2 lb beef liver and 1/2 lb beef heart, with onions.  That
essentially cooked the meats, and made a broth.

Offal about to be chopped —

parboiled offal

Mixed all together with ground lamb, toasted oats, spices, and ready to
go (cheesecloth, not sheep stomach):

raw haggis

A couple of hours of steaming (using that fine broth) — voila!

cooked haggis

My (completely non-authoritative) opinion:  the texture really
worked, and I need to work on the spices.

Of course,  I’m going to have to get some proper haggis soon to do
some taste comparison!

Newton v. Air

I have long struggled with finding the right way to keep track of
calendars, lists, plans, etc, while on the go.  I was an “early
adopter” of the whole “Personal Digital Assistant” (PDA) thing.  I
had one of the early (though not earliest) Apple Newtons, and bought a
final generation Newton
MessagePad 2100
in 1998, just weeks before Steve Jobs announced
that Apple was dropping the whole product (and screwing over thousands
of 3rd party application developers — you’d’ve thought they’d learned
a lesson? I doubt many of them are writing iPhone apps). 

The Apple Newton was cool.  It was quite powerful as a digital
assistant, and even occasionally useful for things like taking notes in
meetings, when you didn’t want to bring a luggable notebook (if you
even had one).    But, it wasn’t a fully-fledged
computer, and had challenges sync’ing seamlessly with your desktop
applications.  The Palm got that part right — drop  your
device in its cradle and press a button to sync. 

After the Newton, I went through several generations of Palm devices
(only some of them died from
deceleration trauma!), and my last one, the Tungsten T3, is still
sitting in its cradle, plugged into my computer.  I stopped
carrying it around last year when I finally found an iPhone app that
could do the T3’s last remaining task:  manage my grocery
list.  

Which is not to say that the iPhone does all the things I used to do
with the Newton.  I suppose I could download a Libertarian quiz
app for it.  But, mostly, I gave up on using these small devices
to manage my increasingly complex (and possibly indicative of neurotic
leanings) ToDo lists, etc. 

It all kind of felt like reverse progress.

So — when I saw someone with an 11″ Macbook Air, the week before
Christmas, a number of threads wound together in a momentary
flash:  here was a device that was not a lot bigger than the
Newton, and only fractionally bigger than an iPad, but which could
support all those new lists and calendars and applications as well as be a reasonable sole
compute platform for a week’s business trip.  YMMV, of course, but
this made a lot more sense for me than an iPad, cool though they
are. 

Enough about me — let’s compare the MessagePad 2100 and the 11″ Air,
shall we?

Okay — the Newton has a smaller surface area:

top view

top centred

But it is at least twice as thick as the Air:

side view

The Newton (sans keyboard) is most of a pound lighter than the Air:

newton weight

Air weight

And it has genuine PCMCIA slots for expansion!

Newton adds

But, when it comes time to set up for work, while the Newton’s keyboard
has a much nicer feel (key travel), frankly the Newton/keyboard combo
is a lot harder to balance in your lap:

open for work

Why, yes, the Newton does still work!  (Battery is fried, though):

still alive!

Mood: Alive!

Amenities in an Amsterdam hotel: shampoo, conditioner and hand lotion in “mood therapy”.

Moods are: “calm”, “happy” and “alive”. I must confess, I had not really considered the state of being not dead was especially a mood, before!

 

That Time, Again

Well, yesterday, it was that time again —  time for a different
view on my way to work.

(Luckstone Quarry lookout, W&OD bike trail)

view

A momentary aberration in my daily commute — Bike to Work Day! (Or, as
I like to think of it — “Guilt-free eating day” 😉 ).

bike 

Yesterday’s ride was 19mi in, and 19mi home, in about 90min
(each).  I was pretty pleased — given that the last time I’d
ridden seriously might well have been BtWD 2007.  I had arranged
myself not to have to bring lots of stuff with me (left the computer at
work the night before, et cetera).  It made a big difference not
to have to use a backpack.  Though, to do this on a basis more
regular than every 3 years, I’d want to do something about those knobby
tires, too.

Riding on the W&OD was mostly pretty good, except for the areas in
and around towns — it’s pretty hard to get bike traffic, cyclist
traffic, roller bladers (with their wide-swinging arms & legs),
dogs, toddlers (random and erratic trajectories) to mix on one
trail.  I only saw one accident — I think the toddler will
survive, and the cyclist picked himself up and passed me (again). 
But — far better than trying to deal with bicycle & car traffic on
some of the 8-lane concrete oceans around here.  It’s nice to have
the trail.