Sunday, February 26, 2006

Ham Boiled in Beer

Take a ham, whole or half depending on what fits in your stock pot, and cover it with beer (preferably a nut brown ale, but a lager will do) and/or good apple cider--That means crushed apples, not corn sugar water with apple flavoring. Set it to boil. Add a cinnamon stick, a few whole cloves, a large crumbled bay leaf, half a dozen pepper corns and half a teaspoon of whole mustard seed. Add anything else you like such as star anise, caraway seed, juniper berries, crushed red pepper, et cetera and so forth, not to mention so on (the old so-and-so.) Keep it simmering for a couple of hours. When pieces fall off the bone it's done. Remove from broth, cool, slice and serve. You can eat it anyway you like ham. It's best when cold and made into sandwiches. If you do this with what ever passes for cheap in this exorbitant world, your modest ham will compare favorably to the expensive Black Forest type.
I made this up after reading a Dick Francis mystery in which he talked about the old -- Sussex, I think -- English way of boiling ham in beer.
-- ml

Monday, February 06, 2006

Driveway Management Seminars

My neighbor Bill shakes his head when he is told that the local store of a large company controls its thermostat in Atlanta.
We agree that this is typical of the wrong headedness of current managerial practice which holds that numbers on a computer screen are more valid than what happens in the field (or on the shop floor).

It reminds me of two Del stories.

At one time, about 1951, Del was in charge of building and operating the largest civilian computer west of the Mississippi River. At that time computers were huge but sensitive beasts, very finicky about temperature. So the company built a new building to house this computer and the rest of the head office in the U District of Seattle.
Soon the beast was in operation but not happy. Tubes -- vacuum tubes -- were blowing too frequently. So Del put up a sign telling all the employees not to change the thermostat.
Still it was way too warm when Del arrives for his night shift. The day workers raised the temp. So Del calls in a workman to fix the problem. The thermostat is left unchanged. The sensor is left in the old position. The control wire to the heating system is rerouted to a new thermostat hidden in a locked closet. So now the actual control is out of reach of all but Del. The staff are deliriously happy twisting what they think is the control up and down. Vacuum tube consumption returns to normal.

Del was an engineer. He liked things to be just so. He liked to do things in a certain way. This tended to piss some people off. My observation is that Del was different from most of the species only in his readiness to admit that he wanted it done thus-and-so. Too many of the rest of us try to be too diplomatic and end in a muddle.
As an example of Del's gans-organizertness he told a story on himself.

As the weather became colder he liked to add a blanket for warmth. The system was that in the summer he slept with just a sheet. When October arrived he added a blanket. November brought another. December yielded a third and January reached the summit of four blankets. Under them all Del was quite snug. With February the process went into reverse with a blanket coming off each month until only the summer sheet remained. A settled habit which he was sure met the case with precision and economy.

Then his parents gave him an electric blanket.

Naturally this revealed, instantly, how unpleasant that great winter weight of blankets was. With glee he spread the blanket on his bed in October. In November he turned it on to 'low'. In December it went to 'medium' and Del defied the arctic outflows to do their worst. January brought 'high' and all was toasty warm as the flurries snaeed without. February returned to 'medium' as the Great NW Rain(tm) continued.
It was in April that he did his spring cleaning. On his hands and knees he swept the mop under the bed. "What's that dangling there?" he queried. He pulled the bed away from the wall to get at it only to discover: a plug. The plug that connected his electric blanket to Grand Coulee Dam.
Del had passed the winter comfortably under a mere single blanket.

-- ml