27 November 2005


I've used up almost all of my Thanksgiving leftovers. We've all been eating turkey sandwiches (today's variety was a delicious open-faced melt with gruyère cheese) and today I used up the extra vegetables and the more carcass-like bits of the turkey to make soup. I had one hearty serving for lunch and save enough for another hearty lunch tomorrow.

See, I'm as good a cook as Amrys!

26 November 2005


Img_0623I decided to cook a mini-Thanksgiving dinner for my first winter here in the UK. I had originally considered inviting lots of people over for dinner, but rather quickly backed off from that idea once I had more carefully considered the amount of work ahead of me. So on Tuesday night Becky gave me a lift to Tesco, where I bought the fixings for our meal (the new, sane guest list was just the 5 of us living at 43 Osler).

I got a 5.4kg turkey for 50% off, plus numerous other things needed to make stuffing, gravy and a roast vegetable medley which comprised the menu. The stuff that's hard to find in stores here always surprises me; this time it was dried cranberries (for the stuffing) and apple cider of any kind other than Scrumpy's, which they only sell in a 1.5L plastic bottle, usually to homeless people.

Img_0626I foolishly left the turkey in the fridge to defrost on Tuesday night, disregarding the info on the label stating that it would take 40 - 48 hours to defrost in a cool room! I took the turkey out after I got home from work on Wednesday, assuming it would be completely thawed. Well, it was probably 40% unfrozen at that point and it needed to brine overnight (the ultimate secret to a moist bird). I left it on the counter for a couple of hours before coming back downstairs to prep the brine in the big 3 gallon bucket I had procured for this purpose. One interesting problem with completely submerging a turkey in brine is that turkeys float in water which is at the proper saltiness for brining. I weighed the bird down with the remainder of my bag of cooking salt, covered it up and left it to do a combo thaw/brine overnight.

Thursday morning I had to lead the group meeting at work at 10:30AM. After that was taken care of I came back home to start cooking. I had two very similar recipes for cranberry/apple/sausage stuffing but unfortunately they differed in relative proportions of some of the ingredients by as much as twofold! At first I tried to figure out which one was safer to follow, but I later decided that what it really meant was that even if I really screwed up I could almost always be claiming to be following one of the recipes. I also at this point realised that instead of buying rosemary, sage and thyme I had bought sage, sage and thyme. So from this point forward it was gonna be "Sage Turkey ala Geoffrois".

I sauteed the sausage, onions, celery, apples and cranberries up into a nice mix, cubed and toasted my bread and then mixed them up in what was turning out to be a very nice smelling beginning (there was a strong aroma of sage). I pulled the turkey out of his bath, removed the giblets and the "neck" (what the hell are you supposed to do with that thing?) and arrayed the bird on the roasting tin. I had mixed up some olive oil with herbs, spices and garlic, so I liberally applied to ensure a moist, evenly browned turkey. I stuffed it with about half my stuffing, inserted a meat thermometer and popped it in the oven.

A little more than three hours later, the bird was at the right temp and looking deliciously browned. The vegetables (onions, potatoes, sweet potatoes, carrots and courgettes) were roasting (kudos to the MRhé technique of liberally applying olive oil, salt and pepper) and the extra stuffing needed a few more minutes of baking. I pulled the bird out, and siphoned off some pan drippings to mix with chicken stock and the giblets to cook up some gravy (another thing I'd never done before). I never really got why people always complain about lumpy gravy before, but I finally understood the difficulty of breaking up the clumps of flour while trying to thicken same. Also, in case anyone is wondering, you can use self-raising flour (all we had in the house) to make gravy.

When all was ready, Becky and I carved the bird (which was mangled, despite my sharpening the knives) and everything turned out to be delicious. The turkey was moist and tender, the stuffing was great, the veg were a nice medley that didn't require too much effort (how does anybody actually do a full version of this?!) and the gravy (I don't even like gravy) was really nice. We had home made berry crumble (with homegrown redcurrants and brambleberries) for dessert, which was actually really good (although not exactly traditional Thanksgiving fare).

All-in-all a successful feast; and for that, I am Thankful.

23 November 2005


The phone on my desk is a 1980s era ASCOM Berkshire Select. I wanted to use it on a conference call today so I wanted to be able to mute the phone. Unfortunately the only three buttons (beyond the number pad) are labelled R, LR and S, none of which sound promising for mute functionality. A web search revealed that the "S" button is, in fact, the mute button. Why "S" you ask? Because it stands for "Secret".

While I found that tidbit amusing, I was not amused by the actual functionality of the Secret button. Modern phones toggle on and off so you can set it on mute and ignore it until you want to contribute to the call. The Berkshire series, however, requries you to hold down the Secret button whilst discussing your secrets. I was about halfway through designing a complicated system consisting of some tape, a pound coin and my RAPESCO brand hole punch to keep it depressed, but allow me to toggle it off, but instead I decided to use the phone in Lon's office (he's out of town).

18 November 2005

In Denial

David Irving, a British "revisionist historian" is currently sitting in an Austrian prison for publicly denying the holocaust while in that country. How is it possible that 10 countries, including Austria, can have such harsh laws against advocating such beliefs? The maximum punishment he could face is 20 years in prison!

Irving seems to have taken an "Intelligent Design" style approach to the Holocaust; he avoids the oft-mocked hardline claims such as complete denial of the Holocaust and instead focuses on supposedly rigorous "research" claiming things like: the death toll was much lower than is currently supposed, Hitler had no knowledge of the ongoing extermination of Jews, there were no gas chambers at Auschwitz, etc. His works have become much-touted by neo-Nazi and neo-fascist groups, further tarnishing his once impressive academic reputation.

But surely his decision to say stupid things shouldn't be punishable by imprisonment? People deny history and reality every day, but we don't expect them to go to jail for it. Partially this illustrates one of the differences between American jurisprudence and that of European democracies. The founding fathers of the United States considered freedom of speech to be so paramount that it is featured in the very first amendment to the Constitution. I'm certainly not saying that European governments are rampantly censoring their citizens, just that such a law (banning belief or non-belief of anything) could never be passed in the US, where the right for any nutcase to say what he pleases is considered to be the ultimate safeguard against tyrrany.

17 November 2005

En Fuego

FireIt's getting cold here now, and my attic room is worse than the rest of the house (between my radiator being the last place that the hot water gets circulated to and the lack of decent insulation out to the roof). Becky's mom generously offered me her 1970's era electric faux-fireplace space heater, which keeps me warm and adds some kitschy style to my room.

15 November 2005

Pictures, Finally

I finally posted my pictures from hiking in Zion and Bryce Canyon National Parks in Utah. Also, for those of you who don't read 2GD but are poker fans, check out: Pot Oddities.

11 November 2005

Weekend Update

This weekend's forecast: hosage.

I'm going through many iterations of the same analysis these days, each correcting a little problem from the previous try. I think this is typical of the scientific method, but I was feeling a bit run down. I presented some of the results on a conference call today and it went alright, so I feel better, although it also meant a hellacious workload from now until Wednesday morning (when I need to present in London at 9AM).

It's OK, though, since I never get anything done without a little pressure on me. It might mean that any updates on SLC arrive late (or never) but I should put some pics up from Zion/Bryce, since they're fairly awesome.

09 November 2005

Bar's over there

The college secretary sent an email to Brasenose students this morning with the subject, "Information about a career at the Bar". Although the first thing in the message was an invitation to a drinks reception, it's unfortunately about studying Law.

06 November 2005

Jet Lag Blues

Here I am back in Merry Olde England again, after about 3 weeks in the USA. Several parts of the trip deserve lengthy posts, including:

  • ASHG conference in Salt Lake City

  • road trip and hiking through Zion and Bryce

  • hanging oot in Beantowne

Also, I have some money pics from item (B) which should be posted soon. For now, I'm gonna unpack my bags, read my mail and try to get back on BST.