Thursday, December 05 2019

new computers, pork chops with soup, and dumb jokes at home depot



Dear Journal,

Good morning, everyone! Hope you’re doing well today. You’re probably getting ready for the day, sitting in traffic, or maybe even already sitting at your desk at work, but I’m lucky enough to be beginning my long weekend. After I finish this journal entry, we’re going to pack the car, I’m going to take a quick shower, then we’re going to make our way to Chicago in time more me to leave with my dad to go to the tailgate.

I’m pretty excited. Not only to I get to hang out today, drink some beer, and maybe even eat some barbecue, but on top of it all, it’s game day. And after tonight, we’ll know if the Bears really have a chance in the playoffs, or if all this momentum is just delusional fumes from beating a really a really beatable team late in the season.

Yesterday was a pretty great day. I went into the office, and since most people work from home on Wednesdays, it was a quiet day. I had plenty of time to finish my work for the week, and then even clean up some of my local configs. The other day, my work told me that anyone with a laptop older than three years old can request an upgrade, and mine is going on four. So I’m starting to get things cleaned up so I can turn it in and start afresh. If anything, maybe be a little less liberal with the stickers this time. For some reason, it’s totally expected in my line of work that you plaster hundreds of stickers on the front of your expensive Macbook, and even though that fad has always puzzled me, I went along with it. I haven’t decided if I’m going to do that again. Yes, over time it looks tacky, but it does make it easier to identify your laptop in a line-up.

Speaking of new laptops, Marissa’s new chromebook just arrived in the mail. She went with a Lenovo Yogabook. The screen is much bigger and brighter in person. Sitting on your lap, it almost feels a bit like a slimmed down gaming laptop. Yesterday she was telling me about how good it felt to finally sit down with your own computer and catch up on email and other online chores. We had a shared dining room computer in the meantime, but being able to multi-task on the couch is a big win for her, and I can relate.

After I caught the bus home, Marissa and I went to Hy-Vee to pick up dinner. I had a loose idea for making potato and leak soup with a side of pork chops, so we grabbed a stalk of leaks, a few potatoes, and some pork. These days, I’m trying to get into cooking without recipes, and potato leak soup felt like a good place to start. Like all soups, it began with butter and onions, then chicken broth and some other herbs, and finally the potatoes. Once the potatoes tenderized, I carefully dumped the soup into a blender. I knew luck was on my side for this recipe because it filled the blender exactly to the top. The broth, leaks, and tender potatoes came together in a gentle slurry, and I dumped it back into my dutch oven for seasoning.

As the soup finished, I seasoned two thick pork chops and cooked them in butter. Pork, like poultry, normally makes me nervous. I think I have a mild case of undercooked-meat-a-phobia, but the other day I watched a YouTube video that was pretty helpful and started to give me peace of mind. It turns out that the “safe temperature” for cooking meat published by the FDA usually corresponds with the temperature you need to kill all the bacteria in a substance instantly. The video host showed a line graph, temperature against time to sterilize, and for chicken, all the bacteria was killed in just under a second at 165. “But at 130 or 140, you can still get there,” he explained. “It just might take a few extra minutes.”

I think if I had to explain it, cooking meat to safe temperature is not an active process. It would be different if you could zap each bacterium with a tiny microscope mounted machine gun, but it’s more like manipulating probability. If you raise the temperature to the point where 99 out of every 100 bacteria die every minute, then after about 10 minutes you are either left with no bacteria or one very, very lucky bacteria who is ready to party in your pork chop. And at a certain point, you can’t live your life counting on being that lucky.

Dinner was a success. I took the pork chops out of the herb butter at 140F and let them coast up to temperature under some tinfoil. I toasted some sliced bread for the top of the soup, and since I was feeling very fancy, I garnished with some snipped leaks.

Marissa and I ate dinner, then jumped in the car to run a quick errand at home depot. She had to buy some materials to make a sign for her art gallery. While grabbing the wood, she flagged down an employee to help cut the two wood sheets to size. “Our saw is broken,” the employee said. “That thing breaks at least once a month,” Marissa grumbled under her breath to me.

We checked out at the front. A straight faced employee reluctantly scanned the items in our cart. “Sorry we weren’t able to cut this for you,” the lady murmured as she reached around the cart with the scanner. “It’s OK,” I replied. “We’re just going to use a sword.” The lady chortled, then after thinking about the joke for another second, erupted in laughter. “I have been trying to get on that lady’s good side for a while now,” Marissa said as we were walking back to the car. “I can’t believe it only took you one joke.”

“And a stupid joke, at that.” I added.

That’s what I got today. It’s probably high time to pack the car. I’m excited to see my family, I’m excited to see the Bears play, and probably most of all, I’m excited to pick up my son from Grandma and Grandpa’s house. I hope you all have a wonderful day today. Bear down!