Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Time Management

Summary Notes from Time Management for System Administrators by Thomas Limoncelli:

1. Keep all your time management stuff in one place - your work and personal appointments, to do list, calendar, goals, etc.

2. Focus on the current task; use external storage to record/remember everything else.

3. Develop routines for things so there are no oopsies or important items left undone or forgotten. A good routine is to start each day with our to do list, estimate duration to complete each task, prioritize the tasks, schedule them to be completed, and work the schedule.

4. Pre-compile decisions by developing habits and mantras. Habits such as using the first quiet hour of the day to work projects, or to put gas in your car on the same day every week.

5. Maintain focus during work tasks- do not allow distractions like email, internet surfing, IM, etc to derail you. Study in a quiet environment whenever possible.

Monday, May 28, 2012

Smoked Pork and Spicy Grilled Potato Salad with Corn and NM Green Chiles

 

Memorial Day Menu

Spinach and Arugula Salad with Tomatoes

Baked Beans

Potato Rolls

Smoked Pulled Pork with Spicy BBQ Sauce

Spicy Grilled Potato Salad with Corn and NM Green Chiles

Hibiscus Iced Tea

 

Recipes Adapted from Cook’s Illustrated

 
Spicy Grilled Potato Salad with Corn and NM Green Chiles
Ingredients 
  • 1 1/2 pounds new potatoes, 2 to 3 inches long, scrubbed and unpeeled, cut into eighths
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons table salt
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper  
  • Table salt
  • 1 cup corn kernels, cooked
  • 4 NM green chiles, roasted, peeled, seeded, and diced
  • 1 jalapeño chile, seeded and minced
  • 4 tablespoons lime juice
  • 1/2 teaspoon granulated sugar
  • 5 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 scallions, green parts only, sliced thin
Instructions
  1. In large Dutch oven or stockpot, bring 4 quarts water to boil over high heat; add 1 teaspoon salt.

  2. Skewer potato pieces. Drop skewers into boiling water and boil until paring knife slips in and out of potato easily, about 10 minutes.

  3. While potatoes boil, line rimmed baking sheet with paper towels. With tongs, remove skewers to paper towel–lined baking sheet; pat potatoes dry with additional paper towels. Discard paper towels (potatoes can be cooled to room temperature, covered with plastic wrap, and kept at room temperature for up to 2 hours); brush all sides of potatoes with olive oil and sprinkle with remaining 1/2 teaspoon salt and pepper.

  4. Place skewers on hot grill; cook, turning skewers twice with tongs, until all sides are browned, 2 to 3 minutes per side over high or medium-high heat (you can hold your hand 5 inches above grill grate no longer than 2 seconds for high heat or 3 to 4 seconds for medium-high heat) or 4 to 5 minutes per side over medium or medium-low heat (you can hold your hand 5 inches above grill grate 5 to 6 seconds for medium or 7 seconds for medium-low heat).

  5. Slide hot potatoes off skewers into medium bowl and use immediately.

  6. Toss potatoes with salt, and pepper. Add corn, chiles, and jalapeños; toss to combine.

  7. Whisk lime juice and sugar in small bowl until sugar dissolves; whisk in olive oil and salt to taste. Pour mixture over potatoes and add scallions; toss to combine. Serve. (Can be covered with plastic wrap and kept at room temperature up to 30 minutes; toss before serving.)

Barbecued Pulled Pork on a Gas Grill

Ingredients

  • 1 bone-in pork roast, 6 to 8 pounds (preferably shoulder or Boston butt roast)
  • Instructions
    1. Massage your favorite dry rub into the meat (I used Penzey’s Galena Street). Wrap tightly in double layer of plastic wrap; refrigerate for at least 3 hours. (For strong flavor, the roast can be refrigerated for up to 3 days.)

    2. At least 1 hour prior to cooking, remove roast from refrigerator, unwrap, and let it come to room temperature. Soak 4 cups wood chips (I used apple) in cold water to cover for 30 minutes and drain. Place the wood chips in a small disposable aluminum pan.

    3. Place the wood-chip pan on the primary burner (the burner that will remain on during cooking), Ignite the grill, turn all the burners to high, cover, and heat until very hot and the chips are smoking heavily, about 20 minutes. (If the chips ignite, use a water-filled squirt bottle to extinguish them.) Turn the primary burner down to medium and turn off the other burner(s). Set the unwrapped roast in the disposable pan, position the pan over the cooler part of the grill, and close the lid. Barbecue for 3 hours. (The temperature inside the grill should be a constant 275 degrees; adjust the lit burner as necessary.)

    4. Adjust oven rack to middle position and preheat oven to 325 degrees. Place roast in pan and wrap with heavy-duty foil to cover completely. Place pan in oven and cook until meat is fork-tender, about 2 hours.

    5. Slide the foil-wrapped pan with the roast into a brown paper bag. Crimp top shut; rest roast 1 hour. Transfer roast to cutting board and unwrap. When cool enough to handle, "pull" pork by separating roast into muscle sections (see illustration, below), removing fat, if desired, and tearing meat into thin shreds with fingers. Place shredded meat in large bowl ; toss with 1 cup of your favorite barbecue sauce (I used Kraft Hickory Smoke mixed with shiraz wine and a few shakes of Marie Sharp hot sauce), adding more to taste. Serve with remaining sauce passed separately.

    Thursday, May 24, 2012

    Salmon Cakes

     

    Made these for dinner tonight, accompanied by roasted corn on the cob (trim loose husks from corn and roast at 425 for 40 minutes), and roasted asparagus (drizzle with olive oil, salt, lemon juice and roast at 45 for 10-15 minutes). The hubby rated them very highly and it’s a great way to get in your healthy Omega-3 fatty acids.

    Adapted from Cook’s illustrated.

    Serves 4

    If buying a skin-on salmon fillet, purchase 1 1/3 pounds of fish. This will yield 1 1/4 pounds of fish after skinning.

    Serve the salmon cakes with lemon wedges.

    Ingredients
    • 3 tablespoons plus 3/4 cup panko bread crumbs
    • 2 tablespoons minced fresh parsley or arugula
    • 2 tablespoons mayonnaise
    • 4 teaspoons lemon juice
    • 1 scallion, sliced thin
    • 1 small shallot, minced
    • 1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
    • 1/2 teaspoon salt
    • 1/2 teaspoon pepper
    • pinch cayenne pepper
    • 1 (1 1/4 pound) skinless salmon fillet , cut into 1-inch pieces
    • 3 T olive oil
    Instructions

    1. Combine 3 tablespoons panko, parsley, mayonnaise, lemon juice, scallion, shallot, mustard, salt, pepper, and cayenne in bowl. Working in 3 batches, pulse salmon in food processor until coarsely chopped into 1/4-inch pieces, about 2 pulses, transferring each batch to bowl with panko mixture. Avoid overprocessing the fish! Gently mix until uniformly combined.

    2. Place remaining 3/4 cup panko in a shallow metal bowl. Using 1/3-cup measure, scoop level amount of salmon mixture and transfer to baking sheet; repeat to make 8 cakes. Carefully coat each cake in bread crumbs, gently patting into disk measuring 2 3/4 inches in diameter and 1 inch high. Return coated cakes to baking sheet.

    3. Heat oil in 12-inch nonstick skillet over medium-high heat until shimmering. Place salmon cakes in skillet and cook without moving until golden brown, about 2 minutes. Carefully flip cakes and cook until second side is golden brown, 2 to 3 minutes. Transfer cakes to paper towel–lined plate to drain 1 minute. Serve.

    Sunday, May 20, 2012

    The Art of Critical Thinking

     

    Just finished reading The Art of Critical Thinking by Vincent Ruggiero.

    Summary Notes follow.

    Thinking is production of ideas and judgment of ideas.

    Read problems fully then decide how to begin attacking them.

    Check assumptions for validity.

    Think on paper for clarity: freewrite, brainstorm.

    Good thinkers accept the following foundational beliefs:

    1. Strict determinism and strict free-will are both false. Our ideas and actions are heavily influenced and constrained by nature/nuture but we have a strong measure of free will that we exercise to determine our course of actions.

    2.There is objective truth, although we may not always be able to discern it.

    3. We approach truth from direct experience, from directly observing others’ experiences, and from report by others. We are biased by our own senses, our attitudes and beliefs and the reliability of reporting.

    4. Memory recall is frequently flawed.

    5. Opinions can be expressions of taste/preference (which are not based on reason and cannot be argued successfully) or expressions of judgment (which should be questioned to verify solid reasoning).

    6. Almost every moral system of judgment shares the following principles: relationships with other people create obligations of various kinds that should be honored unless there is a compelling reason not to; certain ideals enhance human life and assist people in fulfilling their obligations and should be served whenever possible (these are tolerance, compassion, loyalty, forgiveness, peace, brotherhood, justice, fairness); the consequences of some actions benefit people whole those of other actions harm people and the former actions should be preferred over the latter; circumstances alter cases and while generalizations have a place they should not be used as a substitute for careful judgment. When two or more obligations are in conflict, decide on action by which is the more serious obligation or which existed first. When two or more ideals are in conflict ask which is the more important ideal. When multiple consequences exist ask which are most significant and weigh them against each other.

    Avoid thinking traps: the mine-is-better kneejerk prejudice (my ideas, my people, my kind), the face saving pride (blaming and rationalizing after we have exhibited poor judgment), resistance to change, desire to conform, stereotyping, self-deception.

    Exercise creative thinking: be diligent in observation, look for the imperfect (opportunities for improvement!), adopt an attitude of ‘dissatisfaction is simply a challenge to improve’, search for root causes of problems, be sensitive to implications of newly revealed facts or newly adopted judgments, recognize the opportunity in controversies to find truth on both sides.

    Sharpen analytical/judgment skills by increasing our reading, actively thinking and questioning while reading, discerning between ideas and the character of the people expressing them, discerning between matters of taste and judgment, learn to read sarcasm and irony, discern between fact and interpretation, discerning between the validity of ideas and the quality of their expression, learning to break down arguments into assumptions, essential arguments, conclusions and evidence. For every argument presented, summarize it, evaluate it then judge it.

    Creativity does not require high IQ.

    Drugs hinder creativity.

    Successful creative people are dynamic (active and playful), daring in their risk taking, resourceful, hardworking, willing to show independence.

    The creative process: identify problem or issue (restate the problem in multiple ways to change perspectives and give insight), investigate and further research problem or issue, brainstorm solutions.

    The analytic process: critique the brainstormed solutions, narrow down and refine the best solutions (Examine solutions for clarity, safety, convenience, efficiency, economy, simplicity, comfort, durability, beauty, compatibility; find imperfections and complications and resolve; compare with market competitors; make improvements) and prepare them for dissemination.

    Reasoning errors: invalid logic in the chain from assumptions to conclusion, either/or thinking, avoiding the issue, overgeneralizing, oversimplifying, double standards, shifting burden of proof to the listener, irrelevant appeals to common practice, fear, or tradition.

    When communicating your ideas or solutions, be proactive and anticipate objections and negative reactions that are likely to be made (this is similar to sales principle of anticipating objectives to closing the sale so that you can prepare to overcome them). Common objections include: impractical, expensive, illegal, immoral, inefficient, unworkable, disruptive, unaesthetic, radical, unappealing, unfair. Negative reactions may stem from lack of understanding of your solution/idea, bad thinking, or because your idea has serious flaws. We want to think through the potential negative reactions to find any valid criticism of our idea as well as discover potential points of misunderstanding or bad thinking in audience in order to compensate for them.

    Saturday, May 19, 2012

    Recent Readings

    I finished The Imperfectionists by Tom Rachman as well as The Year of Fog  by Michelle Richmond last week.

    In The Imperfectionists Rachman devotes each chapter to an episodic portrait of a different character. In doing so, the author slowly reveals a timeline and interdependent setting for all of the characters. By the end of the novel the cohesive storyline of the newspaper and its history is fully developed and I was able to look back over what I had already read and marvel at the way Rachman had effortlessly tied all his characters together so smoothly while I wasn’t paying close attention. The background plot centers on a small family owned newspaper agency in Rome and the character portraits are of the owners and staff. Because the characters are introduced so slowly, one chapter at a time, and because those chapters focus exclusively on that character, the reader is never left confused or overwhelmed in the moment trying to untangle characters from one another (a problem I frequently had in character saturating novels like One Hundred Years of Solitude). In addition, the novel can be read as a collection of short stories, each chapter strong enough to stand on its own. It’s really a brilliant way of composing a novel.

    The Year of Fog is a suspenseful, well written drama that kept me frantically turning the pages to find out how it was going to end. The characters at the center of the novel are a young woman, her fiancé, and his young daughter from a previous marriage who goes missing in the first chapter. The focus of the novel is the search for the girl and the emotional fallout for the woman and her fiancé as the months drag on. Richmond’s writing style is captivating and her plot pacing was really good during most of the novel. I was a bit disappointed with the last few chapters because I felt she had begun to rush the sequencing of events. It felt like she was trying to quickly wrap the novel up. Despite that, I still recommend readers pick up this novel because the depth of emotions and the intensity of the drama the main character is forced to reckon with are compelling.

    Monday, May 14, 2012

    Thai Menu

     

    Enjoyed a fantastic Thai dinner tonight at our favorite restaurant – Chez Parks. 5/5 stars!

    Grilled Beef Satay

    Cucumber Salad

    Rice

    Peanut Dipping Sauce

    Mango Sticky Rice

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    photo credit: Cook’s Illustrated

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    Grilled Beef Satay (Adapted from Cook’s Illustrated)

    Ingredients
    • Basting Sauce  
    • 3/4 cup coconut milk
    • 3 tablespoons packed dark brown sugar
    • 3 tablespoons fish sauce
    • 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
    • 3 shallots, minced
    • 2 stalks lemon grass, trimmed to bottom 6 inches and minced
    • 2 tablespoons grated fresh ginger
    • 1 1/2 teaspoons ground coriander
    • 3/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes
    • 1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
    • 1/2 teaspoon salt
    • Beef  
    • 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
    • 2 tablespoons packed dark brown sugar
    • 1 tablespoon fish sauce
    • 1 1/2 pounds NY Strip steak, sliced on slight angle against grain into 1/4- inch thick slices
    • Disposable aluminum roasting pan
    Instructions
    1. 1. FOR THE BASTING SAUCE: Whisk all ingredients together in bowl. Reserve one-third of sauce in separate bowl. (Use reserved sauce to apply to raw beef.)
    2. 2. FOR THE BEEF: Whisk oil, sugar, and fish sauce together in medium bowl. Toss beef with marinade and let stand at room temperature for 30 minutes. Weave beef onto 12-inch metal skewers, 2 pieces per skewer, leaving 1 1/2 inches at top and bottom of skewer exposed. You should have 10 to 12 skewers.
    3. 3a. FOR A CHARCOAL GRILL: Poke twelve 1/2-inch holes in bottom of roasting pan. Open bottom vent completely and place roasting pan in center of grill. Light large chimney starter mounded with charcoal briquettes (7 quarts). When top coals are partially covered with ash, pour into roasting pan. Set cooking grate over coals with grates parallel to long side of roasting pan, cover, and open lid vent completely. Heat grill until hot, about 5 minutes.
    4. 3b. FOR A GAS GRILL: Turn all burners to high, cover, and heat grill until very hot, about 15 minutes. Leave all burners on high.
    5. 4. Clean and oil cooking grate. Place beef skewers on grill (directly over coals if using charcoal) perpendicular to grate. Brush meat with one-third basting sauce (portion reserved for raw meat) and cook (covered if using gas) until browned, about 3 minutes. Flip skewers, brush with half of remaining basting sauce, and cook until browned on second side, about 3 minutes. Brush meat with remaining basting sauce and cook 1 minute longer. Transfer to large platter and serve with peanut sauce.

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    Cucumber Salad (adapted from Cook’s Illustrated)
    Makes about 1 1/2 cups
    Ingredients
    • 1/4 cup rice vinegar
    • 2 tablespoons sugar
    • 1 cucumber, diced
    • 1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes
    • 1/4 cup fresh mint leaves , chopped coarse
    • 1 tablespoon fish sauce
    Instructions
    1. Bring vinegar and sugar to boil in small saucepan over high heat, stirring to dissolve sugar. Transfer vinegar mixture to bowl and cool to room temperature, about 30 minutes. Stir in cucumber, red pepper, mint, shallot, and fish sauce. Refrigerate until needed.

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    Rice

    Using your preferred/usual method, prepare enough steamed rice (jasmine is best) for each guest to have 1 serving, plus 1/2 cup per guest for dessert recipe (see below).

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    Peanut Sauce (adapted from Cook’s Illustrated)

    Makes about 1 1/2 cups
    Ingredients
    • 1 tablespoon vegetable oil
    • 1 tablespoon Thai red curry paste
    • 1 tablespoon packed dark brown sugar
    • 2 garlic cloves , minced
    • 1 cup regular or light coconut milk
    • 1/3 cup chunky peanut butter
    • 1/4 cup roasted unsalted peanuts , chopped
    • 1 tablespoon lime juice
    • 1 tablespoon fish sauce
    • 1 teaspoon soy sauce
    Instructions
    1. Heat oil in small saucepan over medium heat until shimmering. Add curry paste, sugar, and garlic; cook, stirring constantly, until fragrant, about 1 minute. Add coconut milk and bring to simmer. Whisk in peanut butter until smooth. Remove from heat and stir in peanuts, lime juice, fish sauce, and soy sauce. Cool to room temperature.

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    Mango Sticky Rice

    1 mango for every 2 persons, peeled, pitted, and sliced into long strips

    leftover rice (see “rice” recipe above)

    leftover coconut milk from Beef Satay recipe

    sugar, to taste

    Warm coconut milk over medium heat in saucepan, adding sugar to taste. Spoon a serving of rice onto each plate. drizzle generously with sweetened coconut milk. Arrange 1/2 of sliced mango artfully onto plate beside rice. You can also serve this in decorative bowls, with a scoop of rice, drizzle of sweetened coconut milk, diced mango, and topped with another drizzle of the milk.