January 30, 2008

Light amplification by simulated emission of radiation

My classroom this semester isn't as well-equipped as the UNC room in which I taught Bioarch and Human Osteo - it had a dozen human skeletons, hominid casts, overhead projector, and computer hookup. Over the years, I got more used to using a laser pointer on both slides and the articulated skeleton on the stand, so I found myself pointing with shadows the past week at Cortland. Today on the way to school, I stopped at everyone's favorite corporate giant, Wal-Mart, to pick up a cheap laser pointer. I wandered around the office supply area and into the electronic equipment section and found an employee...

Me: Excuse me, where might I find a laser pointer?
Employee: Oh, I'm sorry, we don't sell those.
Me: Really?
Employee: Yeah. There was incident a while back. Some kid pointed a laser at an airplane. We haven't sold laser pointers since then.
Me: What? Really? Uhm, where can I get one, then?
Employee: Try Radio Shack, next door.

I remember the incident back in the early 90s, I guess, where some kid got in serious trouble for trying to shine a laser into the cockpit of a helicopter or small plane. But I didn't know that this is still an issue. The US DoT had a press conference in 2005 noting the rise in these incidents, and this kind of thing still makes news stories today. What the fuck? I can't buy a laser pointer because a few hundred morons point them into the sky? Anyway, I got a lovely squarish one at Radio Shack that helped immensely in class today to point out the differences between freshly dead bone and bones from long-dead people.

January 29, 2008

Pick me up!

My former roommate Marco finally shared with me what I assume is his mother's recipe for tiramisù. Here you go, with original European measurements since I suck at figuring out how to convert to cups. Buy a kitchen scale. I really want to make this, but Patrick doesn't like tiramisù. Maybe I'll bring in a tray to my Italian class. :)

Real, Authentic Tiramisù from Marco

INGREDIENTS
500 gr of mascarpone
4 eggs, separated
200 gr of sugar
prepared Italian coffee
400 gr of savoiardi
sweet cocoa powder
Optional: egg marsala and whipped cream to add to the mascarpone cream
Optional: marsala, rum, or other liquor to add to the coffee

First, prepare the Italian coffee, because you will have to soak the savoiardi in it. Once you have your coffee, let it become cold and start preparing the cream.

CREAM
Mix together sugar and yolks until you have a soft, white cream. Add the mascarpone. Beat egg whites until stiff and fold them gently into the cream.

SAVOIARDI
Soak the savoiardi in the cold coffee (but don't make them too wet). If you like, add a spoonful of marsala or rum to the coffee. Once you have soaked the biscuits, put a layer down in cake pan or casserole dish, then put a layer of cream, then savoiardi, then cream again until you finish the cream. At the end, put a light layer of cocoa powder on the top of the tiramisù.

EATING
Refrigerate the tiramisù for at least 12 hours to let the cream solidify, and after that you can finally eat it!!

January 19, 2008

Ho fatto gli arancini!

I finally decided to try my hand at making arancini, an Italian delicacy involving risotto, tomato sauce, and mozzarella cheese... deep-fried in ball form. It was pretty easy, and they turned out well.

Recipe: 1 cup arborio rice, 2.5 cups broth, 1/2 cup white wine, 1/2 c diced onion, 1 clove garlic, 1/4 c pasta sauce, parmesan cheese, cubed mozzarella, 1 egg (beaten), flour, breadcrumbs. Saute onion and garlic in olive oil. Add rice. Add wine until cooked. Add broth in 1/2 cup increments until absorbed. Once the rice is done, mix with pasta sauce and season with parmesan and basil. When cool, form into balls, putting a chunk of mozzarella in the middle. Roll in flour, dip in egg, dredge in breadcrumbs. Deep-fry for like 10 minutes at 350 degrees (until golden brown and the cheese in the middle is melted).

The arancini were super tasty and look very much like they're supposed to look. I honestly don't understand why these haven't caught on in the U.S. Seems that deep fried balls with melty cheese are just what the American people love to eat. At any rate, I was pretty proud of myself, considering it was my first time making them. Maybe my former roommate Marco will send me a tiramisu recipe soon so that I can work on my Italian cooking skillz.

January 15, 2008

The perks of faculty

I am officially faculty today! I suppose I was once faculty at DTCC when I did a brief adjunct stint, but I never got keys to anything, I never got an ID card, and I couldn't even check out library books. Today, however, I got my ID card from Cortland (and it even says Faculty right on it), a Faculty parking tag, keys to my office and the archaeology lab, and free reign over the supply closet. Oh! And I even have my own phone number. With voice mail. Woo hoo! I documented this momentous occasion with terrible cell phone photographs...



January 11, 2008

Awesome things I discovered this morning...

Meihem in Ce Klasrum, a classic short satirical piece written in 1946 about reforming English spelling. Or rather... a klasic yort satirikal pes writen in 1946 abowt reforming Engliy speling. I've actually never understood why other people can't spell. I sometimes have trouble with -ables and -ibles, but there is a rule from Latin for knowing when to use which. It would be great if English were as easy to spell as, say, Italian. But it would also eliminate homophones, and then how would we be able to make puns?

The "mondo" Italian film genre of the 1960s. It started with Mondo Cane (Dog World), which shows clips of "strange" practices from a variety of cultures, including a South Pacific cargo cult and a pet cemetery. I am currently working on getting a subtitled version of that film as well as an unsubtitled version of Svezia: Inferno e Paradiso (Sweden: Hell and Heaven). The latter was supposedly never shown in Sweden because it was so exploitative. I've seen clips of it, particularly the topless band scene and the Mah Na Mah Na sauna scene, and now I must watch the whole thing. I had no idea that Italy had a culturesploitation movie scene in the 60s, so I am giddy with excitement. Wanna come watch with me?

January 9, 2008

Why become a primate?

This is a question posed in a book that I am reading. A question that struck me as kind of odd. So here are my top 5 reasons:

1. I woke up one day and realized, "Hey. I have a big brain and fingernails, and I'm bipedal. Why not become a primate?"

2. It was expensive to keep buying bras for multiple sets of breasts.

3. The whiskers were kinda itchy.

4. I always wanted to be a doctor, but medical school was too hard and I couldn't hack it. So I became a primate.

5. "Tool use" gets the ladies hot.

Chewing the fat with the lean, mean, grilling machine

A propos of nothing, my mom emailed me a bunch of pictures this afternoon. There was no subject, there were no titles, and the names of the files didn't indicate what the heck they were. Assuming they were pictures of kittens doing silly things, I downloaded only one. To my surprise, it was a crappy cell phone photo of my mom shaking hands with George Foreman. I guess there are perks to dating a former football player/coach.

January 8, 2008

Camera-phone-eye-view of Chicago

I didn't bring a proper camera to Chicago, but I did snap some pics with my cell phone to chronicle my trip.

For the first time ever, I shelled out big bucks to stay at a conference hotel. It was much more convenient, of course, but actually lacked some conveniences that you find at smaller hotels - there was no free wireless, there was no free shuttle from the airport, the built-in hairdryer didn't work. But it was decorated nicely as you can see in the picture. They even provide you with a catalogue from which you can buy the linens and other accessories so that your house can look like a standard Hyatt hotel room. We did discover, however, after housekeeping came that we were paying for the art of washcloth folding. Don't our toothbrushes look nice and cozy?


My session was on Friday, and I've posted below on the technical difficulties. This is the photo that I accidentally snapped while frantically trying to get the lappy to work while simultaneously talking to the A/V people and checking the time to see how behind we were and whether the 100 people in the room would leave or not.


Friday night meant a bunch of receptions from a variety of universities. After a dinner out with John, Arum, Dave, and Erika, we headed to the UNC-Duke reception but came at the tail end. The party soon broke up, so Erika and I headed to find another interesting reception. Along the way, we stopped at the bathroom and laughed hysterically at this sign outside. I made Erika pose with it, and now I've assigned it to my phone for whenever she calls me.


But Chicago was lovely. There are big, beautiful skyscrapers, the streets are clean, and the people are amazingly friendly. On Saturday, I skipped the conference and went shopping along the Magnificent Mile, snapping this pic of the Chicago Tribune building, and buying a new forest green peacoat and a brown herringbone skirt. In the evening, I snapped this picture of a whole sea of skyscrapers near my hotel and on the other side of the river. Small white Christmas lights were still strung in the trees along the street, and it was a nice effect.


Unfortunately, Chicago also means a lot of fog. My flight out on Sunday night was delayed, which meant I would miss my connection to Ithaca. I opted to rebook for the following day and stayed at a hotel near the airport. It was 1/3 the cost of the conference hotel and included free internet, DVD rental, sodas, and had a full kitchen in the room. I got a pizza delivered to my room and decompressed from the conference. The shuttle driver the next morning was talking endlessly about how he manscapes his eyebrows. Strange. But I'm back in Ithaca. The conference was fine, albeit a bit boring this year and pretty badly organized. I hope next year is better.

January 5, 2008

Linux and Lappy to the Rescue!

We showed up at 1pm for our colloquium yesterday so that we could load everyone's slides onto Megan's computer for projection during the talks. By 1:10, her laptop was still not talking to the projector. We called for the A/V people, who came around 1:15. They tried with Megan's computer and with Tracy's computer, but neither would work. Megan had to give the introduction to our session without her slides, and by the end, the A/V guys still couldn't get anything to work. I was giving the first paper, and I figured - what the hell - let's just try my laptop on the off chance that my poor, beleaguered Linux lappy would work. I booted it up, explained to the A/V guys that it was a Linux box running Windows in a VM, and they weren't sure what to say. Hooked it to the projector, pressed the magical button that searches for external monitors and fixes the resolution, and voila! Linux projected onto the big screen. Cheers erupted from the audience, and I scrambled to load my presentation and get on with the session without wasting too much time. It was hard to both introduce people and load their presentations onto my laptop (and teach them how to switch slides), but I managed. And the whole session was saved. All because of me. And Linux.

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