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Saturday, December 29, 2018

Good Eats

Moosey ribs simmered in pho seasoning came out awesome:


We had them over rice with steamed gai lan drizzled with oyster sauce.

I also made the aforementioned guacamole, and added red bell peppers since it was Christmas morning:


And made a scramble with these things:


To have with tortillas and said guac:


For Christmas dinner, I roasted Cornish game hens:


Served with mashed squash, dressing, and green beans:


Everything came out "good", but also rather meh. It turns out I'm not that crazy about roasted chicken, no matter how prettily presented (and well-cooked, if I do say so myself!). I ended up eating only the dark meat, and saving the breasts to make soup the next day. Even DL, with his relatively big appetite, didn't finish his. They made a nice Mexican chicken soup (no photos of that, unfortunately!)

The ladies always supervise me chopping veggies. They lovelovelove veggies, stems especially! (Cricket struggles a bit with leaves. She maws at them and looks confused.)



Here are blueberry pancakes made with Delta Junction barley flour:


I'm sure glad I always make an effort to score blueberries every summer, even if it's raining!

Monday, December 24, 2018

Moose pho!

I decided to try to make pho with moose ribs:


I bought some premixed aromatic packets from amazon:


And browned the ribs in oil and garlic cloves:


While Starbuck was So Kind as to supervise:


Then I transferred it to the wood stove and let it simmer for a whole day.


The next day, I decided we should just use the broth for pho, and eat the rib meat over rice for separate meals later. So I scooped out the ribs and meat and put them into pyrex storage at the back of the fridge. They are falling-off-the-bone tender and flavored with Vietnamese aromatics, so they will be great for a later meal (or more likely two)!


And instead, I bought some nice small, lean (free-range and grass-fed and organic) steaks, partially froze them, and sliced them super-thin:


Add-ins...


... require some substitution in winter in Fairbanks! Bean sprouts and fresh basil are both available only intermittently in winter, so I substituted shredded daicon and this product:

I'd long been told that dried basil tastes entirely differently from fresh, but this was okay. Another diversion is that this is Italian basil. I *know* I can taste the difference between Italian and Southeast Asian basil, but I'm not sure it really matters. As for the daicon, I think I actually prefer it to beansprouts! It holds a nice crunch, and the bitter tang adds a nice counterpoint to the richness of the broth.

The finished product:


It was fantastic, and we had it for two nights in a row! I also have leftovers of lime and jalapeños so duh! I told DL to Obtain some Avocados when he went into town today, so we can have guacamole with our breakfast tomorrow. It's interesting that the same suite of fresh aromatics and flavors (lime, onions, green onions, cilantro, garlic, and jalapeños) go with both Vietnamese and Mexican food, and it reminds me of how these cultures live side by side in both San Francisco and San Jose. Isn't this country great?

Friday, December 21, 2018

Berkeley report

Last week, we visited All Power Labs in Berkeley. I have been looking into feasibility of small-scale (on the order of 100's of kW) power generation in Alaska using biomass. Gasification seems to be the most promising avenue to achieve this. The idea is, instead of burning the wood and using the heat to generate steam, which is how big coal power plants work, cost-effectiveness can be obtained on a smaller scale by gasifying the fuel first and burning the gas in a gas turbine instead. All Power Labs originally designed their small gasifiers to be optimized for using palm kernel shells, which are a waste product in regions that produce palm. In Alaska, our fuel would be wood chips. All Power Labs has also been using walnut shells to make electricity, which makes sense in California!

While we were there, DL and I went to visit my Alma Mater. Although my mother theoretically lives in Berkeley, I don't believe I had set foot on campus since I graduated in 1999. Like most stable cities, the structure does not change (unlike in suburbia, where new developments pop up all the time). But the businesses, and the "feel" of neighborhoods do. Overall, I was struck by how beautiful it is (is always was, but I had forgotten!), and how prosperous it looked (this was a change!). The "rougher" neighborhoods had gone upscale, with fancy restaurants and very expensive stores. Berkeley is in a really breathtaking setting--rolling hills gradually climbing higher as you go farther inland, with beautiful views to the Bay from almost every west-facing vista. And it has gorgeous architecture, with both grand Victorians and quirky little houses. When my mother occasionally laments how "boring" the Silicon Valley neighborhoods are, it had never really struck home for me until this visit. Really, the pop-up McMansions of the South Bay cannot compare to Berkeley.

My mother has always loved Berkeley. When she first moved to the United States, it was the first place she had lived. So although my sister and I were San Francisco kids, she hauled us across the Bay Bridge quite often. She liked to shop for used clothes in Rockridge or on Solano Avenue. My sister and I would complain about how boring it was hanging out in some used clothing store, so afterwards, in compensation, she'd take us to Indian Rock or Tilden Park or the Rose Garden. Then to Zachary's for their famous deep-dish pizza. So in a way, I have been a Berkeley girl for much of my life, a San Francisco girl for most of it, a Fairbanks girl for slightly less time, and a Sili Valley girl for a scant 7 years! Okay, let's not have an existential crisis now. Let's post photos!

Here is the latest iteration of the gasifier. It is 25 kW:


A "byproduct" is biochar, which is basically wood charcoal. In Lower 48 applications, where grid power is inexpensive, apparently biochar *is* the product, as a soil amendment. They flare off the gas!


Etcheverry Hall, home of the Department of Mechanical Engineering. It's rather drab, isn't it?


McLaughlin Hall, home of the bureaucracy of the College of Engineering. I used to have to go there once or twice a semester to do Forms and Paperwork and other things of that nature. I've always thought it was very beautiful:


This sundial caught DL's eye. I had never noticed it before. Apparently it was a gift from the Class of 1877, and installed in 1917:


Stephen's Hall, where I used to do clerical work:


South Hall, the oldest building on campus, dating to 1873. Apparently, it was one of only two buildings at the time, North Hall and South Hall. I have never even seen a photo of North Hall, which was razed in 1917.


The woodwork inside South Hall is beautiful!


Obligatory shot of the Campanile:


Wheeler Hall. I've always loved this building. The interior stone steps have moon-shaped indentations in them from over 100 years of students:


The famous Sather Gate:


The Hearst Mining Building. I took E45, Intro to Materials Science, here! Always loved this old, cool, stony building, which was comfortable even on those "blistering" hot days when the temperatures would climb to the 80s! (Go ahead and laugh, I was a child of San Francisco fog!). My senior year, it was being renovated. On this visit, we saw posters and photos of the renovation, and how impressive it was! It involved a whole new foundation! DL said that it probably cost more than the building, but that they preserved history, which was nice.


The interior of the Mining building:


A crescent moon behind the Campanile:


While we were gone, Starbuck and Cricket hung out at Holy Dog:


Now they are back home on the couch, SNUGGLIN'! AAAAHHHH!!!


Have you ever noticed that THERE IS A HEART ON ROO'S CHEST?!? AAAHHHHH!!!

Monday, December 10, 2018

Reliability vs. Resilience

It was warm Friday morning, and the packed snow on the roads was slippery. I fell down on my morning run (no biggie--I fall down a lot and am very good at doing it without injury).

On the way home, I thought of a good definition of reliability vs. resilience, which we rural power people talk about quite a bit: Reliability means you have running shoes with good traction so you are less likely to fall down. Resilience means you can get back up with minimal injury when you do inevitably fall down sometimes!

Resilience is thus more holistic--it's being in good overall shape, being flexible, and being experienced in how to fall and how to land!

The higher reliability you have, the more you lose resilience... you forget how to fall safely, and you also forget that it's okay to fall down. You panic and do all kinds of acrobatics to avoid falling down, when in reality, it's much better to let yourself gently fall down, rather than pull a muscle doing the crazy acrobatics.

This is a very good analog to rural power systems! Delivered electrical power nowadays is so reliable, and the more reliable it gets, the fewer people have backup plans to get through power outages. It used to be common wisdom to keep battery-powered flashlights, candles, and a camp stove handy. Or even a generator! Now, that is becoming less common. :(

Sunday, December 9, 2018

Fishy post

I am way behind on posting photos! Here are some from a tour we took of the Sport Fish Hatchery. This is where they breed salmon, grayling, char, trout, and other local fish and release them into local lakes and ponds for sport fishing. None of them are released into rivers, nor are intended to breed in the wild.

When you first walk into the Visitor Center, you see examples of half-grown fishies swimming round and round in this beautiful tank:


They terminology they use for one stage of the fish life is, "when they have eyed up". LOL!


There are tanks for each species, and tanks for different stages of life. At this point (falltime), there were only very young fishies:


There is quite a purification and circulation system!


And active monitoring of water quality, temperature, flow rates, etc:


In each tank, the young fishies swim round and round:


This is how they deposit fishies into their new tanks when they are moved:


The fishies gather at the zero flow point:


Round and round and round they go!


This is the vehicle they use to release the fishies to their final destinations: lakes and ponds all over Interior Alaska!


Only some of the tanks have nets. Some species are liable to leap, and others are not:

Sunday, December 2, 2018

Thank you, structural engineers!

It's pretty impressive that this earthquake is almost the same rating (7.0) as our "big one" in San Francisco in 1989, and the Anchorage damage, while extensive, it nowhere near as bad: Zero lives were lost, power was only lost for less than a day, and the city was back up and running (including the airport) that evening.

Great article noting the same thing, here.

In 1989, the Bay Bridge lost a big chunk, the Cypress Freeway came down, the Freeway along the Embarcadero collapsed. 63 died, 4000 were injured. We lost power for several days. Engineering is a very worthy and meaningful field, of which I am proud to be a tiny part. If I had not been a mechanical engineer, my second choice would have been to be a structural engineer.

Friday, November 30, 2018

Earthquake in Anchorage!

This morning, we had just gotten back from our morning run when the ground trembled and made a very distinctive noise. Every San Francisco native knows it, and I suppose every Alaskan does, too. Earthquake! It lasted for over a minute. DL was already at work, and Roo and Cricket looked up from their rawhides, said, "Roo" and "Eep", respectively, and went back to gnawing. After it stopped, I thought back to what I learned as a San Francisco kid. Turn off the gas line! Oh we don't have a gas line! Um... what else? Lights are still on, so check in! I called DL; campus is fine. Then texted my mom and sister. "I'm fine!" I feel very earthquake-safe in an area with no large infrastructure, and in a solidly built log cabin on rocky ground that is not a liquefaction risk.

The earthquake could either have been a little one nearby, or a huge one farther away. I don't have a smartphone, so the only way for me to get the internet at home is to fire up my computer, and being lazy to do that, I flipped on the radio instead. NPR was still discussing politics in Washington, so I figured it wasn't that bad. And the lights hadn't flickered, so I figured the main power plants were still running in Anchorage (we have an intertie that enables us to buy and sell power between the two of us).

On the other hand, power plants are built to a higher standard than almost every other infrastructure component since they are considered "critical infrastructure". Our new power plant is designed to withstand an earthquake of 9.0 and still remain operational!

Well, thus far the reports are that it was 7.0, 10 miles from Anchorage, and there has been quite a bit of damage to roads and homes. Schools have been cancelled. But no deaths or serious injuries reported. I sent out a mass email to my students to remind them to please bring their coat, hat, and gloves/mittens to classes! I always do, in case there is an earthquake or fire or any other reason to evacuate. You won't have time to run back to your office for your warm coat, and woe unto those who are stuck outside at -40 with no coat!

Let me remind my 12 faithful readers to please be prepared! Follow the preparedness guidelines for whatever your natural disasters are in your area, and be prepared to evacuate if you have to!

Thursday, November 22, 2018

Photos round the house

Starbuck-A-Roo leads the charge; both she and Cricket are always happy to help with Quality Control on my veggies:


And cheese!


Mmmmm I decided to grate mozzarella over our enchiladas the other day. I thought it was a Very Good Idea, and Roo concurred:


Yes, it definitely was!


Here is the cornbread I made for our office Thanksgiving potluck. The Dean and Director make turkeys; we peons make everything else. :)


Mmmmmm:


Yesterday morning, I spotted a strange critter in the yard:


A marten!


A weasel-beast!


I also ordered our holiday cards. Here are the two runner-up photos: