Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Russian Food #2: Stews

Russian stews

In Russian, the names of many cooking methods are based on the Russian word for heatжара  (zhara).   

Fried -  жареные,  zharenyye
Broil -  жарить ,  zharit
Roasted - жареный - zharenyy

One Russian stew is called Zharkoye .   Here is a photo of one of Anna's versions. 

more to come.

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Russian Food #1: Dumplings, Buns, Pies

Some Russian Dishes


Close up of Anna'a pelmeni
Pelmeni  Russian: пельме́ни — plural, пельмень pelʼmenʼ — singular) are dumplings consisting of a filling wrapped in thin, unleavened dough. The Polish version is called pierogi - not to be confused with the Russian term pirog meaning pie (see below).
Anna's homemade pelmeni - ready for freezing

Varenyky (Ukrainian: варе́ники, singular "варе́ник") are stuffed dumplings of unleavened dough. The name varenyk means literally "a boiled thing". The word is cognate with the adjective "boiled" (Ukrainian: варений).   Varenyky are generally larger than pelmeni.

Galushki , Lazy varenyky (Ukrainian: книдлі, ліниві вареники, Russian: ленивые вареники) in Russian and Ukrainian cuisine are gnocchi-shaped dumplings made by mixing tvoroh (curd cheese) with egg and flour into quick dough. The cheese-based dough is formed into a long sausage about 2 cm thick, which is cut diagonally into gnocchi, called halushky in Ukrainian, galushki in Russian, and kopytka in Polish. 

Uszka,   Russian: ушки (úški)   (meaning "little ears" in Polish), are small dumplings (a very small and twisted version of Polish pierogi) usually filled with  wild forest mushrooms and/or minced meat. They are usually served with barszcz, though they can be eaten simply with melted butter and herbs (usually chives) sprinkled over. When vegetarian (filled only with mushrooms and/or onion) they are a part of traditional Christmas Eve dishes in Poland and Ukraine, and are either added in the soup, or eaten as a side dish.
Belarusian: вушкі (vúški) Ukrainian: вушка (vúška)

Kalduny or kolduny (Belarusian: калдуны́, Russian: кoлдуны́, Polish: kołduny, Lithuanian: koldūnai, used in plural only) are stuffed dumplings made of unleavened dough, filled with meat, mushrooms, etc,  in Belarusian, Lithuanian, and Polish cuisines, akin to the Russian pelmeni and the Ukrainian vareniki.   In Slavic languages the word means “magicians” or “sorcerers”, but it is unclear how the word became associated with the dish. 

Manti or Mantu (Turkish: mantı; Kazakh: мәнті; Uzbek: manti; Kyrgyz: мантуу; Pashto, Persian, Arabic: منتو‎; Armenian: մանթի) are dumplings filled with spicy meat. 

Buns and Pies
Pirog or pyrih (Russian: пиро́г), pl. pirogi пироги; Belarusian: пірог; Northern Sami: pirog; Ukrainian: пиріг, pl. pyrohy пироги) is a pie that can have either a sweet or savoury filling.

A coulibiac (Russian: кулебя́ка kulebyáka) is a type of Russian pie (pirog) usually filled with salmon or sturgeon, rice or buckwheat, hard-boiled eggs, mushrooms, onions, and dill.

Kurnik, Russian savoury pirog with layers of blini, filled with chicken, mushrooms and rice

Pirozhki (plural form of pirozhok, Russian: пирожок, пирожки, which means a little pirog), sometimes transliterated as pyrizhky (plural from Ukrainian: пиріжок), is a generic word for individual-sized baked or fried buns stuffed with a variety of fillings.  The Russian plural of this word, pirogi (Russian: пироги, with the stress on the last syllable [pʲirɐˈɡʲi]), is not to be confused with pierogi (stress on "o" in Polish and English) in Polish cuisine, which are similar to the Russian pelmeni or Ukrainian varenyky. 

Monday, December 1, 2014

Girl Scout Cookies Contain Trans Fats

Girl scout cookies contain partially hydrogenated vegetable oil.  Hydrogenation, a chemical process , creates trans fats.   In the USA, unlike in many other countries, trans fat levels of less than 0.5 grams per serving can be listed as 0 grams trans fat on the food label.

Sunday, November 16, 2014

Comcast Xfinity Packet Loss

Here you go Comcast  Xfinity -   for the record -  you have a problem.

mtr -r 194.84.31.XXX
Start: Sun Nov 16 21:35:21 2014
HOST: neuro-PORTEGE-Z930          Loss%   Snt   Last   Avg  Best  Wrst StDev
  1.|--               0.0%    10   16.4  83.7  16.4 191.4  65.3
  2.|-- ???                       100.0    10    0.0   0.0   0.0   0.0   0.0
  3.|--  0.0%    10  149.8  86.1  35.4 149.8  35.9
  4.|-- te-0-9-0-6-ar01.needham.m 20.0%    10   92.3  69.7  42.3 100.1  21.6
  5.|-- he-2-6-0-0-cr01.newyork.n 100.0%   10   34.1  76.3  19.6 214.2  58.7 << THIS UPSTREAM IS A BAD CHOICE FOR COMCAST

  6.|-- ae12.edge1.NewYork2.level  0.0%    10  128.7  93.6  31.9 186.4  57.0
  7.|-- ae-2-70.edge6.Frankfurt1.  0.0%    10  173.0 178.4 108.6 324.1  60.4
  8.|-- ae-2-70.edge6.Frankfurt1. 30.0%    10  153.6 183.8 105.9 242.4  46.5
  9.|-- MTU-INTEL.edge6.Frankfurt  0.0%    10  134.7 209.6 124.0 469.0 106.4
 10.|-- bor-cr03-be1.78.spb.strea  0.0%    10  156.3 217.4 145.9 419.0  84.6
 11.|--  0.0%    10  186.2 251.9 186.2 437.5  86.4

I hope this helps.

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

First Visit to Poland: Basic Education

I am not as attracted to "fun in the sun" places as I used to be.   Now,  I want to learn about people, cultures, and the physical environment that shapes culture.  In this light,  a winter trip to Poland is not strange. I have no doubts that people in winter are more aware of visitors from other places.  In summer,  hordes of tourists descend upon European countries - the locals try to get out of town.   In spring and autumn,  people are pretty busy taking care of business.  In deep winter, life slows down (a bit) and strangers are more easily noticed - especially those carrying ice skates.

Travel to Poland from the USA is pretty easy.  Poland entered the European Union  in 2004.  No visas are needed for US citizens.   It's also part of the Schengen Area  - so one has to present a passport just once for travel within Schengen area countries.  There are no passport controls at internal borders.

Warsaw has nice trams. You can also take the bus.
After landing at Warsaw's Chopin airport,  I asked the taxi driver to drive me around the center of town before dropping me at my hotel - only a few minutes extra but it helped me get my bearings.  I only spent one full day in Warsaw - mainly to adjust to the time change before picking up a rental car for a ten day tour.  As much as I like train travel, car tours are the most flexible way to see things.  It's also another way to understand a country.  You see what the locals see every day.  If you stay off the highways, you can learn the names of supermarket chains,  common hotel names  (or perhaps the word hotel).  You try to pronounce street signs and city names as you drive by.  In Poland it's pretty easy to avoid long stretches of highways - they don't have many, and they occur in short stretches.  Before you know it, you are back on a small road and driving through villages, countryside and towns.

Basilica of the Sacred Heart of Jesus -
North  Praga, Warsaw
 On the Sunday before I picked up the car, I went to the 400 meter ice track  near my hotel.  They told me that I was too late to use my speed skates. No speed skates during public skating - Polish custom?   A Dutch woman recognized my orange hat, and asked if I was Dutch. She invited me to skate during club hours.   So instead,  I did what a lot Poles do on Sunday -  I took the tram to church.  The church pews were pretty full. Poland has the highest church attendance rate in Europe.   I crossed the icy Vistula River twice that day. - In Polish it's spelled Wisła  -  the Ł  (L with stroke)  sounds similar to the English W - and the W in Polish sounds like the English V.
Church of Saint Stephen - Mnichów 
On Monday,  I drove south from Warsaw to Krakow.  I found the local drivers to be good and patient.  The reason for this is now very clear to me - highly variable roads.  Major roads can change from pristine, multi-lane highways to bumpy, shoulderless, tracks - all in the space of a few kilometers.  But, on the average,  the roads are passable and well-used by large trucks and small cars.  The truckers are pretty good drivers  -  they need to be.  Driving in an unfamiliar place is rarely boring. The goal is not just to get from town to town  but to observe everything around you without crashing the car.  I'm always ready to stop, and turn around,  to check out something interesting. In the village of Mnichów in  Świętokrzyskie  (Holy Cross) Province,  I found an old wooden church that caught my eye.  It was the parish church of Saint Stephen.    In the parking area, a  bus was dropping off students after school.   

McDonald's - very new. 
A bit further down the road I came across a very new structure -  holy to some - and located right on the highway - American style - McDonald's.   The workers were interested in how the local stuff tasted compared to America.  After eating a chicken sandwich and an apple pie,  I gave them my benediction.  "Just like America",  I said. 
St. Mary's  - Krakow
The next stop down the road was the city of Kraków  .  In winter, arriving some place in the dark is common.  In the morning,  I took the tram into the center which is near the "old town"  -  stare miasto in Polish.   Kraków  was not razed to the ground during WW2  like Warsaw was.  -  it was the capital of Germany's "General Government"  which included much Poland and western Ukraine.  It is an ancient city - the capital of Poland from 1038 until 1569.  Like Warsaw, the Vistula river cuts through the city.  The city looked especially good during my visit - the buildings and trees were coated in snow.   I spent some time at Saint Mary's basilica - famous for it's wooden altarpiece.  Like St. Mary's,  many churches in Krakow are in daily use  -  and are not always tourist friendly. I walked into the Church of St. Francis -  a nun sent me a message, via an raised eyebrow,  to get out and stop messing with the prayer waves.  Clearly,  I was distorting the signals.

Old Synagogue - Kazimierz district of Kraków, Poland. 
Kraków's historical Jewish quarter is in the district called Kazimierz.  It was founded in 1335 by Casimir III the Great and named after him.  Jews had been living in the area since ~1200.  The Jewish population grew with Krakow.  In the 1930s,  about one third of Krakow's population was Jewish  (about 80,000 out of 240,000) .  An era of tolerance and coexistence ended with the invasion of the Nazis in  1939.   The Kraków Ghetto was established in 1941.  It was liquidated by the Nazis between June 1942 and March 1943.  The Soviet army entered the city in January, 1945.

-------------End of Part 1 ---------------------

Saturday, January 4, 2014

Comet Halley Fever - 1986

Thanks to Iwona for rousing me from my blogging lethargy.  It's really all Google Plus' fault. :)
Part 1 -  Mother Nature gave us a nice Christmas present in the winter of 1985-1986  - Halley's comet came to visit.   Halley is a fairly predictable visitor to the neighborhood of the Sun  - it's a periodic ice ball that shows up every 75 years or so.   It's arrivals have been recorded since 240 BC -  before that,  there is no written record of it's close encounters with Earth.   As the comet gets close to the Sun, the solar wind and heat ablate the surface of the comet creating a long tail of gas and ice crystals. The tail reflects sunlight and can be quite bright.
Comet P/Halley as taken March 8, 1986 by W. Liller

As Halley approached Earth, some Earthlings, including me,  became very excited.  Some people predicted the end of the world.  With a diameter of 10 km,  a collision with Halley would cause a major extinction with an energy of 2 million hydrogen bombs.  The chances of collision were zero - whew !!

My  fever grew and grew until I had to go to Arizona to see it at it's clearest.   I flew to Phoenix and rented a car.   From there,  I drove to Tucson and  visited the university astronomy department. Realizing my interested, one astronomer invited me to spend a night with him at the huge mountain telescope on Kitt Peak, at 2,100 meters,  in the mountains of the Sonora Desert.  I drove up the mountain a few hours before sunset - and watched the telescopes open up for the night's activities. The main telescope is housed in a large white building, 57 meters high,  with a hemispherical dome.  It was cold - winter at elevation in a dry desert - around -6 C.  The sky felt cold as well.

 Dusk settled into night - the exterior lights were turned off.  Lights were dimmed inside the buldings as well.  My eyes adapted to the pure darkness.  A few shooting stars streaked by leaving orange trails.  The mountain became very dark and quiet. The sky was so clear, I felt I could reach out and touch it.  In this setting,  the Milky Way, our galaxy,  is a blazing stripe of brightness that dominates the sky.  Above and below the stripe are thousands of bright and dim stars - these are Earth's neighbors since we are surrounded by local stars.  There are a some dimmer objects which are not local stars - they are nearby galaxies which look like stars with the naked eye.  When seen through a small telescope they are not points of light, like stars,  but have distinct oval or spiral shapes.  The earliest catalog of them is the Messier list.

The sky does not get truly dark until  two hours after the sun drops below the horizon.  I set up my camera to take some time exposures of the night sky.  Some visitors had brought their own small telescopes with them.  They were happy to let me look though and see the comet.  Halley was not as bright as expected so it was hard to see with the naked eye.  With a pair of good binoculars it looked fine - like a cosmic cat with a bushy tail.

Part 2 -    Morning arrived on the mountain.  I drove back to Tuscon and planned to spend the next night on another mountain.  At a restaurant, I struck up a conversation with a local woman about my comet fever.  She  found me interesting enough to offer to guide me to her favorite mountain about 100 km from town. We gathered some supplies for our trip and set out in the afternoon,
Mt. Lemmon lookout is at far left, Rincon Mtns. are left of center, Tucson is in the center, off in the distance.

Mt. Lemmon, click to enlarge
Mount Lemmon is the highest point in the Santa Catalina Mountains.  It has a astronomical observatory at 2,800 meters. The views were stunning. As night fell, the temperatures dropped . This was January after all.

I set up my camera and my large binoculars.  We identified constellations, bright  stars,planets  and Messier objects. One of most dramatic Messier objects is  M31 - the Andromeda Galaxy.

Andromeda Galaxy.
It's one of the closest spiral galaxies to our own - only 2 million light years away.  It contains about a thousand, million stars. From our location, these stars can not be resolved individually and look like a cloud of brighness.

Messier 92.
The day before, at Kitt Peak,  I was lucky enough to view a globular cluster, another type of Messier object through a one meter telescope.  One meter class telescopes are tiny by today's standards but still well beyond the budget of most amateur astronomers. The cluster seemed to hang in space surrounded by a deep velvety black - each star a sharp pinpoint of bright white light.  I came away quite entranced

The next day,  I drove to the Grand Canyon from Tuscon via Flagstaff. .  Out west it's "big sky" country - lots of space -  to get anywhere you have to drive 600 km.

More to come...

Tenth Anniversary of Surgery

It's been ten years since cancer surgery.  I have new camera. :)