Life of Megan

Saturday, August 30, 2008

This week's meals/groceries

I thought it might be interesting to talk about what we bought at the farmer's market this week and what we plan to cook.

From The Piggery (in front of the Red Feet Wine Market):
  • 4 oz deli ham
  • 8 oz fresh kielbasa
  • 8 oz bratwurst
  • 2 (1 lb and change) rib chops
From the Ithaca Farmer's Market:
  • 3 lb tomatoes
  • 3 red bell peppers
  • 1 large green pepper
  • 4 ears of corn
  • 2 jalapenos
  • 2 large handfuls of green beans
  • 3 lb onions
  • 1 head of garlic
  • 1 bunch of tat soi
  • 8 oz spinach
  • 4 oz shiitake mushrooms
  • 1 bunch of cilantro
From Wegmans:
  • Milk
  • Eggs
  • 1 can refried beans
  • Bagels
  • Cheerios
  • 1 package of small corn tortillas
  • Some kind of bread with sun-dried tomatoes that they had fresh and that we couldn't resist.
It's going to be tricky to fit the sausages into my calorie count, but I'll figure it out.

We will still need to buy some sort of Japanese noodle, plus some sort of fresh bread.

We are making:
  • Sausage with spinach and homemade pasta (Judson)
  • Pork chops, green beans, and creamless "creamed" corn (you use the corn starch from the corn and the ears as a thickener, a la Tom Colicchio) (Judson)
  • Roasted red pepper and tomato soup with open-faced ham-and-egg sandwiches (me)
  • Steak fajitas (using Ferdinand) with refried beans and homemade salsa (me)
  • Stir-fried steak with rice or udon or soba (me)
  • Some sort of mystery dish, probably involving mussels (Judson)
And that's about all I know for now!


Those of us who are not vegetarians or Muslim or Jewish know that the pig is a miraculous animal. Pigs are smart. They're fairly clean animals. They can be trained to find truffles, and unlike dogs, pigs are intelligent enough to take their own truffle cut. But mostly, pigs are delicious.

Long have I admired their flavor. This summer, we discovered Heather, Brad, and their Piggery. Suddenly, pork was even more delicious.

All my life, I have loved pork and bacon, but I have never liked ham. Christmas (and my birthday) is generally spent with me eating sides and having extra room for dessert. Sure, I liked the French jambon and the Italian prosciutto, but American ham? As the teenaged me would have said "Gag me with a spoon!"

Fortunately, there are times in our life when trust in good producers combined with a healthy sense of adventure leads to revelations. Today was one of those times. The folks at The Piggery were selling deli ham for the first time. And we had been planning to pick up some prosciutto at Wegmans for a dish later this week (involving eggs and roasted red pepper and tomato soup). Why not try the ham at The Piggery? We decided to get 4 oz and try it out. While Brad and Heather were weighing and tallying our pork, they gave us a little ham sample.

Our only regret is that we did not buy more ham. I guess ham sandwiches will finally be in my lunch box.

Friday, August 22, 2008

The battle of the lighting fixture..

Sometimes, it sucks to live in an 80-year-old house.

Last weekend, Judson and I were finally victorious over the lighting in our living room. The plan had been to change out the fixture weeks ago. But when we brought down the old fixture, we discovered that not only did we not have the right type of box, but that there only seemed to be about 1/2" clearance between the ceiling and the joist the box was anchored to. Ouch. To make matters worse, when we tried to remove the old box, we didn't notice the armored cable anchors until we had already clipped numerous wires awfully close to the armored cable. It turns out that installed armored cable is practically impossible to cut (given any kind of cutting tools we owned and purchased).

We dealt with the shortened cables by using butt splices to add length; this had the added benefit of removing any old frayed and unreliable cloth insulation (yes, our wiring is so old that the insulation is woven cloth). There's nothing like a few butt splices to bring out your inner Beavis and Butthead. We also established once again that I am the mechanically inclined member of our family. This is reassuring, since I'm the mechanical engineer.

Once we had installed the butt splices and re-established how the wiring worked (there were eight wires--none of which were bare grounding wire; the armored cable conduit stuff provides grounding), we used wire nuts to make everything safe. We tested the butt splices by tugging firmly on them and by bending the wires; then we gave them a little extra insulation by wrapping them with a rather copious wrapping of high-quality electrical tape.

And this is how our living room remained for roughly three weeks. The wires that were hanging down were far too long for a 1/2" ceiling box. We didn't want to cut up the joist to allow for a deeper box. And while side-mounting seemed like it might be an option, we couldn't find an appropriate box and didn't want to have to tear up the whole ceiling.

Last week, something in me snapped, and I decreed that we would have our new fixture installed by Sunday evening.

It worked.

We managed to find a side-mount ceiling fan box whose punch-outs were in the perfect place for our armored cable. It was a spacious 2.5" deep. It was not easy to pry out the nails that held brackets positioning the armored cable in precisely the wrong place, but I got it done. And I didn't fall off the ladder, even though I had numerous close calls. If you're klutzy, you should probably not attempt a task that requires you to use a lever at a level higher than your head while standing on a ladder, especially if you are exhausted from a hard workout earlier in the day. Incredibly, it was even more difficult to screw in the new box. Against the odds, I eventually got the screws started (using a normal screwdriver, no less!), and that proved to be the hardest part. Soon our box was installed, and the cable was hanging down in the perfect orientation. We didn't even have to cut too big an opening in the ceiling.

With the box installed, we decided to check out the fixture and decide whether we needed to patch the ceiling. We didn't! Huzzah!

So we installed the light fixture. It looks great. I'll take a picture as soon as I figure out what's going on with our battery recharger.

People always say that replacing/installing light fixtures is easy. And they're right.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Update coming soon!

I just can't figure out what to write about right now... =)

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Happy Left-Handers' Day!

Today is Left-Handers' Day. So to celebrate, I wrote a note about it on my whiteboard at work. But no one said anything about it, even though I had people in my cubicle virtually all day today because I was acting as my boss (who's on vacation)... Oh well!

Here's one thing that's really great about being a lefty:
When Judson and I go out to dinner together, we can comfortably sit (and eat) at a table for two, even if one side is wedged against a wall.

What do I dislike about being a lefty? Signing those electronic pads at grocery stores and such. The stylus often won't reach the left side. There's hardly any room to sign. At the DMV, I've had to sign while holding the stylus like a toddler because part of my hand kept touching the pad and messing up the signature. Ugh!

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Red Jacket Orchards

My friends, I would like to talk to you about juice. And about cider.

I think it's easy to be oblivious to how tasty various juices can be. Sure, we drink juice when we think it will solve our health problems. Pomegranate juice had its day. Now we've moved on to the remarkable acai berry and its juice. Sour cherry juice is also popular these days. But if you've already graduated preschool, it's unlikely that you find many opportunities to try and relish new juices.

In my area, apple cider and apple juice are king. This is because Cornell has been instrumental in developing new apple varieties and promoting them in this country. Right now, the Geneva agricultural station, in Geneva, NY, is home to some of the world's cutting edge apple research. (I'm not making this up... Google it if you must.)

Is it any wonder, then, that what turns out to be the world's best juice producer, Red Jacket Orchards, is located in Geneva, NY?

A while ago, I noticed Red Jacket in the juice/soda cases at local shops. I didn't think much of it. But then, just a few weeks ago, I tried their cranberry apple cider. It was sublime. And the ingredients list was delightfully simple: the juice only involved apples and cranberries. It even had 3 grams of fiber per serving! Since then, I've tried the apple cider (tasty) and the fabulous Joe's Summer Blend (apple and lemon juice).

If you're in the Northeast or the Mid-Atlantic region, I urge you to try to find these juices. If not, you can order some online. Or if you know me personally, I may get some for you as a gift some time.

Hmm... All this typing has made me thirsty...

Friday, August 08, 2008

Happy Birthday, Adam!

Twenty-two years ago, I got two of the best gifts a 5-year-old girl could ever receive: a My Little Pony dream castle, and a little brother.

I don't know what became of the dream castle, but I'm sure it was well-used and well loved. And it stands as a testament that I was, in fact, slightly girly as a kid.

In the end, my brother was a better gift. He's a nice guy and a good friend, and I wish I could see him more often.

And to that end, I'd like to remind him that Ithaca and the Finger Lakes region features the following perks:
  • Ithaca Beer Company, whose beers have received accolades from the NYT Beers of the Times folks.
  • The package store near Kinkos, which features hundreds of beers from around the world.
  • Wegmans and the Wegmans beertropolis.
  • Three great wine stores.
  • The Ithaca Coffee Company, which sells wonderful coffee and has a very knowlegable staff. They even sell Chemex devices and filters!
  • Purity Ice Cream and the Cornell Dairy.
  • Wineries!
  • Great hiking trails
  • A small but committed group of libertarians who stand in front of CVS every Friday morning with signs.
  • The Short Stop Deli and the Hot Truck. Mmm... pizza subs.
  • Hal's Deli, whose pastrami on rye rivals any NYC deli.
  • And much, much more!

Monday, August 04, 2008

RIP Alexander Solzhenitsyn

Yesterday, Solzhenitsyn died at age 89, apparently of heart failure. The world has lost a great writer.

And I am reminded that I need to read The Gulag Archipelago. (One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovitch was amazing, even the second time around, when I had to read it for school.)

Saturday, August 02, 2008

Call Me a Pioneer

When I was seven or eight, I joined a Parks and Rec soccer team. It was coed. I don't think many girls were interested in playing at the time. I think there may have been other girls in the league, but I am fairly certain that I was the only girl on my team. It generally wasn't a big deal. Most of the boys were fine. I didn't mind too much that there weren't other girls playing. Occasionally, a boy would tell me that I was bad because I was a girl, but I usually found a way to prove him wrong. I played for about three years. I think during that time, the number of girls in the league increased. I don't think it ever mattered to me. Playing soccer was fun.

Twenty years later, I see girls playing soccer everywhere. Mia Hamm is a household name. So many young girls play that I see leagues of them every time I run through Cass Park.

And I am still one of very few women playing a "boy's" game.

Only 20% of engineering undergraduates are women, and in the real world, women make up only 10% of the engineering workforce(1). In my office, I am the only mechanical engineer who lacks a Y chromosome (out of 8). There's also a female electrical engineer (Yan); she's one out of five. Lots of people are trying to figure out why there aren't more of us. Even more are working on increasing our numbers. I bet your area has at least one program aimed at increasing the number of women in engineering and the sciences. I know mine has several. Some members of Congress(2) have even suggested that we should apply Title IX to engineering schools. Title IX is the measure that was used to help increase the number of women's sports programs.

I would love to see more women in engineering. There is absolutely no reason that an intelligent woman who enjoys math and problem-solving should avoid engineering. If our society is consciously or subconsciously telling women and girls that they should stay away, then we have a problem to fix. And I can see how such a problem might exist. Girls generally take more flak than boys for being geeky. Girls are supposed to be interested in dance and cheerleading camps, not science camps. Barbie is a progressive woman. She was a doctor even when I was a kid. But to the best of my knowledge, there is no engineer Barbie, no rocket-scientist Barbie. And Barbie commercials seem to focus on fashion and modeling.

I think that we should probably shift the way we present career opportunities, math, and science to young girls. PSAs encouraging kids to be more active and to study more should show girls in the lab with the boys. I think it'd be helpful to focus our efforts on kids when they're still in elementary school, before all the stereotypes and peer pressure becomes entrenched.

But Title IX for engineering schools? Rabidly pushing women into engineering, even when maybe it's not what floats their boats? That's a problem. Women who don't like engineering are not going to make good engineers. And I don't want anyone thinking that I got my job just because I'm a woman. Women engineers need to be as good and as passionate as the men, or all women will suffer. I hope that Congress (16% women) will not let this Title IX in school idea go anywhere.

All things considered, I don't know how to approach the subject of women in engineering. Maybe I'm naive, but I think our numbers will increase naturally.

Maybe engineering just needs its own Mia Hamm.

I don't think that designing and analyzing satellite components has much of a chance of giving me the kind of fame really needed to inspire young girls. But I am doing my best.

I hope engineering will turn out to be like soccer.

Twenty years from now, I might just be seeing women engineers everywhere.

(1) Girls are ready for engineering if engineering is ready to share.
(2) Sex, Bias and Data