Curried Bok Choy with tofu, tomatoes and coconut milk

I had friends over to watch the World Baseball Classic final
last Monday, and made enough of this to also be the soup of the
week after the Cantabile
Band
rehearsal on Tuesday.

It’s a recipe I got out of Mark Bittman’s How
to Cook Everything Vegetarian.
He calls for peas as the main
vegetable, but I’ve used it pretty frequently and find it works
pretty well with any green vegetable with some flavor to it. I
think I first did it with kale, and have done it with Swiss
chard, and maybe spinach.

The green vegetable that said, “Buy me,” at Whole Foods Market on
Monday was Bok Choy, so I used that.

I took three onions and a can of plum tomatoes. The recipe says
to chop them in a food processor, but I decided to try the Cuisinart
Smart Stick Hand Blender
. This would have worked fine for the
tomatoes, but was a bit small for the onions. You can just chop
them any way you normally chop tomatoes.

You simmer the tomatoes and onions for a while and then add a
can of coconut milk and the vegetable and seasonings and cubed
tofu.

For seasonings, I just used Garam Masala and salt, but you can
add other things if you like. I sometimes add some star anise.

With a vegetable like Bok Choy, I add the stems first and the
leaves later. In this case, I had everything simmering except
the leaves and tofu before my recorder lesson at 8, and then
when the lesson was over at 9 I added the leaves and tofu and
started making rice. We ate when the rice was done.

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Following up

Tofu Croutons

Last Thursday,
I wrote about making Tofu Croutons for a salad. I’ve in the
past processed the Tofu into a vinaigrette to improve the protein
content of salad, but I thought the croutons would also be useful
for soups. The cookbook
I got the recipe from said that if you kept them tightly covered
in the refrigerator they would last for 3 days. Mine were fine
the second day, but soggy and tough on the third day.

Logitech 550

I posted the day after the Logitech 550 Universal
Remote
arrived. I intended to not follow up until I’d had
another round of programming, but I’ve found a couple more
problems that I don’t think programming is going to fix:

  • I have my DVD player hooked directly to the Stereo
    amplifier, since I generally prefer to get the better sound
    quality on movies, although there’s lots of TV that I’m happy to
    just use the TV speakers. I will look around the next time I
    get around to booting Windows and running the Logitech program,
    but the remote is making an assumption that you can adjust the
    volume on a DVD with the TV volume control, and that isn’t true
    for my system.
  • The software button labeled “Aspect” during “Watch DVD” does
    in fact bring up the “View Mode” menu on my TV set, but the
    arrows that are the only way I know of to select a view mode are
    the DVD player arrows, not the TV ones. Again, I don’t know
    that there’s a way to program around this.

Speaking of aspect ratios, the TV set I have (a
Sharp AQUOS 32 inch with 1080p resolution
) has a very
unfriendly interface for picking this. What you usually want
(sidebars) is at the top, but then to get to anything else, you
have to scroll through the useless “Stretch” option that
distorts the aspect ratio. Then if you’re trying to play a DVD,
you have to guess which of the other two is the right one. On
some kinds of screens, it’s obvious, but by Murphy’s Law, you’re
always going to decide you want the bigger picture on one of the
screens where you can’t tell which ratio the director used. I
would expect an option for “make the biggest picture you can
without distorting the aspect ratio”, which it must know how to
do since it knows how big the sidebars are on the sidebars option.

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Logitech Harmony Remote

I got a good price from eCost.com on a Logitech
Harmony 550 Universal Remote.

I had tried the $20 “universal” remotes and found they didn’t work
with all my devices and didn’t completely emulate even the devices
they did work with.

For instance, I had a Sony remote that
would turn my Sony Receiver from the 1980’s on and off, but not
let me change the FM stations with the numeric keypad. And none
of the cheap ones I bought would work with my cheap Apex DVD
player.

Both the TV remote and the Cable Box remote claimed
to be able to operate the other device. The Cable Box will indeed
turn the TV set off and on, but not select the input or the aspect
ratio, both of which are important if you want to use the TV set
for watching DVD’s. The TV remote never did anything at all for
either the cable box or the DVD player.

So my coffee table
had a forest of remotes and I could never find the right one when
I needed it. I’d read reviews that said the Logitech remotes were
better, but they seemed pricey. I’ve been feeling less poor this
year than for the last two or three years, so when I saw the one
on eCost for less than $50, I ordered it.

Results

It seems to work. It does do all my devices; it lets me change
the FM stations on the receiver; I can tell it “watch TV and it
turns on the TV set and the cable box and switches the TV input to
the right one for the cable box.

Certainly if you have a
device that needs to be programmed, hooking it up to a computer
and running a program is a better idea than trying to enter codes
through a keypad.

The program that’s supplied with the
remote needs a commercial OS (Windows or Mac). Googling did turn
up a command line Linux program that will do some things, but it
sounded harder than finding the right remote in the remote forest.
I didn’t check whether the windows version would run under Wine;
my laptop still has windows on it, so I just boot it into windows
when I need windows to do something. But Logitech should be
encouraged to provide a Linux option.

I’m enjoying using
the remote with just the out-of-the-box programming I did, but it
still needs more programming — I’m going to check whether I
really like having the sound from the TV set played through the
stereo set better than through the TV speakers, and then program
it to also turn on the stereo and switch to the right input
source.

I don’t have the “watch TV” and “Play DVD” settings
set right yet so that I can easily switch between them. But I’m
sure it’s possible.

Some of the programming seems odd —
there isn’t a “power off” button that will work all the devices.
The thing that looks like it should do that is actually an “end
activity” button. So if you’re doing the “watch TV activity, it
does turn off both the cable box and the TV set. But if you
haven’t defined a “Listen to radio” activity, you have to scroll
through 5 or 6 screens on the AV receiver device to find the power
on/off. I think you can fix that by programming some button to be
power on/off, but it seems strange not to have it right there
without doing that.

So on the whole, I recommend the Logitech remotes over the
cheaper ones, if you think programming them to
do what you want will be easier or more fun than finding the
remote you need in your coffe-table remote forest, and if you have
a computer that’s connected to the network running a commercial OS.

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Following up

I’m back at home, mostly unpacked, and typing this on a real
computer, with an X-windows system that I know what it’s going
to do when I try to copy and paste, where emacs has psgml
installed, and there’s a clicky keyboard at the
right height. And it’s now past when I normally post, so I
thought for a quick post I would write some followup posts, and
save anything strenuous for tomorrow.

Pianos are out of tune

Saturday’s post
on tuning drew an official comment with a book
recommendation. It also drew an email from my friend Ishmael,
who works in a lab at the Massachusetts Eye and Ear
Infirmary
. A colleague of his has written an article
claiming that there’s a neurophysical basis for the stretched
octave. His research subjects for this article are cats, who
tend in my experience to have rather wierd musical tastes, so I
don’t know that this is relevant to why equal temperament was
adopted as the standard tuning by humans, but you can read it
and decide for yourself.

Ishmael also reminded me in the same email that we both play in
lots of contexts where the official tuning system is completely
irrelevant because enough of the performers or instruments
aren’t capable to keeping to a system. This is probably
historically true of an awful lot of music. Which is why many
tuning discussions seem pretty off-the-wall to most practicing
musicians.

Concert construction

Last Wednesday’s
post
about the concert program drew an email from one of the
participants. He agreed that more instrumental music would have
been good, and also said that a wider variety of instruments
(more serpent, some crumhorns) might have helped.

I’ve loved you so long

I said in my
post about this movie
that I’d had A la claire
fontaine
running through my head a little bit wrong since I
saw it. I eventually got out my book of French folk songs and
learned it.

Nokia 810

In my post on my
new Nokia 810
, I may have forgotten to mention that it
works much better than the Nokia 770 did as an MP3
player.

I also found a new application for it — because of the foldout
stand, I was able to set it up on my bedside table in Fall River
as a traveling clock.

Blogging in my 59th year

This post
drew a couple of comments, including one from Mike Cane, whom I had
cited as part of my inspiration for doing this.

He remarks that he’s sure the energy he put into it has
shortened his life, and he doesn’t know how people do it on a
longer term basis.

I think my one post a day isn’t quite as energetic as Mike was
doing — it doesn’t seem any harder than practicing a musical
instrument every day, which I’ve done for several decades. Of
course there is a limit to how many things you can do every day,
and this is cutting into some of the others.

Solar powered Christmas lights

Last Christmas, my sister decided her yard looked drab compared
with all the neighbors’ Santas and reindeer. So she bought some
solar
lighting
. They looked fine when we
assembled them out of the box, but that evening as night fell, one
of them glowed weakly, and the other didn’t light up at all.

We hoped it was because we’d set them up in the afternoon and they
hadn’t had a full day to charge the batteries, but the next day was
the same, so we tried putting them on the south side of the house,
which was a little better but still not very much light for very
long.

I’ve been thinking about that because the lights are still there,
and now, in mid-March, they’re working fine. They come on at dusk,
and are only starting to weaken when I walk the dog at bedtime.

In June and July, they’ll probably run for a good part of the
night.

So the moral of the story is that if you want to use solar power to
celebrate, the summer solstice or either equinox is a better bet than
the winter solstice, at least here in southern New England.

Nokia 810 syncs with google calendar

E-reading history

When I had my first pocket computer (a Palm III in 1999 or so), I discovered
that while I could live without my appointments and TODO list in
my pocket, I really liked being able to carry books around and
read them without adjusting lighting, and with adjusting the type
size to the state of my eyes. Since then, I’ve upgraded
the pocket device several times, including twice when the current
one wasn’t even broken.

Most recently, my Nokia 770 died with the White Screen of
Death. I had really liked it as a reader, with the size and
resolution of the screen being at a really good point, where you
can still get a reasonable fraction of a page on it at a readable
type size, but it still slips into a pocket easily.

When I bought it, I had hopes of being able to use the other
features, and found I mostly didn’t. The music player didn’t play
music loud enough, I didn’t feel like working hard enough to sync
the calendar with the google calendar that’s easiest to use on the
desktop and laptop, the sites I wanted to browse when I could
connect wirelessly seemed to use flash…

So when I had to replace it, I considered the Nokia 810, for
which the software is a bit better supported and which includes
features that aren’t on the 770, but also thought
about the ipod touch or a netbook.

In the end, I decided that the right screen size was the
important thing, and went with the 810.

As a reader, it’s at least as good as the 770. The screen is
the same size. I miss the built-in hard case, but the vinyl
envelope seems to work pretty well, and the foldout stand actually
does make it easier to use as a reader. The FBReader version
seems to be behind the one on my Ubuntu 8.10 desktop, which is a
pity since there’s a new feature that lets you download books
directly from some of the online free libraries that would be
really useful.

Calendar

Of the normal PIM functions, the only one I really wish I had
was the calendar. I’m pretty good at keeping my immediate future
in my head, but I’ve several times double-booked by depending on
that, and it would be good to not have to.

The built-in calendar seems pretty basic. For instance, I
haven’t figured out a way to configure it so that the daily view
shows you evening appointments.

However, there is an application called erminig which will
sync your google calendar with the GPE calendar. (This is not the
calendar that comes pre-loaded, but it can be easily installed
from the application manager.)

I installed this in my first set of installs from the
application manager, but stopped fiddling with it when my first
attempt said it couldn’t connect to google.

This week on the maemo-users list there was a long thread
started by someone who had bought an 810 and had been unable to
find an application he really wanted to use enough to be worth the
trouble of putting it in his pocket. At various points this was
about to degenerate into a flamefest, but a number of people
answered seriously about what they use their nokia tablets for,
including a couple who said they used erminit.

So I started another thread asking how they’d done it. Nobody
really said anything helpful, except that if I could get to google
calendar via the browser, it must be something wrong with the
erminig configuration. So I found the config file and looked at
it, and sure enough, it had my password in the clear, and it
started with a capital letter. The real password begins with a
lower-case letter. Fiddling with the shift key didn’t seem to
change this.

On my next dog walk, I realized that I could just enter some
other letter as the first letter, and then delete it, so I did
that and was successfully able to connect to google. Then the
next issue was that my 8 PM Monday recorder lesson was listed as 1
AM on Tuesday, but that was obviously a time zone issue, and I
fixed it. So now I have a working calendar that I can carry in my
pocket. I’ll let you know if there are problems with the syncing,
but so far it looks pretty good.

I get annoyed at people who complain about the quality of Free
Software and don’t report the bugs they find, so I did spend the
time this morning to register at maemo.org and fill out the bug
report.

But if you run into anyone claiming that the 810 is ready for
consumer use out of the box, you can tell them this story.

Other stuff

Another application I downloaded immediately, and even went to
the computer store and spent $8 on an adaptor for it, is the one that
allows a USB keyboard to plug in to the 810. This does seem to
work, but I haven’t used it yet. If I were to figure out how to
install emacs, it would be more useful.

I haven’t even bothered to install the app that would let me
use the camera. I hardly ever use the one on my cell phone — the
pictures that have been on this blog were taken with a real
digital camera.

I was interested in trying the GPS feature, and it did find my
latitude and longitude and let me look at it on a map, but in
order to get navigation you need to send somebody some more money,
and it sounds like if you’re going to do that, a special purpose
GPS device is still a better deal.

I haven’t yet tried the PDF reader, and most of the browsing
I’ve done hasn’t worked well without my glasses. But maybe
they’ll turn out to be of some use.

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Following up

I expect on a more or less weekly basis to post a short series
of paragraphs that update previous posts.

Tuner

Last Friday, I wrote about my new tuner. I
said that I was having trouble even getting it to slow down when
playing a recorder. I took it to my lesson that evening, to see
what a professional recorder player (John Tyson) could do with
it. As you would expect, he did much better than I did, with no
trouble getting the spinning lights to slow down, but it was a
great deal of effort for him to make them stop. (When you watch
a professional recorder player play with one of the needle ones,
it really looks like the needle doesn’t move at all.) At my next
lesson, he asked me if I’d been working with the tuner (not much,
because of the concert), and recommended doing so, because it
would be good feedback on getting an even tone.

Pruning Roses

On Saturday, I wrote about finally being able to get to the
rosebush in my
garden plot

. Unfortunately, we had an unusual cold snap this
week, with temperatures in the teens (fahrenheit) for several
days, and maybe in the single digits at night. So while last
week I worried that I was leaving it too late, if having the raw
cuts exposed to cold is a bad thing, maybe I should have waited
another week. And now I’m worried about how the poor little buds
did with the cold, too.

Link
to my pruning shears.

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Drugs

I said yesterday that the
pharmacy had the authorization, and was claiming that they would
fill the prescription for the insulin syringes in a small number
of hours. I called them several times, and they still hadn’t done
it as of 4 PM. So I called this morning, and they finally had them. But
this morning my fasting blood sugar was 201, which is much higher
than it ever is when I’m taking insulin. I’m going to try to get
time to write to the hospital ombudsman or whatever it’s called
these days. There should definitely be a system for getting
people medication in less than a week, and for expediting
medications that people are out of.

New Tuner

My old Korg MT-120 tuner, which allows tuning multiple
temperaments, has gotten really flaky. Last Sunday, when we were
trying to use it to tune a harpsichord for a performance, we had
to give up and use a cheaper tuner that only does equal
temperament. So I decided it was time to buy a new tuner.

A builder on the harp list had recommended a strobe tuner, the
Sonic Research Turboo Tuner
ST-122
.

So I ordered it Sunday night, and it arrived yesterday at lunch
time.

I immediately tuned up both harps in equal temperament. It did
go faster watching the lights than it does with a needle, but I’m
not sure whether it’s because I’m not obsessing about getting
lights to stand still the way I was about getting the
needle on 0. In any case, it sounded like a pretty good
tuning.

So far, I’ve been having trouble using the strobe for telling
whether my recorder playing is in tune, but it could be that I’ll
get used to it.

This morning, I entered quarter-comma and fifth-comma meantone
temperaments, and will go downstairs and try them on the harps and the
recorders.

I was worried about whether it would be possible to enter
something as complicated as a temperament on a box with only 8 buttons,
and it was a bit slow at first, but I picked up speed as I got
used to it. And it isn’t something you’re going to do every day.
It does seem like a lot of data to enter on a device that can’t be
backed up, though.

Links

For those who have no idea what a temperament is, try the

wikipedia article
.

For those who wondered why I wanted fifth-comma as well as
quarter-comma, read Why
I hate Vallotti…
by Ross Duffin.

The way I translate the name of a tuning into the numbers to
enter into the tuner is via a program called scala.
It comes with almost 4000 tunings defined, and you can load them
and look at all kinds of data about them, or export them so that
MIDI players can use them.

Of the two Ross Duffin books below, I haven’t read the one on
temperaments but based on the article pointed to above, I would
expect it to be much more readable than most of the stuff written
about such things. Shakespeare’s Songbook is an
indispensible reference if you’re going to do anything at all with
music in that period.

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