brainwagon "There is much pleasure in useless knowledge." — Bertrand Russell

1Jun/04Off

Biodiesel

The rising cost of gas makes one consider alternative sources of fuel. Lately I've been hearing a great deal about biodiesel fuels. I found a recipe for cooking up a batch. Unfortunately making biodiesel still appears to be more expensive than ordinary petroleum (at least when made from fresh soy), so it might be a while before this catches on, but the chemistry is at least mildly interesting. I was trying to sort out the potential for using waste fats and oil, but it seems rather obvious that even when my diet consisted largely of fried food, I used more gasoline by volume than cooking oil. Thus, while using waste oil may be temporarily cheap, there simply isn't enough supply to make it more than a curiousity on the path to renewable energy.

1Jun/04Off

More Stereo Stuff…

Keeping with the stereo theme, Jim Gasperini wrote up an idea so simple that is surprising how effective it is. To display stereoscopic images, he merely creates an animated gif with the left and right eye images. That's it. While it doesn't give a true 3-D effect, the resulting images do seem to give that feeling of depth.

Heck, the idea is so simple, I had to try it out. I dug around the web looking for stereo pairs, and came up with some nice public domain source material: pictures from the Spirit Lander. You can view the result on the right. Sure, they aren't as cool as naked people in the surf, but it will demonstrate the idea. It would help if there was some left to right and right to left motion in the frame, and the degree of motion is somewhat large. I swiped a couple of pictures from Rob Crockett's gallery and retried it with better results. I'll try to get some more of my own examples up sometime soon.

1Jun/04Off

Alton Brown — My Kitchen Hero

I love Good Eats, and am a big fan of Alton Brown. His no-nonsense pragmatism has vastly improved my skills at preparing steaks, chicken broth and cheesecake. In honor of his brief mention in Wired, I've added his weblog to my list of Celebrity Blogs. Thanks Alton!

To pad this entry out, let me recommend one technique which has turned chicken breasts into something that you might actually want to eat. Alton described his broiled, butterflied chicken in his episode A Bird in the Pan. I'm sure it's great, but I don't buy whole chickens very often. The basic idea works very well with just ordinary chicken parts. I've used breasts (both bone in and boneless) and parts like thighs and wings, and they all come out tasting yummy.

The basic idea is to roast them over a bed of carrots, onions and celery. I often use veggies that are a little past their prime: it simply doesn't matter since you are using them for their aroma, not for eating. I chop up one or two onions, a couple of carrots and a couple of sticks of celery. I then scatter them over the bottom of a roaster pan (I use my nonstick one for this) and just plop chicken parts over the top for roasting. I like my food spicy, so I hit them with a tiny bit of oil, and then dredge them in my favorite spice mix (I've got a big bucket of cajun style spice that gets used a lot for this). I then roast it in the oven at 400 degrees for about 35 minutes for the boneless breasts, about 45 minutes for the bone in ones (use your electronic thermometer to check for doneness if you are unsure). Yank the chicken out, let it rest for five to ten minutes tented with foil, then enjoy it with some cool side dish like coleslaw or potato salad. The aroma of the vegetables will permeate the chicken make it very flavorful. Yum-my.

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