Stock Split

Last Winterfest, my main Christmas present was an Instant Pot, collectively given by The Rellies. For my part, I got everybody a safety vest and a handy microplane grater (we had arranged this transaction months previously, as I am hard to buy for and hate shopping). A few days later, I remembered, barely in time, an impending Space 2.0 rocket landing. With amazing luck, I activated the live SpaceX feed a handful of seconds before the landing burn. I was so elated to have not missed it that I posted about my coincidence-joy to my historic mailing list. The succeeding conversation turned, with internal logic, into a discussion of the Mexican stew pozole, and how I have been making my chicken stock. Now that I actually have an Instant Pot, perhaps I should switch over to that as my stock pot. Thus, the following side-by-side comparison:

Here I compare two batches of chicken stock, one made according to my original procedure (OP), the other employing the Instant Pot (IP) instead.

I obtained two cold rotisserie chickens from the local supermarket, refrigerating them immediately after getting them home. The next day, I weighed each chicken, picked and weighed its meat, then froze the carcasses.

Some time later I prepared equal quantities of onions (quartered), carrots (halved lengthwise and cut into lengths), and celery (prepared as were the carrots).

OP chicken stock was made by placing one frozen carcass in a 5 qt pot, just covering it with water, then adding the remaining ingredients once a steady low boil was obtained. Once the steady low boil resumed after ingredient addition, cooking proceeded for three hours. IP chicken stock was made by placing one frozen carcass in a 6 qt Instant Pot, just covering with water, adding the remaining ingredients, pressure cooking for 1 hr, and releasing pressure after 20 min. For each preparation, the cooked material was filtered through a coarse kitchen sieve, boiled down to a final volume of just under 1 c, then brought to a final volume of 1 c with hot water. The reduced stock was then poured into a pyrex container, allowed to cool to near room temperature, and refrigerated overnight. Fat and scum were scraped off of the cooled stock, and it was remelted. The lower volume batch was brought to the same volume as the higher. Each batch was then poured back into a clean Pyrex storage container, allowed to cool and refrigerated.

The IP stock was darker in color, suggesting increased extraction of soluble components versus the OP stock. It was also much stiffer, as indicated by much lower jiggle when given a gentle shake, suggesting a higher gelatin concentration, consistent with increased extraction of soluble components. It was much more sensuous to carve off bits of it for ad hoc dishes or my usual fare.

Rather than continue with further experiments – making double batches of my usual fare and having blind taste tests and what not, I have simply adopted IP as my chicken stock method of choice. I did a similar experiment with pork butt (the pig is an animal whose shoulder is also its butt), but my local megamart carries butt only in about 10 lb bone-in pieces, which needs further annoying butchering in order to fit half of it into an Instant Pot, so for now I am sticking with a simple braise of the whole butt in a big pot and boiling down and skimming the drippings.


I visited the Bowers Chili Festival, mainly for the U-pick component, although we did wander through the super-spreader component. Here is a bit of a photo essay taking you through some of the steps of what happened after I got home with 8-ish pounds of chili peppers. First I dried them at 165° F in my convection oven. I then converted them to cut-up pepper bits that I toasted in a cast-iron skillet, loosing the stems and most of the seeds along the way. Then I converted them to powder with a coffee-whacker. In the future, I will probably go directly from fresh peppers to cut-up bits, as the drying process for whole peppers is pretty long.

One thing I like to do is just open my jars of chili powder and smell them. Generally I do this by taking off the lid and holding it under my nose and inhaling therethrough. Something is different about making powder from freshly dried peppers, or from these particular peppers: it needed more of a chemistry class “hold it away from yourself and waft the scent gently towards your nose” approach.

Fresh Chilis

Dried Chilis
Chili Bits in the Pan
Chili Bits in the Whacker
The Wages of Capsaicin

Dean Sees Bees, is Pleased

Every so often I fancy myself an incipient bonsai hobbyist, home repair enthusiast, or beekeeper. The latter pastime, unlikely as it is, is most likely. Bonsai? I know I will go through periods of disinterest, apologies to the late treelings! Home repair? Yeah, maybe I could learn to do a particular job as well as a pro after a few attempts, but I do have things I’d rather do. I’ll stick with waiting until there’s an emergency or other critical need then hire a pro out of exasperation. If I’m going to overpay, having that excuse will be handy. Someday I might just decide that I have too much money and spend lots of it on some kind of kitchen/bathroom remodel. Bee-keeper? Well, that’s something I’ve wanted to be since reading The Hobbit. One of my favorite teachers in high school kept bees, and gave a seminar on it one day in his “humanities” class where they housed some of the nerd children for safe keeping. If I ever do beekeep, I’d mostly be interested in having flow hives, and maybe not actually trying to net honey per se, rather making it one of my humanitarian contributions to ecosystem health. As there are abundant local beekeepers, it might be best to simply include plenty of native bee-friendly plants among the vast native fern-brakes I imagine creating (incipient Deano Pteridospore?) on my plot.

Early in Mid-Atlantic spring, my health walk brought me within gawking distance of a dominating bloom-perfused cherry tree. Stunned out of my usual rambling-space-out loop, I approached until I was also within hearkening distance to some pretty loud buzzing. But where were the bees? Obviously in the tree, but I kept looking and did not espy any, until I did and then they were everywhere, confirming the din explanation. One of those mental glitches reminding us that we do not directly perceive. I walked by days later, with neither bees nor buzz. There had been rain and wind, and maybe it wasn’t as warm. But a few days after that it was warm and calm, the tree abuzz. Again with the where are the bees? bee!, lots of bees!

If I were to keep visiting bee populations and aiming my eyeballs deliberately, I suspect I would gradually achieve “bee eye”, as I have with ferns. As I space out while hiking in the woods, “out of the corner of my eye” I will notice a fern or a fernbrake. Foveal vision is mostly directed at not stumbling, and at motion such as animals and waterfalls, but I probably don’t “see” the fern(s) the way you might think, rather having the emotion of a fern being there before looking and seeing it. It wouldn’t surprise me to learn that involuntary eye motions – saccades – are a way of adding information to non-foveal and peripheral vision, such that some class of targets that originally took focused attention to locate and identify gets correlated in a deep neural network, ascending to the class of occurrences that interrupt my attention, as with potential mating targets or predators (though those latter two items are likely more hard wired!).

Note: I do often think of raising ferns as a niche plant nursery gig, but my strengths and desires don’t lie in the direction of operating a business, so niche is where it would have stay. Just to develop the fern propagating tech to deliver hundreds or thousands of plants would leave me with a semi-automated sunroom ready to grow additional specimens: for sale or for the garden. If you know me you won’t be surprised to hear that I imagine chili peppers, tomatillos, and tomatoes as potential crops. Occasionally I fantasize about catfish, and developing recipes for green and red catfish chili dishes. Develop a module that could be enlarged 10´X or more.

The Aperiodiad

As you probably know, rectilinear and polar coordinates are the ones normally used when doing any sort of engineering or scientific calculations. However, given the finity of computers, these coordinates, while conceptually continuous, are necessarily discretized, often by utilizing so-called floating-point or fixed-point schemes. Coordinate axes or angular measures based upon these numbers utilize a finite set of rational numbers, thus defining a finite universe of possible locations. If some coordinate of your particle or wave should “actually” between two of the available numbers, it will be assigned one or the other.

These computerized coordinate systems exhibit periodicities. A simple picture is a checkerboard or Rubik’s cube, with rectilinear shapes tiling an area or a volume, extended spatially to the limit of the numbering scheme. With higher dimensions, we wave our hands and say “it’s like going from a square to a cube, just moreso and with special sauce”. Given all this, some of the squares or cubes (or parallelo-whatsises: right angles aren’t required) that occur in the imagination can’t actually be denoted in floating or fixed point, especially when you get to very small or very large numbers. One can of course sometimes use tricks such as mentally shifting calculations so that the tractable and dense populations of available coordinates is moved from around the origin to the regions of interest, but this can be complex and might not always work. Even with these tricks, the underlying periodicity of the finite numbering scheme being imposed on an infinite substratum suggests that considerable thought be given to anticipating and avoiding the kinds of artifacts that might ensue from using these ubiquitous approximations.

Now, imagine other tilings of the plane, such as Penrose’s aperiodic rhombs. Each tile is reminiscent of the squares that build up the universe of a traditional xy plot, and again most numbers can only be approximated in the usual computer numbering schemes. Unfortunately for Penrose tilings, there is no easy trick, as with periodically distributed tiles, to locating tiles in faraway or highly magnified regions. One has to mathematically pre-assemble the tiling of interest to determine the available coordinates, and as the tiling is aperiodic, the metaphor of tracing your patterns onto a transparent sheet and shifting it cannot possibly work. There are infinite numbers of different ways to assemble such tilings. Furthermore, given any finite subset of a Penrose tiling, there is, nearby, an exact copy of that finite subset that is part of the ultimate, unique, infinite tiling. The upshot is that even once you have determined a (finite) tiling (no matter how capacious or doughty your computer), you can’t even tell which of the infinite number of different tilings it belongs to, because it belongs to all of them an infinite number of times.

Let us now don our speculation-spectacles and loosen up our arm-waving muscles. Extend the above to n dimensions, such as 11 for string theory or 4 for general relativity, or what have you, and assume suitable aperiodic tilings exist in these dimensions. Further assume that such coordinate systems provide artifact-avoiding and performance advantages for physics calculations. Any time a re-casting of the activities of daily physics improves our abilities, we assume that our models are closer to reality. If aperiodic coordinates bring us closer to reality, but we can’t even distinguish between different specific instantiations of said coordinates, then distinguishing between determinism and indeterminism becomes questionable, potentially rendering the very question “not even moot”.