November 14th, 2005

creepy, evil, evil life, tmi

KoBeWriMo Blast!



So, I discovered last week that a local farm is raising Kobe beef, massages, beer-diet, and all. Since I have always wondered, given that I make VERY good steak with cheap beef, what I good do with the best damn beef on the planet, I went for it. Four-and-a-half pounds of Prime Virginia Kobe ribeye, a cast-iron skillet, and me. The result?

Let me put it this way: I love steak. I love beef, the texture, the flavor, the smell. I estimate I've eaten roughly 600-700 steaks in my lifetime, and some of those were very, very good. Once, when my college was picking up the tab (I love conventions), I had a $55 steak. That was pretty spectacular.

None of those compare with what I had tonight. Five of us tackled said 4.5 pounds. We had piles of mashed potatoes (truebluejay's contribution) and a salad of my devising I will describe below, and we still ate every scrap of meat. I was in beef Nirvana. I can say, with some confidence, that the entire history of the universe up until this point was entirely justified by the existence of the steaks I cooked tonight.

Here's how I make steak and salad. I put brackets around the things I omitted tonight, on the grounds I wanted a subtler flavor to go with the sublimely tender, melts-like-butter-in-your-mouth meat.

First, slice the steak into the pieces you're going to use. This is important, as you're going to be cooking on high heat, so piece thickness pretty much determines doneness. For this, I sliced two of the three pieces of meat (each of which was about two inches thick and around 1.5 pounds) into 1.5-inch-thick strips, and butterflied the other piece (two of the people present wanted well-done, the heathens).

Put the steak into a plastic baggie, two if necessary, and add the ingredients for the marinade. This is where I like to play, but typically I use varying quantities of: balsamic vinaigrette salad dressing, [Worcestershire sauce], garlic, [onion], black pepper, celery salt, and mustard (best I've found is, surprisingly, Safeway store-brand Stoneground Mustard With Horseradish). In this case, I used quite small quantities of the marinade ingredients, and cut several out entirely.

[Let sit for 15-30 minutes.]

Place a well-seasoned cast iron pan on the stove, and set to high. Once pan is hot (water droplets flicked onto it burst into steam immediately), grab your tongs (make certain they do NOT have teeth or similar, as you do not want to pierce the meat once the crust has formed) and start putting on the meat. It will sizzle, steam, and spew massive quantities of smoke. I recommend opening every window in the house and turning on the kitchen fan, or doing this outside if you have a grill able to maintain a steady temperature (i.e., a gas grill, which will, of course, be useless for actually grilling things on, unless you like the taste of propane). Flip every few seconds. Doneness is primarily a matter of guesswork and seeing how the meat feels if you squeeze it lightly with the tongues. The meat will form a crust, which will be very heavily cooked, even slightly burnt, within seconds. Don't mind if it burns, it's delicious either way, but do NOT use it as an indicator of the doneness of the meat. Inside, the meat is still completely raw.

When finished, put the meat between two plates and allow it to rest. This lets it stay juicy -- when the meat is still very hot, the juice is under pressure, and make a run for it the instant you pierce the crust. The ideal temperature to serve steak is at or slightly above body temperature.

While the meat rests, take the pan off the heat, and fill it with a shallow layer of rice vinegar (also called rice wine vinegar). Scrape at the pan with a wooden spoon or spatula (metal is too hard -- it will scrape up metal as well as steak scrapings -- and plastic risks melting), and stir the scrapings into the vinegar. Add 1-2 tablespoons of mustard to taste (ideally it will be the same mustard as in the marinade) and stir well. Add mixed greens [and tomatoes -- I prefer roma or campari tomatoes, ripped into quarters by hand] and stir in, letting the salad wilt.

Enjoy! This goes well with potatoes, either baked or mashed (especially mashed, if you can get truebluejay to make them).

Given what I accomplished after eating this, I think I should eat Kobe beef more often. Or maybe not: tonight set me back $75.
  • Current Music
    The Empire Strikes Back -- Ending Credits
creepy, evil, evil life, tmi

Bleh -- Also, Sentient Life on Other Planets

I feel kind of sick today. The lactose-intolerance theory is looking more and more likely -- yesterday's mashed potatoes were full of milk and butter, as delicious as they were. On the other hand, I got about an hour of sleep last night, so that might have something to do with it, too. The main problem with testing the lactose-intolerance theory is that I have to eat ABSOLUTELY NO DAIRY WHATSOEVER for a week or two. Thus far, I've been able to make it through about a day, on average.

I was kind of hoping to work from home tomorrow -- no hardcopy due dates, and that's the only thing I can't do from home -- but it turns out the first batch of packaging proofs comes in tomorrow, and they're late, so I can't leave them until Wednesday. Maybe I'll be able to work from home Wednesday, if I'm not feeling any better.

So, we repackaged Alien Planet to be an intro to evolutionary theory and xenobiology for middle-schoolers. The result was surprisingly good, considering how lackluster Alien Planet was. Anyway, like all our DVDs, it has these "Curriculum Units", which are basically scenes from throughout the show moved around to form thematic units (so, for example, a program on the basis of the U.S. government might start with state governments, then move to federal, while the curriculum units might start with the executive branch (showing scenes on both governors and presidents), then move to the legislative branch). ANYWAY, every CU starts and ends with a question, the first to get the students' attention on the topic at hand, and the second to check whether they were paying attention. One of the first CUs of the Alien Planet repackage was "Do you think there is sentient life on other planets?"

And I have to say, I think the answer is "No." While we only have one planet to go by, I think it's fair to say that developments which only occurred once in the history of life on Earth are probably harder to evolve than developments which occur, independently, over and over again. As such, I suspect we're quite likely to encounter things with eyes or wings, and very unlikely to encounter anything with sentience.

There's no evidence that sentience is stable, or even particularly beneficial in the long run -- we're self-destructing rather spectacularly after only about 50,000 years, after all. Of course, we're biased in favor of meeting sentience: we are social animals, and therefore like meeting beings similar to ourselves. The problem is that there are probably an infinite number of paths life can take from its initial beginnings, and almost none will lead to sentience.

There is an argument, most recently put forth to me by Cyrus, that evolution proceeds from less to more complex and from less to more diverse, and that sentient beings are inherently more complex than nonsentient beings. I suspect neither of these are the case. All modern animal phyla existed within 25 million years of the evolution of multicellularity, implying that diversity has not significantly increased since that time. The first and second charge I am not well-equipped to answer. My intuition is that the biochemical complexity of life is so great that the difference between bacteria and big-brained egotistical mammals pales by comparison, but I'd be interested to know if anybody has actually calculated that. Bio and complexity theory people? Any ideas?

Kaufman makes a strong argument that life is likely to be ubiquitous. Mars and Titan represent the best candidates within the solar system, and if Kaufman is correct, I would not be surprised to find life on both. I would be very, very surprised to find sentient life on any of them.

What does this mean for science fiction? Nothing, really. It's fiction -- likelihood is far less important than believability. And there's always the Brin way out: sentient life, in the Uplift series, has evolved 1-3 times (depending on whether humans evolved or were uplifted, and whether the hydrogen-breather and oxygen-breather Progenitors were seperate species or not), but the universe is teeming with sentient life that did not evolve independently, but was rather genetically engineered.

Speaking of deliberate creation of sentient life, a thought I had while writing this:

"Strict literalist creationism is actually closer to being a scientific theory than intelligent design, because creationism makes testable predictions. Discuss."
  • Current Music
    Return of the King Soundtrack -- The Grey Havens

I feel so... conflicted...

Yeah, I'm posting WAY too much today. What else is new?

On the one hand, I hate Disney, I hate Square much the same way I hate the malevolent alien entity that now controls the reanimated corpse of my one-time best friend, and I hate games where the cameraman is trying to kill me (cf. Shadow of the Colossus).

On the other hand, Tron.

If they stick The Black Hole in there, I give up, I'm getting the damn game, even if its prequel was total crap.

Same goes if Bit is a playable character.
  • Current Music
    Secret of Evermore -- 10 Print "Hello World"