What I'm Reading
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Wednesday, September 28. 2005
Last Saturday evening, everyone was out of the house, so I had another opportunity to cook. I looked in the fridge, and we had a few big mushrooms, some cheese, celery, and carrots. So, I decided to make stuffed mushrooms with a side of stir fried vegetables. I'll warn you ahead of time that the recipe isn't set in stone because I eyeballed most of the ingredients. Portions, cooking times, etc will vary.
About 10 minutes
About 20 minutes in the oven
So, I took a couple of the white mushrooms, and washed them, and removed the stems. The stems and cheese would be used as filling for the mushroom caps. I finely cubed the stems and cheese, and combined them together. I lightly seasoned the mixture with salt and pepper. Lastly, I added a few drops of worcestershire sauce to the mixture for some zing.
I proceeded to lightly salt the insides of the mushroom caps. Then, I took a small spoon and started packing the mixture tightly inside the mushroom caps. Once the mushrooms were stuffed, I sprinkled bread crumbs on top. I then added a little bit of olive oil on top so that the bread crumbs would brown nicely and not burn while cooking.
Meanwhile, I had my toaster oven preheated to 400 degrees fahrenheit. Note, this was a toaster oven which is far less powerful than an oven. I have a crappy little tabletop toaster oven, so you'll have to adjust your temperatures and cooking time if you attempt this recipe in an oven.
I took a metal tray, and covered it with aluminum foil, and placed the mushrooms on it. I put the tray into the toaster oven, and waited about 10-15 minutes. After ten minutes, the mushrooms should look slightly cooked and a little brown. Now it's time to broil it so that the bread crumbs on top get nice and crunchy. So, I set my toaster oven to broil at 450 degrees farenheit. This took about 5 minutes, and the bread crumbs were nice and brown. When you broil, you have to keep watch or else stuff might burn.
After broiling, the mushrooms should look fully cooked and a bit smaller. Let it cool a bit as the cheese is probably molten hot. Serve as is!
The stuffed mushroomes were delicious because of the contrasting textures. You get a nice crunchy outside accompanied with a creamy and soft inside.
Next time, I'm going to try to do a bigger batch using the oven. It'll probably take less time, and it will reduce the chance that some of the bread crumbs come out wet and soggy.
This recipe would be great as an appetizer. It's also super easy to make. It took me less than 10 minutes to prepare, and about 20 minutes in my toaster oven. There's also not a lot of mess to clean up since you're only cutting and stuffing, and that's it.
Sunday, September 25. 2005
Today was the day that our church, North Douglas Church, corporately celebrated the burning of the mortgage. It was neat to see a lot of former members of the church and former pastors attend this event. The association that our church is a part of also sent a few dignitaries our way.
My morning started bright and early at 8:45am as we had three different bands/groups to setup for the morning service. Time was tight as each group was allocated 45 minutes to setup, warm up, and practice. I was surprised that everyone finished their practices on time.
The morning service easily had 200+ people. You could sense a lot of anticipation and excitement in the air. Former Pastor Gary gave the morning sermon which was quite good. He emphasized that just because the church has finished paying off its financial debt, it is no time to rest as there is much work to do. There are still many lives we can help and improve. Being freed from debt enables the church to dream bigger now.
At around noon, the morning service ended, and the church hosted a free lunch for everyone. There were lots of sandwiches and baked goodies. I had the privilege of washing dishes after the lunch. That may sound sarcastic, but I really had a great time doing the dishes. Our church features an awesome commercial-grade kitchen, and the equipment is absolutely amazing. So, I load about 24 dirty dishes into a dish tray, and I get to wash them down with a high pressure water hose. The hose was amazing, it absolutely obliterates any food left on the dishes. Next, I move the trays along a track to the industrial strength dish washing machine. You open it up, slide the tray of 24 dishes into it, shut it, and wait 40 seconds. After 40 seconds, the dishes come out clean, hot, and sterile. It's absolutely amazing. I have to get one of these! On a side note, I found out the hard way that you have to put a tray on top of a tray of cups if you're putting them through the washer. If you don't, the cups get spun around in the power dish washer as the jets are really powerful. Oops
I'll move on to some of the background of the church. A little more than 10 years ago, the church was on Douglas and Canterbury Road. Highway 17 was being built, and the government expropriated all the land in the area to make way for the highway, which included the church's property. So, the church members had to find new land and build a new church. They settled on Jolly Place Road which is just off Mckenzie and Glanford. The members dreamed big and built a fairly large facility while taking on a lot of debt. It's a miracle that the church members have paid off all the debt within 10 years since the facility cost about $5 million to build.
I have to admit, five years ago, it seemed like paying off this mortgage was impossible. Interest payments were $66,000 a year which is a LOT of money. During that time, some stuff was happening in the church which caused some people to leave. In the last few years, the number have rebounded. In either case, at times it seemed bleak.
I offer my hats off to the older people in our church for getting this mortgage paid off. Many many many years ago, a bunch of them got together and bought three lots of land which are adjacent to our current church's location. They also got together to build houses on the land, and donated them to the church as well. During financial hard times, it was very tempting for the church to sell those houses in order to get out of debt, but they held off on that. Then this year, at the height of the housing market boom, the church decided to sell off those pieces of land in order to pay off a good chunk of the mortgage. The timing was absolutely perfect. Had they sold the houses a few years back, we would still have a large debt load. By selling these houses this year for top dollar, we fetched quite a pretty penny for the houses. Anyways, if it wasn't for the seniors getting together years and years ago, we would be not be seeing the mortgage burned.
Anyways, a second service was held at 3:00pm. A bunch of dignitaries gave short speeches about the history of the church, and gave their congratulations. The mortgage burning was quite the spectacle and a very joyous occasion.
North Douglas Church is on the move! At this point, I'm filled with cautious optimism for the future.
Saturday, September 24. 2005
This week on my blog, we have focused mainly on the hurricanes since that's the top news maker for the last little while. So, I thought it'd be suiting to end hurricane week with something hurricane related.
I found this funny video clip of CNN Weatherman, Chad Myers, losing his cool, live on CNN. I've seen this weather guy on CNN for the last little while, and every time I see him on, I crack up a little ever since I saw the video clip.
So, the video clip can be found here (.mov).
Thank God that Hurricane Rita wasn't as bad as they anticipated.
Wednesday, September 21. 2005
My jaw dropped today when I saw the news say the gulf coast of America was getting hit with another hurricane. This is of course Hurricane Rita, and it has become a category five hurricane! The CBC is carrying an article about these developments. This is absolutely insane!
From the article:
Hospitals and nursing homes were evacuated and more than 1.3 million along the Gulf Coast were ordered out Wednesday as hurricane Rita turned into a 265 km/h monster that could pound Texas and bring more damage and heartache to New Orleans.
Forecasters predict Rita could come ashore Saturday along the central Texas coast between Galveston and Corpus Christi.
With its huge size -- storm-force winds extending 565 kilometres across -- practically the entire western end of the Gulf Coast was in peril, and even a slight right turn could prove devastating to the fractured levees protecting New Orleans.
Rita strengthened into a category 5 storm on Wednesday afternoon. Forecasters said Rita could be the most intense hurricane on record ever to hit Texas, and one of the most powerful to slam into the U.S. mainland.
All of Galveston, vulnerable sections of Houston and Corpus Christi and the damaged New Orleans were under mandatory evacuation orders, one day after Rita caused minor damage when it sideswiped the Florida Keys as a much weaker storm.
Crude oil prices rose again on fears that Rita would smash into key oil installations in Texas and the gulf. Hundreds of workers were evacuated from offshore oil rigs. Texas, the heart of U.S. crude production, accounts for 25 per cent of the nation's total oil production.
Twin nuclear electricity-generating reactors at the South Texas Project on the Gulf Coast near Bay City are expected to be in the path of Rita and will shut down seven hours before the storm hits land.
It's tragic that they say that Hurricane Katrina refugees that moved to Texas are being forced to flee again. Even worse, New Orleans may be affected again. Suddenly a lot of the problems and issues that we're facing seem very petty and trivial compared to this.
As the article mentioned as well, oil and energy production could be affected. This more than likely means gas prices going up again. Sigh. Right now, gas is standing at $1.149 a litre, we'll see where that goes.
The CBC also has an interesting piece on how hurricanes are categorized.
Category Five Hurricane: winds greater than 249 km/h
Storm surge generally greater than 5.5 metres above normal. Complete roof failure on many residences and industrial buildings. Some complete building failures with small utility buildings blown over or away. All shrubs, trees, and signs blown down. Complete destruction of mobile homes. Severe and extensive window and door damage. Low-lying escape routes are cut by rising water 3-5 hours before arrival of the center of the hurricane.
Major damage to lower floors of all structures located less than 4.5 metres above sea level and within 500 yards of the shoreline. Massive evacuation of residential areas on low ground within 8-16 km of the shoreline may be required.
Tuesday, September 20. 2005
There has been a torrent of news resulting from Hurricane Katrina. The world is now graciously responding to the needs of Katrina victims. However, some of this aid is being rejected. I saw this article entitled, Up In Flames which caught my eye.
Hundreds of tons of British food aid shipped to America for starving Hurricane Katrina survivors is to be burned.
US red tape is stopping it from reaching hungry evacuees.
Instead tons of the badly needed Nato ration packs, the same as those eaten by British troops in Iraq, has been condemned as unfit for human consumption.
And unless the bureaucratic mess is cleared up soon it could be sent for incineration.
One British aid worker last night called the move "sickening senselessness" and said furious colleagues were "spitting blood".
The food, which cost British taxpayers millions, is sitting idle in a huge warehouse after the Food and Drug Agency recalled it when it had already left to be distributed.
Scores of lorries headed back to a warehouse in Little Rock, Arkansas, to dump it at an FDA incineration plant.
The Ministry of Defence in London said last night that 400,000 operational ration packs had been shipped to the US.
But officials blamed the US Department of Agriculture, which impounded the shipment under regulations relating to the import and export of meat.
The aid worker, who would not be named, said: "This is the most appalling act of sickening senselessness while people starve.
"The FDA has recalled aid from Britain because it has been condemned as unfit for human consumption, despite the fact that these are Nato approved rations of exactly the same type fed to British soldiers in Iraq.
"Under Nato, American soldiers are also entitled to eat such rations, yet the starving of the American South will see them go up in smoke because of FDA red tape madness."
Food from Spain and Italy is also being held because it fails to meet US standards and has been judged unfit for human consumption.
And Israeli relief agencies are furious that thousands of gallons of pear juice are to be destroyed because it has been judged unfit.
One source speculated that the American Food Department Agency isn't letting the food through because it contains meat from a foreign country such as Britain, and they're concerned it may contain mad cow disease. This of course is somewhat ludicrous since America recently has been battling with mad cow disease at home.
My thought is, if the food is good enough for military forces deployed in a theater of war, surely it is good enough for hurricane victims. I mean, under NATO rules, American troops are allowed to eat these British rations as well! This may also sound a bit harsh, but even if one person died of mad cow disease, while hundreds of others survived from starvation, isn't that worth it?
Thursday, September 15. 2005
This beginning of term has been rather interesting as there have been many technical glitches at UVic, with some of them affecting my workplace. We'll start with the fine arts' computer servers. Apparently they got hacked really badly last week some time, so they had to reset everyone's passwords. What's annoying is that you have to go to them in person to get your password reset. Some people work off campus (ie Vancouver), so it's not easy at all to get your account up and running again.
Last Sunday, the engineering and computer science networks went down, so no one could connect to the servers. This was rather annoying as some of us have to connect to those servers to do assignments and such. My work's web application lives on that network as well, so no one could access the application.
Moving on to Monday, at around 8pm, all of the engineering buildings got hit with a power outage. By default, all the computers and servers went dead. Again, some of us who need to do assignments on those machines were interrupted.
Unfortunately, the server that our web application lives on went down as well because of the blackout. It came back up Tuesday morning; however, the clock on the server was wrong, so we had a few glitches because of that.
During lunch time on Tuesday, UVic's netlink went down. Netlink is the authentication system used at UVic; it is used to log into various things such as the library networks, e-mail, etc. Our web application uses Netlink authentication to verify that UVic students are using our website. With Netlink down, both staff and students were unable to use our web application. Online library service was down, dial-up connections were down, and a few other main services were down throughout campus. What's even worse is that new students were unable to create their Netlink accounts.
A few months ago, my co-worker Myron wrote an add-on for our web application which utilized an alternate authentication system that was supposed to replace Netlink authentication. The system is called LDAP, and it's an authentication system just like Netlink. UVic runs an LDAP server which runs parallel to Netlink. Anyways, this add-on that Myron wrote was experimental, and it hadn't been fully tested yet. However, this add-on would allow our application to come back up because we'd be switching from Netlink to LDAP.
My boss was somewhat annoyed that people kept thinking our web application kept going down because of something we did, when clearly it was beyond our control. With the application down, we had a lot of staff on campus that were idle. Since we had nothing to lose, my boss gave the green light to activate this experimental LDAP code. Our system administrator recompiled PHP, and we launched the new code. Magically, students and staff were able to use our system again. We were happy that our system was up while the other systems on campus were crippled. (Normally we don't take changes with releasing experimental code that could affect over 1,500 users.)
Later that afternoon, Netlink came back up, but there was another problem. Portions of the internet were down. Big websites like Google, Hotmail, etc were inaccesible. This wasn't a campus problem, this was a global problem. When it rains, it pours eh?
Finally we arrive to today's computer problem. So back in February, I told you all about our new eMacs we got in the office. Well, this morning, I turned my Mac on, and I noticed that the top of the screen was jittering. At times, the screen would flicker on and off very quickly. Something was up, so I rebooted my computer, hoping it was a temporary problem. The computer booted up, but now my screen wouldn't turn on, it was completely dead. I had to call the new help desk guy to troubleshoot my problems. He couldn't figure it out, so we have to bring the computer into the campus computer store for servicing; luckily, the computer is under warrenty. If they can't fix it on campus, then they'll have to ship it back to Apple which would take quite some time. I'm somewhat shocked that my computer has had problems so soon. I've only had it for 7 months.
One thing that I really don't like about Macs is that their computers are completely integrated with their computer monitors. If the monitor fails, you have to send the entire computer back for repairs. Not very modular design. On the contrary, if my PC's monitor went dead, I could send back just the screen, and keep my computer. I could in the meantime, use another monitor with my computer. This is not the case for a Mac.
Computer downtime means a lot of lost productivity and money. Oh well, it's just one of those weeks.
Monday, September 12. 2005
Exactly one year ago, I started blogging on this website, and here we are at the one year anniversary. In the last year, I've had about 10,000 visitors to the website, and 95,000 hits. My average is now 57 visitors per day.
Here's a little chart showing my web traffic from September 2004 to August 2005:
The experience has definitely been quite interesting and rewarding. One of the primary goals of this blog was to bring up topics relating to current events and politics to people my age; from the responses I've received, I think I have been quite successful. I try to keep the site interesting to a diverse audience by writing about different things that range from dead serious articles to humorous articles.
Here's some other statistics of the site:
Total Blog Entries: 171
Distribution of Entries:
41 Current Events
14 Science / Tech
4 Site News
Total Number of Comments: 254
Most Frequently Commenting People:
10 Jonathan Aquino
Comments Per Entry: 1.49
Entries Per Week: 3.28
Entries Per Month: 14.52
Total Number of Characters in Blog: 564,900
Anyways, when I get some time, I'll probably add a few new features to the blog. Thank you all for your comments, support, and input from the last year. Thank you for all the mature thought-provoking debates. I'm quite humbled by all the kind things that my readers have said.
Here's to another year of blogging!
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"A bad peace is even worse than war."
--Gaius Cornelius Tacitus (56 - 117), Roman Senator
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