Observations about the universe, life, Lausanne and me

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Tuesday, October 20, 2009


Recently got a letter from the service des automobiles - the biannual control of my car is due. I knew this meant new winter-tyres at the least, so I was prepared for the worst when I headed to a mechanic for a pre-control check-over, but then...

Eighteen hundred Francs? Ouch. That's about a fourth of what I paid for the rust-bucket two years ago!  But I guess it's either that or write it off, and the mechanic was quick to assure me that the really expensive parts should all be good for another two years or three. Right. I guess we'll see...

Monday, October 19, 2009

Awesome beer can chicken

Yesterday I prepared a dish I have been lusting after for a long time: The awesome beer can chicken (also known euphemistically as "Chicken-on-a-throne"), which is a grilled/roasted chicken, made with the help of beer and awesome. I have no idea why it took me so long to try this, since it is super-easy and takes almost no preparation. I think I had to gather my courage to confront the awesome of this recipe - but it was worth it.

The idea is that  grilling or roasting a whole chicken tends to dry it out, something that develops a delicious crust on the outside, but will lead to the horrifying spectre of a dried out chicken breast. To prevent this and the resulting food fight while preserving the crust you have to moisten the chicken from the inside. Now, when thinking of moistening parched things thoughts will naturally turn to beer, so the solution to the conundrum is easy - ram a half-full can of beer up the chicken's butt:

As a rub I used

  • 1 1/2 Tbsp salt
  • ~ 2 Tbsp of pepper 
  • 2 Tbsp of honey 
  • 3 minced cloves of garlic
  • A handful of basil leaves, chopped
  • 3 sprigs of rosemary, chopped
  • ~1 tsp of ginger
  •  1 tsp of dried thyme
  •  some olive oil

Of course you can mix and match, all woody herbs should be fine. Rub the rub over the chicken and in the cavity. Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 180 centigrades. If you can, you might want to use only bottom heat, or else loosely cover the top of the chicken with a piece of aluminium foil. Half-empty a beer can. Take another one and retry, this time making sure you don't drink all of it. Continue until you have a half-full one, and stick the chicken on it (you can add a couple of holes to the top of the beer can to ensure optimal moistening). Stand it up in a metal bowl or roasting tray and put it in the oven (you can just put it on the floor), making sure the #%!@$ slippery chicken doesn't fall over and leaks beer all over.

After about half an hour or so add potatoes, carrots and/or whole onions to the bowl. Remove the tin foil from the chicken, and roast for another half hour to forty-five minutes. And then:

You can add some of the beer left in the can to the gravy, if you think you can stand even greater awesomeness.

Friday, October 16, 2009

More Lac de Dix

Was up at the Lac de Dix again last weekend. I wanted to take the tour through the barrage, something I missed the last time, but unfortunately there are no tours in autumn and winter.

Fortunately the weather made more than up for it, although it was very crispy:

Despite it being Sunday, there were nearly no people around, especially once you left the cablecar:

Unfortunately I have been fighting a cold recently, so I did not go very far - there is a glacier you can reach in three hours walk or so. Well, next time, maybe.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Further adventures in acrylics

or: Sketching does not help your tableau (too much).

As an absolute beginner in painting, I have to rely on good sketches to get somewhere near the result I want, or so I thought. Last week I was doing a few sketches of one of Franz Franzetta's excellent paintings in "Rough Work".  Starting from a basic line sketch

to sketches with shading

which took me all week. On Saturday I finally felt I was ready to paint - so I did, with results I feel very ambivalent about:

There is something wrong with the poor girl's shoulder and hand, not to mention her face, as my mother was quick to point out (thanks mum ;). Also, I might have bungled the proportions a bit - her head does look a bit too big in comparison with her torso, I think.

But I did learn a couple of new things: First of all, when shading with the pencil you have to pay (nearly) as much attention as when you do line-work. I still tend to be too hasty, and it shows. Second, sketching a difficult position a couple of times really helps - the girls head is inclined slightly downwards (at least in the sketches, didn't manage that in the painting), which looks cute but is a bitch to do right. Much better to do a few studies of that position than to keep at one until it looks right by accident, and you don't have any idea why.

And last but not least, the way to get better at painting is to paint. Astounding conclusion, isn't it? If I'd painted the girl four times during the week I spent sketching, the end result might have been much better.

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Empty beaches (Losinj IV)

The reason why it is nice to be in Croatia at the end of September:

No tourists. It helps further if you are willing to move more than five metres from your car.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Sweet, sweet graph of confirmation

Of course, in science there is no such thing as confirmation. Only supporting evidence or falsification. So here is the supporting evidence that made me weird out my colleagues with a protracted happy-dance:

Unfortunately I can't tell you what it is about, because it most likely is publishable, and therefore sekrit until actually published. Suffice to say that I have had a pet-theory for about a year or so, and this theory requires that the two graphs above are the same - which they are. Hence - happy dance.

Monday, October 5, 2009

Brodetto (Losinj III)

One most excellent thing about a holiday in Veli Losinj is the food: seafood, of course. In nearby Mali Losinj there is a fish-market each day, where you can get fresh catch, for example those unhappy guys:

Of course, I'd be unhappy too if I knew how I'd end up pretty soon:

Tasty, tasty brodetto (i.e. "little broth"), or fish-stew. It's mainly called brodetto and not the Croatian equivalent (brudet), because the local dialect still has many, many Italian words in it, back from the 18th century when the isles were part of the Republic of Venice. In fact, many people of Losinj still speak Italian regularly.