Thursday, October 24, 2013

10 year blog anniversary!

It's been one crazy decade between dodging bullets and maneuvering militia checkpoints and concrete blocks to stealthily flying out of Iraq and achieving my lifelong dream of studying and living in the Land of the Free and getting reunited with family, relatives and friends in a better place, full of potential. 

I haven't blogged much about my experiences here in the US between New York and Texas but I hope to share them with you at some point. There were many ups and downs along the way but I can safely say that I'm finally settling down, getting my citizenship soon and, errmm, 'maybe' the M word. :p

I didn't get you any cake, but here's one of my favorite Iraqi delicacies, pacha. Yes, that is boiled lamb head, hooves and stuffed entrails seasoned with dry lemon over soaked bread loaves. Isn't that so yummy?



Enjoy!

98 comments:

   Lee C.  ―   U.S.A.     said...

 
Stuff doesn't look any better than it sounds.  I'll have to take your word on it being considered a delicacy.

Anonymous said...

Glad you are doing okay Zeyad.

:-)

Lynnette In Minnesota said...

Hmmm...I'll have to agree with Lee on that, Zeyad. Perhaps it's an acquired taste?

So happy to hear you are doing well! I hope you fill us in sometime.

P.S. Personally, chocolate cake is my favorite celebratory treat. :)

StormCchaser said...

Glad to see you're okay. I enjoyed your blog from the start and thought you quite brave, and maybe foolish, early on.

Marcus said...

It would be interesting Zeyad to hear more about your experiences in the US.

I have to say that I'd pass on pacha. Some things I suspect I will not enjoy I might still be willing to try - this is not one of them.

Petes said...

I was hoping you'd post on your blog birthday, Zeyad. Congratulations on making it this far!

On the other hand, your Iraqi delicacy has not only turned my stomach, but brought back the nightmares I had after we studied Brendan Behan's "Confirmation Suit" in our English literature class many years ago. You can read the whole thing if you like, but it features a sheep's head ...

"But my grandmother only tried it once. She had been a first-class gilder in Eustace Street, but never had anything to do with sheep's heads before. When she took it out of the pot, and laid it on the plate, she and I sat looking at it, in fear and trembling. It was bad enough going into the pot, but with the soup streaming from its eyes, and its big teeth clenched in a very bad temper, it would put the heart crossways in you. My grandmother asked me, in a whisper, if I ever thought sheep could look so vindictive, but that it was more like the head of an old man, and would I for God's sake take it up and throw it out of the window. The sheep kept glaring at us, but I came the far side of it, and rushed over to the window and threw it out in a flash. My grandmother had to drink a Baby Power whiskey, for she wasn't the better of herself."

Ever consider a career in the culinary arts? Maybe a Tex-Mex version of those Iraqi horrors ... based on Texas feral hog or something? ....

;-)

Zeyad said...

Perhaps you would prefer some sheep balls?

Petes said...

Now those I have actually eaten ... although only once, and kind of by accident :-(

Lynnette In Minnesota said...

*shudder*

Petes said...

:)

Petes said...

How about a nice bit of head cheese?

Zeyad said...

I could totally use a head cheese sandwich right now at work

Zeyad said...

Since I heard about haggis I've always wanted to try it but can't find it anywhere here. You can't even find fresh heart meat for bbq in supermarkets

   Lee C.  ―   U.S.A.     said...

 
I'd think that heart muscle would be a bit lean for a good barbecue meat anyway.  Americans generally lean towards barbecuing stuff with more marbling and/or higher collagen content.

Marcus said...

What about boiled pigs feet in jelly? That's an old swedish dish some consider a 'delicacy'. Although I don't believe there are many people left who would eat that today.

   Lee C.  ―   U.S.A.      said...

 
The Brits used to do a bone-marrow custard as a dessert offering, but I think that's fallen out of favor too.

Lynnette In Minnesota said...

Seriously people?

I'm trying to eat here!

A nice Burrito bowl from Chipotle(chicken, brown rice, black beans, tomatoes, medium salsa, sour cream, cheese & lettuce). Narry a sheeps head, ball, heart, bone marrow or even a pigs feet to be found.

Lynnette In Minnesota said...

Since I heard about haggis I've always wanted to try it but can't find it anywhere here.

Hmmm...there was that "something" I tried when I was in England. It was sort of soft and squishy. I have avoided speculating as to what it really was...

Marcus said...

Lynette, I love mexican food but spare me the beans please. I know, I know the beans are integral in many mecican dishes but I just don't care for them. A couple of nice tacos sanse beans - that's the stuff!

Marcus said...

On to serious matters. I've read in news flashes the past few weeks about a disturbing uprise in killings in Iraq. 45 dead this day, 68 dead that day, 26 dead the other day, and so on.

There are no real articles about this so I have little to link to (I get it on text-tv) but it seems many claim the Syrian crisis is spilling back into Iraq.

Most of the attacks have been in and around Baghdad and against Shiites so presumably AQI are the likely culprits. But also in the relatively stable north there have been attacks, against pesh merga forces, possibly also by AQI.

Zeyad, have you heard anything about a worsening situation in Iraq? And if so, how tied into that is the war in Syria?

Bridget said...

CITIZENSHIP AND THE "M" WORD!!!!!!!! YeeeeeeHaaaaaaw.

Jesus, Z, you know how to drop some bomblets. I'm putting you on notice that I want an invite to BOTH ceremonies. Who's the lucky lady? :)

A TexMex alternative to that sheep shit you have pictured would be menudo. Can't stomach it myself (that's another bad pun), but if you really fancy pasha, menudo might be an acceptable substitute.

Bridget said...

Seriously. Z. I cannot think of a more fitting 10th year anniversary gift than the one you have just given to us. I have despaired on your behalf so damned many times these 10 years. Thank you for surviving and thriving. God Bless You, Z.

Petes said...

Traditional Scottish haggis is a sheep's stomach containing heart, lungs, liver, seasoning, and a few other things to bulk it out. Modernly, the stomach is replaced with a sausage skin. If you make it sausage-shaped and replace the sheep ingredients with pork you get what we in Ireland (and apparently Scotland and Newfoundland too) call a white pudding. I quite like it ... or did until I read just now that it used to use sheep's brains as a binder :-(

A cow's stomach is called tripe. I've seen it in an Irish butcher's shop years ago (yeccchhh!) so I presume it's still eaten somewhere. Pig's stomach is paunch. If you don't like the sound of them, don't eat sausages ... most sausages in the US and Europe contain tripe and paunch.

Marcus, we have pigs feet (or trotters) too ... they are called crúibíní, anglicised as crubeens.

We've got a working class Dublin dish called coddle made by boiling up sausages, bacon and potatoes (and optionally Guinness). I have friends who used to eat it at home, but I've never seen or tasted it (we might have been too poor to be working class :)

Another Dublin one is boxty which is a kind of potato cake. I used to eat something like it, but it can't hold a candle to my Spanish friend's tortilla española.

Petes said...

On a less culinary note ... wasn't it Uighurs who were the Gitmo detainees that got asylum in Pulau?

China's blaming Uighurs for Monday's attack at Tiananmen Square. Not that I'd believe a word that came out of a Chinese official mouth.

Petes said...

Bought some sheep's heads for kiddie callers to the door. Give 'em a proper Halloween scare.











... only joking ... they're much too expensive for that :)

Lynnette In Minnesota said...

Marcus,

My Mom always liked pickled pigs feet. You can still find them here. Definately an acquired taste that I never acquired.

As for Mexican food, for me you gotta have beans. :)

Lynnette In Minnesota said...

Bridget,

My guess would be Zeyad's Iraqi lady artist. He got rather testy with me when he thought I was dissing her work. I knew some lucky lady would snap him up sooner or later. :)

Menudo? Wasn't there a boy band a while back with the same name?

Lynnette In Minnesota said...

Pete,

... most sausages in the US and Europe contain tripe and paunch.

Geez! I knew they contained bits and pieces, but did you have to be so explicit about which bits and pieces? I prefer blissful ignorance. I'll never look at another sausage the same way again. :)

Petes said...

Lynnette, speaking of bits and pieces, what the hell are "refried beans" in Mexican food? They were an ingredient in a burrito I ordered (-- can't recall, but it might have been in Texas). Sounded like a sure fire route to a dose of Montezuma's Revenge.

Bridget said...

Retried beans are leftover pinto beans, puréed and sautéed in a skillet. A Texan can instantly detect the quality of a TexMex restaurant by what I call the TexMex Trifecta: the chips and salsa (the former must be thin and crisp, the latter freshly made with solid garlic and jalapeño overtones), flour tortillas (homemade and NEVER microwaved), and refried beans (absolutely, positively must be smooth and creamy, a thick gooey mess is a sure fire giveaway that the restaurant is serving horrid canned beans).

Bridget said...

The flour tortillas, like Indian naan, should melt in your mouth.

Zeyad said...

I'm so over Mexican food now but I can't do without beans and chili and the occasional beef fajita

Zeyad said...

Refried beans are kind of like our hummus but made with pinto beans instead of garbanzo beans

Petes said...

Making me hungry just thinking about it, Bridget. Now that I know what refried beans are, it explains why I never noticed any individual beans. Your description sounds like the texture I remember.

Regarding the "chips" being "thin and crisp" ... so do I have it from an American that our term -- "crisps" -- makes more sense? :)

I bow to your greater knowledge but I can't detect any deterioration in tortillas from a gentle blast in the microwave. Same goes for the thin pancakes you eat with a Chinese aromatic duck with hoi sin sauce.

There's only a few foods that microwaving is compatible with, and tortillas and wine are two.


Ok. Only joking about the wine. (Or am I?)

Petes said...

Zeyad, I always thought hummus was chick peas!

I'm very partial to an occasional chicken fajita myself.

I make my own chili, but I'm certain Bridget would call it a Chili Tri-imperfecta. (Although maybe only three things wrong with it is optimistic).

Bridget said...

Chic peas= garbanzo beans.

Pete, microwaving flour tortillas makes them rubbery. It's ok for store bought tortillas, but a great TexMex restaurant will feature freshly made tortillas. When I serve tortillas at home, I use a small skillet, very lightly oiled, and heated to a high heat. The tortillas are placed one at a time on the skillet, heated quickly on one side, flipped and heated quickly on the other, and then stacked in a tortilla warmer until served. Melts in your mouth.

Bridget said...

That article is hilarious, Pete's. I would never have thought to do that. 10 seconds in the microwave does wonders for ice cream that has frozen too hard, I can vouch for that.

Lynnette In Minnesota said...

The nice thing here is that if you get tired of one kind of food you can always switch to something else, Mexican, Chinese, Italian, Greek, whatever. We have no problem mixing another country's food ideas into our food "melting pot". :) Although not quite sure about pacha...

Lynnette In Minnesota said...

Petes,

"Chips" or "Crisps", both descriptive of the same item, just coming at it from a different angle. :)

Even within the US you get differing terms for the same thing depending on what region you are in. For instance, for drinks like Pepsi or Coke, we use the general term "pop". In other places it's "soda".

Marcus said...

Interesting article about the wine in the microwave.

One "trick" I've heard of to get your wine to the correct temperature (if you don't have a wine fridge) is the following:

For white wine, keep it in the fridge and take it out 20 minutes before serving it.

For red wine, keep it in room temperature but place it in the fridge for 20 minutes before serving it.

Supposedly that means you serve wine at about the "correct" temperature. Now I know some people prefer their wine at different temperatures but if you want to go with what the experts say the 20/20 minutes way is said to be pretty much spot on.

Bridget: just thinking of your texmex food makes my mouth water. Tortillias like that I've never had, but I take your word for it that there's a difference. I'm still wary of beans but maybe that's because I was only ever served those crappy ones in tins? It was never really the taste of beans in food that I disliked but the texture of them.

On the topic of food I just last week perfected my moose casserole. I have ex-pat friends coming back home in a few weeks and I'm going to treat thm to something typically swedish. A moose casserole with oven baked potatoes followed by apple pie with vanilla sauce will surely do the trick. Did a trial run last week and I found out I will need to put in just a little bit more red wine and a little bit less Coca Cola into it, because it was just a tiny bit too sweet tasting.

Marcus's moose casserole:

1.8 Kg Moose in 1 inch cubes (lightly prefried), 0.4 kg mushrooms (prefried pretty hard). 0.3 kg thick bacon (prefried and cut in pieces), a halt litre can of beer, 2/3 of a bottle of Chote De Roine wine, 3/4 cans of Coke, 2 carrots in 1 inch bits, beef-stock, 4 bay leafs, some soy sauce for couloring, salt and pepper (to be put on the meat when frying it up and added at the final stage if needed after tasting it). Let that boil slowly for 2-3 hours. Add 0.4 litres of double cream and let it simmer for another 30 minutes.

(works with beef too, but then you miss out on the wild-taste that the moose brings to the table)

Marcus said...

Lynnnette: "The nice thing here is that if you get tired of one kind of food you can always switch to something else, Mexican, Chinese, Italian, Greek, whatever. We have no problem mixing another country's food ideas into our food "melting pot". :)"

I'd say that goes for Sweden as well. I can't really think of any ethnic food that I can't get in my smallish town here. Mexican would be one of the more difficult since many restaurants have tried it in the past but they just don't seem to take off. But now things may be changing because a new Mex-place opened a few weeks back (I've yet to try it) and another one is soon to open.

American food? We have heaps of it. Aparrt from the places you'd know like Burger King, TGI Fridays, McD, Subway and the rest of the large chains, we have so many places with a typical US-steakhouse meny.

What we do lack is a Creole cooking place, New Orleans style. I don't think I've ever seen one of those in Sweden actually.

Bridget said...

" A moose casserole with oven baked potatoes followed by apple pie with vanilla sauce will surely do the trick. Did a trial run last week and I found out I will need to put in just a little bit more red wine and a little bit less Coca Cola into it, because it was just a tiny bit too sweet tasting."


Mmmmm. Did somebody say something about mouth watering?

Petes said...

That moose casserole sounds awesome. Possibly even as nice as my creamy pork and tomato casserole. That has a similar preparation procedure -- just replace your moose with pork, retain the bacon, replace the mushrooms with onions and celery and the cream with Philadelphia cheese. Add some chopped tomato, and put the potatoes right in the casserole instead of baking separately. Oven cook for as long as you like.

I think international food is pretty ... well... international. But the different regions' foods seem to differ from place to place. Chinese food in Ireland isn't the same as in the States. Our Italian food is more similar, but then, neither of them seems particularly like the Italian food I've had in Italy. But an Italian would laugh ( -- in fact I think our formerly resident one did -- ) at the thought of homogeneous Italian cooking within Italy.

We don't have creole food that I'm aware of, but I make a pretty mean jambalaya myself. We have plenty of "Mexican" food, but I can't think of any dedicated Mexican restaurants. It's more likely to be a subset of dishes on a wider menu. On the other hand I can't think of anywhere at all you could get moose. I've only had reindeer in Sweden.

In fact, I'm struggling to think of any Scandinavian dish at all that would be moderately well known here. Perhaps Gravad Lax, but even that would be pretty obscure (and personally I'm not mad about too much dill). N.B. while checking my spelling of Gravad Lax (or gravlax) I see it's from "buried salmon", from its original mode of preparation ... "grav" as in "grave", and the "lax" I would be familiar with because we've got a very old suburb west of Dublin on the River Liffey called Leixlip -- "salmon leap" in the old Norse.

Lynnette In Minnesota said...

Marcus,

That does sound good. Although I don't think I would be able to find moose meat around here. Venison, yes, moose, no. Your recipe would work wonderfully well in the crockpot.

I just did a pork tenderloin last night; pork, mushrooms (browned off w/soy sauce), added a cup and a half of water w/beef base, sliced potatoes & carrots, and put it in the oven for an hour. Then I made gravy from the juice. I could have put onions in as well or used Liptons Onion soup mix for flavor.

What is rather popular here for open houses, such as a graduation, is beef slowcooked in the crockpot with water & Liptons Onion soup. It makes wonderful beef sandwiches on a bun. Very tender with a nice flavor.

I have heard of ice cream, cream or cheese with apple pie. But never a vanilla sauce. What is in it?

Lynnette In Minnesota said...

Pete,

That moose casserole sounds awesome. Possibly even as nice as my creamy pork and tomato casserole.

That sounds good as well.

I think I'm getting hungry. :)

I have printed off both recipes for future reference.

JG said...

Best wishes, Zeyad. That food looks really awful though!

[Pete$]On the other hand, your Iraqi delicacy has not only turned my stomach, but brought back the nightmares I had after we studied Brendan Behan's "Confirmation Suit" in our English literature class many years ago

That brought a smile to my face I must admit.

Marcus said...

Lynnette:

"I have heard of ice cream, cream or cheese with apple pie. But never a vanilla sauce. What is in it?"

Ice cream or whipped cream are options to go with apple (or any) pie here too. Never heard of cheese with apple pie though.

As for the vanilla sauce I confess that's one product we have here that's so good store bought I never actually make it myself. But the ingredients would be:

1 vanilla stalk
3 dl double cream
1 dl water
3 egg yolkes
2 table spoon of powdered sugar

Then there's a whole process for cooking it that I won't translate unless you specifically ask for it.

Vanilla sauce is the best compliment to apple pie that I know of. It must be a pretty thick sauce though, not runny.

Marcus said...

Pete, that "creamy pork and tomato casserole" sounds great. I'll try to try that sometime and when I do I'll give you my opinion.

To put the potatoes in is a thing we do with the swedish "sjömansbiff" which translates to "seamans beef". But then it's based on beef, beef stock, potatoes, onions and some seasoning. I love it but have never attempted to cook it myself. It's one of those dishes that might sadly die out with my parents generation, unless there's a comback for traditional cooking.

Actually those old dishes where you make everything in one pot are great for todays society. Because they are very well suited for being portioned and then heated in the microwave oven.

A piece of steak or a potato (or even worse - french fries) done on its own never really perform well if it's frozen and thawed and heated in the micro. But all those old casseroles, especially if the potatoes are integral, are just as good when re-heated.

Lynnette In Minnesota said...

Marcus,

Hmmm...that almost sounds like a custard, except those you bake. I assume this is done over the stove. What does the "dl" stand for? I am used to "cup", "Tb"(Tablespoon), or "tsp"(teaspoon).

I'm not sure where cheese with apple pie originated from. I assumed it was something brought over from the "old country". Usually it is cheddar cheese. I prefer cream or ice cream, myself.

"casseroles" = "hotdish"

They are alive and well and living in Minnesota. :) Although usually when we say hotdish we are referring to something with noodles as a base ingredient. You can substitute just about anything for the meat. Tuna hotdish is actually quite good. And, yes, they do reheat very well in the microwave.

Lynnette In Minnesota said...

But then it's based on beef, beef stock, potatoes, onions and some seasoning. I love it but have never attempted to cook it myself.

That is something that can be thrown into the crockpot(slowcooker) and left go. Easy to do.

Petes said...

[Lynnette]: "Hmmm...that almost sounds like a custard, except those you bake. I assume this is done over the stove. What does the "dl" stand for? I am used to "cup", "Tb"(Tablespoon), or "tsp"(teaspoon)."

Marcus's vanilla sauce is exactly what we would call custard here. Yep, done on the stove -- the baked version (with sugar on top) would be crème brûlée.

I guess dl is a decilitre, equal to 100 millilitres (ml) or cubic centimetres (cc), or 0.4 US cups. For some reason you never come across decilitres in Ireland, even though we use metric measurements -- it would always be 100 ml, or 0.1 l. It seems to be common on the continent -- I had to think fast when I was offered "une deci" of wine in France.

[Marcus]: "To put the potatoes in is a thing we do with the swedish "sjömansbiff" which translates to "seamans beef". But then it's based on beef, beef stock, potatoes, onions and some seasoning. I love it but have never attempted to cook it myself. It's one of those dishes that might sadly die out with my parents generation, unless there's a comback for traditional cooking."

If you replace the beef in your sjömansbiff with mutton (and drop the beef stock), you get Irish stew. It's very traditional here, but also dying out. You find it in the odd restaurant that's doing a bit of "retro chic". I haven't made it in a long while, must do it soon -- it's very delicious. Nowadays you can't find scraggy old mutton in the shops, but it's even more delicious with lamb. Carrots and celery are optional extras.

I guess traditional stews and casseroles (and Lynnette's hotdishes) are all ways of turning cheap cuts of meat into something edible.

Petes said...

I presumed cheese with apple pie was some sort of concoction like cheese cake. Cheddar on apple pie sounds almost as unappealing as Zeyad's sheep's cranium. :-(

Zeyad said...

Pete, Americans like to put cheese on everything even where it doesn't belong

Marcus said...

Lynnette, Pete, actually I think our valillaa sauce might be just like your custard. And dl indeed is a decilitre or 0.1 litre or 10 centilitres or 100 millilitres.

When I compare to ounces I always remember that an 8 oz can of soda is (almost exatly) the same as a 33 cl (or 3.3 dl) can over here.

I didn't always know that but one time about 10 years ago I ordered a 24 oz steak in a "Texas Steakhouse" in Elisabeth New Jersey because it was the biggest one they had on the menu and I was hungry. I learned that even though I order the biggest steak back home if I'm hungry I should not do so in the states because that steak was impossible for me to finish. I ate about half and had to struggle to walk back to my rental car.

So I learned what an ounce is and found out that 24 oz equals three 8 oz cans which is pretty close to 1 litre of soda and thus weighs about 1 kilo. Eating a kilo of red meat in one setting is not for normal people.

Marcus said...

And now for a lesson about the superiority of the metric system.

You start with a Metre (m). This divides into decimetres (dm), centimetres (cm), millimetres (mm) and so on by a denominator of 10 for each step.

It also multiplies into a Kilometer (km) by a factor of 1000.

As for volume you have a the Litre. It divides into decilitres (dl) centilitres (cl), millilitres (ml) also by a denominator of 10 for each step.

The neat thing is that a cubic decimetre equals one litre, and thus a cubic metre equals 1000 litres. So you have a connection between length and volume that's very easy to figure.

On to weight. One kilo is the same weight as one litre of water (which is the most sensible thing to use for measuring weight since it's so common). So one cubic metre is the same as 1000 litres and if that volume is filled with water it weighs 1000 kilos, or one metric ton (t).

You have a connection from length to volume and via water to weight. And all calculations are easy because they are multiples of the number 10.

Try to find any such direct and easy to calculate connections between your yards, foots, ounces and cups. :-)

Lynnette In Minnesota said...

Pete,

I presumed cheese with apple pie was some sort of concoction like cheese cake. Cheddar on apple pie sounds almost as unappealing as Zeyad's sheep's cranium. :-(

lol!

No, not a cheesecake, literally a piece of cheese stuck on top of a warmed up piece of pie. While Zeyad may have a point about Americans propensity to "cheese" everything, I still think the tradition came over from somewhere else. Germany perhaps? That is where most of my relatives came from. And that is how my mother remembers her mother serving it. But a fellow I work with went to St. Olaf college in Minnesota, which is Norwegian, and they used to serve it like that down there.

I've never tried Creme Brulee. It sounds like something that would be delicious with chocolate drizzled on top. :) You see, I have a propensity to "chocolate" everything. :)

I guess traditional stews and casseroles (and Lynnette's hotdishes) are all ways of turning cheap cuts of meat into something edible.

Oh, probably. But they also have the advantage of fewer dishes to clean up. Throw everything in one pan.

Lynnette In Minnesota said...

Marcus & Pete,

I thought it was metric, but given our(Americans) lack of will to switch to that system, I have never become familiar with all the measurements abbreviations. Believe me they've tried to convert us. But right now we have a hodge podgey system that uses both.

Lynnette In Minnesota said...

Zeyad,

Ever tried cheese curds? They're actually much better than they sound. :)

A Minnesota State Fair staple.

Petes said...

I simply cannot picture a piece of actual cheese stuck to a piece of apple pie -- it just sounds too grotesque. Is it a flat slice, like on top of a burger? Never mind, there's no good way to dress it up.

Petes said...

Regarding measures, you guys both have it easy. Here in Ireland we switched to a metric money system in 1971 and -- in theory -- to metric weights and measures when we joined the EU in 1973, so I've been learning that system since early school years. Unfortunately, we didn't completely switch. Our road signs remained in miles. Certain weights and measures remained in pounds and ounces. Twice they tried to change the measurements of beer from pints to half litres, but the public wasn't having it -- your canny Irishman who might switch pubs to save 3 cent on a pint of Guinness was not going to embrace a new fangled measure equal to 0.88 pints that left him completely unable to calculate relative value. In the shops they eventually changed from lbs to kilos ... except not very wholeheartedly! Things that had been bought by the pound did not change to half kilos, they became 454 grammes. Although this has changed for many products, we would still only refer to "a pound of butter", and sure I enough -- I had to check the fridge just now to be sure -- my "pound" of butter is labelled 454 g. For liquid measures other than beer we have changed more wholeheartedly. Milk and orange juice come in litres. So does petrol. About 30 years ago we started changing the road signs to kilometre distances. Until a few years ago you might still find a few rural crossroads that time forgot, with signposts in miles. But here's the thing: they left the speed limit signs in miles per hour! This was the subject of a few court cases where defendants on speeding charges successfully claimed they were confused by the inconsistent system. And it was confusing -- you could get a metric or imperial speed indicator, but if you had speeds in mph you also had distances in miles -- different to the road signs. We finally switched to kilometre speed limits about five years ago.

I was lucky to be young when all this change was going on, so lots of conversion constants are seared into my brain. Off the top of my head, without looking it up, I can tell you that an ounce is 28 grammes, a kilo is 2.2 pounds, and a litre is 1.76 pints. A metre is 39.37 inches, an inch is 25.4 millimetres, a mile is 1.6 kilometres (as well as 1760 yards or 5280 feet). A square metre is 11.76 square feet. I have other less exact rules of thumb for doing quick mental conversions. There are approximately 4.5 litres to a gallon. An imperial ton (2,240 lbs) and a metric tonne (1,000 kg) are coincidentally the same to within two per cent, although a metric tonne is 10% bigger than a short ton. A millibar is the same as a hectopascal. Half a hectare is about one and a quarter acres. For cubic feet to cubic metres I'd still have to use a calculator. But a cubic metre of water is conveniently a tonne (and very nearly a ton), and a typical cubic metre of rock ways 2.5 tonnes unless it's from the seafloor in which case it's 3 tonnes.

When I got interested in science, I discovered that there was more than one type of metric system. Nowadays we use the mks system, an acronym for metres-kilograms-seconds. But not so long ago, the cgs system was used -- centimetres-grams-seconds. That meant that there are all sorts of awkward powers-of-ten multiples required to convert between old and new measures. You had things like ergs instead of Joules for energy, Angstroms (damn Swedes :) instead of nanometres for small lengths, dynes instead of newtons for force, and so on ... all in addition to the coulombs, webers, henrys, darcys, pascals etc. that you had to learn in the normal course.

Fortunately American and European scientists work in the same units these days. We've even gotten over the misunderstandings between American and British billions and trillions (which used to be different by 3 and 6 orders of magnitude respectively).

(cont'd...)

Petes said...

(...cont'd)

But ... if all that wasn't enough, I had to learn old-style US volumetric measures for certain purposes. So a US gallon is 0.8 imperial gallons, which means that pints and quarts are different by the same ratio. Then there are the dreaded fluid ounces. There are 20 imperial fluid ounces in an imperial pint. There are 16 US fluid ounces in a US pint (which, remember is 0.8 imperial pints). So US fluid ounces are 30 millilitres and imperial fluid ounces are 28 millilitres. Both volume measures are designed to equate to one ounce weight of water, although the US measure is 4% larger.

Marcus -- I'm afraid this is where you've gone horribly wrong. Your 8 oz (equal to one US cup, by the way) cans were less than 25 cl each (23.66 to be exact). Three of them were just under 700 grammes. That's similar to your 24 oz steak -- 24 oz x 28 grams = 672 grams.

Final note on weights and measures, Americans appear to measure body weight in pounds. We've got a larger unit called a "stone" which is 14 pounds. So a hundred pound person would be 7 stone, 2 pounds. Any American I've ever mentioned it to looked astonished, so I presume it's not used there. And yes, we still commonly use stones and pounds for body weight ... wouldn't have even occurred to me (until this moment) to wonder why we don't use kilos (mental tot ... 100 lbs = 45 kilos). That's how scrambled and chaotic our system is.

Lynnette In Minnesota said...

A lot of the products you buy here have both the metric measurement and our more traditional one. So it's easy to ignore the metric measurement.

My car has both miles per hour and kilometers per hour on it's speedometer. You can switch between them by pressing a button. When driving to work one day I looked down to check my speed and was horrified to realize I was going unusually fast. Strangely it didn't feel that way. But I mentioned it to my mechanic who looked at the car. He was halfway down the block when he realized that the speedometer was reading in kilometers per hour rather than miles. Apparently it had been switched accidentally when my Dad and I were looking at the car the night before. :)

We don't use stone as a unit of body weight measurement. But I have hard of it. Mostly from books I've read where the story took place in England.

But to get back to the metric system conversion. It would be so much easier if the conversion was a simple calculation, such as 2 lb's. = 1 kilo. But it's not, so most people are going to use what they are familiar with when checking costs or taking measurements.

Marcus said...

Pete: "Your 8 oz (equal to one US cup, by the way) cans were less than 25 cl each (23.66 to be exact)"

Really? But it says 8 oz on a small US soda can and it's just about the same size as our 33 cl cans. Or did it say 10 oz? I might be mistaken.

Lynnette In Minnesota said...

Pete: "Your 8 oz (equal to one US cup, by the way) cans were less than 25 cl each (23.66 to be exact)"

[Marcus]: "Really? But it says 8 oz on a small US soda can and it's just about the same size as our 33 cl cans. Or did it say 10 oz? I might be mistaken."


The size of the can or the amount of liquid inside? You have to be careful here. They have become sneakily adept at shrinking quantities. It makes people think they have not actually raised the price. A few strategic indentations in the can can easily cut out a few ounces.

Petes said...

I would guess (or at least hope) that they have to label the can with the liquid capacity, not the overall can dimensions!

This probably resolves the puzzle:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Beverage_can#Standard_sizes

I think Marcus probably saw a twelve oz. can, and two of them equalled a 24 oz. steak. By Marcus's calculation this should have made the steak 660 grams, which is not far off right (between 670 and 680). As it happens, a 12 (US fluid)oz can is neither quite the same as a standard European can -- 355 ml instead of 330 ml -- nor is 12 fl. oz. the same as 12 oz weight, but is a few percent bigger.

Petes said...

My car has both miles per hour and kilometers per hour on it's speedometer. You can switch between them by pressing a button.

Is your display digital? I guess it's easier when that's the case than when you have a calibrated dial. But if you switch to speed in miles you probably also see trip distances in miles, and our problem was that the distances and speeds on road signs were in different systems. Dials are also easier to read at a glance than digital displays, according to studies -- that's why most of the instrumentation on modern planes still show dials even though the physical dials have been replaced by screens.

Lynnette In Minnesota said...

I would guess (or at least hope) that they have to label the can with the liquid capacity, not the overall can dimensions!

Yes, they do. But the can may look similar to the size(height & cirumfrance) he is used to in Sweden and so when he looked at the quanitity of 8 oz.'s just assumed it was the same as what was in the cans in Sweden labeled as 33 cl. But indentations can shave off some quantity of the contents. Like I said...sneaky.

Lynnette In Minnesota said...

Is your display digital?

No, it is the dial. And, yes, it does say "mi" next to the number display. However, it is in very small letters, so I didn't notice when I glanced down at the numbers. I had totally forgotten about the kilometers display option, you see.

Our speed limit and distance signs here are all posted in miles.

Btw, we are starting to see more of the roundabouts that are more common in Europe. People may find them confusing at first, but I think that is something that will catch on. Especially as studies have shown that they contribute to fewer accidents.

Lynnette In Minnesota said...

It snowed here on Wednesday. Enough to actually accumlate, despite the ground being warm. Many people have been caught with not all of their leaves down(and picked up), me included. So now I have a layer of leaves, a layer of snow, and another layer of leaves on top of the snow. So far it hasn't melted. I am hoping to clean some of that up this weekend. It could be worse, though, I could live in the Phillipines. I see they are getting hammered.

Petes said...

That's cool, I've never seen a dial that could be switched from mph to kph ... we just had an outer and inner calibration ring so you could read off either, but generally the kph inner ring was pretty inconspicuous.

It's hard to keep an intuitive feel for numbers when you have to flit between the different systems. My 2010 car is all in kilometres, as is any car under eight years old. I've gotten comfortable reading speeds in kph without automatically converting in my head. Not so for distances, which I tend to mentally convert into miles which gives me a more intuitive sense of journey time. That said, now that we have a much more extensive motorway network and do a lot more journeys at the speed limit of 120 kph -- a convenient 2 kilometres per minute -- it seems less necessary to convert.

The lack of roundabouts in the States was always very helpful for a foreign driver. When you're driving on the wrong side of the road, roundabouts are a lot more confusing than right angle junctions. I do remember, though, coming to an unlit 5-road "all-way stop" in Colorado and being pretty confused about who was supposed to do what. How do you know whose turn it is if you've just arrived at the junction? Do you just inch forward until someone gives way? Yet, as I understand it, you're not allowed creep over the line but must come to a full stop. On a roundabout you just have to yield, so if the way is clear you don't stop at all -- but you do have to remember which way to turn and which way to look if driving on an unfamiliar side.

Mind you, in France the traffic coming into the roundabout used to have priority over the traffic already on it, which seems pretty bizarre since the roundabout must be prone to gridlock. They changed it quite a few years ago which must have caused chaos for a while -- you notice all roundabout approaches have signs saying "Vous n'avez pas priorité". I'm told there are still some roundabouts using the old system.

My only gripe about roundabouts is that they don't work well when they're too big. We've got a really busy one which has five or six approaches, and three lanes on the roundabout. It's completely insane trying to cross two lanes while your mirror view is careening around the angles, and cars are trying to overtake you while others cut across you. (Hmmm... reminds me of highway driving in Los Angeles :-)

Petes said...

"It snowed here on Wednesday.

I presume that's quite early for the start of Minnesotan Cannibal Season ;-)

It's been pretty chilly here too, which I don't really understand. All the weather is coming off the Atlantic, i.e. typical extra-tropical cyclones, which do not normally bring single-digit temperatures at this time of year. The leaves have started to fall in some gusty winds but unless something changes I'd expect them to last into December. Colours are nice all of a sudden though.

Yes, Haiyan in the Philippines seemed apocalyptic. Sustained winds of 170mph and gusts of 200 -- it's almost nuclear. Number of deaths seems mercifully low though ... they seem to have done the right thing with evacuations. Could be a cultural thing -- maybe fewer of the rugged individualists who think Nature can be defied, like you always seem to get in the States :)

feroz khan said...
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Petes said...

Looks like I was way, way wrong about the Haiyan death tool, god help them.

Lynnette In Minnesota said...

Pete,

I do remember, though, coming to an unlit 5-road "all-way stop" in Colorado and being pretty confused about who was supposed to do what. How do you know whose turn it is if you've just arrived at the junction? Do you just inch forward until someone gives way?

Exactly. You are not the only one who has those issues. And then there are those people who think that a four way stop works like a lighted intersection. That is, instead of taking turns in a clockwise direction the traffic on each road will go in a north/south and east/west type of order.

If two cars arrive at an intersection at the same time, it is the one on the predominate road that has the right of way. He should start the rotation.

One thing I have always wondered about roundabouts is what exactly is the inner lane used for in a multiple lane roundabout? What happens if you get trapped in there and are consigned to forever(or so it might seem) driving in a circle?

[Lynnette]: It snowed here on Wednesday.

[Pete]: I presume that's quite early for the start of Minnesotan Cannibal Season ;-)

Well, yes and no. November has always been kind of a transition month where you can get just about anything. We have been known to have blizzards then. But usually they hold off until all the leaves have fallen and have been picked up. Wet leaves are difficult to work with. The leaf vac just clogs up. And when you have space constraints as to where you put them, you can kind of become overwhelmed. I did manage to pick up all of them this weekend. Most of the snow had melted, and the few patches that were still sticking around I just mowed over or around. We have until the end of November for yard waste pick up, so I think we are doing okay.

They are saying that Haiyan was the strongest storm in recorded history. I fear that those kinds of storms will become more of the norm in the future. We may all need God's help.

Lynnette In Minnesota said...

That is, instead of taking turns in a clockwise direction...

Huh! That should read counterclockwise direction. :)

Petes said...

"We have until the end of November for yard waste pick up"

I could read that two ways. You have to pick up all your yard waste by the end of November or something will happen, e.g. your neighbours will call the cops on you ( ... not joking, Switzerland's like that). Or you have refuse collections of yard waste that end in November. I'd say the latter's more likely, but who can ever tell about cultural differences! :)
(I met a nice Swiss couple in Portugal the other week, and they like the way they are).

Re: Haiyan, it will be interesting to eventually read the meteorological analysis. Was the unprecedented size due to higher sea surface temperatures, or some sort of wind pattern that allowed it to grow for longer? If due to SSTs, are we at a peak of some known oscillation, or is it bad news for the future?

Unknown said...

I missed the anniversary. Hope you are doing well, friend.

Petes said...

Four trillion dollars later ... Confessions of a Quantitative Easer.

Lynnette In Minnesota said...

Photos of Saturn just released by NASA.

Lynnette In Minnesota said...

You have to pick up all your yard waste by the end of November or something will happen, e.g. your neighbours will call the cops on you...

lol! No, it's not that bad. Although there are some neighbors I'd like to call the yard police on, believe me. You are right,it is the second theory. They stop pick up at the end of November.

If due to SSTs, are we at a peak of some known oscillation, or is it bad news for the future?

Here is an overview of Hurricane Katrina. Higher SST's are the lifeblood of hurricanes. I would guess that they played a starring role in Haiyan as well.

I should think that if we have sustained higher sea temps in the future these storms will become more frequent and severe.

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Lynnette In Minnesota said...

Petes,

I read the Quantitative Easer article. The one thing he seems to have forgotten is that the financial institutions that the government loaned money to, or bought stock in, have, for the most part, paid that money back with a profit to taxpayers. So their profits have also been ours.

Here is an interesting analysis of current, as of Nov. 16 anyway, economic activity with regard to inflation/deflation. While it is geared to the US there are some interesting tidbits about China and Europe to be had. The comments section is kind of an interesting read as well.

   Lee C.  ―   U.S.A.     said...

 
      "The one thing he seems to have forgotten is that the
      financial institutions…have, for the most part, paid
      that money back with a profit to taxpayers.
"

My problems with his fairly shallow article go way deeper than that.  The Fed has done the ‘quantitative easing’ as a matter of last resort.  This is the result of the failure of the federal government to implement a real economic strategy designed to deal with the recession.  (The teabagger minority wants smaller government; accordingly the do not want the federal government to successfully deal with the recession; they want it to play itself out in the ol’ fashioned robber-baron tradition; they did not want the government mitigating the collapse nor even preventing a full scale Second Great Depression.  They do not want that now.  They believe in smaller government; one incapable of that kind of financial activism or impact.)
‘Quantitative easing’ is certainly not the preferable way to deal with our current financial dilemma, but it's pretty much all The Fed has at its disposal at a time when the legislature is gridlocked on the issue.  The folks at The Fed decided they weren't teabaggers, and were gonna do what they could; but nobody thinks this ‘QE’ stuff is the preferable solution.  They do not have the preferable solutions available to them, so they're using what they got.
I figure this guy must be one of the New Republicans (as opposed to those they call ‘RINOs’).  He has no preferable solution to propose; he only proposes they quit what little bit they are doing.

   Lee C.  ―   U.S.A.     said...

 
Okay, it's just a typo, but it bugs me, and I'm gonna offer corrective editing:

        "…; accordingly they do not want the
        federal government to successfully deal with the
        recession.
"
        (emphasis as in original)

Lynnette In Minnesota said...

There was a real worry about deflation. I think people looking back at events tend to forget about the emotions driving people at the time. Sure, maybe something else could have been done, but as you say this was what was at hand at the time.

   Lee C.  ―   U.S.A.     said...
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   Lee C.  ―   U.S.A.     said...


      "There was a real worry about deflation."

Kinda still is.  This ‘recovery’ is tenuous at best.  Even so, I have to admit that there's some truth to the points this guy, Huszar, was making. My objection was to the selectivity of his points of reference and to his utter disregard for context and for consequences--which he must well understand, just doesn't wanna mention--lest understanding lead the readers to reject his sole   proposal.  (Which, although not explcitly stated, is, basically, let's just sit on our hands and allow the resulting economic collapse to proceed at its unfettered laissez faire pace.)

Lynnette In Minnesota said...

This ‘recovery’ is tenuous at best.

You wouldn't think so to look at the stock market. I have a feeling that there are a lot of latecomers to the party who are running up the numbers. We will have to see how the economy weathers the effects of more sequestration cuts and the ending of QE.

My objection was to the selectivity of his points of reference...

Yes, well, when writing a critical article the author usually sticks to the ax he wants to grind. That's why I am so thrilled if I can find someone who can objectively analyze a situation.

I see the Senate finally got tired of the obstructionist members who were helping grind our government to a hault and changed the filibuster rules.


   Lee C.  ―   U.S.A.     said...

 
      "You wouldn't think so to look at the stock market."

Our stock markets untethered themselves from the underlying American economy some years ago.  It's a casino nowadays.

    "I see the Senate finally got tired of the obstructionist
      members who were helping grind our government to a
      hault and changed the filibuster rules.
"

Yeah.  I was not happy to see that happen.  But, on a more realistic assessment, I figure there was zero chance that the Republicans wouldn't eliminate the filibuster themselves just as soon as they got the majority and the next available opportunity.  (That's assuming they ever get a senatorial majority again.  I'm not so sure that'll actually happen.  I think the national Republican Party is going to die of fever and old age.  There will have to be a new organization arise to take its place.)

mirza usman said...
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Lynnette In Minnesota said...

Yeah. I was not happy to see that happen.

Just another sign that we have allowed the extreme eliments of the political parties to call the shots. It gives us very little room to compromise, resulting in measures like this to get things done.

Speaking of extremists I see that Benghazi is in the news again. It would seem that the murder of Chrisopher Stevens was their opening move in the "chess game" being played. I was just getting back to "Under Fire" too. I am about a third of the way through the book and so far have not found it to be over the top. It seems to be a down to earth account written by knowledgable people.

   Lee C.  ―   U.S.A.     said...

 
Sounds like it's off to a good start.

dahab said...

We've got a working class Dublin dish called coddle made by boiling up sausages, bacon and potatoes (and optionally Guinness). I have friends who used to eat it at home, but I've never seen or tasted it (we might have been too poor to be working class :)

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Anonymous said...

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Anonymous said...

Pacha should be used as a prop for the next Star Trek movie. They can do a close up and call it a Klingon delicacy.

The Tribe of KlinGion said...

Anonymous, that sounds awesome but only if they're feasting on boiled human heads. I can imagine how rich teh broth would be, and how creamy and tasty those blue eyes would be