Saturday, August 30, 2008

Sour Garlic Pickles

These are not only the best pickles I've made yet, but they rival my memories of "Lower East Side Kosher Garlic Dill Pickles".

Get yourself a good pickling crock. I use a 7.5l Harsch. You may also want to invest in a little kitchen scale, since weight measures are more accurate than by volume. Here, then is the recipe.
  • ~7 lbs. of fresh pickling cucumbers (or kirbies)
  • 10 large cloves of garlic
  • 5 grape leaves
  • 1 bunch of fresh dill.
  • 5 l of water (boiled, then cooled)
  • 175 g salt (35 g/liter) This is the summer recipe. You can reduce the salt to say 30 g/l during cooler months). Be sure to use "pickling salt" which is salt pure and simple, containing no iodine and no anti-caking agent. In the past I had used "coarse kosher salt" but this contains anti-caking. Table salt also normally contains iodine. Apparently both have a deleterious effect on fermentation.
  • 15 g mustard seed
  • 10 g black peppercorns
  • 10 g coriander seeds
  • 5 g red pepper seeds
  • 4 bay leaves
Wash the pickles in cold water, setting aside any that are bruised. Snip or cut the flower end off the pickles. Pack them tightly in the crock (but don't crush), standing on end. Add the spices (don't worry about mixing, they'll be under water for a long time). Pour cooled salt water over pickles, to a depth about 1-2" (3-5 cm) above the pickles. Be sure it's well cooled-you don't want to cook your pickles! Set a weight on top of the pickles to keep them under water. Leave the crock at room temperature (in your kitchen if possible) for about a week, then move to a cooler location for an additional 3-4 weeks. If you use an airlock type crock (like the Harsch) you shouldn't need to skim the scum that might otherwise grow. If you use an open crock, you may need to take such precautions.

After about a month they're ready! You can harvest a jar's worth to keep in the fridge as needed, and leave the rest to continue fermenting. Note, these are fermented brine pickles-no vinegar. The grape leaves apparently help preserve the firmness of the pickle skin. So also does snipping the flower end off. Another suggestion I've heard, also to preserve the skin's firmness, though haven't tried it, is to not add the garlic until a week or two before the first harvesting. I've heard that 3 months is needed for a full sour, but mine were great at about 5 weeks (perhaps they'll need longer in cooler months).

Monday, August 25, 2008


Got the contract by email this morning. It's long, and complicated. And... they mistyped my address (better get that fixed). But... it's real. It's in hand. I just have a few items to discuss with them (like whether I might not be able to get paid sooner than December!), then to sign it. Looks like I'll be flying out to meet with the topic lead next month.

I met with an attorney and patent engineer this morning. Good meeting. The engineer has a PhD in the field of study I'm encroaching. He was pretty excited by my efforts. I think I might work with these guys. We'll see. We left it that we'd touch base again in a couple months after I'd gotten cracking on this current project.

In the meantime, I need to dive into this project. Finally FINALLY I'll be getting paid for my research. Now, simply to make something of it!

________UPDATED ________
Well, no, I can't get paid sooner. Yikes! Well, at least state-sponsored health insurance will continue in force, until I have income coming in. I've got a couple months then to research that, as well as retirement benefits and life insurance, etc. There are many, many little details about running a business that we don't always anticipate. I guess that's why most firms have an HR department, eh?

[Hang on, I need to switch hats, okay, "HR here, how may I help you?"]

I suspect I'll be spending a lot of money on accounting and legal consultations. Good thing it's in the budget. Fortunately, I've got some really good small business resources and advisors from state and local agencies.

I spent half of today pouring over parts of the contract, and mostly filling out various forms and documents and questionnaires, and... There's a lot of paperwork involved in government contracting! And half the questions require a significant amount of uncovering before the answer is clear. Hopefully I can finish up and return the signed contract tomorrow, knowing I won't see a dime for about three or four months. At least it's coming. That's good to know.

Sunday, August 24, 2008


... at seven months
(and yes he does have grey-blue eyes...
like my wife, and grandmother)


The boy can focus when he wants to.

Peach Jam

... and blueberry, and apricot-raspberry too.
My family is happy, and the neighbors love us.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

These people should be lined up and...

I had been blissfully SPAM-free since setting up my new websites and emails a couple months ago. Yes, not a single SPAM message had reached my inbox. I was guarding the emails well, not publishing them in full on my websites, using proxy emails in many cases where I needed to put an address. That was, until I registered as a government contractor. Hey, I thought if anything would be safe it'd be a government registry, no?

There was a little box at the bottom of one of the pages that indicated a new registrant could allow their company info to appear in their public directory or opt-out. They warned if you opt out then you might limit your access to contract opportunities. Hrmph! Apparently (even though they have safeguards against auto-bots harvesting information) it was worthwhile for some schmuck in Belarus or Hong Kong (or both) to send some derivative of the Nigerian scam to my email address.

If you're not familiar with the scam it runs something like this:
Hi, we're dishonest scum looking for some cheating loser to help us. The former military dictatorship in our country ripped off the public for millions of dollars, and now they no longer have access to those accounts. But we do. Only, we don't want to be caught. So, we'd like you to give us your bank information, so we can share the loot with you. You're dishonest scum too, right? You trust us don't you? I mean, we wouldn't want to simply empty out your bank accounts and make off with the money now would we? I mean, that would be stealing.
Aargh! So, I immediately logged into my contractor registration account, and checked the "opt-out" box. Let's hope I will return to my blissfully SPAM-free state soon.

And, in other news... I'm still waiting for the contract! I'd feel so much more settled to simply have it in hand.

Friday, August 15, 2008

Cleaning up

Yesterday, I shaved and cut my hair.

You might not recognize me.

But it was fun to let it grow out for a few months.

Comedy of Delays

I didn't want to wait out another weekend. I sent a fairly innocuous email inquiring about the contract and a few relevant details like anticipated start date and location of technical contacts. I received a reply that they are currently experiencing problems with their system: some time next week I will be able to send you the contract. I have to wait it out for the details.

Aaargh! At least I know it's on its way, sometime!

Meanwhile, I had a meeting this morning with the director of a local center for technology and innovation to follow up on our earlier contacts. Among other things, we discussed getting me started with some publicity, sending out press releases and such.

I've got a meeting scheduled for Monday with a local CPA who was recommended to me. Finances get complicated. With the accounting required of a federal contractor (which I soon will be), on top of my status as sole owner of an LLC (the status is months old, but the income will be new!), I think it's time I get some help.

I'm trying to set up a lunch meeting next week with another patent law outfit. I wasn't convinced any of the attorneys I spoke with a couple months ago would be right. This outfit has someone on staff with quite a bit of experience in the field of research of my technology.

I'm also planning to register for a couple conferences on federal grants and contracting this fall. It's quite overwhelming the sheer variety of funding opportunities out there for research and technology development. The more I learn about them at these conferences the better. Until I have some deliverable products developed, these funding mechanisms seem to be my best choice. They're grants or contracts rather than private investment, meaning I can retain undiluted equity in my company and control over the work it does.

I'm hoping to submit another handful of applications before the end of the year. I'm riding on a wave of confidence. It's all good (except the delays!).

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Still waiting

You'd think, after so long, I'd be accustomed to waiting. But it just isn't so. More than 1 week ago, I got the email vaguely hinting that I might have won a contract. It was a week ago that I received rather unambiguous confirmation of this fact.

Then, I waited for the first step of the registration process to go through, assigning me a number I could use for the next step. Then I waited for the second registration process to go through, assigning me yet another number. These two I finally sent along to the contracts administrator, on Tuesday morning. It has been a very long couple days.

I want the contract in hand. I want to know where my technical contacts will be so I can plan the face-to-face meeting to get started. I want to know the schedule of the contract, when I am expected to commence the project, what my payment schedule will look like, what milestones or progress reports will be expected of me.

Don't get me wrong. I am pleased, thrilled. But I'm hungry. It's like a delectable meal awaits me; I know the outline of the menu items, but my stomach rumbles as I wait for it to begin.

Thursday, August 7, 2008

Almost in hand

My mom is visiting us for a week. We took her to the lakehouse for a couple days. I needed a break in any case from the waiting. We got home Wednesday afternoon. I went sailing (we came in third!). When I got back home in the evening, I was catching up on email and such.

There was a message in my inbox, from an unknown author. Subject: Proposal XXX-YYY-Z under topic... etc. I paused. Then I looked.
Dr. Dad,

Are you registered with the Central Contractor Registration service? If not, can you please register there.


Catherine Thomson
Contracts Specialist...
This morning, I took care of some of the necessary items (like opening a business checking account). I sent her a message describing the status of my progress toward registering, and included the inquiry: Does your involvement mean the proposal has been selected? Her response:
Yes the proposal has been selected. Once you are registered in the CCR, I can award you the contract, which should only take a few days.
I'd say, there's little ambiguity in that response. I'm... breathless. Five years has been a long time to wait. Now... this is just six months of funding (granted at about twice what I might have been making as a professor, including benefits, plus operating expenses and such). I'm thrilled. If all goes well (and there's little reason it shouldn't), the next six months, then another two years should be in the bag.

It's a foot in the door, a new door. One foot in/one foot out. I'm still here.