Sep 042017

Thank you so much for sticking with me and following along on this process.  I’m really enjoying this project and I would especially like to thank Bob for allowing me to use his blog.

So let’s cure this piggy’s belly! I’ve cut it up into smaller pieces so we can try a couple of different cures.  I’m using a recipe out of Michael Ruhlman and Brian Polcyn’s Charcuterie.  I love this book and even if you aren’t even going to cure meat, it’s great reading.  I also recommend their Whiskey-Glazed Smoked Chicken and their Smoked Scallops.  I’ve also made their chorizo and someday I will try their Canadian Bacon recipe.

As I posted yesterday, the first ingredient in any cure is the pink salt or Prague powder.  But then you get to add ingredients on top of that depending on the flavors you like.  Ruhlman’s recipe calls for the following ingredients per 5 lbs of pork belly:

  • 1/4 cup Kosher salt
  • 2 teaspoons curing salt #1
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar
  • 1/4 cup maple syrup

A word about the maple syrup.  The Crown maple syrup was on sale at the grocery store and I’m a sucker for bourbon barrel-aged products.  I don’t drink bourbon, but I love the flavor.  And this stuff is nectar.  If you get a chance to snag a bottle, do it. It’s not that much more expensive than ordinary maple syrup (which already costs a fortune).

My pork belly weights about 7 1/2 pounds so I adjusted accordingly.

These pork bellies came with the skin still attached.  You can slice it off now, but  I’ve found its easier to cut it off after it is cooked.

Mix all the ingredients and then slather on the belly.  Rub it in so it comes into contact with as much the surface as possible.

Then the belly goes into a plastic bag for the next week to 10 days.  I stock up on the 2-gallon plastic bags when they go on sale and use painter’s tape for notes.  Since I’ll be doing 4 more cures, it helps distinguish the different recipes once they go into my fridge.  Tomorrow, I’ll show you a recipe for pepper bacon.

Jun 112013

Yours truly, age 4, at the Illinois Railway Museum

I’ve loved trains ever since I was a little kid. I have no clue why – it goes back as long as I can remember.

From an early age, my parents fed this fascination by taking my brother and I to the Illinois Railway Museum. It’s an awesome place – the largest railway museum in the United States. They have lots of railroad equipment from a variety of eras, and many pieces operate on their demonstration railroad. It’s located in Union, Illinois, about 75 minutes Northwest of Chicago. If you’re ever looking for something to do in the area, I highly recommend it.

Last weekend I had the immense pleasure of attending a museum trip where they chartered a CTA train made up of 2200 series cars, the oldest cars still in service on the ‘L’ system (built in 1969-70). This was a fundraiser to help purchase and transport two 2200 series cars to the museum, as the CTA will be scrapping them later this summer.

We spent the entire day (10 hours) riding around nearly the entire ‘L’ system. Our tour guides pointed out all kinds of facts about the neighborhoods and the train route. For someone like myself who loves trains and local history, it was an amazing experience.

For anyone who’s interested, I’m happy to share the photos I took. They’re all geotagged and most have lengthy comments so you’ll know what you’re looking at. Enjoy!

Apr 092013

This month’s T-SQL Tuesday is hosted by…ME! I asked everyone to share stories of how they came to love presenting, and I have not one but two tales of my own. They both took place at about the same time: my freshman year at the University of Illinois. I can’t remember which one came first, so you get to read both!

Physics Van

Shortly after classes began, my Physics 111 lecture was visited by Professor Mats Selen, who got everyone’s attention by putting a small amount of liquid nitrogen into a soda bottle. He capped it, threw it into a large plastic garbage can, and fastened the lid. Seconds later the lid touched the 20+ foot ceiling from the force of the explosion. He then explained if we were interested in doing things like this more often, come speak to him about joining the crew of the Physics Van. I was at his office within a day or two.

Demonstrating the power of atmospheric pressure with Magdeburg Hemispheres

The Physics Van is an outreach program that brings a free traveling science show to elementary schools and community groups, typically within an hour’s drive of campus. The hour-long program gets kids excited about science by demonstrating basic physics experiments, many with audience participation. Of course no science show would be complete without a few explosions thrown in as well!

Not only did I have an amazing time and meet some wonderful people, but Physics Van taught me a ton about stage presence and engaging an audience. I also learned how to be comfortable speaking in front of large groups, and that making something appear spontaneous takes lots of rehearsing. I’ll admit that getting up and talking in front of hundreds of people is much easier when your audience is in the 4th grade or younger. It’s also nearly impossible to not get kids that age excited about whatever you’re going to be doing. Whether they really enjoyed the show or were just happy to not be in class, we always saw tons of smiles from the audience. In my mind, it was the perfect environment to get comfortable with speaking.

Bonus! You may or may not find yours truly (circa 2003) in this video of a show. Disclaimer: it appears to require Internet Explorer (again, this was 2003.)

Being a Campus Tour Guide

One morning early in the year, my roommate and I were startled awake by the door to our room being unlocked. It opened quickly, we heard an “OHMYGODIMSORRY!”, it closed in an instant and we heard lots of people being shuffled out of the hallway. My dorm room had previously been the “model” room shown to tour groups (I knew this because I saw it when I cam for tours) and apparently some of the tour guides never got the memo.

My lava lamp collection was always a hit with tour groups. (And hey, check out those books I had even 12 years ago!)

This really didn’t bother me or my roommate. In fact, I went to the Campus Visitors Center and encouraged them to send tour groups to our room, as we could show them what a real, lived-in dorm room looks like. They liked that idea, so our room became a regular stop on the campus tour. The model room looked so fake anyway, with perfect furnishings all straight from the store. Ours may have been totally cluttered, but at least it was authentic!

Over the course of my freshman year, I made more contacts in the Admissions and Records office, and applied for a job as a tour guide for the following year (they don’t allow freshmen to give tours.) This ended up being my job for the next 4 years, and I loved it. Getting paid to share my love of the University with prospective students and their parents was awesome, and there were never any dull moments. I remember one time in particular where I was walking a tour group down the street and a good friend of mine saw us going by. She came up to me and started hitting on me like crazy in front of them. Told me to come by her place because she needed my help studying for her anatomy exam that night. The look on everyone’s faces was priceless! Another time I was taking my tour group into the dorm to show them my room, and my neighbor was standing at the front desk wearing nothing but a towel. He asked if he could speak to the group for a second, and then explained that his current state was a prime example of why you never forget your keys when going to shower, as his roommate had left and locked the door, leaving him waiting for the front desk to get him a copy!

Tour guides at U of I developed some great skills, like the ability to talk very loudly for an hour or more while walking backwards and not running into people or obstacles. We also had to be good at answering unexpected questions. Before or after each tour there was a formal question/answer session where several tour guides went in front of a room full of people and answered literally any question about the school that the audience could throw at us. As I’m sure you can believe, most questions weren’t simple ones, like “What’s a good place to eat?” The kids would ask questions like “Can we have members of the opposite sex in our dorm room?” Parents would ask “There seem to be a lot of bars near campus – how do I know that my Timmy isn’t going to become a drunkard?” It was an excellent exercise in coming up with appropriate answers with a positive spin, no matter how much we really wanted to say that as long as your roommate is cool with it, resident advisors aren’t going to care if your significant other spends the night or not.

So those are my stories. In both cases I had very positive experiences getting up in front of groups of people and speaking about things I love: science and the University of Illinois. When I think about it that way I guess it’s no surprise that I enjoy giving presentations about SQL Server as well.

Jan 302013

During one of his more sophisticated moments (Click to Enlarge)

Meet Oliver, our big orange kitty. At 16 pounds, he’s large and in charge – the complete opposite of the scrawny kitten we brought home from the shelter 5 1/2 years ago. He’s the perfect mix of predator and sweet lap cat, but for all that he hypes his hunting skills, he’s never been outside and is afraid of his own shadow. Though not totally his fault, he’s made life around our house much more interesting since the beginning of the year.

Monday 31 December, 6:00pm  As has become tradition in recent years, we have some guests over for New Year’s Eve. Oliver tends to get stressed out around people he doesn’t know, so we set him up in a bedroom with his food, toys, and litter box.

7:00pm  One of our guests goes upstairs to see Oliver, accompanied by my wife Michelle. They were trying to pet  Oliver and play with him, but Oliver got scared and was backing away. Eventually finding himself cornered, Oliver went into self-defense mode and tried to bite our guest in order to get away. Michelle intervened and ended up getting bit on her middle finger. She was bleeding a little bit and cleaned it up immediately with soap, water, and rubbing alcohol, finishing with a bandage. I saw that she got bit, but didn’t think much of it. We’ve both been bitten hundreds of times before so no big deal, right?

Unbenkownst to me as the evening went on, Michelle’s bandage kept on getting tighter and tighter. She changed it at one point, thinking she had put it on too tight. She also thought maybe her finger was broken. It continued to swell and throb with pain.

Tuesday 1 January, 1:00am  Our guests leave and Michelle tells me that her finger has been swelling the entire evening and is now to the point that she can no longer move it. Since that’s clearly not a good sign, we head to the emergency room. Thankfully it’s still slow there as most bars haven’t closed yet. We are seen right away.

2:30am  After a thorough cleaning and x-ray, we head home with a prescription for large antibiotic pills. The doctor says it may take a day or two for the drugs to kick in, but we should return if Michelle gets a fever. It’s a crappy way to start 2013, but we figure the worst is behind us.

After 6 Hours

12:00pm  Her finger definitely doesn’t look any better yet, in fact it looks like it might be swelling even more. Since she’s been on the drugs for less than 12 hours, we decide to give them some time to work, rather than being those people that run right back to the ER.

9:00pm  It’s definitely swelling more and oozing some pus as well. Comparing to photos we took earlier, it looks like her adjacent fingers are also swelling a little bit. We still aren’t at the 24 hour mark though, so Michelle opts to sleep on it and return to the hospital in the morning if things don’t appear better. I am told to go work like usual and she will keep me posted with what’s going on.

Wednesday 2 January 7:00am  Michelle sends me a photo of her hand and it’s looking worse yet. The adjacent fingers are definitely swollen, and the swelling and redness is starting to spread down the back of her hand. I forward the photo to one of my closest friends who happens to be a clinical pharmacist. She shows it to some doctors she works with and their replies are along the lines of “What hospital is she at and what are they treating her with?” She advises me to have Michelle go back to the hospital immediately.

8:00am  Workaholic that she is, Michelle goes to work to make sure all her things are in order. Despite the fact that her body is battling a major infection, she’d rather make sure her preschoolers have their juice ordered before checking into the hospital.

9:30am Michelle heads back to the emergency department, and is started on IV antibiotics and painkillers. They decide to admit her soon after. I catch the first available train out of Chicago, but that’s not until the early afternoon.

4:00pm  I join Michelle at the hospital. She’s seen by a few doctors. They tell her that a hand surgeon will be coming to see her, but they probably won’t be doing anything until tomorrow.

After 45 Hours

5:30pm  Michelle is seen by an orthopedic hand surgeon. He takes one look at it and says he’s going to do emergency surgery immediately.

Virtually No Hands!

8:30pm  Michelle is out of surgery. Her doctor tells me they were able to remove all of the infection, but some of it had spread to inside her knuckle joint. He had to open the joint to get everything out, which means a longer recovery.  She’s very hungry when we get back to her room, but the hospital cafeteria is closed for the night. Her nurse gets us a sandwich and some apple sauce. Since Michelle’s right hand is wrapped up the size of a football and the other is tethered by an IV, I hand feed her after a few vomiting sessions (great practice for when we have kids, right?)

Thursday 3 January 7:00am  Surgeon comes to see us but says he’s not taking the dressings off her hand until tomorrow. He invites us to “watch a lot of TV and have a boring day.”

10:00am  Infectious disease doc comes in and says that whenever Michelle is discharged, she will be on IV antibiotics at home for a month. She doesn’t explain this very well, and leads us to believe we’ll have to use needles and give her an IV once a day. This does not sound pleasant.

10:15am  Our nurse sees Michelle freaking out at the thought of having to deal with needles every day, and explains that she will be getting a PICC line and there are no needles involved. Crisis averted.

12:30pm  PICC nurse comes to give Michelle her PICC line. It’s a sterile procedure so I have to leave the room.

We spend the rest of the day watching TV, taking a couple of laps around the floor, and talking with Michelle’s sister who came to visit us. I also learn how to put her hair in a ponytail. I learned a lot of knots in Boy Scouts, but they all have nothing on a good ponytail!

Friday 4 January 6:30am  Orthopedic surgeon comes in and removes the dressing. Her finger looks pretty good considering everything it’s been through. The doctor left the wound open (no stitches) so that it would drain itself if necessary. He says as far as he’s concerned Michelle should be going home today, though the infectious disease doc will have to agree.

Post Surgery

2:00pm  Infectious disease doc stops by and says we will be going home today. He explains the drug Michelle will be on at home and wants her to have one dose at the hospital just in case she has any adverse reactions to it. He orders the new drug and says we’ll be able to leave as soon as she gets it. “It should be coming up from the pharmacy in about 15 minutes.”

What a PICC line looks like

4:00pm  Drug finally arrives from pharmacy. Over the time we’ve spent in the hospital I’ve crafted Pusateri’s Law™:  Pretty much every time the hospital gives you a timeline for something, it will really take at least four times as long as they claim.

4:30pm  After a crash-course in PICC line maintenance from our nurse, including a stern warning not to do any drugs through it (and I bought all that heroin for nothing…) we are done and Michelle is discharged! We head to the pharmacy to pick up her prescription for painkillers, and then go home so I can wash her hair. My parents show up a little later with dinner in tow (thanks Mom & Dad!)

Since then we’ve gotten into the routine of doing Michelle’s medication infusion every evening. With the drugs and various flushes it comes to 6 syringes per day. She also gets weekly visits from a home care nurse who comes to change the dressing on her PICC. Two weeks ago she had to have her PICC removed and re-placed on her other arm due to a blood clot forming near it (this is not typical.) Her finger is healing nicely but she has yet to regain full motion in it and will be starting occupational therapy soon.

Moral of the story

A fun night of doing drugs at the Pusateri house

Cats are not evil, but when you corner them (or any other animal) they will of course protect themselves. If you find yourself bit by one and the area starts swelling, get to an emergency room immediately. We were told that over 80% of cat bites result in an infection, way more than dogs. This is because cat teeth are long and skinny and create puncture wounds that can deposit bacteria very deeply beneath the skin.

Update: Several people have asked if we got rid of Oliver. Absolutely not!! He’s not a mean cat at all – he’s our baby and he was just reacting like any other scared animal would. Neither of us can imagine life around our house without him.

Aug 302012

Earlier this month Michelle and I visited friends in Virginia, and one of the places we checked out was Monticello, Thomas Jefferson’s primary home and plantation. I highly recommend going there if you’re ever in the area. It was very informative on many levels, but my favorite takeaway was learning what a geek Jefferson was for his day. He did things like take daily weather observations for over 50 years, and used a pantograph to keep a copy of every letter he wrote. Something else I never knew was that the view of Monticello on the Nickel actually shows the back of the house. The iconic octagonal dome isn’t visible from the front entrance.

While in the gift shop I found a refrigerator magnet listing out “Jefferson’s Ten Rules”. It turns out he liked to give advice to young people on how to lead a good life, and this “decalogue of canons for observation in practical life” was taken from an 1825 letter to the father of a baby named Thomas Jefferson Smith. The first is rather well known, but I find the others equally important.

Never put off until tomorrow what you can do to-day.

Never trouble another for what you can do yourself.

Never spend money before you have it.

Never buy what you do not want because it is cheap.

Pride costs more than hunger, thirst and cold.

We seldom repent of having eaten too little.

Nothing is troublesome that we do willingly.

How much pain have cost us the evils which have never happened.

Take things always by their smooth handle.

When angry, count ten before you speak; if very angry, an hundred.


Earlier letters he wrote contained 12 rules, but it appears he removed two of them over time. I think they are worth repeating here as well:

Take care of your cents: Dollars will take care of themselves.

Think as you please, and so let others, and you will have no disputes.


Just a little food for thought. I promise my next post will be back to my usual SQL geekery.