Ascending the Alps of MIT!


Tuesday,  17-Feb-2015


As we’ve discussed, Boston deals with this thing called “snow” during the winter.

It’s white, sometimes fluffy and light, and sometimes wet and heavy.  So far this winter, it’s mostly been light and fluffy.

But in either case, it takes up a lot of room, and we have to put it somewhere.  MIT is of the opinion that you should take an open lot, and build a mountain in that open lot.  Using the spare snow, of course.

So when I had a chance to have lunch with a friend, and that lunch happened to be near where this mountain had been built… we had to go and explore.

We took the back route onto the hill, where some MIT kids had built a rather amazing sledding ramp, and ascended our way up to the top of the pile.  The pictures honestly do it a little too much justice… it was a total of 25ft high, maybe 35 if you’re being generous.  And it was packed pretty solidly – the way that they built it up was by packing it down and then driving excavation equipment on top of the pile, to pile more snow on top.  So there were industrial ramps packed down leading up to the top for the drivers to use… impressive, definitely.

We couldn’t stay too long, of course, since some of the MIT facilities staff noticed us exploring and clambering around… and they started clamoring on their own for us to “get down from there you crazy kids!”.  I can see their point – a few ice-slides had obviously happened around the base, so it probably wasn’t the most stable of mountains to be exploring…


Cooking a new recipe… flambe included!


Friday, 20-Feb-2015


I’ve been unemployed for almost 10 days now.

It’s not unpleasant, to be honest… I’m sleeping the correct number of hours (more, if we’re being honest) and I’m actually having breakfast regularly.

But I was feeling a bit bummed… So I decided to pull out an old recipe that I’d found online (original link below) and try out my own version of it.  It’s basically steak in a heavy cream sauce… but since I get to light the sauce on fire that makes is 110% better.  Clearly.



Fillet Mignon steak cuts (I used 3 small ones… maybe 1lb today)

Kosher Salt

Italian Seasoning (rosemary, sage, oregano)

1 tbs butter

Enough olive oil

300ml brandy (I used VSOP, nice and simple)

This much heavy cream… not much, but enough.

Tomatoes (2 medium)

Standard-issue rolls (2 small ones)

Scotch for drinking


Step 1: Season the steaks – the original recipe calls for salt and pepper… lots of pepper.  I don’t like pepper though, so I went with kosher salt and the Italian seasonings – let it sit for 30min or so, for everything to settle into where it should be.  Take this time to get the rolls in the oven, and to pour yourself a glass of scotch.  Because steak & scotch should never be apart.


Step 2: Prep the pan – Simple and easy, melt the butter into the pan, pour some oil onto it, and bring it up to heat… medium/low, depending on how thick the cut of steak is.  NOTE: do not use a non-stick pan.  You want the flambe step (step 4) to caramelize everything, and a non-stick won’t work as well.


Step 3: cook that steak – Yep.  Cook it.  Preeeeeettttyyyy simple.  I did 3min per side; you want to undercook it here, but not too much.  Don’t worry, you’ll finish it up later.


Step 4: FIRE! – Pull the steaks out when they’re rare, and pour the brandy in.  Then?  Light it on fire!  I did three runs – pour 1/3 in, light it, let it go out.  Repeat.  That seemed to work very well, and tasted better than a time (later on) that I tried flaming it all in one go.


Step 5: mix the sauce – Once the fire’s completely died out, add in the heavy cream and constantly whisk the sauce.  NEVER let it sit still.  Pour in enough that you can still see the brandy/oil/butter mix around the edges, but don’t skimp too much either.  It should be at a light boil; keep stirring ’till it starts to thicken up.


Step 6: finish the steaks – bathe the steaks in the sauce… but don’t stop stirring it!  I actually stirred the sauce with the steaks, using a pair of tongs… and damn did it work well.  say 1.5min per side, roughly.  Just enough to finish the steaks, and fill them up with deliciousness.


Step 7: final stuff – once the steaks are done, set them to the side to cool, and pour the remaining sauce over them.  Cut the tomatoes, butter the rolls, and refill your scotch.  Done and served.  Bask in your amazingness!





Original Recipe:

The joys of unemployment


Wednesday, 11-Feb-2015


I was laid off for the first time today.

If I said I didn’t see it coming, I’d be lying.  If I said that I was caught off-guard… I’d be telling the truth.

See, I’d been seeing signs that my company was doing not-so-amazingly for a while… little things like specific people being overworked, while others were going without projects.  Quotes going out… and not a lot of orders coming in.

But when I was called in for a “quick chat” with my boss, I wasn’t expecting anything aside from questions about a new system skid that I’d been working on that morning.  Instead, I saw the entire HR department file in behind me… and knew that this wasn’t going to be about a new system skid that I’d been working on that morning.

They said that the company was doing poorly, and that someone needed to be let go.  And that, as the meeting foreshadowed, I was that someone.  “Nothing against you”, they said, “But cuts had to be made somewhere.  You’re a great guy, but your position just isn’t in the budget anymore”.

And then, they explained my severance, how everything would work, and that was it.  I honestly didn’t hear much of it – I had the paperwork in hand, but I didn’t have anything to write notes down with anyways.  Everything I needed, everything about the 2+ years I’d been there, was effectively housed in an envelope containing a severance letter, some healthcare information, and a check for my unused vacation days.

I was told that my (now former) boss would oversee me cleaning up my cube, and then I’d be walked to my car.  I’d have a short time to say my goodbyes, but that I wouldn’t finish out the week, the day, or even the hour.  My projects would be passed off to another department, and my position would disappear.

The goodbyes were quick, as was packing up my desk.

Turned out that I didn’t have many personal affects there… a few textbooks, a notebook, and my coffee cup among a few other random bits.  Nothing to write home about, honestly.

The goodbyes took longer, and I honestly didn’t rush them much… I mean, I was free for the rest of the day.  The only person who’s time I was wasting was my former employer, who of course followed me throughout the process.  Everyone except the executives and one of the the guys in IT (who had blocked my server access as soon as the meeting started) were surprised, and that helped me a bit.  Some of the engineers even laughed at the thought that they’d be taking over my projects… I had actually taken the helm on some of their projects in the previous weeks to ease their loads!  The idea that they’d be taking those back, along with my other roles, didn’t excite them very much.

But it was a quick afternoon… I was in an almost zen-like trance the whole time, my brain shielding my mind from what had actually happened.


Of course, everything would hit me much harder over the next few days.  I’d understand that I was out in the field again, and that unemployment insurance would be just enough to scrape by… or so it seemed at the time (the future will tell, on that one).  All i could think about was the unfinished projects, my sudden financial vulnerability, and the fact that I was very glad that I hadn’t  booked my flights for Spring Break just yet.