On Measurements

A Pork Sandwich MeteorIn fantasy, describing quantities can be challenging — way beyond the metric/imperial wars uselessly raging for many decades (especially crazy when designing interstellar craft based on using both systems). A Yorkshire friend of mine once said that, in the original tongue, counting there was “one, two, three, four, five…many.”

I have a novel manuscript that featured counting due to a differently advanced culture. Fingers are good measures for humans (better than barleycorns, royal (?) strides, or other “standards”). The difficulty was in scaling. Sure, ten is two hands. And twenty is either “arms and legs” or four hands. Fifty? A hand of two hands? It didn’t scale without changing some kind of measurement standard.

It was odd to see the post from the Jerusalem Post (now devolved to be the UK’s Sun or New York’s Post intelligence level), measuring a meteor to the size of a premierly non-Kosher food item. In a media venue that slavishly caters to the American Evangelical, and Israeli right-wing and ultra-Orthodox factions, they choose this measure.

But really, how big is a “pork sandwich?” Are we talking white bread with crusts removed? A bagel (why not go all the way on culinary blasphemy)? A Subway not-quite-16″ sub? Is it measured by area? Length?

Weight would help, but I’m betting there’s no sandwich of any kind that would weigh what that meteor weighs, chondrite or otherwise.

Wolfram Alpha has a way to express whale weight in pineapples. It’d be fun to see force defined in terms of grand pianos falling from a number of floors. Or lift as a function of the number of chickens (trying to) take flight.
But pork-based measurements in this context goes beyond that absurdity and enters the realm of “are you kidding me?”

P.S. This blog took 47 knee twitches, a nosepick, and 2,460 keystrokes, less the backspace key.

Generative Activities

Short post here.

I write, but I also bake and cook. Bringing food to people is, for me, very similar to giving the literary nourishment of poetry of fiction. After a drought of creativity in the kitchen I’ve been (financially) kickstarted into the kitchen. Here’s something that’s slipping out of culinary favor this time of year: cholent.

It’s a simple recipe, that folks tweak for every different village and family. Orthodox Jewish law doesn’t allow for cooking on Shabbat (the sabbath), and it’s hard to keep, for example, a nice steak on hold for eighteen hours until it’s Saturday lunchtime.

Enter cholent. Take ingredients, toss ’em into a pot, cook it until it’s mostly done before Shabbat begins (a little before sundown on Friday), then go to the baker and stuff it into the bread oven. Overnight. And most of the morning. When it’s pulled out, it’s a heavenly, creamy, yummy thing. Below is the one my mom made, which pegs it to Sosnowiec in pre-WWII Poland.


  • 3-4 oxtail bones
  • 1-2 lbs. Flanken. Well, my mother would say ‘flanken,’ but I think we’re talking about a skirt steak kind of beef. Given my mom knew 9 languages and my dad 10, I think fuzzy would be a good way to describe her recipe ingredients. At any rate, a fatty piece, in one piece.
  • 5-6 kartofel. That one’s easy: use huge Idaho baking potatoes with thick skins. My mom skinned some, but kept others unskinned. In either case, cut in half.
  • 2-3 medium onions, whole and peeled.
  • Garlic. At least a 1/2 bulb. Peeled but whole.

That’s it. Put it in a crock pot until there’s no more room. Put the lid on, then leave it be on low heat for about eighteen hours. When you open it up, the potatoes are brown and buttery, the beef fat and oxtail marrow is everywhere, and basically it’s salted and then a feeding frenzy ensues until it’s all gone.

Some folks put whole eggs, in shell, into the mix. Or (shudder) red or garbanzo beans. Or bulgar. Or other travesties upon the pure Holiness of the recipe above. They shall be purged when the Truth is Known. 🙂

Okay. I feel better now…

On to writing.