i woke up this morning at 6:30 to finish making my beef jerky, revealing my dedication to the art of meat dehydration. i wanted to get the raw jerky out onto the dehydrator as soon as there was daylight to take advantage of the limited amount of warmth the sun would provide. i began laying out the strips onto layers of paper towels in order to soak up as much liquid as possible. the dryer the meat when it goes onto the dehydrator, the faster it'll dry. a few of the thicker cuts still looked a bit pink in the middle, but i was hoping they'd fully "cook" once it was all over.

i ended up with 7 layers of raw jerky embedded in a matrix of juice soaked napkins. next i started transferring the jerky onto the plastic screen mesh of the DIY dehydrator. based on my previous (and first) experience, i knew i'd have enough room. once i had both of my screens full loaded with raw jerky goodness, i brought them into out onto my backyard deck (the sun had barely just risen) and placed them on top of the horizontal box fan balanced on 4 glass pickle jars (i know, very fancy). i set the fan on medium speed (high might be quicker, but it's also too strong and would blow the filters right off), put a few spoons on the filters to keep them from flying away, and then went back inside. time: 7:30. let the dehydration begin!

i found myself in an unusual position: fully awake a few hours before my usually wake up. since i'm almost never up early, this was a real treat, like living some bonus hours. other than the footsteps of my upstairs neighbor waking up, i like the morning quietness (it's the same way 1-2am in the morning, but just darker). i did some cleaning, sprucing up the kitchen and the living room, but that only took a few minutes. i went back to the guest bedroom and watched a few episodes of newsradio on my laptop before i got drowsy enough to go back to sleep. i woke up again before 10:00.

first thing i did was to check that the dehydrator was still functioning and no stray animals - drawn to the smell - had knocked it over. it's nice to be able to run the dehydrator outside. when i did back in september, i ran it indoors (because of the bugs) and it stank up the kitchen with the smell of jerky marinade. i still couldn't get the smoky smell out of my hands despite several washings.

i'm still concerned if i'll be successful with this latest batch of jerky. the problem is the temperature, and whether or not the raw jerky will freeze first instead of properly dehydrating. my last attempt took around 14 hours. at this rate, the jerky won't be done until 10pm. by then the temperature will have dropped below freezing. currently the temperature is a few degrees above freezing, but with my dehydrator facing south, it'll be additionally warmed up by the sun. i'm hoping dehydration this time will be quicker. the last time i did it, i remember it was a humid day, so it took longer for the meat to dry. but now in the midst of winter, with the air so dry, maybe it'll be quicker.

i wasn't looking forward to this morning because i had to make more calls to my health and auto insurance. the repercussions of my 2008 motorcycle accident is still being felt. a while back MGH came to me with an unexpected bill for thousands of dollars of medical expenses, because my blue cross coverage at the time had retroactively rescinded their coverage. their reason: since it was a motor vehicle accident, my auto insurance had to pay for it first (before blue cross would pay the rest). so a lot of calling and paperwork ensued, the auto insurance cut me a bunch of checks, i paid back all the hospital bills.

then a few months ago i started getting some new bills from MGH. apparently the insurance auditors at blue cross found some more things they weren't willing to cover, and retroactively rescinded more payment to the hospital; the hospital in turn came to me looking for money owed. the amount wasn't a lot, just a few hundred dollars, and i could've paid it out of pocket, but it was just the principle of the matter. what's the point of health insurance if it's not going to cover my medical expenses?

the kink was that the auto insurance had already exhausted my coverage for the accident ($5000 maximum). that means more phone calls and paperwork to let blue cross know they weren't going to get anymore money from my auto insurance and that they would finally have to begin paying for the remainder of my hospital bills. i called blue cross back in november and they said they'd take care of it, but in the meantime i've gotten at least 4 bills from MGH. i finally called them again yesterday, but my agent wasn't there so i could only leave a voicemail. LONG STORY SHORT: she called me back this morning apologizing profusely about this whole mix-up, that the problem should've been taken care of last november, but somebody had closed the case file, and my repeated adjustment requests just got lost in the bureaucracy. but she finally got in touch with my auto insurance, and once they send her the proper documentation (exhaust letter, proof of payments), blue cross will finally pay off MGH.

my father dropped by in the late morning to pick up the visitor's parking permit i got for my great uncle last week. i showed him my jerky dehydration setup. he told me about his experience using the garmin nüvi 295w for the past few days. he would've brought it along except he was charging it back at the cafe. he asked me to look into the ability to add china maps (like we did to our old garmin nüvi).

i had an egg and prosciutto on an english muffin for lunch. prosciutto is good on nearly everything. my dream refrigerator would always be stocked with fresh prosciutto. the only thing missing from than english muffin to make it perfect would be some peppery arugula.

around 1pm i went out back to check on the beef jerky progress. 5 hours worth of dehydration and the jerky were drying, but it still seemed like a long way to go. they were dry on the outside, but they were still soft, and the few pink pieces still looked raw. i decided to crank the box fan to high speed in hopes of speeding up the process. an hour later, i came back outside and turned all the jerky pieces to the other side.

from 2-5pm i was held hostage by the arrival of an impending UPS delivery. they tried to deliver the package yesterday but i didn't hear the doorbell. it's one of those things where somebody has to sign for it, so for the rest of the afternoon i had to be in the living room on standby, waiting for the UPS van to show up. it finally arrived close to 5pm: my lenovo multimedia keyboard (57Y6336). although intended for a PC, i tried it out on my mac, despite the fact that there was no mention of OS X support on the box. my macbook recognized the wireless dongle but it couldn't auto-identify the hardware. it was only after i manually clicked through the keyboard option did it finally see the keyboard and trackball. the control-option-command key layouts are a little messed up, but otherwise the keys are mapped correctly. the trackball works fine too, just not used to the 2-buttons. the coolest thing is the special AV buttons on top of the keyboard work as well: volume, play/pause, fast-forward and rewind. there seems to be a VLC bug where hitting the play button will also play a song in itunes; this doesn't happen when playing a video through the quicktime player. fast-forward and rewind only works for music, not videos. i agree with online reviewers who say some keyboard backlighting would be nice (especially given that the characters are hard to see on the all-black keyboard). i also keep on pressing the trackball button, wishing that it could register a mouseclick. but for a mini trackball with keyboard, it's pretty good.

i went out and checked on the jerky around 5pm. by then it was already dark and the temperature was quickly dropping below the freezing point. after thinking about it, i decided to move everything inside and continue dehydrating tomorrow. after some additional thinking, i decided to bake the jerky instead. i was afraid if i waited until tomorrow the unfinished jerky would spoil. so i dumped half of the jerky onto a baking sheet, and the rest onto two separate pizza dishes. i baked everything at around 180°F, not so hot that i couldn't still touch the pan, but low enough that it wouldn't cook the jerky, but just dry them instead. it took about 2 hours before i was satisfied with the jerky texture. the heat also began rendering some of the fat which i wiped up as much as i could with paper towels.

i think this latest batch of jerky is just okay. compared to last time, the flavor is a bit different, but still nothing to write home about. there's a slightly mysterious metallic aftertaste; i don't know where it could be coming from, the only thing different i did this time was change the brand of worcestershire sauce. it's definitely drier because of the oven baking. i think i could've sliced the pieces a bit thinner to help with the drying. i'm disappointed with the box fan dehydration though, it didn't seem to do very much. winter is definitely not a good time to dehydrate jerky outdoors because of the freezing temperatures. if i ever choose to make jerky again, i may just do it in the oven, which is faster and probably safer (because the heat would kill any germs).

for dinner i finally got around to making my macaroni and cheese. now that i use my electric kettle to boil water, it really speeds things up, and i managed to make everything in about 15 minutes. i watched the start of the spurs-celtics game before switching to the double episode of hard target.