Thursday, December 31, 2009


How about more grammar?

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

American Politics Bullshit

"Well, you see, Johnny, we have a two-party system."
"Well what's that?"
"Well, that's where you have one party write legislation, and the other party tries to sabotage it."
"That sounds like a game."
"Well, I guess it is a kind of game."
"But what if there's something really bad gonna happen, like an asteroid's gonna hit us or something?"
"Well, then one party will try to write legislation to save the planet, and the other will try to sabotage it."
"But if we get hit by an asteroid, we could die."
"Yes, but if they pass legislation that keeps us from getting hit by the asteroid, then the other party will lose."
"How come?"
"Well, that's just how it is, Johnny."
"I don't get it."

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Glitter and Doom Live

Did you know that Waits has released a live album from his Glitter and Doom tour? There's nothing from St. Louis on there - THAT WAS SUCH AN AWESOME CONCERT! - but Get Behind the Mule is on there, and the live version of that alone is worth the price of the album, I think.

Remember when we all sang Innocent When You Dream during the encore? That was awesome.

Monday, November 30, 2009

Revolutionary Road

I should have written this a long time ago. If you've never seen the movie Revolutionary Road, I recommend you see it.

I'm not sure how I derive any pleasure in watching such devastation unfold. I've watched it several times, and every time I feel like my soul is being slowly ripped in half, right down the middle. It's excruciating. It makes me sick. However, the acting is incomparable. The sense of REALITY is incomparable. It's tragedy that seems to be preventable, but you are helpless to prevent.

The story revolves around Frank and April Wheeler, a young couple living in 1950s suburban Connecticut with their two children. Frank, played by Leonardo DiCaprio, rides the train into New York City every day, with all the other men in their suits and fedoras, where he develops taglines for his company's products. He finds the work meaningless and paltry. April, played by Kate Winslet, carries out her daily duties as housewife and mother with similar disinterest.

April is more sensitive to the mounting sense of entrapment, and one night presents Frank with her plan for escaping their colorless, conformant destiny: they will move to Paris. Utilizing their savings, she envisions herself making enough money to support the family long enough for Frank to just LIVE, and figure out what he REALLY wants to do with his life.

Nearly all of the characters in the movie react very poorly to their plan, although they (the other characters) don't seem to really understand why they feel that way. Frank and April find renewed love and vigor in their relationship with this new wind of hope, but all the other characters in the move, except for John, the "insane" guy, develop a subconscious resentment toward the Wheelers, and declare it childish, and unrealistic. The whole thing soon falls apart when April becomes pregnant and Frank stumbles onto a new path for success at work.

Kate Winslet's portrayal of April Wheeler may be the greatest female acting performance I've ever seen. It's hard to imagine a more convincing, visceral display to be conducted with such personal investment. She's disturbing and awe inspiring. April Wheeler is beautiful and uncontrollable - a brilliant light, and a black, bleak pit. She loves her family, but is utterly shattered when Frank backs out of their plan to escape to Paris.

Frank is ultimately revealed to be a coward. DiCaprio's performance is equally gripping: raw, sincere, and intense to the point of offending me personally. I really don't understand how this movie did not receive more awards.

As I write this, my opinion on who is right in this movie changes. I see faults in both April and Frank, but I'm challenged to think that any fault I find in April, like that she should not have reacted so strongly, that she pinned too much on the move, is really a fault in myself, as if I am as cowardly as Frank for even thinking those things. April has never been anywhere, but Frank has been because he went overseas for The War. It's unfair to not consider the level of excitement and hope this would generate for April, who is by all accounts a worldly woman who has never seen the world - I mean her potential is obvious and the suffocation she is experiencing is obvious.

The abortion is a very difficult issue, and I ultimately can't agree with her wanting to go through with it. What makes it complicated is the fact that Frank refuses to entertain the idea of having the baby in Paris, so the pregnancy becomes a roadblock to leaving. I really don't understand why, since ultimately it would just be a wrinkle in their plans, but not a show stopper. It could just be a point where Frank feels so out of character in the relationship that he feels he must assert himself as the head of the household. Frank's attempt to exert control over April results in tragedy every time he tries to do it.

Frank lost April when he backed out of the move to Paris. April had invested so much in the move that Frank's reversal broke her hope for the future. She began to resent Frank. She began to resent him with bitter ferocity. They finally tear each other down in a climactic fight that leaves both of them lost.

The next morning April has calmed down, and Frank comes downstairs to find her in a good mood, no longer hating him, and she makes them both a nice breakfast. By all accounts Frank should stay home that day and work this out... Right??? But April doesn't like talking, so I don't know how that would've worked. Anyway it doesn't happen because this is the big day Frank is supposed to get his promotion.

John, the "insane" guy, played by Michael Shannon, is possibly the most sane person in the movie. He is the only person who is interested in their plan to move to Paris, and his vocal disgust at their change of plans ignites the climactic fight between Frank and April. You have to wonder if his so-called "insanity" is affected by the ridiculous expectations and shallowness of the culture. He actually shows no sign of mental illness that I can discern except for his erratic outbursts, but - although rude - they are actually sharp, objective observations.

I can't write anymore about this in blog format. Go watch the movie. Hopefully you'll be as affected by it as I am.

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Post-feminist Humor

"I feel about as useless as a mom's degree." - Kenneth Parcell


Saturday, November 28, 2009


Naivete is innocence that has not yet been lost

Friday, November 27, 2009

Karl Benjamin

How long before someone just starts printing T-shirts with Karl Benjamin paintings? It seems appropriate given recent trends toward mid-century modern aesthetics. Hard Edge Tees.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Yankee Doodle

Have you ever really thought about the words of Yankee Doodle? Their meaning seemed kind of pointless to me, until I looked it up in Wikipedia, the greatest online reference ever...

Turns out Yankee Doodle was originally a song intended to jeer Americans. At the time, doodle was another word for fool, and macaroni was an avant-garde wig style. So, in effect, the first verse is saying that Americans are so backwoods, they think sticking a feather in their cap suddenly makes them Karl Lagerfeld.

So, why did Yankee Doodle become a popular American song? It was an Act of DEFIANCE! Which is what makes this such great knowledge to have...

As the story goes, the Minutemen mocked the British with the tune after beating them in battle.

The Wikipedia article is a good read.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Tip for repackaging commercial software

Where I work, we like everything to be in a package. It allows for unattended and repeatable installations, dependencies, and easy removal. You also get to ensure that the software is installed in the correct location on your servers, rather than whatever ridiculous location the vendor thought should be used. RPM is our package format of choice.

If we need to install a new piece of software that someone has brought into the company, the first thing we do is repackage it into an RPM. Commercial software is almost never provided as an RPM to begin with, particularly if it has a really large footprint. The bigger the footprint, the stupider the packaging.

However, one thing about the rpmbuild command that is not very helpful in repackaging commercial code is that it attempts to strip ELF binaries before it adds them to the package. We do not want to modify commercial software, we just want to repackage it. You never know what kind of idiocy is being perpetrated in commercial software. They may depend on those symbols somehow! Or maybe there is a file in the package that is not actually an elf library, and causes brp-strip to choke.

To prevent this behavior, this little trick will do it:

Just in case that link doesn't last, you just write these definitions at the top of your spec file:

%define __spec_install_post /usr/lib/rpm/brp-compress || :
%define debug_package %{nil}

Apparently Dag Wieers deserves credit for that hack. Coincidentally, Dag is also the developer of mrepo, which is the greatest little program you've never heard of. It creates and updates APT and YUM repos.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Liberty Mutual Lolcat

OMG, he looks exactly like Wilford Brimley.

Good furniture from cheap materials

When I was in Los Angeles a couple weeks ago, Sean and I went to the Art Center College of Design, where Magda is studying, and toured the student exhibits. I had noticed a trend in the creative use of plywood and cardboard for interesting furniture before, but it didn't really sink in until I saw it being used there.

Wood is an expensive commodity, but plywood is cheap. Also, plywood has the added advantage of being a stable material, unlike wood, which will expand and contract, twist, and warp over time. That material movement is why you will hear many woodworkers talk about how the wood is alive, even after it's been dimensioned into boards. Being a good craftsman means understanding how the wood will change over time: size, color, wear, etc.

Plywood also has the advantage of being veneered with most of the best-grained wood that is cut. Yes, I have heard some say that the best grain to be found these days is on the veneer of plywood. So, it makes sense to use plywood. It's cheap, it's widely available, and it's stable.

Being modern means using the commodities that are available in your time. Most people, when they think of fine furniture, probably do not think of plywood or MDF, or any kind of engineered material. They think of quarter-sawn white oak, and cherry cabinets, and old antiques, and basically anything other than plywood. But in fact, there are a lot of creative people out there proving that you can make exciting, modern furniture from engineered and recycled materials.

Look at these examples from furniture makers on Etsy:

These barstools are made from steel and plywood. The lamination technique the maker used allows him to shape the layers of wood into fine curves.

I could be mistaken, but I think this chair is actually made from plywood as well:

The design is good, well balanced, and the edge treatments don't try to hide the sandwich effect of the plywood. I like the honesty. The attention to grain detail is not great, I think, and gives the overall impression an amateurish look, but the idea was good, and I'm sure she'll refine it over time, perhaps employing more of the sandwich effect's lines on he arms and legs, like the barstools.

This coffee table reminds me of something I saw at the Art Center, with its finger-jointed plywood, and even the screws pay homage to the pinned finger joints of Greene & Greene. This a really great piece. I like the curved lines that contrast w/all the straight sandwich lines, and the use of hardware. This guy is officially my new favorite - Holy crap look at the chairs he makes! Spectacular - and affordable!

More good stuff here:

Idea for a browser addon

Sometimes when I'm doing research on the web, I want to make notes right on the screen about what I'm looking at, and have them stay with that page, so that they appear when I come back to it.

I've looked around and the only addons I could find that do something like that are ones that you have to sign up w/an online service to do, and they keep your stuff so you can share it with others. But I think that some people would just like to have that data kept to themselves.

So, my idea is to have an addon where you can right-click somewhere on the page, and select "new note", which changes the mouse pointer to a crosshair, so you can select a rectangular region that will be the notespace. Then, you just click on the notespace and a text cursor appears where you can type your text.

When you go away from the page, the notes are left behind, and will reappear when you come back to it.

Optionally, you can open a sidebar that keeps track of all the pages you've made notes on, so you don't have to bookmark them - they're inherently bookmarked by your notes. You should also be able to search your notes, and maybe export a page to PDF or image that includes your notes.

Here is a mockup of what I am envisioning. On this page I've created two notes, and I have the sidebar open that keeps track of my notes.

Click on the image to enlarge it.

You could apply nicknames to those URLs in the sidebar so they're easier to understand. You can also hide the sidebar (of course), and also one or more of the notes.

Each note would also have some kind of timestamp on it, so you know exactly when you wrote it.

The note spaces expand dynamically as you type to fit your text, but you can go back and resize them if you don't want your long notes taking up the whole page. When you resize down below the size of the actual text, the text just reads up to where it can and then an ellipse '...', indicating there's more text.

You can right click on a note and select "hide note", or right click somewhere on the page a select "hide all notes" or "show all notes".


Yeah, I know that after the last posting this is going to be like throwing it into reverse while doing 80 down the freeway, but...

Did you know there is such a term as lolcat? YES! It's so funny!

Just go to Google images and search for "lolcat".

What is it that makes cats so funny? Is it because they're so serious, yet so cute?

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

The Jesus Lizard

Best. Concert. Ever.

Yes, that is a serious statement. Imagine: 5 minutes before the curtain goes up, and I am actually feeling butterflies in MY stomach. I look at my brother, "Sean, I can't believe this, but I'm actually feeling butterflies in my stomach. That's never happened before." Sean grinned, "You should probably bring those expectations down a notch."

Moments later, the curtain rises, and there they stand. Confident, ready...

I can see them all clearly, and David Yow, the lead singer has this intense look of anticipation on his face. He stands about 6 feet from the front of the stage, and coils back... The drummer cracks off three beats and they EXPLODE into Puss --- David Yow LEAPS from the stage in the most glorious, energetic stage dive I've ever seen!

This picture is actually from later in the show, and it doesn't really do justice to his stage diving prowess, which was on display several times through the night.

The amazing thing is that, no matter where he was, what angle he was pitched at, surfing the throng of ecstatic, thoroughly invigorated fans, he still got out every word to every song - on cue - and sounded perfect! I can't believe how good they sounded.

The question quickly turned from are my expectations too high to how far beyond them will they actually go? They played all the best songs, including a 5 or 6 song encore that included Monkey Trick, Bloody Mary, ... I don't know, they were all there.

They finished with Wheelchair Epidemic. Yes, the very tune that I've had set as my message ringtone from February, 2008, to just a couple weeks ago when I got a new phone. Yes, you better believe I was belting it out with complete and uninhibited joy.

I'll never forget the look of David Yow, head down, stringy hair wet, crouching down and then running forward and lunging into the crowd... He spit on the stage in the middle of a tight series of lyrics w/out missing a beat. Fucking unreal.

Ever since I was a sophomore in high school (Sean a freshman), we've heard of their legendary shows. Their music is absolutely unique, rough, visceral, imaginative, brutal, and liberating, and influenced my ear tremendously over the years. They remain one of my favorite bands of all time. They totally nailed it to the wall and spit on it. To be able to see it them with Sean just made it an ideal night. Couldn't possibly improve it.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

The Forever War

An interesting thought just occurred to me as I was reading Joe Haldeman's 1974 novel The Forever War: post-apocalyptic zombie movies, which are so much fun to watch, are really a form of FANTASY, I think.

In The Forever War, the future is a mess. Severe population issues, rationing, overwhelming crime and unemployment, helplessness, desperation - all things that are not fun to think about. However, in stories where there is only a small team of heavily armed individuals with all-access passes to the world at large, and a completely guilt-free license to shoot things - things which should be dead anyway - the only issue to deal with is survival, which is fun. Therefore, zombie movies are fun, and that's why everyone kind of fantasizes about a post-apocalyptic world.

My own post-apocalyptic scenarios (there are two - one short story and one vision for a story) are grim environments, and in the unwritten one, overpopulation is pretty much THE central issue, so I guess I've followed Haldeman, being more cynical about the future. However, it would be fun to write something as liberating as I am Legend, or a similar Twilight Zone episode, where you find yourself alone, using whatever you can find. Everything is new.

I now see zombie movies as a guilty pleasure. Others must feel the same way, if only subconsciously. I suspect it is that kind of subconscious desire that can undermine a society, and cause people to follow leaders with irrational visions, like fundamentalists and their dreams of an apocalypse.

That is really the biggest fault with religions these days, right? By design, most religions look FORWARD to the end of days, because that is when everyone is rewarded according to their faith, and those who are most blind/drunk/misleadingthemselves with faith are those who most look forward to it, and NOW that a small group of people could actually fuck up the entire world with weapons of mass destruction, they could bring about that end themselves, if they thought they should, which is a scary thought.

Saturday, September 26, 2009

Unnamed fusion... dish

This will sound weird, but...

To two handfuls of jasmine rice boiling in a little too much water, add

a generous (~3 tablespoons) helping of fish sauce
some (~1 tablespoon) soy sauce
1 bag of cooked salad shrimp
a decent amount (1/4 cup) of shredded sichuan preserved vegetable
~3-4 chopped birdseye peppers (chopped loosely, with seeds)

The sichuan preserved vegetable and the sauces will provide enough salt, no need to add more. boil this until the rice just barely starts to break down (20 minutes?), and then add some ripped-up pieces of high-quality beef cold cuts (like top round). Or if you don't have that, maybe some thumb-sized pieces of roast beef.

Then take it off the heat, let the beef soak up the flavors for a minute or two. it will thicken slightly as it cools.

This is really good. It's kind of like a congee, but the rice still has too much form to really call it porridge. But it is more soupy than a conventional rice dish. I don't know what to call it, but I like it.

I call it fusion because it takes inspiration from Thai, Sichuan, and American.

I think it would be even better w/some lemongrass.

I also think it would be classier to use dry-fried strips of flank steak, rather than the ripped-up cold cuts (ya think?), and just put them on top, pyramid-like, which would also add to the presentation.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Arthur Rackham

After discovering this man's work on the Wikipedia page for the word nicker, it occurred to me that his work would form an intensely rich and complex foundation for stained glass window designs.

Just google "arthur rackham", and look at the images that pop up.

You can even ignore the actual subject matter, and just focus on compositional aspects, like pallete and spatial organization.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

High-fat diets make us stupid and lazy?

Ripped that headline right from the FASEB Journal. Link to study here, link to article in NYT here.

Basically, according to the study, consuming fatty foods negatively rapidly affects your short-term memory and energy levels SIGNIFICANTLY.

The conclusion of the study is that "optimization of nutrition to maximize the efficiency of mitochondrial ATP production could improve energetics in athletes and patients with metabolic abnormalities."

Saturday, August 08, 2009

Current Running Mix

This is the current mix I use for running. It's 26 minutes, 48 seconds, and I never get all the way through Black Cat (only run for about 20 minutes - 2 miles... for now).

01 - Sweet Spots (The Fiery Furnaces - EP)
02 - Bodysnatchers (Radiohead - In Rainbows)
03 - Cuddle Fuddle (Passion Pit - Chunk of Change)
04 - Black Cat (Ladytron - Velocifero)

This is a good mix.

Monday, August 03, 2009

NPIV - N_Port ID Virtualization

NPIV is a technology standard for fiber channel that allows you to assign multiple initiators (OS instances) to a single HBA port. Each initiator can have its own unique WWPN.

The idea seems to be that NPIV allows you to access the HBA directly from the OS, instead of through a virtualized device provided by a hypervisor. I think it essentially offloads the port arbitration to the HBA itself. Another advantage is that the SAN can now see your OS directly (your OS's WWPN), so, again, you don't have to fumble around w/a virtual device, trying to figure out what is going where.

Thursday, July 30, 2009

On regrettable spousal portraits

Brett Molony has this picture of his wife on his desk that looks like a promo shot for an attorney's office. She's in her business suit in front of a splotchy brown background, smiling pragmatically. There is no sexiness or fun to it. It's very traditional.

What would make me want a portrait like that on my desk? I think the charm would have to be in the endearing fact that it was made for me. She probably had a bad day that day, and hated the pictures, but paid for them, and I convinced her she was beautiful, as always, and she reluctantly let me frame it, although she wishes I had a better picture of her, but has not ever gotten around to getting new ones made... Not convincing enough.

How does that man think about that picture? Maybe he doesn't see a need to have a sexy or fun photo of his wife... thinks she is beautiful in her formality... loves her for being so modest and traditional. Is proud of how simple and normal the photo is. Photo was part of a set they got for a discount through the church for the church yearbook. No, church photos should be the whole family, not individuals. Maybe they cut a deal w/the photographer so they could have pictures of each other. No, the discount was through Walmart, or something. He likes the blandness of it. Thinks it's sexy that underneath her austere finish sits the body of a tigress? Thinks her face is so beautiful, her body is no longer what it was in her 20s, so her face is her sexiest part now anyway... Was the same photo she used for her office's web page. She's an attorney. No, a paralegal.

She has a corresponding bland, suited portrait of him on her desk at work. No doubt they gaze at each other through them, blankly, thinking of what to cook for dinner.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

I think i'm going to be sick

I just found out here that The Fiery Furnaces just played in Chicago on both the 10th and 11th. I can't believe this. I have been watching their website like a hawk for months for tour dates. I don't think those dates ever showed up there.

Wow, great promotion, guys. Now I feel like a dumbass for sending their promoter an email last week asking to bring them back to St. Louis.

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Clay pot rice "Oriental style"

Today I have managed to recreate one of the best Chinese dishes I've ever had.

It was originally described at the bottom of this blog entry, and ever since I had it, and Luke later commented that you can't get greens like that around here, the memory of it grew in my head to lustful proportions, then legend, then yesterday, at Jay's Market, my eyes caught sight of the one key ingredient that would make it possible for me to create... the sausage!

At the hotel, the waiter told me that the dish was one of the chef's favorites, and that the sausage is a special Cantonese sausage. I had the foresight to record the exact name of the dish, shown here, but...

(bāo zǐ fàn) simply translates to "little pot food." The subtitle is " 鸡肉, 腊肠, 蔬菜 香菇," which, in pinyin, is written "pèi jīròu, làcháng, shūcài hé xiānggū," and translates to "pèi chicken, sausage, vegetables and shiitake mushroom." (That word pèi is not lending itself to translation.)

OK, that translation just took me like 2 hours, but I am now much more proficient with the Yellowbridge handwriting recognition tool. And it's almost dark out now. Awesome.

Where was I?? I had to buy two kinds of Chinese sausage at Jay's because the first one I bought was not quite right. The stuff pictured on the right is the right kind. It has the right amount of fat and sweetness, which are the primary characteristics of Chinese sausage, in my experience.

I also tracked down the baby bok choy, some wild mushrooms, soy sauce, oyster sauce, sherry, and jasmine rice, all pictured here. The only ingredients not pictured here are the chicken thighs.

So, to make this amazing dish (without the clay pot, unfortunately, they were out):
  1. Slice one piece of the sausage on the bias (diagonally) and render the fat from it in a pot.
  2. Remove the sausage (squeeze out any remaining oil so the pan is nicely coated) and put in two chicken thighs, cut into bite-sized chunks.
  3. Add soy sauce, oyster sauce, and sherry. (This might be slightly better if you actually only added some soy sauce, browned the chicken, removed it, deglazed with the sherry, and then added the chicken and oyster sauce).
  4. Set one sausage link gently on top of the chicken, so that as the chicken simmers, the sausage link will steam. Cover the pot, and simmer for 15 minutes.
  5. While that's cooking, slice up and render another link of sausage in a sautee pan.
  6. While that's rendering, clean up 4 pieces of the baby bok choy and a heaping helping of the mushrooms (chop the bottoms off).
  7. Once rendered, remove the sausage and sautee the baby bok choy and mushrooms until they lilt. The mushrooms will release a bunch of water.
  8. Remove the chicken and sausage from the heat, remove the sausage and cut diagonally into small pieces. Discard the pieces of sausage that you used to render the grease from. We won't be eating those. I haven't figured out a use for them yet other than dog snacks.
  9. Plate it up by making a base layer of rice, then a layer of mushrooms, then the other three ingredients on top.
  10. Enjoy.

Wild Kingdom in my backyard

I have not mowed my back yard all summer. There, I said it. The neighbors can't really see it, except for the ones in the two-story duplex across the alley, but whatever. It's so tall now I actually can't mow it. The mower would just seize up. I'm going to have to get a scythe or something to whack it down.

Meanwhile, there are some fascinating things going on back there. I spied a small, but menacing mantis perched on my banister, surveying the grounds...

And some... frankly cartoonish yellow bugs attached to a vine subtly subjugating the porch.

They're seemingly useless animals, all rising and falling in unison at times. A soft breeze will cause them perk up, then relax, altogether, breathe in breathe out, toiling away on the vine,

I can't believe how surreal they look. I've identified them as Milkweed Aphids, or Oleander Aphids, Aphis nerii. I accidentally brushed up against some when I was looking for the dog, and some stuck to my pants. They were easily flicked off.

I recently bought a copy of Peterson's Edible Wild Plants: Eastern and central North America, and was able to identify several edible plants growing in abundance back there, including the Sow Thistle and Lady's Thumb (aka Red Leg). I will not be eating them.

The mantis started giving me a dirty look. The females of this species have some extremely disturbing habits. Not that I think this little bug could hurt me, but I'm not sure how freaked out I would be if it suddenly jumped onto my face or something. I should probably back away slowly.

Thursday, July 09, 2009

New Fiery Furnaces track!

Free download, lyrics, and video:

Album soon to follow... And I REALLY hope those titles are not suggesting something about the longevity of the band.

Tuesday, July 07, 2009

Shelf life of frozen shrimp

Yahoo Answers... OK idea.

You can only answer the questions for four days, then they are closed, but what if you come up with a better answer a year later? Too bad! That's stupid!

I have had this bag of shrimp in my freezer for about 12 months. Google "frozen shrimp expire". Find Yahoo Answers question "Frozen shrimp... is it still good to eat?" All of the answers are uneducated guesses.

Here is a real answer, presented by a group of scientists who investigated that very question:

Storage quality and shelf life of frozen shrimp

"The shelf life of frozen shrimp determined by sensory evaluation was 2.1 months at 0°C, 5.3 months at -5°C and 6.8 months at -10°C, respectively."


Too bad I can't post the answer to Yahoo Answers, but at least I have my little blog, where I can ventilate such important information. Now I just have to figure out how long a month is in metric...

Sunday, June 28, 2009

How to Identify a Hipster

What is a hipster? In the parlance of our times, the word hipster is used to label a set of people who A) generally dress fashionably (perhaps a little TOO fashionably), B) live in an urban setting (perhaps a little TOO urban), and C) hold liberal political views (perhaps... nevermind). There are a few myths about hipsters that I would like to dispel...

Hipsters will not eat your dog. This is an old wives' tale used to create a solid distinction between "us" and "them". Hipsters will not steal your chapstick. I can't really imagine how this one even came into existence, because I know a lot of hipsters, and I leave chapstick laying around all the time, but I have never found it missing (that's an odd phrase - found it missing... a non sequitur).

How do hipsters dress? Imagine a pirate - not a captain, but like a first mate. Now imagine that pirate walking down the sidewalk outside your house. That's it! Hipsters look a lot like pirates. They like to wear deck shoes, long, cutoff jean-shorts that hang just below the knee, exposing the ankle and calf, perhaps a bandanna on the head or around the arm, and a beard, or at least some third-fourth day scruff, and definitely some piercings and tattoos. It's important to remember, however, that hipsters are NOT pirates.

Hipsters are not pirates. A real buccaneer would never be seen driving a Volvo, or wearing a scarf. Likewise, you would never see a swashbuckler riding a scooter. You can't swashbuckle on a scooter, it's too tame. Actually, maybe the connection between pirates and hipsters is why those terrible myths about them stealing your chapstick and eating your dog exist. Ha! I guess a hipster is a scarfy dog. Or maybe they like to scarf some dog. Hm.

Goat Milk

Today I tried goat milk. Why? Because it was there, in the supermarket, and I've never had it before. I love it! I tastes like a milk version of goat cheese - what a shocker! I've formed a mild taste obsession with goat cheese over the past year. Now I can get that awesome flavor in my granola as well! Goat milk is delicious, and some say it's actually healthier for humans than cow milk. Huh!

Savory French Toast

Today the light bulb went on for me with french toast. I had only about a quarter-loaf of this Companion Sourdough Olive bread, and it was about 90% dry, hard as a rock. I wanted to eat an egg and some chorizo, but I needed some toast. You know already where I'm going w/this

I think I remember from an episode of Good Eats that while french toast in America is served dessert-like, some parts of the world (like France, maybe?) eat a more savory french toast. Also, french toast is supposed to be made with stale bread, and one can easily imagine how it was first conceived: You have this stale bread, so you need to moisten it somehow, but then you also need to toast it: bring on the milk-soak and a frying pan. So here I go with this sourdough olive bread, the only bread I have, so I'm forced into it, but you know, it's one of the most brilliant moves I've ever made in a kitchen! I mean this french toast turns out to be the star of the meal!

I just beat one egg (I only had two) in some milk, saw the bread brick into two slices, and soak them in the mixture for about a minute, then fry them in about three pats of butter. It is utterly and completely mind-blowing delicious! I served them with the other egg, over medium, and a nice big patty of chorizo, and my favorite China Keemun tea with honey. The faint smokiness and full body of the keemun mixes with the hearty sweetness of the honey in perfect concinnity, and pairs so well with the sourdough olive french toast and egg, I can hardly believe I threw the meal together with only the last dregs I could muster for breakfast.

Truly a good day when such an unexpected treat is discovered. I will definitely be trying more savory french toast variations.

Monday, May 25, 2009

Dropbox Rocks

You know how it's a pain in the arse to share files with someone several states away? You have to burn a CD or DVD and actually mail it. Ugh!

Now comes Dropbox.

Problem Solved.

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Two sauces

Two sauces I've been working on that I should document... Neither are especially original, but they're both very easy to make, and pack a lot of great flavor.

First: Morel Cream Sauce

As you may know, we are in the waning days of morel hunting season. I happen to know that this part of Missouri produced a bumper crop of morels this year because I met two guys in the supermarket who bagged about 7 lbs. Yes, seven. I was standing in the mushroom section a few weeks ago when these two guys walked up to check the price on the dried morels, which was $10/oz. They were like dude! I suggested that they were so expensive because morels are rare and delicious. They were like yeah, we just collected about 7 lbs of them. I was like what? Then he pulled out his phone and started showing me pictures, like the one with the mushroom cap bigger than a PBR can. Sadly, they wouldn't sell me any, but they did graciously invite me to a pot luck where they planned on unveiling them.

Anyway, I went ahead and bought that box of dried morels, as well as a few fresh chicken breasts, a bottle of Louis Jadot Chardonnay, some shallots, and some cream...

You need:
- 1/2 pint of cream
- 1 bottle of white wine
- 1 oz dried morels (or 4 ounces (?) fresh)
- 2 shallots
- olive oil
- 1/4 tsp of minced garlic
- some kosher salt
- Guldens Brown Mustard

  1. Dice 2 shallots fine, sauté in olive oil with 1/4 tsp of minced garlic.
  2. Wash dried morels thoroughly, and then soak them in lukewarm water for 3-4 mins.
  3. Loosely dice the morels, then squeeze them lightly to get rid of the excess water, and put them in them pan, along with about half the bottle of wine.
  4. Add kosher salt and Guldens Brown Mustard. The amount of mustard is important. It is definitely an important flavor in this sauce, but you don't want it to be at the forefront. It is third in line to the mushrooms and the wine, I would say... maybe even less. Put in no more than two good sized squirts... probably should be about 1/12th of a cup.
  5. After reducing by 1/3, add about 1/2 pt cream, and reduce by about 1/3 (or to taste).

Serve with rice or grilled chicken breast, or steak, or whatever. It's awesome.

Second: Honey Chile Sauce

For some reason today while I was walking through the supermarket, I suddenly decided I am going to start eating a lot of fish. I bought a fresh cod filet and a flounder filet. Earlier I had bought some honey simply because mine was pretty much crystalized. So when I got home, I noticed that I have like 4-5 different kinds of chile powder, so I decided to do a honey chile sauce. It is perfect for fish, because it gives it a nice sweet-hot zing without adding any fat.

You need:
- Honey
- Ancho chile powder
- New Mexico chile powder
- 1 shallot (or 1/2 yellow onion)
- 1/4 tsp minced garlic
- ground coriander (or maybe fresh cilantro, but I haven't tried that yet)
- olive oil

  1. Dice the shallot fine, sauté in olive oil with 1/4 tsp of minced garlic.
  2. Squeeze in as much honey as you want sauce (say 1/4 cup). Add equal parts ancho chile powder and New Mexico chile powder (about 3/4 to 1 tsp each), and perhaps the same amount of ground coriander, or probably a bit less.
  3. Let this stuff bubble for a couple minutes, then it's ready.

There are dozens of ways to develop this simple sauce even further, or even just alter the basic ingredients. Serve with grilled or pan seared whitefish (like cod). Also good with rice, and probably grilled chicken or pork ribs.

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Installing Linux on Eee PC S101

Since the S101 is not sold with Linux in the US, you have to install it yourself. This is actually not very difficult at all, and can actually be completed in a few hours. Here are a list of things that took some time for me to discover that may save you some time:

1) To get to the BIOS screen, press F2 repeatedly during POST.

2) To get the boot device selection screen, first press F2 to see the POST screen, then press ESC to enable the boot selection screen. You will see a message on the POST screen like "Boot selections screen enabled", or something like that.

3) To flash the BIOS, first plug your netbook powercord in. Then partition a USB key with a single partition of type 'b', which, in fdisk, is called "WIN95 FAT32". Turn on the bootable flag on that partition. Next format the partition with mkfs.vfat, and mount it. Now download the latest BIOS from here, unzip the file, and then move the extracted ROM file to your new VFAT file system, renaming it S101.ROM. Finally, reboot the box with the jump drive plugged in, and while it's POSTing, hit ALT+F2. That will put you into the EZ Flash utility, and immediately start loading the new ROM.

4) Install Easy Peasy. This is seriously the easiest, most functional out-of-the-box distro for an Eee PC you could hope for. I installed Arch Linux first, and fumbled around trying to get the touchpad to work for a couple days, had to get wireless working, X, etc. It was definitely an old school DIY experience. Nothing wrong w/that, because you learn so much about the box, like how to prolong the life of your SSD, and how to configure ACPI events, etc. But on the other hand, Easy Peasy has all of that stuff already configured, so you can just have your beautiful new netbook ready to go immediately - wireless, working battery monitor, working ACPI events - everything.

5) To install Easy Peasy using Unetbootin is not as obvious as they make it sound. There are a couple key things you must do with your USB key when using Unetbootin to install the Easy Peasy ISO: Clear it of any pre-existing boot blocks, and format it with a WIN95 FAT32 bootable partition. The reason for that is, in my experience, Unetbootin will not overwrite any existing boot blocks, so if you have GRUB installed on your USB key (like I did), you have to either clear out the GRUB boot block, or (and I haven't actually tried this) modify the GRUB configuration to boot what would be the Windows boot block (i.e. chain-load the Unetbootin boot loader). If you don't fix this, the box will boot from that GRUB boot block every time, and you will never get to the Easy Peasy installer (which is actually a live CD).

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Portage Overlay Ebuild Trick

Whenever you put down a new ebuild in your Portage overlay dir, you have to build a manifest for it to use... I can never remember the command for it, so I am putting it here for posterity:

ebuild filename digest

For instance, for a new ebuild called cedega-000133.ebuild, put it in the appropriate overlay dir, then type

ebuild cedega-000133.ebuild digest


Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Paddy McGinty's Goat

I've been meaning to do this for a long time...

The words to Paddy McGinty's Goat were passed down to me by my grandpa. His father was an Irish immigrant, and I'd like to believe that they were passed down to him as well.

Yes, I remember when Grandpa taught me this song. I was very young, and eager to learn it. And he was eager to teach it! We practiced for days, and I was so happy to sing a song with Grandpa. Well, the gleeful pride was soon replaced with mortification when, at the Kirby family reunion, Grandpa attempted to lead me around the picnic to sing it. Oh, he wanted to be so proud of me! But I didn't know hardly any of these people, and I'm sure there must've been some kind of ice cream bribery because I did sing it for one group. Really it was just to one group of people, I don't remember who, but I do remember they were super enthusiastic to hear me sing that song, and they sat jovially with their legs crossed in their lawn chairs under tall pines with red bark, and I wish I could see it now. I'm sure it stands in history as the most sheepish recital of that tune ever.

I want to write down the words because they're a bit different from the versions I am finding on the Internet. Of course there's nothing profound here, it's just a funny old Irish tune. You'll notice there are two lines missing from the 4th verse. I don't know if that's how it was taught to me, or if I just never remembered them and got used to singing it that way. Also, on that fourth line in the first verse, where I have "it 'twas", that is intentional. Sic. That's how it's sung. Also, I can't fully remember the third line of the third verse. Any help would be appreciated!

Patrick McGinty, an Irishman of note,
fell into a fortune, he thought he'd buy a goat.
"Of goat's milk," said Paddy, "I think I'll drink me fill,"
but when he got the nanny home he found it 'twas a bill.

On the west coast of Ireland one morning there was seen,
Just as plain as a pipe staff, a German submarine!
The coast guard Mahoney fell over in a fit,
"And now," said McGinty's goat, "I think I'll do me bit."

He dove into the water just as frisky as a whale,
He bucked his billy horns, and he wagged his billy tail.
He chased the Huns to Helgaland and then he ________
He chased the Huns to Helgaland did Paddy McGinty's goat.

Now Paddy McGinty's goat had an enormous appetite
And one morning for breakfast he ate some dynamite!

He laid down by the fire and he didn't give a dang,
he swallowed up a spark and exploded with a bang!
So when you get to Heaven, you can bet your bottom note
the angel there with whiskers ooooooonnnnn iiis Paddy McGinty's goat.

Saturday, January 10, 2009

Back in STL

After a very long transit back home, I am finally here. I'm extremely tired. I have downloaded the pictures that were on my camera, and will start resizing and posting them tomorrow. Unfortunately, most of the pictures for the trip are on Shana's camera, but hopefully she'll send me a DVD soon.

All in all I had a great time. Sorry I did not have any time to blog because there was so little daylight (like 7am - 4pm), and there were not very many Internet access points on the road, where we spent much of our time. Shana likes to see as many different places as possible. We got to see Riga, which was really great. I would have to say Kuressaare was the best part of the trip for me though, due to the luxurious and inexpensive saunas, and the incredible natural beauty of the place. I may have to move there.

Tuesday, January 06, 2009

Sveiki from Valga!

Sorry I'm so weak on the posts! I only have a couple minutes here. We've seen Tallinn, Kuressaare, Tartu, and now Valga. I cant figure out how to make apostrophes on this computer! We crossed over the border into Latvia about 30 mins ago.

This trip is amazing. If you don't like notably uncommercialized medieval towns, ancient fortresses, mind blowingly good food, saunas, heated swimming pools, and winter wonderland scenery so beautiful you want to sing, this place is not for you!

Love to all! Sorry, but can't post pictures yet. Maybe when we get back to Tallinn. 2 more days!!

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