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Below are the 20 most recent journal entries recorded in haineux's LiveJournal:

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Thursday, February 9th, 2012
10:45 am
A hero passes.

In college, I started a stupid drunk punk band called LEMON HEADS. I wrote the name on a jean jacket in magic marker. I was in a shitty pizza place in Central Square, Cambridge, when Evan Dando came up to me and asked me about it, because that was the name of his band.

I had no idea. I gave him a box of Lemon Heads candy, and wished him much success, toasting with a shitty beer. He gave me a tape.

One of the few wishes I've made that came true.

Friday, January 27th, 2012
12:16 pm
Programmers: How to get hired, or at least, get much more respect
I just interviewed someone, so this is my usual rant about interviews. (It's not specific to the candidate who just came in.)

Also, @rands pithily quipped, "What I'm really asking during the interview – are you nimble, honest, and tenacious?"

So here's how to do better at your interview.

1) STUDY! Use latest compiler/OS features!

Thank goodness nobody writes "I'm a quick learner" on their resume any more. Because these days, being a quick learner is an absolute requirement. So you have to demonstrate this. And a good way to do so is to actually spend some time using the product you'd be working on.

At the very least, find an online tutorial on writing an app (note: Hello World does not count), and do it. Then figure out what's missing to make it into an app people would actually use, and take a stab at extending it. 
2) Ask interviewer a GOOD question. Not "what's it like to work here?"

If you are a neophyte, interviewing for an entry programming job, ask an intelligent question about the new compiler/OS features -- How does your new automatic garbage collection avoid killing battery life?

3) Some interviewers/companies might broach the topic of "homework." If they do, do it, and make it good. For heaven's sake, don't just google some code and copy-paste. Explain where you looked stuff up, how you compared different approaches, why you selected the one you did. Also, make sure it actually compiles. 

Interviewers: Do not ask candidates to do magic tricks with javascript. Yes, I had a friend get asked to do that. I estimate it would've taken me a whole day to figure it out, and there was no "partial credit." Terrible question. Why not just ask, "Did you invent JavaScript?"
Monday, January 9th, 2012
3:27 pm
If you are not already a programmer, JOIN CODEYEAR and become a neophyte programmer. http://www.codecademy.com

(I am doing it even though it's a bit too easy for me.)
Thursday, August 25th, 2011
3:28 pm
Useful tool: Dry Erase sheet
There exists a kind of plastic coated, adhesive-backed, posterboard marketed for being a dry-erase surface.

1) The dry-erase surface works well. It probably will last a couple years.

2) There is adhesive on the back, rather like the extra-strength Post It notes. It's strong enough to stick to the wall, and probably won't ruin the wall surface. It is somewhat repositionable.

3) You can get it in plain, lined, gridded, calendar, or music staves. Other than that, it's white. (I think some specialty store sells the same thing with hex grids for more dollars.)

4) You can get it in sheets or on rolls.

5) It is cheap, even if you don't factor into account how ridiculously expensive "dry erase boards" are at Office Despot.

6) Apparently teachers love the stuff, which probably means it's cheap and fails to suck.

Here is the exact stuff I got: http://godryerase.stores.yahoo.net/dryersestli.html -- a packet of 3 sheets, 16.5x22 inches was $20 including shipping and no tax.
Friday, July 1st, 2011
2:16 pm
Requirements for jobs that I tweeted
DISCLAIMER: I am NOT a spokesperson for my employer. I am almost never allowed to comment on issues related to my employer, and not generally allowed to speak to the press. I have a good job that supports my wife and son; please don't get me fired.

I recently tweeted that my employer is looking for iCloud developers. To be a successful candidate, you would be ONE of the following:
  1.  Experienced Mac software engineer
  2.  Experienced Windows software engineer
  3.  Senior Unix Systems Engineer
For any of these positions, they'd be looking for someone who has shipped quality products of this kind in the past. I am not part of the hiring team for iCloud.

I also tweeted that my employer is looking for Build Engineers. To be a successful candidate, you should be able to do ALL of the following:
  1.  Explain your thorough knowledge of Subversion and/or Git,
  2.  Show your skills at writing powerful yet clear perl and shell scripts, and
  3.  Be experienced with using the above to build software (mac, windows, or server-side) automatically. (IE. An "automated build system")
I would be part of the hiring team for the Build Engineer jobs.

If you are interested and think you are qualified, contact me. Bonus points if you can find my LinkedIn page and contact me that way.

A bunch of people have said, "I'm only 15, so I'm not qualified for these jobs." Let me give you the best advice I know.

If you are passionate about iOS or Macintosh Software (or, heck, Android or Windows for that matter), the very best thing you can do is to go get one of those "Learn to Program Apps in 24 hours" books, get the developer tools, and WRITE SOFTWARE AS SOON AS YOU POSSIBLY CAN. Do it today! Definitely do not wait for college.

The younger you start developing the mental muscles necessary to write code, the easier it is. This is true of almost everything -- learning foreign languages, math, reading, maybe even sports.

But It only takes a few weeks to become good enough to write your own programs without a lot of help. Obviously, the sooner you start, the sooner you can be good at it.

Now I am going to tell you a sad truth that isn't actually so sad: Every single person that tries to write programs, at first, they stink. In this way, programming is just like sports or video games. At first, you stink. Your friends might even laugh. But you have to remember, they also used to stink, and they got better, and therefore you can, too. 

If we're talking sports, the way you get better is that you practice. Hopefully, you can practice in private. Go shoot 100 lay-ups every day, and you'll soon be pretty good. Go to a batting cage for an hour every day, and pretty soon, you'll be pretty good. Same thing with programming.

Even more so: when my son was born, I took a few months off from programming. Then I went back to programming, and my first few attempts, to be frank, were horrible. This happens every single time I start over again after taking time off. But I know that it only takes me a short time to get past the most embarrassing mistakes, then I start making "better" mistakes. Eventually, I am making mistakes that my friends don't even notice, and I'm asking the experts for advice.

So the good news is: Everyone else who ever learned how to program, at first, they stunk, also. It's not just you. You have to push through, and in a month, tops, you'll have a program that you actually aren't embarrassed to show to people. If you have any urge to write programs at all, and any skill, you can do it for a month.


Then, I want to give you another piece of advice, which is true even if you aren't young. If you want a job writing software, the best thing you can do is to write software, and put it up for sale -- or even for free. Even better if you sell a program, get some users, talk with them, and improve your software. There are NO college classes that are as useful as this.

Then when you go to an interview, you can say, "I wrote THIS" and maybe even "I have THIS many happy users." If you can do that, you're probably going to get the job. But if you're like some friends of mine, you won't be looking for a job. You'll already have a really good one.

I can't wait to try your programs.
Sunday, June 26th, 2011
2:19 am
Bang and Olufsen EarSet 3i
I am not a fan of the earbuds that come with Apple i-devices. I have since purchased some expensive headphones (BeyerDynamic DT770, which are full-size, over-the-ears, "closed cans"), but they can't really be used while bicycling. In addition to looking like a crazy person, they'd block out all the surrounding noise and I'd get run over. Also, I couldn't wear a helmet and those headphones.

Recently, I heard that Bang and Olufsen was now manufacturing an iPhone compatible pair of "earbud like" headphones, and had a chance to go listen to them in their San Francisco store. I compared them directly to my expensive headphones, which I brought along. I fully expected to listen for 2 minutes and remove them from my head in disgust. Instead, after 20 minutes, I bought them.

The sound, straight out of the package, is wonderful. At first, there seemed to be a lack of bass, but when I pushed them down to cover my ear-holes, the sound plumped right out. The stereo imaging is better than my main cans. I'm not sure where the microphone is hidden, but it seems to work just fine.

These are earbuds, but they are much larger than the Apple buds. They have a metal and rubber clip structure that keeps them in place. It does require a little finagling to get them positioned correctly. I find that I need to remove my glasses before doing so.

The biggest drawback of the entire product is the price: $200. You can usually find my main cans for cheaper than that, these days.

There are other, minor, quibbles:
• The wire is covered with rubber, which has a lot of friction.
• The three-button controller is on the left side, not the right.
• The design of the three-button controller is slightly harder to use than Apple's.
• The earbuds are designed to be used with foam-rubber covers, but these covers fall off frequently. (Apple has switched to a design that does not use covers.) You can use them without the covers, but they are less comfortable, and might not stay in place as well.

In addition to the sound quality, I find them to be comfortable and good-looking. I'm delighted to have them.
Sunday, May 29th, 2011
12:23 pm
Reposting a crass marketing ploy
Radio Shack has posted a video asking for customer input from the "Maker/DIY Customer."

The guys at hackaday reposted: http://hackaday.com/2011/05/27/speak-your-mind-and-help-radioshack-suck-less/

Some people think this a crass marketing ploy. Maybe it is. But consider that if you are willing to spend a few minutes writing them, Radio Shack might actually have stuff you want in the store.

I know, I know. They are not likely to ever have anything off-the-beaten-path enough to be truly interesting. Heck, they are not likely to ever have "people who actually know something about electronics."

But the cost is low, and the potential payout is interesting, even if the odds are pretty long.
Saturday, May 21st, 2011
8:41 pm
Successor to the OLPC, the Raspberry Pi

Stick-of-gum computer with an ARM chip, pretty good video hardware, USB 2, and 256MB of RAM.

And that's it. You'll have to add a USB hub, a keyboard, mass storage, a mouse, and a video display/TV.

Intended price point: $25. (And, obviously, when you add the necessities, it'll really cost $100 or more.)

I'll probably donate some units, when it becomes real enough.

Incidentally, I dropped out of the OLPC "software charity" effort a while ago. I just wasn't any use to them, since I have zero temperament for porting Linux, so I donated my hardware and some more cash to the local SF group, so that they can deploy in, I think, Haiti.

In addition, as interesting as a near-indestructible, very low power, very low cost computer was, I simply could not type on the OLPC keyboard. Makes it tougher for grownups to steal the computers, I guess.

Good news is that, partially due to OLPC, open source unix has gotten a lot better at low power computing, so doing OLPC-like computers is dramatically easier now than it was then. Hopefully, a bunch of undergrads can port Sugar to it in a few weekends.
Sunday, May 8th, 2011
11:21 am

I am a huge fan of the Chinese version of this dish, which I know as 炸醬面, Tzar Cheung Mein, Peking Special Sauce Noodles. (Hopefully my copy/paste of the chinese worked.)

The Chinese dish is basically ground pork, soy sauce, and black bean paste over noodles that are a lot like ramen. (For years, I would go to the Joyce Chen Small Eating Place and get them for lunch, because they were inexpensive and delicious. I tried not to listen to the waitress and cook talk, in this Boston accents, about where they should get Mexican food after work.)

The Koreans love this dish, too, and make their own version with way more black bean paste, some dried seafood, and some very dense tofu. Locally to the SF Bay Area, they call the dish "Za Zang Myun."

So when I saw these noodles at the grocery, I got them. When I made them, they ended up with a nearly-black sauce that I am used to seeing on Za Zang Myun. The flavor was not overpoweringly salty, the dried vegetables reconstituted nicely, and the noodles where chewy and delicious. Typical ramen are 6/$1.50, or 39 cents each, and one unit of Chapaghetti is $1.39. Worth it.

I'd give these 8/10, but that's because there are some kinds of instant noodles that include, for instance, curry sauce and "fake meat chicken" -- those I'd give a 10/10.
Thursday, April 28th, 2011
3:50 pm
The best app for math, ever.
In the past 30 years, I've been stunned speechless by computers on several occasions. I remember the first Macintosh, the first computer speech, the first time I was able to chat, via computer, with someone thousands of miles away -- and the first time I saw Graphing Calculator. By now, most of these feelings have dulled, but I'm still in love with Graphing Calculator.

Steve Jobs often talks about software that's so powerful, and yet so effortless, that it's magical. When you use Graphing Calculator, you get an almost-physical feeling of HOW MATH WORKS.

If you have, say y = (some big long equation including x), and you want to solve for x, pick up x and y and drag them around. WHILE YOU ARE DRAGGING, GC will update the equation, keeping it accurate. It's easier than untangling the wires on your earbuds!

Type something like y = sin t x -- GC will draw the graph, and add a slider for t. Yank on the slider, and see the results. Click a play button, and it will slide back and forth. Aha, t is affecting "frequency"! Now you understand.

You can, of course, grab a chart and drag it for a different perspective. Zoom in and out. Rotate 3D charts. (Even draw 4- and 5-dimensional charts.) GC keeps animating the entire time. More importantly, you can click on equations and find the interesting values.

Math is often hard. Graphing Calculator, because it's so powerful and effortless, makes it easy to "just mess around" with equations, and in doing so, you really understand them.

GC includes some amazing eye-candy -- a bunch of equations that plot a little PAC MAN head, chomping away. That's nice, but the thing is, you can tweak the equations, control the values, and therefore understand how the whole thing works, and pretty soon you'll be making your own silly eye-candy. No more math phobia.

There are other programs for solving hard math problems. They are not only slower to solve equations, they take much more time to learn to use. It reminds me that once, long ago, programmers had to punch their programs onto special cards (better not make any mistakes!), and then take the piles of these cards to a special room. The next day, they'd get a printout, usually showing an error or two. Even simple programming required huge amounts of patience, and very few people even wanted to learn. Then Apple and others used the immense power of faster chips to make computers "effortless" -- and now even people who would rather not learn about FLASH RAM or WI FI can take a picture of a product, and within seconds, find out whether the price in the store really is a bargain.

Graphing Calculator is like that, for Math. Nothing short of a revolution. It is a pity that Apple stopped including it with the operating system. But as a result, it's available for Windows, too.

It's not cheap. But there's a free "Viewer" version -- try it and I bet you will be saving your pennies.

Wednesday, April 6th, 2011
11:58 pm
Cocktails for a newbie
A person asked, "My parents are taking me drinking for my 21st birthday, what should I order?" The web board where I would post an answer is somehow broken, so here's my answer: DO NOT waste your time with "Long Islands", shots, or anything with a stupid name. Save those for later. These are the GOOD drinks.

Tiki bar: Any drink that's on fire. Any drink served in a fresh coconut or hollowed-out pineapple. Yes, really. If bartender is all SRS BZNS, ask what's his fave. Fallbacks: Mai Tai, Zombie, Pain Killer. Tell the bartender it's your 21st, and they'll probably want to make you something in a ceramic tiki mug souvenir. You want this very much.

Trendy "young" bar:
Any special cocktail with "house made" ingredients. E.G. ginger-infused rum, cucumber gin.
No? Fresh mint? Mojito.
No? Fresh limes? "Cadillac" or "Top Shelf" Margarita. Rocks, no salt.
Fallback: Cosmopolitan.
Do NOT order any fake martini: AppleTini, Chocolate Martini. Some taste good, actually, but it's all overpriced artificial flavor chemistry.

Super-uptight "grandpa" bar:
Manhattan, Gimlet, Tom Collins, Rob Roy, Harvey Wallbanger. Moscow Mule.
Stinger (If you like minty.)
Daiquiri (might get The Look). Brandy Alexander (probably will get The Look, but worth it).
Fallback: Sidecar, Seven and Seven.

Martini Bar (ie. "We ONLY serve martinis")
You're in trouble. Real martinis are "Graduate School" material.
So: Confess you're a noob. Blush. "Go easy on me. Not too dry."

Expensive place:
Ask if they have: Sazerac, Singapore Sling.
Kir Royale, Bellini, anything with champagne, except: Mimosa.
Daiquiri. If they have expensive bourbon, anything with bourbon.

Cheap rathole bar, on your own dime, when you want to get blasted fast and vomit later:
Whatever the special "shot" is. Bonus if it's in a test-tube or the bartender pours the liquor directly into your mouth.
Jager shots (everyone should, once)
Vodka and Red Bull (you WILL party all night)
Jack and Coke
Alabama Slammer
Long Island

Best "real" cocktail to order at a rathole bar:
Sidecar -- Brandy, lemon juice, orange liqueur -- almost any combination of even the cheapest of these ingredients will be potent and palatable.

Never in a Million Years, Not Even With Someone Else's Mouth:
Cement Mixer.
Sunday, March 20th, 2011
10:20 pm
"5 minute" bread, first try.

First off, I apologize to my friends who do not eat gluten. This recipe is not for you.

I happened to spy a recipe for a no-kneading, super-easy, french bread on the King Arthur Flour website: http://www.kingarthurflour.com/blog/2009/12/01/the-crunchiest-crackliest-chewiest-lightest-easiest-bread-youll-ever-bake/

Their article contains a recipe from a book called, "Artisanal Bread in Five Minutes A Day."

It uses precisely four ingredients, and only one special tool (a 6 quare food bucket). There is no kneading whatsoever.

You basically measure out water, salt, yeast, combine, weigh out some flour, and mix with a spoon, in the bucket. Then you let it rise, and then put it in the fridge overnight. (Presumably, this counts as "five minutes.")

The next day (or several days later), you tear off a piece of the dough, shape it into a ball, put it on a baking sheet, let it rise some more, and then bake it. (This is "the other five minutes.")

Strangely enough, the recipe works -- really! If there's one kitchen task I have never mastered, it's bread. I once made bread with a friend, and followed her lead exactly. When the bread came out, she had a picture-perfect loaf, and I had a delicious brick.

So the fact that I could, on the very first try, produce a delicious ciabatta loaf with perfect crust and near-perfect crumb -- and without any kneading, and without any flour on the counter -- this is astonishing.

Now, there's a few bits of finesse involved. You have to form the dough into a ball, dust the top of the ball with flour, then slash it. Then you have to arrange for some steam in the oven. And, of course, you have to find an appropriate bucket. (I lucked out, found one at DAISO, the japanese offspring of IKEA and a dollar store.)

But even with the finesse, the result is delicious and, honestly, easier than using a bread machine.

Sunday, February 27th, 2011
5:52 pm
Carbonator follies
I decided to get a new hobby -- making my own soda.

One way is to put some yeast and sugar into a bottle with soda mix, cap it, and wait. The only downside, other than the price of yeast, is that the soda then tastes of yeast, and has some dead yeast on the bottom of the bottle.

The other way is to dissolve CO2 into cold liquid -- and there's two ways to go about that. One is to get a soda tap, just like the ones at your local fast-food place or bar. They're expensive, require chilled water, and need cleaning every month or two, but produce as much or as little soda water as you like. (You COULD use a tap that mixes syrup directly into the stream, but that requires cleaning on a weekly basis.)

The other way, which is the one I picked, is to build a device to carbonate a plastic bottle of chilled water, or soda. This is incredibly simple -- attach a regulator and an on-off valve to the cylinder of CO2 gas, and a hose with a special fitting (apparently called a "Pepsi-style ball lock fitting") on the end. You fill a plastic bottle with cold water, screw on a special cap, and attach it to the hose via the fitting, then pump some CO2 into the bottle. Shake, wait, and uncap.

Here's a reference sheet for the cap: http://www.brew-winemaking.com/ProductPDF/4537.pdf

I decided not to mess around, and went to a local beer/wine supply store and purchased everything new and officially labelled for soda use. This is, to be frank, very expensive, although the bulk of the cost is still the "rental" of the CO2 cylinder. (In this neighborhood, a "5 pound" cylinder, which is about 2 feet tall, is a $75 rental -- you get the money back if you ever return the cylinder -- and about $20 for the gas inside.)

I am told that one can use "just about any" pressure regulator, on-off valve, and plastic tubing. (You'll be running everything at 30 - 50 psi, so there's very little chance of explosion.) If I'd done that, I could probably have saved $100. I guess there's some small risk of the regulator imparting yucky stuff (probably oil) into the soda.

There's also this Instructable, which involves pulling tire valves through bottle caps and using a "locking" tire inflator chuck. That'd save another $30 or $40, but I am leery of it since tire valves are not rated for food use, and might have lead in them or whatever.

Anyway, I got all the materials, took them home, assembled using a tiny bit of crisco to get the tubing over the "barb" fittings, and then used a screwdriver to crank down some hose clamps into place. Then I pressurized everything, and adjusted the regulator to 45 psi.

Then I found a 2 liter bottle, filled it 7/8ths full with cold water, added a pinch of salt and a pinch of baking soda (because I wanted Club Soda), and put on the special cap, squeezing the bottle to get rid of as much air as possible. Then I attached the hose, and opened the valve, and heard a lovely "BOING" noise as the gas inflated the bottle. Shake the bottle for a minute, turn off the gas, shake some more, and stick it in the fridge, ideally overnight. Let off the pressure through the cap, then put on a regular 2 liter cap.

Works perfect. Now it's time to figure out soda recipes.

Ginger Ale:
8 ounces sour mix
1.5 ounces ginger juice
water to fill

Sour mix is something I make a lot of, since it's so good in so many drinks. Mix 2 cups lemon juice (or blend in some lime, maybe a little orange, whatever), 1.5 cups sugar, and 1 cup water.

Ginger juice -- I used some ready-made liquid from "The Ginger People." 1.5 ounces costs about a buck, so I will probably try using a rotary (carrot) juicer and see how that goes. I'll also have to figure out a recipe using citric acid, now that I have some.

I got some powdered extract of cola nut from San Francisco Herb & Natural Food Co., so I mixed about an ounce, by weight (4-5 tablespoons by volume) with 1/2 teaspoon of citric acid powder, and a half-cup of sugar, with water to fill.

It turns out most sodas use acids -- they provide tart and tangy flavors. You can use lemon juice, but for a "cleaner" flavor, citric acid is pretty swell. I got some at the fermentation store -- apparently it's frequently used in wine making. A pound of crystalline powder is about $6. That's a lifetime supply. I also got some tartaric acid (a byproduct of winemaking, a "grape acid") there, which was about $10/lb. I have also found a source online for food-grade phosphoric acid, so I'll probably try that soon.

Homebrewer's Outpost sells soda flavor extracts -- just acid, flavor, and color -- you add sugar, water, and fizz. A two ounce bottle, which makes 4-6 gallons of soda, costs about $6. I tried the cola and the "Ginger Beer" flavors, and both were quite good, although I like my ginger ale better.
Sunday, February 13th, 2011
9:09 pm
Valentine's dinner GLOAT
The grocery had lobster tails[1] for $5.99 each. I got two, and took them out of their shells, and then put the meat in a small crock with a half-stick of unsalted butter, and poached them, covered, in the oven. (Basically, set oven to 350, and every five minutes turn the meat over. After 15 minutes, the meat was just barely cooked through, so I took the crock out and put it on the counter. (You'll note that there is no salt, and no spices, added to the meat. They are unnecessary.)

While that was cooking, I took the lobster shells and boiled them in maybe a pint of water, then strained out the shells and boiled the liquid down to a cup, producing a nice lobster stock. (Again, no salt or spices are added to the liquid.)

The grocery also had very thin asparagus, almost as thin as pici pasta (a very thick spaghetti pasta from Tuscany), so I blanched the asparagus in this lobster stock. I also made a cream sauce out of the poaching liquid (butter/lobster juices) and the lobster stock, by adding nutmeg, milk, a bit of dry vermouth, and Reggiano Parmagiano cheese. This went back over the asparagus.

I plated some of this creamy asparagus "pasta," put the lobster tail on top, and topped with a dollop of romesco sauce that was left over from a lunch the other day. (My wife decided that the lobster tail needed to be denuded of the sauce, and eaten "clean." The romesco, mixed with the parmesan cream, was delightful, but I did end up agreeing that it was unnecessary. Maybe next time I'll just flex a lemon rind over the finished dish to release some lemon zest oil onto the plate, or maybe a little diced parsely. The "bright" flavor of these will balance the creamy flavors.)

Verdict: If you have never cooked a butter-poached lobster tail, well, you need to do so immediately. I can say with some authority that there is no better way to eat a lobster tail, even if you end up discarding the butter and serving the meat on a roll. The flavor of the meat is pure, sweet, buttery, and superior to anything else.

[1] I am aware that a "lobster tail" is a different critter than a Maine lobster, and that it comes from the warm waters of the Gulf of Mexico and not the icy Atlantic. Be that as it may, the flavor is still amazing. I'm going back to the store for more lobster tails now. (Some readers may wish to wait a year or two because of the recent oil spills in the Gulf. Their loss.)
Sunday, January 23rd, 2011
11:45 pm
Lasagne for nonelvis's birthday
Happy birthday! I baked you a lasagne -- hope you won't mind if I don't ship it.

Sauce is Mario Batali's basic tomato sauce (with carrots, onions, and lots of fresh thyme; I added some celery because I had it).

Cheese is equal parts ricotta and mozzarella and a big handful of grated parmesan-type cheese, with basil, parsley, and egg.

Also hiding in there is lots of collard greens, because I had them and not spinach.

Topped with provolone and mozzarella.
Saturday, January 1st, 2011
9:56 pm
Here we go!
Art a Day.

At http://haineux.tumblr.com

We'll see if I can make 365.
9:48 pm
How to serve chili at Wendy's

I wish I could write songs like this. Just awesome.
Wednesday, December 22nd, 2010
11:26 pm
Bulleit Bourbon Sours
1) Buy a bag of lemons at the supermarket. This is a pre-packaged 2 lb bag, for a reduced price. You'll also need sugar, water, a saucepan, a zester or microplane grater, and a quart bottle to put the finished product in.

2) Grate just the yellow part off two of the lemons, into a ramekin with an ounce of high-proof drinking alcohol. (Everclear 151 or 190, Stroh 80, or, in a pinch, Bacardi 151 or 100 proof vodka.) Stir and let stand while you do the rest.

3) In a sauce pan, mix 2 cups sugar and 1.5 cups water. Stir, and put on high heat, and boil for 5 minutes. Remove from heat and let cool.

4) While that is boiling, juice all the lemons. You should end up with 2 cups of lemon juice.

5) Mix the zest + alcohol into the lemon juice, and give it a stir, then strain it. I use a fine strainer and press out the pulp pretty good.

6) When the sugar solution has cooled down to warm, add to the lemon juice and put in the bottle.

This will keep in the fridge for a month or more. (The last bottle I did, when it did go bad, started fermenting and had some effervescence, so I think it is very unlikely that you'll get botulism from it.)

Add 1 ounce sour mix to 2 ounces of Bulleit bourbon in a sour glass, over ice. You may optionally add one dash of bitters, one dash of mint flavor, a cocktail cherry, and/or one splash of club soda. Stir.

Alternate usage:
Add 2 ounces of sour mix to 12 ounces of club soda. Stir. (Note that this contains far less than 1% alcohol by volume.)
Tuesday, December 14th, 2010
1:19 pm
Quick Endorsement: 1Password
1Password is Macintosh/Windows/iPhone software that dramatically improves a built-in function, the "Keychain." It is so dramatically better that I think that you probably need to buy it.

Consider this scenario: You go to a website, say, oh, gawker.com, and you decide to comment on some article. So it asks you to make a login. So you need to specify a user name and a password.

Now, if you're like most people, you don't have a fetish for remembering passwords. If you're the typical user, you probably use one password for many different web sites. And that's bad, because if someone hacks gawker.com, and can decode your password there, they could use that password on other sites.

That is precisely what happened the other day. (insert emoticon of shock horror) http://blogs.forbes.com/firewall/2010/12/13/the-lessons-of-gawkers-security-mess/

Gawker was stupid, and their password database was easily decrypted. Worse, Gawker employees were using a single password on multiple sites, so now the "bad guys" are wreaking mayhem on many of Gawker's private data -- including money-related data.

So this presents a problem: You want to use a different password for every site, but you can't remember them all. You probably have 100+ web passwords. (Don't believe me, launch "Keychain Access" and count.)

On the Mac, you could use Keychain Access to remember the passwords for you, but many websites do not allow it to fill in the passwords for you. (You can work around this, but it's a little complicated.) Even if they do, getting Keychain Access to generate a fresh password for a web site is, well, a little complicated.

1Password solves all this -- it adds a button/menu thing to Safari and Firefox. Click it and it will fill in the passwords it knows about, even if the website doesn't want that. (It can also remember your credit cards, and fill THEM in.) It also has, right on that button/menu, a "create a new password" feature. Click THAT every time you create a login, and it stores what it created on its keychain. Also, 1Password has support for syncing passwords between computers, and to your iPhone. You can even specify which passwords need an extra layer of protection (eg. bank passwords).

Obviously, the most important thing is to make sure that the master password you select is VERY VERY secure. My suggestion is to do what William Gibson suggests, and tack three words together ("Mona Lisa Overdrive"), and change a few of the letters to numbers, or add a punctuation mark, or whatever. The trick is to make a phrase that's easy to remember, meaningful to you, and something that is an obvious answer to a password hint. So, for instance, you could have a password like "1vej%nahro", but the phrase "1'm cleaning my oven!" is actually MUCH MORE secure in addition to being more memorable and easier to type. (Note that the hint "That commercial that says BLANK while I sleep" is not a good one. Try "gleeful commercial")

Anyway, maybe you are a security nut who has memorized the 385th to 400th digits of π, and likes running gpg on the command line. If so, you can save $50.

If you're a normal person, you probably need 1password. As an incentive, it's has some gorgeous user interface candy.

Also, it's part of one of those "many Mac packages for cheap" bundles: http://www.mupromo.com/?ref=4438
Monday, November 8th, 2010
10:44 am
The "accidental" pot roast
Last weekend, my wife scored a deal on a chuck roast, among the other groceries, and put it in the fridge where it lay forgotten until last night. Then she told me, "Hey, you'd better cook that pork shoulder I got." (No, I'm not blaming her. Bear with me, here.)

So, since it was too late for dinner tonight, I figured "overnight carnitas" would be a good way, so I pulled open my recipe and got busy, throwing the following into the slow cooker:
  • 1 whole dried pasilla chile
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 2 tsp chili powder
  • 1 TBS dehydrated onion flakes
  • 1 tsp garlic powder
  • 4 ounces orange juice
  • 2 ounces lime juice
  • 12 ounces leftover coffee
Carnitas is made from fatty pork shoulder, and it's basically made by cooking pork shoulder in a braising liquid with (traditionally) very little spicing, but most importantly, the pork eventually fries in its own fat -- after braising, you take the crock pot liner and put it in the oven, uncovered, for another hour or so. (The recipe I use has far more spicing than traditional, because I like the extra kick. The orange juice is mostly used to increase the browning.)

Anyway, once I put all this together, I pulled out the meat, and discovered that it was actually a very nice CHUCK ROAST, which had a fat pad covering maybe 20% of the outside of the meat, at a thickness of 1/4 to 1/2 inch. So now what was I to do?
Well, it was late, and I didn't feel like throwing out what was in the pot, so I put in the meat fat side down, coarse-cut a large onion, and dumped that in on top, added some more onion flakes and garlic powder, set the crock pot on low (mine has a "10 hour" setting), and went to bed.

The next day, I pulled out the meat, tasted it, and went, "Well, that is actually delicious, I should just add some Italian to it, and serve it over noodles. No wait, I have MUSHROOM RAVIOLI." So I pulled out the chile and discarded it (next time, I won't bother), added 8 ounces of chopped mushrooms, a teaspoon of oregano, half a can of tomato paste, and enough salt, and let it simmer for a while until the mushrooms cooked a bit. Then I put some shredded meat, some sauce, mushrooms and onions into a skillet, parcooked the ravioli (mine were frozen, so I boiled them in salty water for 3-4 minutes), then added them to the skillet, and brought the whole thing to a boil, then turned off the heat and served it up.

Oh my goodness was it good. I'll be making this a lot.

By the way, the liquid started out about 1/3 of the way up the roast, and when the cooking was done, the onions and meat had released juices and the meat shrank, so the meat was nearly submerged. But even if it is not submerged, that's fine, the slow-cooker traps a bunch of hot air inside, and that cooks the meat pretty well, too. If you end up with watery sauce, well, remove the meat and pour the liquid into a pot and boil it down, before you add very much salt, of course.

Also, I know some people don't want to cook with coffee. That's fine, just add water, and maybe something bitter, for instance, a lime hull, or a teaspoon of (angostura) cocktail bitters. 
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