Sunday, February 20, 2011

Ghetto crock-pot home sous vide setup

Been playing with budget sous vide the last few months. Here's our

One crockpot on "warm" setting
One instant read thermometer, immersed in the water bath to monitor

Found out pretty quick that our crockpot hovers around 140 degrees on
Warm, so in theory, we don't really need to use the thermometer
anymore. 140 is pretty ideal temp for cooking pork, as trichenosis is
killed at 137.

Our third pork tenderloin attempt had been in the water bath
unattended for about 8 hours. We'll take it out soon, sear it (sous
vide leaves meat with an unappetizing appearance - searing is crucial)
and it'll be ready to eat.

Since we don't have any control over temp (we're stuck with 140) we've
only played with pork tenderloins so far. Might try steak next, though
this temp is maybe a little high.

Friday, February 11, 2011

Goodbye to all that - Roger Ebert's Journal

Goodbye to all that - Roger Ebert's Journal

As kids, we've all asked each other stupid questions like "if you could be blind or deaf, which would you choose?" I've always chosen blind over deaf – as a musician, this is a no-brainer.

I never gave any thought to what it might be like to lose the power of speech until it happened to Roger Ebert; his intimate sharing of the experience through his writings has made it real for me. And, well, it seems to suck a lot more than you could imagine. I'm wordy and social and love more than anything to make people laugh. How do you toss witty banter about if you have to stop the conversation so you can write down your witty reply? A quote from this post:

"When first coming to terms with the fact that I would never speak again, I filled my head with denial and coping strategies. I would use my computer voice, for example. And I do. But that is no way to participate in the flow of a conversation, and I realize so clearly now that conversations are all about the flow, the timing, the music. Now that IBM's Big Blue has beaten a grandmaster at chess and promises to win at Jeopardy, I have a challenge that will grind it to a halt: I challenge Big Blue to tell a joke in a voice that has the tone and the timing, the words and the music, just right."

I know nothing about the Boulder Conference on World Affairs that he's giving up. (OK, I now know a little something, from reading one of his previous blog posts). But clearly he loves it dearly, and he's walking away from it, more or less, because he can't keep up. And that's breaking his heart.

Mine, too.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

In pictures: The shop that time forgot

In pictures: The shop that time forgot (The Independent)

To: FESPA [and the rest of the legitimate business world],
Subject: Mailing List Etiquette

If you run a promotional email list, and you don't include a straightforward way to unsubscribe, there's a good chance you're just going to piss us off.


Your Target Audience

I'm on a quest lately to cut down on the amount of not-quite-junk email I receive -- i.e., lists I've signed up for that I no longer read, notifications from various social media sites that I'd rather not get any more, etc.

No idea how I got on this FESPA list (I had to look it up -- "FESPA is a federation of global screen and digital printing trade associations and organises the world's leading screen printing and digital imaging events.") Yes, I do graphics, but I'm not a printer, nor do I even buy much print. There's a slim chance I signed up for it at some point. Or someone sold them my name.

So whatever, I'm on their list. Who knows how I got there. Big deal, just unsubscribe.

The first email I got back in mid-January had an unsubscribe link at the bottom. But clicking on it returned a PHP database error (now it's just a 404). So I replied to the email to inform them of the database error and asked to please be removed.

The next email had no unsubscribe link at all. (The links in the footer take you, somewhat unhelpfully, to the main page of the email list service they use -- i.e., it's just an ad -- and to their web design company.) So I replied and ask again to be unsubscribed.

Got another one today, and at this point, I'm just annoyed by the whole thing. Sure, I could just delete them – they're only sending one every two weeks or so. Sure, I could add them to my spam filter. Sure, I could email their web design company for help (especially since, chances are they designed the HTML email in the first place). Or I could email the general contact email address I found by poking around on their website. But none of these things should be necessary.

Allowing mailing list recipients to unsubscribe (whether we signed up for the list in the first place or not) is to me what separates legitimate business promotion from spam. If are unable or choose not to include an unsubscribe link, you'd damn well better be checking the replies so you can deal with unsubscribe requests that way.

So, here you go. If I can't get off the list, then I'll let my blog readers (yes, all 3 of you) know how un-savvy FESPA's email marketing is. And how lame by association their sponsors now seem.

The below is just a screen shot of today's mailing (the actual HTML email was too wide and broke the blog layout). The footer links are live. For what it's worth, I dig the design.

From: FESPA []
Date: Thu, Feb 10, 2011 at 7:48 AM
Subject: FESPA Americas – the Boost Your Company Needs for 2011

Fespa Americas email

powered by phplist v 2.10.10, © tincan ltd

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

5-string violins

Today's obsession: 5-string acoustic violins. A crude explanation is that it's a violin with an added low-C, which is the low string on a viola. So it's like a violin and viola combined.

Bottom line, I want one.

Once upon a time, I played electric violin in a string of really loud bands through lots of stomp boxes and a Fender Deluxe Reverb; my instrument then was an early model 5-string solid body Zeta.

And while I don't miss the nasal tone of the Zeta (or how freaking heavy it was, even being a cutaway with hardly any body to it at all, or how you needed an allen wrench for the top tuners), I find lately that I miss that low 5th string.

Fact, I'm not a millionaire. Decent violins of any type are expensive. (Mine, at the high-end of student, was $1500 20 years ago. Serious symphony players will this much or more just for their bow. A violin maker's site I was reading today had a little quip about how surprised you might be at how reasonably priced a professional level hand-crafted violin can be, and that his were $18,000. His implication being that $18,000 (which is $6,000 more than I paid for my truck) was reasonable. Maybe it is, but that's out of my price range...

A quick few hours research, and I determined that a decent 5-string will set me back at minimum $1,500 (this would be designed by respected luthier and not just a 5th string crammed onto a regular fiddle; while it would be made in China, there are great instruments coming out of some folks in China, and this would be with his oversight and QC). Here's the one I'm looking at:


(Despite the appearance of the photo, I don't think it actually glows. Though it would be cool if it did.)

I also found a hand-crafted model I'm interested in from a maker in Georgia for more like $4,000 - 5,000.


Made by Barry Dudley

$4-5k is a lot of money to someone like me, for whom music is not much more than an elaborate, time-consuming and expensive hobby. But still damn cheap for a good hand-crafted violin. I read some really good reviews. Some really good players use his 5-strings (notably for me, Tania Elizabeth from The Duhks). Emailed the guy with a few questions, and he sent a lengthy reply the same day. So thinking (sight unseen) that this is the one I want.

I do need a 2nd violin (I don't have a playable spare, just a crappy old pawn shop one that I dearly love but is the violin equivalent of a "beach guitar"). It makes sense that my current fiddle should become the spare, and I should step up to a nicer intrument. I'm wondering if I can combine these two goals, and get a better instrument, with the added bonus of gaining a 5th string.

Not sure, but thinking the $1500 made in China instrument would be perhaps comparable to what I play now. The $4000 hand-crafted would probably be a big step up. I'm going to see Tania Elizabeth play a show in Wimberley in April, so I'll be able to get a closer look at the Barry Dudley 5-string then.

So, just thinking aloud, so to speak.  This is what I was obsessed with today.

The Coolest Locksmith Shop in New York City � Scouting NY


We stumbled onto this amazing little building during our NY trip this winter. It's covered with a starry-night-esque mosaic made entirely out of keys.

I couldn't find much info about it online, just a few Flickr pics (apparently, the mural was only completed a few months before our trip). I've been meaning to blog about it myself, but my pictures aren't great as we were on walking food tour and I had to snap them on the fly. Fortunately, someone else has finally posted some photos and the backstory.

The Coolest Locksmith Shop in New York City - Scouting NY

Adobe Launches CS6 this Week

Adobe Launches CS6 this Week — Ganger Design, Milwaukee, WI

8 months after CS5 came out, I'm still on CS4. Why? Because it works fine. Because I already own it. Because all my clients are still using it, too, so I haven't run into any problems with not being able to open their supplied files. I'd like a new car, too. But I don't need one.

This week, I'm talking to a new potential new client, who would require that I go to CS5. ~$600 to upgrade Design Premium, basically (as far as I'm concerned) so that I can avoid having to ask this client to save InDesign and Illustrator files down to CS4 for me. $600 for a glorified file converter.

This annoys me. I love new software as much as the next person. I love new features. But I don't need new software. I don't need new features. Maybe this makes me sound like a curmudgeon, railing against progress.

But I like to weigh the benefits against the cost. Some upgrades were clearly worth it. Given the kind of work I do, CS4 to CS5 is not a worthwhile upgrade for me — I'd prefer to just skip CS5 altogether and wait for CS6. I've looked at the new features, and CS5 will not save me $600 worth of time by making me a more efficient production artist (Chances are, I'll need to install more RAM, which will cost even more. My machine may still slow down. Then there will be the learning curve). Really, productivity is all I care about.

So, anyway, in trying to decide if I need to now go ahead and upgrade, even though I really don't want to, I Googled around a bit to see when CS6 is predicted to arrive (i.e., here we go again). Found this fun rant from someone of the same mindset.

Adobe Launches CS6 this Week — Ganger Design, Milwaukee, WI

I'll probably eventually cave. Then immediately thereafter, Adobe will surely announce the release of CS6.

Bike Accidents - The Bay Citizen

Interactive map of 2 years of bicycle-related accidents, who was deemed to be at fault, and analysis as to how the accident might have been prevented. An alarming # of bike-at-fault (at a glance, maybe 40%?).

Bike Accidents - The Bay Citizen

Isaac Tayrien Pocket Show

Slow-mo kitten