March 2005


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Archive for March, 2005

Frizzen Sparks: Carnival of the Campfires Archives

Posted in Life on March 29th, 2005

Here’s my two cents for the Carnival: Stir Fry

3 cups white rice
1 lb. beef, chicken or pork
1 stalk celery
1 green pepper
1 small yellow onion
1 large carrot

Grau is right that a Dutch Oven is a necessity for good camp cooking, and here’s another tip for you: buy a good wok.

The wok has been around for centuries, for the same reasons as your grandmother’s cast-iron skillets: a good wok is cast-iron, too. Once it’s properly seasoned, it’s non-stick, easy to clean, and is designed to be used right on the coals. If you’re an anachronist like Grau and I, you’ll have to check to see if wok cooking is ‘period’ for you, but I say go for it anyway.

Now, the hardest part about doing stir-fry is getting the rice right. With some experimentation, the rice can be cooked ahead of time at home, and then re-heated on site with little fuss. If you’re doing it all on the fire, though, it can be tricky. You must have a good, solid pot (not too thick) with a tight lid. You will also need to regulate two areas of the fire – one hot, one cooler.

Put 1-1/4 to 1-1/2 cups of water in for every cup of rice – I use three cups of rice for my standard serving. On a hotter part of the fire, bring this to a boil, then cover with the lid and move to the cool side to simmer for about 12 minutes. DO NOT CHECK THE RICE – just pull it off the fire and let it sit for another 5-10 minutes before you remove the lid. There’s steam in there which is finishing off the cooking process. Let out the steam, and your rice won’t cook evenly.

Now for the easy part: gather up about a pound of beef, pork or chicken and a handful or two of your favorite veggies. Chop it all into smallish bits, keeping the meat separate. The pile of meat and the pile of veggies should be about the same size, but you want to stop here and make sure it will all fit into your wok with room to stir – it sucks to have it all fly out into the fire.

Season the meat with whatever you like – McCormick’s makes a great line called “Montreal Steak” or “Chicken” that works good, plus I throw in some Lowry’s and a dash of good soy sauce. Stick the wok in the fire with a tablespoon or so worth of oil (I use the Tsang’s Wok Oil from the Asian isle at my grocers’) and let it heat for about a minute. If the oil starts to smoke, you’ve gone too far and need to cool the pan down and start over.

When the wok reaches temp, toss in the meat and sear it, stirring almost constantly. When it looks about half-cooked, throw in the veggies and keep stirring. Continue cooking until the meat is to taste, then either pull from the fire, or pour in some sauce if you don’t like it dry. Bring the sauce almost to a boil before serving. I like my veggies crunchy, so I wait a little longer before I put them in.

When you pull it from the fire, cover it and let it rest for about 5 minutes before serving, same as the rice. This lets everything absorb the remaining heat evenly.

More brakes

Posted in Life on March 29th, 2005

Here’s an update on todays’ brake job –

I left the car at the shop at 12:30 today. I had a 1:30 appointment, but had nothing better to do, so I dropped it off early and went down to Backspace – you know that part already.

Well, it took them until 2:30 to call me and let me know the results of the inspection – you know those already too. They told me it would be $60 to do the front brakes, which is reasonable. It would cost me $35 for the parts, so an extra $25 for labor ain’t bad.

Around 5:30, I got tired of dead-heading around the coffeeshop and went back to the garage. The Beastie was up on the racks still, all four wheels off, and nobody working on it. The manager showed me the leaks in the rear units, which were slight at most – yeah, they probably do need to be rebuilt. Then he showed me the rear drums, which (according to my Chilton manual) are actually .010 of an inch beyond recommended wear limit. So, he was correct about the rears, I’ll give him that.

What they did not tell me was that there would be $15 additional charge for disposal fees and misc charges. That was annoying. What was even more annoying was when they asked me to come look at the car after they took a test drive.

They showed me how fluid had sprayed out of the cylinder and onto the hood and the firewall and other parts close by, and the master cylinder was almost dry. I have seen that splatter pattern before – it happens when you push the front pistons back into the calipers while forgetting to leave the cap on the master cylinder. Fluid sprays out all over the place. So, their mechanic had done this same thing, then forgot to top off the master cylinder fluid level before driving my car around the block.

That right there is a first-year probie’s mistake, and I expect more out of a shop sporting a BBB plaque on the wall. When I told the manager I was not pleased with the service or the surprise fees, he tried to give me a free oil change. Now, if I don’t like their work, why in the world would I bring my car back to them?

My initial reaction to all this was to write a burning letter to the BBB complaining about this place. After writing it all down, though, I am simply unhappy with the work and will not be giving them any more of my business, and will not reccomend them to my friends, or anyone else that reads this blog. Oh, the name of the shop? Brake Team, on Broadway and Burnside downtown. If you let them do the work on your car, watch them. They might do better with supervision.

The Usual Supects pt II

Posted in Proof! on March 29th, 2005

Pax Whitewillow introduced himself to me at an SCA event by plopping down between myself and Twiggy. He gave us both his name, handed me a boda bag of booze, and proceeded to chat Twiggy up. (So basically, he bought her from me with peach Schnappes – Twig and I had been just friends for over a year at that point, so it wasn’t a bad deal lol)

Pax is one of those guys that can walk into a room and make every other guy there mostly invisible due to his own good looks, charm and personal aura. He’s about 6’3″ or 4″, with long blond hair and Nordic genes. I have litterally watched a woman walk into a telephone pole because she was too busy staring at the man to watch where she was going.

I was torn between laughing and crying that day, lemme tell ya. Us guys would sit around and try to brainstorm ways to make him less attractive, most of which involved shaving his head. We figured everything we did would just backfire, though, and left him alone. There were certain social events we didn’t invite him to, though, in an effort to improve our chances with the ladies.

Pax was also infamous for his ability to get a ride anywhere, anytime, usually door-to-door service. All he had to do was walk along, reading a book with his thumb out, and a car full of co-eds would immediately appear out of thin air and drive him anywhere. At one point in time, he planned to hitch down to Mexico for a couple weeks. Many of us told him it was a bad idea, but he went off anyway.

A few days later, he appeared on my doorstep – he had found a ride, but about two hours down the road things got generally uncomfortable, so he bailed and came home. My place was closer to the freeway than his, so he stopped in to rest a bit before heading home. While we talked, however, we got the beginnings of an idea on how to play a supremely nasty joke on someone.

You see, Rhias had been one of the more fervent opponents of his planned trip, and stated flatly that if something bad befell him, she would laugh and go raid his stuff. Since I was the only one that knew Pax had returned early and unscathed, we started plotting.

We invited Rhias over for the evening, a fairly regular occurence. Richard and I started wondering about Pax, as no-one had heard from him since he left. In the course of the conversation, one of us got a page and made a phone call to ‘discover’ from Pax’s mom that he had made it to Mexico, but had somehow got into a bar brawl and had had a bottle broken over his cranium – he was now in the hospital for X-rays and at least stitches, if not worse. In Tijajuanna. Pax was actually hiding in the front room closet, listening to the whole thing through the slatted door.

While the accomplices and I started imagining worst case scenarios, Pax got an inspiration and hung some of his hair through the slats to signal me – I caught his drift and came up with a great combination of horror and glee as I said “shit – they’re probably going to have to shave his head!”

All the girls in the room blanched at that, even Rhias, drunk as she was by this time. After a moment of drunken consideration, she came back with: “well, fuck. If he dies, I get his books!” After a moment of stunned silence, we all busted up – even Pax, who fell out of the closet in his mirth. It took Rhias a full three seconds to realize it was him – at which point she went over and started ineffectively swatting at him.

We’re still not sure if it was punishment for the joke, or for getting her hopes up about snagging his library.

On the road

Posted in Life on March 29th, 2005

Ahh, thank DoC for the advent of free wifi at coffee shops! I’m downtown at Backspace today (NW 5th and Davis or so) while the Little Black Beastie is in the shop for new brakes. Well, two out of four of them, anyway.

According to the chap at the shop, the rear cylinders are leaking and the drums themselves are ‘outsized’ enough that they can’t be turned. They want upwards of 400 clams for the work, which would be a resounding NO! The rebuild kits are only about $20, and shoes another $35, so I’ll tackle that job myself. I was just trying to save myself the time and annoyance of picking up the ass-end of the Beastie and pulling everything apart myself.

(The drums simply can’t be that bad, as I have heard no grinding noises coming from the wheels at all, so they were probably trying to milk me for the extra bits.)

In other news, I really don’t have any. Kinda mellow lately. The Ratboy talked me into getting a new cage for his hamster Tweaker the other day – the rodent is on the large side, and his old cage was a bit confining, especially the wheel. The new cage, however, is all wheel, with a platform riding the axle for his food, water and cubby. He hasn’t quite figured out how to squeeze his hide through the connecting tunnel though, so we have to move him by hand back up to the food an water a couple times a day until I can build bigger tunnels.

Rodent obesity – who’d a thunk it?

Time for some answers!

Posted in Life on March 23rd, 2005

The Roomie responded:

A-1: Castle of Cagliostro. It’s a bit dated, but it’s still one of the best caper-flick anime ever made.
A-2: Dawn’s right, the CJ Cherryh book “Foreigner” is pretty damned good.
A-3: You might find VAST interesting, or you might not. Dunno.

B-1: You like caper flicks. What’s the best of ‘em?
B-2: What geek-fu skill do you most wish you could improve?
B-3: What’s your balance between spiritual and worldly?

A caper anime? Gimme! I thumbed through some of your VAST collection already, but haven’t spent any real time with it. I’ll give it another shot.

B1: It’s a close call between two: Ronin and The Usual Suspects
B2: I need to work on my server administration. I’m running into it more often now, and need to know what I’m doing.
B3: Are you kidding? I’m a Gemini – I handle lots of things equally :)

Now for Kylanath’s

A1: Cowboy Bebop Movie.
A2: Foreigner. If that fails, go pick up most anything by Feist, which the Twinlet got me sucked into. And since the Twinlet already mentioned Foreigner, you have to go read it now *smirk*
A3: I’m gonna say most anything by Satriani here.

And onto the questions:

1. What theme ingredient would you use if you were chosen as a chef for a round of Iron Chef?
2. Rainstorms or snowstorms?
3. City living or country living?

Heh – I already have the Cowboy Bebop Movie (and three season’s worth of episodes) on DVD. Just a wee bit of a fanboy am I. I’ll give Foreigner a shot too, since it comes doubly-reccomended. As for the Satriani, I’ll throw Steve Vai back atcha :)

B1: considering my limited repertoire, I’d have to go with beef.
B2: Snowstorms that I’ve been in in the past have had an eerie tranquility to them that can be very restful – plus the possibility of getting a snow day at work :)
B3: CITY! I grew up country, and I will never go back.

Even BtFR chimed in. (We’ll forgive the error)

a1.) Harrison Bergeron – with Sean Astin
a2.) Of Mice and Men – Gary Senise and John Malkovich
a3.) The Incredibles – It really isn’t a “major, ground breaking movie” but DAMN the animation is killer!!

Other Questions:
1.) Would you say that you are happier now or were you happier 10 years ago?
2.) What is the most regretable thing you have (or have not) ever done?
3.) If I buy you a new Futon Mattress for your birthday, will you take it the wrong way :-)

Oops did that wrong, I must read and remember the questions:

1a) A Movie – Still ‘Harrison Bergeron’ with Sean Astin
1b) American Gods by Neil Gaiman (seriously in my top 5 of all time)
1c) Sigur Ros – An Icelandic band, incredo-good

The Incredibles is just that, and I will be buying a copy soon, and I have seen the Sinese version of “Of Mice and Men”. I’ll give Gaiman a shot, but you’ll have to bring that Icelandic band over for me to sample.

B1: I would say more content now, if not happier. Timing is everything though: 10 years ago this month I was a month away from getting married, and the EMC and I were quite deleriously in love (despite living with Andre lol)
B2: There are three women that have eluded me over the years, and I regret chances not taken.
B3: Not at all! I know you better than that.

What the hell – a meme

Posted in Life on March 22nd, 2005

Sometimes, you’re just too drained to come up with your own content. In lieu, I offer you the chance to assuage your curiosity while giving me something to do:

(A) Recommend to me:
1. a movie:
2. a book:
3. a musical artist, song, or album:

(B) Ask me three questions, no more, no less. Ask me anything you want and I will post the answers in a new entry.

(C) Copy and paste this meme to your blog/journal/thingie, allowing your friends (and random strangers) to ask you anything.

Some days, nothing goes right

Posted in Geekery on March 20th, 2005

Yesterday, having gotten almost everything else re-configured the way I want it, I went after getting the sound to work on my Slackware install again. Unfortunately, everything went kerplooie on me to the point it wouldn’t even boot anymore, and I was once again faced with a re-install.

Faced with the prospect of “gee, what won’t work this time?”, I decided to give SuSE 9.2 Pro a try on a real machine. (The last test was on a laptop). My roomie told me of this wonderful thing called apt4rpm, a port of the Debian apt-get tool, which should alleviate the problems inherent in an rpm distro. With that in mind, I went for it.

The nice thing about commercial distros like SuSE is their hardware-detection – I was able to set up basic 3D support during the install, and Sax2 correctly set my screen dimensions to 1280×1040 without any serious tweaking. Again, sound worked on the first try, with the exception of many of the multimedia apps being crippled due to SuSE’s worries about copyright.

The major wrinkle came in trying to set up apt4rpm. In the SuSE version, the security feature that checks the GPG keys of the packages before download is enabled by default. A handy security idea yes, but having it on by default means you can’t install the keys because the keys are unknown! It took the roomie and I some searching to figure out how to turn it off, and once we did things actually worked. Now, to install new software I can either use a command-line version or the Synaptics Package Manager GUI to simply select the software I want installed. The program will automatically install any necessary dependencies, and off I go.

The odd thing about SuSE is that they do not include Koffice in the main grouping. I prefer Koffice over OpenOffice.Org because it runs leaner, and all my email settings and website membership logins are stored in a kspread file, which I could not read in OO.o. Thanks to apt4rpm, though, I simply had to select the Koffice package group and voila! Now I can feed my email addiction :)

*Update: okay, maybe not so voila: I’ll need to upgrade KDE before I can install the current version of Koffice. I think I’ll ghost an image before I do that…

I’ll let you know in a few days how things turn out, but for right now, I am happy with SuSE again. We’ll see how long this lasts.

Y’know, Arch Linux is leaning towards a new release, and they have the pacman thing…

Why Emperor?

Posted in Life on March 19th, 2005

The current poll on slashdot asks “Preferred Title: King, Emperor, Shogun, President, Prime Minister, Kwisatch Haderach?” The two prevailing answers are Emperor and Kwisatch Haderach. One lost soul asked “What about good ol’ Democracy?”

I’ve posted my response here, because any response on a /. would sink into obscurity. I post it here, it starts out in obscurity, so can only get better :)

Me, I chose Emperor. Here’s why: Read the rest of this entry »

I’m not dead yet! (But you should be)

Posted in Geekery on March 19th, 2005

Okay, not you specifically, unless you happen to be an older version of Windows.

This article at the Washington Post goes into a survey that shows a rather scary percentage of computers today are still running Windows 95, 98 and Millenium.

Well, duh, I could have told you that.

While the big boys of business may have the budget to upgrade all of their systems to XP, most of your average businesses either don’t have the money or don’t have the pressing desire to do so. They aren’t worried about security or new features – the software they are running is old too, and runs just fine on their older systems.

Of the companies I have done work for this year, the ones that have upgraded anything have done so for one of two reasons: their software went obsolete or their hardware gave out. Anything that is still working, is well, still working and therefore does not need to be fixed.

Some of these might have migrated to XP for the better security, if it wasn’t for the fact that there is no way to run it on their older hardware. $1000 for 7 new licenses they could have done, but not $7000 for new computers.

Some have done partial upgrades by accident – they needed to buy a new computer for expanded staff, and were unable to get an older OS. Most times, they just have to make some minor tweaks to get the old software working on XP. A medical office that calls us has recently had to scrap all of their computers, though, because the software they use has finally been axed, and the new solution won’t work on less than XP.

For the home user, there’s no need to upgrade until it breaks or they get new toys that won’t play nice. (A customer who ended up buying a new computer to use with his new iPod comes to mind.) Avid gamers spend the dough on hot hardware, but solitaire and tetris players chug right along. I still hear alot of “What do you mean it won’t work now – it’s only 5 years old!”

Imagine their expressions when I tell them about Moore’s Law and what it means about hardware obsolescence. These are the same folks who buy a car and drive it for 15 years. Then I have to tell them it will cost them $700 to use the iPod they got from their kid for Christmas.

It’s a quiz day!

Posted in Life on March 15th, 2005

:: how jedi are you? ::

I’m Mace Windu, which Jedi Knight are you???
Take the Jedi Personality Quiz at MHoNiP

2 out of 2 inane quizes can’t be wrong! (Well, except for the purple lightsaber bit – mine would be the blue-white of a lightning strike on the surface, and as black as the Emperor’s heart at the core. Of course I’m a geek – weren’t you here last week?)

Zombie Survival Quiz at OK Cupid

Armed and Dangerous
Congratulations! You scored 83%!

You made it out, alive and well supplied. You probably even kept most
of your party alive too. You know what to look for, what to take, and
when to just run. You even feel a strange inkling to go back. If you
did, you’d probably do just fine.

If you haven’t already seen it, go rent Shaun of The Dead. Do it now.