Monday, December 23, 2013

Trader Joe's Poutine Unbagging

In the footsteps of so many tech sites showing the "unboxing" of various tech toys, I present the unbagging of Trader Joe's Poutine.

Here is the front of the package:

Note that it includes "sauce" not "gravy".  This doesn't bode well. Looking at the ingredients, I'm guessing it's not gravy because it contains less than 2% beef stock.  It's also got a disturbingly long list of things that I'd expect in a prepared food from somewhere other than TJ's.  Oh well, I shall soldier on in the name of science, or something.

There is a description of poutine on the back:

Inside the bag, there are separate bags of cheese curds and sauce, and a whole bunch of frozen french fries, as you'd find in any Ore-Ida bag you might open.  Only a few of the fries are shown here:

Preparation is pretty rudimentary -- bake the fries for 20 to 25 minutes; in the meantime, heat up the sauce and curds in water in a saucepan at a low simmer.

Once it's all done, put the fries in a bowl, top with the curds and then pour the sauce over.  Microwave or broil to finish, if desired (I did neither).  It looks like this:

It tastes magnifique.  No, I'm lying.  The first bites were really, really bad, there is no flavor at all to that sauce.  I decided to add some salt and pepper (NB: I almost never add salt and pepper post-cooking, to anything).  Perhaps you recall Salisbury steak from a school cafeteria (or from being poor, like I have been), the sauce had less flavor than what you'd have had on your steak.  The curds did have a satisfying squeak, so at least that part was OK.

Look, the only time I've had real poutine before was when I was in Churchill, Manitoba (maybe that wasn't even "real", but at least it was Canadian).  It was in a tiny little diner (considering Churchill, maybe it was a huge diner, hard to say), and I was up there to go see the polar bears:

Feel free to ask me about that sometime.

So anyway, that bowl of poutine in Manitoba was fantastic.  What I just ate was not.  I could do better with the aforementioned Ore-Ida fries, a jar of Heinz gravy, and some easily sourced non-frozen cheese curds.

Eh bien.  C'est la vie.

Friday, September 06, 2013


I could make some kind of comment here about "first post in long time" or "long-neglected blog", but screw that.  Life happens.

So back in January, I decided to upgrade my receiver to one that had all the fancy HDMI inputs and such.  These shiny new receivers are great for "home theater" type applications, but they are severely lacking in analog inputs for things like turntables or tape decks, unless you want to spend around $1000 or more.  Spoiler: I didn't want to spend that much.  For the record, I got the Onkyo TX-NR515 at a great price with a WiFi adapter included.  (But not from Amazon).

Pause here to say "yes, I still have a turntable, and listen to vinyl records on it regularly".  Well, I did until I put the new receiver in the living room.  Then I had super-fantastic Dolby (tm) surround sound for watching DVDs and BluRays and streamed Netflix and such, but no way to listen to the records.

Eventually (last month) I connected up my old receiver, along with the turntable and tape deck, in another room. I used some old surround front channel speakers that provide no bass at all, but hey I could listen to the analog sources while I was working on my computer.

Of course those speakers just weren't cutting it, so I started searching around for something better.   I actually bought a pair of Klipsch bookshelf speakers at Best Buy, but they had to be "ordered" from another store, and BB being who they are, they completely botched the whole thing and I'm done with them forever.  Then I zeroed in on some Pioneer SPBS22s.  Lots of good reviews around the 'net and the price was OK.  I went to check them out at the local HHGregg (whose website told me they were in stock), but I couldn't find them, and nobody was interested in helping me anyway.  This scenario actually happened in both local stores, so they're off the list too.

Then I looked on Amazon, and while they listed the SPBS22s, on sale at a price nearly half off what HHGregg wanted, they also showed an estimated delivery time frame of 1 to 2 months.  It was bad enough that I was going to buy speakers without hearing them, but waiting until October or November was right out.  Luckily though, they had one pair listed in their "warehouse outlet".  Used, but "like new".  And 10% less than the already low price.

Despite selecting free "Super Saver" from Amazon, they were actually sent out nearly immediately, and yesterday was the day of waiting.  I stayed around the house almost all day, but finally had to go out for some errands, but found the large box waiting for me when I got home.

I hooked them up this morning and took 'em for a test drive with a heavy vinyl version of Chris Difford's I Didn't Get Where I Am.  The speakers sound amazing, and so does that record.  Seriously, if you haven't heard it, please check it out.

Monday, May 07, 2012

Mystery Sundial

The other day, I was at a local salvage yard and noticed an unusual sundial.  I took a bad cellphone photo:

but obviously I cut off a portion of the detail on either side.  Still, you can see that it has a 12 at the top and a 6 at the bottom, and you can take my word that the 3 and 9 were in the places you would expect.  The unusual part, of course, is the recessed area in the center, with numbers counting up from 1 through 9, and then B.  Or perhaps they start at B and then run 1 through 9.  And there's pointer, pointing to 7.  What the what?

I did some rudimentary research and posted the above to one of my Google + circles, but it remained a mystery.

So today I went back to the yard and took more photos.  I had half a mind to just go ahead and buy the thing, but more on that in a moment.  There was more sun today, so the following shots have lots of shadows, one thing the overcast of the other day prevented.

Here's a side angle view.  The gnomon clearly casts a shadow on the outside ring, so it can presumably tell time.

I tried to get an overhead shot, but I couldn't see the back of my camera while holding it up in the air, so this is the best I could do.  Bonus: my feet!

Getting down and dirty, I could see that there was a name stamped in the base.  (Oh, by the way, the pedestal is separate from the top.)  Not sure how well you can make it out here, but it says "UNIQUESTONE 2008".  The UniqueStone name is also stamped into the top part.

You can also see the price.  That was less than the maximum number I had in my head, but the fact that it's just a four year old item gave me second thoughts.  On the other hand, a sundial (slash birdbath, let's face it, that top part is dying to be filled with water) would cost at least that much.  I'll probably go back later in the week and buy it if it's still there.

When I got home, I found a UniqueStone website, and lo and behold, here it is in "The Biltmore Collection".

I can't find a price for it anywhere, and I'm still perplexed by the sequence1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 B.  I guess the B is for Biltmore?

The mystery continues.

[EDIT:  Here it is at one retailer for $175, so not such a fantastic deal at the salvage yard, especially since the gnomon is so rusted.  Still don't understand the inner dial or the pointer ....]

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Too Big for Twitter

Well, time to pull the drop cloths off the blog and get writing. At least one post.

It started with a tweet, or actually a retweet, as seen here:

I made the flying leap to the conclusion that this was regarding the "ex-gay" app that had just been pulled from Apple's iTunes App Store, and replied:

Nick Harkaway replied:

Now I really like Nick Harkaway. Not only because he is the author of what is perhaps my favorite book of the 21st century (so far), but because I've also come to respect the personality he reveals via the standard social media sites of the 2010's. Anyway, I felt that Twitter's 140 characters would not be nearly enough to "unpack" my thoughts, so I said:

So that's where we are. My point (as best I could make it in 140 characters, less the two @tributions) was that even within the marketplace of ideas, there are some ideas that are so repugnant as to require immediate rejection. Thus my suggestion that an "ex-Jew app" in 1942, in the guise of the Nazi party, was rejected. An "ex-Black app," (e.g. Jim Crow laws, Separate but Equal clauses) was rejected in the 1960s.

In the Wikipedia article about the market place of ideas Thomas Jefferson is quoted as having said (about the University of Virginia), "This institution will be based upon the illimitable freedom of the human mind. For here we are not afraid to follow truth wherever it may lead, nor to tolerate any error so long as reason is left free to combat it" (emphasis mine). Oliver Wendell Holmes said "the best test of truth is the power of the thought to get itself accepted in the competition of the market." What has happened in the case of the Exodus International app is that reason did, indeed, combat it; it was not accepted in the competition of the market.

I hope that I don't have to address the reasons why the app in question is offensive. That's been covered by many other people, and my point here was just to respond to the question regarding the original (re)tweet about the marketplace of ideas.

I should leave it there, but I have to ask: is the iTunes store the "marketplace of ideas"? There has been no shortage of Apple missteps while allowing or disallowing all sorts of apps, and againg, I don't think I have to search out examples, they're easily found. Given the restrictions that Apple already places on apps that it will accept into the store, I would argue that they hardly represent the free market in any way. However, because they are, for better or worse, the proverbial 800 pound gorilla, what they do impacts the free market in many ways. And that, as they say, is a whole nother thing.

And I should leave it there, but just one more thing ... as my friend Joe often says, "I can hold my breath, but that doesn't make me an ex-breather."

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

That's no moon!

Oh wait; yes it is.

More here.

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Is Amazon Insane? Or was it the fish?

Over at Netflix, they've been running a couple contests to find better recommendation algorithms. At Amazon, I think they're secretly running a contest to find an algorithm that's makes insane recommendations.

For example:


Would I like a second copy of Days of Future Passed? No thanks. I mean, I really enjoy listening to it at times, and it was quite a ground-breaking concept at the time, but I'm good with just the one copy. I can always rip it to MP3 or make a personal backup copy on my own.

How about some DVD recommendations, then? I like Futurama so Good News, Everyone!:


Errrr, no. Maybe Professor Farnsworth is a closet Angela Lansbury fan?

OK, that's just silly. I do like my animation in lots of different ways, including talking dogs and homicidal gay babies, so what else might Amazon have in store for me?


Oh dear god! For the love of Cthulhu, WTF is that about?

I guess I should say "Thank you Amazon, for bringing a little surreality to my life." And good luck to the people entering your contest.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

About PoGo Print Manipulation

OK, so like apparently thousands of people, I watched the video "Dippold and Hippoyard present some way to manipulate Zink paper and PoGo Polaroid." (click on the post title to see it).

I love my Pogo printer, it's not analog instant photography, but it's pretty cool. And I love the little prints it produces, as is. But it's always fun to do more artistic stuff once in awhile. Unfortunately, the four and a half minute video contains six techniques, and I personally found some of it hard to follow. Nonetheless, my searches for written information on Pogo manipulations were not successful (but damn, that video sure is!)

So I've tried to capture as much of the presented information as I can. It's listed below. Parts that I'm unclear on are marked with question marks. I'd more than welcome any corrections, additions, whatever.

OK here we go:

  1. Choose a subject
  2. Take a picture
  3. Take Zink (tm) photo paper
  4. Print with Polaroid Pogo (tm)
  5. Destroy and Create

01. Transfer Water + Paper

  • Soak print 30-40 minutes
  • Blow with hair dryer (?)
  • Peel off top layer (orange-ish) with tweezers
  • Place layer on watercolor paper
  • Press with damp sponge (?)

02. Transfer Water + Paper

  • Soak print 80-90 minutes
  • Place entire print face down on watercolor paper
  • Press with damp sponge
  • Blow with hair dryer on both sides of watercolor paper
  • Peel off backing paper and layers so that top layer is left on watercolor paper
  • (not shown!) Peel off blue layer??
  • Wet watercolor paper and orange layer with damp sponge
  • Place (very fragile) blue layer on top of orange layer
  • Use tweezers to straighten out
  • (Strange flash of some other picture at 1:47, WTF?)

03. Print & Play Water + Sponge + Fire + Wire Brush

  • Yeah, I got no idea exactly what is going on here.
  • (Another flash of some other picture at 2:21, WTFF?)

04. Print & Play Sandpaper + Acetone Fire + Pyrograph
  • (from Wikipedia: Pyrography is the art of decorating wood or other materials with burn marks resulting from the controlled application of a heated object such as a poker. It is also known as pokerwork or wood burning.)
  • Rub sandpaper block on print
  • Use q-tip to apply acetone (?) at certain spots
  • Splash with acetone(?)
  • Make it burn
  • Put out fire with damp rag (?)
  • Sand some more
  • Draw on print with fine-tipped wood-burning tool (aka pyrograph, I guess)
  • (enough with the flashes! 2:54)

05. Play & Print Sandpaper + Acetone

  • Use sandpaper and acetone as above, on unprinted Zink paper, both sides (?)
  • Print with Pogo

06. Cash Slip

  • Take thermally printed cash register receipt, same width as Zink paper.
  • (not shown, so I assume) trim length to match Zink paper
  • Place on TOP of a sheet of Zink paper
  • Print with Pogo
  • Peel Apart