Saturday, September 11, 2010


Always remember: when it feels like everyone hates you, realize that not everyone's met you, yet.


Something slightly amusing about the prospect of a hurricane named "Igor"

Eventful Day

Twenty two years ago, I was in my first couple of weeks of freshman Year at PSU. I had yet to latch onto the party scene there, so, I was even sober, all day. I woke up, today, realizing that most of my teachers from pre-school and primary school are all likely rolling up on retirement age. I still remember most of their names. Can't say the same of my professors at PSU as, with the exception of my first semester, I was chronically pickled and rarely in class.

Nine years ago, Donna and I were packing to get ready to fly out to Chicago. I was working as an engineer for the Digex Unix team, and was scheduled to meet with one of our largest customers at the time. As we were bustling about, starting to get packed, the morning news show switched their coverage just in time to show the second plane smacking into the second of the WTC buildings. Became rather evident that we weren't going anywhere, that day. Went out, got breakfast at IHOP, then waited in line in the hot, early fall sun to give blood at the Woodburn Center in Fairfax. Donna, the veteran blood-donor, ended up passing out after getting siphoned. When we tried to go back home, found that her house was inside the "no cars" zone and mine was inside the guarded but minimized travel zone. So, Donna ended up crashing out at my place.

Later today, I get to watch a friend get married.

Such the Wild Man

What to do on a Friday night when you're too volatile to go out? Watch "Kids in the Hall" on NetFlix

Friday, September 10, 2010

I Am Become Death

Sniping in an FPS is the closest you ever get to feel like the righteous hand of god smiting the heathen hoards.

Nothing Personal

If it feels like I'm ignoring you, it's only because you're insignificant.

The Spirit of the Game

Would it violate the spirit of a tontine if I killed all the other parties to the pact?

Bummer ...Averted!

No oatmeal cookie or cookie-brickle sellers at the farmers' market today. Guess, as the farm market season winds down, sellers stop coming out. Then again, this particular market's kind of sparsely attended (dunno if it's the location or the mix of mostly sub-par vendors). So, maybe those sellers just opted to cut their losses.

Still: one dude had raspberry linzers available. RAWK!

Who Are You, Again?

Why is it that so many of the "verified" userids on Twitter I see are for people or things I've never heard of?

Reservations in Place

Pre-ordered Halo Reach, today. Donna was psyched to see the posters for "Black Ops" in GameStop, too.


Some days, the degree to which I simply just don't give a fuck knows know bounds.

Diminishing Returns

So, the B6 doesn't always keep the murderous Kepprage in check. I feel like block of nitroglycerin sitting on the edge of a shaky table.

Appropriate Reactions

Sometimes, I want to key a handicap emblem into the hoods of non-tagged cars parked in the handicap spots

Thursday, September 9, 2010


This past weekend, as I was getting into bed, it had felt like I knelt on a pencil or bead. I'd assumed that one of Donna bed things (herb satchels, mini-pillows or stuffed animals) had made its way to the wrong side of the bed and that's what I'd encountered in the dark. It wasn't until the next day, when I noticed my knee was still bothering me (and, by "bothering" I mean that it felt like the tendon was delaminating from the bone) that I began to wonder whether I might have damaged something in my knee.

It was a holiday weekend, so, I figured, "I'll wait till Tuesday to see if it's still bothering me". As Saturday progressed into Sunday, and Sunday into Monday, the knee was getting worse. Even better, because I was favoring the left knee, my right knee was starting to complain about the unequal distribution of work. Tuesday morning, I called my GP's office. I'd tried finding a orthopedist via Google/Bing/WebMD/etc., but hadn't really located someone nearby. So, off to the GP with the first available appointment I went. Wasn't much he could do for me. Having gone online and found a "what's wrong with my knee" diagnostic tool, I was figuring "tendonitis". Little can be done for such, so, wasn't expecting much from the GP. I got about what I expected, which was, "go see the referrals desk...".

Went home with the business card of a local orthopedics practice that had rights at one of the hospitals I don't hate (I will never go back to iNoVA Mt. Vernon after they tried killing me during my stay there summer of 2008). Got home and called the practice. First available appointment was this morning.

Today, when I got up, the pain was nearly gone (naturally). However, it was too late to cancel with no cancellation fee, so I went in and had a sit-down with the doctor. He did the interview and joint-manipulation, then sent me off for X-rays. Got the X-rays back and there was nothing conclusive. He'd indicated that it was likely a tendonitis or a plica (wtf?). Neither of which, at this point, there was much to be done about. My body just laughs at pain meds and anti-inflammatories aren't really compatible with the state my epilepsy meds have put my liver into. So, he told me to go home and rest it and see if it improved or got worse. He also gave me an MRI scrip in case it got worse.

Naturally, as the day wore on, and there was no immediate prospect of being seen by a doctor, the knee decided to wake back up. Who knows, it may have been the futzing in the doctor's office that pissed it off, again. So, now I get to see whether or not it calms back down. If it doesn't, I gotta decide whether to go for the MRI. Some of the site's I've looked at have indicated that, much like today's X-rays, MRIs are often inconclusive. But, whatever. Gotta see where the hell this goes.

I hate the aging process (though, this may be explanatory of why, over the years, I've had periodic bouts of pain and swelling with this knee).

And On The Seventh Day?

Ok, gonna give BackBlaze a try. Should take about six or so days for the initial sync to complete. Any better options?

Dear Spammers...

If you can't be bothered to invent a last name to go along with your firstname, I can't be bothered to read your note.

Seriously, I'm not friends with Madonna or any other "first name is my only name" people. So...

Evil Love Button

I feel slightly dirty: I just hit the "love" button for MC Hammer's "Can't Touch This" (

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Get Out of the Way!

Rather annoying when pets stand in front of the IR port on the cable box when you NEED to change the channel

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Reaction Time

It's only a true failure if you can't figure out to hide what happened

Are GIS Services That Hard?

Ok, I give up: when I want Google Maps to help me find an orthopedist near my house, why doesn't it sort by distance?? Even more maddening is that it shows a scatter of overlapping dots representing practitioners that otherwise don't make the search results list. Yet, when I go to zoom in to be able to individually look at those results, the action of zooming in makes them disappear. Fuck you Google: your map search service is useless to me.

Now, the funny (not actually, but we'll use that word) thing is, the alternatives don't seem to be any better.

Bing Maps doesn't even seem to let me put in my own map search terms. I have to select from a list of searches. While "healthcare" is a search option, I can't specify "orthopedist" (which, since my knee is what's fucked up is what I'm looking for. Thanks for nothing, Microsoft. You definitely did not earn a convert, today.

WebMD's physician search ain't much better. See, I'd like to be able to do a proximity search based on my house or office address. Instead, the finest granularity I can find is "within 'X' miles of zipcode". Zipcode-level granularity??? Thanks. That's really not at all helpful.

The only thing in Google's favor, at this point, is that the alternatives suck at least as badly as Google does.

All I want is someone, preferably nearby, to look at my damned knee. I'd found an online tool that told me what the likely problem is. If it's correct, there's really not much to be done about it. But, I don't want to just "let things go" if there is something that can be done.


Monday, September 6, 2010

Kitchen Sounds

The pressure-canner sounds like a stuttering snake has taken over the kitchen

Just Another One of Those "Things that Make You Go 'Hmm..'"

One really kind of wonders who, exactly, chooses the screen name "rapey". Maybe there's a reason all his tweets are protected?

Live Recordings: Blech

I have never understood the appeal of live music tracks.

This Is Not a Kellogg's Morning

Being wakened by an high-anxiety dream is not the best way to start the day.

Shut Up and Play

If there's one thing that rankles me, it's being told what to do. It's particularly irksome when the someone doing the telling isn't someone I respect.

That said, respect for people is situational. If someone is an expert in a field, I'm a lot more likely to respect their opinions as it applies to that field.

That said, unlike many in western culture (or, at least as those higher up the food chain would like to believe), I don't believe that fame is an acceptable substitute for expertise. Just because you're good at playing a musical instrument or look good on the big screen, it doesn't mean you're suddenly an expert in other fields. You might be highly interested in that field, but, if you haven't truly invested yourself in earning expertise, I don't think you have a right to tell me how I should act in that context.

So, rather than railing at me about how I should be living my life to support your pet theories or projects, how about you just shut up and do what I paid to see you do. Just shut up and play.

Sunday, September 5, 2010

That's Kinda Mean

You'd think social media sites would find a better way of saying you're not linked to anyone than the words "no friends". Ouch.

The Smells of Home

The house smells like a pizzeria. Donna's making the (spicy) pizza sauce that will be canned before bed, tonight.

Slightly Less Degenerate

The great thing about watching "Fired Up" is the knowledge the Hollywood uses people in their 20s to play teens...

Playing Ketchup

For the past several years, we've switched our diet from junk food and eating out to home-cooked food. Initially, this meant a return to the grocery stores - starting back with the regular chains (Giant and Safeway being the locals), then to the organic markets and places like Whole Paycheck Foods. Eventually, we started going to local farmers' markets.

Going to the farmers' markets, we started to eat locally and seasonally. However, eating locally/seasonally meant that there were just certain foods that we couldn't eat "all year". So, Donna, decided to try her hand at canning. She found that she liked the activity - or at least the results of it - enough to make a yearly ritual of it.

During fruit seasons, she buys bulk fruit and cans it so we have fillings for pies, toppings for deserts and general meal brighteners. We're probably stocked for jellies and pie fillings for at least the next coming year or two.

We like tomato products, a lot: pizza sauce, ketchup, tomato paste, etc. In general, we like things tarter and/or spicier than what you get in the stores. The store-bought stuff tends to just be too sweet. So, it made sense to see what could be made at home. We're now in our second year of this (we is charitable as my contribution is rather much smaller than hers - but, hey, "it's my blog").

The Tuesday before Labor Day Weekend, Donna picks up a couple of boxes of roma tomatoes from Threeway Farms (of Warsaw, VA - sorry, no link: Google produced no hits). She then spends the weekend turning those boxes of tomatoes into ketchup, tomato paste, pizza sauce, spaghetti sauce and whole-crushed canned tomatoes. What follows is a photographic chronicling of the process of creating ketchup...

First, start with a box of roma tomatoes. The farmers sell other tomatoes that they call "canning" tomatoes. They are much cheaper, by the pound, than romas, but have a much higher seed content and less desirable flavor profile than the romas. You can go the "canning tomatoes" route, but, your output reflects your input. ;)

The box pictured below contains 25lbs of roma tomatoes (about a half-bushel). We get 2-3 boxes of these each season:
½ bushel box
Donna then takes about a third to a half of one of these boxes and blanches them to loosen the skins. She takes the blanched tomatoes and removes the skins, by hand (cut an 'X' in one end and then peel from the cuts). Once skinned, take a hand-coring tool and core out the main seed pocket to remove the bulk of the tomato seeds.:
Skinned and cored tomatoes
My primary involvement is usually in the coring step, sometimes helping with skinning. Oh... And "documenting".

Then, she slices up the cored, skinned tomatoes for chopping. The tomatoes are chopped up to about the following size/consistency:
Chopped tomatoes

As I noted previously, we like ketchup with a bit more flavor and zest. So, red bell peppers help to punch things up a bit...
Red bell peppers

The "punch-up" also requires some onions, vinegar, celery see, mustard seed, black pepper and a few other things (staged below)
Some "punch-ups"

The real fun part is the milling step. The food mill is a hand-cranked device that forces the ingredients through a set of screens. The sizes of the openings in the screens help determine the consistency of the resulting ketchup. Remaining skin, seeds and other unwanted bits are left behind in the top part and the tomato pulp drops through to the pot, below:

These are just some of the jars that get used in a canning season. We use "Ball" jars. Dunno that anyone else still makes canning jars, but, that's what's available in our area. It's always an adventure trying to find the right number and sizes. It's gotten easier as canning comes back into vogue, but, still have to find them. Harris Teeter's frequently a good source. So is Amazon.

"Ball" jars: ask for them by name

The jars are prepped by being dropped into a bath of water and heated. This helps protect against cracking/breaking from the thermal shock of putting fresh-from-the-cooking-pot ketchup in them.
Also acts as a lobster pot...

A slightly smaller pot is used to cook the ketchup. I was late in my documentation efforts, so, the pot's already nearly empty, at this point...
Cooking pot

Donna takes the warmed jars, fills them with the ketchup, puts the lids on and then carefully dumps them in the hot-water bath (those are canning tongs she's using: good for careful placement without risk of burning oneself)
Placing in the bath

After they're heated for a while, they are left to sit on the counter, over night, to cool. The cooling process reduces the air density in the jars, creating a seal. Before screwing the rings on, a quick seal test is done (basically, verify that the lids are slightly concave and well-seated).
3pts of ketchup

So, a little less than a quarter bushel of roma tomatoes produces about three pint-jars of some of the best-tasting ketchup.

Nothing on the Tube...

Sitting here, watching Julie & Julia because nothing else worthwhile is yet on. Reminds me of Donna's big cooking weekends.