Category Archives: Food + Drink

A fun day… for some hacking.

Over the course of the day, I:

  • Tweaked the package complement on my workstation where last night I did an installation of the Fedora 15 pre-release tree
  • Identified some weirdness in my local Eclipse environment and got things in better shape for later work
  • Got a good start on some user documentation for PulseCaster
  • Took my daughter to the skate rink, and managed to skate for at least a little while before realizing I was having a rough time because my kingpin bolts are just way too freakin’ tight
  • Figured out how to adjust said kingpin bolts and made a note to take care of that before next week
  • Took my son out for some errands and lunch — a nice trip and a good chance to exercise my patience muscles
  • As a reward, bought some beer and a couple decent malbecs
  • After returning home, cleared out some obsolete packages hanging around in Bodhi and begging for death
  • Built and pushed a new update of PulseCaster to fix some bugs
  • Built and pushed a refreshed upstream version of xmlstarlet
  • Played with the dog
  • Came back and turned up a French trance station I got into recently (for some reason, monotonous, non-vocal electronica seems to help me work more efficiently… probably since there are few lyrics to listen to and digest mentally)
  • Went through some email to reduce backlog for Monday
  • Triaged a crummy gnome-system-monitor bug affecting people with more than 4 CPU cores (like me)
  • Had dinner with the family (Eleya made a fabulous corned beef, first timer but it was pretty much perfect!)
  • Came back to the desk to find that the superhuman Matthias Clasen had fixed the gnome-system-monitor bug in question, and built and pushed an update out
  • Installed said update with many thanks to Matthias, tested, and provided feedback

So of course, my definition of hacking is not nearly what some of my colleagues manage daily. But I feel like attacking some of this stuff on weekends and working on my own GNOME-ish projects are starting to give me a better fundamental understanding of some of the plumbing at work in the desktop. And of course, it gives me a wh0le new appreciation for it as well. I’m now rocking GNOME 3.0 pre-releases on both my main systems here at home, my laptop and my big workstation, and loving it.

I’ve contributed a few bug reports and to a small portion of the GNOME 3.0 user documentation for this release. It was lots of fun and made me feel connected with the release process for something I use every day that will be an intrinsic part of Fedora 15 when it arrives. It’s a great feeling to be just cranking on some little bits to help others, and just as much as ever, I know that if everyone does the same, free software has a future that is even brighter than the (already well-lit) present.

Presents for everyone!

Even though I’m on vacation, I had some fun catching up with some geeky Fedora work, like handling bugs and package maintenance over the last few days. It only took me a few minutes at a time to do something useful for (hopefully) many other users. Along the way I was helped by other contributors, like Kevin Fenzi, who did a package review for me, or bug reporters who tested a package update. Among the things I got done:

  • Took over maintenance of the notify-python package, and fixed a missing documentation problem
  • Produced some testing updates for the stable 2.0 branch of blogtk
  • Fixed a missing icon problem in the nautilus-open-terminal package
  • Packaged and issued push requests for the new package python-babel-BabelGladeExtractor
  • Went over my pending package reviews and pushed each one forward in some way

Some of these things had been on my “to-do” list for a few weeks, but I didn’t have time for them during busy workdays. Since my evenings and weekends have been pretty full this was a great opportunity to scratch some of these things off my list.

I also got to work more on my PulseCaster project, although I haven’t yet made the sweeping interface changes that I’d like for the next version. I also bought the pulsecaster.org domain for it, in the hopes that will spur me to work even more on it over the next few months. I fixed a couple workflow issues in the interface and was able to remove a little code with some “create on demand” dialogs rather than putting them in the Glade file.

I’m still hung up on needing some additional and more complicated Python pieces, like querying the volume level of a source or sink so I can introduce a VU-meter like control as part of the interface changes. But in the meantime, I’ve started to get much better and faster at implementing ideas in PyGTK. I’m not sure my coding style is as good as it should be, but my understanding of concepts has gotten fairly good, so I can translate PyGTK API docs into the ability to do something. I gave a couple conference speeches over the past year on PyGTK that I hoped would give other people in similar shoes — people who can write scripts but aren’t familiar with GUI programming — a primer that allows them to “cross the bridge” into exciting new territory.

Lest my family oriented friends think I’ve been shirking my domestic obligations, or failing to use my PTO to rest and rejuvenate, I also did a lot of relaxing personal and family things over the last few days. Some of these things were responsibilities even if they were fun, or a nice change from work or geeky stuff. The funny thing is, most days since I went on PTO I’ve been getting up at about 7:00 or 7:30am so as not to waste the whole morning. For me that’s at least somewhat a luxury, since I normally get up at 6:00am for work. Here’s some of the things that extra time allowed me to get done, even if I threw in an hour or two of work on geek stuff each day:

  • Attended piano recitals for both my kids
  • Went to the elementary school chorus performance for my daughter and the super-fun singalong that followed
  • Volunteered at the school library by shelving books with my wife
  • Handled the remainder of the Christmas shopping
  • Did some “Santa errands” like going to the skate rink to get some sweet, fast bearings installed on one of my daughter’s Christmas presents (new quad skates)
  • Went grocery shopping so my wife could be at the school to help as a classroom volunteer
  • Had a new door to our deck installed — a more energy efficient slider with low-E glass and integral blinds (OK, this mostly consisted of checking progress and signing paperwork)
  • Played some games with my kids

I also got to do some completely selfish leisure stuff, like trying the new Sam Adams Infinium (I give it a 90 on the beverage scale), playing our new piano and some guitar, and hanging out with our dog Dixie — the world’s greatest pound puppy!

Speaking of pound puppies, a quick step up onto the soapbox here: If you are looking for a pet this holiday season, or whenever, please adopt one from a local shelter. I’ll write more about this in another post later, but I wanted to throw that plug in here in case you’re one of the numerous people who might get a pet during or after the holidays.

We did a little share of unhappiness thrown into vacation, though. First, my ’00 Accord ended up needing a new transmission, which is going to be rather expensive. However, we’re very fortunate to be able to handle it without any real financial discomfort. Not everyone these days is as lucky, so I try not to take that for granted. My brilliant and dedicated colleagues and coworkers at Red Hat have made that sort of security possible, and I’m very thankful for all their hard work! This vacation time in part allows me to hit the ground running in 2011, so I can continue to do likewise by them. 🙂

The other disappointment is that my mom took ill yesterday, and is feeling really crummy today. That means she and her hubby won’t be coming to Christmas Eve dinner this year as they usually do. Eleya has put together a really scrumptious menu for us, and certainly we’ll still enjoy it, but it’s too bad it’ll just be us, with no company to share it with. But then again, we’re really fortunate to have each other and a bountiful meal to celebrate the holiday — and tomorrow we get to visit my sister where we’ll see the rest of the family.

Anyway, that’s a big update on all my doings of late. Wherever you are, and however you choose to celebrate the season, I hope you have a fantastic time and that you get to spend it with friends and loved ones.

Wishing I were more of a foodie.

I thought it would be nice just to talk about some delightful things we consumed over the holidays. Most of them were made by my wife because I suck at kitchen management. I just stay out of her way, or if she needs help, she’s learned to give me exact orders and I just obey. I do get credit for taking care of the Thanksgiving Day turkey — my one skill is in cooking large quantities of dead animal flesh, so as long as I take care of that part, she’s happy doing the rest. And then I clean the dishes.

Eleya made a wonderful rack of lamb, roasted with peppercorns, for Christmas Eve dinner. For some reason our oven ran strangely and forced her to serve the lamb a bit at a time, moving in form the edges as they reached the perfect stage of rare to medium rare that good lamb demands. All ended well and people were happy to come back for seconds (or thirds). She also made some fantastic green beans sauteed with shallots and vermouth, and the best garlic mashed potatoes I think I’ve ever had. Ever. Did I mention I made the salad? Yeah baby, stand back.

We had a really tasty champagne for New Year’s Eve, a de Margerie Grand Cru Brut. I think I might slightly prefer the Montaudon Classe ‘M’ that we had last year, but the de Margerie was quite good. It was very crisp with some apple notes, and probably lots of other stuff a better wine or champagne taster would be able to pinpoint.

We’d also decided, since we were spending NYE at home, to enjoy grown-up food after the kids were in bed. We ate sparingly at dinner so we could enjoy a nice basket of treats that were sent by an out-of-town friend — gourmet crackers, cheese, salami, mustard, and some nice chocolates. I think next year I may go out and hand-select these sorts of treats and pair them with the champagne we choose to ring in 2010, because it was really lovely.

Today she made some crystallized ginger which I’m really looking forward to trying when it’s fully done. It’s currently drying, after which it will be coated lightly with confectioner’s sugar. If you haven’t tried crystallized ginger, it’s wonderful — sweet and tangy but with a nice touch of spicy hotness. Despite what you might expect from the spicy heat, ginger is also quite exceptional for curing an acid stomach or heartburn — no kidding! Try it next time you have a sour tummy; you can find it at most grocers.

I also watched too many episodes of Iron Chef with my daughter on our one “couch potato” day. Her favorite subjects are science and cooking (go figure). I saw some really amazing ways to prepare buffalo and venison, and thankfully none of them involved ice cream.

And about that turkey…

Since I’m in the mood for tip-giving… I hope everyone in the US had a wonderful Thanksgiving however you chose to celebrate it. We had my mom and stepdad over for a nice family dinner with all the requisites, including a lot of home-made goodies from my wonderful wife (fresh biscuits from scratch, sweet potato casserole, etc.) and several scrumptious pies.

The turkey, which was my job, turned out great. I use Alton Brown’s recipe for brining (as I do every year), doubling it for the 20-pound turkey (fresh, no additives!) we cook. It’s basically a solution of OJ, kosher salt, bay leaves, peppercorns, and broth used to help the meat absorb moisture and break down some of the tougher protein chains. I also add about 1/2 cup of minced garlic for extra zing. The turkey soaks overnight in a freshly cleaned 5 gallon bucket with enough ice to keep it well below 40 F.

Around lunchtime — or midday since I usually skip lunch on Thanksgiving as if that will make up for dinner — I take it out, pat it dry, rub the whole birrd down with canola oil, and put it into a preheated oven at 500 F for about 30 minutes. (At that temperature the oil sometimes generates a wee bit of smoke so it’s good to keep the windows open.) Then I take the bird out, cover the breast with a big heavy tinfoil triangle, put in a meat thermometer, and pop it back in at 325-350 F for a few hours. For a 20-pound bird, another 3 hours 15 minutes was perfect. For a 15-pound bird, usually 2:15-2:30 will suffice.

Always check the temperature at the thickest part of the breast and the thigh — 161 F in the breast and about 180 F in the thigh means everything’s just about perfect. I cover the whole thing with heavy tinfoil after it comes out and let it sit for about 20-25 minutes to finish the carry-over cooking, and then it’s carving time.

We served it with a nice Chilean pinot noir which goes very well with poultry. Yummy!

And as I said at dinner during the toast, I have much to appreciate and for which to be grateful this year. An overwhelmingly favorable change of jobs, a wonderful wife and two great kids who support me through it all, and my mom’s steady return to health… all good things. To all my Fedora friends, regardless of whether you celebrated this particular holiday, I hope you and your families will continue to have much to be thankful for in the coming year, too.

The good, the bad, and the style-challenged.

My life this week could be summed up with plusses and minuses. For instance, I just got back from Seattle, where:

+ Everything was lush and green because they ACTUALLY HAVE RAIN in Seattle
– There was a pretty boring conference I had to sit through
+ There was wifi at the conference this year
– The wifi was spotty and mostly sucked
+ Discovered a great porter from Okocim
– Found out that Okocim Porter has been discontinued

I did manage to fit in a little Fedora work around the boredom and the barhopping, including fixing some Installation Guide problems and enjoying the awesomeness that will soon be F8. I also had some great sushi and sake at Yama, and a pleasant flight home since the center seat in my row was empty.

Today I took a day off work to recover from the fun of travel and cram in some last-minute rehearsal before our gig tonight at IOTA with Shwa. There’s supposed to be a huge crowd out tonight, which always makes for great energy when performing. I even bought some new shoes to cut down on my dork factor… unfortunately, they’re identical to the ones our guitarist has since they didn’t have the color I liked better in my size. If I wear something crazy on my head, or give myself an enormous oozing gash there, probably no one will notice. Now where did I put that cutlery?

The not-so-brief rundown.

I realized on Friday night, after I made it to rehearsal, just how mentally exhausting this month has been. My wandering attention made it very difficult to focus on everything going on, meaning I was constantly feeling overwhelmed, and was not getting out in front of my tasks as I prefer to do. On the other hand, it was great exercise for my “working under pressure” muscles, and things worked out.

After recovering from an illness that came down on me like a ton of bricks last Saturday night, I finally got back to the office on Tuesday. Sinus illness tends to hit me hard, probably because mine aren’t in great shape on the best of days to begin with. The congestion headache made it difficult to do any Fedora work, so I gave up for the most part and got a little reading done.

On Tuesday evening I also did a spot for the virtual FUDCon (notes here) and plowed through some email. I believe I did some Docs publishing work and helped out one of our legion of awesome translators who is working on a revamped guide for their contributors.

On Thursday night the guys from the office came over for wings ‘n’ beer. We’d been making an occasional habit of going out on Thursday nights — since several of the other guys are off on Fridays — to a local happy hour, but the service at our usual haunt has been increasingly unsatisfactory despite our really good tipping proclivities. (I could rant about that for a while, but it’s likely not worth it.) So I bought a sampling of really good beers and cooked up some chicken wings. There was a slight smoky mishap involving my ill-advised use of cooking spray — I thought it would make the wings easier to retrieve after baking, since I don’t do deep-frying — but otherwise, yummy!

Friday after work I headed up to a “night-before” rehearsal at Rich’s and as I got there, I felt like everything from the past month had just crashed down on me. My mood was not really conducive to music-making but I resolved to put my all into playing that night, and putting away my fake sheets. That turned out to be the right decision, and the tensions of the month evaporated as we built up some really solid arrangements for Laura’s songs. By the end of the night, I felt that everything was OK and that we’d be in for a good gig.

On Saturday I did a whirlwind shopping tour to pick up some autumn casual and gig-worthy clothes. It’s tough finding good vintage/thrift stuff when you’re a big fat guy like me, so I had to content myself with some new stuff I found that at least obscured the sight line to my inevitably nearing Four-Oh. Thanks to the asinine level of traffic on the roads in the northern Virginia and DC area, Eleya got home with the kids from an appointment with only about an hour overlap before I had to hit the road for our premiere gig.

The gig actually went swimmingly well. There were some various “clams” and other assorted seafood idioms thrown into a few songs — substantially aided and abetted by the worst on-stage monitor mix I’d ever had at that particular venue. The vast majority of the show, however, went well, and we had an inordinate amount of fun on stage. The packed audience truly felt that, and responded in kind with uncharacteristically boisterous applause, even in the middle of songs. I find that DC area audiences tend to be a little jaded, but not so last night — the audience was clearly enjoying hearing Laura backed by a full band, and didn’t mind telling us so.

To all of you who showed up and gave us some love and appreciation either through applause or your kind and generous comments afterward, thank you, thank you, thank you! You guys truly made it a great night, and we promise it will only get better from here on out.

Rice rockets.

Saké.

As part of my saké/soju sojourn, I did a little light readin on ur interwebz about different grades and methodologies regarding saké. Enough, apparently, that I now feel it appropriate to pretentiously use the “é” character in the word saké — hey, at least I’m not saying “é??.”

So it turns out there are only a few American saké makers, and only one American-owned, SakeOne. Frankly I couldn’t care less who owns the place, as long as the output is palatable. The point being, SakeOne has a label called “Momokawa” which is made from the yeast, and in the style, of Momokawa Japan. It’s fairly well-respected and, I found out, also distributed via Total Wine as “Mura Mura.”

Today I picked up a variety of the Mura Mura varieties of saké and a bottle of the somewhat less prestigious “everyday” Gekkeikan. (I imagine this is to saké what Sam Adams is to beer — decent but still, essentially, mass produced.) I’m sipping a little of the nigori genshu “Mountain” label — which is really Momokawa Pearl — a cloudy, unfiltered variety which is quite sweet and tropical-tasting. I’m having it a bit below room temperature, which I think lets the flavor out exceptionally well. (I found out that premium saké is not warmed, but rather served at room temperature or below, while more run-of-the-mill varieties like Gekkeikan are perfectly enjoyable warm.) I have a feeling Mura Mura Mountain would go great with a curry dish or Thai food. I also picked up some of the dryer “Canyon” and “River” to try later.

I swear that this has nothing to do with kōji other than in a purely literal fashion. However, the timing is fairly appropriate, don’t you think?

DVD round-up.

Last night Eleya and I watched Robert DeNiro’s latest directorial outing, The Good Shepherd. Eric Roth has turned in a simply superb screenplay, with all the crackle of a good thriller, but without the added dash of cliché, plodding dialogue, or overwrought metaphor. And DeNiro is definitely showing signs of becoming a truly great director — deft, unpretentious, and performance-enhancing camera work show that he is following in the footsteps of masters like John Ford and Clint Eastwood. (Working with virtuoso cinematographer and frequent Oliver Stone collaborator Robert Richardson didn’t hurt, either.) I appreciated that the film didn’t belabor a particular political point of view, but rather showed the personal cost of the secrets borne by people whose lives are steeped in intelligence service work. At about 2:45 it’s a bit long for an evening’s viewing when you don’t get to sit down with your sweetie until after 9:00, but well worth the time.

Some other (un)mentionables from our recent month of Netflix rentals:

  • The Fountain — We actually bought this and I had forgotten it was in our queue until it turned up the day after Eleya came home with the DVD. Since our copy was still in its wrapper, I figured we could preview it on Netflix and return the bought copy if we didn’t think it was worth owning. Turns out it would have been worth buying two copies — this was an amazing tale, thrice told, about the price of trying to make true love last forever, an intelligent tearjerker by enfant terrible Darren Aronofsky. Highly recommended.
  • Hair — This may be a Milos Forman film, and I generally like his work, but this was, hands-down, the worst screen musical I’ve ever seen. In fact, I think it’s just as easily the worst musical ever, in any medium. Virtually tuneless musical numbers, asinine lyrics, and ham-handed attempts at issue politics made this virtually unwatchable. My wife’s summation of the last 20 mintues was the only melodious aspect of this horrible celluloid mistake. Avoid at all costs.
  • Jules et Jim — I thought this was quite excellent; admittedly I’m not much of an aficionado of the French New Wave, but it’s easy to see why this is one of François Truffaut’s most popular films. Filled with whimsy and pathos in equal parts, it’s worth seeing if only for sheer visual audacity. With freeze frames, inventive aperture use, and other tricks later appropriated by Hollywood, Truffaut makes magic out of moments that would be simply a good yarn in lesser hands. Truffaut once said (I’m paraphrasing wildly) that every camera movement is a judgment pronounced on the characters, and you can definitely see that ethic at work in this movie. On the other hand, my wife said, “Feel free to watch future French films by yourself.” So maybe it’s not for everyone. Recommended.

Projects.

I started working on a little PyGTK project a while back to teach myself some more modern programming skills, and the results aren’t too bad, if a little simplistic to be considered alongside the luminaries working in the Fedora community. It’s just a small notification-area applet to allow you to twitter from your GNOME desktop, nothing to shout or call home about. Fortunately I ignored the outside world (as far as this mini-project goes) while working on it, because in the months since I started several other, probably much better, works have popped up. Someone’s done a full implementation of the Twitter API in Python, and there’s at least one GUI client available already too — although that one is in Mono, to which I say, “blecch.” Anyhow, if I ever get this thing to a state where I’m not embarrassed by it, say 2018, I might try to get it into the FPC.