In re: Google Autocomplete Redefines U.S. Map

“What happens if you let the notoriously fickle and sometimes downright dirty Google search autocomplete feature take over U.S. geography? A completely new State of the Union heavy on universities, history and other peculiarities, thats what.” via Google Autocomplete Redefines U.S. Map.

See the map and what happens when you let autocomplete fill in for each state in the US, kinda interesting at the link above to Gizmodo.

In re: Vermouth?

Vermouth’s commercial origins date to 1786, when Antonio Benedetto Carpano began marketing the aromatized wine he produced in Turin, but the consumption of vermouth and its precursors stretches back centuries. Typically made from neutral-character dry white wines that have been flavored with herbs, roots and barks – typically including cardamom, cinnamon, marjoram and chamomile – and then fortified with a neutral grape spirit, vermouth is classically made – and named – for another botanical: wormwood (the plant’s name in Old High German is Wermud). ‘The Truth About Vermouth’ (below)

Vermouth is kinda an afterthought in the world of drinks – at least I thought it was.  Even as I got back into drinking Manhattans a drink that features as a large amount of the drink the sweet variety of vermouth I still hadn’t given it its due.  Hell, I didn’t even really know too much about it and how it was made.  I knew it was a fortified wine of some sort (wine spiked with alcohol) but that was it.  As I became more interested in improving my Manhattans I learned a few very interesting things, including that my multi-year old bottle sitting on the shelf was not good.  It’s not that affordable vermouth isn’t good and there are many affordable brands, all with their own tastes due to a variety of added herbs/spices as well as grapes, but I learned it goes bad and isn’t shelf stable the way liquor is.

So I set out to get some fresh stuff (currently using Boissiere – although I am interested in trying some of the more exotic ones now) but the big thing is that I now keep it in the fridge.  Thats right, in the fridge, I myself was dubious at first but after reading taste test after taste test it became clear that vermouth oxidizes and starts to go bad, pretty quickly on the shelf.  In the fridge you can get 6 months out of sweet (less for dry) and thats still shorter than the stuff I had been using a while back.

Now theres still more to making a Manhattan the just the vermouth, but having improved my work on that one front alone my Manhattans are quite nice (usually made with Maker’s Mark bourbon – although I am interested in dabbling in rye at some point).  Still not up to the standards of the Velvet Tango Room in Cleveland that has probably the best one I have had (they use their own bitters and a wine reduction instead of the vermouth as well as having a nice cherry that isn’t a Maraschino).

Makers's Mark, boissiere vermouth, bitters, and a wine soaked sour cherry on the rocks

For what I thought was a great article on Vermouth see “The Truth About Vermouth” at SFGate — hey that rhymes!

In re: Funny signs

The Telegraph is one of the newspapers that I regularly read (although admittedly mostly for football stories) one of my favorite sections is called “Sign Language” and consists of funny signs from the UK and around the world…one such example below.

sign-dog_tele

City of London Speak to the Dogs

In re: Audiophile review of Playstation 1

“A year ago, when I heard that some audiophiles were using Sony’s original PlayStation 1 as a CD player—my friend Michael Lavorgna, who writes for 6moons.com, was the first to cross my attention—I was more than a little confused. Sure, I’d heard of the Sony PlayStation, just as I’ve heard of the Game Boy and Nintendo (and Starbucks, and American Idol, and Anderson Cooper). But which is which? What do they look like? How do they work? I don’t know, I don’t know, I don’t know” via  Stereophile 

Came across this fairly recent review of the Playstation one, the now dated video game machine.  What made the review interesting is that they don’t plug the playstation into their TV, instead the audiophile in question is hooking up the PS1 as a CD player to high grade audio equipment and using his audiophile grade ears to examine the results.  Why would anyone want to use what is now obtainable for $15 on ebay as audiophile grade equipment?  Well according to the results: ” the PS1’s midrange was remarkably clean, present, and tactile. On Tony Williamson’s “Boatman,” from Still Light of the Evening (CD, Mapleshade 08952), the guitar fills and G-runs were notably more audible, more nuanced, and more impactful through the PS1 than through Sony’s own SCD-777ES SACD/CD player. Amazing.”  

So the moral of the story?  Well among other things its is certain audiophiles are strange creatures and that while for half of us, knowing that something is labeled newer, better, etc we assume it is, who knows maybe LPs do sound better…

In re: Irving – the secret ingredient in Vienna hot dogs?

This past week on This American Life (one of my favorite things of the week is listening to this) had a unique show: 20 Acts in 60 Minutes

Instead of the regular “each week we choose a theme, and bring you three or four stories on that theme” business, this week we throw all that away and bring you twenty stories—yes, twenty—in sixty minutes. Inspiration for this week’s show came from the Neo-Futurists, whose long-running Chicago show Too Much Light Makes the Baby Go Blind promises 30 Plays in 60 Minutes every single weekend.

Act 14: 

 One of the very short pieces this week was about the Vienna Sausage factory in Chicago that moved from its old cobbled together factory in the 1970s to the northside of Chicago.  The original factory in the South was put together over 70 years buying up more of a block and wasn’t the model of efficient design.  After the move the hot dogs weren’t as good, despite the most state of the art equipment, using the same ingredients, etc.  Everything had been accounted for yet for a year and a half they couldn’t figure out why they didn’t taste right and didn’t have the right color.  

The reason, which they only figured out  while chatting about the old days, was Irving who didn’t make the move to the new plant, but who had wheeled the hot dogs from the manufacutring room to the smoke house.  The thing was that this took a while and served as a cooling period because it took 30 minutes to do the walk through the twisting factory.  There was no Irving at the new plant – there was no need – and it was Irving’s trip was the secret ingredient.  So they built a new room to leave them in and cool and that new addition was to recreate teh effect of Irvings walk.

The point of the story?  well obviously one could take several things from it, but the point TAL makes is that even when they thought they were doing everything right while building the new factory, sometimes we don’t know why we are successful in the first place.

via This American Life .

In re: Good bye WOW, Hello TWC and DVR Expander Fun

So if you read the title you probably don’t have a clue what I am talking about here.  Two things, one is I recently changed my cable provider from Wide Open West (WOW) the budget competitor to Time Warner here in Columbus (and other Midwest cities) back to Time Warner Cable (TWC), who despite having had past problems with I decided to go back to due to their better HD lineup (and especially having two HD Olympic channels).  WOW has two tiers of HD and in order to get channels like the Nat’l Geo HD, Discovery Theatre HD and FoodTV HD you pay extra (including for HDNet)  TWC also has the higher tier but it is only for the HDNet type channels which have more of a ‘premium’ feel to them rather than Nat’l Geo which is in their base pack (also Espn2 HD is included which WOW still doesn’t have despite having told me a year ago it was coming ‘soon’).  Anyway, HD is pretty much the only issue I was thinking about, oh and the ability to have a DVR, TWC uses the same POS DVR the Scientific Atlanta 8300HD DVR (some of the major flaws have been upgraded over time) but they use different software (more on this later).

Okay, going to get a bit more technical now so time to turn away for the uninitiated (if you want to understand DVR expansion via external hard drives a simple article in USA Today may help).  One of the reasons the SA 8300HD doesn’t suck is that it has an esata expansion slot that is active on most cable companies implementations these days that allows an external hard drive to expand the meager 160gb (funny that 160gb sounds tiny today…) anyway, when your recording HD you eat through Gigs pretty quickly (20 hours is approx what you’d get).  So I added a 500 gb western digital (My Dvr Expander (pictured)- supposedly optimized for DVR use, some people don’t like the price but it is now available for about the same price as comperable setups).

So I had the external drive setup and working with the Sara software that is running on the SA 8300HD box from WOW, but had read that it would also work with the in house software that Time Warner uses on their boxes these days called Navigator (on a side note, despite the flashy appearance of Navigator, people seem to universally despise the software and many people preferred the Passport software that was previously used by Time Warner (but that they had to pay licensing for).

There are too many reasons this DVR isn’t that great to go into, some of the flaws are the response time is slow (Navigator maybe the slowest software of the three), the features are paltry (Sara for example only can remember the position of the last played program, it is pretty unbelievable that they can’t add a bookmark of where you left off for multiple programs.  If you compare the features of desktop DVR software like SageTV (which I run, but only for basic cable) it is stunning that anyone would use the crap the cable companies push on us.  (Why do you ask don’t I grab a Tivo or a HD Sage box?  Well one thing is due to the crappy nature of Cable Cards and the future of Switched Video the Tivo might not last that long, secondly the cost of a $12 a month plus the cable card rental really adds up, I also would probably be switching to satellite (which Tivo doesn’t support) if I end up living somewhere I can fit a dish so I can get more HDs and more importantly more soccer channels.

Okay, so back to installing the external sata drive with my new TWC SA 8300HD box, like the instructions said, I powered down my DVR, unplugged got the HD connected and let it fly.  Great news, just like I had read on the many forums the Navigator software recognized the drive, but it didn’t ask to format it.  Uh-oh!

The problem seemed to be that my previous Sara SA 8300HD had formatted the drive such that my new DVR didn’t feel the need to format it, but also wouldn’t actually use the drive and so my storage filled up real quick.  I hit the internet pretty hard, searching for ways to reformat the external drive but came up empty, as the Navigator software doesn’t use all of the commands to reformat and reboot that the other software versions (Sara and Passport) do.  I tried all the various resets I could perform, soft reboots, hard reboots, unplugging the drive while running, but no luck.  I tried using my old box to reformat the drive but without a cable connection the old SA 8300HD wouldn’t allow all the reformat commands.

As of today my external hard drive is now working.  How you ask?  Well, some of it was luck, but through all the unplugging, attempting to reformat on the other machine and some hot pluging and disconnecting I think I corrupted the disk enough that my DVR decided it needed to reformat it.  Two minutes later it was done and my remaining space showed that I was now only using 10%.  So despite the flaws of the TWC software and the guide having very little information there are somethings it has that my previous doesn’t, it seems to remember the location of each show you watch.  So at this point, I can’t complain as I can fill my drive to my hearts content with Olympics coverage in HD.

In re: “This is just to say”

This Is Just To Say

I have eaten
the plums
that were in
the icebox

and which
you were probably
saving
for breakfast.

Forgive me
they were delicious
so sweet
and so cold.

— William Carlos Williams

‘This is just to say’ is a famous poem by William Carlos Williams that you may have come across in an englishclass long ago, I hadn’t heard it in a long time, although I was reminded recently why it is such a phenomenal poem by a great 6 minute segment on This American Life. Check out the episode Mistakes Were Made (description below) at thislife.org

“Mistakes Were Made – Act Two. You’re Willing to Sacrifice Our Love.

There’s a famous William Carlos Williams poem called “This is Just to Say”. It’s about, among other things, causing a loved one inconvenience and offering a non-apologizing apology. It’s only three lines long, you’ve probably read it…the one about eating the plums in the icebox. Marketplace reporter (and published poet) Sean Cole explains that this is possibly the most spoofed poem around. We asked some of our regular contributors to get into the act. Sarah Vowell, David Rakoff, Starlee Kine, Jonathan Goldstein, Shalom Auslander and Heather O’Neill, all came upwith their own variations of Williams’s classic lines. (6 minutes)”