Day Break Mill: Searching for Red Fife Wheat…

Day Break Mill

Day Break Mill

I’ve been searching online for places to buy Red Fife flour and my search lead me to the page of Day Break Mill.  I immediately hit the “contact us” button so that I could determine where they were.  While I get the picture: it’s in Saskatchewan, still.. did someone think this was a good configuration for the google widget?

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SlowCooker: Pulled Pork: Sauce Made of Sauces.

Pulled Pork Almost Done

Pulled Pork Almost Done

I was leafing through recipe ideas the other day and came across Pulled Pork for the SlowCooker.  The slowcooker is great for soups and stews and I always enjoy finding another recipe for it.  Pulled pork is traditionally a southern barbeque dish where an otherwise tough cut of pork is slowly cooked in various juices until tender and then ripped apart or “pulled.”

In our case, we had a pork loin (not normally a candidate) that was moderately freezer burnt (perfect).  The long cooking and hydration of the sauce compensated perfectly for the freezer burn.

This probably isn’t the cheapest way to make pulled pork.  It is a sauce of sauces — also difficult to dissect or modify.  I ended up here with too much liquid … probably due to adding more V8 to cover the meat.  I probably should have cut up the meat and stuffed it in tighter.  I’m also using our smaller SlowCooker here in an attempt to cover the meat more easily and with less sauce.

Even with those caveats, the result was tasty.  I added two tablespoons of flour to the pot after one dinner to stiffen it up — which appears to have worked.

SlowCooker: Pulled Pork: Sauce Made of Sauces.
Servings Prep Time
4 people 15 minutes
Cook Time
7 hours
Servings Prep Time
4 people 15 minutes
Cook Time
7 hours
SlowCooker: Pulled Pork: Sauce Made of Sauces.
Servings Prep Time
4 people 15 minutes
Cook Time
7 hours
Servings Prep Time
4 people 15 minutes
Cook Time
7 hours
Ingredients
Servings: people
Instructions
  1. Dump everything in your slow cooker and switch it on low. It's probably a good thing to make sure the pork is covered with liquid. Do something else for 7 hours. Or sit an stare at it (your choice).
  2. Pull pork apart using two forks and a tearing motion.
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Truthiness: of Rights and Wrongs

Truthiness feels good

Truthiness feels good!

Truthiness.  I love this word.  It encapsulates all that is wrong with the American Religious Right.  I’ve been thinking around how to talk about this scourge and received insight from a common (for me) source: The Economist has a book review of “The Battle for Yellowstone” by Justin Farrell. The essence of this book, according to the review (I really need to read the book), is to talk about the problems with politics in America without actually talking about politics in America.

It is absolutely true that the best ways to talk about a difficult topic is by talking about something else entirely.  I’m not just talking about avoidance (a viable strategy — a head in the sand is worth two in the bush), but about the substitution inherent in most good fiction and especially science fiction.

The book, according to the economist, discusses how each group in the variety of disputes surrounding Yellowstone frame their argument as truth against falsehoods while they are really arguing moral right versus moral wrong.  The Wikipedia article on Truthiness echos this point where Colbert (widely considered to have coined the term in common usage) discusses the way each faction desires to bring it’s own facts to the political debate, rather than all factions arguing the correct action against an accepted set of facts.

I had actually chosen the word Truthiness before I had read the Colbert quotes and cogitated on how they meshed with the theme.  I’ve been cogitating for some time on the inappropriateness of Truthiness.  I see the problems: that things have become complex enough; so far beyond most people’s education and experience that they are easily duped by those who would manipulate their views.  The problem is not that some people will attempt to manipulate other people — that will always be true.  The problem is that so few people in society as a whole have any quality of horsehockey filter.

The stated goal of public education is to prepare each child for the life of a citizen.  In generally avoiding classes in civics, they have failed this task. The Huffington Post has a good primer on the subject of public school policy.

How did we get here, or more pertinently, how do we get out.  For good or for ill, large groups of politicians and voters distrust scientists.  Has the daily barrage of issues become to fierce for saner heads prevailing in investigation and debate?  How did it come that arguing about right and wrong was not enough for some to invent new “facts” so as to be able to argue about what is truth?

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Rack of Lamb: Moroccan Spice

Moroccan Rack of Lamb on Plate

Moroccan Rack of Lamb on Plate

A little cooking diversion: A Moroccan Spiced Rack of Lamb.  I have some more stand-mixer baking to do, but my most recent attempt was lack-luster.  More about that when I get it right.  This article is about our new year’s eve meal.  I wanted to do something fairly special withtout being too expensive.  As these “french cut” rack-of-lambs were on special, they fit the bill.

A stock attempt at lamb … rosemary, maybe some dill, olive oil … it seemed below these wonderful cuts.  I spent some time talking with my sister about this and she google-texted me a recipe from somewhere — I can’t exactly tell, but it sounded wonderful.  However, it was new years eve and it wanted pomegranate juice.  I don’t keep that around.  Looking at the recipe, I decided that the juice was used for it’s sweetness.  I decided to substitute “Waterloo Dark” … which is a Canadian beer with a sweet almost candy-like taste.  I also had some “Mad Tom IPA” that I’ve been trying to find recipes to get rid of it in — but it has a decidedly bitter finish, so I expected it wouldn’t be appropriate here.  While I don’t like Mad Tom, Muskoka Cream Ale is the definitive Cream Ale for me.

The recipe also called for a shallot.  I used a regular yellow onion … although in hindsight, I could have used a smaller one or half of one.  Depends on how you like onion.  I diced the onion the Ramsey way… go look that up … he’s an excellent teacher when he isn’t ranting and raving at someone.  This recipe also reflects the garlic I used.  We love garlic here … might not be to other’s taste.

The sides here were simple steamed fresh broccoli and a baked potato.  We do the potatoes in the microwave first and then put them in the oven.  The rack of lamb only requires 30 minutes in the oven … and this is not nearly enough time for a good baked potato.

Rack of Lamb: Moroccan Spice
Here we add a heavy covering of Moroccan spices to a rack of lamb, which is then baked. Strong meat, strong spices. Very Pungent.
Servings Prep Time
2 large racks of lamb 30 minutes
Cook Time
30 minutes
Servings Prep Time
2 large racks of lamb 30 minutes
Cook Time
30 minutes
Rack of Lamb: Moroccan Spice
Here we add a heavy covering of Moroccan spices to a rack of lamb, which is then baked. Strong meat, strong spices. Very Pungent.
Servings Prep Time
2 large racks of lamb 30 minutes
Cook Time
30 minutes
Servings Prep Time
2 large racks of lamb 30 minutes
Cook Time
30 minutes
Ingredients
The Sauce
The Moroccan Spice
The Meat
Servings: large racks of lamb
Instructions
Start the Sauce
  1. Start the sauce by combining the beer, chicken broth, onion and garlic in a small saucepan.
    The Sauce in the Sauce Pan
  2. Reduce the sauce on medium high heat for about 20 minutes. You want to end up with 1/2 to 3/4 cup of sauce.
Making the Moroccan Spice
  1. Preaheat your oven to 425F.
  2. Toast the cumin seads, carroway seeds and cinnamon in a small frypan on medium heat. You may or may not have the seads and sticks. You can't fry the spice powder (well... of course you can, but the result is not good). If you just have the powdered spices, skip this.
  3. Put seeds (if you have them) and sticks (if you have them) into a spice or coffee grinder. Zap them a bunch to make spice powder. See... you just made toasted spice powder. Go you.
    Coffee-Grind Spices
  4. Combine all the spices in a bowl and mix.
    Moroccan Spice Bowl
The Meat: Rack of Lamb
  1. Get out a shallow oven tray. You're going to coat the lamb with olive oil and then spices, so sides on the tray will help (at bit) keeping the oven clean. Then again, maybe you like the heady aroma when you fire up the self-cleaning oven. Just make sure you're doing that at non-peak power times.
  2. So... yeah... too much commentary in that note. Coat the lamb with olive oil (makes spices stick) and season with salt and pepper.
  3. shake and sprinkle spices onto the lamb. I ended up with quite a bit extra. Put it in a baggy for something else. Labelled "Moroccan Spice" for lack of anything I'll actually remember. Pretty much my mother's influence here: can't throw away anything good. I'm still eating the last batch of bread that we're not talking about --- it's way too thick and dry (even stalled the stand-mixer), but I can't bring myself to throw it out.
    Roast Moroccan Rack of Lamb
  4. Notes here say to roast the lamb until the interior is 135F. We took a chance and just did it for 30 minutes.
    Perfect Lamb
Finish the Sauce
  1. Bring the sauce back to a simmer if you turned it off at some point. Melt in the butter. Add more butter if you like (I did). This is basically a sweet-butter-beer sauce. What a nice bunch of words to string together sweet-butter-beer sauce.
  2. Spoon the sauce over the Racks of Lamb.
    Moroccan Rack of Lamb on Plate
Recipe Notes

The notes on the source recipe say to get a "french" cut of lamb.  This is simply removing the fat from the bones so they are bare at the one end (see the pictures in the oven above).  We like or lamb and had a whole rack each.  I didn't separate the roast into chops, but that seems to be one recommendation.  Might also make the lamb go further to more people.

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Stand-Mixer #2 White Bread

Stand-Mixer White Bread

Stand-Mixer White Bread

Since the stand-mixer cheese biscuits were such an unqualified success, we managed to pick up some yeast to facilitate some bread making.  First up is some “plain old” white bread.  Besides the fact that I am actually white, ango-saxon and (somewhat) protestant (depending on who you ask), I really enjoy fresh white bread.  It’s like sugar or a good light beer; melt butter on hot fresh white bread and it’s an experience.

Right after I removed the bread from the oven, I cut off the crust, buttered it and cut it in half to share with my wife.  In part, this cements the usefulness of the stand-mixer in the kitchen; and it part it also cements it useful that I use it to make yummy things.  The crust on a freshly hot loaf is crunchy and wonderful.  You should try it when you make it!

I must say that my first effort exposes my greenness. When I was younger, my family baked bread for sale by the side of the road as one of our more successful creative ventures.  We sold bread and pies (along with some other baked goods) to cottagers traveling from the city to (relatively) nearby lake-front cottages.  My mothers bread making quickly well known among those that traveled the route.

This was not our only foray into fresh baked bread.  It is cheaper by a fair margin to bake bread than to buy it.  I’m not clear on why this is — but the economics were consistent.  As kids, my sisters and I often boarded the school bus with oven fresh pizzas cooling in paper bags (this would occur when bread was not made the previous day and this was a creative way for our mother to provide us with a nutritious (if jealousy inducing) lunch.  I suppose we’re not shy because we know how to defend our lunches?  To be fair, I wouldn’t have wished it any other way.

I will say here that I only put a total of 5 cups of white flour into the bowl … and it seems the result is a bit fragile — it could use more structural integrity.

Stand-Mixer White Bread
Servings Prep Time
2 Loaves 30 minutes
Cook Time Passive Time
30 minutes 2 hours rising
Servings Prep Time
2 Loaves 30 minutes
Cook Time Passive Time
30 minutes 2 hours rising
Stand-Mixer White Bread
Servings Prep Time
2 Loaves 30 minutes
Cook Time Passive Time
30 minutes 2 hours rising
Servings Prep Time
2 Loaves 30 minutes
Cook Time Passive Time
30 minutes 2 hours rising
Ingredients
Servings: Loaves
Instructions
  1. Heat water in your microwave. If you have a glass measuring cup, you can heat the water in the measuring cup. In my 1200 watt microwave, I used 60 seconds.
  2. While the water is warming, heat the milk, sugar, salt and butter in a small sauce pan. Low is sufficient. You want the butter to melt and the sugar to dissolve.
  3. Pour water into mixer bowl, dissolve yeast into water. This should foam a small amount. If it doesn't your yeast is dead (get new yeast, or give up: your choice).
  4. pour contents of the sauce pan into the mixer bowl. Add 4 1/2 cups flour, attach your dough hook and use speed two. Apparently, for the dough hook, the speed shall be two. Thou shalt not set the speed to three as the correct speed is two. It may be permissible to use speed 1 for a very short time (especially since it is between "off" and "2"), but the correct speed is two. I have not verified if the universe comes apart at the seams, but according to many sources, the speed of the dough hook is two. Use speed two, or give up: your choice. Really.
  5. After about 1 minute, the dough will "start to clean the sides" ... at this point you add more flour, 1/2 cup at a time, until the dough is smooth and elastic. I know this is vague. It should also be "slightly" sticky to the touch (although not "very" sticky, I gather). So... but be clear (and thus, less yoda) I added one of the possible 3 half-cups of flour here. I think should have added two of the three. Too much makes the bread "dry" and "heavy" ... too little makes it light, tasty, gives it the structural integrity of wet paper. Your choice though: it tasted good.
  6. After reaching this magic point of flour content, you need another 2 minutes of kneading with the dough hook. Remember that the speed of the dough hook shall be two. This should be somewhat easy, because if you didn't quit in the last step, the speed should already be two.
  7. Grease a bowl. I think you could use spray stuff here, but here at DaveG, we like butter. Stick your fingers in some butter and rub down a bowl. Get into your cooking like a man. A weird greasy man... but... eh. next?
  8. Lower your bowl from the mixer, extract your dough hook. Remove the dough. You can use the dough to "attract" other dough... kinda like a sticky magnet. Place dough in greased bowl and then flip it over --- facilitating a coating of grease on the top of the dough.
  9. Cover your bowl with plastic wrap. Some people use a wet towel. Towels are for people, silly, but I suppose this is yet another reason to have one around. I prefer to reserve my towel and use plastic wrap. Don't make it too tight. Your bowl needs room for the dough to double in size and some of this can be facilitated by the dough crowning over the bowl (raising the plastic wrap). It's hard to see in this pic, but the dough occupies the bottom of the bowl.
    Stand-Mixer Dough UnRisen
  10. Let it rise for 1 hour. It need to be warm for the yeasty-beasties to be happy. Some say 35 C to 45 C. So uncomfortably warm for humans. Too cool and it will either a) take a long time to rise, or b) fail. One suggestion that worked for me was to turn on your oven for about 1 to 1.5 minutes, then turn off. Leave the oven light on, and put the dough in there to rise. Means you can't be baking anything else, but it's nice and warm. Elsewise? Be creative. Maybe you have Gro-lamps from one of your other projects? I certainly don't.
  11. After your risen dough looks like this next picture, you punch it. It's fun. Really, you punch it. It deflates. It's satisfying.
    The Stand-Mixer Bread has Risen
  12. Grease two baking pans. We used 8 1/2 x 4 1/2 x 2 1/2 inch pans. Strange sizes. Metric doesn't make it better. Since someone randomly decided to buy me some many years ago, I'm going to assume it's common. Again... put your fingers in some butter ... spread it around. It won't threaten your gender identity. Hrm... can I say that? Maybe greasing things with butter is erotic for some people. Hrnh. Do it anyway.
  13. Divide the dough in two. I'm not completely neurotic, but I used a scale. In my case it was about 645g per piece.
  14. Pound the dough flat. Again, rolling pins could have been use to hit the bread, but we have none. You want the dough to be about as wide as the pans you're using... and maybe 1 1/2 times as long. Roll the dough like a carpet and deposit in the pan. Repeat for the other piece.
  15. Cover with plastic wrap again and put somewhere warm to rise. Same as before.
  16. If you used your oven, pull your bread out when it's double the size. Remove the plastic wrap (unless you consider plastic one of the four food groups (Ref: Night Court). If you put your dough to rise somewhere else, you don't need to move it, but I'd still remove the plastic (unless you consider it a food group).
  17. Pre-heat your oven to 400F. Bake bread (or bread and plastic, should you be so inclined) for around 30 minutes. Baked bread sounds hollow when you knock on it is is golden-brown.
  18. Dump bread out of bread-pan onto a cooling rack. Failure to do so makes soggy bread ... so your choice.
    Stand-Mixer White Bread
Recipe Notes

On plastic as a food-group and Night Court:  Night court is worth watching.  Go. The intertubes will still be here when you're finished.  Regardless, at some point, Harry (the judge) has a circus of defendants.  I'm being literal here.  The Geek (as in eats everything rather than Geek as in fixes-your-computer) of the circus eats Harry's gavel.  Harry says, "Why did you eat my gavel."  The Geek replies, "Wood is one of the four food groups."  Harrry double-takes and asks, "And the others are?" To which the Geek replies "Metal, plastic, and the white stuff you find in twinkies."  Really... if you haven't seen it, binge watch it somewhere.

Note that I'm not in any way responsible for what you eat.  You are responsible for what you put in your mouth.  In fact, I'm neither recommending you do or don't eat anything.  I'm on the intertubes, for gosh's sake.  You're pretty much off your rocker if you're listening to anything I say...  But, then, if you do something truly dumb, you might as well make a video to edify others.  Link it up!  I must be amused!

On doubling the recipe: According to the documentation with my large Stand-Mixer, which is the 475W model, it can handle a recipe with 14 cups of flour.  using the lower of the 5-6 cups of flour recomendation, you can make 5 loaves or 12.5 to 14 cups of flour.  Note that this would be 12.5 to 15 cups of flour, but 15 cups is aparently too much for the motor.  The manual also notes that you require the 6 qt bowl (and dough hook) to make a recipe with more than 12 cups of flour, which would limit you to doubling the recipe.

Those of you with large biceps that want to try this by hand (or those of you with a large commercial mixer) can do as you please.  I suppose one of those cement mixers from the rent-all might do a big load.  Or we could graft a much bigger motor onto one of these things.  But in all Tim Taylor tradition, you're responsible for your own actions.  Don't blame me if something literally blows up.  Just make sure you make a video for you-tube for me.  I'm bored.

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Stand-Mixer #1 Cheese Biscuits

Stand-Mixer Made Cheese Biscuits Cooling

Stand-Mixer Made Cheese Biscuits Cooling

I will write a separate article with my thoughts on my Stand-Mixer and Stand-Mixers in general, but right now I’m quite excited to write a few short articles about the wonderful things I’ve made with the Stand-Mixer; the very first of which are Cheese Biscuits.

I got my Stand-Mixer for Christmas and we celebrated Christmas on Christmas Eve (due to scheduling conflicts of the family). This meant I was at home on Christmas Day with my new Stand-Mixer and I had no yeast (why would I have yeast — it’s perishable and I had not here-to-fore been baking). I choose biscuits as my first project because I had all the ingredients (and the stores were most definitely closed).

Cheese Buscuits with Sausage Provincial

Cheese Buscuits with Sausage Provincial

In fact, you’ll note that the biscuits are distinctly star-shaped. This is due to the only “biscuit cutter” that I had on hand was a star-shaped cookie cutter; but it worked. These biscuits are pretty hard to resist. Just between my wife and I, six-odd were gone before dinner. We ate this with a 3rd revision of a provincial dish that started with chicken, but had added sausage by this incarnation. Sopping up gravy with cheese biscuits is divine. I’m not going to discuss the provincial dish here — it was a slow cooker experiment that wasn’t right at first, but the 3rd incarnation of leftovers was the charm — so pretty much unrepeatable. Also surprising to me is that the biscuits have survived several days in a plastic bag — they’re still better heated up or lightly toasted in the toaster-oven, but good nonetheless.

 

Stand-Mixer Cheese Biscuits
These are basic baking powder biscuits to be made with your Stand-Mixer. With my cookie cutter, this made about 20 biscuits, but biscuit size will determine the yield.
Servings Prep Time
20 biscuits 20 minutes
Cook Time
15 minutes
Servings Prep Time
20 biscuits 20 minutes
Cook Time
15 minutes
Stand-Mixer Cheese Biscuits
These are basic baking powder biscuits to be made with your Stand-Mixer. With my cookie cutter, this made about 20 biscuits, but biscuit size will determine the yield.
Servings Prep Time
20 biscuits 20 minutes
Cook Time
15 minutes
Servings Prep Time
20 biscuits 20 minutes
Cook Time
15 minutes
Ingredients
Servings: biscuits
Instructions
Make the Dough:
  1. Dump flour, baking powder, salt (if any) and butter in your stand-mixer bowl. Attach the bowl and the flat beater to your stand-mixer. Start with STIR speed and mix for about one minute.
  2. Scrape the bowl and the beater (probably best if you stopped the stand-mixer here --- but it's your adventure), Add the milk. Return or continue STIR speed as you see fit.
  3. Do the Tim Taylor Grunt as the machine works to do your bidding. Also, add your cheese in near the end of this part. Mix until the dough starts to cling to the beater. If you over-mix here, you're using up your baking powder and you'll get flat biscuits (if that happens --- now you know why). With great power comes great responsibility --- you only really get to use speed STIR (1) here.
  4. (note to self: find a reason for speed 10)
  5. Spread some flour somewhere. Pro tip: counter near the sink is a good choice if you have to clean the mess up yourself. Dump the dough onto your "poof" of flour.
  6. Grease a baking sheet (or two, as needed).
Make little bits out fo the big bit:
  1. Do while (dough larger than cutter):
  2. Flatten dough with your hands. Some people use a rolling pin here, but we don't have a rolling pin and there's something so visceral about pounding dough.
  3. Cut as many biscuits as you can. Extra points for creative geometry.
  4. Repeat.
  5. Flatten last bit as "chef's dibs"
Bake!
  1. Arrange all your proto-biscuits onto your greased baking tray(s). They don't grow laterally hardly at all, so you can put a fairly large number of them on a try --- certainly more that the accompanying pictures. Optionally (I didn't) brush with butter. It's pretty easy to butter them later. Maybe this is compensation for those that use shortening? We don't like compensation; we like the real thing.
  2. Bake! 450F for 12 to 15 minutes. For maximum enjoyment, serve and eat immediately!
    Fresh Cheese Biscuits
Recipe Notes

On the choice of cheese and salt: There is salt in most cheese.  Without any cheese, you might add as much as 1/2 tsp of salt.  With cheddar, I found 1/4 tsp to be tasty.  If your cheese is saltier than cheddar, you might not add salt.  You can also add more (or less) cheese.  Less cheese seems almost pointless.  I would assume that at some point, the biscuit fails structural integrity due to cheese, but it still might be tasty.

What do you do if you don't possess a stand-mixer?  I don't know exactly.  I'm working on how to use my fancy new stand-mixer.  I gather you work much harder combining the ingredients... but it's not rocket science.

Stand-Mixer Cheese Biscuits Cooling

Stand-Mixer Cheese Biscuits Cooling

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32 Bit Counters: Fail

This post is largely a reaction to this piece of news: that YouTube/Google never expected the number of views of a YouTube video to exceed the capacity of a 32 bit counter or 2147483648 views.  This is very Bill Gates 2.0.  I suppose the news item is most surprising for the who, not the what, but I still find the use of a 32 bit integer by anyone surprising.

32 bit counters represent roughly four billion values.  In the YouTube case, the 32 bit integer was obviously signed — one bit represents the negative or positive sign and the other 31 bits represent the value.  It’s silly to think a video could have negative views, but there are cases where unsigned 32 bit integers can cause problems (mostly … when somewhere in the mix there’s a signed integer).  But two or four billion isn’t that large.  Certainly there are more people on the internet.  Certainly one person can watch a video more than once.  While it took Gangnam Style to exceed this number of views, it was inevitable that something would.

In my own programming, I shy away from 32 bit integers unless the class of items is well-defined to be small.  The cost of 8-byte integers (64 bits) vs. 4-byte integers (32 bits) is reasonably trivial and the cost of fixing something later is comparably large.

You might ask the question: Is 64 bits enough?  64 bits represent 18446744073709551616 values or up to 9223372036854775808 with one bit for the sign.  It’s hard to wrap your mind around these numbers.  Wikipedia’s page on the Order of Magnitude of Numbers has this value somewhere between the total number of insects on earth and the number of grains of sand on all the beaches in the world.  So if we’re counting things that numerous, we need bigger numbers.

Conversely, the number of people in the world has grown from 32 bites to 33 bits (4 to 7 billion) from about 1970 to the present.  There are still many things that fit in 64 bits.  At this point, almost any counter you create in a software program should be 64 bits wide.

 

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Ice Storm Christmas Chez Nous

We were lucky.  We were without power for roughly 6 hours (and asleep for most of it).  Many people here in Ontario (and the North Eastern portion of North America) had a Christmas without power and were without power for several days.  Some are still, apparently, without power.

Ice Tree

Ice Tree in my Yard

Ice storms are beautiful as long as you are warm and cozy.  The picture here is of the town mandated, builder planted tree in my yard.  Every house has “a tree” and all the trees on my street look like this.  Many older trees have been dropping limbs.  A friend had their porch crushed and my business partner had many branches fall on their car causing minor damage.

But the ice-coated tree is beautiful.  We’re lucky here to have fairly newly planted trees that can take the ice load fairly well.  Some of the trees in our neighborhood date back to when it was built (about ten years).  My tree, in this picture, is a replacement that is a few years younger (the original tree didn’t do so well).

My business partner was without power for 3 days and he and his family went to live with his in-laws for the duration.  During this outage, news of a recent study by Lloyds of London caught my attention.  It detailed Lloyds assessment that a space weather event similar to the 1859 “Carrington Event” happening now would leave parts of North America without power for more than a year.  While not an ice storm, this analysis highlights the fragility of our electrical grid and the negligence of its maintenance.

Ice Storm Street View

My Street after the Ice Storm

My thoughts were drawn to this conclusion by the reports that the worst hit areas in this ice storm were urban.  Many homes and apartment buildings in Toronto, Richmond Hill and Kingston were without power for several days.

I fundamentally understand the problem of rural power distribution.  Long distances covered with overhead wires that can be snapped by fallen trees or even the wire’s own weight.  Each break taking time to fix and each such break only affecting a few homes.  Fixing the aftermath of the Quebec Ice Storm of 1998 took time because the sheer number of individual fixes were legion.

According to news reports, this is not the case now.  Many of the disruptions were blown or arcing transformers.  Items in the power network simply unable to handle the stress themselves, not of nature falling down upon them.  There is a real risk of another “Carrington Event” and that risk leads to some apocalyptic forecasts by an organization whose very existence is to examine risk.

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Captcha, Gotcha?

captcha symbols

captcha symbols

Blank + five = eleven.  Six, right?  Are any of you real people getting flummoxed by this?  Apparently the SPAMers are.  This site has gone from 5 to 10 SPAM comments per day to less than 2 SPAM comments per week.  More than that, my stress level over the SPAM that gets through the other SPAM measures (like Bad Behavior) has lowered considerably.

I was somewhat surprised that answering the Captcha was required even for my own login — that seemed excessive, but then the questions are deliberately easy.  I haven’t required the windoze calculator (yet).  Even the form of the questions amuses me: the grade-school formula with some numbers written and some numbers spelled out.  It’s all very olde skule.

I had assumed that the placement of SPAM comments on my blog was a somewhat more manual process than perhaps it is.  I expect that if software were solving the Captcha that all the SPAMMers would have it, but that seems not to be the case, either.  I’ve always been of two minds on this.  On the one hand, the SPAM always seems to be at least partially customized and vaguely topical (although that, too, could be an illusion) — I attribute this to the theory that “people” paid astronomically low wages are involved.  On the other hand, being subtly different nearly stopping the flow leads this to be a software and a software configuration problem.

I suppose my blog doesn’t need to be the smartest blog out there — just one bit smarter than the average.

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Reboot Groklaw.net: an Open Letter to PJ.

Groklaw: Call to Action

Groklaw: Call to Action

The NSA is scary.  I get it.  I have slightly less sympathy for you (a U.S. citizen) as I am not a U.S. citizen — which makes my situation all-the-more precarious, BUT:

GrokLaw is needed now, more than ever.  The war against the common human is open on many fronts — privacy, intellectual “property”, police powers without oversight, the “war” on drugs — everyone’s list is a little different, but the war on the common human is real.

It’s only real as long as we fight.  And Groklaw is a key tool in the fight against one of the major fronts of this war.  Can I (we, anyone) guarantee your safety, your honor,… your sanity?  Nope.  You’re already The Hero.  You had already accepted The Call.

I’m writing this on the news that Microsoft, Oracle and other of their ilk are appealing the Oracle vs. Google decision from earlier this year.  This is not the only intellectual “property” legal news, but it’s a big story.  Groklaw is needed.  PJ is needed.

Heck, I’d run it myself if I were able.  I care deeply about my privacy and about the overreach of both law enforcement and spying, but they are just one front in this conflict over which I have little control.  I get that you find it creepy to be watched.  I get that posting on Groklaw probably has you watched more often than not.  What you achieve is so much larger than the sum of its parts.

Reboot Groklaw, please.

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