Less QQ more BBQ

Last night I made the best Q in like a year. Raw data follows.

THE MEAT: A three-pound slab of beef chuck sold as pot roast.
THE HEAT: Oak logs and lump charcoal. I started off at 400 degrees until the meat reached an internal temperature of 140° then wrapped the meat in foil and moved the logs to the firebox. Then it started raining and I moved inside to the oven. I turned off the heat at 190° and let the meat rest for a half hour.
THE RUB: Salt, pepper, cayenne, paprika, chili powder, cumin.
THE MOP: 1 12 oz. can of beer with 4 oz. each of Worcestershire sauce and apple cider vinegar and a touch of salt and pepper. I stopped mopping after the foiling point.
THE SAUCE: Once I finished mopping, I added about a cup of ketchup, some blackstrap molasses, onion powder, garlic powder, mustard powder, and peach juice to the saucepan of mop sauce I had brought to the boil. To thicken it up, I added the usual cornstarch slurry. The peach juice made all the difference.
THE SIDES: Potato salad and garden salad because of CSA vegetable overload.

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Using keychain on Mac OS X

I use keychain to manage my SSH keys on every system. This means I don’t use SSHKeychain, and I don’t use launchd as an ssh-agent front. Unfortunately, this makes it impossible for graphical Mac OS X apps to use the keychain; the SSH_AUTH_SOCK environment variable is set when your shell starts up and any custom environment variables for your graphical apps are set in ${HOME}/.MacOSX/environment.plist. To get around this, add the following or something similar just after your shell reads the keychain script.

source ~/.keychain/${HOSTNAME}-sh

# to allow p4v to use keychain instead of launchd
cat <<EOT > ~/.MacOSX/environment.plist
<?xml version="1.0" encoding="UTF-8"?>
<!DOCTYPE plist PUBLIC "-//Apple//DTD PLIST 1.0//EN" "http://www.apple.com/DTDs/PropertyList-1.0.dtd">
<plist version="1.0">

The one limitation is that you must start your Terminal before launching anything that uses keychain, but since I start Terminal as soon as I log in, that’s not a problem.
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Peter Gabriel and Other Events

For my birthday, my wife sent me packing to New York City to see Peter Gabriel perform at Radio City Music Hall. The last time I saw him perform was in 2002. I was still in college, and he was performing with his band and his usual cast of props and effects. The current tour, called ‘New Blood,’ was completely different. About the only thing in common between these two tours was the presence of Peter and his daughter Melanie as a backup vocalist. This tour is based on the ‘Scratch My Back’ project, which is a set of 12 covers of rock bands old and new released earlier this year. Each song was arranged for voice and orchestra by John Metcalfe, a former member of The Durutti Column. The songs involved include the likes of Paul Simon’s Boy in a Bubble, Lou Reed’s The Power of Your Heart, David Bowie’s Heroes, and The Magnetic Fields’ The Book Of Love (from the Strictly Ballroom soundtrack) Each artist represented is also covering one of Gabriel’s tracks. These will be released piecemeal as companions to each single from ‘Scratch My Back’ and later on a companion album called ‘…And I’ll Scratch Yours’. The sole unfortunate exception is that David Bowie won’t be performing a cover. Instead, Brian Eno will be performing a cover of Don’t Break This Rhythm.

If you will allow me one indulgence, I would have liked to see Ryuichi Sakamoto and Underworld involved in this. Gabriel would cover 8-ball and either World Citizen or See-Through, Sakamoto would cover Here Comes the Flood or The Drop, and Underworld would cover Excellent Birds. God, I am a nerd.

Although the marketing for the tour claimed a total absence of drums, guitars, and opening acts, the show opened with a short two-song set from singer/songwriter/guitarist Ane Brun, who would later serve as the other backup female vocalist. The orchestra also clearly had a bass drum on stage. The orchestra for the NYC and Montreal shows was apparently the the Orchestra of St. Luke’s, augmented by some additional players. (For example the OSL has no tubist but there was one on stage) Conducting was Ben Foster who apparently writes music for Doctor Who and Torchwood. They played through the entire ‘Scratch My Back’ album, followed by a short intermission and an hour of rearranged Peter Gabriel back catalog (setlist here). Apparently Lou Reed played his cover of Solsbury Hill the following night.

What an incredible performance. After nearly every song I was emotionally exhausted, especially during the second half of more familiar material. Unfortunately, for Signal to Noise there was no attempt made to replace the late Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan’s voice, either with a recording or another singer. Given that the song had dead space specifically to let him improvise, it fell a bit flat. This was more than made up for by the inclusion of Red Rain, a stunning duet adaptation of Washing of the Water, and Ane Brun’s excellent interpretation of Don’t Give Up (better than any save Paula Cole, maybe).

Anyway, further musical goings on. I will be playing some records between live acts at the Megapolis Festival opening concert and then for the rest of the weekend, my installation, the Republic of Nynex will be showing in the lobby of WYPR Public Radio.

My daughter bought me a copy of Hiromi Uehara’s album ‘Place to Be.’ What a precocious 11-month old! She can’t even walk and she is such a great shopper! :)

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Beer Notes

With regards to my last entry, here are notes per beer:
– Chateau Jiahu was really good the second time around.
– Sahtea was OK. Too syrupy and cloyingly sweet in flavor. Didn’t notice much juniper.
– Pangaea – wtf? BORING
– Schlenklerla – did not taste super bacony. Actually quite good. Drank it with smoked brisket, though. Maybe that made the difference.
– Pretty Things – really good.
– High and Mighty was partially used in a sauce and partially drunk by my wife! Oops. Sauce was tasty.
– Biere de Noel was skunked :( Spilled everywhere due to its enormous head but also went into the sauce above.
– Nogne was misery in a bottle. I am done with wild ales, ugh.
– A guest drank one RIS. I drank the other. Over-hyped much like other Stone products. One bottle left. I’ll drink it a few months to see if there’s a difference, but since aging beer is kind of over hyped too, meh. Stone’s Bastard and Smoked Porter are good. Everything else I’ve tried is just marketing.

The Southern Tier and Bourbon County are still waiting for me. :)

I am participating in a homebrew swap through Metafilter. The barleywine will probably be sent out because the Sam Adams LongShot contest is only open to beers that don’t belong in any other BJCP category. (protobeers like sahti, weird hybrid styles, etc. etc.)

However, I have a plan. It began with a wild hint of an idea and then slowly became fleshed out in my mind. The concept is: GINBEER! A beer with all the magic and meanness of gin. A beer that they would give you in the city of Lynn in response to an order of soda.

Here is the plan, so that in case of my death someone can continue this legend.

Start with a California Common (à la Anchor Steam Beer). Discard the caramelized malts and replace with flaked rye and wheat. Use a California Lager yeast, with noble hops for the aroma hops (I am thinking Saaz). Not sure what to use for the bittering hops yet. When primary fermentation is complete, prepare one or more combinations of the following botanicals:
– juniper berries (duh, either direct or via juniper tea or juniper infused vodka)
– coriander
– angelica root
– orris root
– orange peel
– lime peel
– lemon peel
– licorice powder
– cloves
– fennel
– cardamom
– cucumber
– cinnamon
– rosemary

I now have a glass carboy and a couple large plastic science-y containers, so I can try four different tinctures. Rack the beer on top of the botanicals in the secondary container, then prime and bottle after one additional week. To try a number of different blends I’ll need a co-conspirator. (or at least I’ll need to go for larger than a 5 gallon batch)

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Republic of Nynex

Hi Matt! This is more of a formality for your records: thanks for the
submission — we’d like for you to be involved in Megapolis this year
in Baltimore, May 14-16.

My in-progress genetic audio art project, the Republic of Nynex, has been accepted as part of the Megapolis Festival in Baltimore in May of this year. This is a participatory project, so you can actually take part even without going to the festival.

I won’t be putting all the detailed progress in this blog. If you want to follow the project along, you can subscribe to the progress blog on the site, become a Facebook fan, or follow nynexrepublic on Twitter or Soundcloud. Twitter will contain the only online announcements of each new generation, but if you want to listen and rate without becoming become a Twitter user you can subscribe to the Twitter RSS feed once the project goes live.

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Kid Stuff

As a kid, I got started on computers early. My first computer was a Texas Instruments model 99/4A. I originally used it primarily as a gaming console, but we also had two books full of BASIC program listings to type in. My pre-school had the same computer and even had the TI Logo environment. At other times in my childhood I got to play with other BASIC and Logo environments, mostly on Apple II-series computers. There was plenty of story-telling and other software over the years that blurred the line between gaming and programming. I can’t remember any of them besides Mario Paint and Story Machine.

I would love to get my daughter started on computers early, but I obviously can’t start with stuff like C++ before she can even really read or type. Most of the kid-type stuff that I grew up with is long gone. Modern Logo environments do exist, though. and there are other child-friendly languages and tools, to boot. So, here’s a list of the ones I’ve found. They’re free unless marked otherwise:

FMS Logo (Windows)

MSW Logo (Windows)

ACS Logo (Mac OS X)

AgentSheets (Windows, Mac OS X, $)

Squeak Etoys (Windows, Mac OS X, Linux)
Scratch (Windows, Mac OS X, Linux)

Alice (Windows, Mac OS X)

ToonTalk (Windows)

StageCast Creator (Windows, Mac OS X, any UNIX that can run Java, $)

Toca Boca Games (iOS, $)

GameMaker (Mac/Win/HTML5, $ and free versions)

Gamestar Mechanic (web-based, free)

Kodu (Windows, XBL, free)

Edubuntu Packages (Linux, free)

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Barleywine bottled

This weekend I bottled the barleywine that I brewed so long ago. Let me give a short review of all that has happened with this beer:

1.) First thing to do was to dry hop with the last of the Cascade hops. I simply tossed the pellets into the fermenter (still primary at this point) and resealed the lid.
2.) After pitching the champagne yeast once the lock stopped bubbling, fermentation stuck at gravity 1.032.
3.) The first thing recommended to me by the LiveJournal homebrewing group was to try adding yeast nutrients and swirling the beer around a bit to oxygenate. No change in gravity.
4.) Several weeks pass with no change in gravity. I attempt to make a starter with a second pack of yeast, but my attempt is foiled when a fruit fly makes its way in and contaminates it! Bah!
5.) A few more weeks pass. I purchase a glass carboy and rack the beer onto to some oak chips within. Still no change in gravity.
6.) Several months pass to this weekend.

Well, I think I left the beer on the oak chips a little too long. Pre-primed tasting is ULTRAOAKY. I’m sure it will improve with some time in the bottle and some fizz. They always do.

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Capoeira Gerais Open House

Capoeira Gerais is having (another) open house this Wednesday!

For those not familiar, capoeira is a Brazilian martial art that was practiced by slaves and disguised as dance for centuries while it was practiced illegally. If you would like to see it in action, look it up on YouTube.

Anyways, if one of your New Year’s resolutions is to get in shape, capoeira does that pretty well. To that end, my capoeira instructor is holding an open house Wednesday Jan 13. It’s free for the first class. If you would like to attend, just show up at Boston Ultimate Fitness on that night at 6PM. Wear comfortable clothes and optionally shoes (please not street shoes though. The floor was all full of sand tonight), and bring a towel! You’ll need it.

The address is 33 Harrison Av, in Chinatown, on the 7th floor.

Regular classes are on Mondays and Wednesdays every week at this time and address, or at 8:15 PM at Champions Dance Studio in Everett if that’s more convenient for you.
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Power loss

Yesterday morning, high winds caused a power outage on my street. This somehow managed to totally reset my Westell 7500 DSL modem and wireless router. The official install process failed to work, just as it has never worked, so I had to call tech support. Since I ended up listening to about 15 minutes of pre-recorded advice that was completely irrelevant before getting to wait on hold for the helpful technician who actually called me back when my call got disconnected (Verizon Wireless’s great network in action!), I will document the repair process here in case this happens again.

Note, at any point, you can reset the modem back to the original state by poking the little reset button on the back with a paperclip.

  1. First, turn the modem upside-down and note the serial number and WEP key. The serial number is the default SSID, and the WEP key is just that.
  2. Connect to the wireless network, or connect your computer to the router with an Ethernet cable.
  3. Visit this URL:
  4. Click the ‘DISABLE’ button. You will eventually be asked for a password. The username is ‘admin’ and the password is ‘password’.
  5. The next screen will ask you to change your username and password. Change it to something besides the default. At this point, you should be able to connect to the Internet.
  6. Go into Wireless Settings and twiddle the settings how you want. Most likely everything you need is under Basic Security Settings.
  7. You will likely need to double check your firewall settings as well.

I hope that helps anyone in my situation. Naturally, if you need this advice, you probably can’t get on the Internet anyway.
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fs1rgen progress

I have created a small subproject of fs1rgen in order to get a really basic app working that uses a genetic algorithm. It’s called tonegen, and instead of generating random FS1r patches, it generates random noises. (By default, 44.1kHz 16-bit audio with a 1/440 second sample) 10 of these noises are created per generation using some horrific mishmash of Objective-C and C++. (Seriously, there is no reason for me to use Objective-C for what is now a command line app that interfaces with Core Audio, a C API)

FS1rgen will be the same, for the simple reason that Cocoa is written in Objective-C and GALib is written in C++.

If you would like to try tonegen, you can grab the source code from github and you’ll need the latest GALib. You’ll need to muck with the XCode project file to make it find GALib, since I really haven’t bothered with a autoconf or even a Makefile.
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