November 2001

On to the next thing…

by Michael Alderete on 11/30/2001

Yesterday afternoon, the marketing analysis I have been working on for the last four weeks stopped being a pile of shit, so I sent it to the people who need to review it.

I have to present / defend it on Monday, so I’m sure I’ll be working over the weekend…and procrastinating on that by writing here. Depending on how the presentation goes there may be more work to do on my MRD, but it won’t be so urgent, or monumental — there’s nothing so intimidating as the blank page.

But I’ve been posting to this thing for the last month, so maybe it’s become a habit. If not, I probably won’t post again until I have another big project I’m avoiding.

Then again, I may end up hacking away on the code that runs this site, so I can add pictures more easily, and things like that. Which would give me another excuse to write.

We’ll see.

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Fun with electricity, part one

by Michael Alderete on 11/30/2001

Two weekends ago, Rochelle and I were installing the first of four new (to us) period lamps that we bought off eBay, in the kitchen.

I climbed up the ladder and started unhooking the old light, without first turning off the circuit breaker, because there was a fair amount I could do without touching any wires. Then I just got involved in untangling things and forgot the lines were still hot.

When the inevitable spark shower occurred, Rochelle could only laugh. I told her I thought it was time she went down and turned off the breaker.

Her comeuppance came later, when she decided to do the hall lamp herself while I was taking my afternoon nap. It’s a lot slower to do things safely when you do them yourself, because our breaker box is outside and all the way around the house. Apparently for the last step, putting the glass globe onto the fixture, Rochelle didn’t feel the need to do the round trip. From all the way down the hall I saw her react to touching something. I asked if that was a shock she’d just gotten, and yes, it was. This time we both had to laugh.

Glad we have life insurance.

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Once upon a time, I worked for Be Incorporated, of BeOS (semi-) fame. For those who used it, BeOS (an operating system for desktop computers) was unique, and special. But Be is officially no more, and BeOS has been dead for a while.

What made BeOS so useful was a wonderful, responsive graphical interface on top of a powerful, Unix-like environment. The marriage of the two was unique at the time, and the work of some engineers who truly had magic powers.

For a lot of reasons Be didn’t make it, and BeOS died when the company did. It would remain a curiosity of computing history, and a tragedy for those of us who cared, except that some of the ideas live on.

I write this posting on a new Macintosh G4, in a Web browser that is the most beautiful, graceful browser I’ve ever used (OmniWeb). When I click the Save button, the information I’ve typed into a lovely GUI application gets transfered to the web server running a PHP application, which saves the text to a database (MySQL), so that you can read it later.

This relates to BeOS in that all of the software used to run my Weblog application is running on the same machine, running Mac OS X. It’s a lovely graphical interface on top of a true Unix-like environment, which allows the use of both a beautiful Web browser and the Unix-based Web server, PHP, database, and the other Open Source software upon which this site depends.

So, BeOS has died, but some of the most important ideas live on. Mac OS X isn’t for everyone, but for those who give it a whirl and can harness its powers, it’s truly magic.

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Chicken fried steak

by Michael Alderete on 11/26/2001

My original experiences with chicken fried steak — school cafeterias and TV dinners — were so bad I never wanted to eat it again. Then Rochelle introduced me to good chicken fried steak, and I’ve been gobbling them ever since.

In the Bay Area it’s hard to find. We know of only one place to get a really good chicken fried steak, the Bluebird Cafe in Hopland, at least an hour’s drive once you cross the Golden Gate Bridge.

In Texas, where we just went for the Thanksgiving holiday, it’s a little easier. I ate four of ‘em in five days, and all of them were at least pretty good.

The best was Hoover’s in Austin, with a fine piece of meat in a delicious coating that stayed crispy the whole meal, and excellent gravy. Rochelle had a fabulous grilled pork chop with mushroom gravy that was out of this world. About four bites into our meal, we decided that Hoover’s would be one of our regular places whenever we’re in Austin.

A close second was Heitmiller’s, in Waco, where the meat was a little better (Heitmiller’s is a steak house), the rest a little less. I only had a half-order, which was more than enough. I can only imagine what my arteries would think of a full order.

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The Mouser

by Michael Alderete on 11/19/2001

Last night, after we had switched off the lights to go to sleep, our bed started growling. Not creaking, not groaning, and not from us moving. From the fierce little monster underneath it.

Usually when Billie growls it’s because she’s fending off Basta, or just complaining that Basta is looking in her direction. But since we had just locked Basta away for the night, we knew that wasn’t it. And when she didn’t stop after a couple of growls, or even 10 minutes, we knew we had to do something about it.

Peering under the bed, I could see Billie, and I could see Five, the neighborhood cat who visits our house for food and occasional head scratching (she comes in an open window that’s a good 12 feet off the ground). But Billie never growls at Five!

Then Rochelle screamed.

She had noticed what I had somehow not: that Billie had a mouse hanging half way out of her mouth. That’s what Five wanted, and that’s what Billie was growling to defend.

It turns out Billie had been chasing the thing around our bedroom, including under our bed, all evening, and had finally worn it down enough that it was no longer fun to play with. Plus now Five wanted in on the action.

It took a couple of tries (she kept slashing at me), but eventually I got the mouse from Billie, and disposed of the remains.

Although Cecil is the all-time champion mouser in the household, it’s because he’s had 15 years to accumulate his kills. Billie is clearly out for the record, though, with two catches in as many weeks. Last time Billie caught a mouse she ate it and then…well, never mind. We just don’t need that to happen again.

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Questions to ask about BBQ

by Michael Alderete on 11/17/2001

When you’re searching for the perfect BBQ, there are two questions you need to ask the cook behind the counter. If you get good answers, buy something. If you get the best answers, program their Take Out number into your mobile phone.

Here are the critical questions, and possible answers, with the “Best” answer provided by Bob Kantor of Memphis Minnie’s, when we interviewed caterers for our wedding.

Question: How long do you smoke your brisket?

  • Wrong Answer: Eight hours or less.
  • Good Answer: 12 hours.
  • Best Answer: 18 hours.

Explanation: Brisket is a tough, extremely flavorful cut of meat. It takes many hours of smoking to break it down until it’s tender, and for the smoky flavor to penetrate fully. Anything less than 10 hours and it’ll likely be tough, and boring. Most BBQ joints can’t commit to the full 18 hours, so when you find a place that does, you know they’re special.

Question: What is your philosophy of sauce?

  • Wrong Answer: Huh?
  • Wrong Answer: Baste early, baste often.
  • Wrong Answer: Slather it on, baby!
  • Good Answer: Served on the side.
  • Best Answer: Sauce is to hide your mistakes.

Explanation: BBQ that doesn’t taste great without sauce is not good BBQ. Sauce should enhance the flavor of the meat, not hide it. BBQ that’s coated with sauce is probably hiding something.

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I like BBQ!

by Michael Alderete on 11/17/2001

When Rochelle and I were planning our wedding reception, we wanted a Texas-style summer BBQ (Rochelle is a transplanted Texan). Among other things, this required us to serve real Texas BBQ, which turned out to be hard.

Rochelle started by reading restaurant reviews and other reference sources, looking for places that were considered “good”. We organized a taste test of four of the Bay Area’s “best” BBQ, literally driving 100+ miles to pick up all of our samples.

Brothers In Law, regularly voted the “Best of SF”, was so awful we fed it to the dog. I’m not kidding. Some samples were the favorites of others at the tasting, but were more Southern-style BBQ, coated in sauce with too much sweet for our tastes. In the end, none of the four satisfied us.

A fellow Texan told Rochelle about Memphis Minnie’s, but we quickly learned that the restaurant had lost its lease, and was no longer open. So Rochelle tracked down and called Bob Kantor, the owner, and asked about catering.

There are two critical questions to ask someone about their BBQ, and Bob answered both correctly. Further conversation suggested that Bob was a BBQ Master, but of course, the proof is in the tasting. We arranged to try a sample of his brisket, the quintessential Texas BBQ meat, and said we’d be in touch.

One bite into the beautiful hunk of brisket and we knew we’d found our man. 10 minutes later, there was nothing left of the smoked meat, or of the BBQ sauce he’d given us on the side. Memphis Minnie’s was hired, and did a wonderful job catering our wedding, where we received nothing but compliments about the BBQ (we served Bob’s brisket, ribs, and hot links).

And then we pined away for Minnie’s for months because, with the restaurant closed, we had no way of satisfying our cravings.

Then one Sunday I was laying in the bathtub, soaking in water too hot for Rochelle’s taste, relaxing, when Rochelle started screaming. I literally thought the house was on fire. She ran into the bathroom with the newspaper in her hands and tears in her eyes, and asked me what was the best possible thing to happen to the (then closed) restaurant across the street from us, what was the best possible new place that could open there?

Memphis Minnie’s, of course!

So now we’re regulars. You should be, too. 576 Haight Street, between Fillmore and Steiner. Fire engine red, you cannot miss it. Just look for the Sign of the Pig.

And tell Bob that Michael and Rochelle say hi!

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New channel: I Like

by Michael Alderete on 11/17/2001

I’m a firm believer that voting with your dollars is the most effective way to influence the actions of giants. If everyone started buying In-N-Out burgers instead of Big Macs, you can bet that McDonald’s would improve the quality of their product in response.

This channel is all about leveraging my preferences via your wallet. If you’re a fan of high quality items, foodstuffs, and services, then you may find some good information here, especially if you live in the Bay Area. I.e., you win.

And if I can turn other people onto the things I like, like truly outstanding croissants or BBQ, perhaps there will be more of them in the world. I.e., I win.

So, check my recommendations out, and if you give them a try, be sure to tell them that Michael and Rochelle sent you.

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The Jumper

November 14, 2001

Our littlest one, Billie, is constantly chased by one of our other cats, and hides out under our bed during the day. When we get home, she’s so starved for attention that she’s developed a cute trick: jumping. Onto us.

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What a difference a day makes

November 14, 2001

Fox’s new TV show, 24, is the best new show on commercial television. It’s intense, riveting, and frighteningly timely. If you haven’t started watching it yet, start this Friday with the encore presentation of hour #2.

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All play and no work…

November 11, 2001

So I’ve made this site publicly available, in a continuing attempt to not actually do anything on my big project due later this week at work…

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Keyboard rant

November 11, 2001

Why doesn’t anyone make a good USB keyboard for modern Macintoshes?

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