The tasty craft beer
Filling; a meal not a drink
So unlike others
The tasty craft beer
Filling; a meal not a drink
So unlike others
But first, a Haiku:
Foodie conundrum –
Heats us in wintertime, yet
We call it ‘chili’
As the Missus finishes up her second novel (#2 in the Plant Lady Mystery series – quick plug here) I wanted to do something to free up her time. So I looked around for meals that I could do simply and easily (key for me).
The result is what I’m going to call Dave’s Drop Dead Default Chili:
I told you it was simple. Want a lot? Combine four cans of tomatoes and four cans of beans (I prefer kidney beans for the first can, but cannellini, pinto, and black beans have all worked so far.) Want a little? one can of each. Thick? Use tomato paste. Thin? Use whole or diced tomatoes.
This is a basic, simple to make chili – and once you have this down pat, there are many ways to enhance it:
So far, I can make big batches that last three days and allow freezing of the extra. For that, it’s two big cans (28oz) of Tomato paste and whole tomatoes, along with 4-5 regular sized (14oz) cans of each type of bean. A 1/2 jar of pickled banana peppers gives it the perfect heat.
Give it a try – something this easy makes for a great last minute meal, and tastes far better than the simplistic recipe suggests. And it gives your other half time to work on her novel…
Men CAN bake. And the dangerous part is that if you start with this recipe your wife (and your waistline) will want more…
I first saw this recipe on a cooking show with Michael Smith – check here for the original and other variations. However, it is dead simple:
5 cups of flour
1/2 heaping teaspoon of active dry yeast
2 teaspoons of salt
2 1/2 cups of warm water
Mix dry ingredients together thoroughly, then add water and stir until dough forms. Cover with plastic and let sit in a warm place overnight (8-10 hours). Knock the dough down and move to the (large/2 liter) bread pan. Let it double in size (2-3hrs) and then bake in preheated oven (425F/220C) for 45 minutes.
It is that simple. Some things to watch out for:
Four ingredients – and two of them are water and salt. It’s also inexpensive, since you use hardly any active yeast (unlike with a breadmaker, which goes through yeast like crazy.) That’s because you give the bread time to ferment/create more of its own yeast, by letting it go overnight.
And the result: Best bread I’ve tasted. Nutty and slightly brown throughout (using white flour no less). I eventually had to stop making it, since it was too easy to sit with a hot loaf and some butter and make it disappear ASAP.
But someday, when I am thinner, the most dangerous bread recipe will be cooked yet again in this home…
For awhile now I’ve used the following code that I got from here to translate text into integers without too much fuss in Visual BASIC:
Public Function ToInteger(ByVal s As String) As Integer Dim i as Integer Integer.TryParse(s, i) Return i End Function
It’s pretty straightforward: The TryParse() tests the string and places the numeric value into ‘i’ if valid, else 0. It doesn’t exception like CInt() would, which makes a difference when processing large amounts of data – exceptions take a fair bit of time to process within try/catch blocks (and one would argue even more outside!)
There’s a catch, though: TryParse() is not exactly like C’s atoi(), and the difference is quite irritating since I come from that background. Specifically, if there is any trailing non-numeric data in the string, it fails. And since I like to use this to convert combo or listbox entries, you can imagine how annoying it is to fail on a string like “212 (Temperature of boiling water”)” or similar: Whereas our ToInteger() function would return 0, atoi() would return 212, stopping after the number.
So, time to get a bit more complicated – meet ToInteger() Mark II. It’s in VB, but it shouldn’t be too hard to convert to C#:
Public Function ToInteger(ByVal s As String, Optional ByVal result As Integer = 0) As Integer Dim i As Integer = 0 Dim valid As Boolean = False Const Asc_0 As Integer = Asc("0"c) For Each c As Char In s.TrimStart If (c < "0"c OrElse c > "9"c) Then Exit For End If valid = True i = i * 10 + (Asc(c) - Asc_0) Next If (valid) Then Return i End If Return result End Function
This version takes in the string, processing digits until they end, then stops with that value, so text following it is ignored. As well, you can (optionally) specify a default value other than 0, useful if you need to know if the input is invalid (no digits input at the string’s start). And despite being longer, it actually timed 25% FASTER than the previous routine – go figure.
As I mentioned in my last post of the same name, I was narrowing my focus on tasks to get some more programming done, which is arguably my ‘passion.’ ‘Nuff said.
Not so fast. This month I read a book on NOT following your passion, which made some interesting arguments:
The arguments make sense, but sure put a damper on what we’ve told about following our ‘bliss!’
However, all is not lost. He contrasts passion with work ‘capital’ – for example, years spent learning a craft. And not just learning, but getting good – extremely good – at it. This capital means you have options for the future, and can more easily aim for your dream job.
Serendipitously, I wrote this last month with the title ‘Have You Mastered Doing What You Love?’ because I firmly believe doing something is one thing, but doing it well is quite another.
However, I likewise can’t take credit for this observation, since I learned it from a much older source:
“Do you see any truly competent workers? They will serve kings rather than working for ordinary people.”
-Proverbs 22:29, New Living Translation of the Bible
So we’ve known that quality trumps passion for a long, long time. But which should come first?
I (im)modestly think the issue is one of what ‘bliss’ really is, and that it is really a hint of what to do, rather than a full-fledged job description.
For example, say you love working with horses. Sounds good. But which aspect? Vet, trainer, owner, racer? All of these people work with horses, and all jobs might have pleasant aspects. So does that mean one of them is the winner while the others aren’t?
The book uses the example of Steve Jobs, who was quoted as following his passion. However, as was also pointed out, Jobs was interested in becoming a guru around the time he started selling Apple computers. It was a matter of timing and success that he went into running Apple versus working at an Ashram. So how can only one be the ‘one’ passion?
But what if both jobs were part of the same passion? If we limit passion to running a computer company, only one works, but if we talk of a strong passion for molding people’s lives and influencing others, then both jobs are viable, including many more jobs besides.
To give another example, an older post of mine recommended testing to decide what your strengths are. In my case, one top item was focus, or staying with a problem until solved. Not a surprise, as I enjoy programming. But problem solving is satisfying in many areas. I enjoy inventing (solving problems with devices), and also writing, where I enjoy wrapping my head around a new topic (‘solving’ it for myself) and then explaining it to others. My ‘bliss’ is tied up in those aspects of all three of these things, not each job individually. If I had to choose just one, I’d likely refuse. The common thread, as the testing showed, is that I enjoy the focus involved in each.
So to apply it forward. If I looked for a job, the one that allowed me to focus for long periods on problems would be more satisfying that one that (for example) allowed me to interact with lots of people. So I can still try different jobs, just keep an eye open for how my strengths work best for me (and by extension, for the business that hires me, which makes me more valuable.)
The conclusion: I still think we can follow our passion. The key however is to understand that passion is not a ‘carved in stone’ absolute, but more an inclination of the direction you’d like to go in.
After all, you can have a sweet tooth, and there is a lot of food that appeals to you; but decide you’re eating just cheesecake forever, and you’ll soon wonder if you ever had a sweet tooth at all!
So figure out what kind of ‘tastes’ YOU have, and pursue them – life’s too short for not following your passion – some book authors notwithstanding.
As I write this, I’m aware of two things: 1) I have not written anything yet in April, and 2) I probably would have if I really wanted to.
None of this is earth shaking (I’ve been extra busy since April is a peak month in the world of radio.) But it harkens to something I’ve been thinking about for awhile now – and something I think would be of benefit to my readers (all
five four three of you.)
It’s an old bit of advice, so you’ve likely heard it.
Jack of all trades, master of none.
Now of course that’s a bit whimsical/glib, and not entirely accurate. For example, if you’ve read anything by 4 hour week writer Timothy Ferris then you know mastering something is more a matter of how much focus/planning you apply to it, and less about the years spent.
On the other hand, Malcolm Gladwell, who wrote of the 10,000 hours experts need to master something, shows that deep single-minded mastery of something does takes time.
Confused? To balance the two extremes, we need only realize that if you want to play classical piano in a concert hall it will take many, many hours to train. But if you want to entertain people on your guitar, the bar to mastery – and the effort needed – can be mightily reduced with planning and focus.
So yes, you can master quite a few things in your life – but should you?
Lately, I’ve been thinking that the opposite may be true. Master one thing first; then move on.
I once saw a video by Paul McCartney called ‘Coming Up‘. I had heard he played all the instruments himself. Impressive I thought. I’d like to do that.
However, he spent years mastering just the bass guitar in a little Hamburg-based band called the Silver Beetles (although I think they may have renamed themselves soon after) In any case, he had some measure of success, and so then could devote himself to learning other instruments.
The key: Succeed first, then diversify. Learning for learning’s sake can be enjoyable, but if your core strengths are valuable, perhaps focus on them for awhile.
In my case, I enjoy writing, and I enjoy programming, and I think I’m good at them. You may disagree (after all, you’re reading this, so your opinion is valid) but I’ve had a measure of success. I still make a nice bit of coin from software I wrote over twenty years ago (OK, 21 years, but that’s still ‘over’) and I’ve done well with my writing, both as a column writer and a self published writer (I still remember fondly my first $1,000 day soon after I released my book “Top 10 Tricks to Conquer Your Niche With WordPress“)
However, when I form a business around them, I bog down. My core strengths get diluted with customer support, advertising, management, sales, financials and much, much more. So my core strengths bring in the money, while my non-core ones dilute how much I effectively make per hour of my time.
Don’t get me wrong – learning it all is fun. But focus is the key to success. So in my case, I’ve decided to keep my eye out for partners that can fill the gaps in my strengths with their strengths, like sales people who enjoy promoting products, or people who enjoy the minutiae of business. That way, I can focus on programming and writing. And the timing is right, since I’ve picked May 1st to start my own annual Summer of Code.
The takeaway from all this? Perhaps you should examine your strengths, and find someone to balance them. It may mean paying out a wage or commission or sharing a company, but the result is the two of you (or three or four or whatever) work at peak efficiency, and more gets done faster.
And if you become successful like Sir Paul, THEN you can learn the piano…
We all know how to get 2 split views of a text file when editing – but what if we want 3, or 4, or more?
I recently edited a file I wanted to see several views of. Keeping a window open for each section of the file made cut and paste very easy. Problem was, I couldn’t find any editor that did that. Notepad++, PSPad, even that editor in Visual Studio seemed to only split a single time – so two views of a single file at most.
Eventually, I downloaded the Windows version of emacs, which does offer this option; however, it kept crashing on exit, and the keys are non-standard to Windows, which made it annoying to set up Ctrl-V, Ctrl-C, etc (not impossible, mind you, just annoying – check their menu option ‘Options; Use CAU Keys’ if you go this route).
Today while idly browsing the web (and avoiding work) I came across another option – Visual Studio once again. Tried it, and it worked a treat. Best of all, it’s an environment I’m familiar with so no cases of “why did this happen?” when I pressed familiar keyboard shortcuts.
Here’s the steps to set it up:
One other point: If you’re using wide scroll bars (I like the “Wide” Source Overview option,) just right click on the scroll bars to change them via Scroll Bar Options to make them thinner, with more room for text. But if you turn them off like I did, no more right clicking, so just go to the same option is found via the menu Tools; Options; Text Editor; All Languages; Scroll Bars.
I finally did it.
I got a 3D printer.
I have spent the past five years or so looking at the various devices out there, trying to figure out how to justify buying one.
Then HobbyKing had a shipping sale, and shortly thereafter I was the proud owner of a bright orange Fabrikator model 3D Printer.
The orange Fabricator printer, or as I now like to call it, ‘MINE’
It’s based on the ‘Tiny Boy‘ model of 3D printers, and sells for under $200, a bargain in the printer world. And while its print volume is only about a 3 inch cube, for beginners it’s a great introduction to printing.
So why should you consider it?
Now a word of warning: 3D printers are not for absolute beginners. I’ve taken a couple of printer courses at the local Makerspace, and I’ve run several projects on their printers while there. You’ll also want to look into some training, to at least understand how they work, and how to put together a print.
As well, the printer uses Repetier-Host for the printer management software. This lets you upload the code for your design and it processes it, converting your .stl format file into a series of movement instructions that lets the printer create the object.
And design? I use Sketchup, but I’ve heard good things about Blender. One warning: Sketchup’s license does not permit the free program to do commercial designs, so you may wish to spend your time learning Blender, which is completely free and unrestricted. Of course, if you’ll never do a part for a commercial project, either will be fine to use.
Once up and running, I immediately set about to create – legs. It turns out they recommend raising the printer up a bit for improved air circulation, and from their site you can get a design for little square feet that the printer rests on. At about 10 minutes printing time each, my first project was a success, plus a great introduction to using my printer.
Since then, I’ve done other prints, and can recommend you start slow with small parts, watch the prints in the beginning very carefully, and be sure to follow the instructions for starting and stopping (such as feeding in plastic until it squeezes out the head to be sure it’s primed properly.)
One more caution: Buy the right color plastic! I’m not sure why I picked up a spool of purple (on sale, perhaps?) but I wish I hadn’t. It’s a big spool, and I know I’m going to be using it a long, long time. I’d recommend instead either a neutral color (black/brown/grey) or a vivid color to make the detail in your parts easier to see, such as orange. Still, at the price it sells for I suppose I could just order another spool…
So, if you’ve been wondering about 3D printing, and you have a hankering for a printer of your own, consider this one from HobbyKing. At this price, it is a very inexpensive introduction to the topic, and a great gift for someone when you move on to a bigger printer…
Although many of my assistance projects on this blog involve the blind, I’ve been keeping alert to other group’s needs. For example, I’ve spent a lot of time planning a sound/light display for the deaf (and not incidentally, for use when I have my headphones on). Sounds flash lights, and so you can know when there is noise around. Handy for parties, handy for the deaf, handy for me when ‘plugged in’.
Anyhoo, I was slowly planning a fancy audio meter with Fourier transforms using an Arduino to create a spectrum display, and perhaps an app as well, when I found a simple
on eBay. Using the LM358 chip, it puts a microphone, 10 LED power display and everything you need minus power supply for under $10.
So – program a Fast Fourier Transform on a RISC chip and add DIY hardware, or use a ready made component I just plug in? Tough choice. I
According to the specs, it runs under 100mA and 5v, so I literally hacked a USB cable to provide the power, and hooked it up (use a meter to test for the outer two power wires, and then connect just them up.) USB is supposed to be OK up to 500mA, but just in case, I first plugged it into a cheap and then plugged that into the computer.
Now, several months later, I’m finally writing my observations:
All in all, a great experiment, and a very low-cost way to try out a sound meter alert. For someone hard of hearing or deaf, it could be a very, very useful tool. Or plug one in at your next party and watch the ambient noise move the meter. Well worth the low cost!
According to various websites (and at least one I will actually link to) the third Monday of January (also known as Today) is the most depressing day of the year.
Although there are many reasons, one of the best (or worst?) I’ve seen is a mathematical formula calculating the date based on several factors: weather, debt, income, time since Christmas, time since last aborted ‘quit’ attempt (oh, those failed New Year resolutions!), and a few other things related to mood and motivation.
Of course any calculation can, at the very very best, only approximate the average mood. And we are not an average, we are individuals, so any date is guaranteed to be too soon for some people, and too late for others.
The idea behind is sound though – many people tend to “give’er a go” in January, only to have it fail in a week or two (or three). That, plus the lousy Winter weather, the bills finally coming in, and the first paychecks being cashed and disappearing immediately to handle aforementioned bills, means it’s understandable this is a more depressing time, than, say, sunny July.
So let’s move past the detailed analysis, and skip to the good stuff – how to ignore it.
Here’s Dave’s Procedures For A Great Most Depressing Day Of The Year – feel free to apply to the rest of the year as well:
I admit these a bit tongue in cheek, but let’s be honest: Isn’t a bit of levity good this time of the year?
And one more thing: I am not a doctor, nor do I play one on TV. If you think you have a serious issue, please look into it immediately; real chronic depression is a serious matter, and needs more treatment than just skipping the news.
But for the rest of us, take Monday in stride, look to the positive, and we shall persevere…