2/28/2007

02-28-07 - 2

I've been eyeing the raw peanuts at the farmers markets here for a while and I haven't been able to crack them until now.

First of all, you can NOT dry roast them (I tried it and it's a disaster). Only Virginia Peanuts can be dry roasted, and the kind you get here in SF are some Chinese variety (apparently there are like 7 major types of peanuts and only 1 is the Virgina dry-roastable type). The dry roasting recipes are quite simple, however to get them well salted you would have to soak them in brine and then dry them out first, which makes that whole process rather a pain even if it was possible.

There are 3 ways to use these raw and "green" peanuts.

1. Fried. (aka "oil roasted"). Just put a bunch of peanut oil in a wok, heat it up. Toss in the raw (de-shelled) green peanuts and cook until they get nice and brown. Remove to drain the oil and salt them. Nice for chomping on; I did this and they turned out quite well. I like my peanuts very dark roasted which you can't buy in a store but you can do this way. Apparently this is the way peanuts are traditionally added to dishes like Kung Pao in China - the peanuts are not pre-roasted, the raw peanuts are put in the wok and fried like any of the other steps of a stir fry. Kung Pao recipe .

2. Boiled. Theoretically you can boil them just like you would a Virginia peanut. This is a traditional southern thing and produces a sort of soft but firm nut meat similar to a chestnut. (I haven't actually tried this yet) Boiling peanuts

3. In stews. Apparently this is common in China. You can just toss raw peanuts in as a stew/soup ingredient and cook like a turnip. It will theoretically again sort of come out like a boiled peanut. I've never had this at a restaurant or anywhere, so I'm interested to try it. Oxtail soup with raw peanuts

addendum much later : I actually have no idea what kind of peanuts they sell in the farmer's markets here. They are "green" which means not only raw but fresh out of the ground and moist. You cannot just roast a green peanut. Commercial "raw" peanuts have been air dried to preserve them. You can of course buy raw dried peanuts and roast them very easily.

Seperate from the farmers market issue, the Chinese stores all around SF sell raw (dried) peanuts. Those are in fact some different variety which is smaller and more oily, not a Virginia peanut.

02-28-07 - 1

rad blog on strange old maps

2/26/2007

02-26-07 - 3

Whoah. I've just discovered Google is doing something weird with eponymous web pages. They seem to be associating them with their eponym. My page is now referred to by google as "Bloom, Charles" , which is a phrase that I use nowhere, so they must have figured out my name and reformatted it like that.

In the current age of search, it's +EV for a business to have a very unique name so that it's easily searchable. The same thing is true of humans (if you want to be found). You might want to use a business name different from your real name which is easily searchable. eg. "I do all my game development work under the pseudonym 'daxel'"

02-26-07 - 2

99% of the appeal of Apple is their cool design. Of course you can copy it with about 5 minutes of work on your PC. David Lanham has some really nice icon sets you can use.

02-26-07 - 1

I just realized the logic behind the "troop surge" currently under way in Iraq.

In terms of helping Iraq, the surge is retarded. You increase security in Bagdhad; best case the militants flee the area or simply hide their arms and chill for a while. If that had been done right after the invasion, it would have helped immensely because the integrated neighborhoods would have been stabilized and the middle class could have established trade, etc. Now it's far too late for that to help at all, the mixed neighborhoods have already been cleansed and the middle class has fled. The country is in shambles and no one is going to move back to their neighborhood because of the temporary security. (for the record I think the Democratic condemnation of the surge is also retarded, it's pointless and hypocritical, it's not an "escalation" as they like to say, and it's just cheap political grandstanding).

Anyway, here's the real reason for the surge : the surge will, of course, greatly improve security in the short run. The administration will no doubt quote those figures to claim that real progress has been made. That then gives them two options - if Iraq is still looking good heading into the 2008 elections, they will claim their strategy has worked. If it doesn't, they will blame the regression on the Democratic congress for not supporting the surge enough, for "cutting and running" or some such nonsense.

The only logical reason for the surge I can see is as a purely political maneuver.

2/24/2007

02-24-07 - 3

There's an interesting possibility. Imagine I have something like $100k cash. I want to leverage that in to a $1M or larger instrument. I then want to put that instrument on a 50/50 double or nothing (roulette, baccarat, some financial market). If it hits, I have $2M, I pay off the leverage and I'm good. If it misses, I flee the country and go off the grid, which would be a fun rewarding life in it's own way. I think this is in fact a very appealing idea if I can find the right instrument to make this leveraged bet. (obviously people basically do this with housing all the time, but the turn-around time on that is too long and there are huge fees)

02-24-07 - 2

I wanted to write this down for myself :

The big open question in my life is whether I should force myself to do what I think I "should" do, or whether I should just do what I'm comfortable with. That is, should I try to do something that will be difficult but perhaps help me change and be a better person (eg. something social, something artistic), or should I just do what I know I can do well and find some little happiness in it (something solitary, something intellectual).

02-24-07 - 1

Dan got this job that seemed really amazing, and then the reality of working for people set in. Turns out her boss is psycho and totally incompetent as a manager, so Dan was getting passive-aggressive blame shunting all the time and stressing and never knowing exactly what to do. It's all the typical shit you'd imagine, like the boss calls at 10 PM one day and is freaking out, some task is needed that was never assigned and why didn't you do it yet. Dan works late into the night and gets it done. Tomorrow it turns out it wasn't really needed after all.

It all just reminds me of my days as an employee. In my zen state now it just seems ridiculous. The other thing that's painfully familiar is the way nobody wants to hear her ideas. She has great ideas on design, marketting opportunities, etc. she's a new hire full of energy, and they just want to crush that and put her in a role where she does her assignments and doesn't make suggestions. I don't mean to imply it's just management either, it's the people who work those other tasks that don't want to hear about it. It's petty human defensiveness and dismissiveness, not wanting to admit that someone else could have a better idea on your specialty, and assuming that they don't and not having the patience to listen, etc.

There are, of course, tech workers all around me and I hear them talking when I get coffee, when I go to lunch. There are lots of Googlites and others, and their conversations with each other are so mind-numbingly banal and pointless.

2/23/2007

02-23-07 - 1

Nonstick pans have only two common uses in my kitchen. One is eggs. The other is this :

How to cook delicate fish : fish like sole, red snapper, etc. are a bit tricky to fry unless you use a ton of oil and basically deep fry them. I prefer this low-oil easy to control method. Heat a nonstick pan as hot as is safe for it (medium heat). Dry the fish, salt & pepper it, and rub a thin coating of oil on the fish - no oil in the pan. Put the fish in the pan and turn down the heat, cook about 3 minutes on each side; fish should be "rare", so you're just searing it. After you flip it you can add butter, white wine, whatever you want to dress it.

2/21/2007

02-21-07 - 2

The most awesome page on authentic Mexican cooking

02-21-07 - 1

I think a lot of the appeal of RPG-like games is that they feel like work. Right now I'm not working and it's very satisfying to play an RPG, you accomplish things, make todo lists, buy nice things for your character, etc. When you're doing those things in real life, you don't really want more busy work and todo lists in your free time, just some stress-free fun. I think that's part of why teenage boys love video games so much - it's a way to have a "responsible life" where you do important things like save the world, rather than your ordinary life which is retarded school and leisure.

I'm playing Baldur's Gate 2 and it's super rad. I think the open-ended Chapter 2 is one of the best segments of a computer RPG ever. They do a really good job of keeping you interested in the overall story, making it open ended, and also giving you enough direction; the city feels big and full of things to do. There are a lot of totally retarded game design flaws, but if you just put up with them it's still a pretty sweet game. You can play it in 1600x1200 and it still looks great. I tried playing some Neverwinter Nights, but ugh that bad 3D is just unbearable. So many people jumped on the 3D bandwagon because they "had to" because that's what "gamers expected/demanded" and they just wound up making a bunch of really disgusting looking games. The old 2D games are pretty much all still sweet, but most of the 3D games from before 2001 or so are just awful. (it's especially retarded when you're just making an isometric game, or when trying to make a photo-real game).

2/20/2007

02-20-07 - 1

I've made some of the best food of my life recently, just improvising. Here are some quick notes to remind myself as much as anyone else.

Braised "Delmonico" over Polenta. Use some kind of stew meat (I had Club Steak, but probably Short Ribs are better); brown very thoroughly in stew pan - get very very brown. In the mean time cut the veggies - mushrooms, carrots, celery, onions & figs - and put in a bowl with some bay leaves, cloves, fennel seeds, and a bit of brown sugar. Remove meat from pan and deglaze with lots of white wine, add chicken stock & boil. Put meat back in, toss in veggie bowl & braise for about 2 hours. Do a boquet of thyme too if you like. The goal is a very dark syrupy liquid, it should be almost all evaporated, slightly sweet. Serve over polenta with parsely.

Simple pasta primavera. Prep veggies first. Whatever you have is fine, but some suggestions are zuchini, peas, asparagus, artichokes, endives, carrots. Use some kind of meat - ham or shrimp is good. Brown the meat thoroughly in a sauce pan. When it's done cooking, remove from the pan, add oil & lots of garlic to brown, then deglaze with a tiny bit of chicken stock or white wine. Toss in all the veg and put a lid on so they steam in the liquid. Now boil the noodles, but the time they're done the veg is done. Toss it all together, add grated cheese, capers & julienned basil at this point. This was suprisingly flavorful just like this. Maybe a tiny bit of light roux or bechamel would be even better.

Slow roasted double cut pork chops. This is a very brief prep note. I've made this many times and never really liked my results. I always sort of treated them like a steak in the past, which means sear and then heat in the oven to get the inside warm enough, but still rare to medium rare. The result of that method is pork chops that are dry and tough outside and raw inside. I tried this new method and it's the money. First make sure you brine the chops in a sweet+savory brine for a day. Then sear on very high heat just to get color and crust on the outside. Put them in an oven safe dish and put in a 350 oven for 30 minutes (exact time varies). Remove and rest for 5-10 minutes. In the mean time you can make a pan sauce in the searing pan and make your side dishes or whatever. The result should be evenly cooked through, not more done on the outside and raw in the middle, and should be melting soft and tender, soft of like a filet mignon in texture. The typical pork chop sauces are good, like glazed browned apricots, etc.

2/16/2007

02-16-07 - 3

My apartment is slightly above street level; it's on the 1st floor but like most San Francisco buildings you take stairs up to the first floor to add verticality. The Victorian shotgun houses are designed to have long vertical lines, to make you look up to the heavens; the first floor is raised well above the sidewalk, the ceilings are high on each floor, and then they have false fronts that make them look even taller. In contrast the Prairie style has wide horizontal lines that take your eyes out into the country on either side (they only work in open spaces where your eye can fall off the side of the building and meet the long flat horizontal earth). In both cases the desire is to not be square, even though square is the most sensible and efficient house geometry.

Anyway, I have a big window in front that looks out on the street. I sit at my desk and watch people walk by. Because they're looking up, they can only see me from the chest up, so I can be totally naked on the bottom and nobody knows.

02-16-07 - 2

You've gotta keep moving. Better to make a bad decision than no decision. As long as you keep moving, eventually you'll get there. The only way you're gauranteed to never get there is if you stop moving.

02-16-07 - 1

Movies have a lot of ways they can go wrong. But they also have a lot of ways they can go right. They're easier than a pure form, like books, because if a movie's really good in just one aspect, that makes it a "good movie" overall. If the visuals are really amazing, the movie might be good or at least "worth watching" even if the plot and acting are totally retarded.

ps. "Village of Dreams" is really great. It's sort of pointless, and I hate child actors, sometimes they're really bad, but overall it's so sweet and paints a really deep picture of this small town in Japan and the family dynamics.

2/15/2007

02-15-07 - 3

Man it sucks when you get a product that's functional but crappy. It's good enough that I try to just live with it, but every time I use it I wish I had a better one. The Oddworld messenger bag is this way for me. The love seat we got for the house is like this too; it sucks but it's good enough so we'll never replace it.

02-15-07 - 2

I made chocolate pudding from scratch (Joy of Baking recipe, great site). It's pretty delicious, but there's an easier way to make great chocolate pudding. Just make the Jello Pudding box (the cook it kind, not the instant) and melt in 4 oz of good quality very dark chocolate. Everyone will think it's super deluxe gourmet pudding. If you want them to think you're a fancy genius you can add a tiny bit of cayenne powder or ginger juice or whatever wacky flavor of the moment.

02-15-07 - 1

If you think about it, pretty much everything that Americans do to make money are things that people don't need. Minor-benefit surgery and pharmaceuticals. Lots of entertainment content in various forms (things like fashion design go here too). Finance management. What people really need is housing & food & basic products. However, people who make housing & food & basic products can't afford to buy those things in America because the prices are skewed by all the rich people making things that nobody needs. If everybody just made the things we actually need, there would be way too much of it and it would be super cheap and noone could buy anything outside the country (like the oil we need to import).

Part of the problem is civilization. If you could just kill someone and take all his wealth, with maybe a 10% chance of getting caught and killed yourself, then imbalances would work themselves out. Any time the imbalance got too big, the poor would just kill some rich. Also the rich would have to hire more people for self defense and hire people to build walls and more energy would be going into the basic necessities of life. One of the reasons man kind spent all its energy on basic subsistence for so long was that so much energy was spend on wars & defense and recovery. In a way, that's a good thing, because it keeps the population down, keeps everyone busy, and prevents it from being too easy to survive.

2/13/2007

02-13-07 - 2

Ugh. I made Jamie Oliver's recipe for roast chicken, and he's got a retarded mistake in it. He makes an herb butter and rubs it under the skin and on the skin. Okay, that's all good, but he puts finely chopped garlic in it. Garlic burns before the skin gets all nice and crispy. I thought it might be a problem before I did it but I thought WTF it's a tested recipe I'll just do it. No, trust your gut. My oven probably cycles hotter than a pro's but still not a good idea.

02-13-07 - 1

The Pillow Fight is tomorrow in SF. Looks like Dan's working late so we're not gonna go :( There's a handful of fun events like this each year in SF, they're pretty hard to find though.

2/10/2007

02-10-07 - 1

The whole cutting a grapefruit in half and using a serated spoon is so retarded. It's so complicated and difficult to eat a grapefruit like that, when all the normal ways of eating oranges work perfectly well with grapefruit. Just peel it and eat the segments!!

2/09/2007

02-09-07 - 1

Someone should do an internet streaming X-rated show like "The Real World".

2/08/2007

02-08-07 - 6

Part of the problem that I have with long term relationships is that I like myself a lot better when I'm in dating mode. I'm more interesting, I go out more, when I'm in seduction mode I'm confident, I pretend to have a life and be dynamic and all that. It's exhausting, but I prefer being around myself when I'm like that. Over time in a relationship I relax and act more like my real self, which is a pretty awful person to live with.

02-08-07 - 5

When there's some sort of economic boom cycle and everyone is talking about the "boom" that's probably not a good time to get in. When you see an irrational bubble and yet most people are calling it a "correction" or a "new paradigm" and you think that's nonsense - that's a good time to try to ride the bubble and exploit their stupidity.

02-08-07 - 4

Pets and children fill very much the same emotional void. They take up a lot of time, which distracts you from the emptiness of life; they are very entertaining in a purile way - you mainly laugh *at* them because they are so dumb, like haha my dog is chasing its own tail, how stupid, haha, or haha my kid just stuck a stapler in the peanut butter, haha what a moron. There are pros & cons to each, of course, pets are much easier, but children are much more sophisticated versions of the toy.

02-08-07 - 3

99% of humans for the last 200 years have lived the "salaryman" life, which is basically working full time at a job that's sort of okay, perhaps getting ahead so their children have more advantages than they did, perhaps in comfort, perhaps not, filling their free time with various different time wasters like hobbies, TV, politics, or children. I've come to realize that the difference between a very poor salaryman and a very rich one is really not a very big difference as long as they're both living the salaryman existence. The rich one has a much easier time getting out of the salaryman existence, but almost never takes advantage of that and simply lives the same life in slightly more luxury. Luxury is grossly over-rated and does little for happiness.

02-08-07 - 2

The cute girl at Trader Joe's asked me to get something for her from the back of a high shelf. I'm tall, I did it for her and she thanked me. It made me feel happy. Wow, look what I can do, mommy are you proud of me? I think I'm ridiculous laughable scum that this is what it takes to make me happy.

02-08-07 - 1

My mom is over 50 now, and in all those years she has not lost her shock and disgust at the gross stupidity of common man. She's a school teacher, and I recall one time recently when her school's principal sent out a memo that was chock full of spelling and grammar errors, and she was shocked and outraged "I mean for god's sake, the principal should at least be able to compose a sentence in English!". She lives on "Quebec" street, and I recall one time we went to a post office place to mail something and she told her address and they said "spell it please" and she did her sort of double-take "are you kidding me" look and said "like the Canadian province" and the person was just like "spell it please", and my mom rolled her eyes.

This is interesting to me because I lost my shock & disgust at these things when I was like 18 or so. Now I'm not at all surprised when people around me are gob-smackingly stupid. I think her way is borderline insane, but is a much better way to live - keep assuming that people are okay and just constantly be shocked to find out they're not.

One thing I've been noticing recently is that people do completely moronic things even when they're a major part of their everyday life and not something that needs to be taught in school or anything like that.

For example, the Trader Joe's I go to has a two level parking lot. The bottom level is almost always full, or maybe has one or two spots empty, and the top level is almost always near empty. There's always a traffic jam in the bottom with people circling around looking for spots. If these people had an ounce of sense they would just go to the upper level right away, but they seem to be completely without consideration of basic logic in their daily lives. Now, when you do go up to the upper level, the ramp takes you to one side of the lot. The stairs & elevator to get down to the shop is on the opposite side of the lot. If you had any sense, you would park near the stairs/elevator. Instead I usually find the cars bunched up at the side of the lot where the ramp is. This is like 5 cars in a lot for 200 and they all decided to park right next to each other on the wrong side of the lot. Sure sure, maybe a few are first time shoppers who don't know what's up, but the majority are regulars who come every week and still haven't thought about the basics of what they do.

I guess you have even more blatant ones all the time in a business setting. Running a good meeting is a key basic activity in business (and how to do it is trivially obvious) but probably 90% of meetings are run badly.

2/05/2007

02-05-07 - 2

I got some Celeriac (aka "Celery Root" though it's not the root of normal celery) at Farmer's market the other day. It's really delicious stuff, it has a spicy celery flavor, a really amazing herby smell, perhaps a hint of radish. It's very tough raw, so you have to either cut it very thin, cure it in a bit of acid, or just blanche it. I put some in a stew and that killed the flavor a bit too much, so I don't recommend that particularly. A lot of people don't realize that celery greens are edible and actually full of wonderful flavor.

02-05-07 - 1

Wow, the Hype Machine is like the best thing on the internet ever. It's a music blog aggregator and it does like everything perfectly. It's comprehensive and super easy to use.

2/01/2007

02-01-07 - 2

PokerAceHUD is this crappy/trivial little product that takes your PokerTracker stats and overlays them on your poker client window. The interesting thing to me is that it's very popular and there's basically no competition, so the guy is making decent money for a really miniscule amount of work. The key to the success of PAHUD was getting into a niche market and providing a valuable feature very early on, so people adopt your product and then you get momentum and it's hard for competitors to come in. Another key thing about the PAHUD market that I've learned is that there's a whole different cost consciousness when you're selling productivity/money-making enhancers. When someone is buying a software tool to help them make more money, they are willing to spend a lot for very little enhancement, whereas if they're just buying something for their own leisure time they are much more cost aware.

02-01-07 - 1

It's always interesting to read the reviews of a place which you know really well, because it shows you just how uneducated and superficial most newspaper articles & reviews are. The NYT reviewed "Tartine" in my hood, a very great local bakery, but the review is constantly touting the deft touch of owner/baker Elizabeth Pruitt. I don't think Elizabeth has been anywhere near the shop since it opened and she certainly isn't baking. Their contention that scone recipes and preparations are standard is totally wrong both in theory and practice, though it is correct that Tartine has very good scones. There's so much good information and knowledge out there, and yet we still have these "journalist" figures writing about things they know little about, and the people with real knowledge of things are not tapped. This is probably most obvious to you all when you read science or technology articles in the mainstream press which are just woefully foolish. Now think about all the political articles that you read - you're not an expert in that subject so you simply can't see how equally foolish those writers are.

old rants