Jason’s Ranting & Raving

Those who don’t read have no advantage over those who can’t.

Archive for June, 2009

Book Review: Julie & Julia – My Year of Cooking Dangerously by Julie Powell

Posted by jaystile on June 30, 2009

Julie & Julia – My Year of Cooking Dangerously by Julie Powell ©2005. I don’t usually read books my wife has laying around, but since I know she is going to drag me to the movie version I would at least be able to smugly say, “The book was much better.” This book covers the adventures of Julie Powell as she tries to cook every recipe in “Mastering the Art of French Cooking” by Julia Child in one year. She kept a blog about her exploits that were then organized into a book.

There were definitely some humorous moments in the book describing the anxiety of butchering her first lobster. And the detailed disasters of many failed attempts at completing the recipes. All the writing about the trials and tribulations of cooking kept me entertained. Her personal life and that of her friends kind of disgusted me. Although I’m reading her personal thoughts and feelings (which if everyone knew what I thought would probably be equally disgusted) I couldn’t help but think, “This woman has not matured emotionally since she was 15.” It is important for everyone to nurture the different aspects of their person and I think she learned that by the end of her experience. And the part in the book where maggots and flies overcome her kitchen/loft because she hasn’t washed the drainage rack for her dishes grossed me out. What that says to me is, “We’ll do the dishes but we are too lazy to dry and put them away.” I hate that kind of laziness. It’s disgusting. Yes, everyone is tired and no one wants to do work. Too bad. Come home. Make dinner. Do your chores for the day. Shower up. Kiss your lover goodnight. Then do it all again the next day.

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Cooking: How to Smoke a Brisket

Posted by jaystile on June 28, 2009

Coated with Mustard & Magic Dust

Coated with Mustard & Magic Dust

Smoking on the Grill

Smoking on the Grill

Smoking Complete, finished on the top shelf

Smoking Complete, finished on the top shelf

Get ready for the oven by sealing it in foil

Get ready for the oven by sealing it in foil

After cooking SLOWLY for another 5 hours.

After cooking SLOWLY for another 5 hours.

Voila! Ready to serve. If is looks a bit managled it's because it falls apart when you try and slice it.

Voila! Ready to serve. If is looks a bit managled it's because it falls apart when you try and slice it.


Smoking a Beef Brisket is easy! (It just takes a lot of time) I usually like to get started around 8am.

Before you get started make sure you have everything you need.

  1. Charcoal
  2. Lighter Fluid
  3. Hickory Chips
  4. Aluminum Foil
  5. Beef Brisket, you can use the point or the flat, or the whole darn thing (You’ll need a bigger pan though)
  6. Mustard
  7. Magic Dust
  8. BBQ Sauce!

Steps

  1. Get the brisket out and let it start warming to room temperature
  2. Start soaking your Hickory Chips! (I usually forget this)
  3. Rinse the Brisket and pat dry with paper towel
  4. Start with the fatty side down and coat liberally with mustard.
  5. Cover the brisket with Magic Dust.
  6. Flip the brisket over, cover with mustard and then magic dust.
  7. Start up the Grill! Only use 40-45 charcoal briquettes. Set the coals at your grills lowest level.
  8. Always cook the Brisket fatty side UP. This allows the fat to move down through the meat.
  9. Put the brisket directly over the heat source for approximately 15 minutes. This chars the bottom of the brisket and adds some nice flavor, but don’t do it too long otherwise you’ll dry out the brisket (which is exactly what we DON’T want to do).
  10. Move the brisket to the top shelf of the grill and let it cook until the coals burn out. Approximately 2hrs
  11. Remove extra wire shelves from the oven. Pre-heat your oven to 240F (155C).
  12. Create a foil wrap for the brisket. Take 3 sheets of aluminum foil approximately 1yd. (1m) long and fold them tightly together lengthwise.
  13. Place the foil in a baking pan (to help catch the juices) and transfer the brisket to the pan. Seal the foil completely. If there are openings in the foil your brisket will dry out
  14. Place the pan in the oven and let cook slowly until dinner!
  15. Remove the pan from the oven and open the foil (careful of the steam! don’t burn yourself!)
  16. Transfer the juice from the pan with a baster to a large bowl
  17. The Brisket should stand for about 15 minutes
  18. Transfer the Brisket to a cutting board and remove excess fat. (The fat should be able to be wiped off with the back of the knife if cooked correctly)
  19. I like to divide the brisket into three long sections and then thinly slice each length
  20. Transfer to a platter and lightly coat the slices with the drippings collected from the pan
  21. I like to serve the brisket with buns and multiple options of BBQ sauces

Tips
Low and Slow
This rule applies to all tough cuts of meat. You want to cook them at low heat very slowly. This allows the tough muscle tissue to unwind to make the meat more tender. Purists might say when smoking a brisket you should add more coals and keep it on the grill. That is fine, but not necessary. The smoke and char is a ‘flavor’ once you have it you don’t need to keep it on the grill. The oven allows for a long consistent heat instead of the ‘up and down’ of the grill.

Starting the Grill
Stack your coals in a pyramid shape and soak each coal in fluid. Light them up and don’t do ANYTHING until there a ring of gray around EVERY coal. We’re not in a rush since most of the cooking will happen in the oven. Knock the coals down flat once they are ready. Make sure you have long tongs or an asbestos glove when moving the coals.

Chips versus Blocks
You can get two different cuts of wood for smoking. Either blocks or chips. The chips will burn up quickly if placed directly on the coals. After soaking, make a foil container for the chips and then toss them on the coals. Note that wood burns hotter and faster than charcoal. If you use blocks these might dry out and start burning really hot! I usually put my soaked blocks on the edge of my coals so even if they do catch fire they won’t be directly underneath the meat and burn it.

Different Grill?
Not everyone has a grill like mine. You can still do this in a kettle style grill without options to adjust the height of the cooking surface and without an upper shelf. Just stack your coals on one side of the grill and cook the brisket indirectly (Don’t knock down the coal after starting). You’ll probably have to rotate your brisket every 20 minutes or so to keep the edge nearest the heat from drying out.

Ingredients
I get my Brisket from Sam’s Club. They have surprisingly nice cuts of beef. Additionally, I get BBQ sauces from Target their Archer Farm’s brand is quite excellent, might I recommend the Kansas City BBQ and the Carolina Style mustard BBQ sauce.

—–
If you give it a go, let me know how it turned out for you!

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Rough Bicycle Commute Today

Posted by jaystile on June 25, 2009

Today has started off just peachy. The dog got up a half hour before I wanted to get up after I had stayed up late playing poker the night before. I had all my saddle bags packed before I went to bed, so I put on my clothes, kissed the wife & kids, and hopped on the bike to ride to work! I manged to catch every single red light. The area I live has plenty of sidewalks and no bike lanes. To try and ward off the aggressive drivers (who try and teach you a lesson for riding your bike on the road) that swerve too close or honk, I hop on the sidewalk. This however gets you out of the flow of traffic and at every intersection someone is trying to turn in front of you. But they are looking for cars, not bikes. They are looking at the road, not the sidewalk. Probably about 6 times, there was someone waiting to turn with their car parked WAY over the cross walk. Of course, they don’t see me because they aren’t looking, or they are playing with their radio, or they are talking on the phone. I have to come to almost a complete stop a few feet from them before they make their OH I DIDN’T SEE YOU face. Of course, you didn’t see me. You weren’t looking.

Now, here is the major bad thing that happened and it was totally my fault. I’m on the sidewalk (because there are no bike lanes) and a bus stops ahead of me. Two people get onto the bus. I think the bus is about to close it’s doors and leave because after riding the bus for 3 years in Chicago I know about how long it takes to load/unload a bus. NOPE! A large man steps out of the rear door with the confidence of someone who is going to have a great day! WRONG AGAIN! I slammed on my disc breaks skid about 4 feet and hit the guy with my left shoulder, which caroms me off to the right toward a newspaper stand. I stick out my right hand and catch myself with a large thud and the newspaper stand tips over. OUCH! My right hand hurts now. I have a big bruise on my palm by my thumb and a scrape on my wrist. The guy was very apologetic. Even though it was totally my fault. He said he had seen me riding and can’t believe he didn’t look when he stepped out. Now, I’m a jackass because I was mad. I didn’t say anything mean, but I didn’t ask if he was OK. It could have just been the comparison with hitting a newspaper box, but it felt more like I bumped him than hit him. “Hey, Dude with the yellow Angelia Jolie style sunglasses, hairy shoulders, white tank top, and lisp! I’m sorry! Are you OK?” Seriously, I feel like a major d-bag.

The ride wasn’t over yet. Besides the cars crossing my path and red lights and minor injury, I got passed by a dump truck. For .25 miles (.40km for my non U.S. friends) it stunk so bad that I felt like I had to vomit. Then as I am almost to work I pass one of those industrial strength lawn mowers that showers my legs with hard little pieces of grass, sand, and stone. Finally, I made it to work and take a shower. I have grease on me. I couldn’t seem to get the grease off my elbow, fingers, and neck (off course I had to scratch my neck with greasy hands!). So now I’m work with a healthy bit of grease on me relating my story.

Surprisingly, I’m not in a bad mood. It’s actually kind of funny to me. I know it could be worse, did I tell you about the time I failed to climb a 2 inch ( 5.1 cm) curb? My front shock compressed and my tire snapped to the side and threw me over the handle bars where I broke the fall with my face and shoulder. That little trip kept my from cycling for 3 months.

Life is short, so have a good day, I know I will!

Posted in Funny | Tagged: , , | 2 Comments »

Book Review: The Hero with a Thousand Faces by Joseph Campbell

Posted by jaystile on June 22, 2009

The Hero with a Thousand Faces

The Hero with a Thousand Faces

The Hero with a Thousand Faces is a non-fiction book by Joseph Campbell ©1949. The premise of the book is that there is only one hero story, the monomyth. All stories share similar seeds of the idea of the hero. Joseph Campbell uses hero stories from varied traditions like Judeo-Christian, Buddhist, Native American, Australian, African, Irish, Nordic, and the far east to use as examples of the universal condition of man. The concepts in the book are exhilarating, however Campbell’s literary style has him flowing from topic/example to another and then back again. And other than his over zealous support for Freudian psychoanalysis and dream analysis (which was very popular at the time of writing) it was worth a read. I enjoyed Part I which focused on the exploits of the hero more than Part II which revolved around the cyclical nature of the universe and the hero’s role in it.

Mythology has been interpreted by the modern intellect as a primitive, fumbling effort to explain the world of nature (Frazer); as a production of poetical fantasy from prehistoric times, misunderstood by succeeding ages (Muller); as a repository of allegorical instruction, to shape the individual to his group (Durkheim); as a group dream, symptomatic of archetypal urges within the depths of the human psyche (Jung); as the traditional vehicle of man’s profoundest metaphysical insights (Coomaraswamy); and as God’ Revelation to His children (the Church). Mythology is all of these. The various judgments are determined by the viewpoints of the judges. For when scrutinized in terms not of what it is but of how it functions, of how it has served mankind in the past, of how it may serve today, mythology shows itself to be as amenable as life itself to the obsessions and requirements of the individual, the race, the age.

This book had a profound influence on George Lucas and the Star Wars story. The Hero with a Thousand Faces had me thinking of the many parallels of the hero stories I’ve enjoyed which I would like to align with the chapter titles in the book to add to his examples. So, let’s see how our modern tales fit in the monomyth (paraphrased for entertainment value by myself).

The Lord of the Rings by J.R.R Tolkien

  1. The Call to Adventure – Take the ring to Elrond.
  2. Refusal of the Call – I can’t go I’m in love with the Shire. What’s that? Bad things are coming to kill me? F@#$ this place.
  3. Supernatural Aid – Tom Bombadil, enough said. Old Man Willow should have ate their sorry hobbit behinds. Not too mention that Gandalf gets resurrected, talk about Deus Ex Machina. (Not that I am criticizing J.R.R. Tolkien my personal literary god.)
  4. The Crossing of the First Threshold – Let’s run to the Prancing Pony!
  5. The Belly of the Whale – You’re holding The One Ring to Rule them all. *uh oh*

The Matrix by Larry and Andy Wachowski

  1. The Call to Adventure – Follow the White Rabbit.
  2. Refusal of the Call – Climb out the window?! GTFO. <<Insert mechanical insect>> On second thought, where is that red pill?
  3. Supernatural Aid – I’m going to learn kung-fu? Yes dumbass, why else would we stab you in the brain?
  4. The Crossing of the First Threshold – Free your mind.
  5. The Belly of the Whale – Your whole life was a fabrication called The Matrix

Harry Potter by J. K. Rowling

  1. The Call to Adventure – You’re a wizard and didn’t know it. Congratulations
  2. Supernatural Aid – Hi, I’m Hagrid here to bust your ass out and be your BFF even though you’ll never appreciate me.
  3. The Crossing of the First Threshold – To Diagon Alley!
  4. The Belly of the Whale – Welcome to Hogwarts! Time to meet your mortal enemy!

Star Wars by George Lucas

  1. The Call to Adventure – Come with me to Alderaan.
  2. Refusal of the Call – I can’t I’m in enough trouble as it is! Oh, it turns out my foster parents are dead. I think I’ll go with you instead.
  3. Supernatural Aid – “hokey religions and ancient weapons are no substitute for a good blaster at your side”. Actually, it turns out they are.
  4. The Crossing of the First Threshold – That little droid is going to get me into a lot of trouble! … I see two banthas down there but no Sandpeople… *URRGHGG UR UR URRRGGGH*
  5. The Belly of the Whale – The Death Star. The metaphor doesn’t even have to stretch.

The Hero with a Thousand Faces – Table of Contents
Prologue: The Monomyth

  1. Myth and Ream
  2. Tragedy and Comedy
  3. The Hero and the God
  4. The World Navel

Part I: The Adventure of the Hero
Chapter I: Departure

  1. The Call to Adventure
  2. Refusal of the Call
  3. Supernatural Aid
  4. The Crossing of the First Threshold
  5. The Belly of the Whale

Chapter II: Initiation

  1. The Road of Trials
  2. The Meeting with the Goddess
  3. Woman as the Temptress
  4. Atonement with the Father
  5. Apotheosis
  6. The Ultimate Boon

Chapter III: Return

  1. Refusal of the Return
  2. The Magic Flight
  3. Rescue from Without
  4. The Crossing of the Return Threshold
  5. Master of the Two Worlds
  6. Freedom to Live

Chapter IV: The Keys

Part II: The Cosmogonic Cycle
Chapter I: Emanations

  1. From Psychology to Metaphysics
  2. The Universal Round
  3. Out of the Void–Space
  4. Within Space–Life
  5. The Breaking of the One into the Manifold
  6. Fold Stories of Creation

Chapter II: The Virgin Birth

  1. Mother Universe
  2. Matrix of Destiny
  3. Womb of Redemption
  4. Fold Stories of Virgin Motherhood

Chapter III: Transformations of the Hero

  1. The Primordial Hero and the Human
  2. Childhood of the Human Hero
  3. The Hero as Warrior
  4. The Hero as Lover
  5. The Hero as Emperor and as Tyrant
  6. The Hero as World Redeemer
  7. The Hero as Saint
  8. Departure of the Hero

Chapter IV: Dissolutions

  1. End of the Microcosm
  2. End of the Macrocosm

Epilogue: Myth and Society

  1. The Shapeshifter
  2. The FUnction of Myth, Cult, and Meditation
  3. The Hero Today

Posted in Book Review | Tagged: , , | 1 Comment »

Perl: Finding a Class in a Jar file.

Posted by jaystile on June 19, 2009

I was having some trouble finding which jar contained a class I needed. I wrote a perl script to find it.


#!/usr/bin/perl

use strict;

# flush print to the output after every write.
$| = 1;

##############################################################################
# Parse the parameters.
##############################################################################
if( (scalar @ARGV) ne 2) {

   print "Expected arguments: findClass.pl <ROOT_DIRECTORY> <CLASS_NAME>\n";
   exit;
}
print "findClass.pl\n";
my $dir = shift @ARGV;
my $targetClassName = shift @ARGV;
print "Using root directory: $dir\n";
print "Looking for class: $targetClassName\n";

##############################################################################
# Backup your current directory, go to working directory
##############################################################################
my $currDir = `pwd`;
chomp $currDir;
chdir $dir;

# work
searchDir();

##############################################################################
# Return to previous directory and exit.
##############################################################################
chdir $currDir;
exit;

##############################################################################
# Subroutines 
##############################################################################
sub searchDir {
   my @jarList = `find . -name "*.jar"`;
   my @classList;
   my @results = [];

   foreach my $jarName (@jarList) {
      print ".";
      @classList = `jar -tf $jarName`;
      foreach my $className (@classList) {
         if($className =~ /$targetClassName/) {
            print "*";
            chomp $jarName;
            chomp $className;
            push @results, "$jarName:$className";
         }
      }
   }

   foreach my $result (@results) {
      print "$result\n";
   }
}

Posted in Programming | Tagged: | 1 Comment »

The Joy of Parenting: Embarrassing Remark

Posted by jaystile on June 19, 2009

My four year old decided to let her swim instructor know that she had bug bites all over her face. The trouble is that it was acne not bug bites.

So again, we have to teach the lesson, we don’t tell people things about themselves they already know. We don’t tell people that they are short, fat, skinny, tall because they know by looking in the mirror.

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The Joy of Parenting: Star Wars

Posted by jaystile on June 11, 2009

I was exercising on my bike trainer in the basement. My daughter (4.5yrs) came down and we were watching Star Wars (IV). It was her first time seeing the movie. She had a lot of questions. But the most profound was at the very end where they are celebrating the destruction of the Death Star. “Dad, why didn’t the alien (a.k.a. Chewbecca) get a medal? He helped, too!” She was very upset over the unfairness of the situation.

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Atheist Affirmation: Live for the day

Posted by jaystile on June 9, 2009

I’m glad I’m an atheist because I enjoy each day just a little bit more. Thinking about our ultimate demise and the lack of a fun-filled-unicorn-inhabited-skipping-and-prancing after life, I know we get nothing. Someone once told me that you can’t have love without Jesus in your heart. I would like to affirm that is just not true. I hold my wife a little closer. I hold back more harsh words. I cling to my daughters just a little longer. I stop and smell the roses. In fact when I let go of my religious beliefs life became that much harsher and that much sweeter. You realize that the only thing we have is each other and it is important to treat each other well. Life is good.

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Atheist Affirmation: Not screwing up our kids

Posted by jaystile on June 6, 2009

I’m glad I’m an atheist because I don’t have to do things like teach my kids that masturbation is a sin. “You know those really sensitive areas on your body that feel good? Don’t touch those or baby Jesus will cry.” I don’t have to teach abstinence until marriage because no one is going to hell for adultery. I’m glad that I will not be screwing up my kids with false information and guilt.

What I do have to teach is responsibility. Double up on birth control because condoms break. Always use a condom to help stop the spread of sexually transmitted diseases. There is an evolutionary reason why we have sexually transmitted diseases… because EVERYONE likes to have sex and wants to have sex. Anyone who doesn’t like to have sex gets selected out of the gene pool. Be responsible in your choice of partners. Be responsible with regard to procreation. Be responsible with regard to sexually transmitted diseases. If you can’t be responsible you’re not ready for sex. And if you are responsible don’t let me catch/hear you. Thats just common courtesy.

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Atheist Affirmation: Freedom of Thought

Posted by jaystile on June 3, 2009

Yes, I'm aware that this is not the Pope.

Yes, I'm aware that this is not the Pope.

I’m glad that I’m an atheist because I no longer sit through Sunday morning lectures about how I can’t vote for someone who supports abortion rights. And being raised Catholic we were threatened that we should not receive communion if you voted for someone who supports the current laws. I also have no problems with responsible reproduction. Condoms are not a sin against god. In fact if there is one problem with this world it is overpopulation. Overpopulation results in too much contention for resources and more pollution of the Earth. Use condoms, reproduce responsibly, and help curb STDs. I can make decisions for myself without someone in a big white hat telling me what is right and wrong. There is a lot of ‘gray area’ out there that we need to decide about for ourselves how we feel about it. Not to mention, sleeping in on Sunday! It’s like I got 25% of my weekend back guilt free!

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