The Boston Diaries

The ongoing saga of a programmer who doesn't live in Boston, nor does he even like Boston, but yet named his weblog/journal “The Boston Diaries.”

Go figure.

Friday, August 18, 2017

“Hi, I'm Sean. And I'm a globaholic.”

I couldn't help myself—I got the globe.

[I failed my “save vs. globe” throw.  Also, my iPhone identified this as a selfie—how scary is that?]

How could I not? It came with a geometrical plastic hemisphere!

[Lines, grid marks and numbers! Oh my!]

How many globes have you seen with a geometrical plastic hemisphere?


I'm older than these are! How can they be antiques?

Another store we stopped at was the Shabby Shack Mall (no link for them—they only have a page on MyFaceGoogleLinkedBookPlusInSpace, which makes it nearly impossible for me to link to—damn those proprietary walled gardens!). It's supposedly an antique mall, but then they have stuff like this:

[A plastic Madonna doll, how appropriate.]

These aren't antiques! They're from a 1990 movie for crying out loud! They're younger than I am!

Sigh.

They also had this sign, which both Bunny and I found amusing:

[Those bullet holes really drive the point home.]

Extreme plates, Brevard edition

As we were driving around, it looked like an interesting place. So we stopped by Mud Daubber's of Brevard. On the outside, it's a ramshackle building that looks like a stiff breeze would knock it over. On the inside is an incredible collection of pottery, all made locally.

One piece caught my eye—a plate:

[This is giving those 19th Century illustrators a serious run for their money.]

The level of detail is incredible and upon asking, I learned that the artist pressed real leaves into the clay before firing. The leaves burn away, leaving an impression that is then enhanced, giving it this beautiful 19TH Century illustrative look.

It's just an incredible piece of work.


Meat and conversation

Bunny and I decided to try Magpie Meat & Three, a restaurant in the industrial section of Brevard.

[This used to be on the wrong side of the tracks, until the tracks were removed. Now it's just the industrial side of the town.]

It wasn't immediately obvious where it was located, but we eventually asked and learned that it was behind the Squatch Bikes & Brew, a combination bike store and bar.

Seriously.

But like most food places around here, it's worth it.

[If they ever wanted to expand, they could always go for a loft approach.]

They also have a large selection of craft beers on tap, for those that are into that sort of thing.

[I suspect people don't drink the Stone Ruination DIPA for the taste.]

Nothing like good North Carolina BBQ for lunch.

Thursday, August 17, 2017

Extreme globe, Brevard edition

Bunny and I stopped off at an antique store and there, I saw this really cool globe for sale:

[It was tempting. Oh so tempting. But I have to ask myself, “Self, just where are you going to put it?”]

The ranged rings aren't printed on the globe—it's a clear plastic hemisphere that can be repositioned. And because I was curious, I placed the center point on Korea. Not North Korea mind you, Korea! The globe is so old that the Korean peninsula is Korea.

And that clear plastic hemisphere … I have never seen such a feature on a globe before. And it might have been quite progressive at the time, for it has both miles and kilometers marked off.

A very cool globe.


“Dude! You don't remember the Harmonic Convergence of 1987?”

After lunch, Bunny and I headed into the Penny Lane Exchange to pick up some new Hawaiian shirts. We entered, and the proprietor asked us if we were in town for the upcoming eclipse. We answered affirmatively, he then went on to ask if we recalled the Harmonic Convergence of 1987 and the emergence of a new paradigm of peace and harmony (no, really, it was a thing, thirty years ago today). Sadly, we had to inform him that no, we did not recall the Harmonic Convergence of 1987 but we really liked the shirts.

I have to remind myself that Brevard is in the shadow of Berkeley of the East.


Extreme white squirrels, Brevard edition part deux

Bunny and I were in downtown Brevard on our way to eat at Rocky's Grill and Soda Shop when we came across a white squirrel:

[The white squirrel population here is quite large.]

I'm beginning to sense a theme here …


Thankfully I'm in North Carolina, where all I have to worry about are alien white squirrels

The department tweeted this week a map of where folks are said to have spotted lizard people in the past, out of concern that paranormal activity might be on the rise during the eclipse. "Regarding possible paranormal activity potentially occurring during the #SolarEclipse2017. As always, if you see something, say something," the department tweeted alongside the graphic, with tongue possibly in cheek (though who knows).

Via FaceGoogleLinkedMyPlusInSpaceBook, THE SOLAR ECLIPSE COULD BRING LIZARD PEOPLE, SOUTH CAROLINA EMERGENCY OFFICIALS WARN (REALLY)

Man, the crazy things people believe about this eclipse …

Wednesday, August 16, 2017

Extreme portraiture, Brevard edition

A lot of restaurants here in Brevard display art from local artists, and Marco Trattoria is no exception. Hanging on the wall above our table was this lovely sculpture:

[Deep down, you know he's judging you on your choice of dessert, despite not ordering one.]

Tuesday, August 15, 2017

The alien white squirrels really are trying to take over

I was trying out a new search engine, Million Short (which allows you to easily exclude the top N websites) and while trying it out, I came across this:

There are a few towns in the US, though, that have very high numbers of white squirrels. This could be for a few reasons. First, predators in towns tend to be low. This cancels out the negative selection against the white morph. Sometimes in towns, a few neighbors will also select against the normal coloration of eastern grey squirrel. Yes, that happens. After a few generations, all you get are whites, and they can spread to the rest of the town! Fascinating!

The Big 5 White Squirrel Towns

The White and Albino Squirrel Phenomenon + New US Maps!

It's interesting that there are quite a few “Home of the White Squirrel” across the country.


The warping of space and time

Saturday, I spent ten hours at my high school's 30 year reunion (which I didn't blog about because other than the participants, who wants to read about a bunch of people you don't know? Also, what happens at Las Vegas stays at Las Vegas). Sunday was the every-other-week D&D game (which I don't blog about because other than the participants, who wants to read about a bunch of people you don't know pretending to slay dragons? Especially when said players don't slay the dragon?). Monday was an eleven hour drive to Brevard (which, unlike the previous two days, I did blog about because who doesn't want to see a stuffed alligator wearing an American flag?). It all finally caught up with me. I went to bed early (well, early for me). I reluctantly got up late (well, still early for me, but given the time I went to bed, it was late).

[The view from our pourch. Real trees! Shade! And we don't have to worry about alligators as there are none around here for miles! But there are bears ...]

Bunny and I had lunch at the Pisgah Fish Camp (and here I would include a link to the website, but apparently, The Pisgah Fish Camp is so busy serving up good food, they don't have time for a pesky website). But while the experience there was pretty typical (order and eat good food—seriously, the fish there is good) the experience getting there is anything but. It's odd, but space and time are warped here in Brevard. It seemed like a long drive to the Pisgah Fish Camp (and on one of the walls is a quote from the founder—“people called me crazy and said no one would drive this far out of Brevard for a meal.”) and yet—it was only four miles! Heck, Bunny and I drive farther than that just to our nearest IHOP, and that doesn't seem all that far for us. But here? It seemed like a long drive.

Traffic here is also weird. There is much less traffic here than back in Lower Sheol. And yet, it's still annoying. I'll pull up to a clear intersection, and just as I'm about to turn, an enevitable train of cars just moseying along the road materializes out of nowhere, too close together to make a safe turn, far enough apart to trick you into thinking you can make a safe turn, but no, you can't.

Monday, August 14, 2017

Extreme white squirrels, Brevard edition

I can't quite place my finger on it, but I think the local white squirrel population is planning something.

[The alien white squirrel from Scratazon is here to abduct all native nut life forms.]

Pecan Encrusted Brie, is there nothing you can't do?

We have finally arrived!

[It's like our home away from home, only a bit more expensive.]

We made excellent time this trip, having taken a bit over eleven hours to drive the 750 miles. As usual, we're staying at The Red House Inn.

And as usual when we arrive on a not-Tuesday day of the week, we have dinner at The Square Root, an excellent restaurant tucked away in an alley in downtown Brevard (and who would have thought that Brevard was large enough to have an alley, much less one large enough to hide a restaurant?).

[I think they wanted to call the place 1.732050807568877, but that was just too long to use on a sign.  Also, those roots aren't square.]

We just can't get enough of the Pecan Encrusted Brie (“Delicious Fried Brie Served With Granny Smith Apples and Crackers With a Frangelico Praline Sauce”). Mmmmmmmmmm … Pecan Encrusted Brie …


Extreme taxidermy, Ormond Beach, Florida edition

Bunny and I are on our way to Brevard, North Carolina (like we do every year) and our primary goal this year is to view the solar eclipse. Unfortunately, the weather is looking a bit grim in Brevard as it's expected to be raining next Monday, but who knows? Perhaps it will clear up by then.

Our first stop to refuel was in Ormond Beach, Florida, where we saw this beautiful example of classic American kitch:

[Here, have a stuffed alligator wearing an American flag somewhere in the Deep South. You are welcome.]

How did we ever survive not seeing this?

Tuesday, July 04, 2017

Oh make a little smoke, make a little fire, get BBQ tonight! Get BBQ tonight!

Last week I decided I wanted to do barbecue ribs for dinner tonight. And by “barbecue” I mean “barbecue,” with real smoke and everthing. Bunny got two racks of ribs, and yesterday, I spent some time doing some prep work.

First, we need some chunks of hardwood to produce the smoke. We have a bag firewood Bunny brought some time ago, so I grabbed half a log, and on the table saw, split it in half, and then cut it into four chunks.

[It's log, it's log,/it's big, it's heavy, it's wood./It's log, it's log, it's better than bad, it's good.] [It's log!  Now with chunks!  Fun for the whole family!]

I wanted to use the bandsaw, but unfortunately, the tire on the lower wheel disintegrated, rendering the bandsaw temporarily out of commission.

[Thank God it was just the tire!  The sounds and vibrations it made just before it gave out was horrendous!]

I can't say I enjoyed using the table saw for this, but using the The Gripper for splitting the log, and the cross-cut sled for the chunks certainly helped to keep my fingers safe. But for wood sold to be used in a fire, it was very nice wood.

[This wood is good enough for a wood working project.]

Then, just before bed, I spread some yellow mustard over the ribs—this will help the rub to stick. Then, the rub (brown sugar, salt, many, many spices—there are plenty of recipies out on the Intarwebs), then wrapped the ribs in foil and placed into the refrigerator overnight.

[Don't ask me what's in the rub.  I'd have to marry you, or kill you, and I'm already spoken for.] [I don't think you need to go overboard with the mustard.  I just used plain old yellow mustard here.  The rub has plenty of spices.] [Don't be stingy on the rub.  Go wild!  Coat those suckers!]

Around noon today, I started the barbecue. I don't have a smoker, but I do have a classic Weber Kettle Grill, which can do the job in a pinch. The method I'm using is the “snake method.” You arrange charcoal around the edge of the grill:

[It's just like playing with blocks!  Only blocks that leave your hands black as coal.  But whatever you do, don't play with the grey blocks.  Trust me on this.]

I placed one layer two bricks deep, then another layer on top that was two bricks deep. On top of that, the wood chunks are placed to provide the smoke. And yes, three chunks was more than enough to impart a smokey flavor to the ribs. You only need a few hot coals placed at one end to start things off. Over time, the coals will slowly catch fire down the snake and if you get it just right, you won't have to add any coals at all (the above lasted 4½ hours, which was enough to cook the ribs—more on that below).

I do recommend using a starter chimney:

[It's worth using, even if you have to put up with Dick Van Dyke and his awful “that is NOT a Cockney accent” Cockney accent.]

All you do is spread some vegetable oil on some newspaper (makes it burn longer), wad it up, place it in the bottom of the chimney and light it on fire. Then walk away. Just walk away. It'll light the coals and when they're starting to ash over, pour them out at one end of the snake.

Once that's done, add a foil pan with hot water (I placed the pan on the level with the coals, then used an electric kettle to boil the water and pour it into the pan). This not only helps with the smoking, but it also helps to regulate the heat during cooking. Place the grill grate on the grill, and slap those ribs on it, as far away from the heat as possible.

[You can see the pan of water just below the ribs. That thing in the upper left portion is a digital thermometer.] [If you look closely, you can see the snake is half burned, along with the chunks of wood.  They did their job.] [Lip-smaking barbecue-ribby goodness.  These are ready to come off the grill!]

Place the lid on, with the hood vents placed as far away from the heat as possible. This forces the smoke across the ribs. Also, you'll want to adjust the vents on the top and bottom to keep the tempurature as close to 250°F as possible (220° would be ideal). This may require some fiddling until you get it right. I checked on the them about every hour for the first three hours, then every 30 minutes thereafter. You can tell the ribs are done by sliding some tongs along the length of the ribs about half-way, and lifing them up. If the meat “cracks” then they're done. Slather any barbecue sauce you want on them, place the lid back on for another 5 to 10 minutes, then pull them off.

[That's our largest cutting board.  It's also our heaviest cutting board.  It takes a small crew of men to carry it around.]

All that's left was to carve them up and eat.

[Home barbecued ribs and home made potato salad (totally---even the mayonnaise is home made).  How can you go wrong?]

As a first-time experiment, they were good, but there are a few things I will change for next time. First, the ribs were tender, but not “fall-off-the-ribs” tender, and I think that's because I left the rub on just too long. I think I would go no shorter than an hour, no longer than two, before cooking. Second, our grill was barely large enough to handle two racks of ribs (and I suspect these were larger racks—between the two of us, we only ate about 2/3 of a single rack), so next time, one rack.

Other than that, I think this was a success.


Be careful, for tomorrow could be Sorrowing Day—the 5th of July

My friend Hoade sent me several stereoscopic pictures (and a viewer) for Christmas. One struck a chord with me:

[For some reason, this reminds me of Bunny and her brother.  I don't know why ...]

(and yes, I'm trying to give you, the reader, an impression of viewing a stereoscopic picture on the Intarwebs)

On the back is written:

No 1128 (b). SORROWING—JULY 5.

This is the same little boy who started out to make so much noise and smoke yesterday celebrating the Fourth. In the United States in one year, according to the figures gathered by experts, there were 168 boys and men and a few girls, too, who, like this boy, started out celebrate [sic], and wound up by leaving sorrowing friends, for that many were killed by explosions or died from lockjaw as the result of celebrating just one July 4th; and besides that, there were hundreds upon hundreds—something like 7,000 boys and men and girls maimed and crippled in that same celebration. Most of those who died were killed by lockjaw, one of the most terrible of diseases.

Perhaps five whole regiments of young men and boys are killed or injured every Fourth of July by fireworks and revolvers and mostly by toy pistols that shoot caps and torpedoes—for these cause most of the lockjaw.

Is it worth while to celebrate that way, and kill and maim in a celebration so many whose lives are useful to their country? Would it not be better to leave the fireworks to those skilled in handling them, and instead of devoting July 4th to fun, to make it a day of patriotism, to teach to all Americans what the Declaration of Independence means?

No year is given on that particular picture, but some of the others have “1925” so I guess they are all from about the same time period. And given the number of times “lockjaw was mentioned, it appears it was a grave concern at the time.

Nowadays, you have to concern yourself with burnt hair from overzealous neighbors.

Be safe, and remember, there's a reason professionals exist.

Saturday, June 10, 2017

Perhaps this time, there is a difference

First it was CGP Grey and his video “Humans Need Not Apply.” Now it's Kurzgesagt and their video, “The Rise of the Machines.”

There's not much more I can add to this but … um … I—­for—­one—­welcome—­our—­new—­robotic—­overlords.

Obligatory Picture

[Don't hate me for my sock monkey headphones.]

Obligatory Links

Obligatory Miscellaneous

You have my permission to link freely to any entry here. Go ahead, I won't bite. I promise.

The dates are the permanent links to that day's entries (or entry, if there is only one entry). The titles are the permanent links to that entry only. The format for the links are simple: Start with the base link for this site: http://boston.conman.org/, then add the date you are interested in, say 2000/08/01, so that would make the final URL:

http://boston.conman.org/2000/08/01

You can also specify the entire month by leaving off the day portion. You can even select an arbitrary portion of time.

You may also note subtle shading of the links and that's intentional: the “closer” the link is (relative to the page) the “brighter” it appears. It's an experiment in using color shading to denote the distance a link is from here. If you don't notice it, don't worry; it's not all that important.

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