Grant

Grant

Food fanatic, IT professional, Cloud Computing Expert, Software Developer and Travel fan.

 

Sunday, 01 January 2012 17:07

Changes to Sound Transit bus/train service

 Note: This post will mean a lot more to those of you living in the Seattle/Tacoma/Olympia area and attempting to use public transportation. It's meant to be humorous but based in reality in a sort of depressing way.

The original Sound Transit announcement for reference.

-------------

Your current transit news from your transit news correspondent Haywood Jablomey.

Sound Transit remaps the 574 route to connect with the Sounder which goes in the OPPOSITE direction. So for those people traveling from the Airport to Seattle who want to transfer to the Sounder they can now do it at Lakewood… 35 miles from the city.

Pierce Transit after a massive service hour cut adds the 400 route to duplicate the service offered by the Sounder. Sound Transit counters by canceling a portion of the 578 route that duplicates what the PT 400 duplicates of the Sounder route thus saving tax payers $12 which is handed over to Piece Transit and immediately applied to it’s million dollar shortfall easing the tension between Piece Transit and all the cities that pay for it but it no longer services.

Sound Transit add Sunday service to the 578 for all the people who can’t connect to it using Sounder or Pierce Transit 400 due to there not being any weekend service on either.

Sound Transit discontinues the downtown Tacoma portion of the 586 because countless other services cover that route including the Oly Express which doesn’t stop at Tacoma Dome on hours ending with consonants on days ending in y (unless it’s raining then there’s a 50/50 chance due to the letter y not always being considered a vowel) resulting in 605 riders to the U District moving from a 2 seat ride to a 3 seat ride either 30%, 35% or 48% of the time.

Sound Transit extends Sounder south to get closer to 820 parking spots which couldn’t seem to squeeze near the 2283 already available stalls at Tacoma Dome Station thus encouraging people to drive south to park so they can catch the Sounder north back past their houses giving working husbands and wives a second chance to wave to their spouses and check on their lawns. Nobody else notices since the Oly Express still won’t make any sort of intelligent connection to the Sounder effectively keeping the 59x buses annoyingly full.

To discourage people from taking the Sounder Commuter Train Sound Transit has doubled the frequency of both the 590 and 594 in commute direction only thus making better use of empty parking spaces in the city that so far have not been fully utilized because in the past the buses were busy carrying people around. Coffee shops expect to see an increase in ticket sales from the hordes of ST bus drivers milling about during the day. It’s been proposed that cardboard “Occupy Wall Street” signs be added to their uniform so people won’t notice they are in fact employed bus drivers with nothing better to do.

Afraid that there may be some good news buried in the changes somewhere for at least ONE line Sound Transit has doubled the service runs of the 592 bus but stops short of actually delivering passengers anywhere useful. Options are to take the Sounder, walk a block to board the Link and travel one or two stops further north or south. Proposed changes are intended to either leave 592 riders stranded or irritated. Either is acceptable. Rumors of a conspiracy by Jamie Oliver to force long transit connection in an attempt to “slim Americans down” go unfounded. Rumors of him being awarded a second TED prize for an upcoming speech however just will not go away.

Not to leave a sour taste in anyone’s mouth Sound Transit has added ONE extra ST 510 run per day to Everett. It isn’t presently clear at what time a day it runs and it’s existence hasn’t been proven.

And that’s it for this week folks. Have a happy new year.

Saturday, 31 December 2011 16:01

Jamie Oliver's TED speech about kids and food

We can't possibly watch this video enough. Our health problems are massive with our average health care bill costing twice as much in the US as the second most expensive developed country in the world. The amount of improvement we can make just from food is frightening. The amount of emphasis and fear related to food related disease is virtually non-existent.

 

Using Food Subsidies at Home

Something I'll surely be talking about later is food subsidies. I often hear the argument that people can't afford to eat well. I understand that money is tight but I also understand that when the cost of each plate is important (as apposed to the monthly food bill) and the cost of each ingredient on that plate is known you have a lot of power and flexibility to afford better food. Maybe I need to explain.  In the restaurant business inventory cost is everything. You can't just make great food and send it out the door without knowing what it costs and one of the tricks to providing a great meal for a profit is to know the cost of *everything* on that plate. If you go out to dinner at a decent restaurant and you analyze the food on your plate you'd think that a bit of meat, some veggies and a starch is a balanced meal but you may be surprised to know that the items on that plate have little to do with nutrition and a lot to do with economics. Restaurants are in business to make money, not go broke. 

Let's take a closer look at what they do. I've somewhat randomly picked a menu from a local Seattle restaurant – The Pink Door. A swanky Italian/American restaurant with no visible name to be exact just a.... wait for it.... pink door in Post Alley near the very famous and tourist infested Pike Place Market. http://thepinkdoor.net/

Example Food Subsidy

We'll take a look at a few items on their dinner menu.


b u t t e r n u t s q u a s h r a v i o l i d e - c o n s t r u c t e d burst in your mouth mushroom consommé ravioli over creamy squash purée & fresh herbs 19


Let's assume they're going to give you 1.5 lbs of food here and we're going to divide the weight into pasta and squash since the latter is not only the filling but has it as a base too. That leaves us with ¾ lb of pasta dough and ¾ lb of butternut squash. Naturally the squash is going to have some herbs and spices in it which we don't know but they will be mere fractions of an ounce in weight so for our purposes negligible. We also see that we have a mushroom consommé in the filling. The material cost of making a pound of pasta is roughly 60 cents. The cost per pound for butternut squash is about $1. We don't know the mushrooms used but just for the sake of argument they're Portobella which usually run about $7/lb. That's a lot of money in comparison to the rest of the meal but if we only have ¾ lb of ravioli filling then the amount of mushrooms is probably in the 2 oz range or about 45 cents. Add in a half an ounce of fresh shaved cave aged Parmesan ($25/lb) and we're sitting squarely at $2.50 cents for this meal. If you want to really do it up some nice home baked rolls would be great. That would bump the cost to a whopping $2.75.

  • ¾ lb pasta - $.90/lb

  • ¾ lb squash – $1/lb

  • 2 oz Mushrooms - $7/lb

  • ½ oz grated Parmesan - $25/lb

Total material cost is $2.75. How do they get away with charging $19 then? Part of it is to cover the cost of the building, wages for the chefs and wait staff, profit for the owner and so on. We made a dish with $25/lb imported cheese and fairly expensive mushrooms by subsidizing the cost of the expensive items with the cost of the cheap ones. In this case pasta, squash and bread are the cheap items. I'd bet that part of this dish also subsidizes more expensive dishes. That's right, not only do we have subsidies going on within a dish but between them. Let's do another one with even more specialty items. More after the jump.

 

Thursday, 29 December 2011 18:57

Recession Chef: Desi Ghee for cheap

Desi Ghee

Ghee is for the most part clarified butter.  In French cooking the butter is clarified until the milk solids drop to the bottom and the foam rises to the top. The foam is skimmed and the butter poared off. With Indian cooking the butter is clarified long enough for the water to evaporate. What you're left with is pure butter with no milk solids or moisture. Because Desi Ghee has no milk solids or water it can be stored at room temperature without fear of spoilage.

The reason you'd want to go through the process of clarifying it yourself is that Desi Ghee can be very expensive in the store. A mayonnaise jar of Ghee can run you 15 dollars.  You can make that amount yourself for about $5 or less depending on what kind of deal you get on butter.


See the Desi Ghee recipe for more details.

Wednesday, 28 December 2011 01:55

grep a file in python

Grep in Linux is an amazing tool. Sometimes I just want the simplicity of grep in Python. This isn't the equal to grep but it will take a regular expression as an argument (two examples shown) and give a return code of success if found or None if not. It will also return the line just like grep. 

 

#!/usr/bin/env python
 
import re

def grep(patt,file):
    """ finds patt in file - patt is a compiled regex
        returns all lines that match patt """
    matchlines = []
filetxt = open(file) lines = filetxt.readlines() for line in lines: match = patt.search(line) if match: matchline = match.group() matchlines.append(matchline) results = '\n '.join(matchlines) if results: return results else: return None # Example use textfile = "/etc/hosts" file = open(textfile) criteria = "localhost" expr = re.compile(r'.*%s.*' % criteria) # finds line that starts with anything, ends with anything and has criteria in it #expr = re.compile(r'[0-9].*filename:(%s)\schecksum:.*result: (.*)' % criteria) # more complex example # using return code if grep(expr, file): print criteria + " is in " + textfile else: print criteria + " is not in " + textfile file.seek(0) # rewind file for next test # printing all matching lines results = grep(expr, file) print results file.close()

Since Python is so picky about indention (drives me crazy) you can download grep.py from my downloads section.

Tuesday, 27 December 2011 00:54

Pumpkin Smackdown!

Many years ago when my daughter was first born we'd receive WIC coupons from the local office for food to help with nutrition and such. Those coupons were only good for certain things but you could buy just about anything from the local farmers market with them. Breezing the halls of the farmers market was an interesting thing because at the time I didn't do a lot of cooking and the only thing the farmer's market sold was items that needed to be cooked. As fate would have it I made a choice and bought a pumpkin. Once home I had to figure out what to do with it so I made Pumpkin bread and the rest as they say is history.

I've now been making Pumpkin bread every fall for 20 years without missing a single season. Since then I've also learned a great deal about food and Pumpkins specifically. As most people I started out buying Jack-o-Lantern pumpkins because this is the quintessential pumpkin that everyone recognizes. Little did I know they don't make great food. Cooks Illustrated a magazine I respect greatly maintains the idea that it's just not worth the effort to cook raw pumpkins but I beg to differ. Had I stopped at the Jack-o-Lantern pumpkins I would agree but there are better pumpkins out there when you have food in mind which is why we're here today.

  

Pumpkin Varieties

Shortly I'll be outlining the 3 pumpkin varieties worth considering for food and referencing the pumpkin people usually try to make food out of unsuccessfully – the Jack-o-Lantern. There are many many varieties of pumpkins but half of them are branches from the Jack-o-lantern tree so we'll cover them together. Then there's the smallish Sugar Pie Pumpkin, the Long Island Cheese Wheel and the Cinderella. The latter two have limited availability although popularity of the Cinderella seems to be on the rise if only slightly.

 

Testing Criteria 

Flavor: Of course flavor will be number one. Contrary to popular belief not all pumpkins taste the same and why would they? Not all squash taste the same so it makes sense. 

Texture: Texture is important when making puree out of the meat.

Cookability: This is more important than you think. I've cooked pumpkins every possible way looking for the method that gives me the most meat, the best flavor and texture. Some pumpkins are more cookable than others. Pumpkins that are too small or too large are difficult to cook while either maintaining flavor or getting a decent ratio of meat to work involved. See my method on how to cook a pumpkin a bit later in this article. 

Longevity: Because I only use fresh pumpkin in my bread and I worry about availability more than most. Most pumpkins disappear from the store about Halloween time. This is a problem for me because I like cooking pumpkin bread for more than the two weeks leading up the Halloween. There are vast differences between pumpkins in regard to longevity.

Availability: Availability is important because if you can't buy the variety to begin with it doesn't matter how good it is. Some pumpkins like Jack-o-Lantern are always available around Halloween but ONLY right up to October 31st. Try to get one the next day. Others just aren't distributed or grown much.

Cost: How much do I usually have to pay?

  

How I cooked them

I've tried every last way to cook a pumpkin and compared each method to the others. My opinion is that there's one way to cook a pumpkin that will keep it moist, cook it long enough for the meat to break down and keep it from drying out. Later I'll do a Cooking a Pumpkin Smackdown and compare the various ways to cook them.

I only buy pumpkins that at their widest are narrow enough to fit on a half sheet pan. I then take my longest stiff knife (11” French Chef) and cut the pumpkin along the equator making sure to keep as much of the knife in the pumpkin as possible so as to ensure a perfectly straight cut. If when I get back to the start of the cut I'm off at all (usually no more than a millimeter) I shave the unevenness until I have a nice flat surface. This is very important. I then take my rounded cheese scraper and scrape the seeds/strings from the pumpkin and smooth out the surface of the meat to ensure even cooking. The pumpkin then goes cut side down on the half sheet pan and in the oven.

I cook both halves at the same time if they fit. The even edge will get a suction seal on the pan as soon as a little liquid pools inside the pumpkin. The steam that builds up inside will keep the pumpkin shell inflated even after it's turned to mush. Cook the pumpkin for several hours at 325 degrees until the outer shell is charred and looking like it's about to cave in. Then cook it a tad bit longer until the pumpkin has caved in almost to the pan (you don't want the meat to touch the pan or it will dry out and burn). Also don't try to lift up on the edge of the pumpkin to see if it's done or poke it. If you let out the steam it's all over and the pumpkin will cave in. If there's too much liquid built up in the sheet pan remove it with a ladle or turkey baster and set aside. Also don't pull the pumpkin out of the oven for any reason. If the steam turns to liquid the pumpkin will collapse. 

Once the pumpkin has nearly caved in remove the it from the oven and let it sit until it cools. When that happens the steam turns back to liquid and the pumpkin will just fall flat on the pan. This is fine as the pan will no longer be hot. Remove all the extra liquid from the pan invert another half sheet pan over the pumpkin so both pans make a clam shell. Grab opposite corners of both pans and quickly turn them over so the new pan is on the bottom and the pan with the pumpkin is now on the top. Lift up the top pan gently and slide a spatula between it and the pumpkin. It should fall off easily onto the new pan. Do the same for the other half pumpkin.

Scrape the meat out of the cooked shell and store it with it's juices in a sealable container in the refrigerator. It will keep for several weeks and then if left alone will mold. Just getting into it and stirring it up every couple of days will extend it's life. You can freeze it but you'll lose quite a lot of flavor so I eventually gave up on that idea. If you have too much juice you can place the meat in a pan on the stovetop at low heat and reduce it so the liquid doesn't pool. This also intensifies the flavor. I only do this on occasion if my pumpkins are extra ripe. I like just enough liquid in the meat to keep it fresh but not so much for it to create pools.

  

With that in mind let's talk about Pumpkin varieties. More after the jump.

Sunday, 25 December 2011 19:36

Create custom templates

Prerequisites

  • XCP/Xenserver

 

Creating a template

The following is how to create new custom templates based on existing templates in Xen Cloud Platform. 

1. Get the template UUID that we want to use as our base. As usual just copy and paste the line in yellow into a root terminal on your XCP host.

xe template-list | grep -B1 name-label | awk -F: '{print $2}'

The output should look like this..

 

 688c625b-93b8-8e66-62e5-4542eca1e597

 Red Hat Enterprise Linux 6 (32-bit)

 

 c4e28252-030f-524a-c5d8-7da85df3ccf5

Windows Server 2003 (64-bit)

......

 

Scroll through the list and find the template you want to clone then copy and past it's UUID number ie.  688c625b-93b8-8e66-62e5-4542eca1e597. Choose a new name for your custom template and enter the following line with the UUID of the template you want to clone and the name you want it to have.

 

xe vm-clone uuid=<UUID> new-name-label="<NAME>"
xe template-param-set uuid=<UUID> other-config:install-methods=http,ftp,nfs other-config:default_template=true

Now you should have a new template of your own that you can customize. More after the jump.

Friday, 23 December 2011 23:30

50% off of free!

I often take photos of humorous department/grocery store signs. This one I took years ago but missed putting it up. This is in the famed Galleries Lafayette in Paris, a store that charges enough for it's clothes to pay for a personal mathematician to go around and correct signs. It appears he was off that day.

So this 50% off of free, is that before or after taxes? And also is there a chance the price will go down further because I've heard rumors that next week it will be 60% off of free.

 

I'm sure this is a translation error but still it's funny. Free minus 50%, discount already deducted. You know because it's so hard to calculate. 

While we were there we saw a dress that was 9,000 Euros, about $13,500 U.S. dollars at the time. Too bad that wasn't 50% off of free. 

Tuesday, 20 December 2011 16:00

Fix the XCP expired license issue

If you're running virtually any version of Xen Cloud Platform you may have run into this error message.

Your license has expired.  Please contact your support representative.

It's not really possible to have an expired license on Xen Cloud Platform (XCP) since it's FREE. It's just a regressive bug that has been very stubborn. However, until they fix it for real in XCP 1.5 you'll need follow the steps below.  

Open a root terminal on the XCP host and copy and paste the commands below.

 

service xapi stop;sleep 5
NEXTMONTH=`date --date="next Month" '+%Y%m%d'`
sed -i "s/\(expiry.\{3\}\)[0-9]\{8\}/\1$NEXTMONTH/g" /var/xapi/state.db
service xapi start
echo done

 

The last line is only to get all the important lines to run automatically. If you don't hit enter it doesn't hurt anything.  You could also copy and paste these lines into a script and have it run as a cronjob. Because XCP doesn't like you bumping it's "evaluation license" out more than 30 days you might want to run the cronjob once a week to make sure your license doesn't lapse while you're waiting for the cronjob to run

Tuesday, 30 September 2008 17:00

Latest Comments