Jun 25, 2012

Facebook Is At It Again

Facebook logo EspaƱol: Logotipo de Facebook Fr...
(Photo credit: Wikipedia)
Facebook just changed your email address in your profile and replaced it with an "@facebook.com" address without asking you. How to easily fix it?

Facebook launched their email system in 2010, which was pretty much ignored by everyone. This morning, Forbes commented that they removed everyone's email addy from their profiles, and replaced it with an "@facebook.com" addy instead (not their internal email addy for notifications and password resets, just the one listed on your profile). Fortunately, it is easy to get your original email address back:
  1. Click "About" on your profile and scroll down to your email address. Click "Edit" to change.
  2. Click the circle next to your Facebook email address and change its setting to "Hidden From Timeline."
  3. Click the circle next to your other email address and change the settings to "Shown On Timeline".
  4. Click the Save button (Remember this step).
That's all it takes. Unless like me, you never migrated to Timeline. Still easy, just read the screens. Is an easy, quick fix, but it surprised me that Facebook did this without asking my permission or notified me that it was happening. And, I have a couple of Facebook accounts now to "reconcile." But, it is all good.
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Jun 24, 2012

Navigating the New Super-Highway

Let's be honest, today's lifestyle is so fast paced that it surprises me that we don't get more speeding tickets. I'm not talking about how you drive you car, but how you deal with the speed of the internet and how fast we can communicate with each other. This entry is based on my own personal thoughts on keeping connected to your life.

A key concern that we all have, is how to keep the work life separate from the personal life, especially if we travel a lot for work purposes. A simple solution to that, based on my perspective, is to buy a hard drive disk that works with your work laptop chassis. For the low cost of about $50, I could pack my personal hard drive in my carry on luggage, and using a small Phillips head screwdriver, could get online in the hotel, check all of my PERSONAL emails, Facebook, and search for whatever I wanted, without my company tracking it. If they are going to provide me with the tools to do my job, why not take advantage of that for personal reasons when I have to travel? Unscrew one or two small screws, slide out the company hard drive, slide in my personal one, and not worry about "big brother" watching me. I didn't have to lug a second laptop around with me to get through the TSA.
English: McDonalds' sign in Harlem.
English: McDonalds' sign in Harlem. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The second largest concern we have, is how to "get online." Having a smartphone helps, since most cell phone companies have them, but I want to view things in a larger perspective, and keep my phone bill low. Free wi-fi is available all around us. You just have to find some close to you. Sure, most hotel chains offer it now, but what do you do when you are in the middle of nowhere? Go to a Starbucks or McDonald's or even local library. Sure, you might have to buy a horrible tasting coffee or burger, but you get access to the internet. If you live in an apartment complex (like I do), consider going "halfsies" with a neighbor on the bill. You can both set up your own profiles, but cut your costs in half.

So, it comes down to the last point, "I'm not a geek, I don't want to work that hard, what can I do?" See the Portable Apps entry. My first iPod is now nothing more than a USB drive. But I use it more now than I did for my music. There are ways out there, to expand your horizon, that don't impede you. Embrace life...live it...connect in any way that you can.
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Jun 23, 2012

Coffee - More Important than the Alarm Clock

I mentioned in the Percolated Coffee entry how I make my coffee to enjoy it even just a little bit more than stopping at the coffee shop. Yes, I learned how to perk coffee at a very young age from my grandmother, and I was remiss in that entry to share with you some other suggestions about coffee. So here goes. For the first time ever, I'm going to share with the world a secret family recipe, and some other suggestions about coffee. I'm going to share the recipe as it was orally told to me, this is the first time it has ever been written down.

  • 8-9 cups of water
  • An egg
  • Medium ground coffee
  • Some cinnamon (ground or sticks, it doesn't matter)
  • Saucepan, coffee pot, whisk, and cup
  • Some elbow/wrist grease to make it happen
  • Put about 6 cups of water in a saucepan, and bring it to a slow boil.
  • Break the egg into a cup
  • Crunch up the shell and toss that in the cup too
  • Add 1/4 cup water to the egg and beat with a whisk
  • Drop 4 TBSP ground coffee into the empty coffee pot, add 1/4 of the egg mixture to that, and slosh it around (save the rest of the egg mixture for tomorrow)
  • If the water in the saucepan is boiling, pour it into the coffee pot (over the egg mixture)
  • Put the coffee pot on a burner, set to LOW and simmer it for for 10 - 15 minutes
  • After it has simmered for 10 - 15 minutes, add 1/4 cup cold water to settle the grounds, or take it off the burner for 10 minutes
  • Pour it through a cheesecloth to filter out the grounds/shells
  • Stick in the cinnamon stick or sprinkle the ground cinnamon to add flavor (saving calories)
  • Drink it, and enjoy, finishes up a well prepared dinner on Sunday like you wouldn't believe
Yeah, there are more suggestions I could make, but I'll save them for another entry... Happy sipping in the morning to you...

Jun 22, 2012

Take a Step Back in Time - Parenting

In today's economy, fast paced and demanding life, it isn't easy to be an effective adult, let alone a parent. As a single working parent, with a teenager, let me make a few suggestions. Take a step back in time to how things were when WE were growing up.

"Back in MY day," we only had 1 TV in the house, it only received about 15 channels (we didn't have cable), I was the remote to change the channel (by twisting a knob), and had to adjust the aluminum foil covered antenna by hand. Today, we have 500 Channels and Nothing to Watch. My suggestion? Turn off the electronic things, and take them out on the back patio to talk WITH, not AT them. Float an idea and LISTEN to what they say. Set aside the cable/satellite TV, wi-fi laptop, eTablet, and smartphone.

My son and I spent the evening on the back porch while it was breezy, and I asked him a few basic questions that generated a lot of conversations, and we laughed hard TOGETHER. This conversation enabled me to recapture what it means to be "young at heart." Some of the basic questions started with:
  • How did you sleep last night? Have any dreams? (clues you in to what is in their subconscious)
  • What was the best part of today? (lets you know what they enjoyed about this day)
  • What was the hardest part of today? (lets you know what might be "bothering" them)
  • What was the easiest part of today? (lets you know what they might excel at)
  • What was the most enjoyable part of today? (lets you know what sparks happiness)
  • Anything else you want to talk about?
The last one is what tends to generate the most conversation, once you get them talking. And once you do, "please hold on to the bar" because it is going to be an interesting ride. Once I got my son talking, we talked about school, soccer, girls, dating... yeah, that was DEFINITELY an interesting evening in front of the fire bowl.

But I digress... my suggestion is to shut off all of the electronic stuff that clutters your life, and live your own, accompanied by those immediately around you. Toast some marshmallows, make S'mores.

Blogging Rant

It surprises me to write a blog entry about blog entries, but here goes. The ways we share things with our friends and families have changed a lot since it used to only require us to write a letter. But think about that, we used to WRITE. Now we can take pictures, videos, text, and call people on our cell phones. Then immediately post them on YouTube, Facebook, or our own blog. Don't get me wrong, I embrace advances in technology, but think about your audience when you post something.

Most people post entries when we are awake...which is during the daytime, and most of us are at work. Most places we work at do not appreciate and some forbid, personal surfing. So, if you post a video as the only content of your entry, most likely it won't be viewed. Include a TEXT based explanation so we can decide if we should check it out many hours later on our computer when we get home.

The Hunchback of Notre Dame (1831) by Victor H...
The Hunchback of Notre Dame (1831) by Victor Hugo (1840-1902) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
It also makes me wonder where our "culture" is going. If we only travel the path of least resistance to share random thoughts or sights, are we truly experiencing life? If Edgar Allen Poe had a smartphone, would he have written what he did? Would Victor Hugo written the Hunchback of Notre-Dame? I doubt it. But it is from the true people in history that took the time to WRITE things that impact us.

I fear that people today are becoming more dependent on the convenience of being on the path of least resistance than living a true life. It pains me, but only because maybe I'm "old school." I still write by hand, all of my letters with a Waterman pen.

Again, I embrace the advances in technology, but maybe spending some time doing the OLD SCHOOL things is good too.

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Jun 10, 2012

Give Your Steak a Hot Water Bath

Finger included to cover the brand
Shame on me. I forgot to take the stew meat out of the freezer last night and put it in the fridge. We all were taught that is what you do. Or, give it a bath in cold water for a while. I remembered a recent conversation with a local chef. He explained to me that the USDA has approved a HOT water bath to thaw meat in almost no time. Before I decided to simply do it, I fired up Google and found some information about that.

The best info I encountered was in the New York Times, by Harold McGee (click HERE for his article). The article was based on some testing done by the USDA and himself. I'm going to just quote and summarize McGee's article here:
At the U.S.D.A. labs in Beltsville, Md., Janet S. Eastridge and Brian C. Bowker test-thawed more than 200 one-inch-thick beef strip loin steaks in three different groups: some in a refrigerator at 37 to 40 degrees Fahrenheit, some in a constantly circulating water bath at 68 degrees, and some in a water bath at 102 degrees.

Air-thawing in the refrigerator took 18 to 20 hours, while the room-temperature water bath thawed the steaks in about 20 minutes, and the hot-summer-day bath in 11 minutes. These water-bath times are so short that any bacterial growth would remain within safe limits.
Stopwatch and instant thermometer
More detailed information can be found in that article and from the publication in March, 2011 by the USDA for the Journal of Food Science [link]. So, I tried this concept in my kitchen with stew meat by giving it a hot water bath. I used an instant thermometer to monitor the temp of the water, and kept it a little higher than the test amount. I kept it at about 120° F. I stirred the meat and refreshed the water every few minutes as I cut the veggies and rinsed/drained the black beans. My stew meat was thawed in about 8 minutes. WOW!!! Yeah, as a roller derby ref with some OCD, I tend to time everything.

I took notice of something in McGee's article (quoted below), that I tested too, about the flavor. Since he said it applied to steak, I applied it to stew meat. Both are beef based meat. Maybe I'll write some more blog entries as I test it on chicken, pork chops, ground beef, turkey, etc.
The water-thawed steaks actually leaked less juice than the air-thawed steaks.
I can verify that the stew meat did have a little more juice and flavor, once the crock pot stew was done. Quick and easy, and full of flavor. Try it yourself. Stay tuned for more usage of the hot water bath on frozen chops and chicken.

Jun 7, 2012

Screw Head Alignment

When I started my apprenticeship to a master carpenter, one of the things that he was adamant about was the "proper" alignment of the heads of the screws that hold the light switch and outlet cover plates. I was instructed 30 years ago, that the screwdriver slot should ALWAYS be aligned vertically because a switch goes up and down and the openings of the outlet go up and down, the screw needs to match. I've always and still align them that way. I've even been in arguments with electricians that (incorrectly, IMHO) finish with them in a HORIZONTAL or even diagonal alignment. Makes me gasp every time I see them "incorrectly aligned."

Maybe I'm being a little "odd" about it, but that is what I was always expected to do when replacing the cover plates. Let me know by commenting below which way YOU feel they should go:

A) Vertical
B) Horizontal
C) Diagonal
D) None of the above, I don't really CARE

Jun 5, 2012

SPAM® (the meat, not the emails)

Hearing the word "SPAM" causes a lot of us to cringe a little, depending on the context of the conversation where it is mentioned. If it is heard at work, that probably means that it refers to a new slew of emails due a computer virus. If it is heard during a conversation about what we are having for dinner, that means something else entirely.

I became acquainted with SPAM® because of my grandfather. As a member of the 8th Army Air Force during WWII (the predecessor of the US Air Force) on a B-17, he endured tinned meat in the rations that he was given. When returning home, he never gave up on making family lunches and dinners from it. SPAM® became a common word spoken when around him. I keep a tin of it in the pantry (due to the extremely LONG expiration date time), and still occasionally make it because I want it. That's why I thought it might be time to pass it on to my son as a family tradition.

Imagine my surprise when grocery shopping and we saw SPAM® now offered as individual SLICES of SPAM® Classic instead of just getting a large tin. I decided to get a simple slice, fry it up and make a fried sandwich with it (topped by cheese and ketchup) to be his introduction to tinned meat (pictured at right). I've eaten it right out of the tin at work, as a sandwich when it has been fried, and cut up to be included in an omelet. There are a LOT more flavors and recipes of SPAM offered today than what I was used to, so I encourage you to try them once in a while. To answer your first question, no, he didn't like it much. But then again, he doesn't like ham in general, which is what SPAM is made of.

Which brings me to my last point of this entry. If you want to know more about SPAM and the recipes that are available, click on the links above. But how does it compare to a similar sized beef hamburger? Here you go. Some nutrients differ, but overall, it is about the same. Keep a tin in your pantry when you need to raid it... your tongue will occasionally appreciate it...


Rain, Rain, Go Away...

Several conversations with co-workers and neighbors lately have led them to think I studied meteorology in college, but I didn't. I learned from my grandfather some common sense things that "predict" rain. He passed on to me what he learned because I grew up hunting, camping, and working outside a lot. The key point is that you have to look around at the big picture. Look at the sky, trees, and watch nature's animals...they will all indicate that something is "in the air" and coming your way. So, I thought I'd share some things that I've been working with my son on understanding. I would be remiss as a father if I didn't pass on to him some very basic concepts about life and what happens all around you.

In looking at the sky, here are a couple of points to look for, and some of the analogies that still apply:
Rain on the horizon...
  • Thin and wispy clouds, up where the planes fly, mean it will be dry.
  • Flat bottomed and rounded top clouds in the morning or early afternoon hint at wetness in your near future.
  • When the clouds are growing like the cauliflower in your garden, you will be steamed before they are. Meaning that something is going on inside the clouds that will impact you. Especially if they go grey.
  • Spying a rainbow in the morning may lead you to the gold, but you will be wet when you find it. Because, a rainbow in the morning means that the storm is west of us, and most storms in the U.S. move from the west to the east.
  • If the moon is engaged, so will be you. Meaning that if there is a ring around the moon, the fronts are shifting and reflecting light differently due to the moisture content of the air.
  • Red at night, sailor's delight...red in the morning, sailor's warning. Since storms tend to travel from the west to east, a red sky at night indicates that fair weather is heading our way, in the morning, it indicates that dry air has already passed over and wetness may be on the way.
Okay, so now you have looked up at the clouds that bring the rain. NOW look around at a tree. We hate when they turn brown and fall on the lawn to rake up, but from the spring through summer, they are better indicators than the local news to SHOW us the weather. There is only one phrase that my grandfather passed on that can be shared about the leaves of a maple, poplar or other deciduous tree/shrub:
Leaf showing her bloomer...
  • When they show their bloomers, expect them to be washed. Meaning, the leaves are all "dancing in the wind," to show the lighter colored bottom side, they are reacting to the barometric pressure and temperature are acting, which means different weather fronts are impacting each other. When that happens, rain is on the way. This is one of the KEY indicators if you don't happen to look up or around. Leaves are a huge sign about what is going on around you. Open your eyes.
You've looked up and maybe glanced around. But have you SEEN the animals around you? Here are some things you can observe by watching how they interact with the senses they have:
  • If dogs eat grass, cats purr & wash their paws, they are preparing for rain.
  • When sheep and cows herd up and turn their noses into the wind, they can smell it coming.
  • If a bull leads the cows to fields, it will be dry, when the cows coax the bull, he needs teased.
  • Cows laying in a field says they want dry bellies because a shower is coming.
  • Bats flying overhead in the evening means that they can fly all night in a dry sky.
  • When a horse sniffs the air and shudders, water will come from above.
  • Wolves always howl more before a storm.
Bottom line, pay attention to what nature shows you. It indicates what is coming better than sonar, radar, storm watch, etc. You never know when you might need to be in touch with the earth, regardless of what you are doing....
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