June 30, 2005
A Tale of Two Spams

I was at the supermarket the other day, in front of the Spam section and I noticed two new versions of Spam. Of course, it's my duty to you, the loyal Cruft reader, to test them out.

Without hesitation, I picked up the cans and I now bring you, a Tale of Two Spams.

Yes, it's the new Hot & Spicy Spam and the new Spam with Cheese.

To read the full story, click More...

For those that are unfamiliar with Spam, it is a ham-like pork product that gained fame in World War II as a staple in the war ravaged and meat rationed part of the world as America tried to feed the hungry.

Since that time, Spam has developed a faithful following of people that enjoy it. I grew up with my father feeding me fried Spam and count myself as one of the faithful.

Enough history, onto the Spam!

I removed both from their cans, with the familiar 'slurp' sound. the Hot & Spicy is co-branded with Tabasco and had the familiar solidified orange oil look to it. This is a good sign, many of my favorite foods have this same orange oily look.

The Spam with Cheese looked like a normal chunk of Spam with no cheese evident on the outside.

I sliced the Hot & Spicy and found the same even orangeish color throughout the loaf.

The Spam with Cheese loaf had visible chunks of yellow cheese in it. There was quite a bit of cheese mixed in with the spam and it was not clumped at all. Props to the food scientists/engineers that pulled off non-clumpy cheese in Spam.

I began frying both Spams on the griddle. The Hot & Spicy is on the left and the Spam with Cheese is on the right. The Spam didn't release much oil on the giddle and quietly fired with out any grease spurting up off the stove at me.

Brown and crispy is how I like my Spam, so I was sure to cook the slices thoroughly for a good texture. Some like it more rare, but those people are strange. As it cooked, the cheese held up and didn't run off and disappear. You can still see chunks of cheese on the cooked side.

In the tradition of the Spamburger, I placed a couple slices of each on hamburger buns. The photo looks a little dark, but the slices were cooked perfectly.

And so now for the tasting!

The Spam with Cheese tasted pretty much like regular Spam with a little more oily mouth feel. I never tasted much cheesey flavor. I'm not one for subtle flavors, so I view Spam with Cheese pretty much the same as regular Spam.

The Hot & Spicy Spam on the other hand was tasty. The heat of the Tabasco came through well with good flavor and the mix of the meat pushed the taste closer to buffalo wings than toward pure Tabasco.

I really enjoyed the Hot & Spicy Spam and was pleasently surprised with how good it was. I'll probably stock a tin of it in the cupboards in case I get a hankering in the future. It would make a good camping meal. Give it a try. If you like spicy food, you'll probably dig it.

That's a thumbs up on Hot & Spicy Spam and a thumbs down on Spam with Cheese.

Who knows what's next? BBQ Spam? Vegan Soy Spam?

Posted by michael at 10:19 PM
June 29, 2005
From the closeout store

Near our house is a book closeout store. It used to be a regular Crown Books store, but at some point it transitioned into a closeout only books store. The prices are rock bottom and there's plenty of interesting stuff. The girls and I often browse and I encourage them to choose books there.

In our last trip this book caught my eye and I decided the $4.99 price was probably low enough to take a risk.

Man of Two Worlds: My Life in Science Fiction and Comics - Julius Schwartz, Brian M. Thomsen

To readers of DC Comics, Julius Schwartz is a familiar name. He was with DC Comics from the beginning when it was still All-American Comics. As an editor, he is best know for helming both Batman and Superman for long runs in the 60s and 70s. He's less well known as the man behind the Silver Age of comics, reinventing core heroes like Green Lantern and the Flash into their modern incarnations.

Reading the book, I was suprised to learn of his huge involvement in the early science fiction scene and his role as the agent to many of the greats such as H.P. Lovecraft, Alfred Bester, and Ray Bradbury.

He played a critical role in creating the science fiction genre that I was unaware of completely. The book goes into great detail about how much money was made in those days, a half cent per word, for science fiction. This section of the obok is quite interesting, with insights into famed sci-fi writers from someone that was truly their friend.

Julius brings up a comic fact that I had never heard before. Most comics readers take it as fact that Bob Kane created Batman. the truth is that Bob Kane drew the art for Batman, but Bill Finger wrote the stories and developed most of the mythos that we associate with Batman from the Utility Belt to the Batmobile to the Joker. Props to Bill Finger for his work with Bob Kane to create the World's Greatest Detective.

Some of the things that Julius did in the comics, I hated. He was responsible for killing Alfred and having Clark Kent work as a TV reporter. I really hated these things as core elements of the comic mythos were changed. Both plot lines were eventually 'fixed', but all is forgiven for two main reasons.

One, He edited the Ambush Bug comic, the greatest comic book ever written. It was the pet project of my favorite comic artist/writer, Keith Giffen.

Second, he is responsible for the proliferation of gorillas in DC Comics. Julius found out that if there was a gorilla on the cover of a comic, it sold more than comics without a gorilla. Julius didn't need to know why, but if it sold more copies, he's do it. For long time DC Comics readers, this should be an aha moment as to why Gorilla Grodd shows up in so many books.

The book itself seems a bit rushed in places. The creation of the fundemetal DC concept of Earth 1 and Earth 2 is breezed through in a couple of pages. You also get a taste for Julius's feeling toward other comic book legends, but only a taste.

Julius Schwartz died in 2004 and DC rereleased several of his most famous comics in tribute. You would enjoy them if you picked them up.

For comic book and sci-fi fans, this a fun book to read. I'm now interested to pick up some books about Stan Lee and Steve Ditko to see what went on in the Marvel side of things.

Posted by michael at 09:10 PM
June 28, 2005
A post about work

I don't often post on my blog about work. Mainly because I know that people I work with read this site. I've decided that my gauge for decided what to post here should be 'would I mention this story at lunch with co-workers?'

Now some may disagree with this self-censorship, but this is my site and I'll do what I want.

That said, this post is about work.

For those that don't know, I work in television and help run the technical operations for several networks owned by Disney. Last year we were asked to help run the ABC Family channel by relocating the playback to Burbank.

This task is non-trivial.

Running a television network is HARD. Building duplicate capabilities and preparing all the content, understanding the workflow, modifying existing systems, and building a multi-million dollar facility is VERY HARD.

After months of effort, long hours, weekends, 3AM upgrades, arguements, endless meetings, countless phone calls, testing, rehearsal, and bajillions of emails, we went on the air yesterday.

Early Monday morning we toook over the operation of ABC Family and like a proud father, I'm still beaming.

I am so proud of my team and my co-workers. Pulling this off is a huge achievement and I just have to brag. Like any family, we fight sometimes at work. But in hindsight it's simply amazing to see what our team can do when we put our mind to it.

Here is part of the team celebrating the successful transition. Take a moment to look at all those individuals, each doing their part to achieve what noone could do on their own. Each person filling their role to make sure their part of the process works, allowing the next person down the chain to do theirs.

As technical people, we don't often get much of the glory that permeates television. But you won't find a harder working group, more committed to perfection than the team I'm proud to be a part of at Disney.

The week before, I was surprised by my boss with an improptu gathering. He presented me with my ten year plaque.

That's me at home with the plaque. Disney is an old school company with many traditions about celebrating long time employees. In addition, I was given my ten year tie tack. If a company tie tacks isn't old school, I don't know what is.

Hard to believe it was ten years ago that I sat on a loading dock in Singapore eating a peanut butter sandwich when I was offered an 'all expense paid trip to Burbank'. Ten years from the loading dock to the corner office.

My company takes many hits in the press and especially in cyberspace. Some deserved, most not. Those who know me in meatspace, know I don't always leap to the company's defense. I'm more content to work from the inside discussing the future and helping to open minds that are closed.

But working at Disney is something magical. For all our faults, who could ask for better company product. We try to entertain people.

If we didn't care about the people that watch our shows and films, wear Mickey, and visit the parks we wouldn't work hard. Disney people work hard. I see it everyday, and it makes me proud everyday, doing our part to entertain children of all ages.

So today I post about work, and I don't care who reads it.

Posted by michael at 08:02 PM
June 22, 2005

Yubnub is a cool site I found via Ztuff

Basically Yubnub gives you a command line to the essential web sites of the hardcore net junkie. Want a Technorati search on pandas? Type 'tec pandas'. A few other good command line items are wikip for a Wikipedia search, flk for a Flicker search, or say to create a wav file of text converted to speech, or eby to search Ebay and am to search Amazon.

The best thing about Yubnub is that you can create your own commands and others can then use them. The amount of new commands people have created is astounding. This is some kick ass social software...

Take a few minutes to try Yubnub.

Posted by michael at 08:51 AM
June 17, 2005

The ends do not justify the means.

Posted by michael at 09:38 AM
June 11, 2005
We Love Katamari

The girls and I really like playing Katamari Damacy together. I saw the sequel to it at E3 this year called We Love Katamari.

I finally got off my butt and can now present a video of the demo I saw at E3.

We Love Katamari - E3 2005 Demo (9MB wmv file)

They have added a new cooperative mode with bodes well for family play. Overall, it doesn't look like any revolutionary change, which is good in my book. Take a look.

Posted by michael at 12:11 PM
June 09, 2005

A few weeks ago, I went to E3 and had lunch with a few people including Andy Baio (name drop) and Eric Marcoullier. As we ate Chinese food in a very hot basement of an expensive restaurant, Eric told me about his pet project called MyBlogLog.

I finally got around to installing it on ye old Cruftbox, and it Rocks.

Basically, you sign up with MyBlogLog and add one line of javascript to your weblog templates and instantly you can see what people are clicking to leave your site. Yep, you are used to seeing the referrers that send people into your site. Now you can see what people are finding interesting enough to leave your site.

Take a look:

That's a screen shot of the stats page for part of today. Notice how you can see exactly where people are going to when they read your site. I put the javascript on the main index template and on the individual page template. Since it's on the individual pages, I can see how people arrive via google searches and then see what they link on the way out.

Here you see a typical inbound link, in this case from someone using Yahoo to find out info abot installing Windows. They are going to my entry 867 where I discussed how to install Windows when you need to add a driver during install off a floppy.

Here you see an outbound link from someone that found my entry via a search engine and is now leaving to go visit the Usenet post I linked to in my entry.

Pretty neat to see what readers find worthwhile to link to from my site. Obviously, to commercial sites, this kind of thing is great for tracking exactly how popular outbound links are by direct measurement.

So if you are interested to see where your readers go, check out MyBlogLog.

Posted by michael at 09:03 PM
June 07, 2005
Apple on Intel



More proof that anything is possible in Steve Jobs reality distortion field.

Posted by michael at 07:08 PM
June 06, 2005
A few more dead trees

Electric Universe: The Shocking True Story of Electricity - David Bodanis

A few weeks ago, I saw a review of Electric Universe on kottke.org and decided to pick up a copy.

Now, I am trained as an electrical engineer, not like these new-fangled electronic engineers you see nowadays. Back in my day, we learned about electrical power, analog circuitry, and had a single short course on semiconductors. I fear the today's EEs wouldn't know a vacuum tube from a vacuum cleaner.

So I began the book about the history of electricity with great gusto. Alas, my excitement was short lived. To make the book accessible to non-engineers, the author reduced the complexity of the science to it's minimum level, even avoiding using common terms to describe things.

While I understand why he did this, to me the book was lacking in the very detail he was trying to avoid. While descibing the Trans-Atlantic Telegraph Cable, I desperately wanted to know the details of cable construction and the amount of current that was feed across the ocean. in several other places I wanted more detail and information that was not included.

I was a bit suprised to see that there was little or no mention of the direct current versus alternating current battles that pitted Edison against Telsa. The AC/DC debate is core to the history of electricity and it is not mentioned at all.

If you don't know much about electricity but like history, then the book is probably perfect for you. But if you are an engineer, pick it up from the library or borrow my copy.

Market Forces by Richard Morgan

I thought the first two books (Altered Carbon and Broken Angels) by Richard Morgan were great and was eager to read Market Forces when it was released. The book is not a Takeshi Kovacs novel. It takes place in the near future in a world where capitalism is allowed into the realm of literally controlling international affairs.

Trans-national firms get contracts from nations and rebels to help fight for control while reaping huge profits on the conflict. For some unexplained reasons, the firms compete in automobile combat to win the contracts. Beyond that, the executives of the firm can challenge each other to car combat for promotion. Yeah, far-fetched, but go with it.

Imagine Steve Jackson Car Wars meets Rollerball.

In a world where raising yourself out of the lower class is nearly impossible due to the better parts of town literally being fenced off, the protaganist, Chris, has made it out. The book looks at his time at a new firm, much fiercer than any he has worked for before.

Chris spirals deeper and deeper into the rough world of 'conflict investment' each step of the way justifying his actions until he feels he can dispense justice on his own terms. While the world seems focused ont he idea of "There is no right or wrong, only profit." Chris finally finds his place but only after losing much that is dear to him.

The author obviously has some ideas about what unchecked globalization will do to the world and takes them to an extreme to make his point about the lack of morality seen in today's business world. As one of those executives in a trans-national company, I hope I don't need to battle for my position, but the ideas are intriguing.

Posted by michael at 09:45 PM
Global Internet Freedom Act

Recently I was keeping up on what my Congressman Adam Schiff was up to regarding legislation. I was intrigued to see a report that he had co-sponsored a bill 'against internet jamming'.

I could find anything online, so I called his office and asked. They said the bill was new and unpublished, but as soon as it was printed, they'd send me a copy. I got an email today with a link to the text of the bill.

You can look at the summary of the Global Internet Freedom Act aka House Resolution 2216 in a pdf version or plaintext.

After reading the bill (it's only 8 pages), I was blown away. Here was our stodgy Congress actually trying to look out for the free flow of information in the world. Here are a few quotes:

(2) All peoples have the right to communicate freely with others, and to have unrestricted access to news and information, including on the Internet.
(4) Unrestricted access to news and information on the Internet is a check on authoritarian rule by repressive foreign governments in countries around the world.
(10) The success of United States policy in support of freedom of speech, press, and association requires new initiatives to defeat totalitarian and authoritarian controls on news and information over the Internet.

Wowsa folks! I think that Thomas Jefferson might agree with this bill if he were around today.

The bill goes on to request FIFTY MILLION dollars in 2006 and 2007 to "deploy, at the earliest practicable date, technologies aimed at defeating state-sponsored and state-directed Internet jamming by repressive foreign governments and the intimidation and persecution by such governments of their citizens who use the Internet."

People, it's time to rally the blogosphere around this bill and convert it to law. Find your Representative and DEMAND they cosponsor the bill. How can they be against freedom?

Take five mintues to stop surfing the internet and call Congress to get them to support HR 2216 - Global Internet Freedom Act. Do it now, reading the next site can wait.

Posted by michael at 08:34 PM
I'm not crazy

Well, at least there are others just as crazy as me. A computer should be quiet.

The Wall Street Journal's article on quieting PCs.

I tend to get my gear from QuietPC, they have good prices and quick shipping.

Posted by michael at 08:17 AM
June 03, 2005

Yes, I know I haven't updated much recently.

This passage best summarizes the situation...

Turning and turning in the widening gyre
The falcon cannot hear the falconer;
Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold;
Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world,
Posted by michael at 11:58 AM