November 29, 2007
Kindle and the New York Times

We got a Kindle at the office to test out and demo. If you haven't heard, the Kindle is a new kind of electronic book made by Amazon. I took it home last night and gave it a try in my normal reading circumstances. To be honest, I was impressed. The Kindle felt good and was easily readable, even in bed. Since the Kindle is not back lit, I did use my reading light, just like I have to when I read a paper book.

This morning, I was eager to see what it was like to read the newspaper on the Kindle. Via it's wireless connection, the Kindle can download the newspaper while you sleep. I told it to subscribe to the New York Times.

I walked outside to get the paper New York Times and brought it inside to compare it to the Kindle Edition New York Times. The first thing I noticed was that the headlines were markedly different for the same story. The first sentence of the story is the same, as is the rest of the article text, but for some reason the headlines are different. I looked at the web version of the same story, and the headline different as well, close to the paper version headline, but not exactly the same. Three different headlines for the same story in three different mediums? Kinda strange if you ask me. Here is the comparison.

Paper NY Times: Lenders Tighten Flow of Credit; Growth at Risk
Kindle NY Times: Lenders' Belt-Tightening Stifles Growth in Economy
Web NY Times: As Lenders Tighten Flow of Credit, Growth at Risk

I guess they have an excess of headline writers these days...

The differences don't stop there. Today is Thursday, my favorite day with the NY Times, since it is the day for Circuits in the Business Section. I enjoy reading the Circuits section a great deal.

The Kindle showed only 5 stories in the Business Day section. When I started to compare, I found that not one of the front page stories on the Business Day paper version was in the Kindle version.

Intrigued, I counted and found that in the paper version, there are 30 articles in Business Day and 5 in Circuits. Of the 5 articles in the Kindle version, 2 were from Business Day and 3 from Circuits.

So let's be clear, the Kindle version is missing 28 of 30 Business Day articles and 2 out of 5 Circuits articles. Not really the electronic version of the traditional NY Times. Maybe they are still getting the kinks out, but it sure is weird. At ~$15/month of the Kindle version, you would expect equivalence to the paper version or the web version at a minimum.

Topping off the strangeness is the choice of articles in the Kindle version. Of the two Business Day articles included, one was a short blurb about some guys promotion that's in a tiny box on the bottom of page C6. While I am happy for Mr. Strangfeld and his promotion at Prudential, I would have greatly preferred to read any of the article from the Front Page of the section instead.

Don't get me wrong, I think the Kindle is fantastic, but the stuff with the NY Times is just plain weird.

Next, I need to figure out how to get books from Project Gutenberg into the Kindle.

Posted by michael at 07:18 AM | Comments (3)
November 25, 2007
What's inside a ThinkGeek Wi-Fi Detector Shirt?

Recently I bought a Wi-Fi Detector Shirt from ThinkGeek. I've worn it to work and even BarCampLA with many comments.

People often wanted to know how it worked. To wash the shirt, you need to take it apart, so I thought I could show you.

The display is attached to the front of the shirt.

The display is held in place by velcro normally. It's not hard to lift it up.

The display detaches from the cable easily.

In a small pocket, the actual wifi unit sits. The cable connects the wifi receiver to the display

The wifi unit has switch to turn it off and on. The whole thing runs off of two AA batteries. They seem to last about one night.

The cable itself runs though a cloth tube that is attached about both ends. When you are wearing the shirt, you don't feel anything but the cloth.

ThinkGeek says you can wash the shirt with the cable still inside the tube. I wasn't taking any chances and pulled the cable out.

Hear is the wifi detector, minus the shirt.

The shirt is a lot of fun when you are in a tech saavy group. The number one question they ask is "Does it tell you the SSID?". Alas, no it doesn't . I think Version 2 woudl be kick ass if it had a text display of the hotspot SSIDs it could see.

Posted by michael at 05:29 PM | Comments (1)
November 24, 2007
Candy iPod Dispenser

I found this candy dispenser at Target for $2.50.

Posted by michael at 11:31 PM
Punkbuster Kick for 131133

If you are getting kicked out of COD4 games supported by Punkbuster for "Unknown Windows API function [131133]", the problem is with Steam.

Go into Stream and turn off Steam Community In-Game

View -> Settings -> In-game -> Uncheck Enable Steam Community In-game

This should fix the problem until Steam and/or Punkbuster resolve the issue.

Posted by michael at 11:35 AM | Comments (1)
November 19, 2007
OpenDNS ftw

Recently I'd been having trouble with resolving sites via ATT's DNS servers.

For those that don't understand that, let me try to explain. The interent operates based on what are called IP numbers or Internet Protocol numbers. Every computer on the internet needs an IP address to be found and find other computers. Think of it as a phone number.

For example, the IP address of Google is Go ahead, click it, you'll end up at Google.

To make the internet more understandable to humans, we use domain names. But computers don't use the domain names, they want to use the IP numbers. To translate a domain name into an IP address, you ask a Domain Name Server, commonly called a DNS server. The DNS server translates the domain name into an IP address so your computer can talk to it, kind of like a phone book that you look up a name to find a phone number.

It gets a bit complicated with things called Root Servers. The Root Servers kind of act like a master directory telling you which local DNS server has the info about the domain you are trying to reach.

The conversation goes some thing like this:

You: Computer,, please...
Your computer: ISP DNS Server, who do I talk to about
ISP DNS Server: I don't know that, talk to the DNS Root Server, she's smarter than me
Your computer: DNS Root Server, who do I talk to about
DNS Root Server: For, talk to this DNS nameserver For
Your Computer: DNS nameserver For, what is the IP address for
DNS nameserver For The IP address for is
Your computer:, please show me the site Sure thing, here you go...

That kind of conversation happens every time you go to a new web page. It's a bit more complicated in actuality, but for our purposes, it a clear enough explanation.

So my problem was that all these DNS requests were going slow or failing, making it hard to navigate the internet. ATT is my ISP and they provide the DNS services I use as my first step. For whatever reason, their DNS servers having been sucking lately. Not being about to complete Google searches because the DNS request is timing out is The Suck.

I was quite frustrated, until I stumbled onto allows you to use their DNS servers for free instead of your ISP's DNS servers. I switched over and my web response are markedly faster. I am impressed.

It's not hard to switch and OpenDNS has great guides to show you how.

Of course, TANSTAAFL. OpenDNS makes money by showing you a page of their own if you enter a domain name that doesn't exist. The page has ads on it and they hope you click. A fair price in my opinion for a good service.

OpenDNS will do a few more things for you like filter phishing or porn sites if you want. You can also block or allow any site you want via OpenDNS. I don't use that service, but I assume others might want it.

Posted by michael at 09:01 PM | Comments (3)
November 12, 2007
Do you expect me to talk?

No, Mr. Bond, I expect to drink you.

Yes, even here on vacation in Kauai, I keep my eyes open for good stuff. Loyal Cruft readers know me penchant for Asian iced coffee.

We found this can of Mr. Bond iced coffee, from the Taiwanese company Want Want, at the local Foodland in Kapaa.

I drank it last night while I prepared the charcoal for the barbeque. The flavor wasn't bad, not too sweet. You could taste the coffee, but it was a bit watery. Not as creamy as some of the Boss coffees I've had in the past. Overall, a typical Asian iced coffee, nothing special but the cool name.

Posted by michael at 06:34 PM | Comments (4)
November 04, 2007
How to make home made pastrami and corned beef

A few months ago, I tried making my own pastrami, starting from some pre-corned beef. I was OK, but not great, I decided to try again, this time, making everything from scratch.

As I mentioned before, the difference between corned beef and pastrami is subtle. In both cases, a beef brisket is 'corned' by curing it in a salt brine for a couple weeks. This comes from the days before refrigeration, where the use of salt and sugar to preserve meat for a long time was common. The term 'corn' comes from the fact that long ago, the salt used to preserve beef was roughly the shape of a corn kernel.

To turn the corned brisket into a corned beef, you boil the meat.
To turn the corned brisket into pastrami, you smoke the meat.

First I bought a large brisket. I cut the brisket in half, one half to make into pastrami and one half to make into corned beef. Now I had to corn the beef.

The recipe I used was:

2 quarts water
3/4 cup kosher salt
1/2 cup brown sugar
10 whole cloves
1 tablespoon pickling spices
2 tablespoons saltpeter (potassium nitrate)

The saltpeter is not essential, but it acts as a preservative and keeps the red color of the meat. I want the meat to look authentic and red, so I order saltpeter, since you really can't buy it in a store these days.

I placed the beef in large bags with the corning brine. I doubled the bags up just in case of leakage.

The bags were then placed in the bottom of the fridge for two weeks. Thanks to my wife, Michele, for putting up with a drawer full of corning beef for two weeks.

After two long weeks, I pulled the bags out the fridge.

Out of the bag, the outside looked a little gray and I had my concerns about the effectiveness of the saltpeter. The meat smelled fresh. I guess this preserving thing really does work.

For the pastrami, I used the same rub from my previous pastrami cooking. I felt the flavor was good, so why mess with it.

Here it it going into the smoker. I smoked it for about 6 hours, changing the chips once, to give it a little extra smokiness.

After resting, this is the pastrami. It smelled pretty damn good, and I was anxious to give it a try.

The color was great. The saltpeter worked!

Alas, the meat was a bit tough. The flavor was good, but the toughness was a problem. Also, it was quite salty.

My friend Ken came over and we discussed it. There are a couple possibilities as to why it didn't come out as good as I had hoped.

The main mistake was leaving it open in the smoker too long. When I make a brisket, I usually smoke it for 2 hours, then wrap it up in aluminum foil to seal in the moisture. I should have done that in this case. Also, several pastrami recipes recommend soaking the corned beef in water for an hour or so to pull out some of the salt. Next time, I'll give this a try.

Now it was time to make the corned beef. The meat looked good and was even still red on the outside.

I wanted authentic corned beef, so that means corned beef and cabbage.

I modified this recipe a bit, dropping the butter, bay leaves, and carrots. Here's the meat starting to cook with the whole onion keeping it company.

After 3 hours on the stove, I pulled the meat out and let it rest. Then I sliced it up, hoping for the best.

The meat was fantastic. The color was great, once again proving the value of the saltpeter. The flavor was perfect and the mouth feel was wonderful. Rich and flavorful, while melting in the mouth. I am very happy with the results.

Of course, it wouldn't be traditional corned beef without the cabbage and potatoes. It all tasted great together.

While it took some time to make, i definitely recommend trying this yourself. The corned beef especially, as it was much simpler than the pastrami. I need to keep trying to perfect my pastrami though. Stay tuned.

Posted by michael at 07:49 PM | Comments (8)
November 02, 2007
Further Costume Analysis

My good friend Paul did further analysis of my Halloween costume data. Enjoy.

The librarian in me couldn’t help but to try and breakdown your list a bit.

I tried to use the least number of categories as possible: Character tv/movie, Role/Occupation (stereotype/category), Monster (including undead), Animal (including insect), Spirit, and Famous Person. To be honest, I didn’t know what some of those were, and I left “Nothing” blank, but thought about classifying it as Spirit.

Only factoring the occurance of the costume once, not accounting for frequency, here is what is breaks down to.

Animal – 13
Character tv/movie – 31
Famous person – 13 (this was a stretch. I assumed some names were of famous people.)
Monster – 14
Role/Occupation – 45
Spirit – 4

I think if you factor in the instances of just the top two, it looks like Character tv/movie and Role/Occupation are pretty close. But purely based on variety, Role/Occupation is the clear winner.

10 Scream Mask Character tv/movie
7 Spiderman Character tv/movie
6 Princess Role/Occupation
5 Witch monster
4 Devil monster
4 Ninja Role/Occupation
3 Cheerleader Role/Occupation
3 Doctor Role/Occupation
3 Fairy Spirit
3 Pirate Role/Occupation
3 Power Ranger Character tv/movie
3 Skeleton monster
2 "Nothing"
2 Angel Spirit
2 Ariel Character tv/movie
2 Asian Role/Occupation
2 Darth Vader Character tv/movie
2 Dracula monster
2 Fireman Role/Occupation
2 Freddy Krueger Character tv/movie
2 Gorilla Animal
2 Ladybug Animal
2 Maid Role/Occupation
2 Minnie Mouse Character tv/movie
2 Mummy monster
2 Old Man Role/Occupation
2 Optimus Prime Character tv/movie
2 Referee Role/Occupation
2 Snow White Character tv/movie
2 Soccer Player Role/Occupation
2 Soldier Role/Occupation
2 Tiger Animal
2 Zorro Character tv/movie
1 "Saul" Famous Person
1 50s Girl Role/Occupation
1 70s Hippie Role/Occupation
1 Alice in Wonderland Character tv/movie
1 Amy Winehouse Famous Person
1 Ballerina Role/Occupation
1 Basketball Player Role/Occupation
1 Bat Animal
1 Bee Animal
1 Biff Ninja Cow Animal
1 Britney Spears Famous Person
1 Bumblebee Animal
1 Buzz Lightyear Character tv/movie
1 Can Can Dancer Role/Occupation
1 Cinderella Character tv/movie
1 Clone Trooper Role/Occupation
1 Dad Role/Occupation
1 Dancer Role/Occupation
1 Daniel Famous Person
1 Dead Zombie (as opposed to the live ones) monster
1 Death monster
1 Demon Hunter monster
1 Devil Bride monster
1 Dinosaur Animal
1 Dionysus Spirit
1 Elmo Character tv/movie
1 FOB (Fresh Off the Boat)
1 Football Player Role/Occupation
1 Friendly Dude Role/Occupation
1 George Bush's Secret Daughter
1 Ghost Buster Character tv/movie
1 Goddess Spirit
1 Goth Role/Occupation
1 Grim Reaper monster
1 Gypsy (where the child didn't leave the stroller) Role/Occupation
1 Harlequinn Role/Occupation
1 Harry Potter Character tv/movie
1 Hawaiian Princess Role/Occupation
1 High School Musical Character tv/movie
1 Hula Girl Role/Occupation
1 Indian Role/Occupation
1 Jack Skellington Character tv/movie
1 Jason Vorhees Famous Person
1 Joe Ripper Famous Person
1 Karate Man Role/Occupation
1 Laura Wilder Famous Person
1 Leopard Cat Animal
1 Lion Animal
1 Little Red Riding Hood Character tv/movie
1 Mad Hatter Character tv/movie
1 Metal Skull Biker monster
1 Michael Myers Famous Person
1 Mickey Mouse Character tv/movie
1 Midnight Princess Role/Occupation
1 Mom Role/Occupation
1 Motorcycle Racer Role/Occupation
1 Mulan Character tv/movie
1 Picasso Famous Person
1 Pilot Role/Occupation
1 Pimp Role/Occupation
1 Policeman Role/Occupation
1 Pop Star Role/Occupation
1 Power Ranger Character tv/movie
1 Queen Role/Occupation
1 Quidditch Player Character tv/movie
1 Robber Role/Occupation
1 Robin Animal
1 Rock & Roller Role/Occupation
1 Rock Star Role/Occupation
1 Scary Clown (all clowns are scary) monster
1 Shark Animal
1 Sheriff Role/Occupation
1 Silverman Famous Person
1 Sixth Hokage of the Leaf Village
1 Slash (guitarist) Famous Person
1 Spider Animal
1 Supergirl Character tv/movie
1 Superman Character tv/movie
1 Taylor Famous Person
1 The Hulk Character tv/movie
1 Tigger Character tv/movie
1 Tinkerbell Character tv/movie
1 Tourist Role/Occupation
1 Trojan Fan Role/Occupation
1 Waitress Role/Occupation
1 Werewolf monster
1 Wonder Woman Character tv/movie
1 Yankee Role/Occupation
1 Yoda Character tv/movie
1 Yosagi Yojimbo Famous Person
1 Zombie Doctor monster

Pretty good eh? Paul might need to watch more horror movies since he didn't recognize Jason Voorhees as a character in the Friday the 13th horror movie series or Michael Myers from the Halloween movie series.

Perhaps I need to pull all the data from the last three years together for a data intensive review.

Posted by michael at 09:27 AM | Comments (4)