March 29, 2009
Homemade Pastrami, Part Deux

I have tried making pastrami from scratch before, but was not completely happy with the result. I was determined to succeed and tried the pastrami recipe from the wonderful Charcuterie book by Michael Ruhlman and Brian Polcyn. They have never steered me wrong before with their recipes and cooking methods.

I chose to use a 2.5 pound beef brisket as the meat. At the farmer's market, I had picked up a local raised, grass fed cut and wanted to use it. The recipe calls for 5 pounds, so I cut everything in half.

The basic corning of the beef takes 3 days in brine. I followed the recipe from the book, except instead of pink salt, I use saltpeter, 'cause I'm old school and I had it in the cupboard, but no pink salt. My previous attempt had been a 2 week cure, this was much quicker.

I rinsed and dried the brisket. I toasted coriander seeds and black peppercorns and then ground them coarsely. This was the dry rub I applies.

Then off to the smoker for a couple hours. I tried to keep the smoke up, but the temperature low, until the brisket hit 150 F internal. You can see what it looked like when I pulled it out. The process really changed the smoked meat. Water was pulled into the meat and the remaining fat/connecting tissue was broken down even more. I was plumped up and juicy as I moved it a cutting board.

I brought it inside to rest a bit. The pastrami smelled pretty good.

Next, I put the pastrami into a steamer. This was a new part of the technique to me. The bottom of the pot had a couple of inches of water below the steamer. I covered it and placed it in the oven for 2 hours at 275 F.

Slicing revealed a perfect color. They taste, texture, and rich mouth feel were all perfect. Michele tasted a piece and declared, "That's pastrami." High praise indeed.

Soon enough the pastrami was on some rye bread ready to consume. I only wish I had a meat slicer to get some really thin slices.

Overall, a welcome success on my path toward cooking nirvana. Looking forward I'll be making pastrami more often when I pick up some nice cuts of brisket.

Posted by michael at 08:20 AM | Comments (6)
March 22, 2009
Tour de Sewer 2009

Yesterday was my first long bike ride. In the end, much longer then I had planned on.

I rode in the Tour de Sewer, a local ride down in Bell Gardens run by the Lions Club. There were 15, 30, and 62 mile routes. I chose the 30 mile. I had never ridden more than 12 miles before and was nervous about the distance.

The map below shows what I rode.

You'll see at the bottom of the map, a part where I rode down to Lakewood. Yes, I missed a turn and kept going South for several miles. I finally had to stop and look at where I was on the phone and then angrily back-track to the turn. 7 extra miles than I had planned on.

Things I learned on my first long ride:

  • Riding with a group is easier than riding solo.
  • I need to get pedals and shoes to clip in, regular pedals are bad for long rides.
  • A ham sandwich at the rest stop is a delicious treat, even after sitting in my back pocket for 20 miles.
  • Going up a 'moderate' hill climb had me sucking wind by the top.
  • Some people love to chat while riding, like non-stop chatting.
  • I like long rides.

I feel pretty good today. My muscles aren't sore at all. My left knee hurts a bit, probably from not being clipped into pedals. Today I did a short 6 mile round trip to the bike store in my sexy new Captain America jersey that Michele bought me and felt good.

Consider me sold on road biking as my new hobby.

Posted by michael at 02:54 PM | Comments (3)
March 17, 2009
What I've been up to at SxSW

Besides trying to get Foursquare badges and going to sessions, I've been having fun in Austin.


I got involved to 'act' in a live reenactment of the run on the Death Star in Star wars via Twitter. That link should take you to the start and allow you to read forwards (Newer) to see how it played out.

Jay Bushman
organized the whole thing. He even built a wiki to show us actors what to do. Within an hour, the #sxstarwars tag went from nothing to the #3 trending search topic on Twitter Search. Seeing everyone join in was great fun! Here are some photos of us during the event.

Always Be Charging

I'm honored that the guys at SxSWBaby liked my phrase ABC - Always Be Charging and even built an site.

Causing Trouble

Those that know me, know I can get passionate about things. Here's me causing trouble in the LA Tech Scene discussion.

Hotel Room

And for the sake of tradition:

My Hotel Room in Austin, Texas from Michael Pusateri on Vimeo.
Posted by michael at 06:58 AM | Comments (1)
March 16, 2009
Fun at SxSW with JoCo

Last night I took a break from the SxSW parties which tend to involve standing in crowds, drinking beer in the cold, and being aggravated about connectivity to mobile phones.

I went to go see Jonathan Coulton play a show at Antone's I had heard his music before, but never been to a live show. I walked down to the joint and waited in line to buy a ticket. The show was general admission, but with seating, so I was relieved to find I wouldn't have to stand all evening. I had fun chatting with people in line and with a nice Austin couple sitting behind me.

The show started pretty promptly and Paul and Storm came out. I had never even heard of them before and was blown away. Their stuff was great. The music was part of it, but the banter with the tech saavy geek crowd was hilarious. I highly recommend their show. During the break after their set, I bought the pack of their CDs.

Jonathan Coulton, or JoCo as he is known to fans, took the stage and was fantastic. Not as into the funny banter with the crowd, he has a more rock presence or charisma. Great song choices, swinging from tech anthems to more introspective songs. He definitely drove the crowd the way he wanted rather than bending to their will. I really liked the show. My favorite moment was his cover of They Might Be Giants - Birdhouse in your Soul. JoCo's version is much more soulful, touching on the need of those that watch over others to feel love in return. He did this not by changing the lyrics, but with his musicianship and voice. I found it remarkable.

So, go see JoCo and Paul & Storm if you get the chance. You won't regret it.

Posted by michael at 07:59 AM | Comments (0)
March 15, 2009
SxSW 2009 Notes: Future of Social Networking

I attended the session on the Future of Social Networking, given by Charlene Li with the Altimeter Group. I've spoken with Charlene before and she's very dialed into to what's happening without being hyperbolic.

I agreed with the general points of her presentation, especially some of the timing aspects. The coordination of standards is HARD and will take time. I think this point was lost on some of the SxSW crowd.

Here is her presentation on Slideshare.

Here are my notes, in case you just want to read and not flip through slides.:

Future of Social Networking

Charlene Li
Altimeter Group

Three things to makes social networks like air:

1. Identity - who you are
2. Contacts - who you know (depth of connection)
3. Activities - what you do (your history)

And it's still very early, so patience is important


Facebook Connect


The New Open Stack
Open ID

Context - work, family, etc.
Struggle to maintain separation between context

Friend Management is tough today
Filters and groups are available but laborious to use
Filter make friends and news feeds more manageable and valuable

Implicit social data fills in the gaps
Address Book

A "social algorithm" will make privacy and premissions easier to magae
Context make content privacy easier
Community based privacy
Based on what your trusted friends do

What will get everyone to open?
Most digital activity resides OUTSIDE of the top social networks and portals
Tying content and discussions to social network via data exchange

Leverage social relationships to target ads based on relationships
Most social ads require explicit action

Media6 maps network neighbors
Use for targeted advertising

Rise of the personal CPM
Understanding the value of the influence role
Based on social graph instead of behavior

1) Evaluate where social make sense
Identify where social network data and content can/sould be integrated in the experience
Leverage existing identity and social graphs where your audience already is
Get your privacy and permission policies and processes with an open strategy
Find your trust agents

2) Get your backend data in order
Remove multiple sign-in

3) Prepare to intergrate social networks into your organization
Social networks will disrupt traditional information flows
Where are customers in the org chart? Top or bottom?

Posted by michael at 08:08 AM | Comments (0)
March 11, 2009
How to prepare for SxSW, version 2009

SxSW starts March 13th in Austin. This is my SEVENTH year and these are my helpful tips for the novice. I've tried to revise the info over the years as things change.

ABC - Always Be Charging - If you bring a laptop, you need to be charging it every single chance you get. No battery lasts long enough. Try to sit near an outlet in the session rooms. Share power outlets with others.

Don't hog bandwidth - There is good wifi, but a limited amount of bandwidth at SxSW and everyone there is highly connected. That means don't be a bandwidth hog. Don't run bittorrent, for anything, at any time. Don't download large operating system patches at the conference. Don't try to live broadcast anything. Don't upload all your photos from your 10MB DSLR camera during sessions. Don't update your podcast downloads. Don't download fresh builds of linux distros. Do not backup your laptop to Amazon S3 at the conference. Am I getting through here? Your actions can affect the experience for others. Nothing you are doing is that important that it is worth preventing others from having net access. Beat the hell out the hotel broadband in the evening, but do everyone a favor and show some restraint so everyone can do simple web surfing, IM, and email at the convention center.

Introduce Yourself - People are at SXSW because they want to meet people and see new things. Strangely, many of the blogger types that go are introverted types that are a bit shy. Do yourself a favor and say "Hello, I'm So-and-so" to that person you are sitting next to. (Don't say So-and-so, use your name...) I guarantee that they will be happy to talk to you.

Personal cards - Make up business cards with your name, email, and website info on them to hand out. Bring your regular business cards if you want, but what people really want is a card that ties you to your online persona so they can find you after SxSW.

When asking a question in a session, don't make a sales pitch - From time to time, people use the question time during sessions to pitch their own projects. No one cares. You look stupid if you do. Ask questions that the rest of the audience might care about. If you make a sales pitch during question time and I'm in the room, I will throw a brick at your head.

Session Info - When you arrive on Friday go to the Convention Center and pick up your badge. They will give you a large canvas bag of swag. You don't want to haul this around, so you need to figure a way to drop this off at your hotel before a long night of partying. In the bag are two crucial items. First is the program which has detailed session descriptions. Second is a small pocket card with the session schedule on it. You want these to be in your daily walk around bag, not in your hotel room.

Don't sleep in - Many of you are not parents that are used to getting up at the crack of dawn, but sleeping in past Noon means you are missing plenty of good stuff you paid a lot to see. Get up so you can grab breakfast and be at the 10AM sessions. If it's more important to you to stay up till dawn and sleep in until 2PM, you probably shouldn't be coming to Austin. You can do that at home.

Shiner Bock - Shiner Bock is a local Texas beer that you find everywhere. Often referred to as simply 'Shiner'.

Badge Surf - Badge surfing is a perfectly acceptable behavior at SxSW, but don't use it to fake knowing someone. If you want to talk to someone, say "I see from your badge...". Don't make them think that they should know you or that you've met previously.

Fray Cafe - Go to the Fray Cafe on Sunday night. Fray is people telling truthful stories about their life. It's one of the best things about SxSW. Kevin Smokler is the new host and is longtime SxSW veteran. Get there early for a good seat, otherwise you will be standing for the whole thing.

Stay Warm - It can get cold and rain in Austin this time of year. Bring a good jacket or coat just in case.

Sharpeners - There are no pencil sharpeners at SXSW. People think writing on a pad of paper with a wooden pencil is a bit strange.

Secure connections - Wifi traffic is in the clear and people are sniffing packets all the time. Arrange for secure email, FTP, and if possible, secure browsing while at SXSW. It's unlikely that a malicious hacker is gunna do bad things, but it's best to be prepared.

Street Signs - For some reason, downtown Austin has few street signs. Get a map and study it before venturing out.

Food - Eat food. Austin has a great bar scene. You will be drinking. Don't drink on an empty stomach. It also would be a good idea to keep a couple energy bars in your bag during sessions.

Texas BBQ - IMHO, Texas BBQ pales in comparison to BBQ in other areas like Kansas City and Carolina. That chopped beef sandwich stuff just doesn't cut it, but people will want to eat it for lunch. That said, Stubbs makes a great brisket.

Say Hello to Me - I would love to meet Loyal Cruft Readers. On Twitter I'm @cruftbox or email me or IM at pusateri AT and I promise to respond.

Any questions?

Posted by michael at 02:18 PM | Comments (0)
March 07, 2009
Steampunk Lamp Insides

Some of you have requested to know how I built the steampunk lamp. It's really fairly simple.

I used a simple household dimmer (aka rheostat) in line with two light bulbs in parallel. I glued the dimmer in place and used a little duct tape to hold it in place while the glue dried. The most difficult part was shaving down the shaft of the dimmer to fit into the knob, which is actually a drawer pull. I got a snug fit and then used cyanoacrylate (Krazy Glue) to permanently fix it.

The the power cord enters the box, you can see the Underwriter's knot I used to prevent the cord being yanked out. The rest of the wiring is trivial with wire nuts.

Here is the circuit diagram for those purists. I think my symbols are right, but it's been a while since I've drawn a schematic.

Hopefully this answers your questions.

Posted by michael at 09:51 AM | Comments (2)
Mint Buzz Bites

The folks at Vroom Foods sent me some Mint flavored Buzz Bites to try.

I've reviewed Buzz Bites before. The new version had a new flavor, Mint, which I thought would be interesting.

According to Energy Fiend, each Buzz Bite has 100mg of caffeine. That's a lot in my book, so I only tried a half to get started.

The new flavor is actually pretty good. The bitter caffeine taste is masked well by the chocolate and mint. I'm keeping these in my desk drawer at the office for those times I need a pick me up, but don't have time for a cup of coffee.

Posted by michael at 08:01 AM | Comments (0)