Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Not About Food: The Other Kind Of Java


On Tuesday, our company’s president came all the way from Chicago to pay us a surprise visit.

Many of you are probably thinking the same thing we all did: Uh oh. And sure enough, headquarters is shutting down our office and laying all of us off at the end of May.

A few of you remember that this has happened to me before. That time, I took a month or so off, cooked a lot, made bread everyday, and generally loafed around. Now, I have a mortgage; my attitude has changed.

I already have a few promising job leads, but I decided to cast my net further out to sea: to all of you, in fact. If you’re hiring senior Java programmers — full-time writing probably isn’t realistic — and you’re in the San Francisco-East Bay area, I’d love to chat with you about a possible fit. Just drop me a line, and I’ll send you my resume. I’m pretty open to possibilities: I’ve worked in very small companies and very large ones in several different domains. I like in-the-trenches programming work that gets problems solved.

And if you’re not hiring, think good thoughts for me. I’m not panicked at all; I’m getting a good severance and I have always kept a large chunk of savings on hand because layoffs are a natural part of the modern-day technology industry. Still, tapping into that reserve isn’t my first choice.

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Thursday, January 31, 2008

What Is Bimbo Break?


I was trying to solve a puzzle in the latest issue of The Enigma, the monthly publication of The National Puzzlers’ League, and I decided the answer might be one of the Coca-Cola brands. I haven’t memorized them, of course, so I looked them up. Holy cats! They own everything. This isn’t a surprise — America’s favorite soft drink company is a sprawling mass of a corporation — but the list en masse is quite a sight.

Here’s one to ponder: What is Bimbo Break? It’s listed in their brands, but I’ve never seen it. Maybe I just don’t shop in the right stores. Or maybe, you know, Coca-Cola decided that that brand isn’t quite ready for market yet.

I’ll tell you what Bimbo Break isn’t: the answer to the puzzle. I did manage to figure it out, though.

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Monday, January 14, 2008



I lifted the spoon, with its drab, brown pile, into my mouth, and I bit down. Well, no. I didn’t bite down. My teeth squished through a mouthful of cotton balls. My tongue curled away from the sticky, coating mass, which tasted and felt like soggy, slightly toasted cardboard.

Melissa labored through her bowl for a dozen bites or so, but she dodged the wretched part and instead dug for the edamame and carrots, which emerged covered in a brown, felty pelt. I threw mine out after just two bites.

The dinner seemed like a good idea. I had an open-for-interpretation “grain salad” on the evening’s menu, a way to mesh spontaneity and meal planning. I stood in the bulk grain section at Rainbow Grocery and spied toasted buckwheat, which I had never made before. I didn’t read the instructions too carefully, but I thought it said to combine 1 cup of buckwheat with 2 1/2 cups of water and simmer for 20 minutes.

On the stove, the buckwheat expanded into a thick sludge as soon as the water hit it. It kept expanding, like some horror-movie blob, as I added more water. And the texture skipped past fluffy straight to furry.

I’m sure I did something wrong: Lots of people like buckwheat, and no one would if they tasted what I made. If you have suggestions for cooking it, let me know, but I won’t be touching that grain for a while.

Food blogs provide us with a fantasy life. I would like to have time to make all the gorgeous dishes I see on other sites, and I hope that some of my pretty plates have inspired you.

But, you know, sometimes things just don’t work. And it’s good to remember that even simple fantasies sometimes smack against hard reality.

Got any culinary disasters of your own you want to share? Add a comment or write a post on your own blog and send me the link. Help me feel better after making such a wretched dish.

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Monday, November 05, 2007

"Power Boil" Burners


We bought a nice, one-year-old stove off of Craigslist, and this weekend we hooked it up in the new house. This stove, like other modern stoves, has a “power boil” burner with more flame and a “precise simmer” burner with less. This drives me bonkers. Why not just make all the burners go from the lowest temperature of precise simmer to the highest temperature of power boil? Why force me to put stocks on my back right burner and stir-fries in the front?

It reminds me of the famous dialog between Nigel Tufnel and Marty DiBergi in This Is Spinal Tap:

Nigel Tufnel: The numbers all go to eleven. Look, right across the board, eleven, eleven, eleven and...
Marty DiBergi: Oh, I see. And most amps go up to ten?
Nigel Tufnel: Exactly.
Marty DiBergi: Does that mean it's louder? Is it any louder?
Nigel Tufnel: Well, it's one louder, isn't it? It's not ten. You see, most blokes, you know, will be playing at ten. You're on ten here, all the way up, all the way up, all the way up, you're on ten on your guitar. Where can you go from there? Where?
Marty DiBergi: I don't know.
Nigel Tufnel: Nowhere. Exactly. What we do is, if we need that extra push over the cliff, you know what we do?
Marty DiBergi: Put it up to eleven.
Nigel Tufnel: Eleven. Exactly. One louder.
Marty DiBergi: Why don't you just make ten louder and make ten be the top number and make that a little louder?
Nigel Tufnel: [pause] These go to eleven.

My friend meriko mentioned that they probably just have different sizes of pipes running into the burners, which prompts the question: Can I hack those pipes to install new, bigger ones to all the burners? I’m already planning to make a pizza oven by removing the lock that kicks in for the self-cleaning mode. Maybe I could swap in new pipes as well. Anyone know how to do that without blowing up the house?

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Sunday, June 10, 2007

Friend Wants Cocktail Help


This is what I get for bragging about how smart my readers are. My friend Josh sent me the following email, asking for my help and yours.

I recently invented a simple cocktail called "The Rakish Cad." I will admit that I had come up with the name at least five years prior to successfully mastering the recipe. It is now ready to come out of development and be beta tested. Specifically, the drink needs a garnish. Any suggestions? If you are so inclined, please post this query on your wonderful blog. Perhaps OWF(&W) reader's can help out?
The Rakish Cad
  • 3 oz. High end vodka
  • 1 oz. Moscato D'Asti
  • 1/3 oz. Elderflower syrup.
- Place all the ingredients in a cocktail shaker over ice, and give it a vigorous shake. Once properly chilled, serve up in a martini glass.