Tuesday, April 29, 2008

ALERT: Bostodelphia Unleashes Von Slatt Cocktail without Proper Clinical Trials, Steampunk Mixological Mayhem Ensues

I, Cheesesteak the Impaler, having broken out of the Bostodelphia HQ dungeons into which Coddy and his Steampusher Von Slatt had tossed me, bring you the TRUTH. You may have read recently about our alleged libational contribution to steampunk celebration, the Von Slatt cocktail. Beware this concoction Bostodelphians, 'for it is UNTESTED! I have also unearthed the remarkably dull vessel where it was created...

You see, dear Bostodelphia readers, shortly after the posting of the Von Slatt, I, your friendly lethal sandwich, was in the mood for a drink, as I am wont. Being ever interested in free beverages, I figured I'd venture to the Bostodelphia commissary and concoct for myself a Von Slott from the leftovers of my blog-peer Cod Peace's test flights of the beverage. While I found many pressurized canisters of steam, and many a whistling tea kettle on unattended burners, I could find not a drop of peach brandy, not even American peach schnapps. Nor could I locate any J├Ągermeister or Bass Ale, as required of the alternative recipe.

We posted this recipe Thursday night, our recycling isn't picked up until Wednesday, but no evidence of any Von Slatt tests could be dug up within the Bostodelphia recycling bin. I smelled something fishy, thus knew someone was behind me.

"Cod!" I declared, "The creed of a good mixologist, like a good scientist, is reproducible results. Yet here, I can not see evidence of even the prototype Von Slatt we have delivered to our steampunk audience."

Cod Peace glowered under his top hat, sneared at me through his monocle, and flippered his handlebar mustache. "Oh, I feared you'd come across secrets neither man nor sandwich were meant to know in this commissary, good Impaler," he said as Jake Von Slott emerged from the steam around us, "Von Slatt! Take him out!"

With an elegant, and economically efficient flick of his wrists, Herr Von Slatt drew something from within his waistcoat and let multiple projectiles fly. "What? No!" I exclaimed as what I thought were poisoned shuriken tumbled toward me. Then I realized these tumbling or, more accurately, flopping objects were not well honed steel, but tiny bags of sodden leaf.

While Von Slatt's brewed teabags' heat didn't affect me much, their impact did throw me off balance enough to cause me to slip on the commissary's condensation-slick floor. As I blacked out from the impact, I could hear Cod Peace sneer to his steampunk co-conspirator, "Excellent, now the people will never know the fraud of our creation!" My tenderly sliced rib eye ears were assailed with their maniacal laughter until my consciousness gave up to the ordeal.

Awakening locked in a dungeon chamber, I was first surprised that Bostodelphia HQ indeed had a dungeon, apparently an addition recently excavated by Cod and Herr von Slatt. See the below graphic delineating the underground warren into which I was cast:

Fortunately, I was able to extricate myself in time for Maker Faire so that I can deliver this warning to DIY community comprising much of the Steampunk audience. DO NOT DRINK THE VON SLATT WITHOUT PROPER EXPERIMENTATION. The recipe outlined for you is untested!

To repair the reputation of what is to Bostodelphia's knowledge the first steampunk cocktail, we at Bostodelphia wish to make May a Month of Open Source Steampunk Mixological Mayhem! Experiment with the recipe the nefarious Cod has passed off as tried and true, confirm the hypothesis that it is the libational embodiment of steampunk. Perfect it or even challenge it with a beverage more strongly suited to steampunk tastes. Jake von Slatt makes things. Herein we're asking you to turn the tables on him and make him.

Most importantly, keep us apprised of your activities through comments to this post or through my or Cod's e-mail. Send us recipes, photo or video documentation of your experiments, but give us your input! We'll keep the blog posted with your participation; and after Cod pulls enough penance duty cleaning the tea stains from the Bostodelphia commissary's countertops, we'll decide at the end of the month whose concoction is most worthy of the steampunk imprimatur Von Slatt. Most likely, your reward will consist solely of that honorific. However, if we get literally buzzed on juiced enough about this, and if anyone has particularly on message steampunk beverage paraphernalia they may be willing to dontate to the cause, other prizes may be announced.

Thursday, April 24, 2008

Introducing the 1st Steampunk Cocktail: the Von Slatt!

Steampunker extraordinaire Jake Von Slatt and Bostodelphia interviewee will be in attendance at Maker Faire this year. To celebrate his trip and his new Victorian All-in-One PC, Cheesesteak the Impaler and myself have invented a cocktail in his honor.

Now, a proper Steampunk cocktail needed 3 things, in our opinion: steam, something English, and something German. Steam, well, duh. English, for the Victorian England connection. German, for the association of that country with all things industrious. Oh, and Von Slatt's 1929 Mercedes Gazelle replica. In light of the DIY spirit of Steampunk, consider this recipe merely a suggestion, with a Von Slatt consisting of a drink with one each of the three types of ingredients.

Without further ado, mix the following:

  1. one part unsweetened peach brandy
  2. three parts Darjeeling or Lady Grey tea (optional: iced)
  3. top with foamed milk via a steam wand
The reasoning behind each... Nothing screams "English" more than tea. A real German schnapps (or rather Schnaps in the Vaterland) is more akin to a fruit-flavored vodka. Anyway, peach brandy is readily available here in the US of A and appears to be more similar to a real German Schnaps than American-style liqueur schnapps. Or at least this is so according to Wikipedia, which is the source of about 9/10ths of my entire lifetime of accumulated knowledge. The result: peach aroma, an intact tea flavor, a soft alcohol kick, and the foam tickles your nose hairs.

What? Fruity tea? Not manly enough for you? Not reminiscent of steam whistles, grimy coal miners, and sweaty, be-goggled welders? Fine. Remember, the Von Slatt is a DIY concept. Alternative recipe:
  1. 1 part J├Ągermeister
  2. 1 part Bass Ale
  3. apply 1500 psi steam line to ear
There you have it. Enjoy!

County map of PA results

Here's a county-by-county map using AP data that I swiped from the NY Times political blog. Go there to see this map in interactive mode, which is worth a few minutes of time.

My shallow observation is that Obama voters are densely packed into the more urban parts, modulo Pittsburgh.

Clinton garnered 64 delegates to Obama's 63. Hardly a game-changing event, eh?

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Quick glance at the returns

So Bostodelphia walked by our polling location at Pine Street Pizza just now and saw the returns from our machines. My arms were too full of pizza and beer to take notes. That said, the 7th division of Philadelphia's 5th ward, Obama beat Clinton by about 2:1. In the race I was more interested in (and will probably write on tomorrow) State Senate District 1, Farnese came out about 1.5 to every 1 of Dickers. That's rough math, might have been even better. Any case, Dougherty's count on these machines was seriously dwarfed by his rivals.

Cheesesteak the Impaler Votes at Pine Street Pizza #1: Finally Checking in from the PA Battleground, the Presidential Line

I admit your friendly deadly sandwich has been AWOL for the entire six week lead up to today's primary fight. I've been here, but keeping my head down. Yeah, the political fire's been flying thick, and not just on the Presidential level, but this cheesesteak has a few things in the pipeline, some related to the future of Bostodelphia, some which may be discussed in Bostodelphia, and still others that I'd love to tell you about but have been handed these nifty patches to ensure I don't.

As Cod pointed out in his p-shop send-up of Clinton's tendency to go crazy hawkish for votes, today is PA's primary day. Having just come back from my polling station/local pizza shop, I'll give you a run through of what it was like to vote in the 182nd PA General Assembly District. Or whatever it's called. Whatever it is, it's the 182nd of them.

Getting there wasn't a problem, it's almost literally around the corner from me. There were more campaign workers outside than voters and election workers inside, almost all sign holders and button wearers representing candidates for one race. If you're from outside of Philly, it's probably not the contest you're thinking, but more on that when I get to that line on the ballot.

Inside, there was a slight stall at the sign in table, as the poll worker had some difficulty finding my name on a card. She got it eventually, and I chalked it off to what's reportedly been and still will be a busy day at the polls. I was #183 to show at my station @ 12:15, which averages out to around 36 people an hour since polls have opened. I think the last time I voted, I was somewhere around 180 too, but while there was also a reportedly "high turnout" election for Philadelphia then, I had showed around 4:00 p.m.

In the booth, I made my run down. 1st up, my pick for the Democratic nominee for President of the United States. Yes, the cheesesteak has not wavered from Bostodelphia's February commitment to Obama. I actually stood among the 35,000 and heard, since I could see nothing but some bright lights over taller folks, the Friday rally speech:

While I'm not sure what the campaign was thinking when they picked Ed Kowalczyk from Live to play an acoustic version of "Lightning Crashes" as a warm up act for Will.I.Am (ok, Mr. Kowalyczyk may be from PA, but still...), I am still behind this campaign. As I've wrote before, Obama is the Democratic Party's best hope for change in American politics, a rallying figure for those who've felt disenfranchised by the Democratic Party and electoral politics in general over the course of the preceding political generation. Senator Clinton has served the state of New York capably during her terms in office (and I voted for her first term). But to this sandwich the experience she touts strikes more of a political legacy which this country needs to shed. I am not speaking of her name per se. Rather, I find nothing in her record to really distinguish her from the rank and file of the Democratic Leadership Council who sapped the Democrats' progressive soul in exchange for industry-backed or bought electoral security. These are the people who gave us John Kerry instead of Howard Dean. This is the political calculation that stood by and did nothing while a President marched this country to war on false premises.

That said, if the Obama/Clinton signage ratio here in what Philadelphia affectionately calls the Gayborhood is any indication, and also informing this impression via conversations with some close gay friends, Obama's fallen pretty short on presenting a gay rights plank to his platform. I confess to not having studied this issue, but while Clinton seems to have articulated a substantial national strategy on gay rights, Obama seems to treat sexuality, like race and class, as something we as Americans should just be able to "get beyond." There is an appeal in that principle, but I'm sure many gays and honest straights would tell you such a principle is "pretty to think so" unless that principle is attached to a proactive agenda to make it so. I'm told more ambivalence and unease from the gay community toward Obama's candidacy stems from O's support from this guy, who claims to have been "cured" of homosexuality. If Obama gets the nomination, I hope to see something more substantial from the campaign regarding its stake in gay rights beyond lumping it with all the other "divisive problems" of political discourse that should just go away. Divisive issues require work to get past, and sometimes, "let's all just get along" doesn't work. In some cases, some people are, in fact, right and wrong. Seeing Obama actually bringing people together on a divisive issue (as opposed to saying an issue should be divisive) will be his true test on the campaign trail, however long he defers it.

Whew, that was a mouthful. I think I'll end this post here, and follow up with my take on the rest of the ballot in a subsequent post. To close though, yes, I've seen this:

Looks like the producers of this vid are from Los Angeles. Sort of telling. I'm the last person to treat Stallone's Philadelphia Icon with any sense of sacredness or religiosity; but at the same time there's something a lot of people, even those who claim to love Philly, miss about Rocky. In the original, Rocky only wins in the "heart" category, he actually loses the match. He only starts winning in the ring in the sell out sequels. Is that what we want?

Monday, April 21, 2008

Clinton to Iran: WE WILL BURY YOU

Hillary Clinton, channeling her inner Nikita Krushchev, made the following threat recently:

Clinton further displayed tough talk in an interview airing on "Good Morning America" Tuesday. ABC News' Chris Cuomo asked Clinton what she would do if Iran attacked Israel with nuclear weapons.

"I want the Iranians to know that if I'm the president, we will attack Iran," Clinton said. "In the next 10 years, during which they might foolishly consider launching an attack on Israel, we would be able to totally obliterate them."

Them's some tough words from someone who will not be the Democratic nominee. The math's not there, Hillary fans. And even if it was, a choice between Clinton bombing Iran and McCain bombing Iran wouldn't be much of an election in the fall.

Pennsylvania votes tomorrow. Go Bostodelphians, go vote Obama!

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

A very cool Tivo

My Series 2 Tivo lives inside a cabinet, atop a VHS player, with the cabinet doors closed and locked to defend the electronics from my two young children. The stereo amp and DVD player are on the other side of the cabinet separated by a partition.

The Tivo gets hot. It's got a 2nd hard drive installed, and it routinely reports 60-66C as the internal temperature. It seems to work fine, but in the interest of component longevity I decided to add some additional cooling.

With the small dimension of the case, the only logical spot was a top mounted exhaust fan, over the Tivo motherboard. I wanted to use a low speed 120 mm fan, but it wouldn't clear the second hard drive. I opted for a 92 mm fan in an 80 mm bracket, a Silverstone FN82 for $3.99 from Newegg. I added a finger-proof grill to the order. The fan is rated at 36 CFM and 26 dBa. Since it's in the closed cabinet I figured I'd never hear this noise over the background, not to mention the TV volume.

Here's picture of the fan with the grill laid on top:

Pretty snazzy lookin', huh. Next step was to put a hole in the top of the Tivo case. Using a handy hole saw at work, I discovered that old, worn out hole saws are ineffective on sheet metal. On to the Dremel, which promptly used up all its cutoff wheels before the hole was complete. Finally, I grabbed the tin snips. Ahh, all finished. A little bit of grinding smoothed out the edges. Check out this fine craftsmanship:

Here's the finishing pics, both inside and out. The black square inside the case is a piece of vinyl damping material left over from an old project. The fan fits nicely in the hole.

All of this would be for nothing if the Tivo wasn't running cooler. Here's the result...
  • Stock Tivo with its exhaust fan and 2nd hard drive: 60-66C
  • Tivo with its cover removed: 48C
  • Tivo with top mounted exhaust fan: 40C
Not only is the Tivo temperature sensor, wherever it is, running cooler, but the two hard drives are significantly cooler to the touch. I am satisfied.

Sunday, April 13, 2008

So I wanted a new PC...

Recently I bought a PC via the parts catalog over at Newegg. Intel Quad core Q6600 CPU, micro-ATX motherboard and case, blah blah. I intended to make this a Hackintosh to try out Mac OSX. Simple, right? Well, as it turns out the motherboard is not (yet) completely compatible with OSX. And then I thought, hey, why not overclock a little bit? Yeah, well, the perfectly decent motherboard I had, an ECS G33T-M2, is a crappy overclocker. Between that and the OSX issues I ended up deciding on a replacement, an Asus P5K-VM.

Then the problems continued. After trying Windows Vista and recoiling in horror, I whipped up an Ubuntu Linux installation. Then I wondered..."how does one check CPU temperature on Ubuntu?"

So I google this, and a brief "apt-get install lm-sensors" plus a few commands later could check the CPU temp on the new PC. Naturally, I whipped up some Python scripts to max out the 4 cores and started them running. I noticed the cores all hit a max of 62.2C. I google this number...and discover this is the max temp the core will let itself get to, after which it'll insert null operations into the running code, and if that's not enough, it'll turn down the clockspeed.

Argh! Now I need a better heatsink/fan for the CPU so I can get the performance I paid for...and so that it'll run full tilt when I bump up the front side bus and the cores at 3GHz instead of 2.4GHz. This is the one I have:

and for $10 more I need to get this one:

Newegg's shipping debt is sending some packages my way.
While I was at it I ordered an 80 mm fan to add a top blowing cooler to my Tivo.
I couldn't quite bring myself to ditch the microATX case while I was at so will live with that.
In all the times I have built PCs, I cannot think of one I have screwed up more than this one.

Wednesday, April 2, 2008

Boston vs. Philadelphia 2008 Round 6: St. Patrick's Day

Ok, it's a little late for St. Patrick's Day, and the pic above is from 2003, but what the heck.  Now, Phillie may have a zombie shuffle on Easter (amusing play on the Resurrection, that), but they got nothin' on Boston's St. Patrick's Day Parade.  Boston, of course, has a long history of ethnic strife, including a tough reception for the Irish in the mid 1850's:

A Boston Committee of Internal Health studying the situation described the resulting Irish slum as "a perfect hive of human beings, without comforts and mostly without common necessaries; in many cases huddled together like brutes, without regard to age or sex or sense of decency. Under such circumstances self-respect, forethought, all the high and noble virtues soon die out, and sullen indifference and despair or disorder, intemperance and utter degradation reign supreme."

These days being of Irish descent in Boston is not only accepted but celebrated.  Since 1947 there has been a veteran's group-sponsored St. Patrick's Day Parade which has been going on since 1902.  And what's a good Massachusetts holiday without bitter argument and division?  In the 90's a GLB pride group sued the organizers of the parade for the right to be included and the case wound up at the Supreme Court in 1995.  In 1994 the state Superior Court had ruled that the organizers could not exclude anyone.  The parade was cancelled that year.

More recently, Veterans for Peace were not allowed to march in the parade.  Instead they followed the trash trucks...  A column by Kevin Cullen in the Boston Globe tells the back story.

Happy belated St. Patrick's Day!

Oh, and in terms of the latest B vs. P:  this round goes to Boston for encompassing all that is ugly and beautiful about the city in a single event.

Fox News compares Steampunk to "trenchcoat mafia"

Over at Coilhouse.net you can view a Youtube video from Fox News on the view that steampunk is really a "trenchcoat mafia for adults." Worth a click.

Tuesday, April 1, 2008

April Fool's ... Or Badly Timed Comeback?

This has got to be a joke. According to Boston.com, these guys are making a comeback on the twentieth anniversary of this:

Thing is, the counting down to launch NKOTB website looks more legit and sophisticated than the sort of pranksterism Boston.com's capable of. Maybe Boston.com's been persuaded or duped into playing along with someone else's joke. In which case Boston definitely will win a round in Bostodelphia's Boston vs. Philadelphia Battle of '08 for best prank. If this is legit, Boston may well lose every point it's earned to date, and possible every other point it's capable of winning over the year, as consequence for its shameful resurrection of this musical monstrosity.