Friday, April 14, 2017

Don't Talk about the BOM

Names have been omitted to protect the guilty.

[Director] and [Division Chief] were walking through [major city] Airport discussing the bill of material for [facility] the directorate was engineering. A bill of material is a detailed sheet of all the parts needed for a project. It includes unit prices, quantities, part numbers from both manufacturer and vendor, etc. Since this was a big facility, this was a very large spreadsheet. Too big to actually print out; you had to have a laptop just to keep track of the whole sheet. Near the security checkpoint, the director says to division chief (or vice versa, reports vary), "Leave your laptop out and we'll work on the BOM on the plane."

They did not make their flight. When they were next allowed to communicate, every employee in the organization received a directive email, effective immediately and punitive, to scrub all references to "bill of material" and its acronym from all publications and replace with "List of Material (LOM)."

Now this story has to be true because it's been a decade since I've seen anyone use "bill of material." It's always "list of material" now.

Friday, February 17, 2017

Boom Goes the Cement Anchor

I've been working as a network installer and also seeing the results of other company's work and top quality is rare and worth every penny. Sometimes an installation job even gets really exciting. That's not a good thing. Unlike TV shows where drama has to be scripted to drive ratings, installation work should be boring and routine.

In an office where I used to work, installers were working downstairs on the floor below our offices installing hangers into the cement ceiling above their heads which was also the floor beneath our feet. Which was thinner than they anticipated.
That's an office chair just off camera

It's interesting from an archaeology standpoint. I'm always fascinated by the history of old buildings so seeing all the layers of flooring was like a look back through strata. That debris is the result of a drill bit coming up almost underneath a coworker. The incident caused a lot of very important people to make very concerned faces while inspecting the area for damage. Like I said, this isn't the part of the day you want to be exciting.

Wednesday, February 15, 2017

Thumb's Up

Well, I did myself a good one just the other day. Nearly took the end of my thumb clean off. A kitchen utensil called a mandolin, used for slicing vegetables, was involved.
The culprit

Normally I'm much safer with blades, having been using them for so long. Guess I need to rip a corner off my Totin' Chip card. 

On to the first aid instruction portion of this post. Remaining calm when an accident has happened is the most important thing. Panic wastes valuable time needed for the treatment and recovery of the patient. Although, if you hurt yourself, using language that would melt a pirate's ear is an understandable response. After hopping around uttering choice exclamations, I got my bleeding thumb under the faucet to clean the injury and begin assessing the damage. I lost a few tablespoons of blood which helped carry contaminants out of the wound. My girlfriend brought over the first aid kit and I directed her in applying a bandage and dressing to the cut. 
Sharp dressed man
After any injury, a patient must also be treated for shock which is characterised by a drop in blood pressure and body temperature. I laid down under a blanket and also took a pain reliever. Aspirin, being a blood-thinner, would have been a poor choice of pain reliever but pain relieving and fever reducing ibuprofen is ideal for this type of accident. Take only as directed. 

I left the dressing on for 24 hours to ensure that bleeding was controlled, prevent infection, and begin healing the injury. After about 24 hours the dressing and bandage should be removed so the injury can be cleaned again, allowed air and blood circulation, and examined. The examination is to check for and treat infection and be sure the wound has begun healing. Cover the wound with a new bandage and clean dressing if it is likely to continue or resume bleeding. Otherwise, allow the wound air and full circulation to heal. 
The result

Saturday, April 9, 2016

Zero for Two

Well, I'm having the best of luck in the kitchen lately.  A little awhile ago, I made vinegar instead of the dark ale the recipe was for. So that's my adventures in brewing. During this time, I've also been canning food because that's a good way to save food. Especially useful with the amount of food we get from the food co-op. Tomatoes, pickles, and fruit jelly are the most common items to can. my last batch of jelly didn't turn out well. What you're supposed to do is mash the fruit with sugar to make a syrup and then the syrup is supposed to set as it goes into the jars. In this latest batch, the syrup never set and I don't know why. It's still strawberry syrup so it's not like the whole batch has to be thrown out. It's just one of those things that I'll have to try again with more berries some other time. Oh well.

Friday, January 29, 2016


For many reasons, I've decided to reduce how much food I waste.  I compost almost all of my kitchen scraps which then becomes soil to grow more vegetables in the garden.  I am also using more of everything, like getting a week's worth of meals from a single chicken.  Something I've started recently is roasting seeds.
Pumpkins and other gourds like squash make edible seeds and planting just a few can lead to a bountiful harvest. The remainder of the seeds can be roasted for a nutritious snack.  I've been doing it with every spaghetti squash I get from the food co-op and the effort is well worth it.

Step One

Sterilize everything... no, not really.  But I'll never retire a good running gag.  My first step to roasting seeds is to brine them.  Scoop out the pulp and seeds from the gourd.  Pumpkin, squash, sunflowers obviously, and even some melons yield seeds suitable for roasting.  
Wash and separate the seeds from the pulp.  Take the pulp out to the compost and soak the seeds in salt water.  Two cups of water to one tablespoon of salt is a good ratio but you can adjust this for taste.  You can even replace the table salt with a salt based flavoring like Old Bay.  Brining the seeds soaks flavor into the seed rather than sprinkling it on the surface after roasting.  
Soak the seeds any time from overnight to 24 hours or so.

Step Two

Before taking out the seeds, preheat the oven to 300 oF.  Now that the seeds have soaked overnight, drain and rinse the seeds and decide on a flavor.  The seeds will be damp after rinsing but don't pat them with paper towels; the seeds will stick to the towel.
I've found that the most effective way to flavor seeds is to toss them in a bag with flavoring.  Any powdered spice will work.  Remember they'll already be slightly salty from the brine.

  • Old Bay is a Chesapeake regional classic.
  • Go with Hatch, NM, chili powder for pepper heads like me.  
  • Garam masala makes an Indian inspired snack.
  • Use oregano and parmesan for Italian flavor.
  • Barbeque flavor can be yours with brown sugar, chipotle pepper, and ground cumin.
  • Or just leave the seeds brine salted.

Spread seeds evenly on a cookie sheet one layer thick.  If you have a lot of seeds, use several cookie sheets.
Roast the seeds for 45 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Step Three

Eat and enjoy.  Gourd and melon seeds are high in dietary fiber along with many essential minerals influenced by the soil they're grown in.  Roasted seeds are a very healthy snack and making them yourself lets you limit things like sodium that overwhelms store-bought snacks.  

Sunday, January 10, 2016

India Dark Vinegar

Well, shit.  That didn't work.  I was brewing an India Dark Ale five gallon extract kit and something went wrong.  Maybe not wrong but not right.  Basically, the whole batch tastes like vinegar.  It's pretty gross.
It's my fault, too.  I got lazy and didn't secondary ferment or bottle on time.  Secondaries and bottling days don't have to be strictly on schedule.  You can push them back but don't let it go too long like I did.
So the end result is that I start this year and go into Febrewary with five gallons of extra hoppy vinegar.

Saturday, July 11, 2015


I've been having a lot of fun with making mead at home but that's not the only alcohol I drink.  I'm also a big fan of flavored vodka.  Because the production of vodka involves distillation it isn't legal to make at home but it is legal to infuse flavor into vodka you purchase.

Vodka, if you weren't familiar with the recipe, is essentially wine made with potatoes and then run through a still.  The technical aspect is quite simple but there's a law against distilling alcohol by home brewers.  We can ferment it; we can't distill it.  In addition to vodka, the law takes other distilled alcohols like brandy and whiskey off the product lineup as well.

While distilling vodka from scratch isn't available, buying unflavored vodka off the shelf and infusing your own flavors into it is legal and super easy.  My girlfriend and I are members of a food co-op and occasionally have too much food.  Rather than let the fruit rot or toss it in the compost, I've taken to making infusions with it.  To do this yourself you'll need a half-gallon (roughly 2 L) empty growler, a 1.75 L bottle of vodka, and a handful of fruit.

First step, as in all home brewing operations, is to sanitize everything.  It isn't actually critical because you're not fermenting anything here but it's good shop practice.  Chop the fruit into pieces small enough to cram into the growler.  Some fruits, especially whole berries, need to be muddled to release their flavor.  Place your hand over the mouth of the growler and give it a good shake to lightly bruise the fruit.  Now pour in the vodka, cap the growler, and place it on a shelf out of your way.  Wash out the vodka bottle and save it.  Use a solid cap and not an airlock because, again, this is infusing and not fermenting.

The infusion should be complete in one week.  Give it a good stir to thoroughly distribute the flavor and pour off a sample.  If the flavor isn't strong enough, cap it and put it back on the shelf.  Check it again every couple of days until the alcohol has reached peak flavor.  When it's done infusing, pour the vodka back into its original bottle, straining out the fruit.  Keep the fruit though since it's now the same proof as the alcohol it was soaking in.

My first batch of blueberry was a big hit among my friends.  I have batches of melon, citrus, grape, and even apple cinnamon in the works.  Blackberries will be ripe around August and a peppermint infusion will be a big hit for the holidays.  Don't do pumpkin spice; just don't.

I've written this entire article specifying vodka as the alcohol but any unflavored drinking alcohol will work.  It's just that most other alcohols have a strong flavor of their own. Vodka is uniquely advertised on the basis of the purity of its distillation and is often the base for store-bought alcohols with novelty flavors.  Anyway, drink responsibly and enjoy a new dimension of alcohol.