Hosting Issues

I’ve had a raft of hosting issues and two quick migrations over the long holidays. This is what you might call a non-optimal way to spend a vacation. Things seem to have settled down now and back to some stability. Here’s hoping at least.

Evil Genius Chronicles Podcast for August 1, 2013 – “My Life in Fandom: Issue #0”

Here is the direct MP3 download for the Evil Genius Chronicles podcast, August 1 2013. This is my first episode recorded specifically for The Dog Days of Podcasting, and is my introduction to my series within the series about my life and history in fandom – fantoms of comics, science fiction, punk rock, Subgenius and all the other silly things I like.

You can subscribe to this podcast feed via RSS. To sponsor the show, contact BackBeat Media. Don’t forget, you can fly your EGC flag by buying the stuff package. This show as a whole is Creative Commons licensed Attribution-NonCommercial 3.0 Unported. Bandwidth for this episode is provided by Cachefly.

Links mentioned in this episode:

Evil Genius Chronicles Podcast for June 28, 2013 – “R.I.P Tides”

Here is the direct MP3 download for the Evil Genius Chronicles podcast, June 28 2013. I talk about an episode of New Disruptors about editorial cartoons and the death of the Steve Jobs, and this morbid phenomenon of overwhelming eulogies on social media (what I call a “R.I.P. tide”), I lament the loss of my biggest detractor and get out of here. This episode is short because I lost the first half of it.

You can subscribe to this podcast feed via RSS. To sponsor the show, contact BackBeat Media. Don’t forget, you can fly your EGC flag by buying the stuff package. This show as a whole is Creative Commons licensed Attribution-NonCommercial 3.0 Unported. Bandwidth for this episode is provided by Cachefly.

Links mentioned in this episode:

The Way of the Gun

Over on Kickstarter is a fundraiser coming down to the wire for The Way of the Gun, an anthology project for fiction that crosses the western genre with the Bushido samurai code. Although Scott Roche lives in North Carolina one state away, I first met him in Baltimore at Balticon.

Check out the description of the project and if you are so inclined, please kick in a few dollars. Scott’s a good guy and this is a cool sounding book.

Death to Diets

Here’s an article from Weighthacker about a study that suggests that diet soda causes humans to put on weight by disrupting the satiation process. I know for myself, I stopped drinking soda cold turkey in the summer of 2010 and shortly thereafter with no changes to diet or exercise I dropped 15 pounds. I then weened myself off of sweetening my coffee and now don’t sweeten anything with artificial or natural sweetener of any kind.

My anecdote is not any more than a single data point, but my experience is quite in line with this article.

Via Craig Engler on Google+

SE Zine Fest

This Saturday October 20th in Charleston SC will be the first Southeast Zine Fest at the Redux Contemporary Art Center . It is free to attend, and sounds like a lot of fun. Because zinesters are not morning people, the event starts at noon.

I would love to go but don’t think I’ll be able to. The goal is for this to be an annual event, which I hope is the case as I would like to attend next year. If you live in Charleston or driving distance and want to help bootstrap the zine community in this region, please consider going and showing your support. Pick up some stuff and hang out and generally participate. Do it for me, do it for the kids!

Tough Gig

From a Google Plus post I made:

Surely one of the toughest jobs now has got to be ad salesman for Yellow Pages. “I’ve got a great deal for you, give us money and we’ll put you in a book that will sit on people’s porches until they get tired of stepping over it.”

From The Audio

This is a test this is only a test if you see a block post on word press and this was sent by my phone using i. f. t. t. t. if this is ed all readable and it’s pretty cool I would not that money that way.

Cold Brewed Coffee: Full Batch #1

Cold Brew Coffee Setup

Here is the result of my first experiment in cold brewing coffee. The picture attached is my actual setup from my actual kitchen.

I used 2 cups of beans with 8 cups of filtered water out of our faucet Pur system. I’d never ground that much bean at one time, and realized that it just barely fits in the receptacle. I might well do it in halves next times. I reused the plastic container from a 2.5 pound mixed nuts tub from Costco and the water and grounds just barely fit in this. I chose to put in half the water first, spoon the ground coffee in, and then fill it back up. I didn’t want to have clumps of coffee stuck to the bottom of the container, and I didn’t want to just dump it all in, also to avoid clumping. After putting in the coffee, I filled it up with the rest of the water and very gingerly stirred it up to avoid splashing it out. When that was done, I screwed on the lid tight and let it sit overnight for about 14 hours.

The worst part of the whole process of the full-sized batch was the logistics of filtering the coffee. I put in a basket coffee filter from an old coffee pot, which didn’t quite fill up the strainer and set the strainer on this big glass bowl. On first pour, a giant lump of grounds fell into the strainer, overflowed the filter paper and went everywhere. Three seconds into filtering, I had an unacceptable level of grounds in the liquid. I dumped the filter paper, rinsed out the strainer, dumped the contents of the bowl back into the tub and washed out the bowl. Having returned the liquid back into the tub, I tried filtering agin more carefully this time. It worked fine but I had to go very slowly to avoid overflowing the coffee filter inside the strainer. There were enough grounds that I had to empty the filter one more time in the middle and put in a third and final coffee filter. When it was finally in, I tamped the grounds down a little with the spatula, dumped the grounds and transferred the contents of the bowl into the pitcher. As I poured it in, the liquid in the pitcher bubbled in an interesting way. I have no idea what was happening chemically but it looked really cool. Before I put it in the refrigerator, I poured myself the first cup, added water and heated it. It tasted great.

I bought the strainer and the pitcher from Dollar General to avoid putting coffee funk in any of our existing pitchers. I’m hoping the pitcher seals relatively well. It remains to be seen how well this will keep over time but I am being optimistic until it is proved otherwise to me. The total outlow in materials was under $7 and if the experiment ever stops, all of the stuff I bought can be used generally in the kitchen. I had looked at things like the Toddy T2N Cold Brew System but didn’t want to either spend that money or put more kitchen gadget crap in our house. Assuming that the concentrated coffee tastes as good at the end of the pitcher as it did at the beginning, I’ll call this a big success. I’m worried about oxidation and/or reaction with the plastic of the pitcher, but will assume it is good until it stops tasting good.

The only part of the process I don’t like is the filtering. I think the first adjustment I’ll make is to ditch the coffee filter. I will either get a pack of the huge filters they use in restaurant coffee makers or just line the strainer with paper towels and call it good. Longer term what I’d like to do is somehow rig together some way of taking two of those lids from the nut tubs, cutting out the middles and putting a filter between them and then affixing them together securely. If I had that, what I would do is to steep with a solid lid, then screw on the filtering lid and a second empty tub on the other top of it. Then I’d just turn the whole thing over like an hourglass and let it drip until it stops. That would be way less trouble than what I went through, would eliminate dirtying up the glass bowl and would keep the whole “dirty” part of the process in disposable bits that can be thrown away at will. We buy those tubs of mixed nuts periodically anyway, so we have a steady supply of them.

All in all, this has been fun. I’ve enjoyed playing with the process and tasting the results. I’m calling this a provisional success. If the concentrate fails to hold up, I’ll get a better storage mechanism. Other than that and the possible filter improvements, I’m good with what I have. Onward to a coffee full future!

Cold Brewed Coffee

making cold brewed coffee

I recently started an experiment in cold brewed coffee. I heard Nathan Lowell talking about it on this episode of the Living Proof Brew Cast and I went for it. The recipe I used is here.

I’d like to say that my motivation is for the perfection of the coffee. The truth is that I more like the aspect of having concentrate that I can reconstitute and microwave that won’t taste like ass. We brew decaf in my house and over the weekend I get caffeine withdrawal headaches. At work we have a Keurig machine. While I’d never claim it is delicious, I do appreciate the convenience of making coffee cup by cup and the lack of workplace coffee pot drama. I have considered getting one for the house but the cold brewed coffee tastes much better to me.

I’ve gone ahead and bought some infrastructure for the brewing. There are kits but I just bought a strainer and a big pitcher to dedicate to this. I also modified the recipe slightly as it calls for 1/2 pound of beans and I have no scale. Instead I will grind 2 cups of beans and use 8 cups of water. The internet tells me one pound of roasted beans is 4.4 cups so my modification scales both down coffee and water by approximately 10%. Tonight I’ll brew my first full scale batch instead of my small test ones. It should be fun and I hope it is tasty.

Kindle Spanish to English Dictionary Source Files

For approaching two years, people have been asking for the source files to my free Kindle Spanish to English dictionary. I have been stalling because those files are a non-understandable mess and I didn’t have the bandwidth to get them in releasable shape. Well, I decided to just put them up in unreleasable shape. You can find them in my repository at github.

In the years since I first did this, my hack of consuming the JSON files directly from the Google Translate ajax handler no longer works. Someone at Google got wise to that trick. There are now Google Translate APIs and they are sadly some of the non-free ones. I need to update the scripts to use those APIs, to generalize them so one can easily create any translation dictionary from any language to any other. With luck, I might have some time over the holidays. I’m accepting patches if someone wants to go nuts and do that work themselves.

People have been asking at a steady clip for these files ever since I first published my dictionary. Now they are there. Knock yourselves out, kids.

Android App Test

This is a test of the wordpress android app from my new HTC smartphone (yes, I joined 2007. Reluctantly.)

If you can see this, all is well. No need to panic citizens.

Webcomics Weekly on Creative Burnout and Personal Branding

I’m a fan of and listener to the Webcomics Weekly podcast. 2011 has been a year of sporadic publishing of the podcast (not as sporadic as mine though.) The last episode they’ve published, #83, is a really interesting conversation. They start with a discussion of ending long running projects, letting the excitement of a new project detract from the familiar challenges of a long-running (even when successful) project and the ups and downs of .

One of the bits of specifics that really fascinated me was when they discussed whether they are doing things wrong by not branding themselves as creators more. Brad Guigar brought up that he has had for a long time without doing much with it. He’s got multiple web comics and print comics, and he talked about whether he should use as a central hub that pulls in all those projects into a single place. That way, as long as he’s posting something new to any project, the hub has new content. The other big efficiency is that in combines the traffic from all of those sites into a single place which might help if one generates any significant amount of revenue from advertising.

I think about this myself. I’ve owned for a while, and all it is now is the merest collection of links to side projects and my OpenId redirector. I’ve thought about installing Drupal or something on there and using it as a central hub for all things me. If the lifestream type Drupal modules were more mature and actively developed, I’d be all over it. I could pull in my blog posts from here, links to other projects and use it as a FriendFeed style aggregator for all my social media presences, but one that I own for and about myself. As more of my output shifts into social media sites, more and more I would prefer to be owning that myself instead of giving away my mojo, traffic and mindshare to some third party. I don’t have good answers to any of this, but I enjoyed listening to the Webcomics Weekly guys work through the questions.

I Love Automation

it’s one of my quirks that I love automation in practically every form I encounter it. When you see the things that light me up at work, at home, in side projects a lot of the involve automatic processes that passively make work happen for me. I don’t know why, but this has always been the case for me.

My very first job out of college was doing QC at a pharmaceutical factory. We did mostly liquid chromatography of samples out of in process tanks. Our instruments had autosamplers and if you managed them well, you could make an astounding amount of work happen. I butted heads with coworkers who I thought didn’t deal with these properly. One guy would spend the first four hours of his shift preparing every sample he needed, then load it up and go. I would prepare one sample, get it running and then try to prepare as many as I could before the machine needed the next one. Then I’d load it up, program the computer, and do the rest of them. My whole point was that if the instrument is sitting idle, you are not getting as much work throughput as you could.

Even today, a lot of what I enjoy doing in software involves automated process. In the days before we had thinks like Hudson or Cruise Control, I built and rebuilt automated build systems at multiple jobs. If I started a job and they didn’t have a repeatable, machine driven build process they would have one by the time I left. The idea of doing some work, committing it to source control and having things trigger along the path that result in final product makes me happy.

This is why I was so happy when we got our first Roomba. For years, pushing the button and having this thing clean our floors just tickled me every time. We got a newer version a year or two ago that didn’t work newly as well and it really bummed me out. If we had a self-loading dishwasher it would make me deliriously happy.

A lot of my side projects involve automation of some form another. I’ve just been soft-launching a new one called Buy It at That Price, which is a tracker of prices for items at Amazon that will notify you if the price drops. (Yes I know there are others, I just don’t care and built one too.) I like having robots do work for me, keep track of things. I remember the mythical Apple Knowledge Navigator video and I still want that product. In grad school in 1997, one of my AI projects was a client side webcrawler that would scan web pages (and Usenet!) for information that matched certain queries, and would weight links to other pages based on how well the referring page scored. If I had stuck with that a little harder, maybe I’d have Larry Page/Sergei Brin money. There’s gold in that there automation.

I think I’ll want the robots working for me until the day I die. I only hope that I’m not dying at their hands in some sort of Skynetty takeover. Until then, keep it up, machines! I’ll check in with you when I finish this cup of coffee.

Cerebus TV on Bob Burden

Bob Burden and Dave Slusher Mutually Mesmerized

Around the holidays of 2010, I started watching Cerebus TV, this odd yet compelling video program that Dave Sim publishes every week. Not only have I gotten addicted to watching this show, but I like to watch the very first airing Friday night at 10 PM. When the intro says “It’s 10 PM Friday in Kitchener, Ontario” it makes me kind of happy to be watching at 10 PM Friday. I can’t explain why it matters, but it does. Even though it spends an entire week running on infinite loop, I like that first play.

This week’s episode (will be up until 10 PM March 11th) is about Bob Burden. As it happens, I’ve had the fortune to know Bob a little for over 20 years. It’s not as if we’re close friends or anything, but I’ve been casually friendly with Bob in that way that people on the same convention circuit get. I’ve interviewed him a few times over the years (photo is from one of those at Dragon*Con 1995), and he’s a nice enough guy that when we turn up at the same bar, he always buys me a drink and chats for a while. Even before I knew him that much, I bought comics from him at the Atlanta Fantasy Fair. In 1985, I bought from him the copy of Love and Rockets #1 that I still own today. If I remember correctly, Bob even cut me a deal on it.

I enjoyed this episode in particular of all the ones I’ve watched so far. This is timely, the show will rotate in 72 hours and as far as I can tell there is no way to see older episodes. If you are a fan of The Flaming Carrot, the Mystery Men movie, the Gumby comic books or like me all of the above, check it out.

Separated at Birth?

I’ve blogged recently about comic book artist, publisher and teacher Stephen R. Bissette. This post is an exorcism of sorts because I just want it out of my system. As long as I’ve known Dan Conover, I’ve thought he and Bissette looked a lot alike. Dan is screwing this comparison up recently by losing weight and getting trimmer, as well as clipping back the facial hair to less mountain man proportions. I’m using a picture of Dan that is a few years old just because it makes my case stronger.

I now present, for your enjoyment, “Separated at birth? Dan Conover vs Stephen R. Bissette”:

I once had a conversation at Dragon*Con with my friend and Subgenius luminary Susie “the Floozie” and she was telling me a story about a guy she knew. She said he was a big lumberjack looking guy, “You know, kind of like Steve Bissette.” There ain’t that many people that you can use that as a referent and have them understand, but she happened to be talking to one of them. Rock on, nerdosphere.

Let’s Do It Later

On Twitter I ran across a link to this article on procrastination. I am bad about it, which is a trait I share in common with, well, practically everyone. What I most like about this article is that right up top it addresses the moral dimension. People are so quick in judgement nowadays and it usually involves some sort of “X is so fat and lazy” type generalizations. I’m trying to get better about procrastination, not with GTD (which I have pretty much abandoned as cool but not ultimately workable in my life) but by finally understanding myself enough to know that delay is defacto choosing not to do things. I seldom or never will remember to come back to things so where feasible I’m now shooting for just doing whatever the task is when I think about it. It’s not that I am guaranteed not to do it if I defer but it’s like any missed requirement – the behavior is undefined. I may do it, I may not, I may miss whatever deadline is attached. I finally understand that I have basically the same timescale as George Carlin attributed to dogs – “right now and forever”.


An incident from my past was brought up at Balticon, in a story that Evo Terra regaled a group with one evening. I’ll give the Reader’s Digest condensed version.

Podcast Expo 2006, it was year two of the Ontario California conference. We were reprising our “spontaneous poolside barbecue feast” of the first year with a less spontaneous version of the same thing paid for by Dave Hamilton of Backbeat Media. Tee Morris gets some sort of spirit of Elvis in him and decides to shed his clothes and jump into the hotel pool naked as a grape. He invites me to jump in, in the most platonic and masculine way one straight guy can ask another straight guy to join him in public nudity. I decline, and my excuse is that I have a condition called flickrphallophobia, which I defined as “fear of seeing pictures of your dick posted to Flickr.” Evo Terra refused to believe that I made up that term on the spot, and I believe we placed a bet on whether Google would find it and he lost it (the second bet he lost in 30 seconds.)

I have told Tee this many many times, but my biggest regret in my 5.5 year history with the podcast medium is that I didn’t just take off my clothes and jump in. It wouldn’t have been that big a deal and I really don’t know what my problem was. Given the opportunity again, I’m opting for shenanigans. However, as the story came up again this weekend we realized that this term still isn’t in the googlosphere and Paul Fischer really wants it so. It was also suggested that the better term is “autoflickrphallophobia”, which would be the difference between fearing any wee wee photos on Flickr vs. pictures of ones own. I coined a term for that person: “redonkulopedantic.”