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  • Michael Krakovskiy 11:34 pm on April 2, 2008 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , , , Piping, , Soft matter, , , worst permanent solution   

    Plumbing Chops 

    In my line of work I am often reminded of this brilliant passage from  Ellen Ullman’s “The Bug” (which I reviewed earlier):

    “Programming starts out like it’s going to be architecture–all black
    lines on white paper, theoretical and abstract and spatial and
    up-in-the-head. Then, right around the time you have to get something
    fucking working, it has this nasty tendency to turn into plumbing.


    It’s more like you’re hired as a plumber to work in an old house
    full of ancient, leaky pipes laid out by some long-gone plumbers who
    were even weirder than you are. Most of the time you spend scratching
    your head and thinking: Why the fuck did they do that?”

    To take the metaphor a little bit further, let me bring up one actual plumbing nightmare that I faced when I was renovating my apartment. One of the contractors clumsily knocked  off a valve on a piece of  water piping that did not have a local shutoff. The only shutoff was in the basement, and required turning off the water for the entire line. And the super, who could do the shutoff  was not in for a couple of days.

    Another contractor knew exactly what to do in that case. He created something that he called a “chop” (I found out later that the term is Ukrainian). It’s a conical piece of wood, shaped like a fat pencil that is hammered into the hole in the pipe. In a couple of minutes the wood swells up and completely plugs the leak. Add some duct tape around it, and you got a very good temporary plug that is almost as strong as the unbroken pipe.  It makes the worst permanent solution (wood rots), but the best temporary one (it can be applied without taking the whole system down and is reasonably strong).

    Chops, or as they are called in English – thru-hull plugs, are a maritime invention: they are used for emergency repairs on boats. These days you can even buy a ready made set.

    People think of software as of something static. Well, dynamic websites are more like a ships out at sea. Sometimes you have to patch them up in a storm. And then a good, strong “chop” is the best you can hope for until you can repair the leak permanently. And you are going to sink unless there’s somebody around who knows how to make a “chop”.

     
  • Michael Krakovskiy 4:37 pm on September 18, 2005 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: acceptable food, , , , Coca-Cola C2, , , , , kobe, Mexican Coke, myth-shrouded beverage, , , , , Soft matter, , , , ,   

    The Taste of the Old New Coke 

    Let me start with one of my favorite quotes from The Matrix:

    Tank: Here you go, buddy; “Breakfast of Champions.”
    Mouse: If you close your eyes, it almost feels like you’re eating runny eggs.
    Apoc: Yeah, or a bowl of snot.
    Mouse: Do you know what it really reminds me of? Tasty Wheat. Did you ever eat Tasty Wheat?
    Switch: No, but technically, neither did you.
    Mouse: That’s exactly my point. Exactly. Because you have to wonder: how do the machines know what Tasty Wheat tasted like? Maybe they got it wrong. Maybe what I think Tasty Wheat tasted like actually tasted like oatmeal, or tuna fish. That makes you wonder about a lot of things. You take chicken, for example: maybe they couldn’t figure out what to make chicken taste like, which is why chicken tastes like everything.”

    There are certain things that you should really taste at least once, but are usually hard to get a hold of to taste, like let’s say top quality caviar, or kobe beef, Peter Luger’s steaks . Other things, like oysters, haggis, Gray Papaya and Nathans hot dogs, high quality sashimi and other notable foods, that might be hard to obtain everywhere, but are still more or less affordable. There are whole lists of “things to try at least once” out there.

    Then there’s a category of items that were eaten in the olden times, but are not considered acceptable food anymore: whale meat, horse meat and other intelligent and/or exotic animal meats. I’ve had whale steaks back in the day, whale meat was widely available in the Soviet Union, as well as horse sausage. Since I ate a lot of hot dogs , I am sure I had my share of cats, dogs and pigeons.

    And of course, there are commercial drinks with formulations that are not made anymore. The first Coca Cola (the one with cocaine), Starbucks Tazo Blended Drinks, Incredibly and Sharkleberry Fin Kool-aid (as well as many other discontinued flavors.)

    I was always especially interested in one soft drink that I never got a chance to taste: the “New Coke.” The myth-shrouded beverage seemed to be out of reach for me, until thanks to the twin wonders that are packrats and eBay, I got my own unopened can or genuine New Coke. That’s a reason for the new installment of Gastronomic Adventures, of course.

    I chilled the $10+shipping can of soda and photographed it in all its glory. Look, just look at it!

    I was expecting the can, that is at least 13 years old (in 1992 New Coke was renamed Coke II) to be completely devoid of carbonation. I was ready for a foul smell, discolored soda, etc. To my surprise, the carbonation was mostly normal and the coke smelled just fine.

    I kind of knew what to expect — in theory New Coke has the same formulation as Diet Coke, except with sugar instead of aspartame, and should taste similarly to Diet Coke With Splenda. I knew that New Coke was supposed to be sweeter than Coca Cola Classic.

    Of course, taste tests are a tricky thing. I am pretty sure I would have a lot of trouble telling Pepsi from Coke from Mexican Coke (the one in glass bottles and sweetened with cane sugar) from Diet Coke (if it’s with ice).

    In any case, decade old New Coke _did_ taste a bit like Diet Coke With Splenda. It was not as sweet as I expected, and had that weird little aftertaste that I always associated with the Splenda Coke. I think in Diet Coke it’s masked by the aspartame and in Classic by higher acidity.

    I seem to have not suffered any stomach upset or anything of that matter. Upsettingly I did not acquire any noticeable superpowers, except the ability to say that I’ve tasted the New Coke.

    P.S. Does anybody know how to obtain some surströmming online or in New York?

    P.P.S. I Know about hufu. I think it’s a hoax.

     
  • Michael Krakovskiy 12:53 pm on August 8, 2004 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , Cream soda, , , espresso equipment, , Root beer, serious espresso equipment, Soda Club, , Soda gun, Sodastream, , Soft matter,   

    The Ultimate DIY 

    These days I own some very serious espresso equipment. I am pretty much set with espresso. But one thing is still missing from my kitchen, and that’s a commercial soda fountain.

    I do not own a car, which is one of the reasons why I have time and money to purchase the abovementioned espresso equipment. Not having a car, I hate lugging soda bottles from the store , hate  running out of soda, hate having to drink warm soda because I forgot to put a few bottles into the fridge.  The solution is rather simple – build my own soda fountain. 

    Indeed there are people crazy enough to put together soda fountains from parts bought on eBay.  I might have a better espresso machine, but this guy, for example, has a bar style soda gun right in his kitchen:

    This setup is pretty sweet as well :

    If you read the explanation from the link above, building your own from eBay parts is a long and messy process, although the price will stay under $1000. There’s a company that sells prereconfigured units, but that costs about 3K. Also all of the soda machines take up a lot of cabinet space, and some require a separate ice cube maker.

    I don’t have the time, space or money to attempt a project like this now. But there’s a low rent / low tech alternative called Soda Club.  You have to chill bottles with water and then carbonate them in a small tabletop unit. I don’t know looks kind of similar to the iSi syphon and thus lame. Maybe I’ll try it.

     
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