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Gin Tasting

It occurred to me and @FlatFootFox the other day that we’ve accumulated several brands of gin. It started with a local variety for Gin and Tonics, then slowly expanded as we stumbled upon rare bottles, or received the occasional generous gift.

When different gins are mixed into cocktails, it’s possible to find subtle variations in flavor; but, it can be difficult to isolate which differences are from the gin, and which are due to the other mixers and their ratios. While they all have the unmistakable foundation of juniper, they don’t contain it in equal measure — and each has a different take on what the supporting aromatics should be. How do these variations affect the straight, raw flavors in the final product?

Here are some tasting notes after trying about half an ounce of each gin, served neat. I’m not an expert taster, so I apologize if these descriptions are tragically basic. What I do hope to convey, though, is just how much variation there is when it comes to a supposedly-simple bottle of gin.

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Slim-Fast was Destroying My Health (and Other Lessons Learned from My Own Weight Loss Challenge)

It’s very easy to become complacent, to deceive yourself into thinking that you’re doing everything correctly, when in reality you’re not.

For me, this reality hit home after a blood test. Borderline high cholesterol, triglycerides and glucose. But why? I knew I was overweight at 200 pounds, but I had been trying to improve my diet: oatmeal for breakfast, a Slim-Fast shake for lunch, a snack in the afternoon, and then a normal dinner. But obviously something was wrong if I wasn’t losing weight, and my blood test had room for improvement.

So I did what I always do: I researched, analyzed, and researched some more. What was I doing wrong? What did I need to do to improve? And, most importantly, what could I do that was sustainable, so I didn’t end up back at square one in a year?

I can’t claim that I’m doing everything perfectly, but I’ve lost almost 20 pounds, and my weight is much more stable now — so I must be doing something right. This is what I’ve learned.

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Buying a Vote

This past Wednesday, @FlatFootFox and I went to see Alton Brown at one of his Edible Inevitable shows, and I can say without a doubt that it was amazing. It was like a real-time mash up of Good Eats, Iron Chef: America and just a dash of Cutthroat Kitchen attitude. There was science, music and food all wrapped up in an experience that I won’t soon forget. I’m hoping that in the next few days I can write up a more detailed blog post about the whole show.

But there was one small piece that I didn’t completely agree with.

Mr. Brown was running through a list of things that he was “pretty sure” he knew about food. One of those items essentially boiled down to “vote on food policy with your money”. There are a lot of options at the supermarket, each with varying degrees of controversy behind them — organics, GMOs, buying local, etc.

The government, he declared, is the wrong method for figuring out the policy surrounding these issues. And to a degree, I would agree with that. No one would argue that the government is a model for efficiency. Nor would anyone argue that the government generates concise, straightforward rules. In fact, as someone who struggled through the process of becoming an American citizen, I can speak to the convoluted process that had been put into place — a process that was frequently a black box, with no real indication of how far along I was in the process or when the next steps would occur.

As an alternative, Mr. Brown suggested voting with your money. For one supermarket trip, watch as your groceries cross over the scanner, counting out your cash for each item. Pretend that each dollar is a vote. Because companies listen to money, and decisions will be made on these hot-button food policies based on how well they do in the consumer market.

Again, it was an argument that I don’t completely disagree with. But there are two issues with this line of thinking that are difficult to ignore:

1. Everyone is guaranteed a vote, but no one is guaranteed a dollar. The promise of democratic government is that it gives us all a voice. Even if we have nothing else, we can help build our society in positive ways. Of course, we can’t ignore the fact that we live in a capitalist economy, and money does have a certain amount of influence. The things that we buy support the companies and services behind them. Unfortunately for a lot of these food policies, though, they aren’t cheap. Organic, hormone-free, local foods are often significantly more expensive than conventional food of the same type. If you’re already limited in resources, paying extra to support better quality food just isn’t an option.

2. It’s difficult to vote when you don’t know how your vote is being cast. It’s easy to say “if you don’t want GMOs in your food, then don’t buy food with GMOs”, but it’s difficult to actually do that if you don’t know what food has GMO ingredients. Attempts to try and get labeling in place have been an uphill battle. So even if you have the means to support certain foods, it may still be difficult or impossible to actually find the products you want to support.

I’m not saying that government regulation is the complete answer. In fact, government regulation is partly to blame for the overabundance of corn syrup and highly processed food that litter supermarket shelves these days. But left to their own devices, companies are going to gravitate toward cheap solutions in order to maximize profits — solutions that may not have their customers’ best interests at heart.

If the government was able to level the playing field — allow more Americans to buy the food they actually want rather than make do with subsidized, highly-processed garbage — then that might be the best compromise. But I don’t see a way for pure consumer spending — or pure government oversight — to successfully bring better food to everyone.

Get a Job!

It took me about three or four years to get the job I’m in now. Part of that was during the recession, which forced me to sit back and wait for the market to improve. But even then, I kept browsing job listings to see what opportunities were available.

It’s not fun. I don’t think I’ve met anyone who thinks it is. Now, don’t get me wrong: sometimes a job posting will come along that gets you excited. It’s exactly what you’re looking for! It sounds like a unique opportunity! Or the company is solving a fun, interesting problem! But then reality sets in. How do you apply? How do you get noticed? You look at your dry resume and generic cover letter and, for a moment, you wish that you could pick up the phone and talk directly to the recruiter. Instead of getting lost in a pile of paper (virtual or otherwise), you yearn to speak to an actual human about why the job makes you excited.

When I decided to truly get serious about my job hunt, I knew I needed a different strategy. So I did some research. Ultimately, the answer I found was something I should have known all along.

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Six Months in Austin

Arrive in any large airport in the United States, and you’ll immediately be greeted by all the stereotypical tourism clichés that the surrounding area has to offer. Baltimore? Have some crab cakes. Boston? Lobster and Sam Adams. Dallas? Barbecue.

Land in Austin’s airport and you’re greeted with music and pleas to “keep Austin weird”. But what does that mean exactly? I’ve always heard that Austin was unique to Texas; a haven for food, music and technology. But finding the truth in that was proving to be elusive.

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My Little Twitter Bot

It all started when @ndoto replied to one of my “eeyup” tweets saying that he wished there was a Big Macintosh Twitter bot that would reply with an “eeyup” if you sent a tweet containing “eeyup”.

For those who aren’t in the know, Big Macintosh is a character on the cartoon My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic. It’s a slight re-imagining of the original show, headed by the same creative mind behind Foster’s Home for Imaginary Friends – an awesome show with clever writing. Needless to say, that same maturity (but kid-appeal) carries over to the new My Little Pony. I suppose I should clarify that I’m not enough of a fan to call myself a brony, but I do think the show is about 20% cooler than most other things on television – and Big Macintosh is by far my favorite character. :)

I’ve always wanted to make a Twitter bot, so I jumped at the opportunity. In this post, I’d like to share some of the technical details, and decision making, that brought @BigMacinbot to life.

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iOS 5: The Devil’s Details

iOS 5Question: What is a review?
Answer: A thorough, unbiased evaluation with the intention of determining a final critique.

It may not be a proper dictionary definition, but this is what I expect when I read technology reviews. Most of the time, I am satisfied. But with the release of iOS 5, I was consistently disappointed. Gone was the thoroughness. Gone was the proper critique. They read more like summaries of the features listed in an Apple press release. There were some details, of course, but there was also a lot missing.

This is my attempt to fill in some of the gaps. I’m not going to attempt to do a full review. But I want to look at iOS 5 with fresh eyes, explore some of the details overlooked in other reviews, and briefly sum up how it compares to other mobile operating systems available today.

So, lets begin.

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The State of Tech 2010

Once again it’s time for me to ramble about some of the interesting technology developments that happened this year.

And what a year! Before starting this post, I went back to re-read my 2009 post.  It seems like almost every question I concluded with was answered in some way in 2010. Last year, I summed up the year as being more evolution than revolution.  While I hesitate to say that this year was revolution, it was certainly more than the evolution of last year. So why don’t we get started?

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4. Religion


I’ve talked about the heavens, and I’ve talked about the Earth – so now, lets talk about one of the ways humans have linked the two together.

Religion is a topic I could discuss at great length, as there are a lot of interesting aspects to it.  The core of all religions hold a framework that explains the universe.  Usually it involves some supreme being — a God who not only presides over Earth, but all of existence.  Usually this God is a mysterious figure, whose intentions are made known through occasional mystical interaction with the creatures of Earth.

There are two main avenues of discussion in religion.  The first is the aforementioned existence of a supreme being. The second is organized religion itself, and its role in formalizing and publicizing specific beliefs.

(Just a side note: in the interest of keeping this blog post manageable, I don’t go into too much detail. But please, if you’d like to discuss a particular point more, feel free to comment.)

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3. Life

History of Life on Earth

Up to now, my ramblings about everything have been rather tame. While there is a lot to discuss when it comes to the universe, and our little neck of the woods, it’s nothing that most people will get into heated arguments about. (Unless it’s about Pluto. In which case – watch out!)

But life is different.  Life is all around us, and it is what we are.  So we tend to get rather passionate about it.

I’m getting ahead of myself.  As I discussed in the last post, Earth is amazing – if for no other reason than the variety of life that has been able to grow and flourish here.  First it was the age of dinosaurs.  Then, after their mass extinction and an essential reboot of the planet, mammals took the throne – eventually leading to the dominance of humans today.

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