Month: November 2006

My mom’s turkey recipe

To set down for time immemorial and Google, I present herewith my mom’s method for making a turkey, with stuffing, with my own minor tweaks. In this recipe, the bird is cooked on a charcoal grill. This has the benefit of freeing up the oven for things like pie, and it tastes great. There’s also the element of risk, since the grill is a less-controlled environment, so you get a little thrill when everything turns out well.

For a 14-lb bird, this recipe will take about four and a half hours, so budget your time accordingly.

Stuffing ingredients:

  • Bread cubes: two bags unseasoned stuffing cubes, or dried cubes from one loaf of bread
  • Onions, three
  • Mushrooms, 1 lb
  • Rice pilaf mix, one box
  • Walnuts or pecans, two handfuls, chopped

All these quantities are negotiable, and you can make any additions you see fit (raisins, rosemary, celery, etc)

Begin by removing the neck and giblets from the turkey and simmer them for at least one hour. Coarsely cube the onions and mushrooms, and lightly sautée them. Start the rice pilaf mix.

Now would probably be a good time to get your charcoal going. Use one of those starter chimneys, not starter fluid. You don’t want your turkey tasting like fuel.

Once the giblets have simmered for one hour, put the bread cubes in a large mixing bowl and moisten them slightly with the giblet-water. Add the rest of the stuffing ingredients and mix them together well.

Rinse the turkey in cold water thoroughly and drain off. Thoroughly fill both the body and neck cavities with stuffing. Pin the skin down over the neck opening. There should be enough stuffing left to fill a small casserole dish. Put a light coating of olive oil on the bird.

The charcoal should be ready by now, so prep the grill. I have one of those grills made out of a 55-gallon drum turned on its side, which is ideal for this, as it gives you plenty of room and a side-opening. You are going to be using indirect heat, so you want to place your charcoal in a single heap off to one side, in a location where it will be easy to replenish.

Lay a sheet of tinfoil down on the grill away from the heat source, and place the bird on this. You’ll probably want an assistant for this part.

Allow 15 minutes of cooking time per pound, and allow an extra 15-30 minutes to take into account the added weight of the stuffing.

Every 30 minutes, add another 10 or so briquets—don’t let any more heat escape than necessary. Every hour, rotate the bird 180° to even out the cooking.

You might want to wrap some potatoes or sweet potatoes in tinfoil and throw them on when you’ve got 90 minutes to go.

At 60 minutes to go, and at 30-minute intervals thereafter, check the turkey’s internal temperature: it’s possible that it’s already done. Use a probe-type thermometer. Internal temperature measured from the top should be at least 165°F, juices should be running clear, and the skin should be the color of dark honey. If the turkey is done but you aren’t ready for it, set it as far from the heat as possible, cover it with a sheet of tinfoil, and stop adding charcoal.

East Austin Studio Tour

The East Austin Studio Tour is going on this weekend. Gwen and I hit a lot of the stops today, and saw a hell of a lot of cool stuff.

Some highlights: Gnome figurines by Meg Stone (Prentiss took the same picture as I did). Sacrilegious robot art by Veronica Ceci. Cherie Weaver’s whimsical art (the one place we dropped money this year). And of course, the excellent journals and cookies from my neighbor Mychal and the paintings by my neighbor Jen Balkan (who also makes robot art, but not sacrilegious).

If you’re reading this on Sunday, hop on your bike now and check it out.

Adventures in backup

I’ve got an aging external hard drive that I’ve been using for backups for some time now. It’s been getting kind of clogged up, and when we returned from Spain, it took a few tries before it would spin up. That was the kick in the pants I needed to move forward with a plan to get a network-attached storage (NAS) box.

I spent a lot of time reading the reviews at Tom’s Networking. It looked like there was no one product that offered both of two key features: two disk bays for RAID-1, and support for the Appletalk File Protocol (AFP). (I know that I could have dropped $600 on a four-bay box from Infrant, but I literally don’t have room for that, much less the budget or the need.) I decided to compromise on a “bring your own disk” one-disk box from Synology, DS-106e, which at least supports AFP. Eventually I can get an external box to plug into the DS-106 and backup my backup.

Getting this working has been a bear. The main point of this exercise, of course, is to back up. I had been using SilverKeeper, freeware from LaCie, for a long time. It works, but it is not easy to work with. I want to exclude things like caches and deleted mail from my backup, and while it is possible with SilverKeeper, it’s painful, and the interface is buggy enough (straight outta OS 9) that I’m never sure what I’ve added to the exclusion list. I looked around and decided to try out Synk, which offers pretty smart exclusions and looks nice.

Repeated attempts to make a backup fail in mid-stream. Tried with both Sync and SilverKeeper, and encountered some variation on the same problem each time. I do some reading on the forums for Synk and discover that most NAS boxes that support AFP don’t do a very good job of it, hence the problems I’m seeing. Trying to connect via SMB doesn’t work any better, for some reason.

Gnash teeth, rend garments, pull hair.

Inspiration strikes.

If you’re using OS X and are trying to back up to an NAS without success, here’s what you do. Launch Disk Utilities. Create a sparse disk image on your NAS box. Make that your backup target. I’ve tried this, and so far, it works. It seems to tax my Mac a lot more heavily, and it seems like taking the long way round. There may be other reasons this is a Bad Idea, and I would rather not have to do this in the first place. But, like I say, it works.

On the plus side, the NAS box is a lot quieter than my external drive, it lets me declutter my desk. I hooked my printer up to it, for additional decluttering, and that worked like a charm. Hardware assembly went smoothly: I stuck a 500-GB (Half a terabyte. Isn’t that insane? My first hard drive was 20 MB, making this one 25,0000 times bigger. Terabyte-drives will be unexceptional in commodity PCs in a year.) drive in it, and over gigabit Ethernet, it seems about as fast as my FW-400 external hard drive.

Stuck in the middle

I just had my three-month follow-up visit after LASIK surgery yesterday. My optometrist said “well, the good news is that your vision hasn’t changed. And the bad news is that your vision hasn’t changed.”

I’m in a funny situation. My correction isn’t perfect—and I’m very aware that my vision now is actually worse than when I was wearing glasses. But pretty good, and more to the point, it’s not bad enough for a touch-up.

As my optometrist explained to me, the least amount that LASIK can correct is half a diopter. Beyond that, it can make very fine-grained corrections, but it needs to apply at least that much. I’m about 1/3 diopter away from perfect. So, he said, I can hope that my vision magically gets better on its own, or gets worse on its own (neither is likely), but if I have to live with what I’ve got, it isn’t so bad. I’m scheduled for another visit in three months.

Well, you pays yer money and you takes yer chances.

Is that all there is?

Peggy Lee

So the Democrats have taken both the House and Senate. Admittedly, they had a little help from the White House, which managed to turn off many voters with a litany of crimes and errors too long and obvious to mention. But what surprised me is that the Republican majority—especially in the Senate—ended not with a bang but a whimper. The GOP could have put up a fight over the results in Montana and Virginia. In fact, I expected them to, and was surprised that they didn’t. I expected dirty tricks being masterminded by Karl Rove, lawsuits, etc. Nothing. Both Burns and Allen rolled over pretty meekly.

There is always a difference between the way a thing exists in the real world and your mental model of it. In my mental model of today’s GOP, the party is ruthless and effective (among other things). I suspect that many progressives have held a roughly similar model, and the Republicans have done plenty to create it. So the quick concessions are jarring, surprising. It makes me wonder if Democrats have been scaring themselves into paralysis with tales of the big scary boogeyman when the boogeyman really isn’t that big or scary.

Security hole at my mortgage holder

I was just paying my mortgage online, at the website of my note-holder. Their online-payment system is set up so that once you log in, you are presented with an on-screen facsimile of a check, where you fill in the amount, routing number, and account number of the paying bank. Below that is a field for the last four digits of your SSN and an e-mail address to send a confirmation notice to.

Well, I actually fat-fingered my SSN today, and the page immediately popped up an alert that I had entered my SSN wrong. It seemed that there had been no round-trip to the server to check that, so I checked the page’s source code. Sure enough, I saw this:
function validateSSN1()
{
if (document.Form1.txtssn.value != "the actual last four digits of my SSN here" && document.Form1.txtssn.value != "the actual last four digits of Gwen's SSN here" )
{
document.Form1.txtssn.value = ""
document.Form1.txtssn.focus();
alert("Your entry did not match our records. Please enter the last four digits of your social security number.");
return false;
}
else
{
return true;
}
}

Embedded right there in the page asking my for the information is the very information it is asking me for. That’s just a bad security practice in general, but it’s especially bad considering the information in question. Now, admittedly, nobody should be able to get access to my account in the first place, but if they do, the damage they should be able to do should be limited to that website. But the last four digits of the SSN are so widely used as a shorthand identifier these days that the potential for mischief is much more widespread.

I have notified the bank, and will not mention their name just yet.