Monday, December 19, 2011

MS Windows screen capture

Microsoft's Snipping Tool is part of the more complete Windows 7 packages.

I have been using Lightscreen at work and it meets my needs quite nicely. Just though I'd blog this for the day I am on a machine without my standard testing tools thumb drive.

Sunday, December 4, 2011


chewy brownies Learned this recipe from ATK, Season 11 Chewy Brownies. First made it for Sharon to take to Lark Camp 2011 to hand out (I wanted to have a couple of brownies but didn't want to have eaten the whole thing.) They were a big hit so I'm making them again to hand out as Christmas gifts to friends and coworkers.

Chewy Brownies Yield: 24 brownies (4 - 6 servings)

Calories: 254 per square

1/3 cup Dutch-processed cocoa

1½ teaspoons instant espresso (optional)

½ cup plus 2 Tablespoons boiling water

2 ounces unsweetened chocolate, finely chopped

4 tablespoons (½ stick) unsalted butter, melted

½ cup plus 2 Tablespoons vegetable oil

2 large eggs

2 large egg yolks

2 teaspoons vanilla extract

2½ cups (17½ ounces) sugar

1¾ cups (8¾ ounces) all-purpose flour

¾ teaspoon salt

6 ounces bittersweet chocolate, cut into ½-inch pieces

  1. Adjust oven rack to lowest position and heat oven to 350°F. Line a 9×13-inch baking pan with foil, leaving about a one-inch overhang on all sides. Spray with nonstick cooking spray.
  2. Whisk cocoa, espresso powder, and boiling water together in large bowl until smooth. Add unsweetened chocolate and whisk until chocolate is melted. Whisk in melted butter and oil. (Mixture may look curdled.) Add eggs, yolks, and vanilla and continue to whisk until smooth and homogeneous. Whisk in sugar until fully incorporated. Add flour and salt and mix with rubber spatula until combined. Fold in bittersweet chocolate pieces.
  3. Scrape batter into prepared pan and bake until toothpick inserted halfway between edge and center comes out with just a few moist crumbs attached, 30 to 35 minutes. Transfer pan to wire rack and cool 1½ hours.
  4. Using foil overhang, lift brownies from pan. Return brownies to wire rack and let cool completely, about 1 hour. Cut into 2-inch squares and serve. Brownies can be stored in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 4 days (if well hidden.)

(From Cook’s Illustrated, March & April 2010 issue)

Here is another posting for the same Cook's Illustrated chewy brownies recipe, looks like a great blog for finding cooking inspiration.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Variable Naming Conventions

The benefits of naming conventions in software code are generally recognized while specific "conventions" are debatable. Personally I'm looking for the implied intent and meaning of the source code, code that reads as a narrative. Here are the heuristics that I use (when not given a coding standard.)
  • Compound identifiers, containing more that one word
  • CamelCase the compound identifiers
  • Start with a letter; [a-z,A-Z]
  • Use only letters and numbers, no other chars like -_+~!. (Under_score is possible exception.)
  • Mnemonic names built from a (informal) dictionary of shorthand strings.
  • Start function identifiers with a cmdlet verb (Powershell convention).

Since I am currently developing in a .NET world the Microsoft recommendations also apply.

  • UpperCamelCase for most identifiers.
  • lowerCamelCase for parameters and variables.
  • No type prefix hints.
  • End the identifier with a base class name (optional).
And then there are the recommendations.
  • ScriptAndGlobalFunctionNamesShouldFollowCmdletNamingStandards
  • VerbsShouldBeSelectedFromStandardList
  • ScriptAndGlobalFunctionNamesShouldBePascalCased
  • CamelCaseVariableNames
  • NounNamesShouldBeSpecific
  • NounNamesShouldBeSingular
  • ScriptsIntendedToBeDotSourcedShouldUseLibraryPrefix
  • ProvideDescriptiveVariableNames
  • AvoidHungarianNotation

Sail to other shores with Coding Guidelines (PDF), naming conventions of OBO Foundry, Hungarian Notation pros/cons, and Powershell best practices.

Saturday, November 5, 2011


Two years ago I blogged about the Loughhaven restaurant. Well here is information on upma/uppammaa/upama (a spicy Indian dish using curry, vegetables and Cream of Wheat). Cream of Wheat, semolina and sooji; the names are many but the truth is one. Upma is good, make it the way you like it.

We tried toasting the sooji in a dry dutch oven and set it aside. Later used only two cups of water for a fluffier constancy. Sharon thought the wheat was a bit under cooked so next time we will use 2 ½ cups of water to a cup of sooji.

Below are a couple of videos that I referenced in developing the above recipe.

We tried the mold trick in this next video without using Pam, the upma came right out, no problem. (Maybe a non-fluffy version of the dish (more water) will cause it to stick to the cup.) Molding it certainly makes for a nice presentation, I put the yogurt on top and the pickle on the side.

If you know what you are doing this video is nice. She uses 3 cups of water to 1 cup of sooji.

Sunday, October 30, 2011

Zills/Sagat Training

Sharon bought me two pairs of zills (Turkish for the Arabic sagat) for my Halloween costume this year. Now in addition to the doumbek I need to learn to play the finger cymbals. Below are the YouTube videos I found that seem most instructive.

Ring, Clap, Tick.

And now for some real music. Aslahan's series seems like a good way to learn to play the zills. Aslahan recommends that you learn and practice a lesson before moving onto the next video in the series. I'd start here if you are serious about playing the zills. I particularly like what she uses the doumbek drum nomenclature to describe the patterns. Another great thing is that she doesn't use the terms "right" "left" but instead "lead" "off" so that instruction in ambidextrous. The 7th/last video I found is something I intend to use to practice the doumbek patterns.

Saturday, September 17, 2011

Visualizing for Results

The Get-It-Done Guy's recent podcasts on visualization sounded like good advice so I'm posting my take on his ideas (so I can find them when I need them.) The right visualization techniques, plural, will move you towards your goals.

Tip #1: Visualize The Process, Not The Outcome

Visualize your efforts/actions as opposed to the end result.

Watch yourself working out or walking around the park.

Tip #2: Visualize From the Third Person

Have someone take pictures of you doing the new actions, use them in your visualizations.

Tip #3: Be Optimistically Realistic

"Stretch goals"

Tip #4: Make a Step-by-Step Plan

If your goal is to work out more, then the first step in the plan will be to get off the couch and stand up.

Tip #5: Publicly Declare Your Goal

If you're not willing to declare your goals then chances are you are not committed enough to actually get anywhere. If friends and family are not supportive of your declaration it is time to widen your circle and find some new friends.

Tip #6: Track Your Progress. In Writing.

What gets measured improves.

Review your progress weekly, you really have gotten somewhere different.

Track the effort.

Track the accomplishment and the rewards granted.

Review the history when you need a pat on the back.

Tip #7: Reward Yourself

Rewards for the actions towards the goal, don't hold back rewards until the goal itself is achieved.

My mind goes straight to food so I need to think of activities as rewards (as Stever suggests.) Experiences make us happier than things so use special experiences as rewards.

Make a written list of rewards.

References Visualizing for Results, Part 1, by Stever Robbins. Visualizing for Results, Part 2, by Stever Robbins. End Procrastination with Action Days, by Stever Robbins.

Saturday, September 10, 2011

Left Hip, 3 Months

Three months since the left hip was replace and all continues forward as expected.

Healing seems a bit farther along compared to last year's right hip replacement. Didn't have the swelling and bruising issues this time.

Physically I have regressed over the last 2 weeks because I have been going to work and not having the energy to exercise at the gym. Walking in 15 minute sessions during the work day seems to work when I make the time. Weight bearing is not quite 100% on the left leg probably because I weigh too much. As the pounds come off the leg feels better.

Thursday, September 8, 2011

An Education in Software Testing

There is no better or insightful instruction on software testing then this black box system testing course. Skip the course introduction and start at 6:30 minutes into the video were the lecture gets going.

The second part of the lecture is a great introduction to software testing. If you are not particularly interested the the course mechanics, skip forward to 2:24 minutes into the video.

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Lisa Lynne Vblog #37 - Lark Camp 2011

This video blog captures the multitude of Lark Camp's music and dance experiences. If you have been to Lark (aka Band Camp) then watching this video will seem like a home movie.

I was amazed at how many of these people it know. :)

Saturday, July 23, 2011

Dario's Tango Guide

Dario's Tango Guide is a video blog that I have found to be very helpful. He describes and shows a move then shows the leader alone followed by the follower alone. Finally, the move is seen "in action" as the couple moves around the floor dancing (not demonstrating steps, actually connected in dance.)

I recommend using the lesson index from Dario's website to access the YouTube videos.

You will need more than this blog to learn Argentine Tango but these videos will remind you how to do the various moves you have learned and/or seen on the dance floor.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Treatment for Nail Fungus

After you have been treated for foot nail fungus it is your responsibility to take steps, pun in-10-did, to minimize the chance of reinfection.
  • Don't wear the same pair of shoes two days in a row. Your feet sweat and create moisture that can contribute to the growth for fungus and other organisms. Make sure the shoes dry out before wearing them again.
  • Desiccate your shoes if they are particularly moist. Put kitty litter in a pair of nylon socks and stuff them into the shoes over night.
  • Start every day with a clean pair of dry socks (even if yesterday's smell clean.)
  • Spray your feet with an antifungal before putting on your shoes; Lamasil, Lotrimin or Micatin.
  • Spray your shoes with an antifungal after wearing them; Lamasil, Lotrimin or Micatin.
  • If you also have athlete's Foot, use Lamasil cream on your feet twice a day for three weeks.
  • Thoroughly dry feet between toes after getting them wet.
  • Replace bottles of nail polish that you may have used while infected. They could reinfect your nails if used after treatment.
  • Thoroughly clean all nail care tools you have used, e.g. scissors, clipper, files. After cleaning spray with one of the antifungals. As an alternate, soak the tools for thirty minutes in a bleach solution; 1 Tablespoon of bleach in 1 quart of water.
  • Throw away all used emery boards. Don't share the new emery boards with others.
  • At the nail salon, ask how they sanitize their equipment. Run away if they don't rigorously follow correct procedures.
  • Don't go barefoot at the gym, take a towel/mat to stand on while changing and use your own footwear in the showers.

Expanding Reliability

My position statement is, Expanding Reliability.

Guy Kawasaki's book Enchantment: The Art of Changing Hearts, Minds, and Actions suggests that your position statement be

  • Short
  • Clear
  • Different
  • Humble

Since I work on software that is already "good enough", my position statement communicates that I intend to ever expand the amount of code/functions/stories/edge-cases that work as expected (reliability).

Monday, July 11, 2011

Origins of PowerShell; interview with Bruce Payette

Bruce Payette, one of the original PowerShell team members and author of the Windows PowerShell scripting language here discusses the design goals and origins of the PowerShell language.

His tech history is interesting. Sounds like the kind of guy I use to work with back in the day (before .com world).

Talks about how PowerShell came into existance. Why > wasn't used for greater then, how the language was designed and developed, et cetera.

Bruce's book is perhaps the most respected book on PowerShell for developers, Windows Powershell in Action, Second Edition.

Saturday, July 9, 2011

No-Fuss Creamy Polenta

This was the first of my recipes to test from season 11 of America's Test Kitchen.

We served the No-Fuss Creamy Polenta with Pan-Seared Scallops.

Serves 4 as a main course with a topping or 6 to 8 as a side dish.

We used the recommended brand of coarse-ground degerminated cornmeal, Bob's Red Mill Corn Grits a.k.a. Polenta. ATK recommends the avoidance of instant and quick-cooking products as well as whole-grain, stone-ground and regular cornmeal.

While cooking the polenta should do little more than release wisps of steam, especially after the first 10 minutes. If your stove at its lowest setting is to hot use a flame tamer or heat defuser to reduce the BTUs transferred to the pot.

  • 7 1/2 cups water
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons table salt
  • 1 pinch baking soda (most important/secret ingredient)
  • 1 1/2 cup coarse-ground cornmeal (5:1 water to cornmeal)
  • 4+ oz Parmesan cheese, grated (about 2 cups), reserve some for serving
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • ground black pepper
  1. Bring the water to a boil in a heavy-bottomed 4 quart saucepan over medium-high heat. Stir in salt and baking soda.
  2. Slowly pour the cornmeal into the water in a steady stream while stirring back and forth with a wooden spoon.
  3. Continue constant stirring until it comes to a boil, about 1 minute.
  4. Reduce to the lowest setting. (See note above.)
  5. After 5 minutes, scrape the sides/bottom of the pan while whisking the polenta to smooth out the lumps, about 15 seconds.
  6. Cover and continue to cook for about 25 minutes, steam should be coming out is wisps, not bubbling. It is done when the polenta is loose and barely holds it shape, slightly al dente.
  7. Remove for heat and stir in most of the Parmesan and butter. Season with pepper to taste.
  8. Cover (off heat) rest for 5 minutes. Serve with the remaining Parmesan to garnish on the plate.

See also the video segment that includes information about buying scallops and how to determine is you have wet or dry scallops. Or watch the entire episode 1105 video. Note: these video are available while the TV show is begin aired but are moved into the "members only" content section of the website a year or so later.

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Recipes to Test

Season 11 of America's Test Kitchen just came out. After watching half of the episodes these are the new recipes I want to test for myself.
  • Chicken Pot Pie with Savory Crumble Topping. Candidate for a pot luck dinner where we can do the final 15-30 minutes of cooking on site.
  • Spicy Mexican Shredded Pork Tostadas (Tinga). Make a batch and use through out the week. This should be good for my normal breakfast, oatmeal & yogurt.
  • Beef Empanadas. Like the tinga above, might be good for breakfast. (Note to self, buy tequila.)
  • Chewy Brownies. Don't want the calories around the house but I want to verify that the chemistry works ;) as advertized.
  • No-Fuss Creamy Polenta. Quick and easy, for went potatoes are just to routine/ordinary.
  • Almost Hands-Fee Risotto with Parmesan and Herbs. Sharon loves risotto.
  • Pan-Seared Scollops. Because I love scollops when prepared correctly. Test both the lemon brown butter and tomato-ginger sauces.
  • Spaghetti with Pecorino Romano and Black Pepper (Cacio E Pepe). When you just want pasta and are tired of red sauce.
  • Inexpensive Charcoal Grill-Roasted Beef with Garlic and Rosemary. Beef, grilled, say no more, say no more.
  • Roasted Smashed Potatoes. A new way to eat fried potatoes.
  • Foolproof Grilled Tuna. Technology for cooking fish steaks on the grill.
  • Charcoal-Grilled Argentine Steaks with Chimichurri Sauce. Improved technology for getting a good crust and the sauce is right up my alley. (Argentina is currently in my mind from the Presidential Agent books.)
  • Indoor Pulled Pork. Lexington vinegar and South Carolina mustard barbecue sauces.
  • Horseradish-Crusted Beef Tenderloin. Includes a horseradish cream sauce.
  • Roasted Carrots. I think we've done this recipe with a bit of sugar added.
  • Foolproof Vinaigrette. It has been 40 years since I cared about my salad dressing recipes, maybe it is time to learn some new tricks. Vinaigrettes will go nicely on grilled fish.
  • Greek-Style Shrimp with Tomatoes and Feta. We love the cherry tomato salad and have ouzo in the fridge plus flash frozen shrimp in the freezer. This might be the recipe I got from Cooks Illustrated, it is on our "menu" list.
  • Stir-Fried Shrimp with Snow Peas. Because it has 15-18 different ingredients and we like shrimp. Sharon makes something similar to this from time to time and it is delicious.
  • Mediterranean Chopped Salad. Reminds me of the wonderful Greek tomato salad so lets try this one as well (when we can't get good tomatoes.)

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Left Hip Replacement

Seventeen months after getting my right hip replace the left hip was replaced. Surgery went well and the recovery seems easier the second time around. I believe both recoveries are clinically similar but my mind is much more at ease with the whole "cutting off my leg and installing Terminator parts" thing.

The Tri-Lock® bone preservation stem that is in the right leg was again used for the left leg. See my blog on Co-Cr-Mo for details on the metallurgy.

The right is was an all metal Pinnacle® with Ultamet® metal-on-metal solution (no longer available.) The left hip is the Pinnacle® with AltrX a moderately cross-linked polyethylene bearing against a ceramic lined acetabular cup (picture shows Tri-Lock with AltrX.)

No glue, screws or wires used in either hip. The right hip incision was closed with staples that left a cool Frankenstein scar. The left hip incision has no visible sutures and was closed with Steri-Stipes; nothing needed to be removed post-surgery.

Thursday, June 2, 2011

The Presidential Agent books

The W.E.B. Griffin series The Presidential Agent is one of my favorite reads. Set in present day they are about honorable military men working for our counter in the fight against terrorism.

The are all long books, around 15 hours, with complex plots and none trivial characters. I have rated all six of these books 5 stars, my highest rating, because I often forget where I am driving to and don't want to turn the book off when I do get there.

As I recall the first book (By Order of the President) stands alone while the second and third continue the story. The Outlaws is book VI in the Presidential Agent series; it pretty much recapitulates the earlier books because the detailed history is required to follow the current action. Ofter the review of previous story point is tedious but I really enjoyed the way it was integrated into the story (because it was like going back to old friend and reminiscing.)

Book I, By Order of the President (2005) Book II, The Hostage (2006) Book III, The Hunters (2007) Book IV, The Shooters (2008) Book V, Black Ops (2009) Book VI, The Outlaws (2010)

Friday, April 22, 2011

The Rules of Improvisation

  1. Always agree and say "YES!"
  2. And not only say "YES!" but say "YES, and ..."
The first rule, always agree. Say yes. Say, “yes, and” to things. For example, if I enter a scene and say, “I have a gun.’ And you say, “No, you don’t. That’s your finger.’ That’s terrible. Now we’re done. Saying “yes” means you’re basically agreeing to honor what the other person is creating. The next part is “yes, AND …” which means to contribute something on your own, like, ‘I have a gun’ and you say, ‘but you’ll never get the gold because I put it in my butt.’ I wouldn’t recommend THAT … but that’s the end, you’re contributing. It’s an exercise in being in the present. To follow your partner, to ask questions.
It means don’t be afraid to contribute. It’s your responsibility to contribute. Always make sure you’re adding something to the discussion. Whatever is thrown at you, make an effort to agree and add something. In other words, whatever the problem, be part of the solution. Don’t just sit around raising questions and pointing out obstacles.
Learned from the section The Rules of Improvisation That Will Change Your Life and Reduce Belly Fat in Tina Fey's new book Bossypants (2011).

See also Tina Fey's "Bossypants" Lessons for the Workplace, Nell Minow's blog.

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Roasted Glazed Beer Can Chicken

This recipe if from Season 10 of American's Test Kitchen (ATK). I used a 24oz can of beer so the 6 pound chicken set all the way up and didn't have to squat on the roasting pan.
Do not brine the bird this time; it will prevent the skin from becoming crisp before the chicken is burned to a crisp. The glaze recipe is not included, there are so many you need to find your own.
Serves 2 to 3. Time 4 hours (20 min prep, <= 1 hour air dry, 2+ hours cook, 20 min rest/serve).
1whole chicken (6 to 7 pounds), giblets removed and discarded
1 1/2teaspoons table salt (I used a "smoked" salt from the farmers market.)
1teaspoon baking powder
1teaspoon ground tellicherry black pepper
  1. Place chicken breast-side down on work surface. Use tip of sharp knife to make four 1-inch incisions along back of chicken. Using fingers carefully separate skin from thighs and breast. Using metal skewer, poke 15 to 20 holes in fat deposits on top of breast halves and thighs. Tuck wing tips underneath chicken.
  2. Pat chicken dry with paper towels. Combine salt, baking powder, and pepper in small bowl. Sprinkle all over with salt mixture. Rub in mixture with hands, coating entire surface evenly. Set chicken in the vertical position on rimmed baking sheet and refrigerate, uncovered, for as much as an hour. If you need to lay the bird down is should be breast-side up, in V-rack (air needs to circulate over all the skin.)
  3. Adjust oven rack to lowest position and heat oven to 325°F. The 16 or 24 oz beer can needs to be half full of liquid (beer is classic but water is fine as well.) Spay the can with vegetable oil spray for ease of extraction and set the bird down, feet first, over the can in the middle of your roasting pan. Roast chicken 75 to 90 minutes until instant-read thermometer inserted in thickest part of breast registers 140°F and the skin starts to golden.
  4. Remove the chicken from the oven. Increase oven temperature to 500°F. Make a glaze while it heats. I like the ginger soy sauce glaze but a nice BBQ sauce from the store would work for a quick meal.
  5. Put 1 1/2 cups of water in the bottom of the pan to prevent burning (and for the gravy.) Continue to roast until skin is golden brown, crisp, and instant-read thermometer inserted in thickest part of breast registers 160° and 175°F in thickest part of thigh, 24 to 30 minutes.
  6. Take the bird out of the over and paint with the glaze. Put back in 500° oven for 5 minutes to set the glaze. [Yes the meat if fully cooked but five more minutes to adhere the glaze would hurt anything.]
  7. Transfer chicken to cutting board and brush on a second coat of glaze. Let chicken rest on the can, uncovered, for 20 minutes.
  8. In sauce pan whisk 1/2 cup of the strained chicken juice (separate the fat from the juice) and 1/4 cup of glaze with the dripping from the cutting board. Simmer for 5 minutes.
  9. Carefully lift the chicken off the can (it takes four hands, the beer is still burning hot) and lay on cutting board. Carve and serve with the pan sauce.
I made the roasted broccoli from the same episode as well. I added a couple of carrots cut in half, pole to pole, sweet. These two go well together because they both use a 500° F oven. Served with a fresh beget. Well have ice cream later.

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Good Enough, so far

These slogans came to me today while struggling with the transition from 20th century software development methodologies into an agile mindset.

  • Never do today what can be put off until tomorrow.
  • Good Enough, so far. (User stories will change but remember the above slogan.)

Friday, February 25, 2011

Lightscreen screen capture tool

Stumbed across a nice tool for doing screen captures on a Windows machine, Lightscreen.

You can grab the full screen or a window or a selected rectangle. Then the image is saved in the format you configured in the folder you configured with a filename prefix you configred.

Download it from the Lighscreen site, part of the project.

Monday, February 14, 2011

Massage steak for doneness

Checking a steak’s doneness by texture is an inexact science and usually takes some practice to get right. To do so, pick up the steak and compare its texture with that of your hand.

Feel the fleshy part of your palm, between the thumb and forefinger, to approximate the soft, squishy feel of rare meat.

Make a fist and do the same to approximate the springy, slightly resistant feel of medium.

Touch the tip of your nose for well-done.

[Except from Cook's Illustrated magazine, September 2005.]

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Extreme Characters and Soap Opera Testing

I'm reading Mike Cohn's book User Stories Applied: For Agile Software Development in order to switch my mind set into the Agile Development mode for the coming year(s). I recommend this book for people doing agile development.

Extreme Characters is a concept the book introduces. Mike correctly states that it will not be useful for most project but it is worth knowing about. I agree. But it got me thinking. Wouldn't Extreme Characters fit into Soap Opera Testing perfectly.

Cohn sites Djajdiningrat, J.P., W.W. Gaver and J.W. Fres, "Interaction relabelling and Extreme Characters: Methods for exploring aesthetic interactions." Symposium on Designing Interactive Systems 2000, 2000:66-71. See poster for the article.

A 5 minute google didn't turn up much of anything detailed on Extreme Characters other than what Mr. Cohn wrote/teaches. Food for thought and grounds for further research.

(Cool. I bought the Kindle ebook and read in on my laptop at work or on the Kindle at home. It is also sitting on my iPhone should I want to make a quick reference during a stand up.)

Saturday, January 1, 2011

Sutter Gold Mine tour

Saw a flyer for the cave tours in California at the coffee shop this morning. The Sacramento Magazine said that if you are going to die in Sacramento the Sutter Gold Mine tour is one of fifty things you must do before you die.

We decided that next time the Simpkins are in town we'll make this a day trip.

Looks like there are a few caves for tourist in California. I challenge Crawford to a zip line race, First one to hit the ground wins.