Monday, October 5, 2015

Fighting back moths (from yarn, not mothra)

This scenario unfolded recently where the missus rather annoyed and mildly upset that her collection of yarn has been attacked by moths. Yes, I know this is a riveting piece of news to some excluding myself until I learned more about yarn and those who knit. To start, it's been explained to me that people who knit do it because they like it, not because it's any cheaper than say buying a sweater from a store. On a recent yarn shopping trip with the missus I've learned that a good quality yarn for a sweater costs between $60 to $200 not counting the time invested. Those figures assume that you already possess the necessary tools which in this case, are knitting needles and the like. That's another thing I never realized that knitting needles come in different sizes, materials, and features. Sure that's obvious if you give any thought to knitting, but being someone who doesn't knit it's all brand new to me. I've also learned that the knitting folks are rather pun-y when it comes to the nomenclature of the craft. Tinking is the process of un-stitching a stitch at a time and the name becomes obvious along with an instant facepalm when you realize that 'tink' is 'knit' spelled in reverse. Frogging is where you pull out several rows of stitches by yanking at the row and my inquisitive mind as to where the name 'frogging' came from it was explained, 'when you frog, you rip-it, rip-it, rip-it'........

Appropriate groans to puns aside the missus discovered that her yarn was eaten away by moths, well specifically moth larvae are the culprits. Having one's 'yarn stash' compromised is a big deal to begin with considering cost and time to accumulate the material, what was really devastating was her collection of hand-spun wool yarn from her time in Scotland which are irreplaceable. Some internet searches lead to this site where the author talks about how moth larvae can be eradicated with a temperature of around 130 Fahrenheit. The issue we've discovered that most modern ovens don't go that low (mine bottoms out at 160) and toaster oven's heating elements are far too close and damage the yarn. I start to think of how to have a controlled temp and consider a few ideas up to and including building a mini-oven with fire bricks, heating element, thermometer, and an Arduino board but settled on a far simpler idea that already exists and has all of the features already. I'm going to Sous Vide me some yarn.

First thing I need to figure out is at what temperature does yarn's mechanical bonds breakdown. Instead of empirically testing it I decided to see if someone already researched this topic and as it turns out a letter to the editor in the a 1968 edition of The Journal of the Textile Institute goes on to describe that wool's mechanical bonds breakdown starting at around 100 degrees Celsius, or 212 Fahrenheit which means that I have a pretty wide margin to play with. What I also found out that wool ignites at 228 to 230 Fahrenheit which means that I could have oven baked the wool, but what I couldn't account for with higher temps are dyes and wool filament size that may change those figures and decided to stay the Sous Vide course where there are no open flames. Another thing that I wanted to figure out is what temperature and duration would it take to kill moth larvae. A study published by Washington State University explores in detail that temps as low as 46 Celsius/114.8 Fahrenheit for fifty minutes has a one hundred percent mortality rate for moth larvae and basically states that with enough heat and time that they all die off.

With the data on hand I decide to Sous Vide the yarn at 135 Fahrenheit for one hour as the only thing that remains unanswered is if it's the temp regardless of condition, or if dry heat makes a difference. In theory, it should be way overkill, but given the varying density in spools of yarn as well as wool itself and the fact the Sous Vide is flameless where there is no concern for accidental ignition or a sudden climb in temperature breaking down wool I went with the longer cook time. The first issue I had to overcome compared to what I normally Sous Vide is just how buoyant wool is in a ziplock bag devoid of air. It took two bricks to overcome the buoyancy of three skeins of wool for those that are wondering. We pull the first bag out of its maiden soakage and inspect the yarn to discover that the first few layers had moth damage as expected. We salvage what we could of each skein and re-wrap the remainder. Overall the process worked. It was a great advantage to be able to walk away while the Sous Vide ran, running errands and such and after a day we Sous Vide her entire yarn stash. A month later and we've overserved no moth infestation and the yarn remains intact to this day since.

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

I tire of store bought dressing, naturally I experimented

I've always made my own vinaigrette dressings, be it just balsamic or even with raspberries. I was out at the store and bough a bottle of Caesar dressing with intentions of making a chicken Caesar salad that evening and come to find that the dressing was just plain awful. Not a hint of the salt and zest that Caesar dressing should of had, but this weird sweet aftertaste....tired of gambling on store bought bottles I decided to take matters in my own hand.


With the latest sweet Caesar disaster my taste buds wanted some umami to cleanse the palate. I began looking through my fridge and my cupboards and I found the usual suspects for dressing, balsamic vinegar and oil, but that wouldn't satisfy my search for umami. I take a second look and come back up with alternative ingredients. Instead of balsamic I can use apple cider or rice vinegar, I have a variety of flavored oils plus I could flavor more on the fly using sous vide is necessary. Wheels are turning......umami......tomato? No I don't want what may become marinara as a dressing. I could use MSG just to get the umami and use whatever else, but I want a unique ingredient for the umami portion of the flavor. I begin to think soy sauce, but that with vinegar and oil wouldn't make for the best dressing......wait, oh I have miso.


When I came across the miso it made me think of the dressings often found on salads in Japanese restaurants. I started to think of what I liked about those dressings I've had in various places in the past as well as what I didn't like. I also considered what flavors I wanted to taste and how. I began with a counter full of ingredients and gradually narrowed them down to my perfect miso soy dressing. It has the umami I wanted, without overbearing saltiness and a hint of ginger to give it a freshness without using acid like lime or lemon to break apart the dressing. I will say now that making dressing while not necessary, but would be of great help using a blender of some sort. Some ingredients are simply never made to mix and while it's possible using hand tools, using a blender would get you better mixture and consistency. Most importantly it will blend together oil and any water or ingredients with water. I used my stick blender with the blade handle for this process and used a two cup pyrex measuring cup to blend everything in.


The ingredients in the end were simple, after many iterations and tasting them side by side this is where I landed;

2 Tbsp. White Miso
2 Tbsp. Toasted sesame oil
1 Tbsp. Mild soy sauce
1 Tbsp. Organic rice vinegar
1/4 cup Neutral oil such as vegetable, canola, etc.
Heaping 1/4 tsp. Ginger, finely grated (read:between 1/4 to 1/2 tsp.)
10~30 ml Hot water

Mix it all but the water together and blend until smooth and once as you blend gradually add water 5~10ml at a time until you reach a desired consistency. I find myself adding 15ml on average to get a consistency that holds like a paste, but flows like oil does off of a spoon.

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Trying Sous Vide

I've been curious about sous vide for sometime and took the plunge when I came across an Anova One for ~$160 on Amazon's Cyber Monday deal. Sous vide cooks by submerging vacuum sealed food in water at perfectly controlled temperature compared to traditional cooking methods where you heat up a pan or oven to few hundred degrees while trying to cook until desired doneness and try to pull the food from the heat source at the perfect time which becomes a quickly dwindling window. The problem with traditional methods is that it over cooks the outside with food like steak creating a grey band while aiming for between 130~139 fahrenheit in the center for medium rare where else sous vide doesn't run this risk because the water immersion is heated between 130~139 fahrenheit to cook the steak to a perfect medium rare from edge to edge. After sous vide traditional methods to cook a steak feels like the very definition of Schrodinger's cat. Another amazing benefit is not running the risk of overcooking your meat and can even leave it cooking longer to tenderize. The one shortfall with sous vide is that it doesn't create a Maillard reaction, which in laymen's terms is to brown your food. Specifically Maillard reaction is when proteins are super heated where sugars and amino acids breakdown to create that savory flavor, those lovely smells when steaks are cooked on a grill. With the Anova One delivered today I am in the midst of sous vide cooking a couple of blade cut steaks with carrots and asparagus to follow.


The Anova One is extremely straight forward to setup. The box contains device, power cord, and manual along with warranty and looking at the Anova One there is no mystery as to where the power cord goes and how it mounts on the side of a container. Initial power up has you pick either Celsius and Fahrenheit and then you're onto picking temp and time. Like I said, simple. So simple in fact I read the manual only to find out how to clean and maintain the device. Next comes food prep and that means a way to seal your food in an air tight bag. I didn't want to invest in a vacuum sealer quite yet so I used zip lock bags with the water displacement method, which like anything has its pros and cons. With the proteins I was able to get a better seal and the weight made up for any air in the bag to keep the food submerged, but with vegetables I couldn't get as much air out in comparison and would float which is slightly annoying having to binder clip a wooden spoon to pin the bags down in order to keep the veggies submersed. Another option with zip lock bags to to simply keep it open and clip it to the edge of the container, which I plan on trying out.


Cooking if you want to call it that is as simple as cooking with a crock pot. First I cooked the meat at 138 fahrenheit and the veggies followed at 190.


The meat pulled and veggies in, I realized an error in my methods. I'm so used to cooking various things at different timing on the range and to account for meat to rest that I now have to worry about the meat getting cold while the water comes to temp for the veggies which is slower than I imagined would be. I left the steaks in the zip lock bag to keep them as warm as possible while I busied myself preparing the next steps. I planned on searing the steaks in an iron skillet with fresh thyme and sage with oil and butter in the last few minutes of the veggies cooking. Once the water comes to 190 I drop the carrots in which have a fifteen minute cook time and the asparagus five minutes which mean they will be dropped the last five minutes of the carrot's cook time. I bring the skillet with oil to temp and as the asparagus are dropped I begin to sear the steaks basting with a spoon once I add the butter. Everything comes out at the same time, which is awesome and really easy to time things with sous vide compared to traditional cooking. To my joy the steaks aren't cold and the searing brought the steaks up to perfect serving temp. The vegetables are finished simply on the plate with olive oil, salt, and pepper. I pull the red herb potatoes from the oven and plate and couldn't be happier with the results. The steak was very tender and the medium rare just perfect and the vegetables maintained a vibrant color with perfect texture.


I left the Anova One running to hold temp at 140 and when I finished dinner I started cooking the tomorrow evening's dinner, country style pork ribs. The ribs were cooked at 140 for twenty two and a half hours and seared seared in the iron skillet with garlic and scallion infused olive oil. I cooked another round of carrots and asparagus sous vide and reheated left over potatoes. It was by far one of the most tender ribs I've ever made, and tasted amazing.


My first experience cooking sous vide is a positive one with lessons learned. Veggies should be cooked first and then the water temp dropped quickly with ice to cook proteins. While the proteins are cooking the veggies can be placed in the water to keep warm without cooking further. Furthermore this means that you can pre-cook veggies at portion size in a vacuum sealed bag in advance and bring to serving temp as the meat cooks as well. With sous vide I found it much easier to time everything coming out at the same time with that translating to being able to plan for exact dinner times next time I invite friends over. Clean up was really easy with the Anova One wiped and dried. I find that an immersion circulator is a worthwhile investment and if you've been thinking of trying sous vide, but aren't convinced yet you can try the stovetop method and see for yourself. The only thing to think of now is what to cook next.

Monday, December 8, 2014

I want the world to stop abusing the word 'hack'

This is just a rant of seeing all things being a, 'hack' these days. lifehack, this and that hack.......it feels like the collective IQ of our species dropped a few points when there was a movement on the internet to start calling things a hack when it all came down to either approaching something in its use slightly differently or god forbid, using something exactly as intended. That is simply not a hack. I realize that writing this will invite comments disagreeing with me and that's ok, we are entitled to our opinions just as I am with viewing those that use the word, 'hack' outside of cutting something roughly or with heavy blows, or in using a computer to gain unauthorized access as fuckery by mouth breathers.

Monday, November 24, 2014

Getting Geppetto Version 4.3.0 working behind a proxy (a workaround)

Geppetto stands alone as the only Puppet IDE available as of this writing. Initially created by cloudsmith the IDE leverage Eclipse with custom components for developing modules and writing manifests. As of version 4.0 Geppetto has been maintained by Puppet Labs with one of the fixes being that it would work behind a proxy. The idea is that the Puppet components should obey proxy settings set within Eclipse and the reality is that his doesn't work. First of all there are sparse documentation on where and how to set the proxy within Eclipse. In case the next release fixes the bug that I filed regarding this issue, here is where you set the proxy setting within Eclipse;

-Click the Window tab and select Preferences which bring up a new window
-Select Network Connections in the left pane and change Action Provider drop down to Manual
-Edit the proxy info as necessary and hit apply then close window

What happens once the setting is crated is that certain functions does obey the proxy settings except for Java function calls within Eclipse. When an attempt is made to import a module from the forge the error log isn't clear on where it fails, but the log reveals a java process that is making a call to https://forgeapi.puppetlabs.com. The workaround I have in place makes use of Proxifier to direct any traffic going out to http://www.proxifier.com/download.htm to make two hops, the first through Proxifier which then redirects it to the corporate proxy address and port. Here are the steps and settings within Proxifier;

-Click the Profile tab and Select Proxy Server. Enter your corporate proxy's IP and port and select protocol and click OK.
-Click Profile tab again and this time select Proxification Rules. Create a new rule called Geppetto and under Target Hosts enter forgeapi.puppetlabs.com and change the Action drop down to the the Proxy Server you set up in the previous step.

Proxifier will not pipe all traffic that tries to reach forgeapi.puppetlabs.com to the corporate firewall. The con of this process is that it requires a second application to continuously run, but sure beats waiting for my bug to be resolved.

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

How to get proxy working for Ubuntu 14.04 without GUI (Works for all users and sudo)

By default proxy settings aren't enabled on Ubuntu servers and I've come to find that there are syntax changes in 14.04 that are drastically different compared to their last LTS (Long Term Support) release without it being very obvious. I've crawled the web and have come across various solutions, but those solutions only fix pieces like apt-get and what I wanted is something that works across all users and all calls even when using sudo. One of the things that I figured out was the when you elevate with sudo it doesn't necessarily mean that it will inherit user variables and that was a key discovery that ultimately pointed me on the right path. Without further ado here are the steps. Keep in mind that I prefer vim for a text editor and my examples will reflect that and you can use whichever editor you are comfortable with.

1.) Update your environmental variable

The first step is to create exports in your environmental variables and you can do that by editing /etc/environment

sudo vim /etc/environment

In the file you should add your exports below the PATH= line and the syntax will look like this for each type, http, https, and ftp. (In older versions of Ubuntu you could use all_proxy which I am not sure is still in use and haven't tested for). One you edit for the exports you need, save and exit.

export http_proxy=http://yourproxyserver:proxyserverport

2.) Create your proxy file

As I've mentioned that by default Ubuntu doesn't have proxy settings enabled and this means that there ins't a proxy setting file for apt-get either. You will need to create one and if you are new to Linux, the file be will automatically created when you open a text editor by the name you intend to use for the file.

sudo vim /etc/apt/apt.conf.d/30proxy

Keep in mind that the two digit number before the file name is arbitrary, it can be any number except for ones already in use. If you want to use a number and see what's there you can run this to see what other files are in that directory;

ls /etc/apt/apt.conf.d

Moving on to editing the file, the syntax is highly specific and I would suggest copying and pasting what I have written below. Short of that, pay close attention to double quotes (" ") and semicolons (;) and be sure to close every curly bracket used. Save the file once done and off to editing sudoers file next.


3.) Update sudoers file

The sudoers file needs to be edited to allow it to not only inherit, but to also keep the environmental variables being passed to it that you specified in /etc/environment. The best way to edit the sudoers file located /etc/sudoers is to use viduso. Keep in mind unlike vi or vim it doesn't require you to type "i" to input and to save you press ctrl+x, agree with "y" and take the default .tmp file that visudo wants to use to update the sudoers file. The section that you be editing is towards the top where it lists "Defaults". There you will add additional lines equal to each environmental variable and here is the syntax for adding the http_proxy example from before;

Defaults env_keep += http_proxy

Once you are done editing we will perform some tests to find out if sudo is inheriting the environmental variables. Run the following two commands and the output should be the same for both, if sudo is missing ant of the grep searches than try to reboot first and if still the same issue than double check your syntax in previous edits.

env | grep proxy

and sudo env | grep proxy

Finally, try to run sudo apt-get update or if you have ruby installed sudo gem update and see if the updates run successfully.

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Journey to my next SBR upper Part 1

After completing my SBR build things are sweet, things are great. There's something simply fun about shooting a SBR that needs to be experienced to make sense why something as seemingly banal as a shorter barrel is better. I've been running my 11.5 inch barrel with a Griffin M4SD compensator that mitigates muzzle climb well while keeping most of the concussive force away from the shooter even on a SBR. The M4SD has noticeably more side blast compared to an A2 flash hider, but that's to be expected when switching from a flash hider to a compensator. With the muzzle climb of .223/5.56 being manageable a part of me considered switching back to an A2 until I start shooting successive follow up shots and am reminded why I use a compensator. Two years and so many new products on the market later I wanted to build an upper around the new thinner cousin of the Noveske KX3, the Noveske KX5 in hopes of a muzzle device that balances muzzle control while directing the blast away from the shooter.

Ordering a part at a time on my last build afforded me the agility to change parts on the fly when either my initial choice for a part no longer meets my needs and specifications or a better part emerges on the market. I decide to repeat this method with the KX5 build and start with a loose idea of parts for the upper;

Noveske KX5
Barrel TBD
Keymod rail (likely BCM KMR)
Upper TBD

The first step was the barrel. A quick search on the internet reveals more choices than ever before and I realize that I need requirements and began making a list of things that I want to change about my existing SBR. One of the pitfalls I've encountered with a M4 profile barrel is that it heats up quickly and in turn heats up the Troy Battlerail Bravo until it becomes untenable to shoot without gloves. The debate over heat shifting point of impact rages on the the internet, but what I can tell you is that without being able to grip the forend my shot placement stops being consistent regardless of shift in POI. The heat issue lead me to choose a medium profile barrel that balances between weight increase and heating rate. The other requirements are maintaining a carbine gas system and to use a shorter barrel than what I have now to accommodate the KX5's long profile of 3.25 inches. The shortest a carbine gas system can be is ten inches and with the market offering either 10.3" or 10.5" those became my choices. Lastly I want to squeeze out as much accuracy out of the barrel while still being able to shoot either .223 Remington or 5.56 NATO and will be looking for a barrel chambered in .223 Wylde.

Though my requirements narrow my choices it still left me deciding between too many manufacturers without comparative data that indicates which barrel will best suit my build. I add another requirement for a twist rate of one in eight or ideally one in seven to better stabilize a 55 to 77 grain bullet through a sub-eleven inch barrel. Thorough deliberation left two choices between Noveske and Lothar-Walthar and I decide on Lothar-Walthar in the end. The things that steered me to L-W was the many emails that Woody from L-W answered as well as the performance that LaRue gets out of L-W's barrel blanks. Noveske is an outstanding company with a very long history for quality, but it was hard to resist a barrel of equal quality that cost around a hundred dollars less. The negative comments that I have for L-W is that they feel behind the times in terms of buying a barrel on the internet. Their website doesn't clearly convey what they have without reaching out to them to asking if a given configuration is available. Contacting them is a blast from the past with an @mindspring.com email address which I had no idea that domain still exists let alone that mail continues to be routed, or that anyone still uses those accounts.


Woody from L-W replies with the news that they have a 10.5 inch medium profile barrel in stainless steel with one in seven polygonal rifling available. A few more email exchanges to find out gas block size and total cost with shipping comes to $239.75. I ask Woody how to place an order since it wasn't obvious on their website. Is there a page on the site that I can place an order through? Do I email you this order and call you with a credit card? Maybe complete the transaction over paypal? No, no, and no.........he tells me that I need to write a letter with my order and that they accept either personal check, cashier's check, or money order. Had that been a phone conversation it would have been followed by a long pause of awkward silence.


With the ability to order anything on the web today it was weird, even awkward to type out an order and print it out only to stuff it in an envelope along with a check for the appropriate amount. Payment is no longer the final step by the consumer as I still need to write on to the envelope sender and return address, affix a stamp, and mail it. My present self is astonished with my past self at having done those things and wonder why anyone did it except that web ordering wasn't a thing back then yet. Soul crushing agony was around the corner at the realization that I am blind to the order fulfillment process. Letters don't let me click to see where my order sits, if it's shipped, and what the tracking number is. I am forced to wallow in the darkness that is mail order purgatory praying to the mocking demigods of snail mail and all things paper that it all miraculously comes together and that the barrel arrives. Now begins my descent into madness.

As I was driven slowly insane by the lack of order transparency I redirect my focus on figuring out the upper and rail. While I like the Bravo rail's full run of MIL-STD 1913 rails that enables me to mount accessories anywhere along the rail that flexibility comes with a price. MIL-STD 1913 specifications dictates a minimum dimension that can't be escaped and that translates to a rail that can only go so small yet maintain MIL-STD requirements while weight becomes a delicate balance between the rail's integrity and durability. I feel that keymod solves maintaining mounting flexibility without suffering MIL-STD 1913 restrictions for size and weight. With the KX5 being initially developed to fit under Noveske's super thin NSR rail I wanted to take advantage of that design specification and have part of the KX5 under the rail. Initial estimation points to either a twelve or thirteen inch rail to accomplish that look and will have a better idea when I can rough fit the parts. All of these thoughts regarding the rail distills down between Bravo Company Manufacturing's 13" KMR and Midwest Industry's 12" SSK. Both are well reviewed, durable, and light weigh solutions with just enough space to fit the KX5 with the final decision hinging on empirical measurement of actual length from upper to KX5 once parts arrive. For the upper I want mil-spec dimensions that surpass a typical upper's quality and the search leads me to Vltor's MUR upper which gives me increased wall thickness for a tough upper with a slightly different look compared to a traditional AR upper with very angular lines.

Withe the barrel ordered I impatiently eye my updated parts list and cultivate my inner zen to wait to order a part at a time;

Noveske KX5
Lothar-Walthar 10.5" barrel
Keymod rail (Either BCM KMR or MI SSK)
Vltor MUR upper

Now to get some of that patience that I hardly have any of.