02.24.14

Smoking things

Posted in food, meat at 1:09 am by wingerz

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One of my colleagues moved to Hamburg, Germany this past weekend. He gave me his smoker before leaving, and I used it for the first time this past weekend.

I enjoyed it a lot more than I expected. I started preparing Wednesday evening – got an 8 lb pork shoulder and applied a rub to it. On Saturday I started warming it up around 7am and had the meat going by 9am, where it cooked for 8 hours. Afterwards the meat rested for an hour, and then we made delicious pulled pork sandwiches out of it.

Smoking is awesome for the following reasons:

  • The anticipation is amazing. I daydreamed about this for several days, and was super-excited to check on it all day Saturday.
  • It smells so good. I sort of liked my clothes and hair smelling like smoke, it reminded me of what was going on in my backyard.
  • It was low-stress. Didn’t require constant attention. I checke dthe temperature and swapped chips every 1 to 1.5 hours. Was able to go out to the farmers’ market, grab lunch, get a haircut, go for a walk to get some ice cream all throughout the day. It felt like even if I missed checking on something for 30 minutes, nothing terrible was going to happen – as long as the smoker temperature stayed below 250F, something tender and delicious would emerge from the smoker. My biggest worry was that some of the wood chips would ignite and make it too warm.

Things didn’t work out perfectly. I think it could have cooked for another hour or two (got up to 175F internally). The meat wasn’t as smoky as I had hoped, I’m pretty sure that’s because I wrapped my foil packets of wood chips too tightly. So I’m definitely looking forward to doing it again soon, had to restrain myself from firing it up again today.

02.09.14

Building my own computer

Posted in personal, technology at 12:53 pm by wingerz

My earliest memories of playing around with computer hardware were in high school, when my mom agreed to buy 8MB of RAM so that we could upgrade from the 4MB that our computer came with. Back then it was over $300, an inconceivable amount of money. I struggled with putting it in and I think we eventually figured out that I was being too delicate with the motherboard. In any case it was quite a stressful situation.

Later on in college I got a 3DFX card and it was amazing. Since then most of my computing has been done on a laptop (Thinkpads for 7 years and then MBP for 5 years). I had never put together an entire machine myself.

In any case, JR has been wearing me down over the past few months. For the most part it’s been easy for me to ignore his advice to get a gaming PC. The last thing I need is another platform to collect games that I don’t have time to play, no matter how cheap they are on Steam. But eventually I started looking into it. I still couldn’t justify the cost, but then the power of rationalization kicked in. I figured that if I installed OSX on it, Jen and I could use it as a family computer (mainly for organizing photos), which is something we’ve been wanting for a while but unwilling to splurge on a nice laptop or Mac Pro. Plus it could be a fun opportunity to build my own computer for the first time, something that was missing from my resume.

The research phase was really fun. I probably collected 40 links to PC-building websites that I’ve saved away. In particular:

Newegg and Amazon made it incredibly easy for me to quickly turn a whim into a pile of parts on my doorstep.

I raced to read every instruction manual and online resource I could find, and put the machine together over the course of a couple of evenings. Of course, when I went to turn it on, nothing happened, which was my biggest fear all along. I fiddled with a few ore things before taking the entire thing apart and trying to test individual components (which was really hard since I didn’t have any tools or extra parts).

I found a computer repair shop that (for a small fee) offered to help me test my motherboard and verify that most of the computer was working, so I swallowed my pride and brought some of my parts in. The guys were super-nice and excited on my behalf. My motherboard turned out to be broken, so I ordered a new one and we put the computer together and now it’s working.

A couple links that were helpful:

I’ve got all the parts hooked up now, but need to spend another few hours organizing the cables and putting all of the fans in. Right now it’s a mess of black wiring. But it works! Some highlights:

  • Dual boots Windows 8 and OSX, each OS has its own SSD
  • Windows: Bioshock:Infinite runs nicely, along with some cheap Steam games I’ve been accumulating over the last few weeks.
  • OSX: Lightroom installed and working. Will probably do some development on this side.

Overall building my own computer turned out to be a really fun experience. I obsessed over it for a few weeks. There are definitely some fun problems to wrestle with, mostly on the spatial front (in what order should these components get installed into the machine? Where do all these cables go?), and who doesn’t love looking around for good deals on components? In retrospect I probably should have been more patient with the whole process. Jen was super-supportive throughout the entire thing, even when we had a pile of parts that were assembled into a completely unresponsive paperweight. I also borrowed a lot of evening and weekend time from her and the kids.

I also realized that it would be a waste for me to only build one machine after doing all this research. So I’m on the lookout for friends who are looking to build a computer (or reasons for having more than one computer in the house).

Finally, thanks to everyone who got excited on my behalf and offered support on this project all throughout the last few weeks.