05 November 2012

our automated society

for the gf's birthday, we caught a matinee at a local mega-cinema owned by Regal:
Regal Entertainment Group (NYSE: RGC) operates the largest and most geographically diverse theatre circuit in the United States, consisting of 6,607 screens in 521 theatres in 37 states and the District of Columbia as of October 25, 2012, with over 211 million attendees for the fiscal year ended December 29, 2011 ("fiscal 2011").
gloriously, we were the only two in attendance. i wondered if the movie would not play if they hadn't sold any tickets. and if not, was that all built-in to their computer/ticket system, or did they actually have a human looking in?

on the way out, we asked. we were told that the movies all play automatically, whether there was anyone in the theater or not. (seems like a waste). I also thought about the tissue paper i jammed in my ears, which made the soundtrack merely Quite Loud (next time, i'll be bringing along my sound pressure meter; i fear some of the peaks are in the 110-120 dB range).

so not only do the movies play automatically, i reckon the volume levels are beyond the control of anyone at the facility. same with the dimming lights and the curtain screen that quietly whooshed to a wider aspect after the previews/commercials and before the main feature. the projectors are all digital, so no one needs to operate them (i wonder how they're loaded/configured).

we didn't visit the concession stand, which i'm pretty sure is still staffed by humans. we bought our tickets from a human, but that's obviously un-necessary these days. a human took our tickets, and another wandered into the theater in the middle of the showing (to make sure we weren't disturbing other patrons?).

in all, i think we saw fewer humans -- including patrons -- than there are theaters. granted, it was an off time (Monday 2:45 showing), and this megaplex definitely gets crowded. i reckon Regal has found a way to maximize profit while minimizing payroll.

26 August 2012

spicy burgers and homemade pickles

the gf is pickling cucumbers today, after having acquired 20-lbs of cucumbers from our new veggie CSA, Montalbano Farms. i think there are at least 4 pickle varieties planned.

we also opened a jar from her first batch, made at a pickling class a few weeks ago. a little garlicky and a little dilly, but definitely opened up when paired with the burgers i made for lunch.

we're running low on ground beef from our half-cow, so i grabbed a pound we got yesterday from Meadow Haven. added salt, pepper, a bit of ground ancho chile, and some homemade hot sauce given to be by my aunt. then topped with a white cheddar. and a thank you to Ron for the tip about not mashing the burger meat too much (now i barely touch it).

the burgers were the best yet. a tasty outside char and a lovely medium-rare throughout.

29 July 2012

refreshing summer drink: hot blueberry custard shake


  1. wait for blueberry season
  2. make custard for blueberry ice cream
  3. realize, with horror, that you made too much in step 2
  4. drink hot
  5. (optional) chase with half and half

27 May 2012

United Airlines and the opposite of sense

on a recent trip to nyc, i elected to pay $25 to check my first bag, for each leg. i rightly guessed that by the time i boarded, there would be no overhead space left.

on the return, United announced at the gate that the flight was full, and rollerboards would be gate-checked for free. naturally, i do not expect to be refunded my $25. why should i, when my pre-planning helps them to load the plane more quickly and have a better chance at on-time takeoff.

does it not make more sense to charge people for carry-ons, and grant free checking of the first 2 bags? am i correct in thinking that incenting people to reduce what they carry on, rather than incenting them to increase it, will save money? am i correct in thinking that granting passengers that much extra space, and doing away with at least some of the fighting for shared space, will improve the experience for everyone involved?

is the cost of baggage handling really so prohibitive?

what am i missing?

05 May 2012

a little credential standardization, please

just a small rant about sites, especially financial ones, enforcing silly rules for usernames and passwords that vary wildly from one site to the next.

some require special characters in passwords, some can't handle them! is my letters and numbers-only password really secure enough to protect my money?

i had a standard 6-character username, which in the past couple years became insufficient for banks. several financial sites required 8-character usernames.

great, now i have to remember which sites are the username exceptions, along with whatever peculiarities the password rules may have.

this week, i made logins for two more sites where i have some investments. one required a 10-character username, but couldn't handle special characters in the password. what security purpose is served with unwieldy usernames? and what kinds of backends do these sites have that the policy is to exclude special chars? injection-prone php servers? doesn't inspire a lot of confidence.

08 March 2012

the wild west of content delivery

in a flurry of activity this week, i signed up for Amazon Prime and hulu+, and bought a Roku and a new cable modem.

the ultimate goal is to cut down the monthly and outrageous Comcast bill, through which we currently get internet and tv.

the small part of the savings will be the cable modem, which we've been renting for $7/mo. replaced that with a Motorola SURFboard SB6121, which has proven to be about 15-20% faster on the downloads.

the larger savings will be eliminating the cable tv and getting our content via streaming. today started an experiment to see if the $79/year amazon prime and $8/month hulu+ covers enough ground.

i think the difficult transition for me will be going from a "what's on" model to "let's narrow down this incredible catalog to something we both want to watch now" model.

i've had the roku hooked up for less than 24 hours, but here are my initial impressions:

1. hulu+ shouldn't bother me with commercials
2. it's disappointing that i'm not allowed to stream certain shows through the roku (e.g. Good Eats), but am allowed to do so in a browser. wtf?
3. Top Gear (via Amazon VOD) has the full show, including the news! BBC America chopped it all to hell
4. there's an incredible disparity of what's paid content and what's free. i can see Top Gear series 15 and older for free, but Prime Suspect all the way from 1991 is $5/episode
5. interaction is embarrassingly primitive. browsing isn't well organized, and i'd like a way to indicate interest in items, e.g. Arrested Development, then have it organize my viewing history so i can easily tell what i've seen and what's left to see. Bonus points for putting together a single place to go to see what i should logically view next.
6. so far, the streaming has been high quality with no hiccups or sync issues. nice job that.
7. the roku box is actually *too* small and light -- it's in danger of being dragged off the shelf by the weight of the cables
8. some content we currently enjoy, like HBO shows and AMC shows, will probably be inaccessible to us for a couple years unless we feel like paying extra for them (which i don't). Walking Dead, Game of Thrones, Mad Men, Breaking Bad, True Blood, Boardwalk Empire, the Killing -- might be hard to basically give them up for a couple years.

despite the impressive libraries available, not to mention the impressive tech to make all this possible, i do wish the content providers would be just a little more consumer friendly and not make the licensing so absurd. being able to stream on one device but not another, despite paying for it, just seems anti-consumer to me. and needlessly confusing.

23 January 2012


we received a meat grinder for xmas (this one) and last night made some sausages!

the recipe was for a Romanian Jewish beef sausage. we had most stuff on hand, except beef suet, so we used lamb suet instead. and guess what -- it tastes like gyros. really tasty gyros.

no casings on our first try, we made patties and rolled up a few, seen in the photo.

only one mishap, seems the forward/reverse buttons on the grinder were wired up backwards. took me a few minutes to figure out why i couldn't get anything through it. once that was sussed out, the grind went very well. i'm happy with performance of the machine.

as the reverse switch is momentary, i did get an RMA for this one, and a replacement machine is on its way. hopefully that one will work as expected.