Time Travel

HOUR 1: Hey! Guys! I got DOOM 3! Whooooooo! HOUR 2: Stupid installer erased my datebook. HOUR 3: OK, it’s running. Why is everything so slow? What the hell? DAY 2: Got new videocard at CompUSA. Runs OK now, when not crashing. DAY 3: Couldn’t take crashing. Bought new computer. DAY 3: Still crashing. Hate everyone. DAY 4: No friends playing; computers all too slow. Maybe play with strangers? DAY 5: 13 year old kids humiliating me. Read On →

Ultima

Shelf 1 (of 4) Nostalgia, in general, is an emotion that I am suspicious of. We grow by moving forward, and though sometimes that involves looking back introspectively, nostalgia is the opposite of introspection: it is the fetishism of the past. Some part of the past is thought of as good because it wells up nostalgic feelings, rather than because of anything one can qualify objectively. I try to consciously choose introspection instead of nostalgia whenever I can. Read On →

DVD Menus: A Desperate Plea

Here is what happens to me on a regular basis when trying to access the various “extras” on a DVD release: - Put DVD into player. - Watch the FBI warning for 5 minutes while the controls on the player are locked out. - Watch 5 minute cut scene from the movie or whatever. - Watch for 5 minutes as the menu animates into the screen. - Click around at random with the arrow keys on my DVD remote and squint at the screen to see if the state changed at all. Read On →

Hockenheim: Quote of the Race

Heinz Pruiller, a commentator for ORF TV in Austria was asked “How many more races is Michael Schumacher going to win before the end of the year?” He looked at Speed TV’s David Windsor as if he were daft, and answered: “All of them. All of them.” He paused, briefly. “All of them.“

Latter Days

Latter Days For those unfamiliar with it, Cerebus is mixed-media pictures and text, black and white ink on paper, originally released as 20 page bound pamphlets, periodically bound into folios referred to as “phonebooks.” That’s how you’d describe it in a museum, anyway. A more concise description would be “Cerebus is a graphic novel.” A less pretentious description would be “Cerebus is a comic book.” The most recent “phone book”, covering the penultimate chapters of Dave Sim’s epic work, is entitled Latter Days. Read On →

The Tour De France, a Primer

Now that we’re more than two weeks into this year’s race, I thought I’d write a short primer on the basics of what is going on in the race so you all can keep it in mind for next year. I know I should have done this before, but I was busy. Sue me. The Tour De France is a three week race organized into stages. Each stage goes from a start point to an end point. Read On →

The Problem with Data that is Meta

Talk to geeks the world over, and they will wax lyrical about all the ways in which meta-data will save the world. It will make your disk searchable. It will provide a semantic framework for WWW content. It will allow tools from different vendors to manage your workflow and asset files. It can form the basis for archiving your digital life. Sadly, it’s all a lie. The problem here is that by its nature, the data that is meta is still data, and therefore it is subject to all the same problems that the original data had in the first place: - Everyone has to agree on a schema. Read On →

The Spice Must Flow

If there’s one annoying trend that has permeated Asian cuisine as prepared and served throughout America, it’s that I can hardly find a place where a server doesn’t ask me “How spicy? 1 to 10?” You don’t ask me how much salt I want in the dishes that come out from the kitchen. You don’t ask how much sugar you should put in the cheesecake. You don’t offer me a choice of an omelette fried in yummy butter, healthy duck fat, or disgusting institutionalized margarine. Read On →

Overheard At Enrico's

Photo courtesy Peter Su Enrico’s Biscotti is one of the treasures of our town, and is surrounded by legends, myths, and stories, passed on by word of mouth from person to person. When they stopped selling daily lunch in the back room – a converted auto garage – in preparation for opening their trendier Shadyside location, I was depressed for a week. Recently, the back room opened again for lunch on Saturdays. Read On →

California and Me, a Short Interlude

I grew up in Massachusetts, and now have lived in Pittsburgh for about the last ten years. Because I work in the computer industry I am forced to travel to California against my will. I have spent a lot of time in Silicon Valley and even a summer in Pasadena. All this time in CA has lead to one inevitable conclusion: On balance, I hate the place. Now, don’t get me wrong. Read On →

Gmail Invites: Going for a Song

It makes me somewhat disgusted that people are still trying to profit off of gmail invites, “selling” them on craigslist and elsewhere for $5, $10, etc. I mean, how desperate do you have to be? What happened? Did the blood bank stop accepting your plasma? Did your attempt to corner the suburban lemonade stand market fail when some sixth graders moved in on your turf? Did no one join your Ponzi scheme? Read On →

Famous Last Words

If you’re a software developer for long enough, you’ll hear certain things throughout your career that almost never, ever, ever turn out to be true. Here’s a partial list of some of the more popular lies and simply wrong things you’ll hear. “Every bug fixed will have a unit test demonstrating that it is fixed.” “All APIs will have complete and accurate documentation.” “We always write a complete spec before beginning the implementation.” “The feature set is frozen now.” “100% backward compatible!” “We have included time for writing tests and debugging on the schedule.” “If the code you’re working on has some completely minor and unimportant detail that I personally disagree with, everything will completely break and the world will end.” “Remember that time six months ago when I said it would break the world if you did it your way and you gave in and did it my way? Read On →

Folding Shirts

Om mani padme hum Here’s a short movie -- not by me – on how to fold a shirt to such a perfect, crisp shape that its very existence provides nearly irrefutable evidence of the presence of a pantheon of benevolent and all-knowing Clothing Gods. I find it compelling. I find it hypnotic. I can’t stop watching it, over and over again, hoping to absorb how to perform such household magic. Read On →

Shortcuts

The land that Pittsburgh sits on is a rumpled place, a piece of rough cloth thrown carelessly on the table. A very long time ago, this place was a flat plain made up of the debris washed down from the left side of the decaying Appalachian mountains. This grand flatness was then itself carved up and out by rivers and kills and everything in between, leaving a landscape of close valleys and hills of oddly similar height. Read On →

Mistakes Were Made

The walnut cake movie is the first movie I’ve made in a while. It was made without any planning or forethought. Every time I make a movie, I screw it up in new and interesting ways. Here’s what I learned from my screwups this time: I’m deeply unhappy with the voiceover. Without a real mic, I was reduced into shouting into the lousy condenser mic in my laptop, which sounds about as bad as you’d expect. Read On →

À la recherche du temps a noix

hodo kwaja Hodo kwaja is a Korean filled sweet that is shaped like a walnut. In the mid- 1930s, a Korean baker (one Mr. Cho Kwigum) was apparently contemplating a madeleine and said to himself “You know what would be great? It would be great if there was stuff inside of this thing.” He gave it a distinctive walnut shaped mold, chose a popular filling, and named it, and Korea has loved them ever since. Read On →

Mangosteen

Mangosteens The mangosteen (Garcinia mangostana L) is perhaps the most treasured of the tropical fruits, and virtually unknown in the US except among those fortunate enough to travel abroad. They’re not legal to import to the US because of concerns about fruit fly infestations; but you can find them on the street markets in Chinatown in Toronto. It’s an exceptionally attractive fruit, with a thick, royal purple skin and a tomato-like green stem up top. Read On →

Offal in Koreatown

There’s not really very much that I won’t eat, or at least that I won’t try. This weekend in Toronto I got to cross one of the long-standing entries off the list of foods I have knowingly ducked: pig intestines, which we call “chitterlings” or “chitlins” around these parts. Offal is not generally a really big part of the standard American diet. Growing up in the Jewish tradition I probably had more than your average kid – Grandma’s chopped liver was great, and I loved stuffed derma and kishka (which are basically simple, salty chicken fat sausages). Read On →

Ouch

Marcus Gronholm’s co-driver Timo Rautiainen was injured when a metal bar lying in the road pierced the undercarriage of their Peugeot 307, and the seat, and Timo’s backside. It was at this moment that viewers everywhere learned that it is entirely possible to rattle off driving directions in Finnish while, at the same time, cursing in English. Gronholm, understandably, stopped the car to make sure that Timo was OK. When interviewed after the stage, he described it thusly: “We had to stop because some stone came up through Timo’s, uh, seat.” Long pause. Read On →

There is Magic Yet In Pittsburgh

Find a map of Pittsburgh and spread it out upon the table. Make it a good map, detailed enough to show all of the actual streets downtown and surrounding, perhaps even the paper ones that fly off into space above the rivers or worm their old ways under newer steel and stone. Put your finger on the Monongahela river where it reforms itself into half of the Ohio. Begin to drag it east, up the channel. Read On →

Canard

It was in a small auberge in the Dordogne, in the south-west of France, maybe forty-five minutes from the town of Villeneuve-sur-lot, where I encountered the perfect fried potatoes. I was dining with my parents, my sister, and a somewhat vegetarian friend. I, of course, went straight for the foie gras over arugula, among other things, but my mother and sister got the crayfish, which came with pommes frittes. Jennifer, the vegetarian, picked at the fries and soon started wolfing them down. Read On →

Hiro Sushi

We were in Toronto for the weekend a couple of weeks ago. For those who don’t know, Toronto is a great food town only 4 or 5 hours drive from Pittsburgh. In particular, we have found Chinese and Japanese food in Toronto that is as good or better than anything I’ve had in North America. One of these most excellent establishments is Hiro Sushi. I have never personally had better sushi than at Hiro Sushi. Read On →

Abay

For too many years i’ve been forced to take road trips to Washington, DC, Toronto, or Cleveland when I had the desire for Ethiopian food. A new restaurant, Abay, has opened up in the East Liberty section of Pittsburgh (on Highland Avenue). To say I’m pleased would be an understatement. The space is warmly lit, unassuming, and uncluttered; it seats about 50 to 60 comfortably. The menu is still under development, but has a decent variety of vegetarian, beef, and chicken options (I did not see any lamb on the menu, which makes me a bit sad). Read On →

Groundhog Day

Having to deal with yet another bad designer’s stupid implementation of “save points” is the worst part of being a console gamer. Almost everyone gets it at least a little bit wrong. Many designers get it very wrong. A few game designers get it so wrong that you want them to be put into suspended animation and then revived only when the Earth has been conquered by a race of technologically advanced yet horribly malicious alien beings who will transport them into a whirling nightmarish dimension of transinfinite pain. Read On →

Name Change

All the URLs are the same, but starting today we are “Tea Leaves,” since the related project with that name is going dark. If any of the participants in the tleaves project want to have a place to hang their hat here, just let me know.

Depressing Software Thought

It’s the year 2004, and I am helping my parents configure their brand new Thinkpad to talk a completely standard wireless access point, and it is so painful that it is beyond the power of language to express.

Signs

Click to enlarge After September 11th, the sign board became a way for suburban America to express solidarity. All down any given highway you could see hundreds of small storefronts asking us to pray for the victims, to support our troops, and in some cases crying out for vengeance. For some reason, I was transfixed by this. Something about the grass-roots nature of it moved me. I’m kicking myself for not taking more photos of them at the time. Read On →

Idlewild

Jack in the Box Idlewild is an amusement park about 40 minutes east of Pittsburgh, near the historic town of Ligonier. It’s positioned as a “family” amusement park, and definitely caters to kids, particularly younger kids. There are a few thrill rides here, but apart from a small (though worthy) old wooden coaster, you won’t find rides here that you wouldn’t find at a local fair. The permanent attractions are a bit more interesting. Read On →

Berry Scandal

[Ripening berries ](http://www.tleaves.com/weblog/images/articles/ripe-berries.jpg) I’ve been talking for the past few weeks about how proud I am of my wild blackberries, how I have great plans to protect them and hug them and love them and call them George. But something has been gnawing at my subconscious, and yesterday it dawned on me. Blackberries are supposed to have their cores intact. Are these really blackberries? Maybe they’re not. Maybe they are black raspberries. Read On →

Seen at Indy

The highlight of the Indianapolis Formula 1 Grand Prix qualifying session for me was seeing some enterprising fans holding up a hand-made sign which read: “Team McLaren: New Tech Center - $300 million Drivers - $17 million 3 Points behind Sauber - Priceless”

Workaday Port

Quinta do Noval Every so often some bureaucrat at the Pennsylvania Liquor Control Board screws up when filling out the computerized order form and ends up accidentally ordering 300 cases of some wine when he meant to order 30. When this happens, good wines go on sale. This has apparently happened with the Quinta do Noval LB Porto. Typically, this unpedigreed port would sell for between $15 - $18 a bottle. Read On →

Blackberry harvest

Can’t talk. Busy eating blackberries! Pictures tomorrow.

Are You Experienced?

I play games; a lot of games. Many of the games I play are computer games. Some of those are of the broad category called “Role-Playing Games,” or RPGs. There are many definitions of this, but a simplified one is: if it sounds sort of like Dungeons and Dragons, it’s a role playing game. I’ve been thinking about the mechanics of these games, and I am judging them and finding them wanting. Read On →

Greetings from Azkaban Park, New Jersey

Watching the third Harry Potter movie is a bit like watching someone drive an aging, souped up car: when they improve the engine, it just makes how the car’s suspension creaks through the corners more obvious. Harry / Hermione Slash. You know it’s coming In the earlier, worse movies, it was easy to ignore the underperforming actors and actresses, because Chris Columbus’ (Home Alone) direction was so ox- stunningly, earth shakingly bad. Read On →

Chinese Food in Pittsburgh

After my rant about P. F. Chang’s you might ask, “Pete, where do you get chinese food you like in Pittsburgh?“. Ten or so years ago, my answer would have been “I call my mom and ask her to come into town.” Happily, things have gotten better since the dark days of the mid to late 80s and early 90s. Now I believe that there are four places in town that it is safe to bring your Chinese Mother Who Can Cook for a meal and stand a fairly good chance of not completely blowing it. Read On →

The Nexus of Pittsburgh Food

Pete wrote about Penn Mac the other day, which brings up the larger subject of the Strip in general and in particular, that part of the Strip which is really the Nexus of almost all the good food in Pittsburgh. This nexus lies in that area of Penn Avenue within a couple of blocks of 21st street on either side of the actual crossing. Here, in a square that is about half a block on each side, you wil find a group of establishments that are either the source of some of the best food in town, the source of the best raw materials in town, or just a group of people who are connected to almost all the good food in town. Read On →

del.icio.us

The “recent bookmarks” on the sidebar come from one of Joshua Schachter’s projects, del.icio.us. Amusingly, I think I might have set this off when complaining on zephyr a few years ago about bookmark management – I use too many computers for local bookmark lists to be of any use at all. I kept whining and whining about how I wanted a way to not just access the same bookmarks from different computers, but easily, trivially add them from anywhere, too. Read On →

Today's Political Song:

Ding, Dong! The Witch is Dead!

Cheesemonger

It’s nice living in a town with a decent cheesemonger. [Penn Mac ](http://www.tleaves.com/weblog/images/articles/cheese.jpg) The unfortunately named Pennsylvania Macaroni Company is the go-to place in Pittsburgh. Located in the culinary center of town, the Strip, Penn Mac provides brusque, unsentimental service and a decent array of interesting cheeses at reasonable prices; 1 pound minimum. Their selection covers an impressive, though not encyclopedic, array of cheesy comestibles. If you go on a Saturday, when it’s packed, please know what you want in advance and don’t dither. Read On →

Software Engineering Terms: A Lexicon

Software engineering is a scientific discipline, as well as an art. Like many such fields, it has developed specific terminology and jargon, whose meaning may be subtly different or even completely opposite to what one would guess. In the interests of spreading enlightenment among budding software engineers, we have prepared this brief lexicon that covers some of the more important terms you may encounter in your career in software development: triage Common usage: “I haven’t made progress on that bug - it requires more triage.” Meaning: “If I hadn’t spent all afternoon talking to my friends on AIM I might have some idea what is causing the problem.” corner case Common usage: “The problem you are seeing is a corner case bug.” Meaning: “Compiling the source did not catch the bug. Read On →

Software Engineers: A lexicon

I’ve been working at software companies for the last 15 or so years of my life. In this time, I’ve worked with a lot of people who call themselves software engineers. The following is a collection of shallow, unfair, insulting and overly general classifications of the types of people you will run into if you get into this business. It’s up to the reader to figure out which category I fall into. Read On →

Grunen Holle

Nordschliefe. Kinda. My new favorite site, Autoblog, has pointed out a fabulous article on learning to drive the Nordschleife. Project Gotham Racing fans, start saving for airfare to Frankfurt. The Nordschliefe vies with Belgium’s Spa for the distinction of being one of the most famous and unforgiving road courses in the world. In 13 miles (!) it has over 100 corners (!!), and elevation changes that are more suited to an air show than a road race. Read On →

Blackberries

I’m not much of a gardener. A few years ago, I had a blackberry bramble growing in my back yard, and I killed it. Primocane Ironically, I killed it when trying to weed around it to give it space to grow. I broke a cane near the bramble that didn’t look – to me – like part of the bramble – it was a single sticky-uppy cane, with no flowers, and no fruit. Read On →

Les bluets

Summer brings with it blueberries, as suddenly the geography of the world food distribution network becomes clear. One day, little 6 ounce packages of Mexican blueberries sell for $4. The next day, $3 buys you a pint of berries from South Carolina. And so it goes, through the summer, the prices getting lower and the berries getting better and being shipped from further north. As autumn arrives, there is a last gasp of late Canadian blueberries, and then finally we return to meagre, shrunken berries from distant lands south of the equator. Read On →

Administrivia

I’ve invited psu to join me in this little writing adventure, which means the name – Tea and Peterb – will no longer be appropriate. Besides, secretly I hated that name anyway. Suggestions are welcome.

Classic Music is Dead (or at least Terminal)

Events have conspired this week to bring up a topic that I find sort of near and dear to my heart and yet simultaneously deeply depressing. That topic is the state of “classical” music in our modern times. Growing up, my father listened to nothing but classical music in the same way he read no paper except the New York Times. Once you hear the best, he reasoned, nothing else is interesting. Read On →

City of Heroes

In the mid-80’s, Saturday’s were for going over to Junot Diaz’s apartment (yes, “that” Junot Diaz) where we’d go into the basement and play role-playing games. I’d say we played “all day and all night,” but really they played all day and all night, and I’d play for just a couple of hours until my mother called and yelled at me to come home, because she thought it was unhealthy for a teenage boy to spend 14 hours in the basement playing D&D (personal to mom: OK, 20 years have passed and I can admit it. Read On →

Why Google Mail is Better than Mail.app

Mail.app is a desktop mail application for NeXT/Macos with a long development history. It does POP, IMAP, and so on. Has a rich UI. But it blows and Google mail does not. I’ve been using Mail.app day in and day out for the last 3 or 4 years, as my current job involves working with Macs a lot. I’ve come to a sort of grudging peace with the application, not pushing beyond the functionality that I know works fairly well. Read On →

Vegan cats

This story makes me angry. It’s about vegans who feed their cats vegan diets. Cats, you see, are obligate carnivores. Feeding them a diet without meat (or rather, with amino acids that are only found in adequate quantities in meat) is abuse. I can understand people who don’t eat animal products because they think it is cruel or exploitative, even though I don’t share that belief. But I have nothing but contempt for people who have ethical objections to eating any animal product, but delight in torturing their pet. Read On →

Cousin-Lovin' Haiku

A number of people have commented on my mockery of “Cousin Lovin’ Poetry,” responding with detailed and impassioned screeds about how I don’t understand genetics, how the Bible thinks that people who have sex with their cousins are morally superior to those that don’t, how in Saudi Arabia cousin-lovin’ is the norm, how Europeans are so much more sophisticated than Americans about this issue, et cetera, et cetera, ad nauseum. The lack of perspective on this is hilarious. Read On →