Sunday, March 2, 2014

Easy and fast mac & cheese from scratch!

Just the mention of a roux can send some amateur cooks into a fit, and I have to admit that mine often aren't perfect, so I tend to shy away from them. But a roux is at the heart of mac & cheese. For those who aren't aware, a roux is a blend of fat and starch that forms a pasty or saucy mixture that doesn't separate. This can be very useful for making gravies and sauces. Mac & cheese is just pasta in a cheese sauce, so it's usually a roux of butter or other oil, cheese and either corn starch or flour.

Below, I'll go into the recipe for a basic mac & cheese using this technique and then a few ways you can "dress it up" with other ingredients. But I have to stress that mac & cheese is a basic canvas. Get creative and try whatever you want! If you're trying to keep carbs in line, don't have this more than once a week, and consider one of the high-fiber, high-protein pastas that have a lower glycemic index.

Basic version:

  • 2 tbsp canola or peanut oil
  • 1 tbsp butter
  • 3 cups water
  • 2 cups pasta (more if it's a large shell or the like)
  • 1 cup cheddar or other flavorful cheese, shredded
  • 1/2 cup cream cheese cut into small cubes
  • salt & pepper to taste

Friday, January 17, 2014

Cryptocurrencies: The future of Bitcoin and its peers

The Bitcoin logo
Bitcoin is a name that most people have heard of. You might not have heard the term "cryptocurrency" or the names of other examples such as Litecoin, Peercoin or Dogecoin. Cryptocurrency refers to any currency type that uses cryptography to ensure the verifiability and in most cases, anonymity of all transactions. Bitcoin was the first modern cryptocurrency, but there have been many others. In fact, creating a new cryptocurrency is so easy that the proliferation of them is getting a bit out of control. A new currency introduced this month, for example, only has 42 possible coins that can be mined--an homage to Douglas Adams' Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy comedy / science fiction series of novels. These vanity and joke currencies began after an Internet meme was turned into the only semi-serious cryptocurrency, "Dogecoin," which refers to the misspelling of "dog" often used on Web sites such as reddit.com.

So, is this just a silly and short-lived flurry of activity? Will Bitcoin and all it's silly ilk die off?

Saturday, December 21, 2013

Solving the Wikipedia problem

Today I was reading an AMA discussion on reddit from a Wikipedia admin. Much of the conversation centered around either delitionism (editors and admins on Wikipedia who want to delete lots of pages that they don't consider important) or the creeping vandalism of special interests. I've long thought that both problems could be solved by creating a new service to replace Wikipedia, so let me put my thoughts down in writing.

Saturday, December 14, 2013

Copyright again: 15 years may be the sweet spot


It's worth watching this video in general, but I've linked to a specific point (if the video doesn't start at 16:24, then skip forward to there) where they present some really surprising data: in general, book publishers stop publishing books after between 10 and 20 years. What this means is that if you want to find a book published 20-40 years ago, you're probably not going to find it unless it's one of the few books that either was made into a movie or is required for some college coursework. Want to find William Gibson's Johnny Mnemonic? Sure, that had some big budget actors in the film adaptation, but Connie Willis's Fire Watch? Yeah so, how about a Kindle version? And that's the lucky ones that are available as ebooks! Many are simply lost.

Sunday, November 24, 2013

Spoiler-filled Doctor Who 50th Anniversary episode

Promo Image for the episode from SFX
Let's just jump right into it. First off, this is a massive spoiler-filled review! Do not read this if you have not seen the episode!

Everyone else gone? Okay, let me get the complaints out of the way: I think the fan service was laid on a bit too thick. I love Doctor Who, but man, this made even me cringe at times! There was no real reason for the Doctor to marry the queen. Having Baker appear was kind of strained (though, see below) and I thought the epilogue was kind of painful.

That's really it. I have no other complaints.

The rest of the episode was excellent.

Saturday, November 9, 2013

Retiring two blogs, starting another!

I've made some pretty large changes in my life of late. If you've read my other posts, you know that I'm now a Freemason. Big change! I end up attending 3-4 meetings per month (1 is my Lodge's required monthly meeting, and the others are things I choose to participate in) and then I pitch in where I can and attend cool events like our recent historic walking tour of Cambridge. So this means that I have much less time and mental bandwidth for things like video games and some of my spare-time software hacking. Because of that, I'm bringing my two blogs dedicated to those topics to a close. Those blogs are:

ajsgaming.blogspot.com and ajssoftwaredev.blogspot.com

They will continue to exist, but I probably won't post to them any more, and if I do, it will be very, very infrequent.

A Sierpinski tetrahedron
from momath.org
I'm also spinning up a new blog about Freemasonry that I will be trying to update regularly along with this one. That new blog is at:

tetrahedralmason.blogspot.com

The Tetrahedral Freemason is all about my experiences as I explore what it means to be a better man, from working to improve my community to learning about the past to being there for my brothers to the esoteric and philosophical aspects of it all.

If you have questions, you can post replies to my posts there or here, and I'll try to answer you as best I can.

Sunday, October 20, 2013

Cambridge Masonic Temple Open House yesterday

Open House at the
Cambridge Masonic Temple
By Aaron Sherman

As I posted on Google Plus and Facebook, yesterday, we had a state-wide Open House in the Masonic Lodges in Massachusetts along with several other states which followed our example of previous years.

To recap the event, we had a good turnout. Lots of folks wanted the full tour and I started to get a sense of what was useful and not useful to cover for someone looking at us from the outside. In case anyone's curious, here's how it went:

Usually we'd start in the basement function hall to grab a snack or drink if they wanted any. We'd hang out there and chat to see if we could bundle up a group and then proceed to the second floor "business room" which is just an informal room with a big table for hanging out and talking before meetings or otherwise having less formal events like our book club. We'd talk about the history: when the Grand Lodge of England was formed (1717), when the Massachusetts Grand Lodge was formed (1733), when the oldest Lodge associated with the Cambridge Masonic Temple was formed (1805) and when the Cambridge Masonic Temple was built (1910).