Saturday, September 12, 2009

SOS Linkfest: Tools, Tips, Stuff + Recipe!

It's Still Raining!

For the past few days the upper Texas coast has been slogging through a series of rainstorms.  Today we stayed pretty dry while the system move more over the “Golden-Triangle” area and East Texas, leaving metro-Houston area under a blanket of clouds and light precip.

Great day for couch-surfing and college-ball watching. The Cougs walked away with an upset but ND gave up their battle in the end.

SOS is the Best

It’s no secret that my favorite meal of the day is breakfast.  I’d eat traditional breakfast fare all day long if I could.

However, my most craved “breakfast” dish growing up and to this day is what we call “chipped beef on toast”.  Lavie will eat it though Alvis usually declines.  Old military guys refer to it as SOS.

A dreary and wet Saturday was an easy excuse to whip up a batch this morning.

My recipe variation is dead-simple, super-quick, and feeds me (or me and Lavie).  It is much lighter than this 1910 Manual for Army Cooks version that feeds 60 hungry troopers.

  • 2 Tablespoons butter
  • 2 Tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • Pepper (large-grind is my preference) to taste
  • Combine butter/flour/pepper in saucepan or medium-sized skillet over low to medium-low heat until melted.
  • Stir well (I use a wire whisk) and let get “bubbly” for about 1-2 minutes.  Watch carefully so the roux doesn’t burn, otherwise the gravy will not be white (though still good).
  • Take 1 cup whole milk and add to roux.  (to speed thing up, try microwaving the milk first for 30-45 sec.)
  • Whisk well to combine and get roux fully incorporated.
  • Bump up the heat to medium or a touch shy of medium. (your range may vary)
  • Find as much thin-sliced ham or beef lunchmeat as you care for. For me usually two packages of “Buddings” brand does nicely.  “cube” it up into fingernail-sized bits and add to gravy.
  • Continue stirring gravy mix now until thickened and meat has had a chance to warm up.

If it gets too thick (my preference is to be able to cling to a spoon held upside down) just add a bit more milk to thin (Lavie’s preference).

While it can be served over whole pieces (shingles) of toast, I prefer to cube up the toast first. Makes it easier to get it into my pie-hole faster!  In the past I used to tear the toast slices but I’ve found that using either of two tools can make fast and consistent work cubing up toast. Like Alton Brown of Good Eats! I like a kitchen multi-tasker.  Try cubing the hot toast with either a pizza cutter or a chopper/scraper.  Both work great!

I don’t add salt as the meat takes care of that to my tastes.  I do add the pepper immediately when making the roux as I think it brings out the oils in the pepper a bit and infuses the gravy better.

Couple this with a few hard-fried eggs and some hot coffee.


Beautiful Gantts

The Boss (the work one) requested that I convert my procedure checklist for our IT ops on opening up a new office (fulfilling and implementing the phones/network/server components) into more of a visual format so it was easier to see how all the different resources (IT staff) could be tracked.

Sounded like the perfect excuse to put it into a Gantt chart.

Among the various project management software items I posted before, I could have just reached for MS Office Project.  Unfortunately, only a few of us at work have MS Project.  I wanted something a bit more shareable.  The freeware tool ΤΙΜΙΟΣ Gantt Chart Designer is mighty easy to use (and portable!) but not really shareable.

I did find this awesome Office move plan (US units) – Template at Microsoft Office Online.  It is Excel compatible and is over the top with views.  I saved it to pick apart later.

Instead I picked through a few other really nice (and free) Excel templates for Gantt charts.

In the end I went back to my old standby (and updated to a 2009 release) that is compatible both with MS Excel 2003/2007 versions.

David’s been hard at work and his Design, Productivity, Inspiration, and Empowerment web-site is now officially “off-the-hook!”

Once I downloaded the Version 2 (2009) Gantt chart and after a few hours had it populated with my project template data and sent off to Boss (dully impressed I must say), I went back and found some great material on David’s site.

Couple some of these materials and David’s productivity and organization tips with many of the life-orienting productivity tips from Zen Habits and you might find a some B-12 for your brain!


I’ve been generally happy with Blogger as my blogging platform.  It is solid and I can tweak it to my heart’s content.

Last week I was chasing web-rabbits and somehow ended up stumbling upon Posterous.

Basically it’s a blogging platform that you can manage by sending emails to.  Sure Blogger can do that as well, but the pages have nice design and look and it can handle pictures, videos, as well as text content with some fancy formatting.

You can even add Google-Analytics code to it for tracking.

I’m not planning any switches but I like it and it seems to be gaining a modicum of popularity so I thought I would stake out a Grand Stream Dreams spot just to be safe.

I’ve not really got anything in mind for it quite yet but I do like having a “go-to” option for getting post material uploaded via email on the quick.

Tools of the Trade

I love a good set of tools.  My humble collection fits my needs but isn’t nearly as substantial (and cool) as either of my late grandfather’s tool collections.

While checking my feeds out I was intrigued by this Retro Thing post:

In the past I used to change my own watch batteries but my latest pair of daily watches have the fancy backs that require that special tool to twist off.  This looks like it could fit the bill nicely.

That reminded me (somehow) of this Hard Drive Errors and Replacements post over at SANS Computer Forensics, Investigation, and Response blog.  I’ve got a couple of dead-drives I’ve been wanting to open up to use as objet d'art for my desks.  Only they have that micro-Torx (?) screw head.  So I found that Amazon has quite a few nice micro-bit kits as well: SMALL TORX SCREWDRIVER SECURITY TAMPER PROOF HOLE T5 T6 T7 T8 T9 T10 T15: Home Improvement, or 33 pc. Security Bit Set: Home Improvement, or Maxtech 16521MX 32-Piece Precision Bit Set: Home Improvement.  I’m still going to try the mega-home improvement stores first but these look like a good backup plan.

Do any of the GSD faithful have any recommendations for HDD lid screw bit kits?  I’m open to suggestions!

“9” – Short Edition

I’ve really been intrigued by the trailers for the movie 9 (2009 film Wikipedia link).

So when I found this Geek Dad post 9 Things Parents Should Know About 9 over at Wired! I took the bait and read on with curiosity.

After that I hit the already provided Wikipedia link to get the plot (now spoilt but still sounds good).

Turns out that the full-length version of 9 was based on the short film 9 (2005 film Wikipedia link).

Amazingly, that short-film is up on YouTube in standard and HD versions!

  • YouTube – 9 - Shane Acker’s original short film/cartoon now adapted into a full CG movie

It’s just over 10 min in runtime and though it doesn’t give away any of the full-length movie plot points, it is a great film and great to watch for all you steampunk fans.

For Lavie only (OK if Alvis peeks also): New Moon

Yep. She’s a Twilight fan. 

I’ve read the first book and found it fun.  I’ve seen the movie with the girls on DVD more times that I can now recall.

Lavie’s consumed/devoured/gorged herself on all the current books in the series as well as the “official” unofficial release of the first book (Midnight Sun) from Edward’s perspective.  Lavie has also gotten lost in the depths of the Twilight fan-fiction sites now.

I was able to bring her up today for this; New Moon’s latest trailer.

Nothing like the rain to bring out the fun.


--Claus V.

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