Everybody wants to save the earth, nobody wants to help mom do the dishes.  --P.J. O'Rourke

Saturday, November 7, 2009

Local Motors Rally Fighter - The First Crowd Sourced Car

Local Motors is a Wareham Mass. based startup with a very cool, novel and perhaps paradigm changing model for building cars.  The basic idea is crowd sourced car designs based on a spec chassis and then built in a regional micro factory.  As I understand it, there would be a design contest within the local motors online community with the designers getting feedback and assistance from the community - the online community also selects the winning design.  The designs are based on a spec chassis and Local Motors seems to be partnering with Factory 5 racing, a well established custom car builder.  I believe, thought the site is a little vague here, the details of the design such as the doors, tail lights, dash etc. are then designed by the community and I believe they are paid for their work.  The Rally Fighter above is their first "production" model, based on community design.  It's powered by a BMW engine and has an adjustable ride height suspension.  They have built a real, in the flesh, prototype that garnered significant buzz and enthusiasm at this years SEMA show.  It's kindof fun looking at the details of the various components to figure out where there were sourced.  I am 99.97% sure they are using the trunk struts from a VW Phaeton and the tail lights look to be Honda Civic sourced.  They are taking deposits on the Rally fighter now and have 40 some odd folks in line to get theirs at around $50K.  I have got to go down and check out their operation, they are really small right now, but I bet they could use a top flight PM, and I would love to be involved with an effort like this.
Here is a link to their web site: Local Motors

Friday, November 6, 2009

Quick and Easy Chicken Gyro's

While it's certainly true that the quickest and easiest gyros at the neighborhood Greek joint or "House of Pizza", the vast majority of take out gyros are made with some weird, processed, sausage-like mystery meat.      There is no reason you should have to settle for those when really delicious gyros are so easily (and quickly) made at home.

  • Real thick pita bread - Not the sandwich pockets.  Real thick and puffy pita bread can sometimes be a bit hard to find, (Costco sells it) but plain Indian naan bread is equally good and more readily available (Whole Foods sells it).
  • Tomato and Onion
  • Lemon
  • Oregano
  • Garlic
  • Olive Oil
  • S&P
  • Tzatziki (I use a quality pre-made for simplicity, but it's easy to make your own)
  • Kalamata Olives
  • Chicken (boneless breast or thigh)
  • Decent Feta Cheese.
NB:  I purposely did not give amounts because this is the kind of dish where you can pretty much wing it, but if it helps, to serve four I bought; 1.3lb of Chicken used the juice of one whole lemon and 3 garlic cloves for the chicken and marinade.

  • Cut chicken into thin short strips and place in Ziploc freezer bag with; the juice of the lemon, dash of oregano, S&P, a few cloves of minced garlic and olive oil. marinate for 1/2 hour or so.
  • While chicken is marinating, coarsely chop tomato and onion and mix
  • Pit and chop olives
  • Crumble Feta
  • If you are making your own tzatziki, make it now.
  • Brush pita or naan bread with olive oil, salt and pepper.
  • Heat Grill or Grill pan and large frying pan over high heat
  • Sear chicken in frying pan, letting it get nice and crusty
  • Warm naan bread one at a time in grill pan (or grill) until nice and pillowy with nice grill marks slightly charred.  It is pretty easy to do this while you are searing chicken if you are quick and pay attention.  cover the pita with foil to keep it warm.  If you are not doing this step concurrently with chicken, put the cooked chicken in a 200 degree oven to keep warm.
Diners assemble their own gyros like tacos, with chicken on pita topped with tzatziki, feta and tomato & onion mixture.  I will sometimes as some Romain cause that's the kind of guy I am.  The whole process takes a little over a half hour.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Don't Fall For The InkJet Scam !

In my humble and estimable opinion, Inkjet's are right up there with Bernie Madoff when it comes to hoovering up your money.  If you have kids, the cost of replacement inkjet cartridges during their primary school years could in all likelihood pay for an ivy league tuition.  The printer companies sucker you in with ultra cheap prices on the entry level inkjet printers just like the Cellular providers get you with a cheap phone.  Once they get you in for a Penny, they're into you for their Pound.  Personally I am not sure what is the more usurious, the amount of coin the phone company charges for text messages or the cost of inkjet cartridges, both are blatant ripoffs. Thankfully, most of the cheap inkjets printers give up the ghost within a few years, but the intervening time will be filled with jams, agonizingly slow printing, clogs and endless trips to Staples for more ink.  One Ink or two ink refills and you have probably already shelled out the original purchase price.  Before you do your cost bene analysis, it has been my experience that the ink cartridges don't last nearly as many pages as the manufacturers estimates.  Don't count on getting cheap third party replacement ink, the manufacturers change the cartridge design frequently and some have chips inside them that will expire the cartridge and render it useless after a period of time.  Believe me, they guard this revenue with an intensity unmatched by the most bloodthirsty Yakuza.  Even if you already have one, just toss it or sell it on e-bay and get yourself a decent Laser Printer.  It might cost you three or four times the price of the cheapy inkjet, but a good laser printer is worth that differential many times over.  There is also a hidden discount over an inkjet, the laser printer will probably come with toner.  Sure the Inkjet comes with ink, but it won't last 1/20th as long as the laser toner.  Bear in mind, that replacement toner cartridges are mind numbingly expensive, but they last a good long time.  My Dell laser's original cartridges lasted for well over a year and my kids have by now printed off a hardcopy of the internet. If you are a professional photographer, by all means get a high quality inkjet, but your average household will be much better served with a laser,

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Sennheiser H595, Shure E4c, Bose QC15 - Three Way Shootout/Review

The arrival of the Ipod has changed the way we listen to music, you're no longer chained down to a big receiver and speakers, and many of us listen to the majority of our music on headphones.  Before the Ipod, headphones were kindof a niche/geek product that most people didn't give a second thought to, and now they are a must have item.  When choosing a set of headphones, you should take into account the following four criteria:

1. Where & When You Listen
2. Your Budget
3. Comfort
4. Sound Quality

The three headphones in this review are all very different and represent the three general types of headphones; open backed big traditional headphones, noise cancelling headphones and earphones. To see which type is right for you let's see how they each compare in the criteria set out above.


Sennheiser HD595:

Where and When You Listen - Just as their name implies, open backed headphones have nothing between the outside world and your ear and headphone drivers.  When wearing them, you can hear the outside world, and they can hear your music (albeit at greatly reduced volume).  If you listen to your music in close proximity to another person, you're gonna piss them off.  If you listen in a loud environment, you won't be able to hear your music.  The positive side of this type is that if you need to be at least minimally aware of outside noises (the phone ringing for example) they are well suited for that.

Your Budget - Despite an MSRP of $325 these can be had for nearly half that amnount if you shop carefully, as I speak they are $179 at Amazon.

Comfort - With a cushioned adjustable headband, light weight and ultra soft padded ear cups the HD595 is by far the most comfortable of the three.

Sound Quality - Sennheiser has been making headphones since Christ left Chicago and it shows in spades, easily the greatest sound quality of the trio, with an open, expansive, more natural and balanced sound than the other two.  There is one caveat here however, the HD595 needs a fair amount of current at louder volumes to sound its best.  My Ipod does not put out enough power to drive these to their fullest, it's okay, but if you can pair the Ipod with a headphone amp or stereo amp headphone jack, the HD595 will rock your world.  I use the "Total Airhead" portable headphone amp by Headroom.

Shure E4c

Where and When You Listen - The Shure E4 is an "in ear" ear canal earphone, and when I say "in ear", I mean it, to get the best sound out of these you need to jam it pretty far into your ear canal.  The obvious benefit of this is the best sound isolation of the bunch, I used these the other day while operating a belt sander attached to a shop vac and the outside noise was barely audible, for comparison I tried the Bose QC15 at the same time and the Shures were noticeably better at muffling the noise.  You can't hear the outside world and it can't hear you, period. These are the green eggs and ham of earphones, you can wear them on a train, on a bus, on a plane - you will like them anywhere.  They are also the smallest and lightest.  Although they are the best of this crop for activities, be aware that the cables can transmit a lot of sound when they rub against your body.  It's a kind of rustling sound, like wind on a microphone, but with careful placing of the cables this is minimized.

Your Budget - The E4c is not a current Shure model, but can still be purchased if you look around.  Pricing is remarkably similar to the HD595 with an MSRP of $319 and a street value of $169.

Comfort - This is a tough one, as everyone's ears are different and some people have an aversion to sticking things in their ear canal.  The Shures come with a variety of different tips to suit individual ears and preferences.  I use the yellow foam tips which closely resemble foam earplugs and are made from a similar material and I find them reasonably comfortable.

Sound Quality -  A good tight fit is imperative if you want to get good sound out of these, with a poor fit they sound like crap, but once you find a good fit, the sound quality is impressive.  Though not quite the equal of the Sennheisers, the Shures have a nicely balanced sound, with a strong tight bass, and awesome midrange and balanced, not overly bright treble.  What's especially cool about these is that with the music being piped straight into your eardrums, you notice details you've never heard before, even with the stock Itunes codec. In my opinion, these have the second best sound quality, lacking only the outright punch and soundstage of the HD595s

Bose QC15

Where and When You Listen - These are a close second to the Shures when it came to versatility, they reduce noise nicely, while still allowing you to hear conversations.  The don't project much sound into the environment and will not annoy your seat mates or room mates.  You can't jog in them, but if you are stationary or walking, these will stay put.

Your Budget - Bose products are never cheap, and I have yet to see one "on sale"  These have an MSRP of $300 and sell for $300.  On the plus side, they are very well built and come with a handy case and airplane sound adapters.  Bose customer service is also very good and they stand behind their products, but it's gonna cost you.

Comfort - The QC's are very comfortable, but their more compact dimensions leaves less room for your ears and this keeps them from edging out the HD595 in my opinion, but this is a matter of taste, there is not that much distance between the two in terms of comfort.

Sound Quality - The sound quality of these is a bit of a disappointment for $300 headphones, it's not bad per se, but to my ears they don't sound as open or as detailed as the other two.  Life is a compromise and these are not a bad compromise, they don't ultimately sound as good as the other two, but they are less finicky and intrusive than the Shures and more flexible then the Senn's when it comes to listening locations

BOTTOM LINE: For the best sound, traditional circumaural (around the ear) open back headphones like the HD595 are without peer.  Ear Canal earphones like the Shures offer great sound (although it make take some twiddling and trial and error) combined with the best sound deadening, and the ultimate in portability.  I know that Bose markets the QC15 on it's ability to eliminate external noise, but realistically, there is only so much they can do with AAA battery power, in really loud environments (like a jackhammer or rock concert) the ear canal phones excel, there is a reason that professional musicians use them as sound monitors.  The Bose QC's offer a decent amount of noise reduction (suitable for most office and travel settings), while remaining comfortable and portable, but they lack some of the sound fidelity of the other two and cost a fortune to boot.

Monday, November 2, 2009

Deep Fried Hollandaise - A Culinary Thneed

New York Chef  Wylie Dufresne managed to make a version of Eggs Benedict (pictured above - I kid you not) with breaded cubes of deep fried Hollandaise Sauce.  I have no idea what possessed him, but it's done using a couple a stabilizers from commercially processed food.  In Dufresnes defense, these two bites of EB are served as an appetizer, not an entree.  I wonder if his next appetizer will be miniature Turduckens made with Cornish Hens, Quayle and Squab.