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Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Home Security System - Part 4

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Home Security System -Part 4

When using the magnets I bought at Radio Shack for testing, I found that:

  • The sun-room, which has 5 windows and 1 exterior door: all windows and the door were wired individually, with the 6 wires being pulled down to the security box.  None of the window nor the door have magnets in them; just the sensor in the frame.  So I'll have to drill a small hole to insert and glue some magnets (I bought some smaller ones from Staples at 6 for $3.00 that are smaller than the ones from Radio Shack).
  • The dining room, which has 2 windows, had a sensor on each window, but the test revealed that the wire from the left window never made it into the security box.  So I pulled the sensor up out of the window frame, cut the wire, and patched it into the wire for the sensor on the right window.  So now these two windows are daisy chained (series) wired together.  I tested this at the security box and they are good to go, but I'll have to add the missing magnets into the windows as noted above for the sun-room.
  • The living room has 2 windows, and they both tested OK, but are missing magnets, so they will get the same magnet install treatment.
  • The front door does not have a sensor on it.  I'm going to buy a simple door/window sensor.  I'll pull the wire from the nearby living room window and splice it into that wire, so the left window and the door will be on the same circuit (daisy chained) while the right window will be on its own circuit.  However, I'm thinking about putting a PIR detector in this area, so I may have all three (2 windows, 1 door) on one wire (daisy chained) and the other wire going to the PIR.
  • The den has two windows.  They are missing sensors.  The exterior door into the den does not have a sensor.  I'm thinking about pulling a wire from the closest sun-room window to the two den windows and the door, so they would all be on the same circuit together.  
At first I thought I would just ignore the door and window sensors and just go with PIR devices, but then I realized that, during the daytime when we are moving around downstairs, we would have to take the PIRs out of service to avoid alarming on our movements.  But I want to be able to alarm if someone is coming in, so that meant I needed to be able to take PIRs out of service while leaving the windows and exterior doors in service, so I need to get the windows and doors going.

I'm moving along pretty nicely.  Tomorrow I hope to drill and glue up the magnetic buttons over all of the sensors.

Also, during my 'Quick Hitter', I bought some fake exterior cameras.  I intend to install some real cameras, but I wanted more time to do some research before committing to a brand, so I bought these fake cameras.  I mounted 2 of them today.  They have a blinking red led on them, and are actual cases for actual cameras, so they look real enough.  It took about 10 mins to mount them.  I put them where they would be easily seen, as I'm wanting to deter someone from breaking in.  The 'video surveillance' signs should be coming soon...

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Monday, December 26, 2011

Home Security System - Part 3

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Home Security System - Part 3

Unable to find locally the little 'recessed security window magnetic reed switch' so I went to Radio Shack and bought some magnets, with the idea being that I will place the magnet on each of the sensors on the windows downstairs and then see if I get any continuity at the system box.

I was able to buy 10 magnets at Radio Shack for about $6.00 for testing.

A brief note: Windows and doors typically use a simple sensor - it's typically a reed switch that can be closed (electrically like turning a light switch to 'on') by the presence of a magnet; removing the magnet causes the reed switch to 'open' (electrically like turning a light switch to 'off').

What I had observed on the windows was a little circular tab (the reed switch and wires) on the casement of the window sill, under the window pane itself.  There should have been a magnet installed on the wooden frame of the window pane, but the builder had not installed these.  Normally, opening the window by sliding the window pane up, with the magnet attached, would pull the magnet away from the reed switch and the circuit would be electrically open, which typically is the alarm function.

An installer has a choice when installing the sensors; they can 'daisy chain' the sensors together, so in the case (like ours) where we have 5 windows side-by-side (in the sun-room; the rest of house windows are also wired), the wire would go window-sensor to window-sensor, and after all 5 had been been joined, a single wire would be taken down the security box.  This would have meant that, if any one window, or any combination of windows including all windows, had been opened, then the circuit would be open.  This would mean there's no way to determine which window was opened, just that one or more of the windows on that daisy chain had been opened.  The benefit to this approach is (from your view) is that this constitutes a zone, and it will only take up one sensor slot on your security motherboard.   So, in this case where I have 5 windows, it would have taken up just one sensor slot on the security mother board.  And since they are all side-by-side windows, I don't care about which window might be in alarm, just interested in knowing that one of these windows - any one, is in alarm. So this would be a good area for a daisy chain, and a 'zone'.

Another way to wire this is to have each window have it's own individual wire go down to the security box.  This way, you know which individual window was opened.  But this means you would have to use 1 sensor slot per window sensor.  So you get more detailed information (which individual window is alarming), but at the cost of more slots used on your security motherboard.  As it turns out, my windows were individually wired this way; I was expecting daisy chain, but instead it was wired for each window to be sensed.  So all 5 wires were pulled to my security motherboard.

Since most security motherboards have a limited number of sensor-slots, it is usually the case that you won't want to sense the individual window.  For example, my DSC 1500/1550 motherboard only has 6 sensor slots total.  So, if I were to wire up each of my 5 windows to an individual slot on the security motherboard, then that would just leave me 1 more slot for the entire rest of the house!  Not what I want.

Note: For the following to be clear, we need to make a distinction between a wire.  In this case, when I'm referring to a wire, it's referring to the 2-conductor wire that goes from the window sensor to the security box.  Inside of this wire are 2 conductor wires, which I'll refer to as conductor 1 and conductor 2.  So a wire, in this case is what goes from the sensor to the security box, and this wire has 2 conductors.

So down at the security box, where all of my wires come in, I'm going to have to join each of the 5 wires from the window sensors into a daisy chain.  This means I will take, starting with the first window sensor wire (each of these wires are a 2-conductor wire), I will take one of the conductors and join it with one conductor from the second window sensor wire.  So I'm joining a conductor from wire 1 to a conduct from wire 2.  Then from this 2nd sensor wire, I will take the second conductor and join it with a conductor from wire 3.  So at this point, I've got 3 sensors daisy chained together: wire 1 conductor 1 is joined to wire 2 conductor 1, and wire 2 conductor 2 is joined to wire 3 conductor 1.  I will join wire 4 to wire 3 in this manner, and wire 5 to wire 4 in this manner.  When I am finished, I will have 1 conductor from wire 1, and 1 conductor from wire 5, left over; these are the beginning and the end of the daisy chain.  These 2 wires are the ones that will be connected to the sensor slot on the security motherboard, and will allow the security mother board to detect any window opening in the daisy chain on that slot.

This will occupy 1 slot on my security motherboard.

Since my system only has 6 slots total available, I've used up 1 slot, or 1/6, or 16.6% of my available slots just on the windows in the sun room.  So, I may decide to add some other windows that are close by to this zone.  For instance, the sun room has a door to the outside porch.  Since it's in the same area as the windows, I may decide that I don't care about being able to differentiate between this door and those windows being open, in which case I'll add the door to the daisy chain at the security box.  However, if I want the door separate, than I won't want to add this door to the daisy chain, and would add it to it's own individual slot.

So the determination I'm faced with: a) I have 6 sensor slots total, and I have a lot of windows, and a lot of doors in this house, which means some windows are going to have to be daisy chained, and maybe some doors.  b) I want to, at least, know that a certain area of the house has gone into alarm, rather than the whole house just being a jumbled up mess - I would like to know the area that is in alarm.  So I will probably daisy chain the sensors in a common area together.  This means I will probably join the sun room windows sensors with the sun room exterior door, along with two other close by windows in the den; this would mean I have 7 windows and 1 door joined together.  This is the approach I'm going to have to take throughout the house in able to be able to detect with just 6 slots.

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Home Security System - Part 2

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Home Security System - Part 2
So, now I find us, 16 years later (today is Dec 26, 2011, and I'm retired), without a Burglar Alarm or Security System, and home invasions are taking place.  There have been 2 in the last 6 months in our area, one of which was about a mile from our home, and another about 2 miles from our home.  They appear to be deliberately waiting until the family is home before breaking in - 5 men breaking in around dinner time or early evening, tieing up the family, then ransacking the home for 3 hours.

So we're on edge about this, and I want to get our Security System online.

I gave this some thought, coming up with a plan:

  • My immediate goal is to get a Quick Hitter in place.  This may not solve all my desires, but it should give me some assistance with our security immediately.  It should make things better than they are without making anything any worse than it already is.
  • My next goal is to get our existing system online.  This could take some time to bring back to functional.  So it's divided into the following steps: 1) Examine existing system and determine whether to proceed with it or abandon it; 2) if proceed, then make it functional.
  • My final goal is to enhance our existing system (if possible) or add a new system.

Quick Hitter
  • Add external fake security cameras.  Since these aren't functional, they don't take long to install.  They may not stop all criminals, but they should give them pause for thought, and hopefully will deter some.  I can have all 6 installed in a day.  Ordered, waiting on delivery.
  • Add external 'video security surveillance' signs and place in prominent positions on the edge of the property.  Again, they won't stop all criminals, but should help and can't hurt. I can have all 6 installed in the same day I put the cameras up. Ordered, waiting on delivery.

Existing System
So I've spent the last couple of days determining the state of our system - it was left in the house but never finished.  Based upon that determination, I will:

  • Get the existing system functional and online and add additional capability.
  • Move on to a new system altogether.
The existing system is a DSC 1500/1550.  The thought of using the existing system has some appeal to me.  It appears that all of the doors and windows already have sensors installed, and the sensor wires pulled back to the system box.  In addition, there are two (2) keypads, located where we can work with the system, to acknowledge alerts, stop alarms, arm the system, and create an instant alarm.  So, since it's already there, I would like to utilize it.  In addition, there's an exterior siren already installed.  But this means a 'do it yourself' or DIY project.  It was missing the power supply, which I've ordered and received, along with a battery, which I haven't bought yet.

However, the existing system is in the current state:
  • There's just a bunch of wires in the system box.  They aren't labeled, and I don't know where they go.  In addition, there are different types of wires, which I would assume are doing different types of functions.  I counted 17 wires in the box.  These can be divided into 4 categories: 2 2-conductor round 18ga wires; 3 4-conductor 22 ga round wires (2 of which go to the keypads - don't know where the other goes, unless it was to the phone line which we don't have anymore - we're all cellular); 4 2-conductor flat wires (2 of which are brown, 2 of which are white - I suspect 1 or 2 of these are siren wires); and 11 2-conductor round 22 ga wires (which I suspect are sensor wires).  So I've got a bit of a problem here with all of the different wires, none of which are labeled.
  • I don't know if the system board is functional.
  • I don't know if the keypads are functional.
  • I don't know if the sensors are functional.
Existing System First Step

  1. Pulled all the wires out and categorized them (see above).  Done  Note: my system has no power going to it yet, so all the work I'm doing is to a powerless system at this point.  The last thing I want to do is power it up, and certainly not while I'm determining the state of everything!
  2. Pull the keypads out so I can get to the wiring.  Done
  3. Examine wiring to identify in system box: Done it's round 4 conductor 18 ga.  I have 3 of these in the box, but only 2 keypads, so 1 of those wires doesn't go to a keypad!  
  4. Identify which keypad goes to which wire in system box.  If there were only 2 wires and 2 keypads, then I wouldn't need to do this, but there are 3 wires, so I don't know which isn't a keypad.  Done  Did this by performing a continuity check and labeled in system box.
  5. Determine which sensor is associated with which wire, so I can identify the zones.  This means stripping off the insulation on each 2-conductor sensor wire and performing a continuity check.  It should read 'closed' or 'continuity' or very low resistance when the sensor is on a window or door that is closed.  Remember - this system wasn't supposed to be installed in our house, so who knows what work was done and what work was not done.  Bad news: all sensors are in open state!  That means: a) either the sensors are not connected to the wires, b)there aren't any magnets next to the sensors to make the sensors closed, c)the sensors have all failed in the open position.  In my opinion, C isn't viable, A isn't likely, so that leaves me with B as the most likely.  Sure enough, a quick examination of a window casing shows the sensor in place, but no magnet on the window itself.
Well, this is going to be a bit of a thorn.  Here's a rough look at a 'daisy chain' of 4 sensors that would constitute a 4 sensor zone, showing them all closed (non alarming).

Here's a rough look at that same 'daisy chain' of 4 sensors, with the 2nd sensor open (alarming), and the other 3 closed (non alarming).
___--____/ ____--____--____

Th 2nd sensor open (shown as __/  __) would stop the flow of electricity, the same as a light switch stopping the flow of electricity to a light bulb.  This one open sensor stops all of the flow.  Any of the sensors going open causes the flow to stop and the system to go to alarm.

Since usually the sensors in a zone are daisy chained together, this means for me to test my sensors, and I suspect all of my sensors are missing magnets, I have to somehow ensure all the sensors in a daisy chain have magnets to place into a closed state before I can test.  Since this is an abandoned project by the builder, I don't know what sensors are in a daisy chain together, and will be guessing at it at best.  If I'm wrong and I miss just one sensor in the daisy chain, then I will just see an open circuit at the system box.  In order to see a closed state, all sensors in the daisy chain have to have a magnet installed.  So that may be a bit of a problem, since I have no way of knowing which sensors in the house are on a single daisy chain.....but I'm going to try!

The first thing: get some magnets!

And that's where I'm at right now!

Home Security System - Part 1

Link to Part 2 of this article.

Home Security System Part 1
When we lived in Brandon, FL, we had a home security system, and kept it armed every single day.  That system was damaged when we had a lightning strike 50 feet from the house - it welded 'closed' all of the magnetic sensors throughout the whole house!  So, if you opened a window or door, with the sensor being welded closed, the open door or window could not be detected.  I turned in my claim to the insurance company and they paid me directly the fee quoted by a couple of security companies for repair.  Seems like it was about $1,600.  That was a lot of money looking straight at me, so I had a choice: pay some other people to affect the repairs; pocket the money and don't repair the system; pocket the money and repair the system myself.

I decided it was at least worth taking a look at to determine whether or not I could repair it myself, and it wouldn't cost me anything to look, nor would it increase the repair bill, so I took a look.  This was pre-internet days, so no access to information much during that time for things like this.

Each window had a small magnetic sensor that had been drilled and inserted into the window or door casing, while a magnet had been glued directly opposite the sensor onto the sliding portion of the window or swinging part of the door.  Opening the window moved the magnet away from the magnetic sensor, which cause the contacts within that sensor to become electrically 'open', and the alarm was triggered!  Just that simple!  The sensor was easy to removed, so I took one out and took it with me to Radio Shack, who I knew had a few alarm systems.....they had it, and they were cheap - like $3.00 or so each!  So I bought enough for the house, went home and enlisted my young daughter to help me, and we spent the rest of the day replacing sensors....all of them.  Next I pulled the mother board and went to an alarm company, and they sold me a replacement mother board, along with the installation manual - and that manual is important because it tells you how to set up the mother board. I went  back home, swapped out the mother board, powered it up, did the setup on the motherboard, and bingo - we were in business!  With just a couple of hours of work, plus maybe $200 or less in parts, $20 for my daughter, and I had completely repaired our alarm system, and had pocketed almost $1,400!

When we moved here to Alpharetta GA in 1995 from Brandon, our home was under construction.  I was presented with a contract for an alarm monitoring company and alarm system.  I turned it down - it was out of reason, and felt I could purchase a system later.

When we moved in and were settled, I noticed an alarm box in the basement.  When I opened it up, I was shocked to see a motherboard and all the sensor wires had been pulled.  They weren't connected but were ready to be connected.  The best news was - this was the same system I had repaired in Brandon Fl!

So, you guessed it - it sat there for the next 16 years, and I never got a round tuit (tuits come in round, left and right - as in 'round tuit', 'left tuit', and 'right tuit' - I keep all the 'tuits' hidden from my wife, then I can say - " I will do that as soon as I can get 'a round tuit', and since I know where all of them are, I never get one!).

Link to Part 2 of this article.

Monday, December 19, 2011

Banjo's Easy Shrimp Bisque - Sous Vide

We recently bought a frozen package of shrimp from Costco.  It's labeled as Kirkland's Raw Tail On Shrimp, 21-25 count per pound, 2 pounds.

I've enjoyed using this shrimp in different ways to make different meals.

Today I'm going to make an original - Banjo's Easy Shrimp Bisque - Sous Vide.  It's easy because I'm using 2 cans of Bar Harbor Lobster Bisque as the base, and Sous Vide to cook it.

For those of you not familiar with Sous Vide, it is a water-bath immersion method of cooking utilizing precise temperatures.  For additional insight, see this link.  Since shrimp can easily be over cooked, this is a great utilization of Sous Vide cooking.  Note: there are several ways to cook Sous Vide, and I've done them all.  If you are doing this for home cooking, then have a look at the Sous Vide Supreme, a great home tool.


  • 2 - 4, depending on whether it's the main course or accompanying other elements.


  • Prep: 15 mins
  • Cooking: 1 hour in Sous Vide (no attention required on your part - put it in and walk away)
  • Total: 1 hr 15 mins


  • 2 cans (10.5 oz each) of Bar Harbor Lobster Bisque.  Note: if you can't find this brand, then look for premium brands of bisque.  It can be lobster, shrimp, or crab.  Lobster is what our local grocery store carries.
  • 6 frozen (or fresh if you are local to a good source!) shrimp taken from 21-25 count shrimp.
  • 1 gallon Heavy Duty Freezer ZipLoc bag.
  • Optional: 1/4 cup cream
  • Sous Vide cooker.

    Sorry about the goofy alignment of the pictures.  Google Blog isn't giving me much capability to align them with the text.

  1. Preheat Sous Vide to 142dF.
  2. Remove 6 shrimp from frozen shrimp bag.
  3. Place into the ZipLoc bag.
  4. Remove all air from ZipLoc bag.  If not familiar with how to do this, go to and view this video.
  5. Submerge ZipLoc into Sous Vide.
  6. Heat shrimp for 10 minutes to thaw - they should be orange-ish in color now. 
  7. Remove shrimp from ZipLoc bag and place onto cutting board.  Retain the shrimp-water that is in bag for flavor in bisque.
  8. Remove tails by pinching meat out while pulling on tail - this extracts all of the meat.  
  9. Discard tails (or you can retain and pull out later - your preference).
  10. Finely chop shrimp.  You want a real-fine grained chop here - pulp is good.
  11. Place ZipLoc bag into large bowl, and bend back the top of the bag so  the lip of bag doesn't get food on it.  The bowl is here to stop any mess while providing support for the bag to remain open while you are adding ingredients.
  12. Place shrimp back into ZipLoc bag.
  13. Add both cans of lobster bisque into ZipLoc bag.  If adding cream, add now.
  14. Close most of bag while squeezing air out of bag.
  15. Carry bowl with bag to sink, and fill bowl with water while preventing bag from filling with water.
  16. Remove all air from ZipLoc bag.  If not familiar with how to do this, go to and view this video.
  17. Cook for 1 hour (or more - this is one of the beauties of Sous Vide Cooking) at 142dF.
  18. Serve into individual bowls.
  19. Top with a little cracked pepper, salt to taste.

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Banjo Daytrading - Trading ES with TICKs

To understand this post, you'll need to know something about Market Profile.  If you aren't familiar with it, then google it - too much required to put here for this entry on trading the TICKS (that's the NYSE TICKS).  I also monitor the change in NYSE volume, and the change in the relative advancing vs declining changes for those stocks.

I have been daytrading the E-mini S&P 500 futures for a while.  Their symbol (concurrent) is ES.  The smallest increment in the ES is a tick (not the same thing as the NYSE TICK), which is 0.25.  A point is 1.00, so it is 4 ticks.

You can buy or sell-short as many contracts as you want, as long as your account balance will support it!  Each tick is $12.50 per contract.  So for 1 contract, 1 tick is $12.50, and 1 point (4 ticks) is $50.00.  If you were swinging for the fences and have multiple years of a proven successful record at trading the ES, then as a professional, you might trade as much as 200 contracts!  At that level, 200 x $12.50 means a single tick would be $2,500, and a single point (4 ticks) would be $2,500 x 4 would be $10,000!

Today I had a total net of -3.5 points.  I started trading around 1:45 pm.

So, while you don't know what I actually made or lost today, since the minimum number of contracts is 1, and 1 tick is $12.50 for 1 contract, and 1 point is $50 (4 ticks), and I lost 3.5 points, then you know I lost at least $175 today.  If I traded 3 contracts, then I lost $525.  And that pro trading 200?  He would have lost $35,000!

As mentioned above, it is my goal to watch the TICKs, along with the changes in the Volume and changes in the Advance/Decline value, as well as the actual ES value.  I like to draw trendlines on the TICKs so I can see the trend in the TICKs, as well as drawing trendlines on the ES.  I keep a loose eye on the simple moving averages (sma) for the 20, 50, and 200 period I have the chart set to.  I like to have a 1 min, 5 min, 15 min and 30 min chart open, all at the same time.  I'm aware of, having previously looked at the daily chart, but I don't keep it open.

Prior to the open, I examine the SPY as a proxy on a weekly basis.  This helps me to see longer term trends that I'm operating under and being influenced by.  I find it much easier, for instance, to observe overall direction, and in particular, the change in SPY volume on a weekly time frame.  I note any new trends or trend continuations, closeness to big SMAs like the 200 dma, 50 dma for turning points that may be induced onto today's environment.  I next look at the daily SPY, for the same reason as looking at the weekly, in particular trying to observe any change in sentiment as indicated by volume, while also noting yesterday's high, low, close, and various MarketProfile values (explained in more detail below).  I then look at a rather broad spectrum of overnight futures to get a flavor of what the world thought was going on overnight, as reflected in the futures, as it will carry over into today for a while until new news comes along to change the world's collective opinion:

  • Markets: ES (S&P 500), TF (Russell 2000), YM (Dow industrials), NQ (NASDAQ)
  • Commodities: (GC (gold), CL (oil), HG (copper), LBS (lumber), ZW ( wheat)
  • Foreign Exchange(FX): DX (US dollar), 6E (Euro), 6J (Japan)
  • Treasuries: ZT (2 year), ZN (10 year), ZB (30 year)

Monitoring and trading the ES
On the 30 minute chart, I like to place a price line for the following elements: the VAH (see MarketProfile), VAL, VPOC, R1, S1, and yesterday's high, low and close.  I'll put yesterday's open on the graph if it's not embedded in the middle of everything.

I monitor every candle on the 1 min, 5 min, and 15 min charts.  I try to evaluate their meaning.  I do the same for the TICKs, and I keep an  eye on the VOL change and the ADV/DCN change.

My Loose Rules for me to trade (these are evolving, and as you can see, my results were negative today, but then, I didn't follow my rules too well today...):

Start the day, get a view of the influences in effect:

  • What does the weekly SPY look like?  What big support/resistance, SMAs, and volume are going to influence today?
  •  What does the daily SPY look like?  Same questions as above.
  • What do the market futures look like?
  • What do the commodities futures look like?
  • What do the FX futures look like?

I Only want to go long if:

  • Near the bottom of a VAL, S1 (or S2,...).
  • TICKs are above neutral, generally above 500, and have been above neutral for a while (or swing positive hard, like to 1000 or more).
  • If more confirmation is needed, I like to wait for the ES to have been hitting resistance for a while, now breaking through.
  • There's been some range to today's trading since open.  I do terrible when the range is suppressed.
  • I like to have a range of at least 4 points, from bottom to top, assuming I can get in somewhere near the bottom of the range.
  • I like to have a range on the VAH-VAL to be at least 4 points too, and try to get in near the VAL.
  • I don't want the VPOC too near to my opening the position, as the ES will frequently stall here for long periods of time.  So, I would prefer that there be at least 2 points, and preferably 3 points or more to the VPOC from my entry point.
  • I don't want the VOL and ADV/DCN to be going against me in my direction.  If I'm going long, I don't want them falling.
Only go short if:
  • Opposite of the above.

Monday, December 5, 2011

Banjo Experiments with Sous Vide Shrimp

I haven't tried any shrimp yet via Sous Vide method (BTW- I have a SousVide Supreme.  I have also created my own cooking vessel using an Arduino to control the temperature, but this looks  a lot nicer in the kitchen.)

This is an experiment, so it may evolve over several iterations.  For this first iteration, I'm using a temperature I found on the internet: 140 dF for 1 hour.  I have misplaced my cook book, so that's the best I can do for tonight.

I've selected 1/2 lb of Kirkland's Fresh Frozen Shrimp, 21-25 count (shells off, tail on, deveined). This means they were frozen immediately on the shrimp boat after being caught, placed into netted bags, and immersed in the cooling brine.  The 21-25 count means that 21 to 25 shrimp would equal 1 pound of shrimp.  I don't know if this means before they were shelled and head taken off, or after this has been done.  At any rate, this is a common method of buying shrimp at a seafood market - it allows you to specify the size of the shrimp.  21-25 count is a nice shrimp size.  It's not a big huge prong, but it's much bigger than popcorn shrimp.  Kirkland's shrimp is the store-brand of Costco.  I've been impressed with their store brand to date.

The recipe for tonight's trial:
1/2 lb frozen shrimp, shell off, tail on, deveined.
3 oz butter
2 tsp Old Bay Seasoning


  1. set the Sous Vide to 140 dF and allow it to come up to temperature.
  2. While step 1 is completing, place 1/2 pound (this would be 10 - 12 shrimp) into a ZipLock Freezer Quart bag.  
  3. Place butter and Old Bay Seasoning into the bag.
  4. Use the water immersion method and remove air from the bag (or use vacuum seal machine of that's your preferred method).
  5. Set timer (any timer will do...) to 1 hour 15 minutes.
Prep Time: 10 minutes
Cooking time: 1 hr 15 minutes
Total time: about 1.5 hours

Result of 2nd test - 141dF control temperature
We both felt like we liked this temperature better than the 140dF temperature.  Shrimp was slightly more firm.  Both test were conducted using shrimp from the same purchased bag.  We will try 142dF next.  Our intent is to keep bumping up the temperature 1dF at a time until we either don't like it as well as an earlier temperature, or can't detect any change.

Result of first test - 140dF control temperature
Hey!  This wasn't bad!  In fact, they were good!  However, if you think about it, we have all probably been eating overcooked boiled shrimp for most of our lives, just because the temperature control was so difficult.  Since the mass of something determines how long it has to be cooked, and shrimp has a low mass, and most people boil the water (212dF at sea level), then they've been way over cooked.  A shrimp can be represented as a narrow cylinder, with heat being applied from all sides.  Since heat migrates from hot to cold, and the distance from the outer edge to the middle (where the heat would meet the heat from the other side coming in), it doesn't take long for shrimp to come up to temperature.

So the Sous Vide method, or more preciously, an accurately controlled water-bath method, allows us, and for most of us this is the first time, to cook shrimp without overcooking it.

So how did we like it?  Well, considering that for all of our life when eating boiled shrimp, we have been eating over cooked shrimp, and this is the first time ever that we are not eating overcooked boiled shrimp, you should not be surprised to hear we thought the shrimp was under cooked!  Hah!  But I suspect the reality is that we need to recalibrate what we think is the proper temperature to cook shrimp.

Note that since we were cooking at 140dF, we were not cooking boiled shrimp; we would have had to cook at 212dF for it to have been boiled shrimp.

So we cooked the shrimp at 140dF as per outlined above, and we thought we would have preferred them a little more cooked.  In most cooking, you can increase the temperature of the cooked item by allowing it to cook longer.  However, in an immersion bath method, which uses precisely controlled temperatures at extended lengths of time, leaving to food to cook longer won't raise the temperature of the item being cooked - it's already reached the cooking temperature, in this case, of 140dF.  So to increase the temperature of the shrimp, and since leaving it in the cooking water bath for a longer length of time won't increase the temperature, then the only way to raise the internal temperature of the shrimp is to raise the temperature.  So for our next test, I will raise the temperature by 1 dF, to a control temperature of 141dF.

I'll let you know how we liked it!

Monday, October 24, 2011

Carolina Oyster Roast

This weekend we had our "annual" Carolina Oyster Roast.  I put it in italics because, due to Hurricane Katrina in 2005 and the difficulty in getting oysters from the Gulf, we had to cancel our 2005 annual oyster roast.  And once it stopped, seems like we would never think of it again in time to get it all together!

But this year is different!  We had been to Charleston SC back in January 2011 in order to attend the Boone Hall Plantation Oyster Roast, and that got us geared up to start back up this year!

We sent out the invitations about a month in advance.  Per the RSVP, we planned on 22 guests showing up, plus my wife and I, for a total of 24 people.

Previous roasts indicated I would need about 5 cases of oysters.  I ordered them from Whole Foods a week in advance (per their instructions), the same place I've been buying them for years.  They do oysters a little odd around here (Atlanta) - they sell them by the case, instead of by the bushel.  Anyway, a case is about 35 lbs of oysters in the shell.

On the day before the party, the manager at Whole Foods called to say they weren't going to be able to provide us with the oysters!  They offered me 1 (one - one little lb) lb of shrimp for my trouble!  Quite generous of them, considering they were putting us out of business with our guests!

I located another seller - Bufford Hwy Farmer's Market.  They had plenty, so I took a ride down to have a look at the quality.  They looked great!  I picked up 5 cases and returned home with them.  These oysters were from New Zealand, instead of of the Gulf of Mexico - they were in bigger shells, and the shells were thicker.  However, the oysters themselves were larger.

Once I unloaded them, I realized the yield from their cases were less than Whole Foods, which accounted for the price difference (the cases were a lot less expensive), but now I was going to be short of enough oysters.....but that is what Son-in-laws are for - to go get more oysters!  He returned to the store and picked up another 3 cases

With a total of 8 cases, we examined each oyster for breaks or open shells before washing them under a hard spray of water, then transferred them to a large plastic tub, where I then covered them with ice to hold them over to the next day.

BTW - we do not serve any raw oysters at our parties; all are cooked.  Our favorite method for cooking oysters is to steam them. This is a superior method for cooking oysters.  The heat of the steam is lower than that provided over a grill, so it allows you to cook the oyster slower and more precisely to the desired amount of doneness.  We like ours to be hot and full of liquid, not shriveled up little homeless creatures!  And steaming them allows you to provide just that amount of doneness.

We setup the party in the garage - seven (7) 6-foot tables, arranged in a "U" shape - with one end accessible from outside (where I was cooking) and the guests lined up along the outer edge of the tables. We provided gloves to protect our guests' hands, and an oyster knife for each guest, along with beer and wine, as well as Low-Country-Boil for our guests that didn't like oysters (this is shrimp, sausage, potatoes, and corn-on-the-cob).

Outside, I set up three 'turkey fryers', which are sold here in the USA.  These consist of a large propane burner, a 20 lb propane tank, and a 5 gallon pot with a large basket strainer.  I poured a couple of inches of water into each of the three pots, then lit burners.  Three burners going at the same time produces quite a roar!  While this was coming up to heat, we filled each basket 1/2 way up with oysters - this is important, because we will be lifting these baskets up and over the pots, then into the garage, where we will go along the tables pouring out a stream of oysters.  If we were to fill the baskets up, they would be too heavy for us later in the night (this goes on for a couple of hours), and also it would be too many oysters at once for the guests, so they would cool down.

There were three of us cooking this time - me, my son-in-law, and a friend.  It takes this many people to feed 20 people with hot oysters!  It takes about 20 - 30 minutes for the first batch to be ready.  You know they are ready after it comes to a boil, the froth from the oysters will rise up all the way to the top of the lid.  So it's past the point of boil, but waiting until the froth hits the top, tells you they are ready (per the temperature and doneness we like to serve ours).  We made sure the oyster tub was set up on saw-horses at waist high, as the first year I had them on the ground and filling the baskets all night with 500 oysters left me crippled with my back from stooping - so now we set the tub up at waist high, put the basket in the waist-high tub and fill them up.

Once we start delivering oysters to the tables, our goal is to keep a steady stream of oysters going to the guests.  In order to do this, we've got one person filling the baskets and lowering them into the pots, then another person monitoring the pots, then a third person pulling the basket and pouring the oysters out along the tables, then returning the basket to the oyster-filler.

We keep this assembly line process going, switching off each job among ourselves, as the oyster basket-filler person will get numb fingers after a while, and the person doing the delivery will need a rest for his arms.

While we are doing this work, we don't stop for anything - we don't eat oysters, and rarely drink a beer, as it's just too busy.

Later, when the last batch of oysters are in the pot cooking, we'll start on our beers and our dinner.

Afterwards, we sit around a 'pit fire' that we place onto our driveway, smoke cigars, have Lemonchellos, laugh, and just visit with each other.

The party starts at 6 PM, and usually the last guest has left around 2 AM.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Dennis Ritchie

Dennis is dead, and I'm not feeling too good myself.

Dennis Ritchie in co-writing the C Language, and the book that accompanied it, has probably provided me, and my family, with more money than anything else I've ever read, studied, or undertaken.  It has been more valuable to me, in wages earned, than a college degree.

I still have the first edition of this book; I doubt it is even 100 pages.

I remember reading it after having programmed in Fortran, Basic, machine code, and Algo.  I got goose bumps when I got to the part about functions, pointers and stacks.  I could just imagine all of the re-usuable software that was going to be invented and made available.

While known for the C programming language, if not for them, we would not have UNIX today, nor Linux, nor Android, nor......

Sometime, for a gift, I'm hoping my family can get together and get my book framed, like people do for college degrees.  It was my graduate program.


Dining in Charleston - Fig Restaurant

Fig Restaurant
Map Link

Fig - an interesting choice of names.  Having climbed in fig trees as a boy, it brings back good memories.  The branches are low and horizontal, making for easy climbing for a 4 year old.  Just enough of a challenge to make you feel like a "big boy", but low enough so you can't really get hurt.

Fig - the restaurant....our daughter Heather recommended this place to us.  She and her boyfriend had an excellent "Heather's Adventure - the Movie" here.  The think this has one of the best bars and bartenders they've run across, east of Las Vegas.  And that's saying something!

Fig is located in a completely nondescript building on Meeting St, just north of Market St., at the corner of Meeting and Hasell St.  It's very easy to get to, and by Charleston standards, they have convenient parking as well!  Just down from the restaurant on Hasell St (east), on the right, is a large paid parking lot; makes for safe, convenient parking.

The decor - I don't usually talk about the decor in a restaurant; I'm either comfortable and enjoy the 'look' of things, or not.  Fig however, is a "little different".  There aren't really any windows; from the outside, it looks like it might have been a place to go to avoid bad weather.  However, on the inside, they've turned it into something really interesting.  On the South wall, they've hung a series of beach landscape scenes, as might be viewed just at dusk.  Each panel is a little different; one being the surf, another being a river inlet, another being a marsh.  I found this to be very different, and entertaining to "ponder" as I waited for my meal to be delivered.

Our waitress was a server from the local College of Charleston.  She had a quick, nice smile, and worked hard to make our dining experience enjoyable.  Unfortunately, since I'm writing this a week later, and since I'm a happily married man of 36 years, I no longer recall her name!  Too bad, as she was worth a mention here for her service.

The food we had was really good.  It was definitely worth the price we paid, and was both flavorful and interesting.  This James Beard award winning restaurant was top on our list for dining destinations on this trip.  Having eaten at many other James Beard award winners and nominees over the years, we looked forward to this for weeks before our arrival in Charleston.

We were not  disappointed!

We started with the CODDLED SEA ISLAND FARM EGG.  For those not familiar with the term "coddled", it means, in essence, to take tender care of something.  This egg was indeed taken tender care of as it was cooked to perfection.  Since I have a Sous Vide Supreme  cooker at home, I can replicate this dish and am thus familiar with it, it was nevertheless a wonderful start to our dinner.

I really hate to tell you this, but in looking back over their online menu, since it was almost two weeks ago that we dined at Fig, I realize we both chose from their daily menu, and that I no longer recall the individual dishes we chose, other than the Coddled Egg.  I do remember that we were both pleased with it, and would enjoy going back.

Hopefully, my wife, who is away at choir practice as I write this, will recall in better detail the dishes we enjoyed, and I'll be able to update this post.

Would we go back?  Yes!  The food and service was excellent, and the interior was interesting!

According to my daughter Heather, the bar is excellent too!

Monday, October 17, 2011

Dining in Charleston - SeeWee Restaurant

SeeWee Restaurant
Map Link

The SeeWee Restaurant is located about 15 miles north of Mt. Pleasant SC, so it's a bit of a hike.  However, if you are into a little bit of travel, then this may just be your cup of tea!

SeeWee Restaurant is located within an old gas station.  It's eclectic inside and out; even the restrooms are outside, just like in the day of the old filling stations.

But make no mistake - they are serving honest Southern Fried Seafood, along with all of the trimmings.  This is first rate.  While the distance may be a bit of a hassle, the price makes up for it; your bill will be considerably cheaper than anything in the Charleston area for comparable food.

This is not gourmet food; instead, this is the style of food we grew up with in Calabash NC; if you like good Southern Fried Seafood, then you will love this place!

Nearby, to the north, is McClennenville, where hurricane Hugo came ashore in 1990(?).  Also due east is Cape Romain, where you can go out on the landing pier and observe the marsh wildlife and seashore.

We made a whole afternoon of it, and thoroughly enjoyed all aspects of our time here, from the food to the seashore.

There's also the  "Center for Birds Of Prey" (Map Link) located just a short drive to the East.  We haven't been here (yet!), but it certainly looks interesting!

Dining in Charleston - Social Wine Bar

Map Link

My, what a fun place!

Our daughter had stated that we simply must go to Social Wine Bar! So, on Thursday evening, prior to dinner at SNOB, we stopped by Social!  And are we glad we did!

We did not have dinner her.  We just had drinks.

The drinks are very reasonably priced; it may be that we were getting an early bird special rate; not sure, but the price was very good.

My wife had a wine flight of 3 white wines for $13.  I had three Dewar's Scotch drinks at $3.00 each!  Note that the pours are not full pours, so it's not an outstanding deal, but very very reasonable.

Our waitstaff was good and attentive, and the crowd was fun.

We enjoyed sitting here and watching the people stream by on E. Bay St.

Note that they do server food, but we didn't order any food at all; just drinks.

Dining in Charleston - 82nd Queen

Not Recommended
82nd Queen: sorry, not up to our standards, so no link
Map Link: sorry, not up to our standards, so no link

Everything in this blog is my opinion.  It shouldn't be taken as fact, just my opinion.  It's my opinion, and I'm entitled to it.  It's taken me a lot of years of experience, education, and money spent on dining out to form it.
We've eaten at this restaurant many times over the years.  In the past, it's been something we looked forward to.  Hell - we even have their cookbook!

No more!

On this trip, I had the BBQ Shrimp and Grits, while my wife had a cup of She-Crab Soup, and the CrabCake Sliders.

I had eaten Shrimp and Grits at Hominy Grill just a day or so before, and those were excellent.  Imagine my dismay when I first tasted this nondescript meal!  There was no flavor!  I was unable to locate the BBQ in the so-called BBQ Shrimp.  Instead, there was a red, sweet paste that was spread out over the top of the grits, with the shrimp sitting in this paste.  It tasted identical, to my taste-buds, as if I had poured Ketchup over my shrimp and called it BBQ.  Maybe that's not what they did - there's no way I can know for sure, but that certainly is what it tasted, and looked like, to me!  I hope I was wrong!  But if it's that close.....  The grits had no flavor.  They didn't appear to have been seasoned at all; I had to add copious amounts of salt just to give them a hint of flavor.  Compare these, in my opinion, silly little attempts to that presented at Hominy Grill, and you'll understand both my surprise, as well as my disappointment!

Hearing of my displeasure, my wife offered up one of her CrabCake sliders.  I love crabcakes; it has been one of my favorite items ever since first having them at Calabash NC when I was a youngster.  I frequently get CrabCakes for appetizer at any seafood restaurant.  So I bit into this slider, ... and spit it out!  Are you kidding me?  Who spits out CrabCakes?  This thing tasted of oily fish, like it was cooked along in week-old fish-fry oil.  Nasty and Grose!  To my knowledge, this was the worst CrabCake I had ever sampled, and I've eaten CrabCakes all my life, and I'm going on 60!  So that's saying, in my opinion, this was pretty bad.

This was our last time at this restaurant!

Dining in Charleston - S.N.O.B

S.N.O.B - Slightly North of Broad
Map Link

It was a toss-up where we would eat this night, Thursday Oct 13 2011.  We thought we would try Husk, but it was full.  We had already had the bad experience for lunch at 82nd Queentj (we won't be back), so we were looking for something that was a sure bet.

The sure bet was S.N.O.B. - or Slightly North of Broad (on E. Bay St).    We've eaten here many times over the years, as has our daughter Heather (in fact, she's the one that introduced us to SNOB), and have never been disappointed.

Tonight was no different - really excellent food and service delivered yet again!

For appetizer, we had the Charcuterie.  This is one of my wife's favorite dishes.  I love it at SNOB, but I'm sold on the charcuterie at Cypress.  My wife demanded that once, during the trip, she was going to eat Charcuterie, and this was her selection!

For the main course, my wife had the Scallops with a 'pear ginger sangria', while I had the the wood smoked Pork Chop.  Note that this was the only non-seafood meal I had the whole week, and it simply can't be beat!

Our waitress was Mel, who we've had on previous occasions.  She was every bit as fun and efficient as ever!

We made dinner reservations for 8:30 PM, and I'm glad we did, as there was a wait-line until after 9:30 PM!

Everything about this meal was excellent; the service, the food, the experience.

We'll be back again, and again, and again...

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Dining in Charleston - Fast and French

Fast and French
Map Link

On Tuesday, October 11 2011, we decided to have lunch at the Fast and French cafe on Broad St. in the historic district of Charleston SC.

This restaurant had been recommended to us by our local host, who lives in the historic district of Charleston.  She said she and her husband frequently walk the 5 minutes it takes them to get to this cafe on Broad St.

That was good enough for us!

So, with this being a lunch destination, a small French cafe sounded just right!  And a 5 minute walk was just right to kick up a desire for a quick lunch!

The first thing you'll notice on entering the cafe is how small it is!  There's just enough room behind people to squeeze between their backs and the wall while working our way to the back of the cafe.  We were seated at a bar (all seats are at bars - plural, as they are each little separate island bars that seat 6 - 8 people), directly across from two people that had come in just ahead of us, along with 4 young ladies to our right.  The couple across from us, probably in their 60s, and judging from their accent were British, weren't too happy with their coffee.  In fact, after drinking their coffee, they departed!  They couldn't have been there more than 5 minutes total!  They weren't difficult or anything, just disappointed.   It was clearly something about the coffee.  So, we clearly had to have the coffee to see what the problem was!  Well, it was great coffee!  It was French Press style, and strong, our favorite method for preparing coffee and the strong, wonderful results.  The whole process of making French Press coffee was shown on the menu!  So, while it clearly wasn't their cup of tea (pardon the pun!), it was wonderful to us!

For lunch, I had an open faced ham & cheese with French Onion soup, while my wife had a Brie and Cheese sandwich with French Onion soup.  Both were excellent!

We very much enjoyed this little cafe.  With people being sat right in front of you (I could have easily reached across and sampled my neighbor's lunch), it's hard not to strike up conversations with the people around you.  In quick order we had had conversations with the 2nd couple across from us (from Statesboro NC), the young ladies to our right, and their replacement three-some from the Augusta GA area - the only people we didn't get the chance to talk with were the British couple, and that was only because they were gone so fast.

We will be back, and look forward to it!

Dining in Charleston - Pearlz's Little Oyster Bar

Pearlz Little Oyster Bar
Map Link

Our first night in town (Monday, October 10, 2011), we had driven for 6 hours in rain the whole way from Atlanta.  I was tired, ready to eat, but not wanting anything that had a lot of hassles to deal with - in other words, no tourist traps.

On the way in, I noticed a group of bars, cafes and restaurants in the Avondale area of Charleston (West Ashley on Hwy 17).  Just as we swept by, I noticed a signage that said "Pearlz Little Oyster..." but couldn't see the rest before we were gone.  However, I mentioned to my wife, if it was agreeable to her, that I would like to come back out here for dinner, as this was a local establishment that was catering to the locals (not too many tourists venture out here), and thought it might work.  The whole area has a little artsy flavor to it, and thought it would be interesting.

After checking into our cottage in the historic district, we turned around and headed west back to West Ashley, to Pearlz.  And, boy, am I glad we did!

We did a whole lot of samplers, which we typically do when we are really wanting to explore a menu.  We had an order (6 oysters) of Baked Oysters Rockefeller, soon followed by two orders of Fried Oysters (they were soo good, the first order was gone too fast), and an order of Crispy Ahi Tuna Roll ( I liked the Tuna very much, but my wife, who is not big on Tuna anyway, didn't particularly care for - good news for me; I got her portion as well!).  After splitting these appetizers, I opted for a bowl of Seafood Gumbo, which is served over a bed of rice.  For some reason, the rice was undercooked, and was hard enough to break a tooth!  I brought it to our waiter's attention, and he promptly brought forth a whole new setup of rice and soup.  It was wonderful!  For my wife, it was a little too spicy (but she thought it was still good), which was, again, good news for me - I got to eat her portion as well!

We had a great time here, sitting at the bar, talking with the bartenders, who were all friendly and efficient.  This is going to be a destination bar for us whenever we are in Charleston and wanting to avoid the tourist area.  This is also a safe area, with easy parking in the rear.

Note: Pearlz's also has a location in the main dining district of Charleston on E. Bay St.  We haven't eaten there, but it shares the same menu as the one in West Ashley, Avondale, about 6 miles west of downtown Charleston.  This location would generally be serving more tourists instead of locals.  We will be trying it soon!

Dining in Charleston - Fleet Landing Restaurant

Last night we had the pleasure of dining at the 'Fleet Landing Restaurant' on the waterfront in Charleston.  This is located just a block or two east of E. Bay St., which is the main dining and club district in Charleston.  Map Link.

The Fleet Landing Restaurant is an original structure dating back to WWII, made of concrete and steel on a dock that projects out into the Cooper River.  They have their own parking, which in Charleston, is at a premium.

The interior is nautical, loud and busy.  Our table top consisted of a nautical map of the Charleston Harbor area, and was interesting to us to view as we waited to order.

Our waiter John appeared promptly, was friendly, took our food and drink order in short time.  Soon, we had our drinks, along with complementary biscuits, quickly followed by our main courses.

Still not getting over my hankering for fried seafood (I rarely get this anywhere else but the Charleston and Calabash NC areas, as other sections of the country typically don't know how to cook it correctly fried), I sized up a fried oyster and shrimp combo platter at $17, with cole slaw and (something else that eludes me right now), and hush puppies.  My wife also got a fried combo - the oysters and scallops.

My oysters tasted muddy, which is not a good taste at all.  The bigger they were, the more overpowering this unpleasant taste was for me.  My shrimp were good thought.

However, my wife's scallops were outstanding!  These are worthy of any fine dining experience anywhere!  They were very, very lightly breaded, and had been cooked to perfection; just a little sear on the outside, and warm center without being overcooked on the inside.

Even more unusual for a combo, there were a lot of the scallops, and they were the very-large diver scallops.  I've never had these as part of a fried seafood combo before, usually I am presented with small nickle-size scallops; not here - these were as big as a silver dollar and thick!

I'm not sure what was wrong with the oysters.  They had been prepared correctly, and it was the right time of year for good oysters, so I'm at a loss here.  Just a few nights earlier we had had wonderful fried oysters at Pearlz Little Oyster Bar in Avondale (West Ashley Charleston area).

Dining in Charleston - Hominy Grill

Yesterday, Wednesday October 12, 2011, we had lunch at Hominy Grill in Charleston SC.  Map Link

This was our first trip to Hominy Grill.  At first, I was somewhat reluctant to go her to eat, as when I was young, growing up in Charleston, this was a poor, rough area - not an area I would have been willing to get out of my car, let alone consider eating!

However, our hostess at the cottage we are renting in the historic part of Charleston, assured us this was no longer the case.

She was most certainly right!  In traveling along Ashley St, I was amazed at how much the area had changed.  Once wonderful elegant homes that had fallen into disrepair and trash when I lived her in the 60s, have been 'gentrified' with new owners, fixed up with new families living in them!  It looks like the Medical College of Charleston has continued to move northwards, with their solid influence changing the makeup of the whole neighborhood.

We entered Hominy Grill via the courtyard on the south end of their building, and were seated in the original structure, which apparently used to be a barber shop - can't confirm, as we didn't actually ask, but there's a pair of 'barber poles' located just inside the old entrance.

In looking over the menu, we saw appetizers, sandwiches, small plates and large plates.  I quickly looked to see if they had an oyster poorboy, but none was presented.  In reviewing the rest of the menu, my goal was to have something of a signature dish from them, so that meant a lot of their sandwiches weren't being considered.   Moving onto the small plates, which represented my desire for a smaller lunch, I didn't spot anything that could be considered unique, which lead me to their full plate lunches.  There, I spotted their signature dish, shrimp and grits.

With a name like Hominy, how could I go wrong with this Charleston area staple?

So, even though it was a larger lunch than I was seeking, and the price a little higher than what I was wanting to pay for lunch ($17), I elected to take this choice, while my wife got their 'three vegetables plate'.

Well, I'm glad I made this choice!

Diners sit in close proximity of each other, so our dining neighbors wanted to know how I liked my shrimp and grits, while also mentioning this was supposed to be 'the best of any other restaurant'.  I replied that I hadn't given that any thought, but that they were really good, and after more reflection, decided he reference was correct - they were indeed the best I've ever had anywhere!

My wife liked her vegetable plat; I loved my shrimp and grits!  We liked them so much, we bought their recipe book!

These creamy, cheesy grits have bacon mixed in, while the shrimp have been sauteed in bacon oil.  So often in this dish, the shrimp has a rather dull effect; not these shrimp!  The are exploding in flavor in their own right, taking center stage just over the top of the grits.  So, instead of being the underdog in this fight, the shrimp come out on top, bursting with flavor!  These may be the best tasting shrimp, in any dish, I have ever had!  And, coming from Charleston, and growing up eating at Calabash NC., that would be saying something!

We'll be back, and back, and back!

Sunday, October 9, 2011

Banjo's favorite Quotes

I came across these on the internet.  I enjoyed them a lot!

1. In my many years I have come to a conclusion that one useless man is a shame, two is a law firm and three or more is a congress. - John Adams
2. If you don't read the newspaper you are uninformed, if you do read the newspaper you are misinformed. - Mark Twain
3. Suppose you were an idiot. And suppose you were a member of Congress. But then I repeat myself. - Mark Twain
4. I contend that for a nation to try to tax itself into prosperity is like a man standing in a bucket and trying to lift himself up by the handle. - Winston Churchill
5. A government which robs Peter to pay Paul can always depend on the support of Paul. - George Bernard Shaw
6. A liberal is someone who feels a great debt to his fellow man, which debt he proposes to pay off with your money. - G. Gordon Liddy
7. Democracy must be something more than two wolves and a sheep voting on what to have for dinner. - James Bovard
8. Foreign aid might be defined as a transfer of money from poor people in rich countries to rich people in poor countries. - Douglas Casey
9. Giving money and power to government is like giving whiskey and car keys to teenage boys. - P.J. O'Rourke
10. Government is the great fiction, through which everybody endeavors to live at the expense of everybody else. - Frederic Bastiat
11. Government's view of the economy could be summed up in a few short phrases: If it moves, tax it. If it keeps moving, regulate it. And if it stops moving, subsidize it. - Ronald Reagan
12. I don't make jokes. I just watch the government and report the facts. - Will Rogers
13. If you think health care is expensive now, wait until you see what it costs when it's free! - P.J. O'Rourke
14. In general, the art of government consists of taking as much money as possible from one party of the citizens to give to the other. - Voltaire
15. Just because you do not take an interest in politics doesn't mean politics won't take an interest in you! - Pericles
16. No man's life, liberty, or property is safe while the legislature is in session. - Mark Twain
17. Talk is cheap...except when Congress does it. - Anonymous
18. The government is like a baby's alimentary canal, with a happy appetite at one end and no responsibility at the other. - Ronald Reagan
19. The inherent vice of capitalism is the unequal sharing of the blessings. The inherent blessing of socialism is the equal sharing of misery. - Winston Churchill
20. The only difference between a tax man and a taxidermist is that the taxidermist leaves the skin. - Mark Twain
21. The ultimate result of shielding men from the effects of folly is to fill the world with fools. - Herbert Spencer
22. There is no distinctly Native American criminal Congress. - Mark Twain
23. What this country needs are more unemployed politicians. - Edward Langley
24. We hang the petty thieves and appoint the great ones to public office. - Aesop
Five Best Sentences
1. You cannot legislate the poor into prosperity, by legislating the wealth out of prosperity.
2.What one person receives without working for... another person must work for without receiving.
3. The government cannot give to anybody anything that the government does not first take from somebody else.
4. You cannot multiply wealth by dividing it.
5. When half of the people get the idea that they do not have to work, because the other half is going to take care of them, and when the other half gets the idea that it does no good to work, because somebody else is going to get what they work for, that is the beginning of the end of any nation!

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Banjo Remembers Attending School...

What I remember about attending school - the short version.

When I was three, my parents split, after a big argument.  I remember my mom telling me to run to my grandmother's.  It was dark outside; I remember hiding under the bushes for a while before making my way to my grandmother's, about a block away.  It was a pretty violent argument.  I was later told, as an adult by my aunt (who was my mother's twin sister), that my mother was running around on my father at that time.

When I was four, my parents got a divorce; my mother moved away, I stayed and lived with my grandmother.  I once visited my mother, who was living in Charleston SC at that time.  I remember catching fish, which my grandmother flushed down the toilet, and drinking my first beer that my mother gave me.

When I was five, my mother moved us (she and I) to Myrtle Beach to live with my mother and my aunt, her twin sister.  I remember my mother crying for days, if not weeks, because the man she had been dating broke up with her.  I don't remember him, but I do remember that he was in the Air Force, and was working on an underwater camera so he could recover treasure.  Funny what's important to remember when you are five!

When I was six, we moved to 31st Ave North in Myrtle Beach, where I attended first grade, just a block or so away.  While there, a boy a couple of years older and bigger choked me, trying to kill me, in a wooded lot.  He had me on my back, and was sitting on my chest, choking me.  Just before I passed out, I remember the dark closing in from the sides - it was tunnel vision from lack of oxygen, but I didn't know it at the time.  Something made me throw my legs violently upwards, and it threw the older boy completely over my head and shoulders and into the bushes behind me; I jumped up and ran home.  When I got there, I was unable to talk because my throat was crushed; all I could do was cry hysterically.  My mother was unconcerned - she said it was just boys playing; my grandmother, however, went ballistic, and went to the boy's house and confronted them.  I remember her screaming and yelling about "that son-of-a-bitch" boy.  The people at the boy's house were scared of my grandmother!  I don't know what they did to the boy, but he would see me at school and go the other way.

When I was in second grade, my mother moved us to a different school in South Myrtle Beach.  I attended there for a few months.

While still in the second grade, my mother moved us to Palm Beach Florida, where I attended the remainder of second grade.  This was the third school I attended in second grade.

When school got out for the year, my mother moved us back to Myrtle Beach, were I started the third grade.

Sometime during the third grade, my mother moved us to Jacksonville, Fl, where I finished the third grade.

I started the fourth grade in Jacksonville Fl.  Sometime in October, my mother moved us to mother's hometown in NC, where I attended school for a month or so.

My mother then moved us back to Jacksonville, Fl, where I finished the fourth grade.  I remember her going out at night on dates, leaving me alone.  I remember being scared in the trailer and hiding outside in the dark until she came home.

At the end of the fourth grade, my mother moved us back to my mother's hometown in NC, where I started the fifth grade.  I attended school here the whole year.  I lived with my grandmother while my mother went places I don't know about.  My grandmother was home every day and looked after me.  I remember this as the best year I ever had.

At the end of the fifth grade, my mother got married, and we moved to Charleston SC, to West of the Ashley, where I started the sixth grade.  The first day there, my step-father , who had mental issues (I remember my mother telling me she was going to marry him, and was going to 'heal him' because of her knowledge of Christian Science) due to brain injuries suffered in WWII, told me he almost broke up with my mother the night before because of me.  He stood there rocking on his feet, clicking and moaning with his face twitching, scaring the crap out of an eleven year old before my mother told me to run to school, while my mother stood behind holding him, telling him it would be all right.  (Interesting twist isn't it; 45 year old man is comforted, told "it will be allright" while an eleven year old is expected to fend for himself).  I remember not knowing what they were talking about in English, because I hadn't had the previous English lessons.  I remember the teacher pulling my desk out of line from everyone else, like I was stupid.  I remember she wouldn't let me got to recess.  That was bad, because that was when she would let us go to the bathroom.  She wouldn't let me go to the bathroom until we all went again at lunch time.  That meant I was unable to go to the bathroom from 7:30 AM, when I left school, until 12:00 noon when we went to lunch - I had to sit through lunch until 12:45 when we finished lunch and made the bathroom break.  That was my first opportunity to go the bathroom.  I remember peeing in my pants in class, because I couldn't last for five hours without going to the bathroom, terrified that someone would find out.  It would fill up my shoes.  I remember her name was Ms. Johnson, at Orange Grove Elementary.  I would knock her on her ass today if I could find her.

During that year, we moved to downtown, so that I changed schools.

I attended the whole of the seventh grade at the school downtown.

I was promoted to the eighth grade, which meant a change of schools to the high school.  I attended the whole year at this school.

In the ninth grade, we moved to West of the Ashley, where I started the ninth grade.  I attended school here the whole year.

In the tenth grade, we were rezoned for schools, so I started at a different school.

Midway through the tenth grade, I was sent to live with my grandmother, where I attended the remainder of the tenth grade.

At the end of the tenth grade, my mother returned me to Charleston, where I started the eleventh grade.  I attended here the whole year.

My senior year, we were rezoned, so I attended a different school.  On the night I graduated, I packed my car, drove to Atlanta, arriving about 6 AM.  I never lived with my mother and her husband again.

And that is what I remember about growing up and attending school!

My mother died when I was 34.  I had to sell all of my stock in Apple and Microsoft in order to pay off her debts so they wouldn't foreclose her house; I would have been able to retire in 2 more years on the stock appreciation of Apple and Microsoft.  She cut me out of most of the inheritance in her will; there wouldn't have been anything to inherit if I hadn't bailed her, and her husband, out.  I don't miss her.

My mother's twin sister is 92 and in bad health.  She can be a bit of a pill - bless her heart.

Whatever God's purpose was in this, he made up for it in giving me my wife, my grandmother, and my mother's oldest sister.

I thought my grandmother walked on water.

My wife floats above it.

Sunday, October 2, 2011

Banjo cooling house with attic!

Important concepts:
 - Heat rises.
 - Air flow requires a high-pressure point and a low pressure point.
 - A closed room doesn't have air flow - it's like blowing air into a paper-bag; once the bag is full of air, no more air can be blown in.  A hole in the other end will allow air flow.

We live in the south, so our home picks up a lot of heat during a hot day, so even after the sun goes down, we need to cool the house.  It would be nice to open the windows for flow-through ventilation, but that frequently isn't enough cooling to remove the heat, and our whole house cooling fan is so loud we don't like to run it.

A lot of evenings, we would like to switch from our air-conditioned cooling to outside air, but we lack enough air-flow to perform this activity.  Opening windows on both floors allows some flow-through ventilation, and some draft from the first floor windows up to exhaust through the 2nd floor windows, but without any wind or breeze, it's not enough.

Recently, it dawned on me to open up our attic's access door on the 2nd floor.  By opening this door, it allows hot air to flow out of the attic.  However, if the rest of the house's windows are closed, then the only air flow into the attic (if air is flowing out, then there has to be air flowing in, otherwise you would create a vacuum) is from the attic's little vents around the bottom underside of the roof - the outside air vents (there's a word for these, but right now, I can't find it).

So, if you open the attic's access door, and open the downstairs windows, then hot air will flow out of the attic, and air will be pulled in from the windows to flow into the attic.  So you will have increase airflow coming into the house, cooling the rooms where the windows are located, and also removing the heat from the attic, which can get really hot in the summer.

So it's a win-win:
- increased cool air flowing into the rooms from the windows
- very hot attic gets cooled, reducing the thermal heat pushed into the ceilings of the upstairs rooms from the attic/ceiling.

- Your house will not be any cooler than the outside temperature.  There can't be any lowering of temperature, just increase airflow of outside air.
- The attic, being the highest point in the house, and also the hottest point in the house, creates a chimney effect and actively pulls air into the out and exhausts it through the air vents in the top of the attic.
- You can 'tune' the amount of air coming into any room.  At night, in order to increase the airflow into and through our bedroom, we close off all other windows in the house, leaving the windows in our bedroom open.  This means all of the air that is exiting through the attic is pulled in through our bedroom.
- for air to flow into our bedroom and out through our attic, it requires our attic access door (outside our bedroom, in the hallway of our 2nd floor) to be open, so air can flow up into the attic from the 2nd floor.
- for air to flow out of our bedroom, it has to be able to get to the attic.  That means our bedroom door has to be open so the air can come in through our bedroom windows, flow out through our bedroom door, flow up to the attic access door, and up and through the attic to exit on our roof vents.

Using this, except for really hot nights, we've been able to significantly reduce the use of our airconditioning on summer nights.  In addition, it has allowed us to open up the house on days that aren't too hot and use the attic to increase the airflow into the house via the windows.

Hope this helps!

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Banjo upgrades operating system hard drive - SSD

A couple of months ago, I built up a completely new computer system.  (BTW - "building your own" sure is different than when I did it in 1978, a DEC PDP-11/03 from Heathkit - back then I had to build everything; the keyboard, the keys, the springs under the keys, the labels on the keys, the transformers for the video monitor, all the resistors, all the capacitors, all the IC took a lot of time!" - so building your own computer, by today's standards, is a piece of cake).

Anyway...I picked up an ASUS motherboard P8Z68-VPRO, an Intel Core iP processor, 16 GB of ram, 3 x 3TB hard drives (7200, 64 MB cache), 3 SAMSUNG 27" monitors, 1 NVIDIA GeForce GTX 580, and a 60 GB Solid State Drive (SSD) made by Corsair.  I'm driving 2 monitors on it, planning on adding another NVIDIA GeForce GTX 580 soon, along with 2 more monitors (Samsung 27"), bringing it up to 4 monitors.  I've got a 1200 watt power supply (!) powering it all, and a big ol UPS to help smooth things out, like when the little window air conditioner kicks in and out due to all the heat.  In order to keep it fast, I've limited the SSD to the OS and ThinkOrSwim.  Nothing else goes on this drive.

Well, it has been fast-as-hell, but it crashes a couple of times a week.  Great big ol' BSOD (Blue Screen of Death) greets me a lot of mornings (btw - if you are new to my blog, I daytrade stocks, and usually leave my system up all night as I will drop by a couple of times a night to see how futures are doing).  And, sometimes it will just sit there and do nothing for about 45 seconds.....not good for trading realtime with money on the line!

This is my primary machine, and I have an older PC with 2 video monitors on it, so I just rotate my chair over to it when something gets goofy.

So I've been pretty much searching for a solution to the BSOD and the 'hanging' situation.  Seeing comments on the Internet that the 'hanging' or 'slow down' may be associated with Windows 7; don't know.  I've got a process monitor running to try and grab some info, but even it hangs when the system hangs, but things like the mouse still move around.

Anyway, quite a bit of research brought forth the problem with the BSOD may be being caused by the Corsair 3 Force 60GB SSD.  They are giving people RMAs and returning new drives.  I flashed the motherboard bios bringing it up to the most current, but that didn't help, so per the vendor, looks like the next step on that is to flash the SSD bios, and if that doesn't work, then ship it back to them.

Well, I don't have time for all of that crap.  Once I found out the vendor is crying about problem SSDs, I went down and bought a 120GB Kingston SSD.  They also had a special rebate on Norton Ghost, so I picked up a copy of that too.  I mentioned to the sales staff at Fry's that I had problems with Ghost in the past, and they assured me this wasn't an issue now.

Well, it was.  I've spent all-damn-day trying to image my OS SDD drive over to the new SDD drive.  I get the images created all right, and can then move them onto the new drive, but it won't boot.  I went through the Ghost user guide, and nothing works.

I powered down and removed the power cord, then pulled the power feeds from all of the hard drives except for the two SSD drives, one of which had my operating system on it (the Corsair), and the other the new empty drive (Kingston), that way there wouldn't be any confusion or chance to destroy data on any of the other drives - only the two SSDs were online and available to the system once I pulled their power feeds.

So I did what all good programmers do - I said "I'm switching to LINUX" to do this.  What I mean by that is, I'm giving up on that POS Norton Ghost, and am using a Ubuntu (LINUX derivative) LiveCD.  I popped that CD (BTW - you can download this for free from Ubuntu) into the CD/DVD reader, selecting the option to 'run' but not the 'install'.  About 2 minutes later, I had an Ubuntu session up and running!  I went to 'Applications' (top menu bar) ->Accessories > Terminal and launched that Terminal program, which looks a lot like an old black screen MSDOS.

I then took a look at the drives the Ubuntu system was seeing using the command "sudo fdisk -l" (and that's a lower case "L"; it showed /dev/sda and /dev/sdb.

I then used the command "sudo dd if=/dev/sda of=/dev/sdb" to do an image copy from the Corsairs SSD disk to the Kingston SSD disk.

I then did another "sudo fdisk -l" to have a look, and the partitions and disk data sizes were in agreement.  This took about 25 minutes for the 60 GB to be imaged onto the Kinston SSD.

I powered down and unplugged the electrical cord again.

I reconnected all the power feeds to each of the hard drives, and removed the power feed from the Corsair, so it's not online any more.

I then repowered up, changed the ASUS bios setting to reflect booting from this Kingston SSD, and it came up immediately, no problems, and my trading systems are up and running.

This took about 30 minutes, after spending a whole-damn-day screwing around with Norton Ghost.  And for that privilege of getting nothing but spending time, I had the honor of paying Norton some hard earned cash, while the Ubuntu worked with minimal instructions, took 30 minutes, and was free.

While I have a background in UNIX, and I run one Ubuntu system here (it's one of three up all the time here in my trading office), I don't frequently use commands like 'fdisk' and 'dd'.  I got this excellent insight from the chaps at "howtogeek".  Here's their LINK.

Special Note: I was able to move from a SSD drive to another SSD drive.  You should not do this from a HDD to an SDD, nor from SDD to HDD.  The reason being the boundary sizes are different between the two devices.  In my case, I had installed Windows 7 directly onto the SSD, and Windows 7 takes care of this problem for you; if you install first to an HDD, Windows 7 will set it up for HDD, and you will end up with incorrect boundary sizes when you try to create an image of the HDD and apply it to the SDD.  Do some research on "SSD alignment" for insight.