mmmm bread: Pane Siciliano, Reinhardt-style

Posted in Food Stuff by dave on January 25, 2010 No Comments yet
The Bread Baker's Apprentice - Cover

Image source: pinchmysalt.com

Since right around this past Christmas, I’ve been on a complete bread tangent. It probably started with my annual attempt to produce a memory-invoking stollen bread, which was repeated twice over this year so that we could share the results with as many friends and family as possible… But not long after Christmas day came and went, I found myself visiting local bookstores, looking for a copy of Peter Reinhardt’s The Bread Baker’s Apprentice.

Since buying the book, I’ve tried recipes for classic, pre-fermented Italian bread, and a delicious potato-rosemary bread that filled our house with the smells of roasting rosemary and garlic as it baked. But neither was really all that blogworthy, mostly because they just weren’t as photogenic as the breads in Reinhardt’s stellar book… Until now.

My Pane Siciliano started on Friday afternoon, when I prepared a pate fermentee pre-fement, and quietly stashed it in the refrigerator to work its enzymatic magic. On Sunday, I prepared, kneaded and shaped the dough, then slid the pale little S’s into the refrigerator for an overnight proofing. By this morning, they’d grown pretty dramatically, and were ready for the oven after a half-hour to perk up at room temperature. In they went, along with a few spritzes of water for a steam treatment, and about 18 minutes later they emerged, ready for their close-up…

Pane Siciliano (image by David Rea)

Pane Siciliano

Pane Siciliano (image by David Rea)

Pane Siciliano

A Grateful New Yorker

Posted in Random thoughts by dave on January 20, 2010 No Comments yet

I know I’m just one guy, in the next state over, but I’d like to say thanks. Thanks to Scott Brown, and thanks to his supporters in Massachusetts. As a conservative living in New York, I’m pretty much guaranteed that my values have a pretty slim chance of being represented at the federal level – and it’s reassuring to see that someone has stood up and pledged to bring integrity back to a Senate where that value is sorely lacking.

A lot of people bought into the mantra of “hope” and “change” about a year ago. Now, “hope” is taking on a new connotation – people who love America and are proud to call this exceptional nation home are hoping that November 2010 will pull us out of the political tailspin we’re in. And the election of Scott Brown to a US Senate seat from one of the country’s bastions of progressivism is a big dose of hope, indeed.

RCA Airnergy: The EE in me calls BS

Posted in Geek Stuff, Random thoughts by dave on January 12, 2010 No Comments yet

One of the less-publicised but more-interesting product announcements to come out of this year’s CES conference is the Airnergy Wi-Fi energy harvester, brought to us by (surprisingly) the folks at RCA. Priced at $40 and planned for sale this summer, the little gizmo supposedly plucks wi-fi radio signals out of the air, then uses the energy to charge an internal battery which can then charge your mobile phone / MP3 player / etc.

RCA Airnergy charger

Image source: ohgizmo.com

While the gadget enthusiast in me wants to say “sign me up!” the electrical engineer in me says, “hold the phone…”

In the US, the maximum legal power transmitted from most wi-fi devices is 0.1 Watts. If you plug that into this RF power calculator and assume a distance of 5 meters with no line-losses and 3dB of gain in each antenna, the maximum harvestable power at the Airnergy will be about 0.00000157 Watts. This is plenty of energy to sling bytes of data through the air, but even if the charging circuit were (quite impossibly) 100% efficient, this input power is an order of magnitude less than even the self-discharge rate of most Lithium Ion batteries.

Even though RCA of-late seems to be more interested in selling their branding to marginal, no-name OEMs, the appearance of their logo on this gizmo is just about the only thing that gives me any hope that it might not be smoke and mirrors. The physics doesn’t add up, but who knows – 15 years ago, most folks probably wouldn’t have believed that 0.1 Watts at 2.4GHz was enough power to carry data at 100MB/s – yet you can happily do so at your local coffee shop. From your cell phone. Along with a half-dozen others.

Boxes of Very Important Things

Posted in Life Profundities by dave on January 10, 2010 No Comments yet

Visually-deemphasized, marginally-interesting note: This is DaveRea.com’s 500th post! As if you cared! Woohoo!

Felt-lined wooden boxAs I recall, it was the early ’90s, I was somewhere between age 10 and the threshold of teen-aged, and was developing an appreciation for the value of loose change. Loose change could buy you baseball cards or candy at the corner store. Loose change could be hooked to batteries with alligator clips in glasses of salt water (wait…don’t all tween males at some point attempt to electrodeposit copper onto paperclips?!). Loose change could be used to test out the snack vending machine you just built out of Construx. Most importantly, loose change could be found between couch cushions, wedged into car seats, rolled beneath appliances and dropped under beds.

And so, on the occasion that my Mom ducked outside to work in her gardens or complete some manner of seemingly-boring, adult, home-ownerly task, if the thought occurred to me, I’d roam around the house collecting change. My brother’s room wasn’t very productive – he had just finished potty-training, after all – and our guest bedroom was occupied far too rarely to be much of a coin-magnet. The couch and easy-chair in our family room were convenient targets, but once in a while, when everyplace else left me empty-handed, I’d head for my parents’ room. It wasn’t off-limits or anything; heck, the door stood open unless they got tired of finding cat hair on their bedspread. And, on occasion, I’d find a coin or two hiding behind the ruffles of their bedskirt, or under the recliner in the corner, or peeking out from the gap between the carpet and the bottom drawers of each dresser.

On these occasions, and indeed any occasion that I had to visit my parents’ bedroom, I noticed that they each had a small wooden box on their dressers. The boxes weren’t the same shape, nor were they the same size, or correlated in any way other than that both parents had one. I noticed the boxes during my covert change-collecting missions. I noticed the boxes when I’d sit with my Dad, listening to TalkNet on his clock radio while he flipped through Corvette magazines. I noticed the boxes when, as a refugee of malfunctioning plumbing, I had to use the master bathroom in the mornings before school for a month or so. And I noticed the boxes when I’d sit with my Mom, talking little but experiencing much, during her final battle with breast cancer in 1998.

Every time I noticed the boxes, I came to the same conclusion: They must be for storing Very Important Things.

More…

Lenovo Skylight: I’m confused…

Posted in Random thoughts by dave on January 6, 2010 No Comments yet

In our home, we’ve got nearly the entire technology spectrum covered… Kelly happily carries a simple flip phone, and I rock the Droid – and I secretly enjoyed being able to claim the latest-and-greatest until today. Laptop-wise, we’ve got my beastie HP business laptop on the large end, Kelly’s svelte netbook on the small end. Our tech fits us (not the other way around, I might add) and for good measure (and good backup) we’ve even got a server humming in the office. Experience-wise, we’re no Gizmodo, but I think we’ve got a decent-enough handle on where different form-factors work.

Which is what confuses me so much about yesterday’s newly-announced Lenovo Skylight:

The Lenovo Skylight - Source: Lenovo Press Release

More…

Choosing a direction for 2010…

Posted in Geek Stuff, Random thoughts by dave on January 2, 2010 2 Comments

Fifty-two weeks for the year, and fifty-two posts to go along with them – that’s the plan for DaveRea.com at least, and with a little luck, a few reminders and at least a handful of marginally-meaningful 11th-hour postings, I’m pretty confident I’ll be able to handle it. With the goal set, then, I’m just left wondering what to write about…

For ideas, I figured I’d take a look at what’s popular in DaveRea.com’s 497 existing posts. To start, that meant reviewing the site’s stats via the stellar WordPress.com Stats Plugin. By a pretty large margin (read: by a factor of 10-to-1) content like reviews and how-tos wins the page-view popularity contest. My review of the Lumiquest 80/20 takes the crown, with over 1,400 page views since I started collecting data in January 2009. Shortly behind, my info page for running Linux on my HP 6710b notebook tips the scales at 1,300 visits. You have to inch down to the #7 position before reaching an opinion piece – my commentary on the idiocy of Rochester’s gun “buyback” programs, which weighs in with 130 viewers.

So apparently y’all like information. But page views isn’t the only metric of what’s popular – in fact, I suspect it’s a better indicator of which content sits at the confluence of popular search terms and the portions of the site that are easily-indexed. Comments, I suspected, might give a better view of which DaveRea.com postings are most interesting – or at least which ones motivated you to saddle up to the keyboard and talk back. As it turns out, I must not motivate you all that much!

There are a shade over 300 comments spread across the posts and pages here, and it seems the majority of those comments are nearly-evenly split between informational pages (the 6710B post wins here, 10 comments), opinion pieces (such as my rant on Apple’s iPod access restrictions, 14 comments) and posts about life events (such as when I went to work for GM, with 10 comments).

So in the end, the message I take away is that info-posts, reviews and how-tos are good, and make for a good fit with the search engines. As hesitant as I am to post opinions on controversial things, those posts seem to earn some popularity too. And since there are at least a few readers here who care about what’s going on in my little corner of the world, throwing in some life updates for good measure doesn’t go unappreciated. That said, what do you want to see here? If you have a preference, hit me up in the comments (tchyeah, that worked real well last time, huh?) and let me know.