Skip Navigation

January 27, 2005

Never Quit Smoking

The Smoked Joint is a new barbecue, uh, joint in downtown Philadelphia. Last week was our first opportunity to check it out. It's an interesting mix of country cookin' and big-city rock and roll with a funky feel tempered by lots of sophisticated touches.

The place is fairly large, and seemed even larger because it wasn't very crowded; there were a few people at the bar and most of the tables were empty. This concerned me. I can be very protective of new places that cater to one of my food fetishes, and I start to worry that if a place doesn't catch on, it won't be around long. After all, most restaurants fail.

We started with drinks. They have four beers on draft (and about twice as many bottled brews). I chose one I never heard of, a Belgian pilsner called Stella Artois. Very light.

Before I get to the food, I should admit that I am no expert on barbecue, it's just that I love smoked meats. I haven't been to very many barbecue places in the Philadelphia area (really only Abner's in Jenkintown and Hooley's in Ambler), but after this meal I will have to give the Smoked Joint top honors.

I usually try a restaurant's pulled pork sandwich, but the Smoked Joint doesn't serve one (they only had a heretical version on pita), so I ordered a platter with pulled pork and brisket. The two meats were nicely arranged on the plate, with a few slices of brisket neatly fanned out, and a nice pile of pulled pork surmounted by a stingy dollop of thick sauce. (Though small, it was plenty; I'm not a sauce guy.) The pulled pork was very good, perhaps a little drier and less tender than the best I've had, but the brisket was sensational, easily the best I've ever had—it was melt-in-your-mouth tender and utterly suffused with smoky goodness. The corn bread was unusual; not sweet like some, and it incorporated diced green pepper for a mild kick. The collards were perfect. We have collards from our backyard frequently and prepare them with onions. They're good, but they're even better smoked.

If I had to find something to complain about, it would be the service. There wasn't anything wrong, but everything was very slow. Fortunately, we weren't in a hurry.

When I Googled the place to double-check the address I was surprised and delighted to learn that the restaurant is the product of a collaboration between two Penn graduates, who graduated the same year I did. Read all about it.

January 23, 2005

Korn Shell version q

I noticed the other day that the Korn Shell (ksh93) had been updated to version q back in December. I was using version p, which I had installed using Fink. I thought I could use Fink again, but wasn't able to. For one thing, ksh93 is only listed in the CVS unstable distribution for 10.2. “Unstable” means it hasn't been tested, but that never fazed me. More importantly, however, the latest version available through Fink has been stuck at 20030621, which is a year and a half old. (That source isn't available anymore, so you couldn't build ksh93 if you wanted to through Fink. I wrote to the maintainer a while ago, but never heard anything.) To get newer versions, I edited the dot info file to point to the current source and in the past this worked well, but this time I couldn't get Fink to recognize there was a newer version.

Bypassing Fink, I found a simple set of instructions that described which packages to download from AT&T and how to compile them. All went smoothly, and I now have version q of ksh93.

January 17, 2005

QuickTime glitches

I was disappointed that the Macworld Keynote address was not webcast this year. Last year it was, but the quality was so poor, I felt like I didn't really see it. Since it was the most boring keynote I can remember, I never did watch it.

This year was different. Even though there was no news about PowerBooks (the only Apple product I'm interested in at the moment), there were lots of exciting developments from Apple that should make for an interesting year. I just don't think that 2005 will be the year of High Definition—except for the handful of early adopters who can afford $3500 for that HD video camera from Sony.

Over the weekend I tried watching the keynote mainly to check out Kunitake Ando's alleged meltdown. Something was wrong somewhere, because I couldn't get the keynote to stream without dropping out every couple seconds. I switched my connection speed (in 10.2.8, System Preferences:QuickTime) all the way down to “28.8 modem.” At that setting, the keynote was audio-only, but it still wouldn't play. The next day, it was working fine even on the highest setting (Intranet/LAN). At that speed, the picture was fairly large and the video was creamy smooth; it was nice to know that our DSL has no trouble keeping up with the flow.

January 14, 2005

Huygens Pronounced Huygens

Today the Huygens probe touched down successfully on Saturn's largest moon, Titan. I don't know how I missed the news, but I think this was the first I heard of the Cassini/Huygens mission, but then I can't keep up with all the interplanetary probes (especially them Yurpeen ones). This is an exciting mission, and I am as piqued as I was almost two years ago when I heard that NASA had finally lost contact after 30 years with Pioneer 10. (*sniff* God speed, little wanderer!)

I wanted to share my enthusiasm with my friends at lunch, but stopped short when I realized I didn't know how to pronounce Huygens. “How about that Titan thing,” I began lamely and finally admitted why I was avoiding the word Huygens. I felt better when no one at the table could pronounce it either.

I listened to how it was pronounced on NPR. The most common was HOY-gens, although one person said HIGH-gens. Then I Googled the pronunciation and found an mp3 with the name pronounced by five native Dutch speakers. That didn't help much, because I could never imitate the Dutch accent, and to my ear, each one pronounced it differently. The real sound is neither HOY-gens nor HIGH-gens, but to my ear HIGH-gens sounds closer, not that it's close.

While reading about Cassini, I read about NASA's comet-smashing probe, Deep Impact. I think this is going too far. Soft landings on other worlds is one thing, but this is weird science: smashing a comet just to see what happens. That is just rude. For all we know, the impact will change the comet's trajectory to one that will send it smashing into earth.

January 13, 2005

Light at the End of the (Winter) Tunnel

For someone who thinks he would like to live in Maine someday (where winter is brutal), days like today remind me how much I hate winter. Not that today was wintry—anything but. It was unseasonably warm (around 60) and that’s the trouble. As I walked to the train on the freshly-dampened pavement with a warm breeze gently blowing and a crescent moon in the sky, it felt like spring was just around the corner. The weather today reminded me how much I want winter to be over.

The light at the end of tunnel was the only thing sustaining me. That light was a faint glow in the western sky as I was leaving work. It’s the first day I noticed it. I was thrilled when we turned the corner toward longer days after the solstice last month, but this is the first day that I noticed the change in the sky.

There are also daffodil buds peeping through the ground. It won’t be so long...

January 11, 2005

Mere Cat is Blosxoming

I've been experimenting with using Blosxom to manage the blog part of this web site, so things on the home page will be a bit more chaotic than usual for a while. One improvement is that I now have an RSS feed just like the cool kids do. A tip of the hat to Jim Flach for goading me into trying Blosxom.

Say It With Biscotti

One of the joys of the Christmas season is the gift of homemade biscotti from my friend Lenny. His pistachio and cranberry biscotti are, quite simply, the best we’ve ever tasted (see pictures).

Anne was inspired to recreate the biscotti in our own kitchen and found a recipe on the web (originally from Gourmet magazine). She baked the first batch last night, and they were great; not as good as Lenny’s, but so close it didn’t much matter.

January 3, 2005

Tsunami Prayer Service

We attended a prayer service for tsunami victims last night. I was glad to see that the church was very full since after the soothing sermon the congregants were steered past vases collecting money for relief organizations. I hope the collection was wildly successful since that's what's really needed now in addition to our prayers.