State of the Morgan

I loved having birthdays when I was a kid. I’m pretty sure this doesn’t make me unique, but I carried this a bit too far into my adulthood. I held dear the idea that a birthday was going to be the best day ever. This lasted until I made a series of poor choices and ended up on the receiving end of their consequences. Since then, I’ve shied away from celebrating my birthday, wanting to ensure that I make good decisions. Again, I feel that I may have carried that too far as well. Birthdays, like most things in life, seem to need work to make them awesome. Now, I have a wife to help me with making better decisions. She supports me and my crazy ideas, and helps me plan even when I’m reluctant and afraid.

This birthday has already been one of the more memorable ones in the last 10 years. I’ve received two thoughtful gifts that I will cherish for years to come as well as so many warm wishes from friends that I can’t help but sit here and smile, thankful in the knowing of how lucky I am. My life is good, my family is awesome, and I have no complaints. Thanks, world for helping to make me a better person as often as I can stand.

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I write back to recruiters

I get all sorts of spam. Email spam is mitigated via filters and unsubscribe links. Facebook spam is handled by saying “don’t show me this” to every link people post. LinkedIn spam is currently handled through feedback. I’m not sure it’s the best option, but it’s a start.

I received a form letter this morning highlighting my “entrepreneurial skills at Gallerus” and “Ruby on Rails experience.” I’ve not tried to turn Gallerus into a company, and I have no rails experience. It’s a simple guess to see this is a form letter with “company 1″ and “skill 1″ in the fields. The rest is just fluff to lure hopeful developers to write back.

Rather than delete spam like this, I try to encourage improvements in these recruiters’ processes. I figure recruiting is hard, feedback is sparse, and they reason they’re doing what they’ve done is because they feel it’s the best option.

Assuming I’m the kind of person they want to hire, I figure it might be nice to learn what could have been improved. I write them back with suggestions on what didn’t work, what did, and how they might woo someone like me in the future. I’ve received some thanks from recruiters, but in general, I don’t hear back. I wonder if I should make a form letter to reply to theirs.

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The Smallest, Easiest Life Hack is the Best Life Hack

I’m a sucker for lifehacks that save time and effort, and I consider this one of the easiest to implement.

When I use the microwave, I prioritize my button presses based on

  • Number of Buttons Pressed
  • Number of Different buttons pressed

An example:
My microwave has an “Add 30 Seconds” button, regular numbers, and requires you to hit start before cooking.
I often want to cook food in multiples of 30 seconds.
Here’s a breakdown of some options from worst to best:

30 Seconds:

Add 30 Seconds, Start
3, 3, Start
3, 0, Start

1 Minute:

Add 30 Seconds, Add 30 Seconds, Start
5, 5, Start
6, 0, Start

1 Minute 30 Seconds:

8, 8, Start
Add 30 Seconds, Add 30 Seconds, Add 30 Seconds, Start
1, 3, 0, Start

Ultimately this saves me no time at all during the day. What does happen is I use math to figure out what to press, which is better than it was before.
I know that 88 seconds is not the same as 90 seconds, but it’s close enough for me.

Posted in Hobbies, Life Hacks, Self Control | 1 Comment

My Favorite Resume

I was looking for a job recently and I decided to apply for a job at a food-based startup company. What could be a better fit for someone like me—food and programming?! So, in an effort to wow them, I put together a resume in a more fun format than I usually do. Here’s the result:
resume
They were looking for someone with more experience in open-source projects and didn’t even give me a message back (rude—didn’t want to work for a company like that anyway), but I had fun making the resume and thought it was clever.

I’ve since gotten a job that I like. No harm, no foul.

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Presto Chango, Limoncello!

1.75 liters of Everclear, or other strong or overproof spirit
18 lemons, whole, well washed, preferably organic
superfine or white sugarfood-grade cheesecloth, rinsed and wrung out
strong butcher’s twine
large sealable glass vessel or urn, with lid.

It helps to have another pair of hands while setting this up, but once you’ve gotten the initial setup in place, it takes care of itself.

Pour the spirit into the well-cleaned urn. Drape the cheesecloth in crossing swaths, making sure to gauge the length so that once the weight of the lemons is pending, they cannot reach the spirit. Bind the cheesecloth tightly in place on the outside edge of the urn with the butcher’s twine, wrapping it under a lip to make certain it is well held. Place the lemons into their hammock and cap the whole with the lid. If the lid has a plastic or rubber gasket, you may wish to remove it, lest it leach any off-flavors into the mix. Store in a stable environment out of sunlight for nine weeks. Given variables like temperature and humidity, your limoncello may be ready before then. Warmer climates will speed up the process. Avoid opening the jar, as it will set the curing process back, but do pay attention to the color of the mix; you want it rich with a kind of varnished yellow, but it can actually go too far, overextracting into a brown color with an intensity that can be too much for some people’s taste.

At the end of the aging period you should have roughly 1.4 liters of unsweetened lemon spirit at roughly 60 percent alcohol by volume, or 120 proof. Make a simple syrup of .5 liter water and the same of sugar. When dissolved fully, add to the lemon spirit and mix well. Taste for strength, balance and sweetness and adjust water for dilution and/or sugar if necessary. Be cautious not to drown the lemon’s bite and aromatics with too much sugar, but also bear in mind that if you’re serving your limoncello from the freezer, you will perceive slightly less sweetness in the frozen mixture.Note: for more precisely diluting down to taste, you can purchase a spirit hydrometer, a device like a small floating thermometer or fishing bobber, which tells you the proof or percentage of alcohol in a solution, for as little as $7 to $10 at most brewing or winemaking supply stores. You would be looking to keep the final limoncello at about 40 percent, or 80 proof.

via Case Study | Presto Chango, Limoncello! – NYTimes.com.

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Sugar Cookie Recipe

Makes 3-4 dozen

image

2 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1 cup butter, softened (23 sec in microwave from fridge)
1 1/2 cups white sugar
1 egg
1 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F (190 degrees C). In a small bowl, stir together flour, baking soda, and baking powder. Set aside.

In a large bowl, cream together the butter and sugar until smooth. Beat in egg and vanilla. Gradually blend in the dry ingredients. Roll rounded teaspoonfuls of dough into balls, and place onto ungreased cookie sheets.

Bake 8 to 10 minutes in the preheated oven, or until golden. Let stand on cookie sheet two minutes before removing to cool on wire racks.

via Easy Sugar Cookies Recipe – Allrecipes.com.

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Refinishing a Dresser

My wife had a dresser that belonged to her grandmother before she passed away. It had been in her room since before high school and was quite the worse for wear. When we found out we were having a child, we decided to fix it up and I decided to try my hand at a little refinishing.

Bolstered by my successes in building a changing table (what a difference learning how to paint on YouTube can make), I decided to paint it in a similar color scheme to the one we had for the nursery. Here’s how it looked before we began:

IMG_20130105_144547 IMG_20130105_144616 IMG_20130105_144610 IMG_20130105_144558 IMG_20130105_144553

I used my Black and Decker Mouse sander with 120 grit paper to take the initial varnish off as well as even out some of the lighter scratches. YouTube taught me that if you sand against the gran, more wood comes off, and with the grain produces a smoother finish. Also, I found that more pressure, while getting you faster results, produces more lines, gouges, and roughness, which may not be what you’re looking for. Also, varnish is a pain because it gums up your sandpaper. Buy lots of the stuff, it’s amazing how much faster fresh paper goes through work than an old, bad sheet.

The deep scratches, gouges, delaminations, and holes I patched using Elmer’s Wood Filler. I was painting the end result, so I didn’t care about the color. I found that a technique of squeezing the putty into the hole, pressing it flat with the putty knife to really get it in there, then scraping it off like wall spackle worked well in many cases for small holes. For larger gouges, I opted to leave a slight rise in the putty, then sanded it flat after it was dried solid. The end result was excellent.

After the filling, sanding, and prepping, this was the result:

IMG_20130105_160900 IMG_20130105_160943 IMG_20130105_160919

Painting was done with Benjamin Moore Latex indoor paint from Home Depot and a foam brush. I understand the importance of a good bristle brush, but I’m not there yet. I could imagine how good you could get with one of those, but I’m currently to the point of “put paint on the furniture, not on your hands and clothes.” One sweatshirt, one pairs of pants, and one painted wedding ring later, and I think I was actually doing well by the end. Things I’ve learned: slow painting = more paint on the surface, your first dip doesn’t have enough paint on it yet, so don’t do detail work till your brush is well-loaded, paint toward the edges, and don’t paint the top, back, and the bottom of the inside of a 4-inch space at the same time–that’s how you get paint on your hands.

In between coats, I sanded the top and sides with the Mouse sander and 220 grit paper. The result is happily smooth, and not tacky (yet). One of the problems with latex paint seems to be this tackiness. The changing table has it, and I’m hoping it fades with time as the paint completely dries. Until then, I’m not putting anything that can bond to latex on either piece of furniture, though I’m concerned about the drawers joining to each other.

The end result looks greatly improved and fits with the look of the nursery well. I hope our son enjoys the furniture I’ve made him for a long time to come.

IMG_20130110_195949 IMG_20130110_195955

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Broccomole

Broccomole
Ingredients
3 cups chopped broccoli
1 jalapeno, chopped, seeds removed
2 tbs green onions
1 tsp olive oil
2 ounces fat free cream cheese
1/4 tsp chili powder
1 tbs cilantro
1/4 tsp salt
1/4 tsp black pepper

Instructions

Cook the broccoli in lightly salted water until very soft. Overcook the broccoli in comparison to the al dente cooking that most recipes recommend.

Drain broccoli very well.

Transfer to a food processor. Add the remaining ingredients and process until smooth, add additional olive oil for a smoother texture.

Serve warm

via Broccomole.

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Garlic and Herb Stuffed Brussels Sprouts

15 very large Brussels sprouts
1 cup of whole milk ricotta cheese
1 cup parmesan cheese, shredded
½ cup Panko bread crumbs
3 cloves of garlic, minced
1 tablespoon dried thyme
1 tablespoon dried basil
1 teaspoon dried marjoram
1 teaspoon dried sage
1 teaspoon sea salt
A pinch of pepper
Olive oil

1. They say size doesn’t matter, but it does. Well, it matters here. The key to this recipe is large Brussels sprouts. I usually buy the tiniest ones I can find. But for this one, you want them super-sized. After you wash them, trim the ends and then halve them as seen below.

2. I know stuffing Brussels sprouts sounds like a pain in the rear, and if you skip this next step, it will be. We need to blanch these babies. So fill a large deep pan with water, bring it to a boil and add the sprouts. You want to add them cut-side down, since we are doing this to make coring them easier. Let them cook for 1-2 minutes and remove them and let them cool.

3. I suggest you watch the video below for this next step.
He goes through how to quickly core the Brussels sprouts in just a few minutes.

4. Finely chop the cored Brussels sprouts pieces. We are going to saute them in some olive oil along with the minced garlic until over a medium-high heat. Cook until the chopped sprouts are tender and the whole mixture is aromatic. Yum!

5. Mix the cooked garlic and sprout mixture along with the ricotta, bread crumbs, parmesan cheese and herbs. Add in some of the salt and taste the mixture. Ideally, you want it to taste a bit overly salted because it will be less salty once they are baked. So you’ll need to experiment a bit here.

6. Using a small spoon, fill the Brussels sprouts with the stuffing. Over fill them. This stuff is good!

7. Bake the stuffed Brussels sprouts for about 20 minutes at 400 degrees, or until the caps are crispy and burnt. Enjoy!

via Garlic and Herb Stuffed Brussels Sprouts – Cooking Stoned.

Stuffed-Brussels-Sprouts

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Reflections on 2012

I’ve always found that even-numbered years are usually more fun, looking back, than those of odd years. I’m not sure why that is, if it’s psychological, or if it’s something to do with 16, 18, 30, etc. appearing on even years, but this year was no exception. If I had to sum up this year in a word, it would be change. So many facets of my life are different now from where I began 2012 that I can barely remember them all.

Like most of the last few years, I did monthly resolutions this year, at least for part of the time. This led to some amazing times, especially Fearless Month, which I think I’ll carry with me the rest of my life. Fearless month led to trapeze, trapeze led to a blood clot in my leg, putting me face-to-face with my mortality for a while, and eventually led to me taking a daily multivitamin and walking around more, especially at work.

I got married. My wife is an amazing person, and continues to stun me with the depth of her compassion and the care she shows me and our life in general. It’s been over six months, and we’re still doing well. We’re continually conquering one of the biggest hurdles our marriage can face–money–and we’ve got hope about the other ones and working on them in the future. I find myself happy, and with New Year’s eve approaching, a holiday I used to dread, I find myself excited and confident about what the next year will bring.

We’re having a child. Within the next month, we’ll give birth to our first son. People keep asking me, “Are you ready? Are you excited? Are you scared?” and, of course, I’m all of those things. I’m ready to be a dad. I’ve been ready to be a dad for a long time, insomuch as Plato believed he was a genius. The only thing I know about being a parent is that I’ll never be ready to be a parent, so why not now? I’m scared of the mistakes I’ll make, and I’m excited about the potential I have to become a better person through my son, and help him become better, too.

We moved to a nicer neighborhood. Our loft in Oakland was great, but it was huge, cold, in a bad area, and not much of a “home.” Also not my favorite place to raise a child. The idea that my wife can walk with our son to the park and not worry about crime the way we used to is an incentive greater than many others. The new house is already more of a home to me, and the workshop in the garage doesn’t hurt either. I’ve started making furniture, and I’m already a lot better than when I started.

All in all, I couldn’t have asked for a better year. I’m happy, healthy, relaxed, and productive. If I can keep this up for the next 70+ years, I’ll be in good shape.

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