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Month: January 2011

Ice Cream, Take 2 (Vanilla Chai)

I started with my previous recipe, and modified it to be in line with this one. I dropped the vanilla and changed the dairy products to one quart of half-and-half as per the second recipe — I’d wanted to thin out the fat content a bit, and getting rid of the whipping cream should take care of that. I also used just 3/4ths of a cup of sugar, and a smidge less than 2 eggs. I suppose I could have scaled the second recipe up but using 1 quart of half-and-half is awfully convenient. The ratio of sugar is a bit lower than before, which should allow the tea flavor to come out more.

I used vanilla chai tea bags instead of loose-leaf tea, so I randomly guessed at 5 teabags for the infusion step. Now that I’ve made the custard and tasted it I think I was too light on the tea, but I didn’t want to do a second infusion because the custard isn’t all that hot. Also I sort of wish I’d gone for a simpler black tea; the vanilla chai will taste really good but it will refer back to plain vanilla ice cream because, well, it’s still vanilla. This is a pretty postmodern flaw when you get right down to it. Maybe I’ll do another batch with Earl Grey and more tea bags. Alternatively, I could squeeze the tea out of the bags more. Or use loose-leaf, but I’m not sure I care that much.

The custard is now cooling on the counter since I’m not in a hurry. In an hour or so I’ll transfer it to the fridge, and I’ll pull out the ice cream maker tomorrow night. I believe this means I’ll have actual ice cream on Wednesday.

Edit: I got impatient and ran the ice cream maker this morning before work, to match the chilly ice storm outside. Looks promising.

Ice Cream, Take 1

I started with this:

2 eggs (used Eggbeaters to avoid raw egg problems)
1 cup sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 cups whipping cream
2 cups half-and-half
1/2 cup 1% milk
2 1/4 teaspoons vanilla

Chilling custard The original recipe calls for 2 1/2 cups of whipping cream, but I wanted to make it a tad less rich and they sell whipping cream by the cup, so it was simplest to just put half a cup of milk in. I cooked everything but the vanilla over lowish-medium heat till it hit 160 degrees, then poured it into a bowl over ice to cool quickly. The custard texture wasn’t super-thick, but it coated a metal spoon nicely enough.

Because I am impatient, I’m trying to cool the custard in the freezer. I may regret this. I’m going to give it an hour, then if it’s cold enough, I’ll turn it into ice cream. If it’s not cold enough I’ll transfer it to the fridge to sit overnight.

Update: one hour in the freezer cooled it down nicely; it then spent 25 minutes in the ice cream maker and is now in the freezer. It looks pretty good, so I’m optimistic.

Update 2: after freezing, the texture and mouthfeel are perfect. This is a winning procedure for custard-style bases. I want to try the Cuisinart-supplied simple recipe next; I’m curious to see how it’ll change. Flavor-wise, it was a tad sweet and a little bit bright. Possibly a smidge more salt and a bit less sugar is called for? Or it might be that the Mexican vanilla we used is super-flavorful. Definitely tasty, though.

Review: Sha Po Lang

I took advantage of a Christmas Amazon gift certificate to fill a few holes in my old Hong Kong movie collection plus make a gesture towards catching up on more recent Hong Kong flicks. I know the Hong Kong movie scene is never going to be quite what it was back in the day, but it’s not like the last decade was a wasteland or anything. I’m behind!

Thus Susan and I watched Sha Po Lang last night. (You’d find it on US video shelves as Kill Zone; despite Miramax’s reputation and the horrendous new title, it’s an unclipped unmangled version.) Simon Yam was the big draw for me, cause I’ve always thought he’s a great Hong Kong character actor, plus it’s got a great rep, plus of course Sammo Hung and Donnie Yen.

So that was a good choice. As heroic bloodshed movies go, it’s not all that heroic, plus it’s more of a martial arts movie than a gunplay movie. It’s coming from the same place as the old John Woo classics, though, just without the moral brightness. The fight scenes are superb, the brutality is sudden and deft, and the personalities are turned up to eleven.

Although, you know, I’m probably doing it an injustice there when I bring up heroic bloodshed. The thing that makes Sha Po Lang really stand out is that the characters are nearly universally dark. Yeah, the propulsive anger that powers the movie is related to Chow Yun Fat’s righteous fury from any number of movies, and the sense of brotherhood is there, but this movie — like Infernal Affairs, to which it owes a great debt — is a deconstruction of the heroic bloodshed myth. Rogue cops are not always forces for good.

Possibly Sammo Hung’s role as a villain — “the first time I’ve done that in twenty-five years” — was also part of that. I’d love to ask Wilson Yip what he had in mind there.

Oh, and if you’re the kind of sad person who won’t go out and rent a movie on my say so, you could always watch this fight scene, which is awesome, but you ought to let the movie build up properly instead of watching it out of context.

More on Evernote

The CEO of Evernote posted a followup on their Mac App Store numbers. Convenient; I was wishing they would today. The rush of new Mac users tailed off quite a bit but it’s still a big percentage. He’s gone from thinking that mobile usage drives Evernote to believing that “the presence of a well-formed app store is the single most important factor for the viability of a platform for third party developers.”

I wish he’d talk about the percentages of users he’s getting from iOS vs. Android. It’s a free app on both platforms. Apple people like to critique the Android App Store for being junky, having low app size limits, and so on, but I’d rather see some actual numbers there.

Funny Alert

Hulu has the full run of Coupling; the British version, not the really bad American remake. Steven Moffat of Doctor Who current fame was the show’s creator, plus you’ve got Jack Davenport and Gina Bellman in every episode. You’ve sort of got to like sitcoms about people who are not entirely angelic, but it’s kind of sweet too.

Gaming Borders

I don’t post every new Fiasco playset that pops up, cause I maintain that list over on Claw/Claw/Peck, but Liquidation is too good to miss. Particularly since I was talking about how Borders was close to going under the other week.

Crossings is one of the biggest bookstore chains in the country. Due to a changing market and (according to some) mismanagement, the company has been in pretty bad shape for a while. Now the other shoe has finally dropped, and Crossings has declared bankruptcy. All of the stores are closing, just as soon as they can liquidate enough of their merchandise. In the midst of it all, you’re going to become some of the employees and regulars, out to get the best deals (or steals), settled grudges, or maybe just get your life in order before the inevitable end.

Grim humor, my favorite!

Google and Video

Google hates H.264! H.264 is used almost everywhere, not just for Web video; it’s also the Blu-Ray encoding standard. So this is very exciting.

Despite my knee-jerk pro-Apple response, I believe that Google is correct in stating that WebM is the better political choice for Web standards. It is open in the sense that there’s no licensing fee and Google has no ability to institute one. It is not an open standard insofar as the standard does not belong to an impartial standards body, which is slightly problematic, but practically speaking it’s not a huge deal. H.264 does, FWIW, belong to such a body. But it’s not free to license, and that is again the more important issue.

WebM may not be the better choice from a legal point of view, in that we don’t know if it’s encumbered by patents. It would be nice if Google would indemnify people using WebM from patent lawsuits, but I don’t think it’s reasonable to require them to do so. Google doesn’t have to do your legal work for you, even if it would be nice if they did. Anyhow, I am not competent to have an opinion on the legal issues, so “we don’t know.” If I needed to make a corporate decision about this I’d pay for a lawyer to tell me things.

Technically speaking I don’t care. Web video is not the place where I demand top-notch video quality. H.264 might be better; even if it is, it’s not going to matter 99% of the time.

Now the fun part. Google’s stance, while correct, is in direct conflict with their Flash support. Google’s statement: “Adobe Flash Player is the most widely used web browser plug-in. It enables a wide range of applications and content on the Internet, from games, to video, to enterprise apps.” So, yes, this is true. Likewise, H.264 is the most widely used Web video format, which enables a wide range of video on the Internet. You’re either making decisions based on usage or not.

Which makes me suspect that Google is, with WebM, making the right decision for the wrong reasons. This only makes me about 50% happy.

Edit: this post makes the excellent point that Flash does share one key characteristic with WebM: namely, it’s free to distribute. However, Adobe has not to my knowledge guaranteed this in perpetuity.

Space Marines

Short shameful confession: I’m kind of enjoying the hell out of the Horus Heresy books. Of course this is only because Dan Abnett is quite a competent writer and so on, but excuses aside, big serious people in powered armor are marching across the galaxy and falling to corruption one by one! I have never taken pleasure out of a Warhammer 40K Space Marine book before. Nom nom nom.

Mac App Store

I tried it out; it does what you’d expect. But here’s the ridiculous news, which is best summarized by the following graph. Since the Mac App Store launch, more than half of Evernote’s new users have come from the Mac, compared to a minuscule percentage before the launch.

Evernote new user graph

I mean, it’s the first weekend, and I’m sure it’ll level out. But man.