Categories
music

Kevin’s Favorite Albums of 2014

I can’t believe the last time I did this was in 2011, but it’s time to do it again! 2014 was a great year for music! Again! My 2014 Favorites has 256 songs on it. Last year’s has almost 350, but I think that’s more about me being more selective about what goes on it than the quality of the year.

I decided to break up the list into three sections, because I don’t think it’s fair to compare albums by bands I’ve loved for years with new stuff that jumped out enough to be considered. I’m getting older and though I’m trying really hard not to let my musical taste calcify, well, I think it’s inevitable. Also, the “throwbacks” fit a theme for me. They’re all committed to a sound from the past and pull it off expertly. All four albums will have you grinning from ear to ear just to hear great new songs in styles you thought were dead.

Repeat Offenders

Throwbacks

The New Kids

And there you have it… my favorite albums of 2014. Enjoy!

Categories
cooking daily tedium

Leftovers Accomplished: Turkey Ramen

A finished bowl of turkey ramen

What do you do with your turkey carcass after Thanksgiving? My mom suggested making stock, so that’s what we did! And then I realized that we could turn that stock into ramen broth with just a few more ingredients and with the crock pot, we could do it with a lot less effort than it took to make Momofuku ramen broth (which my son and I took 12 hours to do one day – it was delicious, but a lot of work).

So, here’s my turkey ramen recipe, which turned out way better than I expected and was slurped up in minutes by my family.

  1. We took the turkey carcass, with some leftover meat on it, legs and wings (which no one in my family likes), tore it up and stuffed it disrespectfully into my 6 quart crock pot, then covered it with water. We’d smoked the turkey, so you may get different results if your turkey was roasted, but it’ll still be good.
  2. Crock pot it on low for 18 hours (really).
  3. Strain out the broth. I used a metal colander because I don’t have one of those fancy soup colander things. I just wanted to make sure I caught any bones and big chunks. The great thing about ramen broth is that you don’t have to be as diligent about skimming off fat as you would with a classical stock.
  4. After straining it out, I put the broth back in the crock pot with two packages of mushrooms (one shiitake, one baby bella), a chunk of jowl bacon and two ham hocks and let it go for another 18 hours. You could use bacon ends, a ham bone, just something porky to give it some extra punch. I also added some more water to get it back up to almost the top (I left about an inch between the broth and the top).
  5. With about four hours to go, I added 2-3 tablespoons of soy sauce. It probably doesn’t matter too much when you add this.
  6. I didn’t have any ramen noodles, so I made pad thai noodles, which worked fine.
  7. Plating is pretty easy. In each bowl, I put:
    • 1 poached egg (I poached them in a sauce pan full of water and put the eggs in biscuit cutters to keep them together)
    • Chopped green onions
    • Grated carrots
    • Some chopped up leftover turkey
    • Finely chopped roasted unsalted peanuts.

That’s pretty much it! The broth came out full of strong flavors, which matched well with the light flavors in the bowl.

I don’t think I’ll ever go back to the 12 hour process. This worked really well and should be super flexible.

The only thing I might do differently is to actually make the tare instead of just dumping in soy sauce, since it’s easy to make and super versatile. If I were starting from scratch and had it handy, I might also start with the konbu broth and then pour that over whatever poultry I started with in the crock pot.

If you come up with interesting twists on it, let me know what you do!

Categories
cooking

Cold Brew Coffee

2014-02-07 09.35.44-2

I love cold brewed coffee. It’s smoother than regular coffee, and depending on the beans you use, chocolatey too. It’s a great change of pace from a regular cup, and great in the summer. I’ve been playing with my recipe for a while and I figured I’d pop it up here so other people can try it out. First, equipment:

  • Takeya Tea Maker – It’s a small pitcher with a built-in basket for tea. I just use coffee instead. It makes cleanup and filtering a lot easier.
  • Good Coffee – This is a must. If you don’t have a local roaster, I’d check out Tonx. But, you probably have a local roaster. Find them. Become friends with them. Get good coffee beans from them.
  • A grinder that can do a coarse grind. I have a cheap one that works fine. Or, if you’re feeling spendy, you could jump up a couple brackets and get a nice burr grinder. I have a small manual Hario thing I use when I’m serious about the grind, but the blade grinder works for me for now.

If you have the 1 quart pitcher, you should grind enough beans for a 12-cup pot of coffee and put your grinder on the coarsest setting.

Once you have the coffee, put it in the basket, fill the pitcher with filtered water and then close it up and stick it in the fridge. I like mine super rich, so I usually let it steep for a couple days before I take it out. The professionals leave it in for up to a week, but two days is usually enough for me.

I also shake it up a couple times a day to stir things up and mix the grounds up a little. It’s probably just a placebo thing, but I think it makes better coffee to agitate it a bit.

After you’ve let it steep in the fridge, it’s time to filter it. The basket’s going to catch most of the grounds, but you’ll have some sludge in there that’s good to filter out. I pour mine through my drip coffee machine filter and that takes out 95% of the sludge. I have friends who use a french press for their cold brew, which works really well because you get to skip the filtering step, but I don’t yet have a large enough french press to make that work.

There you have it, my recipe for cold brew. What’s your recipe?

Categories
cooking

Making an Iced Latte With an Aeropress

I used to have access to a lovely espresso machine, which which we made many iced lattes. Now that I work from home, reproducing the silky luxury of those iced lattes has been a little difficult. Until now. I use an Aeropress for almost all of my coffee needs and have finally figured out how to make a solid iced latte:

  • Put the Aeropress plunger on the 3 line of the aeropress. You don’t want too much coffee or you’ll never get it cold. Plus, you want it to be strong.
  • 1 scoop of finely ground coffee (if you can’t do fine ground, that’s OK) in the aeropress
  • Pour almost boiling water over the grounds, stir, then set your timer for 4 minutes.
  • Fill your cocktail shaker with four ice cubes, sugar and milk or half and half to taste (I’d guess no more than 1/3 cup of liquid).
  • When the timer goes off, press the coffee into the cocktail shaker, shake the hell out of it and pour.
  • Enjoy.

It’s simple and makes a really good iced latte. And remember, the better your beans, the better your cup (I get all my coffee from Cup to Cup).

Happy coffee-ing!

Categories
music

My Most Played Songs

I can’t remember when I did it, but a few years ago I reset all the play counts in iTunes. That was years ago at this point, and since switching to Rdio for most of my music listening, I only use iTunes for things I can’t get on Rdio, live shows from nyctaper or podcasts. I was looking for something new to choose for This is My Jam, and decided I’d just pick the song I’ve played the most in iTunes. And then I decided I might as well share my “historical” top ten songs as shown by what I actually listened to. So, here they are, followed by the number of times I’ve listened to them according to iTunes. Excuse the profanity, that is really the name of the band (and they’re awesome):

  1. Lovely Allen by Holy Fuck – 153
  2. Pullin Punches by Arkells – 150
  3. Fresh Blood by Eels – 137
  4. Working Full-Time by The Constantines – 122
  5. Happy by The Wrens – 113
  6. Your Hand in Mine by Explosions in the Sky – 111
  7. Dance Like a Monkey by New York Dolls – 106 (this one’s skewed because I accidentally left it on repeat one day where I had a lot of meetings and I forgot to pause it – still, it’s a great song. The video is killer)
  8. I Play My Kazoo by Grand Analog – 102
  9. Soon Enough by The Constantines – 101
  10. Violet Light by Raised by Swans – 101

I also went ahead and created a playlist in Rdio with Trnsmit with my top 100 songs (Rdio doesn’t have all of them, so it’ll be less than 100, but whatever).

It’s funny that the bands I consider my all-time favorites don’t show up until farther down the list (Massive Attack shows up at number 13 with Paradise Circus and Morphine doesn’t show up until number 26 with Come Along). The Constantines show up a ton in the top 50, but that’s mostly because my “Best of the Constantines” playlist was a constant companion for almost a year when I had to crank out code on a deadline.

Oh well, there you go, my top 10 songs played in iTunes. I wish I could do the same in Rdio. I have a feeling it would be dominated by Library Voices.

And yes, this post is instead of writing one about my time at SxSW this year or my new job at Rails Machine that I start in a few weeks. I might write those blog posts later.

Categories
tv

Right Up My Crime-Infested Alley

Grantland has created a tournament to see who the best character was on The Wire. Since I’ve now watched the show all the way through three times now, here are my picks for the final four.

I’ve got a problem right off with Ziggy Sobotka going up against Omar in round one. I love Ziggy, but he’s got no chance against Omar.

  • West Baltimore: Omar Little – No doubt.

  • Hamsterdam: Jimmy McNulty – Clay Davis would win if it was for “most quotable”.

  • The Ports: Bunny Colvin – This one was really close between Bunny and Tommy Carcetti, but I think Bunny is the better character.

  • East Baltimore: Lester Freamon – I know people love Stringer, but Lester is deep, complex and a perfect foil to McNulty.

And your picks?

Categories
music sxsw

My Annual SxSW Prep: Listening to Tons of Music!

This is odd because I’ve never stayed for the Music portion of SxSW, but every year for the past five or six, I’ve downloaded the massive torrent of free songs from the artists playing SxSW and tried to listen and rate all of them. To give you some idea of the scale, the 2011 torrent had over 1000 songs in it, released in two parts. That’s a lot of music to listen to, and I usually forget to post my top-rated stuff here, but I think I’ve actually listened to everything for at least the last three years (even when I haven’t gone to SxSW).

I’ve figured out a workflow for getting through and rating everything using iTunes’ Smart Playlists that I figure might help you if you want to do the same thing:

  1. Download the torrent and then put all the songs in a single regular playlist.
  2. Create a new Smart Playlist for the songs you haven’t listened to and haven’t skipped. It took a little while to get this set up correctly, but it should be something like this (and then sorted by artist):
    • Playlist – is – Your SxSW Torrent playlist (mine’s called SxSW 2012)
    • Plays – is less than – 1
    • Skips – is less than – 1
    • Rating – is not – 1 star
    • Rating – is not – 2 stars
  3. Create another Smart Playlist for things you’ve listened to but haven’t rated:
    • Playlist – is – SxSW 2012
    • Rating – is – no stars
    • Plays – is greater than – 0 (this removes any that you skipped, which you can assume you want to leave 0 stars)
  4. I also created one like the unrated, but where the Rating is greater than 3 to find my favorites.

What’s great about the unlistened Smart Playlist is that if I give something a rating of 1 or 2 stars, it automatically skips it and goes on to the next song.

Hopefully this helps you better manage your SxSW torrent listening experience! I’ll try to remember to come back and share my favorites. I’m halfway through the B’s as I write this. Only 686 songs to go (and this is just the “Part 1” torrent)!

Oh, and if you don’t want to bother with any of that, I made an Rdio playlist with the songs Rdio has out of the list (about 380 out of the 771 songs in Part 1).

Categories
music

Kevin’s Favorite Albums of 2011

Hi, my name is Kevin, and I’m a music addict. I used to have a 2-3 album a week buying habit. But that’s all changed, thanks to Rdio. I go through the new releases every Tuesday and try to listen to all the interesting new stuff I can find. The good stuff gets added to my collection and the best stuff gets added to my phone. I now usually only buy one album a month, and that’s only because it’s not available on Rdio or is just that good. You might be saying to yourself, “But Kevin, you work on a music product. Why are you using Rdio?” Why? Because they do two different things. Rdio is good if you know exactly what you want to listen to (same with the other on-demand services like Spotify or Rhapsody). If you don’t, or want to discover new stuff, then radio services like SonicSeeds are what you want to use. I see us as complimentary to the on-demand services, not really completing with them (other than for ear time).

The problem with Rdio is that it’s not easy to find the things you’ve added to your collection that were released in the past year, so this list isn’t complete yet. But, if you’re really eager to get the complete list, check back.

And here it is, selections from my favorite albums of 2011. It was a great year for music, and I had a hard time choosing. I think there are about 20 albums represented here, all of them worth picking up or adding to your collection! Enjoy!

Categories
tv

My Favorite British Shows on Netflix

I’ve been a Netflix customer for only a few months, but I’m already in love with all the foreign films and documentaries I can get. The best part, though, has to be all the British TV shows! Because someone asked on Twitter last night, here’s a list of my favorite British stuff on Netflix right now:

  • Luther – One of the best psychological thrillers and cop shows I’ve seen in a long time. Idris Elba is fantastic as John Luther, and the rest of the cast is superb. I can’t recommend this one highly enough. Fantastic show.
  • Doctor Who – If you’ve missed the Doctor Who revival of the last six years, what’s wrong with you?! This show is aces. It walks a fine line between serious sci-fi, camp, satire and horror. The great thing about Doctor Who is that it can do pretty much every genre and still be OK for kids (I tell mine that the Doctor always wins and that seems to get them through all the scary stuff).
  • Top Gear – Again, how have you missed this? Don’t be afraid that it’s a car show – it’s basically the Three Stooges with insanely expensive toys. It’s one of the funniest shows ever produced, and there’s a reason it’s one of the most popular shows in the world.
  • The IT Crowd – One of the funniest sitcoms ever, and one of the geekiest. Really, just watch it.
  • Downton Abbey – Kind of an Upstairs Downstairs thing, and a little soapy in spots, but the acting and writing are spectacular, especially the servants.
  • That Mitchell and Webb Look – Seriously funny sketch show – smart too.

I’ve got to get to work now, but that should keep you busy. I know I’ve missed a bunch, and some of my favorite UK shows aren’t on yet (Misfits is one of my favorites – think Skins with super powers), but keep an eye out.

I’d love to hear about new stuff if there are things I’m missing!

Categories
movies

The Bully Project

I was always a big kid, but that didn’t keep me from getting bullied at school, usually picked on because of my weight or that I was a Mormon (and usually the only one in my grade). Thankfully, it stopped by high school (probably because I was, again, big). I’m glad to see that there’s a documentary out there like The Bully Project. Bullying is horrible, and too often it’s ignored by schools and misunderstood by parents.

I don’t know how to stop it… but talking about it can only help.