Stop Spreading Hate

When you share ignorant myths about trans people, minorities, share racist, sexist, xenophobic memes, support politicians who advocate (and sometimes pass) legislation to push already-marginalized people out of public life, you’re encouraging people with just slightly less self control than you to hurt other people.

When you support bullies, strongmen, and bigots, you’re continuing the cycle that ends up in people getting hurt and killed.

Stop and think about the people affected by this stuff. They’re actual real human beings with families and friends who will miss them if they’re gone.

I’m tired of losing friends and having friends afraid to go out in public as themselves because some asshole might kill them just for being who they are.

These people are fighting for their rights to be seen as full members of society. You’re fighting for your right to continue to keep them in the closet (which isn’t a right, it’s a privilege, one that we should all be willing to give up so others can enjoy the same rights we do), and to not have your precious beliefs challenged. There is a huge difference.

History is not on your side, nor will it be kind.

Silly Games With Movie Titles

There’s a game going around Facebook where you remove a letter from a movie title to make a new movie and then you have to come up with the plot. I love these games.

Here are my entries (so far). Feel free to add your own:

  • Star Was: the story of a dying star and the planets that mourn its passing
  • I, Root: The first self-aware potato seeks its place in the world
  • Finding Emo: Emo Phillips has gone missing and it’s up to Bobcat Goldthwait and his ragtag gang of 80’s comics to find him and bring him home.
  • An Inconvenient Ruth: You know what you did, Ruth.
  • What About OB?: A hospital planned by men forgets one VERY important department. Shenanigans ensue.
  • The Rave Little Toaster: EDM, ecstasy, and a small kitchen appliance out way past his bedtime.
  • Rainspotting: And you thought looking at trains was boring!
  • Monsters NC: The story of North Carolina’s horrible, no good, very bad governor and all his friends in the state legislature.

Chocolate Covered Strawberry Chess Pie

A close up of the incredible crust on top of the filling of the pie.
A close up of the incredible crust on top of the filling of the pie.

I entered a pie contest. It’s my first baking competition and I may have taken it a little too seriously. I spent many weekend days experimenting with different kinds of chess pie, (because the Chocolate Orange Chess Pie was such a hit at Christmas, and chess pie is delicious!). I tried a Mexican Hot Chocolate Chess Pie, which didn’t work, and then came up with the idea of a Chocolate Covered Strawberry Chess Pie and then spent a month trying to come up with a recipe that works.

This is the final product and the recipe that’s going to the competition tomorrow. It’s a lot of steps, but it’s really not that much work, and the end result is totally worth it!

I’m writing this the day before the contest, so I don’t know if it’s an award-winning pie yet, but it’s darn good, so I’m sharing it with you!

This makes two pies (because I had to make two pies for the contest). They’re so good, who doesn’t want two of them?

Ingredients for Pie Crust

  • 2.5 cups of all-purpose flour
  • 2 tablespoons of sugar
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 20 tablespoons of unsalted butter, cut into quarter-inch cubes
  • .25 cups ice water
  • .25 cups vodka, chilled (I keep mine in the freezer)

Ingredients for Strawberry Compote

  • 20 ounces stemmed and halved strawberries
  • 2 tablespoons lemon juice
  • 1 teaspoon honey
  • pinch of salt

Ingredients for Pie Filling

  • 3 cups of sugar
  • .5 cup all-purpose flour
  • 6 tablespoons cornmeal
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 2 tablespoons of reserved juice from the strawberry compote
  • 6 eggs
  • 1.5 cups of cold buttermilk

Ingredients for Chocolate Layer

  • 2 cups dark chocolate chips (the better the chocolate, the better the pie)

Pie Crust Directions

  • Process 1.5 cups of flour, sugar and salt together in food processor until combined, about 5 seconds.
  • Scatter butter over top and continue to process until incorporated and mixture begins to form uneven clumps with no remaining floury bits, about 15 seconds
  • Scrape down bowl and redistribute dough evenly around processor blade. Sprinkle remaining flour over the top and pulse until mixture has broken up into pieces and is evenly distributed around bowl, 4-6 pulses.
  • Transfer mixture to large bowl. Sprinkle vodka and water over mixture. Stir and press dough together, using stiff rubber spatula until dough sticks together.
  • Divide dough into 2 even pieces. Turn each piece of dough onto sheet of plastic wrap and flatten each into a 4 inch disk. Wrap each tightly in plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least one hour (this would be a good time to make the compote).
  • Before rolling out, let sit on the counter for 10 minutes to soften.
  • When you place the pie dough in the pie pan and trim, leave half an inch outside of the pie pan, and then fold under, then flute. This will help hold in the pie filling when it expands in the oven and make a really yummy crunchy bit of pie crust!

Strawberry Compote Directions

  • Add all ingredients to a large preheated skillet over medium heat.
  • Stir with a wooden spoon every couple of minutes to make sure things aren’t sticking to the bottom.
  • It’s done when you can easily squish the strawberries with the back of a wooden spoon.
  • Before you remove it from the heat, squish all the strawberries so they’re crushed, but don’t obliterate them.
  • Put a wire strainer over a bowl, put the compote in the strainer and drain for at least 30 minutes. You should stir the strawberries in the strainer a couple of times to make sure you get as much liquid out as possible.

Chess Pie Filling Directions

  • Put all the dry ingredients in a bowl (including the sugar) and whisk together to combine.
  • Add all the wet ingredients and whisk until smooth (for me, that’s medium on my mixer with the whisk attachment for about a minute).

Chocolate Directions

  • Put chocolate into a microwave-safe bowl
  • Put bowl in the microwave and microwave in 30 second increments, taking the bowl out of the microwave each time and stirring.
  • Once you can stir the chocolate without leaving chunks, it’s done. If it’s close to done, only microwave it for 10 seconds at a time so you don’t scorch it.

Final Assembly

  • After the crust is in the pan, pour half of the chocolate in the bottom of the pie shell.
  • On top of that, spread half the compote on top of the chocolate.
  • Now, pour half the pie filling on top of that. You want to leave at least a quarter-inch between the top of the filling and the top of the crust as the filling expands while cooking.

Baking Instructions

  • Put pie pan on a cookie sheet (they overflow sometimes) and bake on the top rack for 20 minutes.
  • After 20 minutes, move to the middle rack and bake for 20 more minutes.
  • You may need to add 5-15 minutes to the baking time depending on your oven. The pie is done when you can give it a gentle shake and you only get the tiniest of wobbles in the filling in the very center of the pie.
  • When it’s to that state, take it out and cool on a wire rack for 2 hours before refrigerating.

Acknowledgements

  • Pie crust recipe inspired by Cook’s Illustrated’s The Science of Good Cooking “foolproof double crust pie dough” recipe (I replaced the shortening with more butter).
  • Chess pie filling recipe was based on Callie Spear’s Chess Pie Recipe in Munchies

And here’s a picture of one of the ones going to the contest tomorrow:

A finished chocolate covered strawberry chess pie.
A finished chocolate covered strawberry chess pie.

Switching Your Primary Google Apps Domain In Not Too Many Steps

My face when we decided we needed to change our primary Google Apps domain.

It happens. You rebrand (like we did at Planted last year) and need to change your email addresses. You use Google Apps because you need video conferencing that kind of works, document sharing and email and… whatever else they do. You figure, hey, it’s Google, how hard can this be? And then you google for how to do it and it turns out it’s a poorly documented nightmare, which you’d think it wouldn’t be because it’s Google and they’re supposed to make hard things easy.

You probably took the easy way out last time and just created an alias domain. Eventually, though, you get tired of people asking about the old domain on calendar invites and dealing with aliases in all your email clients, and you just decide it’s time. Actually, having an alias already set up makes the whole process a lot easier. If you haven’t done that, that’s alright, it just means you can skip the “remove the existing domain alias” step!

It turns out that it’s not actually that bad as long as you do things in the right order. I’m going to share that order with you so I don’t have to remember it later.

Before you make the switch, I’d make sure all of your users who use 2 factor auth have added their phones as a backup because they’ll need to delete and re-add their accounts to the authenticator app, which took me by surprise and don’t remember from Google’s documentation!

I went through several iterations of this list and this is the one I came up with that resulted in the least amount of time where email addresses didn’t exist and the fewest number of steps! Without anymore prevaricating from me, here are the steps:

  1. Remove your existing domain alias. This is when email will stop going to you@newdomain.com
  2. Add your new domain as a “real” domain in Google Apps. Go through and DNS setup or verification needed, but if you already had it as an alias, you should already have all of that setup.
  3. Rename all of your users on the old domain to the new domain. This is where you@newdomain.com starts working again. The benefit of doing it this way instead of just switching primary domains is that it automatically creates aliases for all your users on the old domain, which saves you as many steps as you have users. You should rename yourself last as it will kick you out and make you log back in, which was scary when it happened to me, but not the end of the world.
  4. Rename all of your groups (aliases, y’all) on the old domain to the new domain.
  5. This is the stupid part. In order to change your primary domain, you have to use the API. I went through a bunch of the official clients and had no luck, but then I found the API Test Page and that worked fine.
  6. On the API Test Page:
    • Toggle the “Authorize requests using OAuth 2.0” thing, which will then pop up a window. Make sure you log in with your work domain.
    • For “customerKey”, put in my\_customer
    • In “Request Body”, the field name is customerDomain and the value is your new domain!
    • Now click outside the request body box, and then click Execute.
    • You should get a 200 response.

And now you’re done!

Everything seems to be fine. The only thing that’s still a little weird is gChat, but all of our old Hangout URLs still work and we haven’t noticed any issues with Docs or anything else.

Good luck in your domain switching!

Further Reading:

Update: I don’t know anything else than what I’ve written. If it doesn’t work, I probably can’t help you. If you have a business account, Google’s support is actually really good. Call them. Really.

Letters to My Congressman

My local congressman, Buddy Carter, sends out a weekly newsletter and this week’s was a doozy. I don’t normally write to him, because I’m not sure it does any good, but I had to in this case.

Here’s what I wrote. Feel free to use it and write to your representatives.


In your latest newsletter you say the following: “I believe committing this horrific act removes all civil liberties and they should be investigated in whatever way is necessary. This is now an issue of national security and it is ridiculous that Apple is not participating in the investigation of known murderers and terrorists.”

This paragraph shows an amazing lack of understanding of the Constitution and our fundamental civil rights, and a failure to grasp the most basic facts of not just what the FBI is asking Apple to do, but the FBI’s own actions that led to where we are right now.

I’ll leave the constitutional questions to someone else, but the technical ones are simple:

  1. Creating a backdoor, ANY backdoor, for the FBI means that Apple will have to give that backdoor to any government in any country they do business in. Submitting to this request of our government means that they have to give that back door to repressive regimes in China, the middle east, etc.
  2. Creating a back door, ANY back door, in encryption or security means that back door can be exploited by any one – good guys, bad guys, terrorists, etc.
  3. The FBI wouldn’t be in this situation if they hadn’t asked local law enforcement to change the suspects’ Apple ID password. If they’d left it as is, Apple could have gotten into their account and given the FBI whatever they wanted – as they have done in many many cases.

This isn’t a simple case, but just demanding that Apple do what the FBI asks denies the complexity of the issues and weakens security for everyone.

We need strong encryption, unfettered by ill-informed and ill-advised government demands, for ALL of us to be safer. Any weakness at all can be exploited by the bad guys just as easily as the good – and like people are so fond of using the 2nd amendment as a “check against unchecked tyranny” – strong encryption is an even better check against that tyranny, and not just in the US.

I ask that the government get smarter, that our representatives gets smarter, about thinking about how to perform their duties and catching criminals than asking the innovative companies that drive our economy to get dumber.

Thank you for your time,

Kevin Lawver

The Simplest Recipe Ever: Sriracha Baked Potatoes

I love Sriracha. I love playing with it because it does really interesting things when it’s cooked. It’s complex and simple at the same time. Unlike a lot of hot sauces, it doesn’t just taste like vinegar and heat – there’s sweetness, smoke and a great chili flavor underneath the (considerable) heat. When you cook it, the heat mellows and the other flavors come out.

It’s the first day back to work after the holidays (I work from home) and the fridge is a little empty and the cupboard a little bare, and everyone else is still off from school, so they’re out shopping and having fun while I’m here in my pajama pants cranking out code.

I decided it was a good day for baked potatoes – but those are boring – and that’s where today’s recipe came from: boredom, scarcity and pajama pants.

Ingredients

  • Russet potatoes (these were pretty small, and I would have preferred Yukon Gold, but this is what I had)
  • Sriracha
  • Whatever you normally put on a baked potato. For me, that’s:
    • Butter
    • Sour cream
    • Salt
    • Pepper
    • and today only, shredded cheddar cheese and some more Sriracha

Directions

  1. Preheat the oven to 375
  2. Wash the potatoes
  3. Poke holes in them with a fork
  4. Squirt a quarter-sized dollop of Sriracha on each potato and rub it all over the potato with your hands.
  5. Put the potatoes in the oven.
  6. Now wash your hands!! You don’t want to get any of that Sriracha in your eyes. It sucks.
  7. Check the potatoes after about 45 minutes. Stick ’em with a fork. If the fork goes in and comes out easily, they’re done.
  8. Take the taters out of the oven, split them in two and adorn them however you see fit. Maybe even with some more Sriracha.

Now eat them! You should notice the skin is better than usual, a little crisper, a little richer in flavor, like the potato that all other potatoes look up to as a surrogate father figure.

This was a lot of words for such a simple recipe.

BBQ That Butt With What You’ve Already Got

Pork shoulder, rubbed in olive oil, sriracha and raw sugar

When I moved to Savannah, I had only ever been a consumer of fine smoked meats (you know, BBQ). I didn’t know the difference between BBQ and “grilling”. I was a poor unfortunate Yankee who didn’t know what he was missing.

Thanks to my own personal BBQ Yoda (the one and only Murray Wilson), I got some education and now smoke my own meats regularly – usually pork shoulder (a “butt”) but I’ve also smoked brisket, chicken, turkey and rabbits.

One of the most daunting things when I was just starting out was that I thought it would be really expensive to get started. Thankfully, I was wrong. Assuming you have even a small gas grill, you can make some delicious BBQ with some experimentation and tweaking (all reversible, of course) of your current equipment!

If you’re going to buy anything, I’d highly recommend a Maverick thermometer. It has a grill temp probe and one for the meat, and it’s the easiest way to keep track of the fire and know when you meat is done that I’ve found (also the best balance between price and performance).

That’s really the only thing you’ll have to buy that’s more than $20. Here’s your parts list:

  • A pork shoulder. The Kroger brand has always worked just fine for me, but you can go as crazy as you want – but when you’re just starting out, I think cheaper is better in case something goes wrong.
  • 10×13 disposable pan. You know, the big aluminum ones you take potato salad to picnics in. If you have a smaller grill, get one that will fit on one side.
  • Two disposable pie pans.
  • Hickory wood chips. Not chunks and not saw dust. You want chips.
  • Cherry wood chips. Again, not chunks and not saw dust. You want chips.
  • Your existing gas grill. You can use a charcoal grill, but I’ve never done that so… umm… find those instructions somewhere else.
  • Olive oil
  • Sriracha
  • Raw sugar (though white will do)

In order to BBQ and not grill your meat, we need the following:

  • Indirect heat
  • Low, constant temperature (“low and slow”)
  • Good smoke

In order to do that, we need to take your existing grill and create a hot side and a meat side. The wood chips and fire will be on the hot side, and the meat on the other.

The Night Before

  • Clean your grill.
  • Make sure you have a full propane tank as it can take up to 1/3 of a tank (or more depending on how well your grill retains heat) for a single BBQ session.
  • If you have lava rocks you use to keep things even, use them. If not, you might want to get some.
  • On one side of your grill (left or right, doesn’t really matter), take the grate off and put the disposable pan right on top of the burner, then replace the grate (the meat will go on top of the grate over the pan so you don’t have pork fat running all over the button of your grill… and there will be a lot of pork fat).
  • In each of your disposable pie pans, put half hickory and half cherry chips in and then cover with water. Put them some place out of the way so they can soak overnight.
  • Go to bed.

In The Morning.

You’ll definitely want to start as early as you can, because they’re not kidding about BBQ being “low and slow”.

Before you put the meat on in the morning:

  • Put one of the pans of wood chips on the hot side on top of the grill grate. You should cover the pie pan with aluminum foil and then poke about 10 smallish holes in the foil to let the smoke out slowly.
  • Set up your grill temperature probe. It should go on the meat side as close to where the meat will go as possible, but with a little space around it.

On to the Meat!

Back in the kitchen, it’s time to get the pork ready for the fire!

  • Take your pork shoulder out its packaging and rinse it with cold water, then pat dry with paper towels.
  • Rub the meat on all sides and in any crevices with olive oil.
  • Wash your hands, and then rub the meat again on all sides with Sriracha. Don’t worry, it won’t be hot once it’s been on the smoke for 10 hours. It helps protect the meat, and adds some lovely flavor.
  • Wash your hands again, and then sprinkle raw sugar over the meat. The sugar will help create the “bark” (the dark crunchy bits on the outside).

2015-05-14 07.10.39-1

On to the Grill!

  • Take your pork out to the grill and put it as far away from the hot side as you can, fat side up.
  • Insert the meat temperature probe in the thickest part of the meat, but make sure it’s not touching the bone.
  • Plug in both probes to the thermometer and turn it on.
  • Light one burner (the one on the farthest side, away from the meat and under the wood chip pan).
  • Close the lid and now comes the fun part!

Watching Things

  • You’ll want to watch the grill temp pretty closely at the beginning. For a gas grill, and for a cooking time less than 24 hours, you’ll want the grill temp to be between 225-250. As soon as you get there, you want to keep it there. If it goes over 250, turn down the burner and see where it settles. This is the most annoying part, but you should be able to dial it in the first hour – and then you only really need to check it every 30-45 minutes while it cooks.
  • Smell the smoke every hour or so. You’ll want to replace the chips with the second pie pan once the smoke starts smelling acrid – which for me takes about 3-4 hours.
  • The meat temperature should climb to 100 degrees (not celsius) fairly quickly, and then for me, looks like it gets “stuck” at 170. That’s fine – that’s where the fat really starts rendering out and the meat gets… awesome.
  • You’ll want to take it off at 190, which can take anywhere from 7-12 hours at 250. It’ll take you a few attempts to really be able to predict how long it will take – and there are a lot of factors that can affect it – wind, outside temp, humidity, etc.

Butts at 160

Once It’s Done

It’s not really done! After you take it off the grill, you’ll want to wrap it in aluminum foil, then old clean towels (that you’ll most likely ruin in this process, but they’ll smell great), and then put the shoulder in a cooler for at least an hour – two is better. I know, it’s hard to be patient.

Once it’s done resting, unwrap it, and then you should be able to “pull” it with two large forks, or with your hands.

Serve with white bread and anything else you want. You can serve it with sauce, but it won’t need it. The meat should be perfect on its own. Really.

I mean, this is worth it, right?

Pork Butt, off the grill.

On Manly Men

I’m tired of what scared man-children are doing to my industry, to social media, to my country and to women. It’s self-defeating. It’s wrong. It’s violent and it’s cowardly.

SO… Men. Stop being cowards. Stop treating people like crap. Stop threatening them. Stop lashing out like toddlers having tantrums because you’re afraid for no reason. Stop making up reasons to be scared and start living.

Look at your behavior. If you really think that threatening women, doxing them, swatting them, demeaning them, pushing them out of your communities because you’re threatened by them… if you REALLY think that makes you a manly man – you’re an idiot.

Being a manly man means being comfortable with yourself and not being threatened when someone else wants the same.

Being a manly man means being courteous, debating on the merits and not throwing tantrums when someone else wants a turn to speak. It also means admitting when you’re wrong.

Being a manly man means not being afraid of people who are different just because they’re different. It means being curious and adventurous – and not afraid to treat people like you want to be treated – or better, how they wish to be treated.

Bullies aren’t manly men. Bullies, at their core, are afraid and have to use intimidation and violence to project power. But, they have no power. Once a bully is outnumbered, he’s just a coward again.

Be a manly man and welcome everyone into your communities. You’ll find you’ll have more fun, learn more, and your community will be stronger for it.

Let’s make stories like this one a thing of the past.

And in case you’re confused, there’s nothing wrong with being a man. There is something wrong with thinking that your gender means you’re somehow entitled to affection, attention, recognition or leadership. If you really believe in a meritocracy, you’ll judge people by their results and not by what they look like, how they worship or where they’re from – and that means untangling centuries of bullshit about ability, the meaningless signifiers of “success” (for example, all our presidents have been men, therefore to be a good president, you have to be a man – or the funny bit of trivia that almost all Fortune 500 CEOs are white men over 6 feet tall). Just because historically, someone hasn’t been allowed to do something doesn’t mean they can’t. And just because this is how we’ve done it in the past doesn’t mean that’s the best way going forward – especially if it’s a cultural affectation that doesn’t actually have anything to do with the outcome.

So, being a man – it’s not bad. But, it’s not the only thing. Being kind is more important than your gender.

Kevin’s Year in Music: 2015

It’s been a great year for actual music, but a sad one for me personally. Why? Rdio died. I loved Rdio for years – even when I was working at a music startup building a competing service, I still loved Rdio. And now it’s gone. I tried Google Music, and had to give up on it because it lacks any idea of social, and does some very strange things with explicit lyrics. Now I’m on Spotify and it’s all right. It’s not perfect. It’s definitely not Rdio – but it’ll do.

Enough sadness, let’s get on to the music! Last year, I just threw together a list of the albums I liked and put them in three categories. That was a cop out and saved me from having to pick a single album. This year, I’m picking a single album that is my favorite of the year! And then a couple more than I really liked.

My album of the year is…

Sometimes I Sit and Think and Sometimes I Just Sit by Courtney Barnett! It’s funny. It’s fun to sing along with, and the songs are actually about things. This album came out early on this year and I kept going back to it all year.

It was really hard to pick just one album but I did it. Courtney’s biggest competition was from an artist that my friend Bryan told me about – Ghostpoet. His album, Shedding Skin, is fantastic. It reminds me a lot of Massive Attack, which is always a good thing. You should listen to it, a lot.

There were a lot of really good albums that came out this year. So many that my Kevin’s 2015 Favorites playlist has 340 songs in it and if you listened to it all at once, it would take 23 hours and 29 minutes. So, get started!

Chocolate Orange Chess Pie

Chocolate orange chess pie

It’s my first recipe! Hooray! I made my first chess pie, from Callie Spears’ great recipe on Munchies, over Thanksgiving and loved it. It was super easy to make and delicious – my favorite combination!

For Christmas, I decided I needed to do something different with it and thought of the chocolate oranges I got as a kid. And thus was my chocolate orange chess pie born!

This is adapted from Callie Spears’ recipe linked above. Follow her directions for the pie crust – it’s fantastic. It’s fluffy and buttery and perfect with the filling. Just remember that it has to rest for an hour before you roll it out, so include that in your timing.

Ingredients for The Filling

  • 1.5 cups of sugar
  • The zest of half a navel orange
  • 2 tablespoons fresh orange juice (maybe from that navel orange you just zested)
  • .25 cups of AP flour
  • 3 tablespoons of cornmeal
  • 3 tablespoons of unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 3 eggs
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla

Directions

  1. Add all the dry ingredients in a large bowl, whisk to combine.
  2. Add all the wet ingredients to the bowl.
  3. Whisk everything until smooth.
  4. Put that stuff in the pie shell.
  5. Bake at 350 for 40-50 minutes. This took longer than the original to firm up. When you check it, shake the pie a little. If it wobbles a lot, it’s not done and will run when you got it. There should be just the tiniest little wobble in the middle.
  6. Take it out and cool completely on a rack.

It’s really rich, so I like mine with whipped cream on top.

Enjoy!