Peace For All

April 26, 2012

My favorite meal to cook

Filed under: Life in general — Tags: , , , , , , — Devlin Bentley @ 11:09 am

I get asked this question a fair bit, so I decided to make a blog post about it. For those of you who don’t know, one of my passions is cooking healthy food at home, from traditional American favorites to dishes from around the world.


On multiple occasions the question “What the best meal you have ever made?” has been asked of me. That, it turns out, is a question that requires a fair bit of detail to answer.

Let me start off with yesterday: my dinner consisted of a homemade soup, tasty if not simple and utilitarian. I had prepared it the night prior with the intent of consuming after returning from work, which is exactly what I did.

But that soup is of no great consequence, the effort put in was minimal and the result sufficient. It serves only as an example of how I prefer to plan my meals during my work week.

Twice Baked Potatoes

Now, if one asked my friends and family which of my dishes was their favorite, I can promise that the answer would be my Twice Baked Potatoes. All twice baked potatoes  start from the same base: Potatoes innards, generous amounts of sour cream, an equally good measure of grated sharp cheddar cheese, a bit of butter, chopped green onions, and mayhaps a bit of crushed garlic. To this I add my one custom ingredient, the ingredient that shocks and amazes: At least two large peeled shrimp which are placed into each potato shell after it has been stuffed.

Preparation instructions are the same as for any other twice baked potato, merely bake the potato to near completion, cut in half, scoop out the insides, prepare the stuffing as described above, insert stuffing back into the shells, and bake again for a short bit of time.

Simple, though a bit of leg work in practice, but the end result is wonderful. No one expects, but everyone has been pleased by, the shrimp.

72 Hour Smoke Bacon Stew

Now I will not argue that my twice baked potatoes are not one of my best dishes, surely they are. But they are not the dish into which I put the most love into the creation of.

What I pour my heart into is the making of my 72 Hour Smoked Bacon Stew.

The first step in its creation is to acquire bone in smoked bacon from a European deli, of which I am thankful that I live near a number of. The bacon is then placed into a large pot which has been filled with tomato sauce (if I am truly feeling up to it, I have made the tomato sauce myself from purchased tomatoes). Some simple seasonings are added to the pot, a few bay leaves, and a wonderful chili powder variant that one can only acquire online.

This is then allowed to stew for a wee bit less than 3 days. Being tended to and watched carefully so that the broth does not boil away or bubble over.

On the first day, the house is filled with a wonderful smokey aroma. It is a pleasant harbinger of things to come.

On the second day, both the meat and the fat has fallen from the bone and it can be seen where the bone marrow itself has started to fall apart.

It is on the third day that one awakens to find that the bones have given themselves up to make the broth complete.

Now, what is left over are mere details. At this juncture I most often add a variety of beans to make a good hearty stew, but a variety of different rices will do justice as well. Other vegetables are added as needed and as requested by those I will be serving.

It takes a lot of time and dedication to cook, and the result turns out differently each time. But, when done properly, and there are many places to make mistakes, it is by far my favorite dish to prepare.

April 20, 2012

How Microsoft can take over the High End Gaming Keyboard market

The picture below is of the Microsoft Sidewinder X6, a largely forgotten gaming keyboard from Microsoft.

Image

It was, and still is, close to being the best gaming keyboard ever made. Why?

  • A swappable numeric keypad that can be turned into a macro pad means that MMO players are happy.
  • Convenient macro keys close to the WASD cluster so FPS players can have their fun as well
  • It has a red backlight that does not ruin your night vision, it also looks less tacky then blue backlights which are starting to have a backlash against their overuse.
    • The backlight’s brightness can be easily adjusted through the left knob up on top. This makes it really simple to just twist the knob and turn off the backlight before going to bed. No strange key combination to remember.
  • There is a volume control knob, for lighting quick changes in volume level, no pounding on the Vol- key while your ears are getting blasted.
  • A full set of media playback keys, meaning there are no strange hotkeys or function+key combinations to remember.

Now, that said, this keyboard is not perfect. It does not have N-Key Rollover. which is very very unfortunate. The keyboard that came after it, the Sidewinder X4, has amazing NKRO and red backlighting, but is otherwise a very utilitarian keyboard. This fits its role as a low cost gaming keyboard, but it entered into a very crowded market and it didn’t really taken the world by storm.

The other problem with the X6 is that the high end gaming keyboard market has moved on. The current big thing is Cherry MX switches of various types. Right now only a few manufactures are making gaming keyboards with Cherry MX switches, and with the exception of Corsair’s Vengeance series, all the Cherry MX gaming keyboards are fairly spartan in their feature offerings. Many of them do not even have media control keys and the vast majority have the same styling as regular cheap PC pack-in keyboards.

I believe that when you take into consideration all these factors (Microsoft’s excellent design work on the X6 and the lack of real competitors in this product space) that Microsoft is in a great position to enter into and dominate the market for high end gaming keyboards.

How? Quite simple: Release an updated version of the Sidewinder X6 with NKRO that uses Cherry MX switches. Offer it in two SKUs, one with Brown switches and one with Red. (The CherryMX brown sku could even have a limited production run, but it would serve the purpose of getting excellent press amongst enthusiasts.)

This would immediately place Microsoft’s offering at the top of the pack for Cherry MX gaming keyboards by offering more features than any other gaming keyboard of comparable quality. The X6’s design was already great, and re-released and updated it has the potential to be the best gaming keyboard sold by anyone.

The second aspect of this is doing a proper marketing campaign. Thankfully there are so few CherryMX gaming keyboards out on the market right now that getting reviewers to take a look at your product is comparably easy, as is building up a good grassroots base on forums. If MS sets out full throttle on both paths, top down and ground up, a new CherryMX X6 should be well received by a community that eagerly awaits the latest high quality products.

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