How I Undid Gawker’s Redesign Myself

I have been a Lifehacker and Gizmodo reader for many years. They were always in my RSS feed and I visited their sites many times a week. The daily visits to their site stopped recently after their site redesign.

After a few upset readers reacted they let us know that by going to instead of you could enjoy the old layout. You could scroll up and down and the entire page would scroll instead of just half of it which gave me a headache. I half jokingly commented that they should create a plugin to redirect all lifehacker links to blog.lifehacker links.

I decided to attempt creating a Google Chrome extension myself that redirects all links to the Gawker family of sites to their blog layout equivalents. After some reading tutorials and creating a Google Code project then learning JavaScript with help from some handy people at StackOverflow I was able to create a simple Google Chrome extension.

My Google Chrome Extension is called “undo-redesign” and can be found here:

Where there’s smoke …

I thought I should also add a funny story from the Memorial Day BBQ preparations.

I put the smoker together on Saturday, after returning from Bass Pro. It was a great day, so I sat outside, enjoying an adult beverage while I constructed the smoker. The instructions for the smoker indicated that you need to do a dry run, without and food in it before the first usage with food.

I neglected to pick up any charcoal on Saturday, so I left that task for Sunday. As it turns out, I also forgot to purchase lighter fluid to accompany the charcoal, and I kept putting that task off on Sunday. When I finally got everything ready to go, it was around 7 PM on Sunday evening.

I setup the smoker, lit the charcoal, filled the water basin, tossed in some wet wood for the “burn in” session.

I let the smoker go, mostly unattended, all night. By mostly unattended, I mean, I checked on it at 10:30 PM, and it looked fine, so I went to bed.

Monday morning, I was up early to get started. I knew that I would need to get things on track pretty quickly, in order to have everything done around noon.

I took the smoker apart, pulled out the nearly empty water basin and removed the charcoal pan. There was a bucket in the back yard with some weeds in it, waiting to go in the large paper bag that our community requires in order to pick up that sort of thing.

I figured that the charcoal dust and few remaining coals wouldn’t hurt anything, so I tossed them in the bucket with all the weeds and went about the other tasks required.

About an hour later, I needed something from the garage, and had to walk past the small bucket that I had dumped the charcoal in. That bucket in fully engulfed in flames and there was a lot of smoke coming of it as well.

Thankfully, the hose was right near by, so I was able to drench the flaming weeds and bucket without further incident. I grabbed a pair of gloves and walked the now soaking wet weeds and charcoal remmenants to the tree / weed line where I have a small hole for dog waste.

I proceeded to dump everything in there and it started to smolder again. I had to get a fairly large bucket of water to make sure the charcoal was completely done.

It certainly made the morning more interesting!

As I recounted the story to my wife, all she had to say was “Aww… you melted my weed bucket!”

Thanks dear. I’m fine. Really.

Memorial Day BBQ

Recently, I’ve been reading about how to make your own smoker, for slow cooking meat with indirect heat and smoke for extra flavor.

One of my favorite articles was about the Trash Can Smoker, which is a pretty simple DIY project with an awesome outcome. A few days prior to Memorial Day 2010, I started to shop around, to find all the parts I would need to make my own.

Not related to the parts search, I ended up at my “local” Bass Pro Shop and I found this smoker, in a box, ready to be assembled for $45. I figured that the trash can smoker was going to run me about $55, so here was a pre-made smoker all ready to go!

Easy to assemble smoker - in action!

As you can see from the picture above, I picked up the smoker, and got it all put together. With that out of the way, I had to decide what I wanted to cook for the Memorial Day Party.

After talking with Sandra, I decided on a sweet slab of brisket. BJ’s was kind enough to have a pretty good price on brisket, so all I had to do was trim the fat and add some seasoning. For some reason, I invited people over for a party around noon, which meant the meat had to get a pretty early start.

Brisket - rubbed and ready!

To save myself some time in the morning, I got everything ready the night before. I made a mop sauce for the late stages of the smoking. I don’t have that recipe handy, but I’ll try to add it later on. For the rub, I used some paprika, pepper, cumin, and chili powder.

We have smoke!

As you can see by the times in the lower corner of each picture, I got a pretty early start on Monday. That’s 05:53 AM on Monday… At least it was light out! As you can see, there’s smoke in the smoker, which is a good sign. I soaked a combination of mesquite and apple wood overnight, so I’d have plenty of wood to char for the smoke.

That's the sun rising through the smoke!

Side note: I’m not sure what’s up with the grid that is visible in the top half of the sunrise picture. I took the photo with my new Droid Incredible… I guess the lighting was odd enough that you can see the focusing grid for the camera.

Ginger - my trusty "helper"

Ginger, our 4 month old chocolate lab was outside to “help” with the preparations and the smoking. Her idea of helping out was to chew on just about everything I needed to use. However, she has shown signs of liking to chew on weeds too… I may try to train her to pull those for me.

Looking to the South West

I took this photo shortly after the sunrise photo. As you can see, Memorial Day was a beautiful day in Central NY!

Still smokin'

Here’s another action shot… I wish I had smell-o-vision for you to enjoy the wonderful odors that were coming out of the smoker. I wanted to cook the brisket about 5 hours, so I had to prepare some additional charcoal. That’s what the stainless steel bowl on the brick is for. In fact, I had to add charcoal twice during the cooking process to keep the temperature in the “good” range on the gauge.

About three hours in, I moved the brisket from the bottom rack to the top and flipped it over. I added in a couple racks of ribs that had a dry rub on them. I used a pre-made rub for the ribs. They were kind of an afterthought, so I didn’t go all crazy with those.

During the last 90 minutes of cooking the brisket, I was brushing on the mop sauce about every 15 minutes. I made sure to turn the brisket each time as well. I could tell by the look and feel of the meat that it was nearly done.

The finished product!

Here’s a shot of the finished product. I think I left the brisket in about 45 minutes too long. It wasn’t as juicy as I would have liked. It cooked for nearly 6 hours, which I think was too long. Five hours would have been plenty, with the mop sauce being applied liberally for the last hour.

Brisket & Ribs - come 'n git it!

Another finished product shot to show off the ribs too… The ribs were perfect. They cooked about three hours total and were very moist and had a wonderful taste!

All in all, it was a great way to spend the morning. When everyone arrived, there was a good bit of smoke in the house, thanks to some wind that was whipping the by-product of the cooking process right in the sliding glass door. I suppose I could have closed the door, but it smelled so good!

I also created a wonderful BBQ sauce to go with it. I found the base recipe, Zesty BBQ Sauce, in a grilling magazine that Sandra had picked up for me. It was the perfect accompaniment for the brisket.

Open Water Diver Training – OCC Weekend

This past weekend I was at Lourde’s Camp in Skaneateles for Open Water Diver training as part of National Aquatic Service’s college instructional program.

Scenes from Lourdes
Looking down the lake

The weather for the weekend was outstanding. The temperatures were in the upper seventies on Saturday, and low seventies on Sunday. The wind picked up a bit in the afternoon on both days, but it didn’t cause any problems.

There were two Central New York colleges, Onondaga Community College, and Ithaca, represented at the lake this weekend. All of the students did a great job and their respective instructors were very pleased with the effort and results.

I managed to snap a few shots with my new Droid Incredible while I was on the beach, and I’ve made those photos available on Picasa (thanks Google!).


19th Annual Frozen Fin Dive

Every year, for 19 years, National Aquatic Service hosts the Frozen Fin Dive on January 1st. As you can imagine from the name of the event, its a little cold, and this year, 2010, was no exception!

The New Year’s Day dive takes place just south of Skaneateles in Mandana, NY,  at the marina. National Aquatic sets up a couple of tents with heaters, to help keep you warm when not diving. Lots of people bring food to share and there’s usually a couple of spirits to help warm your insides, when the diving is done.

Have a bit of snow!
Have a bit of snow!

This year, there were at least 25 divers and many more well-wishers on hand to enjoy the festivities! We also had snow. Lots and lots of snow.

By this point, you’ve probably thought to yourself, “They must be nuts to go in the water in January!” and you might be right.

However, the water temperature was right around 40°F for the dive, and the air temp was in the mid-twenties. Add in the fact that everyone that took part in the dive this year, had a dry suit on, and its not nearly as crazy as it sounds.

I dive in a Fusion Sport by Whites and I love it. I’m the one on the far right, with the blue hands. Those are dry gloves, not some sign of advanced hypothermia!

I dove with Bob Brown, one of guys on staff at NAS, and we had great dive. Bob wanted to check out a submerged boat, not far from the harbor that was supposed to be nose down in the muck. I say “supposed to be” because we never did find that boat. We got to see a lot of the harbor, several moorings, a lot of zebra mussels and some cool banks of grass.

Dressed for the weather!
Dressed for the weather!

We also got to do a pretty long surface swim, thanks to someone, I won’t mention Bob’s name, having a little trouble with navigation. I’m not really complaining though, a calm, quiet surface swim at the end of a really good dive, is a great way to finish. Its still really odd to me though, to be snowed on, while swimming in to shore.

If you’re a diver, and you’d like to join us next year, just give National Aquatic a call – I’m sure they’ll be happy to put you on the list for the 20th Annual Frozen Fin!

If you’re not a diver yet, and you’d like to be, National Aquatic can help with that too. NAS offers Open Water Certification classes year-round, and they offer for-credit classes at a number of colleges in the Central New York area. If you decide to take the class at Onondaga Community College this spring, I’ll see you there!

Regardless of where you are – get out and dive!

Full disclosure: I’m an instructor on staff at National Aquatic. I teach local classes and at OCC.

Sorry about all the snow …

Dear Central New York Residents,

I would like to apologize for all of the snow that we have received over the past week. Its my fault. I jinxed us, and for that, I’m sorry.

It happened like this …

Photo by Carol Ledwith
Photo by Carol Ledwith

The setting: Beautiful 40°F day in the middle of December.
The location: My house, in Baldwinsville, NY.
The players: Sandra, Steve

Sandra: Wow, it is a beautiful day today!
Steve: No kidding… I can’t believe it is nearly 45 degrees outside right now! It’s the middle of December.
Steve: Ya know, all this warm weather and lack of snow, really makes me think we overpaid for the snow plow service this year. We should have gone for the pay-as-you-go plan.
Sandra: You realize you just jinxed us, right? We’re going to get so much snow now.
Steve: Nah! That won’t happen! Global warming means no more snow!

Fast forward to a few days ago: Snow. Snow. More snow.

The forecast, so far, for this week:

Weather forecast for the Syracuse area.
Weather forecast for the Syracuse area.

So to everyone, I’m sorry for the jinx. I didn’t mean it!

However, there is a bright side, and no, I don’t just mean the sun shining off of all the snow. The bright side is that there is great sledding, skiing, and snow boarding all around the area.

Edward building a snow hill
Edward building a snow hill

Speaking of someone that is enjoying the snow…

Interesting Reading

A few articles I’ve come across in the past week, or so, that I thought I’d share:

  1. 5 Myths We Need to Can About Soda TaxesLike bears to honey or zombies to brains, politicians find something irresistible about soda taxes … From the Washington Post.
  2. On Duct Tape –  Response to an ongoing conversation about Coders at Work and an article from Joel Spolsky. This response from Tim Bray. … Via Tim’s blog.
  3. Ants vs. worms – Not a new video game, though that would be sweet! Since ants are pretty good at finding and combating enemies in the natural world, a team of researchers decided to try reproducing an ant-type model on computer networks. … From H-Online.
  4. Journalists have OpinionsSeriously. If anyone things that all journalists are non-biased, they have to be crazy. As a side note, good article by John Stossel about having an opinion. … Via Reason Online.
  5. When is a Tax not a Tax?When the President wants to claim its not! President Obama campaigned on a promise not to raise taxes on Americans who earn less than $250,000 per year, yet he has endorsed policies that look a lot like taxes on those people. … Via Donald Marron’s blog

If you’re interested in more articles that I’ve shared recently, check out the Recommended Reading tab at the top.

Tailgating Report – Week 1

I’m a little behind on my posting, with the long weekend, and all the other stuff going on. As I’m sure you’ve all guessed, we had a great time tailgating for the season opener of Syracuse Football.

Our group of tailgaters has grown this year. Bruno, Jim, Lauren, and Steve are still there, and we’ve added Jon and Cristina to this year’s group. A larger group means increased logistics. How do we get everyone there, in the same place and relatively on time? I have to say that for the first week of the tailgating season, we managed to do pretty well.

Lauren claims that he was the first one to make it to Bruno’s house – our first rally point. Never mind the fact that he wasn’t there when I got there, but we’ll let him take the honors. He wasn’t on time once last year.

We had a pretty extensive list of items to bring for the party for the first day.

  1. Beer
  2. Beer
  3. Other kind of beer
  4. Fruity drinks – mostly for Bruno
  5. Sort of healthy chicken wings
  6. Very delicious brats
  7. Snacks
  8. More snacks
  9. Chairs
  10. Grill
  11. Footballs, nerf and pseudo-leather

Our plan was to head for the SU Hill around 9 a.m., so we would have plenty of time to prepare for the first Syracuse Orange Football, which just happened to be the same day.

We executed that plan flawlessly, and managed to get both vehicles to the right place, at the same time! Unfortunately, our normal party parking lot was already full. Not to mention that the price for parking was $20. W. T. F. We’re all trying to remember, but we’re pretty sure that parking, while expensive, wasn’t $20 at any point last year. Again; W. T. F.

As a point of reference, we’re only paying $100 for 8 home game tickets.

With our normal lot full, we headed out for parts unknown. We found some on street, free, parking right next to a sweet grass median along fraternity row. We got everyone parked and setup our camp – without having to pay $40 in parking!

After one, or two cold ones, we broke out the grill and feasted on some very tasty food. Bruno’s better half, Sara and their daughter Marissa were even there for a while to help celebrate.

The tailgating got us all in the right frame of mind for SU Football. We made our way to the Dome along with about 40,000 others. The only other time we’ve seen that many people for a game was last year when the entire population of Pennsylvania invaded the dome to see Penn State crush the Orange.

After fighting our way into the dome, we found a few more adult beverages and made our way to our seats. We were treated to a 7 – 0 score – with more than 12 minutes to go in the first quarter. Ugh. Shades of the GRob era. Amazingly, the team made a strong showing in the first half, and lead going into halftime.

Unfortunately for the “48,000” fans in the Dome, the team looked a lot like last year’s team. There was a strong de-motivation speech during halftime. The Orange failed to make adjustments and Minnesota dominated the play in the second half. The game ended tied at 20 and we were forced to watch overtime.

Thank God that we were in the right frame of mind for the game. The Dome, also known as the Carrier Dome, was freaking hot. Yes, Carrier, the air conditioner makers. Too bad they don’t have any in the Dome.

I’ll give credit to the fans… A vast majority stayed to see the whole show. That’s very different from last year when the stadium was nearly empty by the end of the third.

Anyway, on to OT Action! Syracuse gets the ball, does a lot of stuff that hadn’t been working for the entire second half and fails to score. Paulus did try to make a heck of a play, but threw an interception, which basically sealed the teams fate.

Minnesota moved the ball about 15 yards, centered it and kicked a field goal to win the game. The whole crowed seemed to feel like it had been sucker punched.

Oh well… There’s always the 19th of September – that’s Week 2 of tailgating, in case you’re wondering. 7 p.m. game, no telling when the party will start.

Learning to Play the Guitar

A few months ago, I decided that it was time to learn to play the guitar. Its something I’ve wanted to learn for a long time, but I’ve never taken the time to apply myself to it. To kick things off, I went over to Guitar Center and worked with a very helpful salesman, Steve, that really knew guitars.

Steve asked a number of questions about what I’d like to learn to play, which bands I really enjoy, what sort of music I listen to. To be honest, I wasn’t sure of most of the answers. Those that know me, would probably describe my music collection as eclectic. I run the gamut in my collection, from classical, to blues, to grunge, to classic rock to alternative.

I told Steve that I’d really like to learn to play some Carbon Leaf, John Mellencamp and maybe some Foo Fighters. After a few more questions and a bit of conversations, we decided that an acoustic would be the way to go.

Seal from inside the body
Seal from inside the body

We proceeded into the guitar room where about 80 guitars were hanging on the walls. It was a great room, with guitars in all price ranges, shapes and sizes. There were even a couple of special rooms – though I didn’t really venture in those. The price tags in there were all $800 plus. Way out of my range.

Steve took the time to play a number of the guitars, explaining why each sounded different. Different materials, strings, shapes, etc., would all produce a different sound. Steve gave me a chance to look around, and I tried strumming a few that I thought sounded pretty sweet. Once I had the choices narrowed down, Steve came back to play each one – man, they all sounded so much better when someone that knew how to play was doing so.

I finally decided on a Takamine GS330S.

The Takamine GS330S is their most affordable solid-top dreadnought acoustic. The GS330S features a solid cedar top, a departure from the familiar spruce, and delivers a distinctive tone all its own. If you want a high-quality acoustic that stands apart from the crowd, this is a great way to go. Other features include nato back & sides, and chrome tuners. The GS330S is made to Takamine’s strict specifications, and represents exceptionally good value.

While I was there, I picked up a case, an electric tuner and some picks. All in all, it was an easy, enjoyable process to pick out and purchase the guitar.

GS330S Bridge
GS330S Bridge

The next part of the process is learning to play the guitar. There’s a small music shop, C & G Music, in downtown Baldwinsville that is always advertising about guitar lessons. Seeing how they were local, I thought I’d give them a shot.

I’m glad that I called… They setup a lesson for me right away, with a very flexible schedule and reasonable rates. I met with Chris (the “C” of C&G) for the first time, about two months ago. First thing we did, was to talk again about the music I’d like to learn to play. At least I was prepared for it this time. We spent the first couple of lessons talking about the parts of the guitar, how to hold a pick, how to hold the guitar properly, that sort of thing.

In the past month, we’ve been working on barre chords, muting, rythyms, strumming patterns, and a number of different riffs. I spend about 30 minutes a night playing and practicing and while I’m not going to be performing in public any time soon, I’m definitely improving.

Are you ready for some SU football?

Syracuse University Logo
Syracuse University Logo

The 2009 season kicks off the Doug Marrone Era at Syracuse. I think everyone is really looking forward to this season and hoping for a good showing. There’s a lot of hope, and expectations, riding on Marrone already. If you’re wondering why, let’s take a look back…

I think we can all agree that the past few years, the Robinson Era, have been terrible. In case you’ve somehow managed to purge the past 4 seasons from your memory, let me remind you.

  • 2005: 1 – 10 – 0
  • 2006: 4 – 8 – 0
  • 2007: 2 – 10 – 0
  • 2008: 3 – 9 – 0
  • Total: 10 – 37 – 0

Ugh. That’s bad. The un-official motto for the football team under Robinson:

You can’t spell sucks without SU!

Keep in mind, we ran Paul Pasqualoni out of town for going 6 – 6 two years in a row and for being co-winners of the Big East. Granted, going six and six is not acceptable at SU. There was a time, when winning was expected and demanded. Though during the Robinson Era, no one seemed to remember that.

Otto, SU's Mascott
Otto, SU's Mascot

Instead, we were treated to poor play, and excuses from people that should know better. Robinson constantly made excuses for the poor play. He blamed himself, the coaching staff, the play calling, sunspots, the weather, the turf, and anything else he could find. Darrel Gross, the Athletic Director, made numerous speeches saying that he had faith in Robinson, that he deserved the opportunity to make a change.

After a dismal 2008 season, Robinson was finally sacked. A move that earned Gross a standing ovation, even if it was two years late.

So now, we’re on to bigger and better. At least we all hope so. The Saturday Football Crew I go to games with is excited about the prospects for this year. Though mostly, we’re interested in tailgating. That’s where the real fun has been for the past couple of years.

Here’s the home game schedule (full schedule):

  1. Saturday, September 5 vs. Minnesota
  2. Saturday, September 19 vs. Northwestern
  3. Saturday, September 26 vs. Maine
  4. Saturday, October 3 vs. South Florida
  5. Saturday, October10 vs. West Virginia
  6. Saturday, October24 vs. Akron
  7. Saturday, October31 vs. Cincinnati
  8. Saturday, November 21 vs. Rutgers

If you’re in the area, feel free to stop on by. You can bet that we’ll have a cold one waiting for you. If you prefer a fruity, chick drink, I’m sure we’ll have those too. We’ll have to try live-blogging from the tailgate parties this season, complete with pictures on Twitter!

Finally, SU Athletics is looking for an official blogger for the 2009 season. I wonder if this will get me noticed!