Pew Pew Laser Blog

Code. Glass art. Games. Baking. Cats. From Seattle, Washington and various sundry satellite locations.

Past Blogs

April, No Fooling.


You folks got lucky this year. I had planned an April Fool's prank for PPLB, but I never got around to writing the code. Maybe next year. Apropos of nothing, here are some interesting nuggets about Rickrolling.

Ikea once Rickrolled us through their in-store "Muzak". It was on a Wednesday. I wonder if the person in charge of selecting the tunes knew what they were doing, or if Mr. Astley's spike in popularity was just too large to be ignored.

JoCo also Rickrolled us; in person, and just for a little bit. I feel a little dirty knowing that we weren't the first audience he'd gotten.

Battlestar Galactica Haiku.


I have decided to display my admiration of favorite T.V. shows with syllabic poetry. First up, a haiku for Battlestar Galactica. Don't worry - I keep it spoiler free.

Desperate space drama
Can humanity find home?
Are you a cylon?

Working with SOAP.


At the beginning of the year, I started fooling around with web services and SOAP.

Google offers a variety of Chart,Book Search and a Picasa API. Chart must be the simplest possible API out there: based on an image URL with a bunch of parameters, Google's server will create a custom image of a pie or bar or some other kind of chart. I haven't played with the other services yet, but they seem promising.

Xmethods offers a huge list of SOAP specific services, but many of the services offered are no longer in service, or just feel spammy. There are a few that seem promising though:

Other than the initial (and elementary) success with Google Charts, I've had a hard time working with SOAP. I'd really like some publicly available web services (that don't require registration) that I can use to request and recieve data? Can anyone suggest some?

Meet the Clickies.


Here's a little introduction to some of the links I've recently added to the "Clickies" section of my sidebar:

Freakonomics is a blog headed by the authors of the very popular book. It covers a variety of social topics with a bent towards economics and marketing. I really enjoyed the book, and the blog has new topics nearly every day. Several weeks ago, they did a Q&A with Mario Batali - Iron Chef and Washington native. And just this week, they did the same with Penn Jilette.

My mom and little sister turned me on to Cakewrecks, and I check it frequently. This Fireman Cake and its story makes an excellent introduction. An interesting fact - CakeWrecks creator Jen has "skippered Jungle Cruise boats" on her resume. I can't wait until I find a wreck to send in.

Comment Away.


A couple weeks ago, I implemented a wee bit of new functionality here on PewPewLaserBlog - a Contact form. Fill out the contact form to send me an email, even if you don't have a commenter account (or can't be bothered to remember it. You can even request a commenter account, if you like.

Since I implemented the feature 16 days ago, I've received one form-spam and one actual comment. I'm very pleased about the comment - it was kudos for a fix that I'd published on a discussion board.

Animal Crossing City Folk Update.


Last week in my little town of Tethys, I caught a Coelacanth. I was very pleased with myself - I hadn't managed to catch a Coelacanth in either the Gamecube or DS versions of Animal Crossing. Hooray for the Silver Fishing Pole!

Katrina, the fortune teller in the city, says that ancient wealth will come to any visitors who plant a flower seed in my town. What could be easier? Let me know if you want to come visit my town. I have Peaches, Cherries and Pears.

Irish Soda Bread.


Irish Soda Bread I made this Irish Soda Bread from Beard on Bread to go with our homemade lentil soup this weekend. I've always used the white variation rather than the standard wheat bread - since generally I don't have wheat flour on hand.

This recipe is pretty fast, easy, and very forgiving. Here's the complete recipe for the white variation:

Irish Soda Bread (White)

Preheat oven to 375°. Butter an 8-inch cake pan or cookie sheet.

Combine dry ingredients and mix thoroughly. Add just "enough buttermilk to to make a soft dough, similar in quality to biscuit dough but firm enough to hold its shape. Knead on a lightly floured board for 2 or 3 minutes, until quite smooth and velvety."

Form into a round loaf and place on baking pan/sheet. Cut a cross on the top of the loaf with floured knife. Bake oven for 35 to 40 minutes, or until the loaf is nicely browned and sounds hollow.

The quoting above is directly from Beard. Bread-making is an inherently fidgety business - the amount flour needed often depends on the humidity of the air. But Beard's recipes can be very persnickety. I've cut out the bit where he instructs you how and how not to slice your Irish Soda Bread.

For this recipe, you may need to add just the minimum amount of buttermilk, or add more flour. You're looking for dough that's thicker than cake batter; ideally it should form into a ball. With my my stand mixer's dough hook, the dough was much wetter and stickier than hand-kneaded previous efforts. In fact, I feared my machine assisted dough would be a failure, but it still came out as bread after baking. (I suspect that the mixer's sticky dough was due to not allowing enough time for the flour to absorb the buttermilk.) Anyhow, give this recipe a try - it's a pretty good beginner's bread recipe.

1 comment(s).

A Well Rounded Reader.


I have a reading compulsion. I must read everything - even if it's just the cereal box that I've read a hundred times before. This makes me a somewhat impolite seat-mate on the bus. If you're sitting next to me, my roving eyes will probably pick up quite a bit of what you're reading.

A couple of folks on my bus have been reading Outliers: The Story of Success. In one chapter, it talks about the 10,000 hour theory - the idea that those who excel at any one thing have invested thousands of hours doing that thing. The book points out the Beatles as having played clubs nightly before they broke onto the scene, for example.

This reminds me that JoCo spent a whole year writing, recording, and releasing one new song on his website / podcast each week. That's fifty-two times, folks. I imagine that Coulton may well have been thinking about next week's song even as he was posting the current one. Is it any wonder that he is now a successful musician? I propose that practice drives not perfection, (rarely achievable in reality), but success.

I suppose I shall have to pick up a copy of Outliers at the library and read all about this intriguing concept myself. When I am at the library, I shall also have to pick up a copy of Stephenie Meyer's Twilight. This will allow me to judge the novel on it's own merits, rather it's hype. And also the Zombie Survival Guide - which is apparently written by Mel Brooks's son!

4 comment(s).

A Timely Announcement.


I have come to a momentous decision - Daylight Savings Time is a pain in the butt. DST seems to have clear advantage in my life, and causes complications instead. Losing that early morning hour in spring is not at all worth gaining it back in fall.

With this announcement, I go further by not manually managing DST on my minor computing devices - Nintendo DS, Digital Camera, iPod, etc. If they don't handle it themselves, then they can just stay on Arizona time. Fortunately, there's an update for my Palm Tungsten E2 to correct for the 2007 DST behavior. But for all the other devices, it's just too fiddly to change them back and forth every six months.

March Internet Round-Up.


Here's a round up of entertaining videos and pictures.

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