Wednesday, July 20, 2016

Lobster Sushi! Lobster sushi?

This is not the lobster you're looking for.
Photo credit Used with permission.
So. Way back in the fast and loose '90s when I was living in Hotlanta I frequently ate at a Japanese restaurant called Sakana-Ya (RIP).  Sakana-Ya had great sushi but I never tried their lobster sushi, mainly because whenever I saw it prepared it looked like something best shared with friends. So that's what I did.

And I was right.

I gathered six or so friends together and we went to Sakana-Ya one Friday night for lobster sushi, Japanese beer, and good times. We had all three (and maybe some sake too).

After we ordered drinks, (Kirin Ichiban, anyone?) we gave the waitress our sushi order. We did include the typical items (ebi, toro, salmon, etc.) but the big one was the lobster sushi. And we were in a good location to watch it prepared.

The sushi chef plucked a plump lobster from the aquarium and rinsed it off in the sink at the sushi bar. A quick chop and he separated the tail from the body, which he put aside. He cleaned the tail some more and extracted and prepared the meat. The chef placed the tail shell upside down on a platter with the meat on top, an appealing display. Then he took the body and placed it in front of the tail, as if the lobster was intact. As if it had somehow twisted its tail 180 degrees and turned it inside out.

The waitress brought the platter and set it in the center of our table. That is when I realized there was one significant aspect of lobster sushi I had missed when watching from a distance.

The lobster wasn't dead yet.

While I didn't have a big problem eating the lobster while it watched me chew, some of the others at the table were a bit disconcerted when its antennae and legs kept moving. We did find out another reason they put those rubber bands on the lobster's claws. You don't want it reaching up to pluck tail meat out of a customer's chopsticks. "That's mine! Give it back!"

Only one other aspect of the outing stands out. The waitress noticed our discomfort and offered to take the lobster back and put it in soup. We all agreed and ate the other sushi while we waited. A few minutes later the waitress brought the soup out. They had chopped the lobster into chunks, shell and all, and cooked it in a very tasty soup.

My final verdict: The lobster sushi was a bit salty but it made a great soup. Would I do it again? Probably, if I could get another group together to share the experience. For some strange reason no one seems to want to try it after I tell them this story.

A note about the photo. As I said, this all happened back in the 1990s. We were not in the habit of taking pictures of our meals when we went out so we have no photos of the actual event. The picture of Badagaje Hoe I found on is the closest I have found to what we are served. Thanks to Kevin for allowing me to use it in this story.

Thursday, January 28, 2016

Deer in the headlights

This deer dared me to hit it on the way to work this morning. I declined.


I remember the Space Shuttle Challenger

I remember the Space Shuttle Challenger. I watched her first liftoff on television and watched her final flight in person.

On January 28, 1986, I was a young engineer at a defense contractor in Palm Bay, Florida, about 30 miles south of Cape Canaveral. We would either go to the roof of the building or into the parking lot to watch whenever a Space Shuttle launch was scheduled. Since this was just before lunch time, several of us planned to watch from the parking lot and then go to a nearby fast food joint to eat. It was bitter cold for Florida that morning (in the 20s, well below the temperature for any previous shuttle launch -- but we didn't know that). We had one "newbie" with us, a new grad who had just started work the day before.

We checked our watches and when 11:38 rolled around we began to tell the newbie where to look for the shuttle over the tree line. A few seconds after liftoff Challenger was high enough that we could see her. We were telling the newbie to watch for the solid rocket booster (SRB) separation when the ball of fire and smoke erupted around the shuttle and the plumes of the two SRBs continued on, forming some sort of perverted "Y" in the sky.

We immediately rushed to a car and turned on a radio. The station that normally carried launch coverage was silent and then we heard the announcer, "Obviously a major malfunction." Some two or three minutes later we felt a rumble in the car. We didn't realize at first that it was the sound of Challenger exploding.

We were stunned. We all had worked on contracts associated in one way or the other with the space program and we felt this loss personally. I can't say what we did for the rest of the day but I remember our group leader had a little black and white television in his office. We all clustered around it to watch news coverage.

This was the last manned space launch I watched in person. A couple of months later NASA launched a Delta rocket to deploy a weather satellite. I went up to the Cape to watch this one. Problems after liftoff forced the flight safety officer to destruct the launch vehicle a minute or so after liftoff. That was the last unmanned launch I watched in person.

Today marks 30 years since the loss of the Challenger. In that time we have lost another shuttle, Columbia broke up on reentry after an otherwise successful 16 day mission in 2003. I had moved on to another job and another state by then but it still hit hard.

Tuesday, June 16, 2015


I just realized I haven't posted anything here in over a year and a half. I have more opinions than that.

Truth vs. Message

I was reading a post on Language Log about David Brooks' penchant for, shall we say, elaboration in his writing and public speaking. This story reminds me of an incident when I was a freshman engineering student taking my first college English class. As an exercise we had to write a paragraph about "the best restaurant I ever ate at." The professor read one student's paragraph (not mine!) to the class. It began something like, "I don't remember the name of the best restaurant I ever ate at, but it was in New Orleans…" She stopped and said to us that the writer had just blown his whole message, because if he couldn't remember the name of the restaurant how good could it be, really? Then she gave us the advice that still shocks me today: "In this class, if you don't remember a fact or don't have a ready example, make it up! I won't go to New Orleans to check the restaurant!"
So here was a college professor advising her students to lie in their papers. Granted, she was more interested in the quality and style of the writing than in accuracy, which I suppose is appropriate for a freshman English class at an engineering college (people say us engineers don't right so good). But still.
I wonder if the message sometimes gets muddled and students come away with the idea that it's OK to make it up outside of class as well.
Did David Brooks have similar advice when he was younger, or does it just come naturally to him?
Note 1: Above quotes are from memory and may not be totally accurate. But they're close.
Note 2: This post is a slightly edited version of my comments on the Language Log blog.

Thursday, October 24, 2013

There's a reason they call it "The Cloud"

Image credit: flickr/Jackie Tranter
Over on IT WorldDan Tynan tells the story of how his cloud storage on was deleted. By a stranger. With no notification to him.

The short version is that allows enterprise customers to "roll in" accounts of their employees or "external collaborators". This allows the company to manage them all and (apparently) adds additional functionality to the accounts.

Some six months prior to his account deletion, Tynan's account was "rolled in" to a PR firm's account because of a single business exchange with the firm conducted by his wife via On this basis someone at the firm decided to put his account under their corporate umbrella.

Tynan received no notice of this action. Ever.

So long as the PR firm didn't do anything to affect his account Tynan had no idea anything had changed. Then someone at the PR firm was looking at the list of accounts and didn't recognize his wife's name. So they deleted the account.

Tynan received no notice of this action. His first indication of a problem was when he had no access to his account. Because it had been deleted.

This illustrates in vivid detail some of the hazards of relying on "the cloud" to store your data:

  • You have to trust a third party to safeguard your data. This might work with banks and safety deposit boxes, but cloud-based "boxes" are nothing like that.
  • You are at the mercy of a third party's terms of service. By this account, followed its processes. Its system worked as designed. I am sure buried somewhere the the terms everyone blindly clicks the "Accept" button on was some mention of this "convenience feature".
  • You have to trust a third party will notify you of adverse actions affecting your data.

There are plenty of others.

The bottom line is that you have to trust a third party to protect the data you want to keep safe. Do you really think trusting data in the cloud is safe?

Personally, I use the cloud only to share non-sensitive data (mainly photos) between devices. But all of that data is stored permanently on devices I own.

Oh, and Tynan's story had a happy ending. Once customer support failed to help him he pulled the journalist card and suddenly paid attention. His data was restored.

What card do you have to play when something similar happens to you?


Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Textbook Project Management Failure

So the much-ballyhooed unveiling of the Affordable Care Act (ACA, AKA Obamacare) web sign-up occurred about three weeks ago. It was an utter failure. Does this mean that the ACA therefore also fails? Not necessarily.

What it really represents is a textbook failure of project management. Granted, I am saying this based on sketchy (and often biased) news reports, but this much seems clear:

Requirements creep? Check. Testing involved too late in the process? Check. Goldplating? Probably check.

The chart pictured here is titled "Periodic Table of FEPS I.T. Work Streams" (so FEPS has no periods in the abbreviation but I.T. does. Schizo). You can see a zoomable version of the chart at the link. First, periodic table? Someone had a cute idea that didn't make sense. The "key milestones" were missed and probably the schedule was unreasonable even if it was followed.

And speaking of that "periodic table of work streams" - The fact that the contractors' names are more prominent than their tasks/responsibilities indicates a fundamental lack of focus in the project. What needs to be done is more important than who is doing it. At least it has names so we know who to fire.

At a minimum, in Key Federal IT Staff I would fire Henry Chao (Executive Oversight), Monique Outerbridge (Program Oversight), and Tina Nguyen (Program Oversight). Although everyone named in that section should be sweating right now. Not that anything is really going to happen to them.