Archive for November, 2006

Los Abuelos Tequila

Friday, November 10th, 2006
Los Abuelos Reposado Tequila

Among many other amazing experiences during Julio and Lily’s wedding, I met Sr. Guillermo Erickson Sauza. Yes, Sauza. As in fifth generation Sauza.

One of the first in the business, the Sauza family started producing tequila in the 1860’s and built the business to being the #1 producer of tequila in the world. The family business was sold in 1976.

Over the years, tequila production has moved away from the traditional, small batch, mode of production in favor of much larger operations with more automation to serve the larger market. In the past decade, Tequila has grown in popularity and consumers have recognized that finely crafted tequilas have as much variance and nuance as scotch, wine, or rums.

Given his heritage and the burgeoning market for small batch tequilas, Guillermo restored the blue agave fields and a small family distillery named “La Fortaleza” to produce tequila crafted in the rich tradition of his family.

And succeed he has. I had the distinct pleasure of meeting and chatting with Guillermo for some time. His “new” company is called Los Abuelos or “The Grandfathers” and Guillermo was brought samples of his product.

It is a delicious tequila. Just amazing. I was pretty sure that it was a new favorite, but there was just so very much good tequila at the wedding that my judgement was clearly clouded.

Guillermo gave me a bottle to bring home with me and, after this weeks elections, I cracked a bottle of Los Abuelos Reposado — pictured — open for a taste.

Yes, this tequila is, in fact, every bit as delicious as I remember it. Los Abuelos Reposado has a slightly sweet, slightly spicy, aroma with zero harshness. It has a perfectly balanced flavor, something for the whole tongue to enjoy. Almost a hint of licorice (it isn’t licorice. I hate licorice and I love this tequila) with the aftertaste pretty much sitting right in the middle of the tongue as a slightly warm tangy flavor.

And Los Abuelos is smooth. So very very smooth. At the wedding I enjoyed quite a bit of the blanco– the unaged version. Blancos are often my favorite in that I love the raw agave flavor that comes through, but there is typically a price to pay in that they are bit harsh.

Los Abuelos blanco was easily the smoothest unaged tequila I have tasted. And the Reposado is smoother still. Frankly, the repo has a more complete, smooth, and finely crafted flavor than many of the premium anejo — aged — tequilas I have tasted.

I’m looking forward to finding a bottle of Los Abuelos Anejo. I can only imagine that it is thoroughly spectacular.

Currently, Los Abuelos is of limited availability in the United States. I hope that changes (without the quality changing) as I am going to be a very unhappy camper if I can’t keep this brand in stock!

BBEdit vs. TextMate: The Editor Wars Revisited.

Thursday, November 9th, 2006

Update: This is kind of like the recent switch in basketballs used in the NBA. Go read Mark Cuban’s discussion of the new ball. Very interesting. Some players benefit immediately. Many do not.

Erik J. Barzeski asks For those TextMate users in the audience, why do you use TextMate? For those BBEdit users, why have you stuck with BBEdit?

Text editing with any great speed is a tremendously intimate bit of interaction between you and the editing software. It is inherently a keyboard driven task and a very complex task, at that, given the myriad of syntax rules and gestural editing possibilities.

As a result, any user who spends any significant amount of time with any one text editor — I’m talking years, here — will build up a set of usage patterns that employed rapidly and repeatedly throughout an editing session. Often this is called “muscle memory”, but it is really more that your brain builds up a library of “mental macros” that are applied almost subconsciously as you work with the editor.

Because of this, switching text editors is incredibly disruptive to one’s workflow and results in some awesome “religious wars”. Why? Because it is just too damned difficult to actually quantify why one editor is so much better than another.

I have written at length about this before.

So, really, it boils down to how many of the “mental macros” can be transported from one editor to another.

Me? I was an emacs user. Because Cocoa’s text editing subsystem has supported emacs like behaviors since 1990 or so, the move from emacs to TextMate was relatively natural. I lost a lot of the more complex features, but I gained a much more modern and native user interface.

An acceptable trade off.

I have tried BBEdit many times and simply can’t use it. It makes my skin crawl to try and do so. Certainly not because it is a bad piece of software or otherwise inferior, but entirely because my learned mental model of text editing is simply incompatible with BBEdit’s implementation.

As I said in the above article:

Using BBEdit literally makes me grind my teeth with the general discomfort it causes. Now, I know that’ll rub a few people wrong (if anyone reads this) so let me be completely clear: BBEdit is a brilliant product and my inability to deal with it is entirely in my head.

So, in this case, it sounds like Erik’s brain has remapped itself to view text editing within the patterns of use perpetuated by BBEdit. As a result, a move to TextMate or SubEthaEdit is going to be disconcerting. It will feel unnatural and the flaws/bugs are going to be amplified.

Make 08: Pinball Restoration

Tuesday, November 7th, 2006
Cyclone Backglass Clown

Make 08 is [about to] hit the news stands and I’m really damned happy to announce that my pinball restoration article appears in this issue!

With the publication of the issue, Make has made available a web page that contains a bunch of links to additional resources. Cool! I even have an author’s page!

The article was a total blast to work on and I hope the Make enjoyed working with me as much as I enjoyed working with them; a huge thank you to Dale, Mark, Paul and the rest of the crew. Your patience and attention to detail was definitely appreciated. I learned a lot!

Update: Make 08 is available from Amazon.

Review: Luxor AR– Beautiful game, really bad software

Tuesday, November 7th, 2006
Luxor AR Title Screen

I like video games — puzzle, breakout like, adventure, RPG, etc… (but not, oddly FPS games).

And I would really like to recommend MumboJumbo’s Luxor: Amun Rising to everyone who likes puzzle type games with a bit of action thrown in.

It is a beautifully executed combination of breakout and a puzzle game. A simple “match the colors” game, but with the ability to set up chain reactions and the like. The animated bits and backgrounds are all well designed, the game play is fluid and quite enjoyable, and — a rarity for me — I actually enjoyed the soundtrack.

But, alas, I cannot recommend this game to other Mac users to anyone for it has two fatal flaws:

The game crashes frequently on a MacBook Pro. Fortunately, it doesn’t often crash during actual game play, but the game will lose saved games. While you don’t have to repeat previously completed levels, you do lose your score, etc.

Luxor AR Game Play

Next, the game requires administrator privileges to run. Why? Because it saves game data in /Library/Application Support/ and non-administrative users cannot write to that directory.

Worse, the game does not give any warning or error when it can’t save game data. It just doesn’t save anything at all; you have to start over at the beginning of the 88 levels upon next launch.

Boo. An otherwise excellent game is utterly destroyed by two glaring flaws; one a simple bug and the other simply not understanding how the targeted platform works.

Update: I have contacted customer support and they have followed up very quickly, asking specific questions to narrow down the problem. So far, the company has been extremely responsive!!

Pinball: Just how dirty can a machine get?

Wednesday, November 1st, 2006
Seriously Worn Flipper Rubber
New Flipper Rubber (clean playfield, too!)

At left is a before and after picture of the flipper rubber on my Addams Family pinball machine. The before picture is of grime and wear build up after, maybe, 18 months of home use play plus one weekend of fairly heavy play at the Makers Faire (15,812 flips on that flipper in one weekend).

As can be seen in the before shot, that is one beat to hell piece of rubber. It is cracking and even starting to split.

The black goo appears to be a combination of dust and something else — carbon goop from the electrical bits in the machine — that builds up over time within a machine.

Now, keep in mind, that blackened, crackled, bit of rubbery nastiness is pretty much exclusively from home use only! Imagine what it looks like in some skank-hole bar full of cigarette smoke! I used to maintain a machine in exactly such an environment and the addition of cigarette smoke so fouled the machine that optical switches would start failing after about four months. A simple cleaning fixed it (but not my lungs — I still occasionally flash back that godawful Village Idiot smell. Oh, how I miss it.)

Grime Around Electric Chair
Grime Near Flipper

Said grime layers the playfield too. While the open areas gradually grow dingier and dingier over time, the areas where the ball rolls along something will build up a very distinctive line of grunge.

While that grime is clearly something that needs to be cleaned up to keep a machine in tip top condition, keeping an eye on the grime-lines can actually be useful.

For example, that the grime line next to the flipper wavers a bit in the transition from lane guide to flipper indicates that I really ought to make sure that the flipper is in exactly the right spot and the lane guide is not starting to warp from over a decade of poundings. While it isn’t affecting game play in a negative fashion, I certainly want to make sure that nothing is loose and, thus, may fall apart and cause bigger problems in the near future.

Cleaned Playfield

Fortunately, Addams Family is a “diamondplated” playfield. Basically, the entire playfield is covered in a coating of varathane. Cleaning is just a matter of a good scrub down with a plastic cleaner.

And the best plastic cleaner I have found is pictured at right; Novus #2 is perfect for cleaning diamondplate pinball playfields and various plastic bits.

In any case, the Addams Family looked and played quite beautifully over the weekend; a perfect addition to the Holt’s awesome annual Halloween Party.