Potato Soup

Not paleo, but I thought I’d log it anyway.

I was asked today if I had a recipe for potato soup.  I have to admit that I don’t, but I’m pretty sure I can come up with one.

This is in fact based on my clam chowder recipe, making changes as needed… and I think it’ll work.

Potato Soup

In a largish pot (I use a 4-quart pot for the large surface area):

  • half a pound of bacon, cut to 1/2″ pieces, more or less.  Fry gently to render the fat, remove bacon from pan and set aside.  Do not eat bacon.
  • half an onion, finely diced.  Turn down heat, add onion to bacon fat and caramelize.  I usually don’t let it actually get brown, but the onion is softened.  Still do not eat bacon.
  • flour to thicken and make roux.  Do so.  Bacon is to remain uneaten.

In another pot

  • boil some smallish-diced (1/2″ or so cubes) potatoes.  Use enough, don’t overdo the water.  Bacon?  Still uneaten.

Back to larger pot:

  • take potato water, add to roux until desired consistency.  Leave the bacon alone, dammit!
  • move potatoes from boiling pot to souping pot.  Almost bacon time, remain strong!
  • stir to incorporate.

Ladle into bowls, garnish with bacon (this is why you kept it) and green onion.


As the first part is how I create a base for clam chowder, if you wanted to make this a ‘cream of potato’ soup instead, you could add cream in addition to or in place of some of the potato water.

I’ve heard of people pureeing the soup, I don’t think I could bring myself to do that.

I could, however, be pretty easily persuaded to add other ingredients.  A bit of garlic, some vegetables, and so on… but then we’re back to chowder.

And if you’re interested in my chowder recipe, use clam nectar instead of the potato water, add carrots and celery to the pot when you cook the potatoes, and incorporate.  Clams go in at the same time as the cream, just long enough to bring to temperature without cooking further.  Still garnish with bacon, green onion is optional.

Barbecued Pork Chops

I tried Sara’s barbecue sauce recipe.  I think I had a little too much onion (all of a smallish one, rather than half of a largish one).  I can’t imagine why anyone would add orange juice, as it was it was sweeter than I want.  A few substitutions.


  • small onion, grated
  • 4 cloves garlic
  • 5.5 oz tomato paste (because that was the size of the tin)
  • 2 cups beef stock
  • 2 tbsp apple cider vinegar
  • 1.5 tsp kosher salt
  • 1 tbsp dry mustard
  • 1 tbsp crushed dried chilis
  • 1 tsp chili powder (later)
  • 1.5 tbsp olive oil (not extra virgin)


I put about half a tablespoon of olive oil into a small pot and sauteed the garlic just until brown, then added the grated onion and let cook for a little while (not long enough to caramelize, it was too watery) to get some water out of it.  Added everything else, brought to a gentle boil, turned down to simmer for about an hour.  Smelled fruity, tasted sweet.

Three pork chops, rinsed and patted dry.  A bit of black pepper on each side, onto the grill.  Turned three times, after last turning put ~1.5-2 tablespoons sauce on each one, closed lid.

All in all it worked pretty well.  Seemed rather too sweet alone, still a little sweeter than I wanted after being applied to pork but not as much.  Adding more garlic and a little chili powder certainly helped.

Next time, double the garlic from the start.  A little less onion, or a little more everything else.  Probably use a saucepan rather than a small pot, I need the surface area.  Definitely continue to brown the garlic and onions, even though the caramelizing makes it sweeter, cut back the onion if that’s a problem.  A little less salt.  Let it simmer a little more and cook down to a thicker texture.  More crushed dried chilis, this wants a little more bite.

Still, a very nice start.  I might take a while to tune this.

Oh no.

OCRchie-Based OCR Library

A little over eleven years ago I had a need for an OCR library for a project at work.  The commercial ones we had available weren’t doing what we needed (such as “not crash”, “read characters accurately”, and “be reasonably priced”) so I did a little digging around and found something called ‘OCRchie‘, a Computer Science project at Berkeley.

The source code was available, so I took a copy and gave it a try.  It was a mix of (as I recall) C++ and Tcl/Tk (for the graphical front end).

I didn’t need a front end, and saw some easy optimizations (block allocation of memory once for the entire image instead of for each raster, for example).  In ripping out the front end and the optimizations, I ended up reimplementing the engine.

In the end, I had the tool I needed.  I rolled it into a library (Windows DLL) that I could connect to from my Delphi program.  Given the small dictionary I needed — I only needed to read card numbers in a single font — this was pretty workable.  I had sent my work back to the professor who had directed the original project.  He made it available to other people via the project web site, along with my notes.

If I were to do it over today, I can see a number of things I would do differently… but I no longer have a need for this particular tool.

However, someone else does.  He managed to track me down via this website (persistent!) and sent me a note today.  I had the fairly distinct pleasure of being reminded of something I’d done that long ago.

I’ve reviewed the code and was reminded that when I wrote it, it wasn’t necessary to specify the std:: namespace when using the standard library.  Apart from that, the entire thing builds cleanly.  There are a few things I would do differently code-wise now (namely how I was handling inline functions and class members, and I might look for a replacement for my macro-based ‘properties’ hack), but I’m still reasonably satisfied with the code.

Thanks Faliakis, this was fun.

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What to Study

As a youth, I studied the languages of the earth so I could better understand the people around me. Now I study the languages of math and it’s slang dialect physics so I can better understand the universe.

— Arienna Lee

Walter Hall

I’m feeling mildly maudlin today.  I was reminded of an old friend of the family, Walter Hall.

He was our neighbour some thirty years ago.  I remember going fishing with him and my dad, going up into the slash (place where loggers have cleared trees but there are still a lot of smaller logs they didn’t want on the ground) with them to get firewood, watching them make beer, and so on.  I don’t remember the cartoons I watched at that age, but I remember doing these things.

Walt died about ten years ago.  He didn’t get a chance to meet my daughter (she was born just a few months before he died), but my son called him ‘Poppa Walt’ — Walt was often around when we came to visit my folks, he was part of the family.  In fact, he lived in a suite in my parents’ house (the house I live in now, my office and library now where his suite was).

He was not well-educated, but he was remarkably experienced and resourceful.  This little story tells a lot about how he worked and thought.

This house is in a fairly rural area, though it’s becoming less so in the last ten years.  I’m on the side of a mountain, and many of my neighbours have some kind of farm (next door has llamas, the guy before him had sheep; many have at least one horse or a pony, and so on).  A lot of us have tractors, there has been one here for over fifteen years.

Tractors sometimes get stuck.  If you catch it in time you might be able to simply drive away before it happens, but a number of us have gotten somewhat capable and clever at using the tractor bucket to lever and push our way out of holes.  As long as you can do it without getting caught, it didn’t happen, no matter what the evidence.

If you get caught at it you can expect people won’t interfere unless asked… but they will ‘help’.  You know, stand around, watch what you’re doing in case you make mistakes, offer suggestions (that may or may not be relevant, let alone helpful), that sort of thing.

I did say it’s a fairly rural area, right?

If you ask for assistance, there are any number of big diesel trucks around and tow ropes.  I’ve never seen anyone so stuck they couldn’t be gotten loose within about ten minutes (if it’s so muddy you can’t even get a long rope from the tractor to a truck on firm ground, you couldn’t have gotten down there anyway)… but even if it takes half or three-quarters of an hour to get yourself loose, take the moral victory.

Walt’s Non-Adventure

There are a lot of Walt stories in my family, but I was reminded of this one so this is the one I’ll tell.  I think it does a good job of illustrating something of Walt’s personality.

One day Walt was puttering in the yard with the tractor and hit a soft spot.  Since we cleared and drained the swampy area at the bottom of the yard we don’t have so many of these, but this was before that and when the land was still settling after the original landscaping.  Sometimes you can drive out of it, but once the treads on the drive wheels are full of mud they’re basically slicks, and by this time the ground had been churned up so there was no way he could bucket his way free… and by now he was up to the axles in mud.

He went over to the woodshed and found a stack of short 2x4s that were slated to become firewood.  And a coil of nylon rope that wasn’t being used for anything.  He tied the 2x4s the drive wheels and paddled his ass to freedom.

My folks got home to find the tractor parked by the shop, covered in mud to the seat and with the improvised paddles still tied on.  There was a HUGE tractor-shaped hole near the pond.  Walt was just walking back after hosing the worst of the mud off himself so he could unstrap the paddles and clean the mud off the tractor.

“So, interesting day?”

“Nah, nothing to speak of.”


(But we tell this story anyway.)

Poorly considered

One of the managers at work (the same one who came up with the Application Security Services Penetration Engineers, oddly enough… I think I may see a pattern), commenting about SULU, one of our servers, crashing:

Manager: It’s one thing when a woman goes down on you, it’s another when it’s SULU.
Me: You do know that George Takei is g…
Manager: Huh, yeah, I just realized. It might be better, then. He could be talented.
Me: Man, you realize you come up with the dumbest ‘clever’ comments.

Beef Stock

Soup stock is almost a staple in our kitchen.  It’s remarkably useful.

Almost any time we have chicken, we save the bones for use in making stock (freezing them until we have enough to use).  If I want beef stock, though, I usually have to go out and buy bones for use.

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categories Recipe

Four-way Chess

I’ve been toying with an idea for a while regarding chess with more than two players.  I think I see a fairly simple way to play chess with four players.

Four-way Chessboard

Four-way Chessboard

Basic Rules

The board is pretty simple, take a standard board and put a half-board on each side such that the checkerboard pattern is continued, as shown in the diagram.

Each player has a different color set of pieces, arranged normally in the two outer-most ranks.  This arrangement gives each player two additional ranks to maneuver in before entering the mosh pit that the center board will become.  Pieces move according to normal rules, from the perspective of the player (thus, the player in the West position advances toward the East… but the East is not his only opponent).  Kings are removed when they are checkmated; play continues until only one king remains on the board.
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categories Game

That was Fun

I had some rather deep red cayenne that I confused with paprika a few weeks ago. That was fun.

— tsingi, IRC

Universal Easter Eggs

“Studying Calculus and Physics makes me want to believe in god. I keep learning things that are so beautiful in their profound simplicity… it’s like someone left Easter Eggs all over the Universe just for me to discover and delight in.”

— Arienna Lee