Author Archives: Paul Rausch

So your homemade immersion blender mayonnaise didn’t take?

There’s a bunch of potential reasons why your mayo isn’t cooperating…but…

Your egg is probably colder than your oil!

Eggs are really well insulated, and if you’re like me, you tend to take them out of the fridge right before you need them. Emulsions are very sensitive to temperature differences, and everything needs to come to room temperature before you can emulsify properly. It took me a few occasional mayo failures, until I pinned down the problem when I checked the yoke temperature with an IR thermometer. Sure enough, it was 20 degrees colder than everything else. Including the surrounding egg white.

But, don’t fret! You can save it.

Restart your mayo recipe over, what you’re going to do is make a new, smaller batch of mayo. Once you get the emulsion going instead of adding more oil, you’re going to use your failed batch. But make sure you get everything to the same temperature first! Don’t make the same mistake twice, make sure both the old mayo and new mayo are both room temperature.

I hope that helps someone! I’m so happy I lazed my egg yolk today before I made another cup of white oil.

How to beat your allergies (sinusitis) without a turbinate reduction (surgery)

Firstly, let of course disclaim that I’m not a medical professional. I have no professional medical training, and my advice is probably terrible. That said, it worked for me. The impetus for writing this article is actually because, I have a sinus infection right now. You’re probably wondering why the hell should I listen to this guy if he’s suffering right now? Well, because this is the first one I’ve had one in six months. So long in fact that I forgot some of these lessons that actually have kept them at bay. I hope the lessons that I have learned on this journey can help some other people avoid some of the suffering I went through to learn them, and potentially avoid a few unnecessary surgeries.

Firstly, most of the things I used to gain the upper hand on my allergies, did not require a doctor. But a few did. One of the biggest lessons I learned during this experience is exactly what medical professionals are for. I learned how to be my own advocate and how to best make use of their professional experience. Some allergy sufferers are pretty disdainful of how the medical community handles allergies. I’m strongly of the opinion that ENTs, Doctors and other medical professions work best when you already know what you want. Each human body is very different, and an ENT has 15 minutes of time to understand you. If you understand your own body, you can make maximum use of those 15 minutes.

A little backstory, I’ve had sinus allergies since I was a little kid. I was that snot nosed kid who blew his nose ceaselessly. I had an adenoidectomy and tonsillectomy when I was very young and it helped stop a lot of the most egregious symptoms. That said, the underlying allergy of course, never went anywhere. Most of my swelling and discomfort happens because of my very deviated septum, and turbinates that are prone to swelling. You haven’t already read about your what your sinuses look like, you definitely should. The turbinates or nasal concha are more or less located directly behind your nose. Everyone’s allergies are different, unless you have the same exact problem as me, your results will probably very. That said, what worked for me will probably work for many others

1. Know your enemy

The very first thing you should do, is get an allergy test done. The biggest mistake you can make is to think that you just “have allergies”. You don’t need to go to an ENT for this test, and your GP can order it. You don’t need to take the prick test, it can now be done just as accurately through a blood test. I in fact had my most recent one done at the same time as my annual physical and blood work. Until you know exactly what you’re allergic to, it’s very hard to properly anticipate it. At the end of the day, most of us with chronic sinusitis are in fact just unfortunate enough to be allergic to something quite common. For me, it’s dust mites, I’m really allergic to dust mites. If you’re allergic to certain seasonal plants, google them and find out exactly when they bloom. Be prepared for their season and anticipate them. Many people falsely believe that cigarette smoke is an allergen, it’s actually just exacerbates all allergies regardless of your underlying allergy. If you’re an allergy sufferer, you should not ever be exposed to cigarette smoke. The biggest part of fighting chronic sinusitis is preventing the infection from occurring in the first place.

2. Know your tools

Some of the most effective tools available to you are OTC. I in fact only use one prescription product, and even then only when I know I’m about to get into an environment that I’m going to regret. The trick to over the counter medication is knowing what exactly you’re buying, and what’s in it. Medication marketing is designed to tie a set of symptoms to a magic pill. But in reality all your buying is the two generic ultra cheap products on either sides of it, at twice the price. An example of this is Clariten-D. You can buy psuedophedrine (the D) and loratadine  (Clariten) for a fraction of the price as the combined Clariten-D product. Most of the products that you should have around fit into three categories. Vasoconstrictors, antihistamines, and..other.

1. Antihistamines

Antihistamines work by actually stopping or mitigating the bodies release of histamines. Histamines are the chemical compound your body gives off in the presence of an allergen which cause inflammation. Once your sinuses respond to histamines we’re mostly playing catch up by then, so our goal is to either prevent us from needing them by preventing exposure, or by mitigating their effect by using antihistamines. Regardless, once you already have a sinus infection, antihistamines are more or less ineffective. The sinus infection itself is usually a result of inflammation preventing the natural flow of mucus. There are a few different types of antihistamines, most of which are OTC.

a. First Generation Anti-histamines: Benedryl (diphenhydramine) actually works be depressing your entire body. Using it exclusively would be like keeping only a sledgehammer around. I keep benedryl around but the only time you should use it is if you’re having a really bad reaction. An example would be when someone opened a vacuum bag in front of me. I knew that bad things we’re about to happen, and I also knew that either way I wasn’t getting much more done that day.

b. Second Generation Anti-histamines: Zyrtec (cetirizine) and Clariten (loratadine) both function very similarly, most people swear by one or the other. Personally,  I don’t notice much difference between them. Because these antihistamines are so generalised when taken orally, I honestly never have seen any positive effects from either of them. I have however seen amazing results by delivered nasaly. Astelin (azelatine) is a second generation antihistamine that can be prescribed (make sure you don’t get astepro, yes it’s not as bitter but it’s incredibly expensive compared to the astelin generic). Maybe because my turbinates are where a lot of my problems start, but it’s the only antihistamine that I use regularly

c. Third Generation anti-histamines: Allegra (fexofenadine) is more or less a second gen, with some tweeks. If I do take an oral antihistamine it’s usually fexofenadine.

2. Vasoconstrictors

Vasoconstrictors act by causing your blood vessels to constrict. The idea is that by treating inflammation you can relieve some of what is inhibiting proper mucus flow. Once you’re already showing symptoms is when vasoconstrictors should be used. It’s very important to use them very very soon. As the longer you wait the longer the problem with compound.

a. Oxymetazoline: Commonly known as Afrin. This stuff is addictive. Literally. It’s probably the most effective tool in my toolbox, and I keep it everywhere. It’s incredible fast acting and effective. However, under no circumstances should you use it more than 3 days in a row. It is habit forming, and if you google “afrin addiction” you can read some pretty crazy stories about people becoming dependent. That said, when used preemptively or very early on, it will prevent many reactions from spiraling out of control into infections.

b. Psuedophedrine: Commonly known as sudafed. Lately because of laws that prohibit pharmacies from selling psuedophedrine in front of the counter, many drug companies have started using Phenylephrine. Unfortunately, Phenylephrine is not much more effective than a placebo. You have to go and wait in line at the pharmacy and get the real psuedophedrine if you want any real results. If you’re swelling or pain is further up in your sinues, or you’re dealing with a full on sinus infection. Oxymetazoline is not going to be satisfactory, and you’re going to need a more generalised vasoconstrictor like psuedophedrine. Notice, psuedophedrine is also what they give men suffering from priapism. So if you’re a man beware of that unintended side effect.

3. Steroids

I don’t like steroids. They take a while to build up, and create a dependence that I’m not a fan of. They might work great for you, but for me, they just became an ineffective headache.

Whenever buying any allergy medication, never buy the brand name. These products are almost all non longer patented. In fact many times the same manufacturer makes both the generic and the brand name. Typically the brand name product will provide you half the quantity as twice of the cost. Especially if you’re a chronic sufferer that can really add up.

4. Other

Tylenol and Guaifenesin are helpful to keep around. One for treating sinus pain, the other to thin out thick mucus. By the generic and have them available. Guaifenesin is not nearly as effective in the scheme of things, but if mucus is getting very thick and nasty it’s incredibly helpful to keep around just in case.

3. Know how to use your tools

Alright, at this point you’ve read a bunch of chemicals and you’re probably ready to get to the good stuff. The trick to limiting you sinus infections is three fold. 1. Prevent exposure to allergens 2. Mitigate the effect of that exposure 3. Treat symptoms aggressively and early.

a. Once you know what you’re allergic too, you need to accept that if you’re exposed to it, you’re going to have a problem. I know, it sucks. If you have even the slightest allergy, cigarette smoke will exacerbate it 100 times over. You need to spend as much time as possible allergy proving your house. To mitigate specifically whatever you’re allergic too. Don’t waste money on items that won’t specifically help you with your allergy. For example, allergy proof pillow cases and bed covers aren’t going to help much if you’re allergic to dogwood flowers. But for me, it literally represents the single biggest contribution to my recovery.

b. Anticipate exposures and load up on antihistamines early. Keep a bottle of a nasal antihistamine around at all times. Reacting quickly can mean the difference between 3 days of misery and a little sneezing.

c. Once you’ve been exposed and you can feel or sense swelling in your sinuses, take a vasoconstrictor immediately. Don’t wait until you’re already blowing your nose. By then it’s probably already too late.

Here’s an outline of what worked for me:

1. Bought a vacuum with a HEPA filter, use it to stay on top of dust accumulating

2. Bought an inexpensive HEPA filter from amazon, I run it 24/7, prevents from the dust from floating and settling

3. Bought dust mite proof bed and pillow covers (BY FAR THE BEST PURCHASE I HAVE EVER MADE)

4. Nasal antihistamines and oxymetazoline in my bag at all times, I usually use one of the two once a week, rarely more than once

5. Psuedophedrine 12HR I keep in the medicine cabinet. Psuedophedrine will keep you awake and I try to avoid it whenever possible. But it solves a very key problem. Usually if my turbinates are swollen before bed, and I lay down, they’ll stop flowing properly. By the time I wake up, it’s already too late. The mucus has dried and become infected. Psuedophedrine does a good job of keeping things flowing while I’m sleeping. Which can prevent a small inflammation from getting out of control.

Now, I know many people swear by allergy shots, and surgery. But personally, I try to avoid unnecessary surgery. It takes a lot of prudence and attentiveness to stay on top of symptoms. But now that I know what to watch for, I’m very rarely suffering. I’d like to quote a friend of mine, who responded to my question “How was the turbinate reduction surgery?”, his reply was “I’ve been shot, I’d rather be shot again than go through another turbinate reduction”. I hear a lot of people have easy surgeries, but this opinion convinced me to exhaust other options first.

Duolingo.com, Where have you been my whole life?

 

Main Screen Duolingo

Duolingo’s Product is clean, elegant and incredibly useful

Let me start by saying, I’ve self taught myself at least four languages. Arguably, I think that makes me a pretty good authority on the topic of language autodidacting. Furthermore, I actually did my undergraduate education in the Spanish Language…so I’ve done my fair share of Spanish teaching. That said, Duolingo.com is so quality, that it actually makes me wish I was born later so that I could have taken advantage of it at 15. You’ll learn more in the bathroom than you learned in 3 years of high school Spanish.

There have always been a few language learning applications on the market, but in my opinion none of them seem to have ever really understood how to capture the student’s interest. Language learning has to be fun, and has to provide instant gratification for the user. For me, I used music, and translated lyrics until I understood what was going on. Applications like Rosetta Stone never did that for me. In fact, I’ve always found it easier to actually break a language apart and reassemble it, then have Rosetta Stone try to force feed me pictures of horses and women swimming.

 

My child is lovely? Uhh sure.

My child is lovely? Uhh sure.

Then came Duolingo. With a tiny staff and rather small amount of VC they’ve created a product leaps and bounds more effective than Rosetta Stone…and it’s fun. The social component creates a healthily competitive environment. It’s similar to having a language learning gym buddy to keep you motivated. The software is very well written, almost entirely bug free, and very elegantly designed. But more than that, it actually works. I have up until now been very pessimistic when people have suggested to me they wanted to learn another language. I’ve seen many try, and almost everyone fail. The barrier to entry to a new language has always been so high, until Duolingo.com came along.

I can now effectively hit on women, in French.

Tu es une femme parfaite!

That said, it’s definitely not without it’s uncomfortable moments. I can with some authority now say that I can call your daughter round, and that your wife is perfect. At some times I felt like I was in fact learning how to hit on women in French, and then was awarded a trophy for my hard work. That said, I was able to do so both at my desktop, which is much more comfortable and allows the user to press enter after every lesson. Or awkwardly on public transport from my iPhone, which after some time did start start to get a little uncomfortable on my hands.. and strange looks. This does lead to my one gripe with the product, for some reason out of nowhere the voice recognition will stop detecting…mostly anything. This has on multiple occasions led to me repeating awkward phrases like “My elephant is eating some good wine” in French over and over again on the train. I don’t think the pronunciation software actually detects anything as of now, but that probably honestly doesn’t matter, as in reality just trying to pronounce words helps. I can attest to this, as I am very good at talking about my pet éléphant.

Jumping between the Desktop and Mobile versions is seamless.

Jumping between the Desktop and Mobile versions is seamless.

Moving between the Desktop and Mobile versions is really seamless, anything short of mid-lessons seems to sync instantly. A frustrating component is that it does seem to randomly add new lessons to skills, ostensibly in order to help re-freshen these basic skills. But in reality it’s just annoying. As anyone who has played a well designed video games knows, you don’t want to redo the early game quests later on, you want new quests. The algorithm really should build these early lessons in to the later lessons to help you compound your knowledge. Making you go back and relearn old material is just frustrating and creates a perceived “uphill battle”. That said…these are some pretty minor complaints. Duolingo is fantastic, and I’m actively pushing it to everyone I know who has always been interested in learning another language. Then…prodding them by actively watching their progress :-D.

Finally, I know there is a translation/immersion section, which is aiming to translate large quantities of the internet. From what I understand that is actually a core component of the ‘vision’ of duolingo.com, to translate the internet. Honestly, I don’t quite understand what’s going on there, and I’m actually really hoping that they monetize the product and get the resources necessary to expand into a number of harder to find languages. I know as a matter of fact how big the Language learning industry, and how bad language schools need a commercial version of Duolingo that allows them to closely monitor student progress. There is nothing wrong with making money, and I’m hoping that Duolingo builds a commercial product sooner rather than later so that I can get some Russian and Vietnamese lessons.

Need a Dedicated IP on Hostgator Reseller Hosting? You’re going to need to get SSL.

It was actually refreshing to determine it was this easy to get a dedicated IP from Hostgator. I contacted Hostgator because I wanted to move our main domain to a separate IP address than the ones that most of our clients are hosted on. I figured it might help prevent google from thinking we’re running a linkfarm or something unsavory.  I have to imagine this can’t be an unusual situation, since many different Web Design and IT Companies have to be hosting a lot of websites in the same IP batch as their main website. But regardless, I figured it’s better to be safe than sorry. Last thing I want is for another site on our IP batch to be compromised, and Google to incorrectly identify a company selling IT Security Consulting services as compromised itself.

I received a quick reply back from Hostgator who pointed me to the two sites, which have slightly conflicting info. The second one is correct.

http://support.hostgator.com/articles/hosting-guide/hosting-plan-comparison/dedicated-ips-ip-address

https://secure.hostgator.com/resellerip.php

To summarise, more or less Hostgator has extra IPs, and they used to just sell them for an extra fee. However, now they have to justify their IP usage to ARIN, and the only use that their accepting is SSL certificates.

We elected to have a SSL certificate installed on our domain, after the cost of the certificate, and the Dedicated IP fee, it came out to something like an extra $7/month. Which I think is totally reasonable. So if you’re using Hostgator and you’d like to have each of your cPanels on  different dedicated IPs, order SSL certificates for each of them, and swallow the extra $7/month…or if you can justify it, move to a VPS or Dedicated Server. Personally, I’m of the opinion that SSL is a no brainer for most sites anyway, and Hostgator’s Certificates through comodo are pretty competitively priced.

Howto Vietnamese Iced Coffee (with Video) and Drip Filter Recommendations

ca phe sua da supplies

I’ve been quite into Southeast Asian food for years now, especially Vietnamese cuisine. Routinely every time I find myself at a Vietnamese restaurant, I order Vietnamese Iced Coffee. When ordering Vietnamese iced coffee, it typically comes one of two ways, either with sweetened condensed milk or without. When ordered without condensed milk, it would be known in Vietnamese as “Ca phe da” literally, coffee iced. When ordered with sweetended condensed milk it’s known as Ca phe sua da or cà phê sữa đá, pronounced “KAH FEH SUE DAH”, literally “coffee milk iced”. Wikipedia says that in the north it’s also known as “iced brown coffee” (cà phê nâu đá), but most of the Vietnamese community in the states are from the south so I actually don’t have any one to confirm or deny the prevalence of that term.

Vietnamese Iced coffee runs $3-5 from a restaurant, and the cost drove me to look into how to make it for myself, as you no doubt have too. I have effectively switched entirely from Italian coffee to Vietnamese coffee, which surprised even me.

Like much Vietnamese cuisine, Vietnamese Iced coffee is a byproduct of French colonialism. Coffee was first introduced by French colonists to Vietnam, and the “phin” or drip filter is in fact a French drip filter.

I would recommend the sweetended condensed milk version for most people, even if you’re not a dairy fan. Personally, I thoroughly dislike cream in my coffee but I find even a small amount of condensed milk thickens the coffee in a really pleasant way and opens up a lot of unexpected savoriness in the coffee. One $1 can of sweetened condensed milk seems to last me almost a month at the amount that I put in my daily coffee. Your results will vary though as many people like a lot of cream.

Firstly, you’re going to need a French drip filter or a “Phin” (cà phê phin), here is an amazon list of your options. I ended up buying this one. Although it was not very expensive to begin with, I ended up finding it at a local Vietnamese market here in Chicago for a couple bucks cheaper. I imagine most people aren’t going to have a vibrant Vietnamese community three blocks away, so Amazon might be the better option. As far as quality goes, there seems to be almost no difference in quality among the metal ones. They’re all cheap stamped metal, but all seem to do their jobs very well. I have seen some free or very inexpensive plastic ones however, which I’m slightly weary of, perhaps without cause. But for $5-$10, the metal ones are so inexpensive that I haven’t bothered trying the plastic ones. In general the Phins come in two sizes, a single serving size, and a larger one that is good for 4 or so cups. After buying the single serving size, I ended up buying the larger one down the street. I would actually recommend buying both sizes. Typically I’m a huge fan of one-size-fits all. But the convenience of the single serving Phins are excellent for your daily coffee. However making four servings one at a time is a time consuming task. Furthermore, the larger Phin is excellent for use with Thai iced tea, which I’ll cover in another article.

You’re also going to need some Vietnamese coffee. After trying to figure out which brand was best, I eventually settled on the biggest name in Vietnamese Iced Coffee Trung Nguyen. You can get it on Amazon with Prime for $12, here. There are a few other vendors for less, but I’ve reached the point where if it doesn’t come Prime, I’m not really interested in waiting. I was fortunate enough where I live in Chicago, I am able to get it local for about $6 for the same tin. A tin lasts me about a month of once a day coffee production, with occasional guests.

Instructions:

  • Unscrew tiny filter from inside of Phin, typically you would just TURN it counter-clockwise.
  • Rinse out Phin, to remove any gunk.
  • Add ground Vietnamese Coffee, I use Trung Nguyen, you can get it on Amazon here.
  • You will want to add just enough Coffee whereas you can still get the filter to screw back on. The filter will hold the grounds down when you add water.
  • Place your Phin on top of a cup or glass, or pot in the case of the larger Phins
  • Heat up water in a pot or kettle. Ideal temperature is 185-190F or 87C. I use a $20 IR Thermometer. You could of course just boil the water, turn off the pot and wait a couple minutes. But…science!
  • When the water gets warm, add approximately a teaspoon of water to the Phin. This will help to engorge the coffee grounds to prepare them for steeping.
  • When the water reaches temperature, fill the Phin to the top with the hot water.
  • Immediately put the lid on, I didn’t realise this until I forgot the lid off one day how much it helps to keep the water hot and increases the quality of the coffee
  • When the Phin is empty of water, and stops dripping coffee your coffee is done.
  • Remove the Phin from the top of your cup.
  • Add sweetened condensed milk and/or sugar. I use a small amount of milk and a packet of stevia for my coffee. Many recipes will suggest putting the condensed milk in first, although I think that is wise, I prefer to add mine in little by little and stir it aggressively until it reaches the wanted consistency. As a trick I’ve found that a fork is strangely easier to use than a spoon when adding and mixing the condensed milk. As the sweetened condensed milk has a tendency of sticking to everything it touches.
  • Once you’ve reached a consistency that you’re happy with, add ice. Let cool, and serve.
  • I often times will use my large Phin to make several ice cubes worth of Iced Coffee, then I will add those to my finished coffee to prevent ice cubes from water down my coffee.

Does Bitcoin need more regulation?

I’ve been casually involved in the Bitcoin community now for almost two years. A very close friend of mine and contributor to this site Andrew Miller introduced me to Bitcoin well before the topic had garnered much traction. I had the opportunity once while visiting him to meet a handful of the core developers and have some very good conversations about Bitcoin.

As a result of that conversation, and my experience in IT Audit and Compliance while working for Greenwire IT Consulting, I’ve noticed some “low-hanging-fruit” in Bitcoin. Although, I definitely feel like the lack of a central authority is what gives Bitcoin it’s flexibility and arguably a lot of its security. I do feel that as with any industry conducting financial transactions, industry best practices should be established externally, and even the best run companies require both internal and external scrutiny.

My Bitcoin Governance Suggestions:

  • Implement PCI-DSS

Realistically, all companies accepting Bitcoin probably should already be conducting PCI-DSS audits. Although they are not directly accepting Credit Cards, audits of private data and standardised retenention policies are a must for all businesses. If the pizzeria around the corner has to meet PCI-DSS, Bitcoin processors should too.

  • Outside Audit

I’ll be the first person to concede that PCI-DSS lacks teeth. It’s designed as a bare minimum to protect typical businesses from IT Risk. It could be said that Bitcoin doesn’t fit that risk profile, as we’re more or less dealing with Digital Cash. That doesn’t mean that there shouldn’t be an audit mechanism. It’s generally accepted that companies when left to their own devices will inadvertently ignore certain forms of risk. The Bitcoin industry should move to a form of voluntary audit and compliance to maintain best practices consistently. This also would serve to help identify ponzi schemes and other untrustworthy players from gaining unrealistic traction in the community.

  • Penetration Testing

Pentesting is not cheap, and not 100% effective. But it is an industry best practice for a reason. Although we don’t yet know the details of the successful MtGox attack, there’s a reasonable chance that the exploited vulnerability may have been identifiable beforehand by a competent security professional. With the value of Bitcoins currently very high, there undoubtedly will be further attacks. Until all Bitcoin transactors start employing full time InfoSec professionals, hacks will continue to be the norm.

  • Industry Group

Although there are a few attempts at building a Bitcoin industry group, one example being the Bitcoin Foundation, there is not set of industry best practices yet to govern how to handle digital cash.

Realistically, all of my suggestions are probably premature. Bitcoin is so new, and unstable the cost of compliance may cripple the small startups on the Bitcoin scene. But that said they need to happen, the cost of security compromises is hurting Bitcoins reputation and relegating it to the wild-west of currencies. When in reality when mixed with good governance Bitcoin could be as sound as traditional currency. As of now, however, in this author’s opinion the attitude against self-regulation is creating an environment that is unnecessarily risky.