Thursday, November 27, 2014

The Ultimate Gingerbread Cookie Recipe


Crisp Gingerbread Cookies
makes 16 large cookies


6 cups sifted all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
12 teaspoon baking powder
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter (room temperature)
4 teaspoons ground ginger
4 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1 12 teaspoons ground cloves
1 12 teaspoons salt
1 teaspoon finely ground pepper
2 large eggs

1 cup packed dark brown sugar
1 cup unsulfured molasses

Recipe requires the following tools/supplies: parchment paper, plastic wrap, wax paper, icing tips and parchment paper icing bags, sprinkles or other cookie decorations (as desired) and paste food coloring.

In a large bowl, sift together flour, baking soda and baking powder. Set aside.




In the bowl of an electric mixer, cream butter and brown sugar until fluffy.




Mix in spices, salt, pepper, eggs and then molasses.



Add in half the flour mixture on low speed, then slowly add in the remaining portion.

Divide dough into thirds, tear off several sections of plastic wrap the size of the cookie sheet used to bake the cookies. Place section of dough on plastic wrap, place second layer of plastic wrap on top of cookie dough.



Flatten dough first using your hands, then use rolling pin to roll out dough to an even thickness of 18 or 14 inch depending on desired thickness of cookies.



Chill dough by placing sheet of cookie dough onto cookie sheet and place in freezer until dough is firm.



Repeat the creation of cookie dough sheets until all the cookie dough is rolled out and prepared for chilling. Stack layers of cookie dough sheets on cookie pan to ensure the dough is lying flat while chilling.


Chill dough until firm. Dough should not deform or bend when removed from freezer. This will make it easier to work with and make well formed cookies.

Cut several sheets of parchment paper sized to cover the cookie sheet used for baking. Set parchment paper sheets aside. 


Begin pre-heating oven to 350℉. 

Remove sheet of cookie dough from freezer. Remove one side of plastic wrap and then re-apply plastic wrap. The goal is to have the under side of the cookie dough sheet on the plastic wrap, but not stuck to the plastic wrap as tight as it was upon removing from freezer. Lay cookie dough down on work surface with the less 'stuck' side of the plastic wrap down. Remove top layer of plastic wrap.

Using lightly floured cookie cutters, cut out cookie shapes and transfer to parchment paper on top of cookie sheet. If cookie dough has chilled long enough, the cookies will remove cleanly from the plastic wrap. If cookies do not remove easily from the plastic wrap, place plastic wrap back over cookie dough sheet and put cookie dough back in freezer to chill longer.



Leave room between cookies on the parchment paper for dough spread during baking.



Bake 8 to 10 minutes at 350℉, or until cookies are crisp but not darkened around the edges. Baking times will vary depending on thickness of cookie or size of cookie.

Repeat process of working with chilled dough and place cookies to be baked on parchment paper sheet while current batch of cookies are baking. When cookies have finished baking, remove cookie sheet from oven and slide parchment paper with baked cookies on it to the counter top. Slide parchment paper with cookies not yet baked onto the hot cookie pan and place in oven to bake. Remove baked cookies from parchment paper with a metal spatula and transfer to wire racks to cool.

Once cookies have cooled to the touch, they can be organized by shape and size in preparation for decorating.




Royal Icing (makes 2 12 cups)
2 large egg whites, or 5 tablespoons meringue powder mixed with scant 12 cup of water
1 pound confectioners' sugar
2 teaspoons lemon juice (lemon juice used to add contrasting flavor to gingerbread cookie. If desired, plain water can be substituted)




In bowl of electric mixer, beat egg whites, sugar and the 2 teaspoons of lemon juice on low speed for 10 minutes. If icing is too thick, add additional teaspoon of lemon juice. If too thin, beat 2 to 3 minutes more. Separate into 34 cup portions, add food coloring paste to achieve desired colors.


Using parchment icing bags, fill each bag with colored icing, apply decorating tips as shown in steps 6, 7 & 8. Place filled icing bags in small containers with a damp paper towel at the base of each small container or drinking glass. The damp paper towel will keep the icing from drying and clogging the frosting tip. 



Using a #2 tip for piping, outline the cookies with a slow steady bead of icing. For floodwork on cookies use a #5 tip or carefully add frosting with a small icing spatula. Here is an excellent photo tutorial on floodwork icing cookies.



**

This recipe was originally published in Martha Stewart Living magazine 1997 December #55, but the original recipe left a lot of crucial steps out if you actually wanted to make cookies. There was no mention of the layering of plastic wrap on the dough and chilling the dough to the point of stiffness, nor was there any mention of using parchment paper under the cookies.



The original recipe suggest using Silpat mats. Silpat mats retail for around $30 today, heaven knows what they cost in 1997 - I sure couldn't afford it. The magazine also offered a set of oversized Christmas ornament cookies for around $45. Again, that was a massive amount of money for my 1997 budget.

Necessity is the mother of invention: I went down to my local surplus store Skycraft Surplus and found 12 inch strips of stainless steel. I used a pair of pliers to bend the steel into the ornament shapes shown in the magazine and secured them with a bolt and locking nut. Yay for DIY!



Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Time Machine, Spotlight, Stalled Backups and a SanDisk MicroSD card

Recently I was having issues with Spotlight hanging when trying to index the HD on my 2012 15" Macbook Retina laptop. Spotlight never finished and in conjunction I noticed that I hadn't had a successful backup in over a month. When I kicked off a backup manually (Backup Now), the backup would get to the 1.62GB or 2GB point and just *stop*.

I took it to the Apple store, the tech did a permissions repair and disk repair on my SSD, no issues were found. I did the same system checks on the external drive I use for backups. No problems found with the external drive either. The tech recommended reinstalling OSX, but I couldn't do that until I had a good backup. I took the laptop home and in a fit of desperation, I formatted the external drive in hopes whatever offending file was stopping the backups from completing would be erased. Along with that I also deleted every backup of my laptop that I'd ever made.

This put me in the spot of not having a backup and not being able to complete a backup because Spotlight couldn't complete indexing. I removed every unnecessary directory from the backup list, and pared down the list of things Spotlight should index. Still no dice.

I happend to be in the office and a co-worker loaned me his external SSD drive to try as an alternate backup destination to see if it was a problem with my external drive. The backup still hung at the 2GB point.

My console reported zillions of mdworker: (Warning) Import: bad path: entries. Internet searches weren't shedding much light on what the issue might be. Several blog posts said people had issues with old iPods being connected to their laptops & the exFAT format of the iPod was making Spotlight hang. I also came across a post from Stephen Foskett about exFAT causing problems. This got me to thinking. The only other thing connected to my laptop was a SanDisk Ultra 64GB MicroSD card in a Nifty drive adapter. I don't remember formatting it as exFAT and it's been in my laptop for over a year. I ejected the Nifty card and immediately noticed that Spotlight had a *real* estimate of completion time and that the backup I manually started quickly surpassed the 2GB point where it had previously been choking.

The problem I have with this being the fix is this: the Nifty/SanDisk card was present in the list of items to exclude from backing up. Even if Spotlight had problems with the exFAT format of the SanDisk card, it shouldn't have caused the backup to hang. In short, Macs running Mavericks do not play nice with drives formatted in exFAT. Once the SD card was formatted as anything other than exFAT, my incremental backups are completing with no issues.

Monday, August 4, 2014

Four Year Universities, CS Degrees, Social Classes, Misogyny and Me.

I am a woman in IT. I don't have a four year degree. I have never been enrolled in a CS program. I had a blue-collar upbringing. I've had to fight for fairness and equal pay in the workplace.

The reason I got into IT was partially because of the IT guy who serviced the computers at the walk-in clinic where I worked in 1999. He was one of those IT guys who acts like he has this expanse of knowledge that you couldn't possibly understand, so he wouldn't deign to explain to me what he was doing to the PCs or why. His condescending nature really irritated me, so I did some research to see what he really had to know to get a job like that. Turns out, the only prerequisite for his job was an A+ or CNA certification.

The local vocational school had night class program for the A+, Net+ and Cisco Networking Academy. After wondering if I'd maybe bitten off more than I could chew, I went to a meet the teacher event at OCPS to see what the school offered. Mr. Vanderpool was exactly what I needed to get started. He has a very calm demeanor, explains the subjects thoroughly and has an extreme amount of patience with all of his students. Whenever I'm back in Orlando, I make a point of stopping in to say hello! He was instrumental in setting me off on the right foot. At the time, I had a Windows 98 home grown PC (built for me by a dear friend). Its power supply was going bad and I was running the PC with the case off to keep it from overheating. After a few weeks of night school, I was confident enough to swap out the power supply without fear that I might break something else in the process. It was my only computer and I didn't want to destroy it by hooking up something incorrectly.

My parents left a lot to be desired when it comes to educational/life guidance, exposure to new ideas or financial assistance. Recently, Keith Parsons posted a link on FB to an Economist article titled "Parenting in America: Choose your parents wisely". The article got me to thinking about my own upbringing and how I've turned out. My dad ran the machine press at Western Electric, making the Model 500DD plastic telephone parts. My mother was a hairdresser at a nearby retirement home. Neither of them had a High School diploma, let alone a graduate degree. Going by the data in the article, the one thing my mother did right was reading to me at a very young age.

I've read dozens of articles lamenting the lack of women in CS degree programs at four year universities. The problem with the statistics in these articles is they're only looking at four year universities. There are many paths that can lead into a career in IT. Enrollment in a four year university CS program is only one way. Those statistics are misleading because so many other viable paths to an IT career are not considered in the studies. At least one manager at Microsoft is trying to set the story straight.

I have negotiated for pay raises and stood up for myself when blame was being tossed around the workplace, but I have never been subjected to the sexism that would appear to be rampant throughout the coder, hacker, gamer and tech startup communities. Perhaps the crowd at Cisco Live is a bit older, perhaps the desire to avoid career limiting moves or maybe I've not been in the wrong place at the wrong time.

In conclusion: Don't let people tell you what you can or can't be based upon how you grew up or which social class you come from. A four year CS degree is not an absolute must. If you love what you do and continue to grow your professional skill set, it can lead to good things. The biggest thing keeping you from being the best you can be is you telling yourself that they're right, or that you'll start that career change tomorrow. There are dozens of people (probably quite a few that you haven't met yet) who want to see you succeed. Believe in yourself and hit the books. Statistics be damned!

Related to this post, I was interviewed by Josh O'Brien for his WhoIs series. I touched on some of these subjects in that interview, but felt it was finally time to put my thoughts into writing.






Thursday, June 26, 2014

Excited to hear Avaya present at Wireless Field Day 7!



There's a great lineup of presenters at the upcoming Wireless Field Day 7! Mark your calendars for August 6th - 8th. As always, the presentations will be streamed and recorded so you won't miss anything even if you have to miss it during the first airing.

You can tap into the live stream at www.techfieldday.com once we're on the air.

I'm excited to hear about what is going on at Avaya around their wireless offering. A little birdie recently told me about how many ex-Cisco/ex-Juniper employees are now a part of the Mobility team over at Avaya. If people who have been in the Wi-Fi business for over a decade (or more!) are moving over to Avaya's Mobility team, you know something terribly exciting is going on.



The full list of sponsors has filled out quite nicely:

AirTight
Aruba
Avaya
Cisco Mobility
Extreme Networks
Fluke Networks

I'm glad to be invited once again, and I'm looking forward to meeting the one new WFD delegate who I haven't already met! I'm talking about you, Glenn Cate!  
It'll also be nice to spend some time catching up with all the familiar faces who've been invited back.


Related Posts from other WFD7 delegates:
Know something Wi-Fi... know everything Wi-Fi
Preparing for Wireless Field Day #7

Wireless Site Survey Rigs (a repost)

Site Survey Rigs

(an archive of my CWNP post)

By Jennifer Huber On 03/01/2011 - 3 Comments
I’ve been traveling to customer locations to perform wireless site survey work for over four years now, and I can assure you traveling with survey gear can be somewhat tricky, especially if you’re like me and want to avoid checking your bags at the airport. I’ve seen many a survey kit arrive in pieces as a result of the thorough TSA checked baggage ‘screening’. As a result, I’ve come up with some fool proof ways of flying with survey gear stored in my carry-on luggage, while doings so in a way that I’m not holding up the TSA security checkpoint line. 
The gear I carry with me to do an active site survey is a Tessco battery pack, a Cisco 1140 access point (or a Cisco 3500 CleanAir access point), a roll of duct tape, colored ½ inch stickers, a Sharpie, a roll of transparent tape, and the mounting bracket for the 1140/3500 access point. The mounting bracket uses the metal mounting bracket that ships with the 1140/3500 series access point and a wooden block threaded for a painters’ extension pole. The wooden block was at one time a drywall texture brush.

I removed the bristles with a pair of pliers and then spray-painted the wood block gloss black to look more professional.


A pair of Mr. Longarm Angle Adapters allow me to suspend the 1140 access point from the wooden block bracket as if it were installed on theceiling.


I have seen someone use a plastic backed drywall texture brush as their mount for an 1140 bracket, but I don’t have a dremel to grind down the plastic mount to allow for the bumps on the back of the 1140 flat metal bracket.

Those are the basic parts I need to perform an active site survey at the customer location.
Before I discovered Ziploc XL bags at Home Depot I had to pull out the access point and power supply and put them in a bin, and now I use one of these gigantic bags to carry all the survey gear. I can zip open my carry on suitcase and lift all the survey gear out and put it in an x-ray bin in one swift movement.


Since a survey cart is too large to count as carry on luggage, and often don’t have enough early warning about a site survey to ship anything to the site, I’ve had to make do with things that wouldn’t normally pass as a survey cart.  The customer sometimes will have an A/V cart or a utility cart that I can use to survey with, but sometimes I have to be a bit more creative.  I’ve made do with items you wouldn’t normally imagine passing as a cart for surveying. I use the following as examples: the survey kit pelican case, an office chair (works if it is a really small survey); a furniture moving cart, a furniture dolly, and sometimes I even had a proper Rubbermaid cart to use.





The things I can’t travel with are the Mr. Longarm 12 foot painter’s pole and a dowel rod. These items can be found at any Home Depot, and there has been a Home Depot within driving distance of every site I’ve had to survey. I use the dowel rod to attach the ¼ inch round labels combined with the transparent tape to the suspended ceiling grid to mark the access point installation locations.  I fold the transparent tape into an “L” shape and then stick the tape to the suspended ceiling grid.  This works much better for me than having to find and drag a ladder around with me so I can reach the ceiling to manually mark the access point installation locations.

Several other wireless engineers I’ve worked with have designed their own outdoor survey rigs by using perforated sheet metal strips and crafting survey tripods out of this held together with bolts and wingnuts.  I have also seen survey rigs for outdoor point to point feasibility testing crafted out of sections of PVC pipe.  PVC piping is very sturdy, disassembles easy, and can be used in a multitude of ways to create a survey pole or survey mounting structure.  My friend Jeff Russell has made an outdoor rig for doing a mesh survey from PVC piping, and an indoor tripod mount out of perforated metal (photo gallery at this link).



There are certainly a million different ways to craft a survey rig out of commonly available parts from your nearest hardware store.  The only limit seems to be your imagination. 

Thursday, February 27, 2014

Perfume: The Story of a Woman Frustrated by a Formulation Change


I am fascinated by the powerful memories that can be triggered by a specific scent, but my love of perfume was triggered by the realization that the formulation for a favorite perfume of mine had changed without warning. Back in the early '90s, the perfumes I recall being all the rage were ObsessionLiz Claiborne and Colors de Benetton. My favorite was Colors de Benetton in the clear bottle. Several years after I graduated high school, the big bottle I had to save up to buy had sprayed its last spritz.  I made the quick trip to the local Benetton store at the Florida Mall and bought a replacement. It didn't occur to me to try it out in the store, it was a simple refill purchase. The replacement bottle wasn't clear like the empty one I had at home, now it was a dark green. No matter, I thought - still the same name, price etc. WRONG. The green bottle smelled to me like it was a close cousin of Pine Sol. I thought there had to be something wrong with the bottle from the Benetton store, so I purchased one from Perfume.com, thinking I might get a bottle from a different batch (?). Nope. I sent the Pine Sol concoction back to Perfume.com and took the foul smelling stuff back to Benetton. I scoured the web for some information about why the perfume I loved no longer smelled like it did originally. I came up empty handed. Luckily, you can still find people selling unused (or partial used) bottles of perfume on eBay.

While I was on the quest for confirmation that Benetton had changed the formulation, I stumbled across Basenotes.net I was completely unaware that there was a community of people sharing opinions/information on perfumes that had gone out of production, were new to the market or had quietly changed their formulation.

Around that time, I was also reading Jitterbug Perfume by Tom Robbins. The undercurrent of the plot is scent and one of the main character's desire to recreate a 300 year old perfume from a bottle in her possession. 

I began to dig deeper into the world of perfume after seeing the movie Perfume: The Story of a Murderer (I read the book afterwards, and naturally it was better.).  I then found Luca Turin through continued research, and read his book with Tania Sanchez - Perfumes the A-Z GuideThe Secret of Scent (Luca Turin), Emperor of Scent: A True Story of Perfume and Obsession (Chandler Burr).

As I was reading all these books, I researched how I could get my hands on the perfumes Luca Turin writes about. That's how I came across The Perfumed Court and the ladies at Sniffapalooza. Surrender to Chance is another group of women who sell perfume decants, so if TPC doesn't have what you're looking for, check over at SC.

Eventually I got interested enough to take part in two Sniffapalooza scent themed travel tours! The first one was to Barcelona, Spain and the second was to Lisbon, Portugal. Each trip was a unique excursion into Europe via one's nose!

I found my favorite perfume (hands down!) via Katie Puckrick's vlogged perfume reviews. Frederic Malle's Portrait of a Lady (Perfumer: Dominique Ropion) is the most fantastic perfume I've ever smelled. Katie's review of PoaL was so compelling, I purchased a sample from TPC, wore every last drop of it and just had to purchase a full bottle! At the time, it was quite difficult to buy from FM's online shop. I had to call my credit union, explain that I was attempting to purchase a perfume from an online shop in France - and could they please allow the transaction to complete? Once they'd opened some ports in the credit union firewall, my purchase was complete and I was ecstatic to have a full bottle of PoaL winging its way to me!

Fun fact: Marie Antoinette was caught trying to escape from the French Revolutionaries disguised as a peasant, but was recognized as royalty because she smelled fantastically of Houbigant, which no peasant could ever afford to wear.



This is but a small portion of my collection. I have hunted down dozens of different perfume decants after coming across a reference to a perfume critical to a character's reaction in a film (Arpege via "A Single Man", or many of those mentioned in a book (The Perfume Collector). My nose is always curious and learning.


Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Aruba's Got Gigabit Wifi For The Great Outdoors #WFD6


Aruba showed off their 802.11ac outdoor access point in an off-camera, 'don't talk about it til you can talk about it' session at the last WFD6.

Now that the cat is out of the bag, the 274 and 275 can be discussed freely. We were shown a prototype of the 275 model access point and the single piece of metal bracket especially designed for the AP 275.

Christian Gilby wrote a good post on the new access point and published it to the Airheads community. In the post he also covers recommended distances between outdoor mesh access points as well as links to antenna options for the new access point.
The list price for the AP 275 is $1995 for the dual radio 3x3:3 access point. The access point can be controller based or controller-less. The power requirements for the access point is 802.3at or standard AC power. Inside the access point housing is two horizontal and one vertically polarized antenna. This access point has been designed to have advanced cellular coexistence, meaning it is good at out of band filtering in order to avoid the LTE frequencies which have side lobes which affect the 2.4GHz spectrum.

The access point was surprisingly lightweight given the size of the AP 275. I liked the single piece of metal mounting bracket and that the access point weights less than six pounds (~2.5 kg). The single type of installation bracket and the minimal weight of the unit will allow outdoor installations to be streamlined and simplified. This single mounting bracket however does not allow strand mounting (a popular mounting style for Cisco and Ruckus outdoor access points). This may or may not be an issue for Aruba mesh customers.