Friday, August 23, 2013

The benefits of cheating

Yesterday, I was in the grocery store, looking at the packets of spices for making various things. some of these, I consider cheating; the "Mexican Rice" packets, for example. That, I can do myself; fry the rice to start with, add cumin, dump in chicken stock and sieved tomato, and then just let it cook. No need to pay far more money for a packet mix that won't taste as good.

Tacos, though, I cheat on. I buy the spice mixes for those, just to make it less fiddly with flour and suchlike. That was why I was looking at the packets. But as I looked, and saw the "Mexican Rice" packets, I remembered that it was a long time since I'd made anything using rice. Then I had an idea; instead of the somewhat boring dinner I had planned, I would instead make some chicken, in a nice mildly spiced sauce, and serve it with rice. I already had everything needed for that.

So I started cooking somewhat aimlessly; this was going to be distinctly experimental. Fry off the roughly cubed chicken and some back bacon, with garlic and onion; add "Enchilada Sauce" spice packet, which is mostly flour with some cumin and paprika; add sieved tomatoes and a decent amount of water. Then I started reducing it; about halfway through, I realised it wasn't going to be sticky enough for my tastes, so I made up a little ooblick to thicken it (cornstarch and water) and added that in, then kept it on the heat, boiling down. It ended up being fairly similar to my "bolognese" sauce, but it definitely tasted Mexican; I'd have been very happy with it as a main course at a Mexican restaurant. The sauce was thick, sticky, and delicious, the chicken was meltingly tender, and it went perfectly with the rice.

And all because I sometimes cheat, and sometimes don't. Cheating on tacos led me to the rack; refusing to cheat on rice caused an idea to sprout, that turned into a very good meal to add to the repertoire.

Friday, August 16, 2013

A guide for the confused

Let's talk about intellectual property for a while. Now, before we go any further, I must note that I am NOT a lawyer (I merely sleep with one) and CANNOT and WILL NOT offer any kind of legal advice. Everything I say here is liable to be incorrect. Do not rely on it. If something I discuss is relevant to you, do your own research and talk to a lawyer.

I'm also going to skate over the discussion of whether intellectual property is a valid concept.

Tuesday, August 13, 2013


At the third try, with me actually putting in an order, I finally got the correct wiring harness. To give the vendor their due, they refunded the cost of that order; my final total paid was the same as if they'd sent me the right wires in the first place.

So yesterday afternoon, I sat in a lawn chair and exercised my crimping skills to make a wiring harness. It ended up a yard long, almost unbelievable to think that it would disappear into my dashboard. But, disappear it did, after I'd removed various pieces to expose the necessary connections. As a side note, if I ever find the chap who decided the connections to the rear speakers of my car should be made above the driver's left knee, I would advise him to call for an ambulance immediately; the sheer volume of shouting I intend to direct at him will likely burst his eardrums!

This oddly-located connection meant that I was upside down, laying across the door sill of my car (thankfully I'd found our one-step hop-up to support the parts of me outside the car) with my head in the footwell, one hand reaching deeply into the radio recess with the plug in hand, and the other hand attempting to sneak into the space just above the kick panel to get a hold of the plug to pull it through. Once I'd got it through, I decided to bite the bullet and commit; I lopped off the old plug to pull that harness out. Then it was simply a case of making sure all the remaining connections were solid, and reassembling the dash, and I could reconnect the battery and try it out.

My car now speaks iPod. As a bonus, the new stereo sticks out less than the old one.

I shan't be installing a new stereo any time soon, though. If it becomes necessary, I'll have a professional do it; I found the experience rather painful in multiple ways, not unlike being a combination contortionist and OB/GYN to a box of dull knives.

Monday, August 5, 2013

The saga continues

I still don't have a new stereo in my car.

I called the vendor, explained what had gone wrong, and the nice chap on the other end of the phone got things sorted out to send me a harness adaptor. Unfortunately, despite my giving him the correct part numbers... but that's getting ahead of myself. The first thing was timing. He reckoned that sending it via standard shipping would have it here by August 2nd, which was last Friday. Friday and Saturday passed with no sign of it, and I'd given up hope this morning when I decided "Screw it, I'll just plain BUY the correct one, and return it if I end up with two."

Well, I'm not going to end up with two. The situation is that there are two potential stereo harness adaptors for a 1994 Volvo 940, and which one is correct depends on which stereo was fitted at the factory. I need one that we'll call Type A, since it's the older version; the vendor's website offered me a Type B, and hid the Type A's existence. I was pretty sure when I got off the phone that I had a Type A on the way, but it failed to arrive as scheduled and I had no tracking information.

And so, I was a little annoyed when the Big Brown Truck Of Where Is My Stuff pulled up, and the driver hit the doorbell and ran. At least he hit the doorbell; UPS has a less-than-stellar record in achieving that. Anyway, I opened the large envelope, and found... well, let's call it a Type Q. I have no idea what vehicles it fits, but I can assure you that mine is not among the set; it's described as being for some vehicles from 1999 onwards.

So I shall wait a week or so for the correct harness, and in the meantime this one will go back to the vendor, since it's not for me.