On Making Pasta

I cook pasta rarely, because I try to limit the amount of starch I eat.

I cook pasta like I braze (or rather like I try to braze). Get it hot, get it done, and get out. Don't cook it any longer than necessary.

Salt the water before you even start it boiling. Use plenty of coarse salt. Helps it boil faster. [Maybe. See below.]

Taste the pasta while it's cooking. I do this about three times. Ignore the clock and timer. Take into account that you want it have a little bite when you eat it, and that it will keep cooking a little after you drain it. You want pasta to be about medium-rare when you eat it, so cook it to rare.

Drain the pasta well when you're done, and do it quickly. You want all that hot water out of there so it cools down and stops cooking ASAP. Shaking the colander can help.

Coat the pasta with a little olive oil when it's still in the colander. Keeps it from sticking. Use a light olive oil of the finest quality you can get. Imported from Spain or Italy and Extra virgin for sure. First cold press if possible.

Use the right materials. Good, fresh pasta is great, though usually too rich for my budget. Good olive oil is relatively cheap, and necessary for so many other things. Salt in the water is essential. Likewise a good pot of the right size, depending on how much is being cooked. And plenty of water.

Bad pasta was cooked in too small a pan, with too little water, for too long, then sat in the waer for a few minutes before it was drained, and not coated in oil afterward. It tastes so bad. It tastes like the worst airline food on the worst airline.

Brain Dump: Summertime Nocturnal Edition

...With the Richmond Weather Terror Alert Level at Orange (((Dangerously Muggy))), and only evening classes remaining in the summer schedule, our subject has entered a nocturnal period, characterized by sleeping during the day and working at night...
Current projects:

- Getting Windows running on my Mac with vmWare Fusion...

- ...So I can use free AutoCAD and Inventor software to finish drafting class projects:
  1. A 3D rendering of an office
  2. An animated, exploded 3D model of a Bringheli fork jig (YouTube upload soon)
- Finishing the recent move into a new Fan District apartment: plenty of around-the house installation/repair/fabrication work. The filthy basement is being made over as a shop. Slowly. Pics to come.

- Continuing a haphazard review of books found in the Whole Earth Catalog. Recommended so far:
Colonial Living and Frontier Living
by Edwin Tunis
Thorough, interesting, plainly-written surveys of everyday life and industry in other times. The author really knows this stuff. He has a unique sense of humor that comes through every few pages.

Jigs and Fixtures for Limited Production
by Harold Sedlik
A thin book written with an Orwellian sense of economy and brevity. I sense the intended reader is a tool engineer at a large American factory in the 60s, but the information is valuable to other uses, even around the house.

Human Engineering Guide for Equipment Designers
by W E Woodson and D W Conover
Your tax dollars at work. There is an astonishing amount of useful data in here for anyone who wants to make something that people will use. Some pure data about people; some recommendations from experience. Somebody had to go to a lot of effort to collect all this information. Geared toward NASA and the military but applicable elsewhere.
Bicycle related: There are body dimension charts on pages 5-17 and 5-19 that one could use in comparing dimensions for frame fit.

- Creating a presentation on green manufacturing for a class on workplace communication. This is done actually, but now I need to find a way to port the .ppt into a web-friendly format.

The Whole Earth Catalog

From the Whole Earth website:
[T]he Whole Earth Catalog [was] first published in 1968 by Stewart Brand. The Catalog found immediate success with the youth movement, selling millions of copies and quickly becoming the unofficial handbook of the counter-culture. It won the National Book Award, cited by jurors as a "Space Age Walden", hitting national bestseller lists in the process.
From Wikipedia:
The Whole Earth Catalog was a sizable catalog published twice a year from 1968 to 1972, and occasionally thereafter, until 1998. Its purpose was to provide education and "access to tools" so a reader could "find his own inspiration, shape his own environment, and share his adventure with whoever is interested." Apple Inc. founder and entrepreneur Steve Jobs has described the Catalog as a conceptual forerunner of Web search engines.
I think I first became interested in the Catalog through Kevin Kelly's bio.

Copies of the Catalog appear to be rather expensive. Alibris has one for $70, and more for $110+.

The books reviewed within it, on the other hand, seem to be relatively easy to get. There's a note in the inside front cover urging readers to be patient, because business that sell products listed in the Catalog often have trouble filling all the orders they received after it's published.

My theory is that people tend to want to keep their Whole Earth Catalog, because of its symbolic significance. The books reviewed within, on the other hand, had to be printed in great quantities to meet demand, so there a lot of copies out there, with fewer owners being quite as attached to them.

Anyway, I jotted down a few interesting, relevant book titles:

Jigs & Fixtures for Limited Production by Harold Sedlik
Human Engineering Design for Equipment Designers by Wesley E. Woodson and Donald W. Conover
Introduction to Engineering Design by T. Woodson

These are all either available through my local library, inter library loan, and/or for a few dollars via used book websites like Alibris or Amazon.

The other book I found recently, which if it was never in WEC, should have been:

Facility Design by Stephen Konz

Technical Education for a Younger Set

I've blogged a lot previously on technical education, focusing largely on my own age demographic. I'm 23, so the discussion has generally centered on undergraduate and post-graduate studies.

But, really, I started learning about this stuff at a very young age. This included *a lot* of time building stuff out of LEGOs (especially TECHNIC) and taking every electronic device I found around the house. Didn't you?

So what about technical education for small children? Should we be letting little kids get hands-on with fire, knives, cars, power tools, and other implements of de-/construction? How do we do that? Shouldn't we be worried about them cutting/maiming/burning/killing themselves?

Gever Tulley tackles these issues in a great 9-minute talk called Five Dangerous Things You Should Let your Kids Do. Tulley founded The Tinkering School, a "summer program which aims to help kids builds the things they think of."

Tinkering School photos via Tulley's Flickr.

Found via the superb AIDG blog

Improvised Tools from Africa

Here's a wonderful nexus of framebuilding and Appropriate Tech:

As reported at Afrigadget,
framebuilder-turned-bike-brand-captain Tom Ritchey
sent photos of hand-made tools from bike shops in Rwanda to
WIRED magazine co-founder, Whole Earth Catalog editor, and blogger extraordinaire Kevin Kelly

See the pictures here, via KK's interesting Street Use blog

KK also edits/complies the wonderful Cool Tools blog, a personal favorite. Every day there's a new tool review sent in by a satisfied user. Usually the things are relatively cheap.