Three new podcasts you should be listening to

When I started this blog I wrote a post describing a few of the podcasts I was listening to that I felt were worth recommending to others. It’s time to augment that list. There are three I recently started listening to that I think everyone should make time to do likewise:

1) “The Breach” by Rewire News and Lindsay E. Beyerstein.

2) “Stay Tuned with Preet” by WNYC Radio and Preet Bharara.

3) “More Perfect” by WNYC Radio and Radiolab.

I’d encourage you to start with the first episode of each of the above podcasts. You won’t regret it.

Why do food products like “Pancakes & Sausage Bites” exist?

Recently I started shopping at Grocery Outlet. I love popping in and finding that they have acquired a batch of goat or other interesting cheese and are offering it for less than half the price at the other grocery stores in the area. So when I saw them selling Jimmy Dean “Pancakes & Sausage Bites” for $2.99, compared to the $9.98 it purportedly sells for at typical stores, I decided to buy a box. Even at that deeply discounted price they aren’t worth it.

Start with the box which makes it look like they’re an inch in diameter. In reality they’re about half the size of a McDonalds Chicken McNugget. The box says a serving is six pieces which is 230 calories of which 100 is from fat. As usual the suggested serving size is far less than a typical person will eat (which is probably closer to ten pieces). There’s a reason you see the phrase “shown actual size” on so many packages. It’s because of deceptive shit like this.

But what about the taste? What taste? The “sausage” is so finely ground it has no texture and apparently they don’t add any seasoning. The box says “maple sausage links made with chicken and pork added”. Notice the odd phrasing. The ingredients also include oat bran and oat fibre. If there is any pork present it’s apparently in microscopic amounts. The “pancake” around the sausage is only marginally more interesting. Its main ingredients are at least what you’d expect: whole grain wheat flour and water.

And unless you microwave them, not recommended, this product doesn’t save any time. Cooking in an oven takes fifteen minutes. In that time I can cook a couple of good sausage links or patties, real pancakes, and an egg over easy. Sure, I’ll have a mixing bowl, frying pan, and spatula to wash. But at least I’ll have eaten something that was tasty enough to make that cleanup worthwhile. Unlike Jimmy Dean “pancakes and sausage bites” which are thoroughly unmemorable.

Scheduling backups on macOS Sierra and High Sierra

MacOS Sierra (OS X 10.12) modified the behavior of Time Machine from doing hourly backups to using a heuristic that decides whether to do a backup based on recent activity. For most users that’s a better approach since it makes it less likely the user will notice the performance impact of backups and will increase how far back in time backups are available. However, if you’re a software developer the new behavior is problematic. That’s because when I’m writing code, do something stupid, and need to revert the project workspace to an earlier state I always want to be able to select a state in the near past. When backups occur at irregular intervals you might find that the most recent backup was made so long ago as to be borderline useless.

Configuring Time Machine to suit the needs of a software developer turns out to be surprisingly simple. Thanks to Apple providing not just simple to use GUIs but excellent CLI tools. In this case the command you need is tmutil. The first step is to disable automatic backups using the System Preferences GUI or by running sudo tmutil disable. The second step is to setup a cron job by running crontab -e and adding an entry like the following:

# Every hour during the times we're likely to be working do a Time Machine
# backup.
0 7-22 * * * tmutil startbackup

That initiates a backup at the top of every hour from 0700 to 2200 hours every day of the week. I skip the other eight hours of each day because I’m unlikely to be writing code at that time. Voila! Now I can be assured that if I need to recover from a stupid mistake that a simple git checkout can’t help with I won’t have to recover more than an hour’s worth of work.