Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Live NHL Hockey! Online!

Live sports...on the internets? It's true!  Well I've been promised the wonderment of live sports online ever since I ditched my old 33.3 kb modem (if you don't know what that is, just believe me that it's been a while).  In reality however, the live broadcasts haven't materialized like I had hoped.  For a while I was stuck with re-streamed feeds from or similar 'stream your own' websites.  The quality was beyond poor, and choppy, and dropped out constantly.  In short it just was not worth the effort.
     But that was then.....

Now I've finally stumbled on Yahoo! Sports' "Hockey Night on Yahoo! Sports".  They stream at least one, and frequently two games per night, all a good assortment of teams too, which is great for a fan of an out-of-market team like myself.    The games are of good quality or better, very few hiccups, even on my moderately-high speed service, and best of all, completely free.  Yes free, which is saying something, because Yahoo is really pushing their 'NHL Gamecentre" where you can watch any game online any night in HD.  OF course THAT service is $169 CAD for the season, a bit hefty if you only want to catch a game or two a week.  That's where the Hockey Night on Yahoo! is great, a random game every night, but free.

 Perfect right?

Well almost, the one catch is, that the Hockey Night games aren't available in Canada, where most hockey fans are, including me.  The site scans your IP address and if it finds you are in the great white north, you are blocked from watching the stream.  So what is a fan to do?  Hotspot Shield.  A simple little app (for Mac and PC) that blocks your IP address from the internet.  Switch it on (or click 'connect') and surf on over to the Hockey Night stream, and there you are!  Easy, simple and issue free.  Seldom do things like this work so well, especially when there is money to be made.
    For the record, I don't consider this stealing, as the stream IS free, you can't buy it anywhere, it's free in the USA and elsewhere, just not available (probably due to broadcasting rights) in Canada.
     On another note, this trick also works for sites like, and where you can't watch shows or programs from those site due to international rights and blah blah blah.

dear international buddy....
Hope this helps someone enjoy some previously-unavailable programming online!

Monday, November 1, 2010

Crazy Schemes Part 2 - An update

After a few convos with folks, here's an update on the yogurt front:

Some were asking how exactly I made the yogurt.  Well here's how:

I bought 4L of Homo milk.  Why homo?cause I think it would taste better and make thicker yogurt.  Buy whatever you want, just not lactose free milk (lactose is needed for fermentation), also I avoided filtered milk.

I also bought 1 tub (750g) of plain yogurt.  I chose Baltic style, as it has the least amount of crap in it.  Again, buy whatever you want, but make sure it lists 'active bacterial cultures' as an ingredient.

You'll also need a thermometer and a cooler. And a stove, containers and running water. I used old yogurt containers, but I'd recommend anything that seals tight, small glass containers would be great.  Salsa jars, mason jars  etc.

So start by taking your plain yogurt out of the fridge.  Pour 2 bags of milk into a large pot (2.66L if you are counting) and SLOWLY start warming it up.  Also put your thermometer into the milk and keep track of the temp.  Keep stirring it to avoid scorching.

While that's heating up, get out your containers.  You'll need to sterilize them, so either boil them in water, or fill them with boiling water from a kettle.  Also fill a bowl and put the lids in there.  It is VERY important that anything that touches the warm yogurt be sterilized, or else infection can occur. This includes the spoon you will be mixing the yogurt with, so add it to the water now. Cleanliness equals consistent results.

Keep stirring the milk it and get the temp to 180 degrees.  Try not to go over.  As you are heating the milk, fill your sink with some cold water and put some ice in there.  When the milk is at temp., sit the pot in the icy water and GENTLY stir it.  Now we need the milk to get down to about 110-100 degrees.  Once it's there, stir in the plain yogurt.  I used 1/2 the container of yogurt.

Now that it's at 100 degrees or so, fill your containers with the milk (empty them of the hot water first (save the water for the next step)) .

Now that you have all your containers filled and closed, put them in the cooler, along with a bottle of hot water.  Hot tap water will work great, I started with the boiled water i used to sterilize with.  We want this to incubate @100 degrees for 4-8 hours. It helps to put your thermometer in there.  The longer it sits, the firmer and more tart the yogurt will be.  I went with 6 hours.  You may have to refill the hot water after a couple hours, but try not to peek too often.

After 6 hours I put it in the fridge, and that's it!  I had somewhat tart and firm yogurt, about as firm as the Balkan style I bought. Tastes great and good for me.  1 hour setup and cooking, 6 hours in the cooler and I have yogurt for a few weeks!

One question I was asked "How long is it good for?"  Well I was told (or I read) that it is easily good up to the expiry date on the milk, so go with that for a safe standard.

** A word on sweetening your yogurt
What I've been doing for this 1st batch is using a few different methods to flavour my yogurt.  Here's what I've learned:
Commercial flavoured yogurt is CRAZY sweet - i only need to add a bit of sugar to make it just right.  2 tsp of maple syrup or honey in about 300-500 ml is about right.  Even less if you have some other flavour in there (Vanilla is good, soon to try cocoa)
Jam seems like a natural, flavour and sweetness in one, but I haven't tried it yet.

Ideally I will have the flavour added into the yogurt from the start, as I like my yogurt firm and stirring it in later defeats the work of making it firm.  Just keep in mind any flavouring you add in before incubation must also be sterilized.  What I plan to do is make a syrup up on the stove while the milk is heating, making sure to boil it so as to kill any bacteria in there.  I think a mixture of Jam/water will work.  Or a syrup of honey and vanilla.

Update #2
I'm sure you are also wondering how my lawn is doing, well it's still fuzzy and green, what did you expect? We had frost today!

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Crazy schemes

Something my wife never planned on putting up with me, was my crazy schemes.  Never a 'get rich quick' scheme, more of a pointless exercise that consumes my thinking for an undetermined amount of time.  Hey, my brother tried to warn her at the wedding, but by then it was too late.

  The beer making would qualify for sure, as would the slot car track, the smoker, the garden, the list goes on.  Sure, some of these have turned into great hobbies and great results.  The smoker my wife actually does more often than I do now, and she definitely gets more consistent results.  The beer I've been very happy with, and she's encouraged my quite a bit. Here's the latest 2 things I've gotten myself obsessed with.


I love yogurt.  Those little cups don't hold enough, I could eat a big tub each day.  So since I tried my hand at fermented food already (beer) I figured I could take a stab at homemade yogurt.  I figured it'd be a great way to eat healthy, plus save money.  So after reading up on the internet, I finally bought some extra milk and went at it.  It only took about 1 hour to make, then about 6 hours to incubate.  Put it in the fridge and it's ready to eat.  Very easy to make (compared to beer) and it turned out VERY good.  For the 1st batch I just did plain, as it keeps the variables down if something goes wrong.  Next time I plan to make a vanilla and possible a fruit flavour as well.


OK 3 years ago I bought myself a new mower for Father's day.  I went with a reel-type mower, no gas, no electricity, powered by Matt.  It's awesome, I love it.  Cutting the lawn is much more enjoyable with that machine, let me tell you.  PLUS it's much better for the lawn, and as such I've become more obsessed with keeping the lawn nice-looking than ever.  Most of that is limited by the effort I'm willing to put forth, but something happened this year that may change everything.
     What happened was bentgrass.  Considered a weed in most lawns, bentgrass is the stuff golf courses use for fairways and greens.  Why is it avoided in residential lawns?  Because it is high-maintenance requiring special equipment.  Equipment like a reel mower.  Maintenance, like it needs to be cut twice a week  Funny, I have a reel mower and I cut my lawn twice a week.
    So early this spring I noticed a patch of grass on my lawn the seemed to cut so much better with my mower than rest of the lawn.  As the patch grew and got bigger, and I researched what kind of grass it was, learned about bentgrass and all it's drawbacks.  I decided to use this patch as a test bed, hoping it would thrive and I could go ahead and re-seed my front lawn.   By the fall the grass still looked great, and I found a dealer who would sell me bentgrass seed.  After the salesman gave me all the warnings, I had my seed.  All I needed to do was tear up my lawn,prepare the area and seed.  I spent about 10 hours getting about a 15' by 10' area ready (i decided to only do a section of the yard, just in case) and seeded.  That was 3 weeks ago, and now I have fuzzy green blotches sprouting up on the dirt.  I probably won't get to mow it until spring, but I'l keep you all posted on how this goes.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

A Beer To Try Episode #1: Hoegaarden

New to the mattyp blog is 'A Beer To Try'.  It will be a regularly occurring feature where I will sample and recommend certain beers or styles for those who, like many, are intrigued by the variety of  brews available, but are unsure of where to begin.  This inaugural episode will feature a style called "Witbier'.

This is a smooth beer, light golden in colour, and light in taste.  The biggest feature worth noting is the cloudiness - there is a lot of yeast added into the beer, and in this case it is the yeast that adds the characteristic flavour.  Don't let that scare you off, as it balances a sweeter side with a bit of spice flavour.  It's also brewed with wheat grain, and it has low hop bitterness.
Hoegaarden with it's traditional hexagonal glass

If you are going to try a 'wit' for the first time, I HIGHLY recommend Hoegaarden (pronounced 'Who-garden') which is brewed by Inbev at the Labatt brewery in Toronto.   It is a classic belgian wit, with a nice aroma of banana and clove. That may not be what you are expecting from a beer, but the taste is very clean, low on hop bitterness, with the yeast  adding a grainy-cereal flavour, and balancing our the sweetness.  Do yourself a favour though, when pouring, stop 2/3rds of the way through and give the bottle a swirl to stir up the yeast sediment, then pour it on into the glass.  (That brings me to another point, if you truly want to experience a beer, you gotta drink it out of a glass.  I don't drink every beer from a glass, but I ALWAYS pour out the ones I really want to enjoy.  Simply put: it's better out of the bottle.)

After a few sips you may notice the citrus-like taste, or the banana coming through a bit more.  You may also notice you are almost done and will reach for another.  It's a very good beer to drink on it's own, and doesn't have any harsh flavours tp it, which is why I recommend it for 1st time 'real' beer drinkers.

Where to get it? Luckily the LCBO carries it in a 6 pack, and sometimes you can find single bottles as well.  If you are in the Brantford area, the pub around the corner from my house the Oxford Circus has it on tap, which is probably the best way to enjoy it.  Let me know if you are in town and I'll join ya!

There are other brewers who make this style, Alexander Keith's makes a 'White' which is just awful, i would avoid it.  Mill Street makes a Belgian Wit which is very good however.  Also look for a German 'hefewiessen', it's very similar.

It may be a step or two beyond Canadian or Blue, but if you DO try this wonderful beer, do me a favour and leave me a comment, let me know if you enjoyed it, or what your thoughts were.

Monday, September 13, 2010

My Beer Addiction: A Confession

I love beer.  There's nothing better that sitting down to a perfectly cooked steak with a glass, or sitting down on a Sunday afternoon with a pint, or out on a hot patio with a cold bottle. Beer can compliment almost and situation as far as I'm concerned.

Now before I book myself into AA, let me clarify.  I love GOOD beer. I love unique, flavourful and masterfully crafted beer.  And I don't enjoy more than 1, maybe 2 at a time.  I'm not a beer guzzler, but a beer drinker.  It really is amazing the different styles and flavours brewmasters can create, some extreme and other subtle.  If you've ever been in my kitchen, you've seen my "Ring of Honour".  The cans and bottles of some of my favourite examples of beer from around the world.

Like all obsessions, this one can get pricey.  One Christmas my wife bought me a 'Beer-a-Day" calendar which featured a recipe every Sunday.  I had never even considered making my own beer before.  I have memories of my Dad's experience at a 'U-Brew" place.  That awful stuff in the green plastic bottles, I'm sure everyone's known someone who had offered to share some.  They must, God knows they couldn't drink it all alone.  I was hesitant but thought I'd give it a go. But it had to be done right.  That meant brewing at home, without pre-made kits. My friend Adam was into the idea too.  We thought a) we could split the cost of the equipment and make it easier to get started, and b) if it turned out really awful, we each only had to drink 1/2 a batch.  After a trial run at a U-brew place, we decided to go for it.

Brewing is not that difficult, in theory.  Get some sugar (from grains like malt) boil it, add some hops for flavour, cool it down, add some yeast and let it sit for a week or 2.  Of course in practice there is a lot more to it.  I'll spare you the details, but like anything I do, I researched my butt off, bought the gear and ingredients,  and were finally ready for brew day, about 18 months after I first had the idea to try this.

#1 question: How does it taste?
Well the first batch I was willing to admit we were going to do something wrong.  We did.  It was nothing major, nothing that really would affect the beer.  Cleanliness is probably the most important aspect of brewing, and we learned a few lessons, even being as cautions as we were.  For our first batch I was willing to lower expectations to "something drinkable".  As long as I could stomach it, I would be happy.  Well it turned out much better.  I can't describe how please I am with that batch.  Now that it's a few months older, it keeps improving.  I'd rank it somewhere above Good, but short of Great.  The downside is, I only have about 8 bottles left.

Now here is where the obsession really takes hold.  There are thousands of styles of beer, and hundreds that I can realistically brew at home right now.  Each with a delicious flavour or uniqueness to it that I am just dying to try.  These styles are sometimes available at the LCBO in the beers section, but some you just can't find unless you fly to Belgium and climb the mountain to a monastery.  This is my addiction to beer, a world of variety not found anywhere else, where skill and art merge to create something special that can truly be appreciated by all.

Monday, September 6, 2010

Audio Lesson #1: Acoustic Guitar

In an attempt to make this bit of the web-i-verse (©mattyp 2010) useful, I'll be posting bits of knowledge from my years as an audio engineer.  Most of this stuff I picked up in school, with a few years of experience to fine tune the techniques.  Today's lesson: Recording an acoustic guitar.

OK so miking an acoustic guitar is pretty straightforward, or at least it can be.  Throw your best mic in front and let 'er rip.  Done.

Want a bit more? Fine.  I like using 2 or 3 mics, usually a large diaphragm condenser near the butt of the guitar, not in front of the sound hole.  usually the sound hole placement, while loudest, sounds too boomy and loses low end definition.  I like the mic placed slightly to the side of the guitar, aimed across the soundboard.  The other mic I like to use is a pencil condenser, or AKG 414 or similar, anything with  good clarity. I put this about 1-2 feet in front of the headstock, aimed at the 12 fret.  This picks up nice sparkle, and surprisingly really deep bass tones as well.  Play with the phase, pan and EQ a bit to separate the channels, and thee you are.

This really works well for almost all guitars however sometimes I do add a mic directly overhead centre, to help add a bit of room tone, especially if recording in a nice sounding large room.

Revolutionary? Naw, but it works.  It also helps if you can cement the guitar player in place to avoid having to reposition mics every time he needs another cup of coffee. As for EQ, i have no rules, other than keeping it fairly unmodified before it's recorded.  I'm not going to list what gear you should run it through, I'm sure you can figure out to run it in your best stuff, whatever that may be.  Acoustic guitar doesn't really need compression while being recorded, but if you have outboard comps, now would be the time to use 'em.

Hopefully you find this useful.  If you use it, let me know what you think, or if you have any different ideas please feel free to share in the comments.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Youth Sports as a Microcosm of Society, or "Why it's Great to be a Coach"

As my kids have grown up, we've eventually realized they needed some sort of competitive activity to prepare them for life as an adult, or we just wanted them out of the house for a few days a week during the summer. Either way, being Italian in heritage, and having played for years myself, soccer was the sport of choice. Also the extreme amount of running and low equipment costs were attractive.

Let me warn you, if you don't have kids, of you do and they have not yet played on a team of any sort, you will be amazed at the emotion that comes out of even the meekest people once their kid gets on the field. I am not meek, so naturally I had a hard time watching my daughter's soccer team play. Even worse were the practices. No wind sprints? How is a six year old going to build endurance without a few laps before and after practice? After all, these are my memories of playing when I was a lad. So after one season, I took it upon myself to coach my daughter's team. Ever see "Kicking and Screaming"? That movie is a lot funnier when you are a coach.

 This season I coached Sophia's 8 year old team.  I'd like to think I'm a lot softer on the kids than my coaches were.  No laps, but I do get them to do some sit-ups and leg lifts.  When they learn the mental part of the game, and seeing them get rewarded for doing what was asked of them is probably the best feeling as a coach.  Example:  During our last game, the smallest girl on the team, instead of following the ball to the corner, took off to the front of the net where she got a great pass and scored.  You just don't get any happier for a kid than that.

Anyway, it IS a lot of work, so a general pat on the back to all of you who coach youth sports, and those of you who have kids in sports who appreciate your coaches.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Happy Matthew Day!

I'm sure everyone is aware of the security issues with Facebook.  Posting so much of your personal info on a mildly secure site should make everyone a bit nervous.  If not, think of it as leaving your bank card in your backyard all night, sure there's a gate to jump, and they'll need you PIN #, but there is valuable info there for the taking.

Same thing with Facebook, or really, any site that asks for more than your email address.  Don't get me started on how badly companies and advertisers want your contact info.  They pay money for it, that's the reasoning behind all these "sign up to win" promotions.  They want your # and they want it bad.

So in an effort to protect myself, I altered my birthdate on my facebook profile.  No, you wouldn't be able to walk into a bank and say "My name is Matt Pavone, my birthday is Aug 10, gimme my money please".  But financial institutions sometimes use your date of birth as a way of checking that they are dealing with the actual client.  So if someone was trying to steal my identity (and who wouldn't want it? I have my own blog!), knowing my date of birth puts them one step closer.

So to those of you who wished me a happy birthday this week, thank you, my birthday is only a couple days away, so I appreciate the early wishes.  I admit when I altered the date, I failed to realize I would get a slew of messages on my false birthday (or as my sister called it "Matthew Day").  Good thing I at least went with something close to the actual date, and not sometime in March.

On a side note, I have an identical twin brother, and after sharing 30ish birthdays with someone, it was kinda nice to have one to myself.

Happy Matthew Day!

Monday, August 9, 2010

The Cousins' Bar-Bee-Cue! The Origins:

Before you get all insulted, I am aware that the title is not the preferred spelling of Barbecue. 

A few years ago, I had the idea that my wife and i should move out of our hometown of St. Catharines, and to a place called Brantford, about 1 hour away.  We did.  After settling in for about 4-5 months, we realized that very few of our family were popping in for visits, so we decided to have a 'housewarming' party that summer. We did. More on this later.

Unfortunately for my wife, my brother happened to give me a book that Christmas called "Championship Barbecue" by Paul Kirk.  It explains why food cooked over hot coals for 18 hours is so good (called 'smoking'), and how to do it.  After tasting some pork my brother Mike had made, I was sold.  I went and bought a Weber kettle grill, the same grill in every backyard in the 1950's.  This began a habit of cooking all day, smelling like smoke, and eating at 11:30 at night.  

What does this have to do with our housewarming? Well not being prepared to cook in competitions just yet, I figured a big party was the way to show off a bit of what I had learned.  Of course by now I had my wife involved, she being the cook in the family she's had no problems making the best food off the pit.  So between the two of us we started smoking almost a week ahead of time, never really sure we knew what we were getting ourselves into. We don't have a big yard, so we had to limit the guests to just our siblings, cousins,and their kids. No aunts, uncles, parents or grandparents allowed.

The party went off great, we had about 50 people crammed into our backyard, on one of the hottest days of the year.  Although the food was good, the biggest surprise was how great a time we all had.  Food aside, it's all about great times with family.   Five years later and the BBQ is now an annual tradition, and it's the highlight of our year.  Yes it is a lot of work, but having all grown up now, I don't get to see my cousins very often, so this was a great way to stay in touch.   Plus everyone is so appreciative.  That's europeans for ya.

There you are, the story of why/how we started having this thing we call "The Cousin's BBQ".  The family keeps growing, as does the guest list, and my wife and I wouldn't have it any other way.

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Blog up and, walking.

Ok so it's here, and I'm posting.  Having said that IF you are reading this post, good for you, you have nothing better to do than read nonsense, but hey, that's the web.  Come back time after time to re-read this spectacular piece of writing, and possibly more on bits of info on anything from food to sports and whatnot.

Also, I like this site, not that I'm paid to like it, it's well done, and rare to find sites such as this.

Sunday, August 1, 2010

Blog Cold Storage

Put out to pasture, these literary gems are still worth reading and reviewing from time to time.  Enjoy!