The Eclectic Quill

Website of Joshua McGee


chime: Have your remote server make a bell sound in your local terminal

I needed notification, in my local terminal, when a remote process was finished executing.  I also thought it would be nice if I could wait for multiple notifications and tell them apart by the number of bell sounds I heard.  I came up with this.

On your remote server, copy the following to /usr/local/bin, rename it chime, and make it executable:

If your remote server runs Ubuntu, then this slightly longer script will install the needed dependency (tput) and install the script for you:

To have your local terminal chime once, run chime in your remote shell:


To have your local terminal chime five times, run chime with an argument of 5:

chime 5

... and you should be good to go.


Spiced Sourdough Pumpkin Popovers

These spiced pumpkin popovers with a subtle sweetness and tang are delicious served straight out of the oven with butter and maple syrup.



  • 120g reduced-fat milk
  • 110g cooked pumpkin puree
  • 3 large eggs
  • 130g unfed sourdough starter
  • 1 tsp pumpkin pie spice
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 120g all-purpose flour


  1. Preheat oven (with muffin tin inside) to 450°F.
  2. In the microwave or in a small saucepan, heat the milk and pumpkin puree together until the mixture feels slightly warm to the touch.
  3. Whisk the eggs in a small bowl.
  4. In a large bowl, combine the pumpkin/milk mixture, eggs, sourdough starter, spice, and salt.
  5. Mix in the flour.  Do not over-mix — a few small lumps are OK.
  6. Carefully remove the hot pan from the oven, and spray alternate cups, in a diamond pattern, with non-stick spray (you should end up with six sprayed cups). Quickly pour the batter into the cups, filling them to the top.
  7. Bake the popovers for 15 minutes, then reduce the oven heat to 375°F and bake for an additional 15 minutes, until popovers are golden brown.
  8. Remove the popovers from the oven and serve immediately with softened butter stirred with maple syrup.

Yield: 6 popovers.

(Recipe based on Sourdough Popovers from King Arthur Flour)


Are Brussels sprouts stalks edible? I cut to the pith.

When I was a kid, I imagined Brussels sprouts as little cabbages with their heads growing out of the ground, carefully picked in Belgium by ... children, maybe? ... and sent to us in the States.

That's not how they grow.  They grow like this.


  You've seen this before but you're still slightly creeped out by it, right?

It's quick and easy to go down the stalk and twist-and-snap off the little sprouts.  So easy, in fact, that it's baffling that you usually pay much less (per sprout) if you buy a whole stalk of them.


  They're not uniform in size, but that just gives you more ideas of what to do with the different sizes.

But that stalk!  Aye, that stalk!  It's heavy.  It's like a baseball bat.  And I feel so wasteful every time I compost one or (with no compost bin these days) throw one in the trash.  Can a Brussels sprout stalk be eaten?  Is it edible?

So I turned to Google, and someone else had asked the question on Chowhound — in 2003, it turns out, so I'm not exactly the first one to ponder this.

The comments are fascinating.  Some people said "yes".  Others said "no".  Some said they took a lot of peeling and weren't worth the effort.  Another emphasized their woodiness by noting that other cultivars have stalks that are used as walking sticks.  Many pointed out that the shoots were edible and tasty.


  And soft, and lovely.  I might put them into a stir-fry.

But one person said the trick was to "hack them" into six-inch segments and steam the pieces.  They would crack open when they were "done".

Aha.  A lead.

But as to that verb "hack": yikes.  I don't own a cleaver.  I'm never going to own a cleaver.  I'm terrified of cleavers.  But my stalk seemed pretty fresh, and I thought really leaning down on the blade of a sharp, heavy knife would work.  So I went up the stalk, counting in six-inch increments, and wondering if the Brussels walking stick was ruining my $54 J.A. Henckels santoku.

Turns out you don't have to cut all the way through the stalk.  If you score it about 1/4" deep all the way around, you can break it into segments.  No hacking and less knife-dulling.

Awesome.  Now I could see what was inside.


  This was inside.

Steam them until they're "done", huh?  You could hammer in nails with the core of that stalk.  I could see someone going through this exercise and thinking "Forget trying to get food out of it.  Next time I'm just using it as a walking stick."

But into the steamer basket they went.  And I wondered how long "done" would take to reach.


  Bye, guys.  See you in ... fifteen hours?

I started to check every five minutes.  After fifteen minutes, there was not much progress.


  You about to split?  Guys?

Same at half an hour...


  Starting to wish I had gone the walking stick route.

At an hour, aha!  Cracks in two of them!


  That guy on Chowhound might not just be messing with the readers.

At 1:45, I could press my thumbnail into the core of the stalk (but could still have used the outer ring as a bludgeoning weapon).


  You guys are ... done, maybe?

So, the moment of truth.  What treasure was inside, assuming I could open them?


  This was the treasure.

It was coarse.  It could easily have handled more time in the steamer — maybe another half hour, or hour even.  But it was soft enough to scoop out with a spoon.


  The marrow was no match for the mighty teaspoon.

Aaaand now I had a bowl full of coarse, warm brassica pulp.  I tasted it.  It wasn't bad at all.  Maybe a cross between a broccoli stem and an undercooked artichoke heart.  Puree it, maybe, I thought.  Get some fat and liquid into it and see if I can spread it on some home-baked sourdough.  A touch of parsley, perhaps, to make it look like it was worth three hours' time. 

I put the pulp into the mini-prep; added mayonnaise, kosher salt, freshly-ground black pepper, rubbed sage, and (a little too much) fresh lemon juice; and I gave it a whirl.  Then I removed the lid and added a little more mayonnaise, and whirled it some more.  Then I stopped it, scraped down the sides, engaged it in a staring contest to convince it to become a puree, and ran the mini-prep one more time.

And this delicacy is what I ended up with.


  A bit too much lemon.  Whoops.  But you can't tell that from the picture.

So, in short:

  1. Yes, (portions of) the stalks of Brussels sprouts are edible
  2. Yes, they are palatable
  3. Yes, you can use them in recipes
  4. Is it worth a few hours of cutting, steaming, scooping, seasoning, and pureeing to make a cup of spread?  You'll have to judge that one yourself.


“42 Salad”: A unique fermented fruit and vegetable slaw

I made this strange-looking salad for a Thanksgiving dinner.  It appeared so unusual that I posted a picture in my family's WhatsApp group chat with the caption "Any guesses?"

My father responded "42?"

I replied "That was an unintentionally-trick question.  I have no idea what to call it.  '42 Salad' is as good a name as any."

Each time I shared it with a family member, I asked what I should call it.  After pondering the question, starting and stopping with names, they would respond "No, '42' is good."

The recipe starts with fermented celeriac, kohlrabi, and green apples, which are then tossed with dried cranberries, a sweet dressing, and ginger.  It's crisp — almost nutty.  It's vibrant and piquant and sweet and sour and totally delicious.  Just plan a week in advance.

"42 salad"


  • 1 large celeriac root
  • 2 medium kohlrabi stems
  • 2 medium to large Granny Smith apples
  • 1 tsp mustard seeds
  • 1 tsp cracked black peppercorns
  • 1 quart 4.5% saline brine (roughly 2 Tbsp salt dissolved in 1 quart filtered water)
  • 1 cup sweetened dried cranberries
  • 1/4 cup mayonnaise
  • 3 Tbsp granulated white sugar
  • 2 Tbsp 2% milk
  • ground ginger (1/2 tsp or to taste)


  1. Peel the celeriac root and kohlrabi stems with a vegetable peeler and cut into matchsticks.  Wash and core, but do not peel, Granny Smith apples into slightly larger matchsticks.
  2. Place mustard seeds and peppercorns into the bottom of a fermentation vessel.  Pack the vegetables and fruit on top of them, cover with brine, and add a weight to submerge contents.  Proceed with how you normally ferment vegetables.  I used a wide-mouth 1/2 gallon mason jar with a Pickle Pebble and an airlock lid.  If you don't normally ferment vegetables, Amanda Feifer's excellent blog Phickle is a great place to start.  Once you get started fermenting, you'll never give it up.
  3. Ferment at room temperature for 7 - 8 days, out of direct sunlight.  If you keep the contents submerged at all times, the apples will not oxidize or become mushy.  If some pieces of apple float to the surface and start to turn brown, pull them out and compost them.
  4. After fermentation, drain enough of the vegetables (reserving brine) to yield 4 cups of matchsticks.  Avoid mixing mustard seeds or peppercorns into your salad.  Add enough brine back to resubmerge any remaining vegetables, perhaps transferring them to a smaller vessel.  Move the remaining vegetables to the refrigerator for later use.
  5. Place the 4 cups of drained matchsticks in a large bowl.  Toss with 1 cup of dried cranberries.
  6. In a measuring cup, combine mayonnaise, sugar, and milk.  Pour over salad and toss again.
  7. Shake in ground ginger a little at a time — adding, tossing, and sampling — until your desired gingeriness is achieved.
  8. Refrigerate at least two hours and serve chilled.

Try this one.  It has a great crunch and zing.  It tastes amazing.  It will be the hit of any party you take it to.


Happy Birthday Carl Sagan!

For me, it is far better to grasp the Universe as it really is than to persist in delusion, however satisfying and reassuring. — Carl Sagan

For me, it is far better to grasp the Universe as it really is than to persist in delusion, however satisfying and reassuring. — Carl Sagan (1934 - 1996)