Of Cheap(er) Meats, Small Apartments and microservers...

WANg

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Okay, so this is a bit of a slightly off-topic article, meant as a counterpoint to the article @Patrick wrote comparing barbecues to virtualizaton.
A few good points, to be sure. But some of us are really "serving the home", and when your home is a small condo or co-op instead of a house with multiple power circuits, generous square footage, front yard and a back yard...what can you do?

Some of us might prefer the city life, but the city life means small spaces, pre-war housing construction, limited capacity electric circuits, limited kitchen ventilation, and if there is a significant other involved, the "ministry of internal affairs" situated on the other end of the bed will dictate terms like a quiet, tidy cozy and presentable home. Can a love of meat (red white and otherwise), much like a desire for running servers, co-exist in a small shared space with wattage and noise constraints?

Well, much like how every good techie has a few tricks to hunt for deals (eBay alerts, RSS feeds off bensbargains.net, scraping CDW and other sites), a good meat lover knows where to get red meat cheaper. For a New Yorker (that's downstate, 5 boroughs) like me, I can show you where I get some of my meat on.

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Welcome to Ironbound, it's a neighborhood on the south side of Newark, New Jersey, about a 15 minute train ride from New York's Penn Station. What's so significant about it? Well, if you are a Lusophone (someone who speaks Portuguese or have Porutguese/Macanese/Mozambique/Brazilian heritage), this is your home away from home. The Portuguese population in Ironbound kept many of the best attributes of the "old country", which involves the incessant patronage of the fine arts of dessert making, cheese curing, great sausages, and proscunto (Iberian cured ham). They also do a hell of a job with seafood.
The neighborhood really comes together for occasions like the World Cup (that was the US/Portgual game during the 2014 Group G match), Portugal Day parades and Brazilian independence street fairs. You also tend to see similar things in Edison (NJ), Fall River (RI), Montreal (Blvd. Ste Laurent/Rue Rachel on "the main") and Ossington near Little Italy in Toronto.

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Many of the Brazilians who immigrated to the East coast of the US also settled down in Ironbound, and they bring with them amazing street food (Acaraje, Pao de quejio) and their barbecue traditions. Oh. And their "lanches", which is the Brazilian way of referring to lunch. And their best lanche is the massive Cheeseburgers - which is pronounced "chisse-bor-gare" in Braziian Portuguese. Chisse is how they pronounce "X", and tudo means "loaded up" or everything in Portuguese, so their burgers are known as X-Tudo burgers (Chisse-shudo-bor-gare). What's in it? Cheese, bacon, Corn salad, potato sticks, tomato, ham, egg, and a burger patty and it's usually big. Hell, you can get a steak burger. And no, I don't mean a burger patty made out of steak. I mean, a burger WITH both a patty and a steak inside (this is, what, about 12 dollars? I dunno, look at the latest menu from Altas Horas lanches on Yelp)

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That steak cut is one of the favorites in Brazilian barbecue situations (hit a Fogo de Chao for lunch and you'll see what I mean) - this is known as a rump cap/culotte, or "Picanha". The Lusophone way of cooking it involves marinating it with olive oil and large grains of sea salt, skewering it up on a massive kebab fork and broiling it over hot coals or indirect heat. Serve it with shredded kale-and-orange salad and bean stews. Of course, considering that this is a legit Lusophone area, their supermarket must be something special, huh?

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Oh yeah - mouthwash bottle sizes of Piri-piri sauce, rows upon rows of fine cheeses, cured chouriço, proscunto up the yang, and 4 USD/lb Picanhas. Picanhas are nice, tender, fatty bits of meat, similar in texture to tri-tip, but even better. Its cheaper than say, a New York strip, and when prepared properly? Much better. Hm...but what's this? How am I going to take care of this large package of Picanha in my dinky NYC apartment?

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The supermarkets in question have a full service meat counter - slip my man here a few dollars and he'll cut it down to size - I usually ask for 1-2 inch thick slices across the grain for steaks. Always tip your butcher for he is the shepard who shall guide you into meaty righteousness. Oh, and the next time you happen to be near EWR for business (after this COVID19 ridiculousness work its way out), jump on a Lyft, head to Ironbound and grab some good eats. The barbecue joints on Ferry street are well known and the area is open late. It's extra fun when the MLS NY/NJ Red Bull soccer team plays NYCFC in Harrison Stadium across the Passaic river, or when a Brazilian or Portuguese star plays in a "friendly" match - people will pour you glasses of Vinho Verde.

I don't only hit Ironbound for meat that often. New Jersey Transit round-trip is 10 USD/person from Midtown Manhattan, and I tend to go there in June (Portuguese day parade) or September (Brazilian Independence). However, if I have weekend business in the meadowlands (Equinix NY2/4/5) , NASDAQ (Carteret) or NYSE/ICE (Totowa) I would grab a zipcar and head to Ironbound for Portuguese/Brazilian, Fort Lee/Palisades Park for Korean, or Edgewater for Japanese afterwards. If it's Ironbound, I am picking up provisions at the local supermarkets - the only constraint is the relatively dinky freezer in my home...

Now, what happens if I don't want to take the subway for 35 minutes to get to midtown, and then another 10-15 to get to Ironbound?
Well, there are cheaper sources of meat, like a certain South American Korean supermarket chain here in NYC that caters to the blue collar communities...like a certain 24 hour supermarket in Queens with a large Hispanic AND Brazilian community nearby, and a Korean megachurch down the block. Considering how much the locals love their meat, the turnover is fast and the pricing is around 10-15% better than most of NYC.

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6 USD/lb tenderloins, 8 USD/lb skirt steaks, 4 USD/lb short ribs. And the full service meat counter is right there who can cut and trim to size.


Okay, very nice, but what does that have to do running servers? Patience, folks. Here's a little clue:

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Yes. Thats a short rib. And yes, it was slow cooked over 3 days. And it's LIKE BUTTTTTAAAH.

On to part 2...

(...to be continued).
 
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Patrick

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I have been to a Portuguese wedding in Newark, but next time I am heading to EWR I may try this! Thanks!
 

WANg

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I have been to a Portuguese wedding in Newark, but next time I am heading to EWR I may try this! Thanks!
That might've been in Ironbound! But yeah, next time you are near EWR, hit the cafes and restaurants on Ferry street (the main thoroughfare of Ironbound) - it's a convenient 5 minute walk from Newark Penn station.
 

WANg

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Okay, so the question now is...what does meat have to do with servers?

Well, as @Patrick would've pointed out, barbecue requires time, effort and the right gear. The one thing that he didn't mention was how much room you'll need to pull it off.

For example, let's just say that I am doing a barbecue for a bunch of friends, and let's just say that the local butcher has gone completely berzerk and put briskets up for sale at 3.50 USD/pound, as long as you are willing to take it in a cryo-bag and do all the prep work (peeling off the silverskin, trimming the fat, all the good stuff). So, an average cryo-bag brisket is about 15 to 20 lbs, so you'll need a cooler in your car. And let's just say that you have plenty of friends who will bring sides and beer, so you're just going to load up on brisket, picanha, chicken drumsticks, burgers, hot dogs, some sausages (Cajun Andouile, Portuguese linguicas and Argentinean Chorizos) And when you get to your home....you'll need a correspondingly large freezer...and a large fridge if you are planning to dry-age some of the meaty goodness.

There's the need to do the ancillary prep work - trimming the briskets and the picanhas, snipping the sausages, marinating the chicken, and etc. That requires a large counter surface.

There's the grill itself - you'll need a back yard with a suitable patio furniture set, a large cooler for the beers, beverages and cold sides, and if you are like me and love outdoors eating during fall season, you want a fire pit (which is also awesome for roasting sweet potatoes and pineapples). And then since you are smoking, your backyard needs to be of sufficient size to allow for smoke dissipation

Now let's say that everything went super - 'cue was had, merriment and philosophy dispensed with plenty of booze. You lay out the tupperware for guests to doggybag the leftovers, and they bid you for a job well done. Congratulations, you are staring at...wow. A mountain of leftovers. And possibly a house littered with wine/beer bottles, dirty paper plates, and who knows.

So the corresponding concern is not merely one of 'cue prep, it's more of a logistics problem. And as I view most problems in life as one of logistics, let's see how it corresponds. So, what do we need to run a server?
a) Power (wattage)
b) Cooling capacity (ventilation)
c) Noise tolerance (ventilation creates noise)
Other factors such as housing and security depends on how the data is classified - in this instance lets just say that the data is redundant and not that critical.

In a perfect world, a house will have as many circuits as you'll need to get anything done. Of course, this isn't always the case. Take, for example, my apartment, which have 5 20 Amp circuits. Believe it or not, this was upgraded recently.

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Now, for those of you who are unfamiliar with the North American electrical grid, we run 2 phases in our residences, with each phase being 120v. In the box we have -120 on the left, +120 on the right. Normally if you need 240v you tap across the phase with a double width breaker, but otherwise each breaker have access to a single phase . At 120v/20 Amps, each circuit in the house can have up to 2400w of power flowing through it at any given time. This might sound like quite a bit, but keep in mind that the 5 circuits are not divided based on, say, functionality, but rather on space and how it was wired together in the distant past. The kitchen (with a dishwasher, range hood, fridge and microwave oven) gets its own circuit....which makes sense. The master bedroom gets its own, which is okay. The bathroom gets one, which...makes a little sense (although my wife's 1600w hair dryer is not used that often). The entrance foyer gets its own. The living room/dining room shares one. Which is...problematic.
Why is it problematic? I have a second microwave oven (1100 w) in the dining room, my server "rack" is in the far side of the living room in a dedicated work area near the windows, and I have a large, 12000BTU window air conditioner unit, which draws about 1100w when used (if you have ever dealt with a hot and humid NYC summer, this AC unit is no doubt a godsend).

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Well, let's just say that during summers I had to turn off the air conditioner briefly if I have to, say, microwave a Burrito, or else the circuit will trip, and when it does, my servers will go down. Which servers? An HP MicroServer Gen7 serving as a raidz1 pool with 12TB capacity (FreeNAS), and connected to the top, an HP t730 thin client with 32GB of RAM, serving as my hypervisor host. They are connected to each other via 40GbE iSCSI DACs. The entire setup consults about 100 watts (70 for the HPMSG7, 30 for t730).

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Now, this "server rack" is actually the top of my Ikea Gallant storage rack and sits about 7 feet above the ground. Its out in the open next to my work area (which is even more critical thanks to COVID19 work-from-home initiatives), so the gear NEEDS to be quiet. Furthermore, since the area is not where the connectivity is provided (The router), I had to run a yellow singlemode fiber from one end of the apartment to the other, complete with GigE to SFP media converters on both sides. I had to install it behind the molding on the ceiling so it'll stay somewhat concealed, as the missus would like to keep it cozy and inconspicuous for the most part.

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The "mini server rack" is semi-concealed above eye-height and I had to consider each and every watt being consumed, and as a factor of this, I also have to consider how loud the cooling would be. I actually have a fairly powerful Gigabyte BriXi5 Pro that got too noisy during load, which I had to take down. So as you can see, you can serve from home, but not every home is created equal. Some have logistics considerations before the tech issues kick in. As I have learned in my career - tech problems are really a small aspect of the overall problems in IT. Often the tricky issues are logistics or human factors.

Do those logistics considerations also kick in for 'que or the enjoyment of meaty goodness?

Oh yeah. I have a small fridge, the range hood in the kitchen is only good for 400 fpm and recirculates air past filters but does not vent it outside, and I do not have a balcony (NYC forbids barbecues on balconies anyway). The last time I tried to sear using clarified butter and a cast iron skillet the smoke detector triggered twice, and the smell remained for 2 weeks.

So, whats the play here?

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Well, here's a clue - onto part 3....
 

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Patrick

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@WANg this needs to be trimmed but Costco is now at $3.49/lb for USDA Prime brisket. During the shortages, it was up to $5.99/lb. The other two they brought me from the back were 17.5lbs.
 

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WANg

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@WANg this needs to be trimmed but Costco is now at $3.49/lb for USDA Prime brisket. During the shortages, it was up to $5.99/lb. The other two they brought me from the back were 17.5lbs.
Heh - my local Costco is only 3 subway stops away, and the prices are around 4.50/lb for 15 lb cryobags of brisket. The challenge would be to:

a) Figure out a way to haul it onto the subway (along with all the other groceries we load up

b) Figure out how to fit into my fridge (both before I trim them down and portion it out)

c) Making sure my wife wouldn’t pick it up and beat me stupid with it (that might be a little too much meat for a couple practicing social distancing...)