Tools to scrape data from a website

This is another one of those notes-to-self for later, and perhaps to inspire others to try. Putting the log back into blog. While I’d love to learn enough Python or what-have-you to scrape the data from a website, the following tools got the job done.

  • to do the heavy lifting of scraping. The best option I found in an exhaustive half hour of searching and testing.
  • Open Refine to split columns where I wanted, though that’s only a part of its power
  • Using a spreadsheet as a crowbar to make sure the data was in the right columns. Open Refine probably is the right tool, but good ol’ LibreOffice Calc got the job done.

And pen and index cards, to note what I did so before I try and scrape data from another site, I’ll do a better job.

Vegan ham #3: Lam Sheng Kee Vegetarian Ham (Bacon Flavor)

best-vegan-hamThe first two installments (1, 2) of this review series makes the third very easy — and satisfying. Until we have a chance to sample more vegan hams, Lam Sheng Kee Vegetarian Ham (Bacon Flavor) will be the one we will buy for hot and cold ham eating.

But to be clear, I mean “ham lunch meat” substitute, not country ham or honey-spiral-thingy. It’s not as sweet as the chicken flavored ham, but not as smoky as breakfast bacon either. Just think ham lunch meat. It’s chewy without being gummy, flavorful but not cloying and — in one hot preparation — made a delicious fried rice. Fine, as long as you don’t oversell it. $10 for the kilogram log.

If you find it (or the chicken flavor ham) please note it in the comments.

Please excuse the bit of plastic wrapper
Please excuse the bit of plastic wrapper.

Vegan ham #2: Lam Sheng Kee Vegetarian Ham (Chicken Flavor)

The vegetarian chicken ham Let me start by saying I really like this product. Even if it has about two too many words in its name. I think “vegetarian ham” is easier to understand than a “chicken ham.” After all, a vegetarian analog is like the meaty original, but made without animals. But is a vegetarian chicken ham a now-meat-free version of a ham, but originally made with bird flesh? Or pork, made like bird, but now made with soy?

It’s none of these, I gather. It’s light, savory, lightly spiced vegetarian product that I’d call “imitation chicken lunch meat”– which I think gets the point across, even if that might not pass regulatory muster, and again suffers for having two too many words in it. And to be clear, it’s like a processed chicken product, like the inner part of a chicken nugget, so don’t expect long fibers of imitation meat.

A confession. I don’t think I ate this one hot, but ia slice of the vegetarian chicken hamt has probably enough flavor to stand up in a soup. Indeed, next time I hope to make a pot pie with it. But it’s so delicious cold that this is how we plowed through it. Often in strips on a plate with other food, or sandwiches. I think this is the same product that my go-to Vietnamese Buddhist restaurant serves in slivers in a cold lotus root salad (Gỏi ngó sen). Both the restaurant and the supermarket where we got the Lam Sheng Kee Vegetarian Ham (Chicken Flavor) is at the Eden Center, in Falls Church, in the suburbs of Washington, D.C. It comes frozen, in a 1 kilogram log for about $10 at the Good Fortune Supermarket.

My mother used to make a perfect-to-spread “blender chicken salad” and I think this product would be ideal for it. Other ingredients to buy would be the vegan Just Mayo (at Target) and vegan Worcestershire sauce. This used to be easy to find: just get the cheapest brand. But now they all have anchovies. The same supermarket has large, cheap bottles of vegan Worcestershire sauce, from Taiwan, with the soy sauce — a bit thinner than I like, but it’s not that you use much, right?

In any case, this vegan ham is a winner, and I’ll buy it again. But what if you wanted ham ham? That’s for next time.

Vegan ham #1: Chef Bowl Frozen Soy Protein Food

vegan ham #1At the risk of dissuading all of you from trying a vegan ham, Hubby and I started on the one we had never seen before and which — to be fair — didn’t even describe itself as ham or any kind of meat.

Introducing the Chef Bowl Frz. Soy Protein Food.

It weighs 1050 grams, so slightly larger than the others to be reviewed, which are 1000 grams. All cost pennies less than $10, and we bought them at the Good Fortune Supermarket, at the Eden Center in Falls Church, Virginia. 2015-12-31 20.23.57

It’s slightly chewy, slightly spongy and eraser pink all the way through and so a better comparable might be cheap bologna (though not so fatty) than ham. Like bologna, it didn’t have much flavor and what flavor it did have wasn’t quite what you’d call ham-like. It was insipid in black-eyed peas. vegan hame #1 slice

The two things that it has going for it is that you can buy a half-sized log and that if it’s your only option it is better than nothing. I might bake it to warm through and serve it with a sweet-sour condiment like fried apples or pineapple, or cube it for fried rice. But we have better options and so I’ll buy those — and later review them — instead. It also had fewer ingredients than other vegan hams, but given its other failings, I’ll not call that a plus.

Nutritional info from My Fitness Pal

Vegan ham reviews

Nothing seems to attract so much derision in a vegetarian diet as the prospect of a vegetarian ham.

Some, more serious vegetarians object to mock meats, and I’ve heard enough non-vegetarians dismiss the idea with disgust. “Why not eat the real thing?” But nobody looks at a sausage and asks, “why don’t you eat real snake?”

The fact is I liked ham before, and just because I don’t eat animals, it doesn’t mean I don’t tidbits of something chewy, smoky and savory in a hot or cold dish. That’s good enough to call it ham. Or even Spam. I liked it fried, in sandwiches, after all. If I can have that in a format I’m willing to eat, I will.

And they exist, in several different brands. But they’re almost all imported from Taiwan frozen, in one kilogram logs so large they can be fairly mistaken as a weapon. They’re not particulary easy to get, and a kilogram is a lot if you don’t like it. But I’ve never seen reviews (in English anyway, and the only other language I read is Esperanto.)

I want to help other would-be vegetarian ham eaters. My husband Jonathan and I bought three of these frozen ham logs — all vegan; be warned, some exist with egg white — over the Christmas holiday. As we eat them, I’ll review them.

Moving the ministry to

From here on, the focus of my writing ministry will be at, and that is

  1. interpreting Universalist Christianity for today, particularly in practical and popular ways, and
  2. identifying and developing methods to operate churches and other ministries more efficiently and economically, including worship and leadership development,

plus short notices and news as appropriate.

An archive of my writing, to date, will be mirrored at, which will continue with miscellaneous religion news, pop culture and opinion. will continue as a documents archive, and will grow slowly to support my work at

The name “Boy in the bands” started as wordplay on the stage play and film The Boys in the Band, and the Geneva bands I wear when preaching. The play doesn’t match my experience as a gay man (and never has), I’m hardly a boy, and I only preach occasionally (though I do still wear bands) so even if the name ever made sence as a public persona, it doesn’t now.

Changing domains means a hit to readership, but in time that heals. That said, I’d appreciate you reading my blog here, and sharing the word.


Crossposted at

Congregation count at the current UUA Board meeting

The Board of Trustees of the Unitarian Universalist Association is in the middle of its October meeting.

No great thought on my part, but I did note that there is a net loss of two congregations, per the Changes in Congregational Status (PDF) report.

The First Universalist Society of Salem (MA) has merged with First Parish in Beverly (MA).
All Souls Church UU (Durham, NC) has dissolved.

Does anyone know how true the musings I’ve heard that All Souls, while not paricularly Christian itself, came out of the aftermath of discussions in the early 1990s to start a Christian church there?

Sobering news in any case, and my best wishes to the parishoners in their new settings. (The All Souls website resolves to the Eno River Unitarian Universalist Fellowship site.)