Sunday, November 30, 2008

Icky weather and xbox Live addiction

While I know other parts of the country have already had snow, I am simply not in the mood for winter weather, at least not just yet.

This afternoon and evening, we have been treated to snow, sleet, and freezing rain. The roads are utterly crappy. Grendel has a standing meeting on Sunday evenings 25 minutes north of our house. I have been struggling all weekend with some particularly excrutiating pain in my left rear hip. The weather and pain combined so that I begged off on driving 25 minutes each way and sitting around in the church for two hours in between.

He doesn't seem devastated, only mildly disappointed. Could it be that he's looking forward to three additional hours of xbox live? The boy has been on that game system about forty hours since Wednesday evening. I'm not sure what came first, chicken or the egg, here. But, maybe he's stocking up on xbox time this weekend because he is not allowed to play it during the week? At all!

Hope everyone had a restorative holiday weekend.

Saturday, November 29, 2008

Our furry family on Thanksgiving

Our house was unusually clean for Thanksgiving. And, our cats were amusing. So, while we take pictures of them all the time, I felt I could risk sharing the shots we took of them on Thanksgiving.

We have a wooden howling coyote statue on our landing to go upstairs. Caboose decided to pose with the coyote. He actually was looking a bit more up just before the shot. But, he's still kind of cute here any way.

Shortly there after, we caught Zoey watching part of the Tom and Jerry marathon that was on television. She really does watch television. It's very amusing.

Friday, November 28, 2008

Too many blogs, not too much shopping

I posted date my last post. It's not cheating! It is actually when I posted it... to one of my other blogs. Yes, I have more than one. I had posted to my church book group's blog last, so when I went to post last night I didn't notice that I accidentally posted there when I meant to post here. I only post there once a month, and I almost always end up posting my next post for here over there. Confused yet? No worries. I fixed it.

So, today was officially Black Friday. Last year I foolishly ventured out to an actual mall. Today, I went to a small local computer store to get a laptop memory upgrade. Then, I ventured to a craft store to pick up some presents for our niece who lives in Texas.

The guys at the Showtime Computers said that they had experienced an unusually busy day. I congratulated them. They were surprised. They said that Black Friday is usually quiet for them since most folks frequent the big box stores for the mega sales. I pointed out that Showtime has good prices all the time and excellent service. They thought I was sucking up. I said that I was not, that it was just the truth.

We purchased our last two Wintel computers from them. They build them from the ground up, with no bloatware. We didn't get my Wintel laptop from them, which is part of the reason I think it had performance issues. It came with lots of bloatware initially installed and not enough memory, just 512Mb. It now has 2Gb. I am going to refresh the laptop from its initial recovery disks, rip out the bloatware, and pass it to my son. He plans on using the laptop primarily as a gaming machine. I am not encouraging more gaming, I'm just trying to keep his primary computer clean for school stuff. We'll see how that all works out.

I'm done all my holiday shopping. Now I just have to do my holiday shipping, which is just about an equal pain in the neck.

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Happy turkey day

Thanks to massive over preparation on my part, our culinary day was a success. We made sure to send our guests off with the bulk of the leftovers, so they wouldn't be around tempting us. Though, we did keep the pumpkin pie and home made whipped cream.

After our guests left, Goblin and I went off to see "Twilight". The book was way better, but I still enjoyed it. Goblin was so intrigued he now wants to listen to the book as well.

It's been a really long day. Maybe I'll sleep like a normal person tonight? (Silly to even imagine, I know).

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Betty Crocker strikes again

I've spent most of today preparing for Thanksgiving dinner, tomorrow.

I cleaned my house (somewhat, though we've got more to do ... since the vacuum cleaner found its way to church two weeks ago and hasn't come back yet). I cleaned out the fridge to make room for all the prepared and leftover food. I still need to do that to the freezer as well.

I cut up veggies, cheeses, and cold cuts for snacking. I made an actual cheese ball! I then baked a pumpkin pie. My son made banana bread. Still lots to do, but we got a huge dent in 'the list'.

We're going out to run some geeky errands as a reward for our efforts.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Current guilty pleasure

I feel somewhat embarrassed to admit this but, I am listening to Stephanie Meyer's Twilight.

Yes, it is a young adult book. However, I have an extreme weakness for vampire fiction. The Anne Rice vampire series books are some of my favorite all time reads.

I decided to read the Twilight series months and months ago, before I heard they were making a movie out of the first book. Then an office mate, who isn't a big reader, told me how obsessed she was with the books a few weeks ago. She read all four of them in a week. So, since I had already picked up the first one on CD I decided that now was the time to listen to it, before going to see the movie.

Twilight is a truly engaging book. It's not 'fine literature' by any stretch of the imagination. However, I can't wait to get back in the car to listen to the next 50-60 minutes of the story.

I have already picked up the next title, New Moon. Books three and four are on my Amazon wish list for Xmas. And, I'm already anticipating Stephanie Meyer's next book, which tells the story from the vampire's point of view (the first four tell the tale from human Bella's point of view).

I periodically allow myself a foray into young adult fiction. The last series was James Patterson's Maximum Ride books. Those were pretty good, but they seem shallow and poorly executed in comparison.

So, if you like a good vampire story and aren't too embarrassed to be caught reading a YA book, I highly recommend Twilight.

Monday, November 24, 2008

Are you more civically savvy than the general population?

So, maybe you'd like to see how you measure up compared to the general population, or the government officials I blogged about yesterday.

Take the Civics Quiz and find out. I only scored an 81.82%. The average score for those taking the online quiz is currently 77.9%

I wonder if we should require all candidates for office to take the quiz, and then to disclose their scores. I'd love to know Sarah Palin's score, for example.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

US officials flunk test of American history, economics, civics - Yahoo! News

It was bad enough when I posted back on October 10th about the general ignorance of our population. But this is even more special. US officials flunk test of American history, economics, civics:

"WASHINGTON (AFP) – US elected officials scored abysmally on a test measuring their civic knowledge, with an average grade of just 44 percent, the group that organized the exam said Thursday.

Ordinary citizens did not fare much better, scoring just 49 percent correct on the 33 exam questions compiled by the Intercollegiate Studies Institute (ISI).

'It is disturbing enough that the general public failed ISI's civic literacy test, but when you consider the even more dismal scores of elected officials, you have to be concerned,' said Josiah Bunting, chairman of the National Civic Literacy Board at ISI."

So, the folks who are supposed to know how to run our country don't understand civics ("...the study of citizenship and government with particular attention given to the role of citizens― as opposed to external factors― in the operation and oversight of government." ... courtesy of Wikipedia.)


Saturday, November 22, 2008

Another kind of "play"ing

I spent most of the day at the church, indulging in spa treatments and doing some light weight shopping (for a good cause). I'm about to take a much needed nap, having stayed up way too late last night playing with the iMac.

Goblin and I are going to 'be social' this evening. We're going out with two other couples from our church for dinner at an Indian restaurant and to see A Secret Garden. I like attending plays and concerts occasionally. I particularly like it when the events are in small venues. I find crowds very tiring.

I haven't seen the play before, and it's been years since I saw the movie. And no, I've never read the book. The novelty will add to the pleasure of the evening.

Friday, November 21, 2008

Playing at Betty Crocker

I love to cook (and I love to eat ... hence the constant battle of the bulge). And, I love an excuse to cook. We're hosting Thanksgiving dinner at our house next week. Goblin's sister and her family are coming up from RI. So, they'll be four adults, Grendel, and two preschoolers. That's relatively low key in my book.

Our church is having a holiday faire tomorrow. I signed up to do some baking for the bake sale. I already make a nice big batch of peanut butter fudge (wicked easy: 2 bags of white chocolate chips, one stick of butter, one jar of peanut butter. Melt butter in double boiler. Add chips. Stir until chips are thoroughly melted/blended with butter. Add peanut butter. Stir until blended. Spread into a greased oblong container; I used a glass 9x12 pyrex dish. Refridgerate until set (no need to keep refridgerated). Done.

I am in the process of baking about six dozen chocolate chocolate chip cookies. I love the taste. However, when I'm making them, the dough kind of grosses me out if I look at it much. It bears a visual resemblance to a certain bodily output. Once they're baked, the resemblance is gone of course.


Thursday, November 20, 2008

I couldn't have said it better myself

While I made the decision to divorce Microsoft at home, I felt somewhat wedded to it in the office. Until this week.

I work on a team of six full time IT Security professionals, with the addition of a co-op. One coworker uses a Mac, and runs the obligatory Windows software in a virtual environment. Another coworker eats from the Windows trough. But, our two incident handlers ditched Windows a long time ago. They run Ubuntu, and fire up a VM for the obligatory Windows crud our organization foists upon us. I had been running Windows, but had been considering my options (since making my decision for home).

Then, it happened. I discovered that some stealth infection had hit my Windows machine. The behavior had all the wrong signs, but none of our Windows virus tools picked up a thing. So, we had to refresh my system. The IH guys strongly suggested that I drink their Koolaid. And, I have agreed. When I go back to the office on Monday, I will be running an Ubuntu machine, with Windows in a VM for when I need to run Windows-only programs.

One of the IH guys forwarded a link to a ZDNet article that says it all: I Really Don't Want to Use Windows Anymore. Perfect! I couldn't have said it any better myself.

Attention deficit computing

After I posted last night, I did set up my iMac. It took some doing to find a spot for it on my desk (see below).

Note the four displays (2 are laptops - one work and one home). The monitor in the corner is connect to two computers (one Windows XP and one Fedora). I am working from home today because we have someone coming to vacuum our air ducts. I also plan to multitask and begin the migration process from my Windows XP laptop and desktop systems to the iMac.

Attention deficit much?

Note: this is my first blog posting using the iMac. YIPPEE!!!

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

The new arrival

The iMac arrived this afternoon. I haven't plugged it in yet, but I did take it out of the box. For those of you familiar with the O'Reilly books, I placed one in the photo so you could get a sense of how big the monitor is. I'm still rearranging my desk space to make room for my beloved monster.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

The joys of townhouse living

Over the summer, the neighbors to our immediate north remodeled their kitchen. While we were happy for them, we hated them while the project was going on. When you live in a townhouse, if your neighbors run up and down the stairs you know it. If they are pounding nails, drilling holes, and generally making a racket with the structure of their walls you might as well go over and watch because the sound carries into your house as well.

This week, we think that they are laying new hardwood flooring. All weekend and each evening this week, we have gotten to share the 'pound, pound, pound' of every nail for hours on end. Sunday, we ended up not taking the nap we were planning on because we couldn't fall asleep through all the noise.

Wouldn't it have been the neighborly thing to do, before beginning the project, to sheepishly inform the neighbors to either side of you that you'd probably be making quite a bit of noise for a week or two?


Monday, November 17, 2008

Mixed success on the diet

I have been on a vegan, highly organic, diet for the last two weeks. I have also been gluten-free. What grains I did allow myself were whole and organic (mostly brown rice). And while I did not totally give up caffeine, I got it down to green (usually organic) tea in the a.m. only. Could I have been more restrictive in my eating habits? Sure. Could I have kept it up for any length of time? No way. I got as restrictive as I thought I could keep to.

I embarked on this quest in an attempt to fight chronic pain and inflammation, some digestive issues, and possibly as a means to lose a few pounds. I guess two out of three isn't bad.

I have lost about ten pounds in two weeks, and my tummy and I are on much better terms. Unfortunately, my pain situation has not changed much. Right now I am in enough pain to want to put my fist through a wall, just to have something else to think about.

I plan to stick with the vegan/organic thing for a few more days. I have enjoyed some serious tummy benefits, so I will probably fall back to this after Thanksgiving in one form or another.

But, to my fellow pain sufferers out there who were hoping for abatement through dietary restriction, it didn't do me a lick of good. Maybe you'd have better luck. It just didn't work for me.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Circuit City's days are truly numbered

Circuit City has been in Chapter 11 for a while now. They recently announced plans to clase 155 stores, but may be closing another 150 stores on top of that. I got my weekly sale email from them last night and clicked on a link only to be greeted with the following:

This page was all you could get from the home page of the site for about five hours today. Not good, huh?

Our closest Circuit City is right next door to their nemesis, Best Buy. I wonder if our store will be closing soon. I hope not. I want to get my laptop's memory upgraded before I pass it on to Grendel. We bought it at Circuit City, and we have Fire Dog support through March.

Aside from Circuit City, I think it is a true sign of how much the economy stinks by the number of store closings I am seeing lately. Several furniture stores are going belly up, as well as Linens N Things.

Again, thank you, George W. Bush for taking a booming economy and flushing it down the toilet.

Saturday, November 15, 2008

A well spent day, including a movie

I had to get up at 6 (yes, on a Saturday) so I could exercise and pick my son up from an overnight before my 10 a.m. date with destiny. OK, it was just a workshop for new Mac users, but it was a big deal for me. I learned some cool tips and tricks that I can't wait to try out on my new computer when it comes next week. I also bought myself a game to install on the thing. I spent the next couple of hours running errands, wearing myself out, but generally having a good time.

When I came home, Goblin had the kitchen torn apart. We got a new counter top delivered at 7:15 this morning. So, he needed to empty the cabinet that it went on to attach it. Basically, the contents of the cabinet had exploded to cover every other surface in the kitchen. Goblin was frustrated with how the task was going, so he was cursing and grumbling. He was about to go out to Loew's to get some more supplies when I suggested that we should go see the new James Bond flick. Grendel liked the idea as well, so off we went.

When we got to the theater, it turned out that "Quantum of Solace" was sold out for the next couple of shows. We were about to buy tickets for a later show when I noticed something on the marquee. Guy Ritchie's RocknRolla had FINALLY come to New Hampshire. This movie has been out for more than a month, but not within a hundred miles of our house. Goblin and I loved Snatch and I am also a huge Gerard Butler fan, so I've been ACHING to see RocknRolla. So, we decided to see that instead ... of course.

While Snatch is still a much better film, I really enjoyed RocknRolla. And, while I love Gerard Butler, Toby Kebbell steals the movie as crack-addict-rocker Johnny Quid. Jeremy Piven has a minor part as one of his music managers as well. Tom Wilkinson does a fine job as Johnny's crime-boss step-father (though he's not as menacing as Snatch's Brick Top). And Thandie Newton is excruciatingly sexy as the disloyal and scheming accountant for a Russian mob boss.

If you like light twisty crime movies, with a touch of irony and humor, you'll like this one. I plan to pick it up on DVD as soon as it's available.

Note: We also saw a VERY intriguing preview for next May's Star Trek prequel movie. Another CAN'T WAIT. Especially since Heroes Sylar is playing a young Spock

Now, I can get back to obsessing about my new Mac.

Friday, November 14, 2008

Hillary being considered for secretary of state

Anonymous insiders are saying that Senator Clinton is being considered as a potential secretary of state. Somehow, this seems like a poor choice to me. Clinton does not have enough foreign policy experience to do justice to the position. I can understand Obama's desire to reward Clinton with a cabinet position, but this is the wrong one in my opinion. If you want to make her day, give her Health, for crying out loud! Yes, State is more prestigious, but it really isn't her. Also, if we want to change/repair our relationship with other countries we need someone who is known for the strength of position as well as finesse at diplomacy. Again, not Hillary's strong suit in my opinion.

There are plenty of other Democrats out there with better standing for State. Hillary would be a mistake. This could be the first place that Obama and I seriously disagree.

Thursday, November 13, 2008


I placed the order for my iMac this afternoon:

1TB Serial ATA Drive
Apple Keyboard (English) + User's Guide
Apple Mighty Mouse
NVIDIA GeForce 8800 GS w/512MB GDDR3
Accessory kit
3.06GHz Intel Core 2 Duo
4 GB 800MHz DDR2 SDRAM - 2x2 GB

Ships: 1 - 3 business days
Delivers: Nov 18 - Nov 24

...pant ... pant ... pant

Darn you NBC, or not

Early last month I sang the praises of NBC's new show, My Own Worst Enemy. Apparently, we were one of the few households taken with the show since NBC has axed My Own Worst Enemy. While I am truly bummed about this turn of events, the announcement on E! did say that the cancellation makes room for a similar show, Dollhouse, by Joss Whedon. So, maybe I'll still be watching the same amount of television when this is all said and done!

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

McCain says Palin didn't hurt presidential bid?

McCain says Palin didn't hurt presidential bid - Yahoo! News


Mr McCain, let me enlighten you. Your shift over the last year or so to the right was mere ice cream underneath the whipped cream and cherry topping that picking Lady Avon Lady as your running mate ended up being. Had you picked a running mate with more centrist appeal, you may have gained one or two percentage points, which might have made the race in a couple of states. Your incredible slide to the right alienated those of us who thought you were a moderate and free-thinking Republican. Then, you picked a frighteningly far-right dominant newbie as a running mate. I don't know that I would have voted for you, but I would have though longer about it.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

A week of healthy eating

As mentioned in my November 3rd post, I have been trying to eat healthier to diminish inflammation and maybe drop a few pounds. I have not noticed an appreciable decrease in pain and inflammation. However, I have lost about six pounds in the last ten days.

I thought I was being pretty good. I hadn't allowed myself any dairy in the last four days. Or, so I thought. It turns out that my evening frozen coconut bar has skim milk in it! I discovered this yesterday. So, I did not allow myself one last night. Also, I've been having soy sauce on some of my food. The bottle that I have at home contains wheat. Since I'm trying to stay away from gluten, I need to kick that for a while as well.

Though I'm loving the weight loss, the primary goal was pain reduction. I plan to give this another week to see if there is an improvement. Then, I need to start baking and cooking for my church holiday fair, and for our own Thanksgiving gathering. So, I'll be off the wagon by Thursday the 20th. Starting December 1st, I'll be back on the wagon, but with the primary goal of weight reduction. (Holidays and dieting are a pretty silly combination, no?)

Maybe this is where they went

Considering my last post, I couldn't resist sharing some photos my husband forwarded me today. Perhaps this is where my erstwhile neighbors moved.

And, after all that moving, maybe they can vacation here.

Monday, November 10, 2008

A blight removed

We live in a relatively quiet condo community. About two thirds of the homes are owner-occupied. Most of the renters are good people and make good neighbors. The rents are not cheap ($1300-1700 for a 3 bedroom, 1.5 bath in southern NH). That probably accounts for the relative placidity of the community.

Unfortunately, that changed this summer when a single mother and her three 'children' moved in across the street. My first encounter with the family was when the oldest 'child', a young woman of about 19, tried to strike up a conversation with me one morning as I was leaving to go to work. At 07:00 the girl was hyper, her pupils were dilated, and she didn't take several not-so-subtle hints that I was in a hurry. She was being pulled down the street by a five pound puppy. Really. Pulled. The girl had badly cut home-bleached hair and trashy eye makeup on. I later found out that the girl had been arrested just outside our community, for evading an assault warrant in MA.

The youngest 'child' is a boy of eleven or twelve. He spent his summer bullying younger children in the neighborhood and throwing rocks at animals. He's a husky kid with a very strange buzz hair cut. An adult in the neighborhood chastised him for his behavior and the kid flipped him off and ran down the street. He was recently banned from riding the school bus for his behavior.

The middle boy is relatively quiet in comparison, though I've seen him come and go at odd hours with other teens in cars. Grendel says this boy never speaks to anyone on the bus stop and doesn't make eye contact.

The family owns a pretty old aqua striped Chevy pickup truck. They typically park it so that it's tires cross into the adjoining home's parking space. Once, they even left the truck's doors open when they went inside, forcing their neighbor to have to get out and close the doors so she could squeeze into her parking space. They had been inside for about ten minutes, and didn't bother to come out after the woman was able to park her car.

They speed in and out of the development with no concern for the speed bumps and the pedestrian traffic in the community. (The girl was so busy yelling at one of her brothers one day that she wasn't looking forward as she drove, and nearly hit me.)

I was home from work today. As I sat at my desk I noted some activity over at their house. This is not unusual, since there always seems to be something going on over there. I looked out the window to see their truck and another backed up in front of their house, loaded with furnishings. I watched for a few minutes and was THRILLED to see they were bringing stuff out of the house. I also noted that it was a school day and both boys were home at 09:00.

I walked over to a neighbor's house and asked her if she'd noted the activity. She told me that she had heard two weeks ago that they were moving out. Apparently, the youngest one's issues warranted a change in school districts.

My neighbor and I joked that maybe we should throw a little party. I don't want to sound like a snob, but these folks are trash, pure and simple. I am thrilled to see them go. I grew up in a home of meager means with lots of friends who were equally challenged, economically speaking. However, we all behaved with consideration to our neighbors. The parents in my neighborhood would never have put up with some of the behavior we have seen from the kids across the street. And, being a single-parent family is no excuse. About half the families I grew up with were single-parent families. That's no excuse for poor behavior and general bad manners.

So, farewell folks! Perhaps having to move because one of your kids crossed the line will encourage you to clean up your act in the next town. But, then again, maybe not.

Sunday, November 09, 2008

Where does the time go?

Sundays are pretty busy for our family. Last year, Grendel started attending Sunday evening youth group at our church. Our church is about 25 minutes to the north of our house. Regular services end at 11:00. Grendel has mid-day tennis lessons 25 minutes to the south of our house. His youth meeting is at 18:00. Since two 50-minute round trips in one day is tiring enough, I almost never go to morning services any more.

Today, I decided to go to morning service since I hadn't been in several months, and I have off from work the next two days.

While waiting for the service to begin, my friend Y sat next to me. I knew I hadn't seen Y in a while, but I did not realize how long "a while" had been until I asked about her baby daughter, G. The last time I had seen G, she was only a few months old. Y told me that G is now three years old. My jaw literally dropped.

I know I only went to church a few times last year, but I attend a good deal of the social activities (since I co-chair the committee). I could have sworn that I just saw that little girl a year or so ago.

Is this a sign of age when your perspective of time gets totally whacked?

Saturday, November 08, 2008

Michael Crichton, you will be missed

Michael Crichton died of cancer this week at age 66. Not only did Crichton author "Andromeda Strain", "Jurassic Park", and "Timeline" (among others), he was the creative force behind one of my favorite television shows, ER.

Sixty six is way to young to pass away these days.

Crichton made himself unpopular in certain circles in the last fifteen years with his novel "State of Fear", which acted as a bully pulpit for his skepticism on global warming.

Maybe I'll watch Timeline this weekend in memoriam.

Edible Complex Meme

Courtesy of Cobweb's Shadowmanor, but originally from Very Good Taste.

Here’s what to do:

1. Copy this list into your blog or journal, including these instructions.
2. Bold all the items you’ve eaten.
3. Cross out any items that you would never consider eating.
4. Optional extra: Post a comment here or at linking to your results.

Herding Kitten’s Omnivore’s Hundred:

1. Venison
2. Nettle tea
3. Huevos rancheros
4. Steak tartare
5. Crocodile
6. Black pudding
7. Cheese fondue
8. Carp
9. Borscht
10. Baba ghanoush
11. Calamari
12. Pho I LOVE this soup
13. PB&J sandwich
14. Aloo gobi
15. Hot dog from a street cart
16. Epoisses
17. Black truffle
18. Fruit wine made from something other than grapes - Apple
19. steamed pork buns
20. Pistachio ice cream
21. Heirloom tomatoes
22. Fresh wild berries
23. Foie gras
24. Rice and beans
25. Brawn, or head cheese
26. Raw Scotch Bonnet pepper
27. Dulce de leche
28. Oysters
29. Baklava
30. Bagna cauda
31. Wasabi peas
32. Clam chowder in a sourdough bowl
33. Salted lassi
34. Sauerkraut
35. Root beer float
36. Cognac with a fat cigar Never on the cigar
37. Clotted cream tea
38. Vodka jelly/Jell-O
39. Gumbo - I've even made it a number of times
40. Oxtail
41. Curried goat
42. Whole insects
43. Phaal
44. Goat’s milk - Prefer it to cow's milk, actually
45. Malt whisky from a bottle worth £60/$120 or more
46. Fugu
47. Chicken tikka masala
48. Eel
49. Krispy Kreme original glazed doughnut
50. Sea urchin - great sushi!
51. Prickly pear
52. Umeboshi
53. Abalone
54. Paneer
55. McDonald’s Big Mac Meal
56. Spaetzle
57. Dirty gin martini
58. Beer above 8% ABV
59. Poutine
60. Carob chips
61. S’mores
62. Sweetbreads
63. Kaolin
64. Currywurst
65. Durian - I'll try it, but I suspect this stinky stuff will make me retch
66. Frogs’ legs
67. Beignets, churros, elephant ears or funnel cake
68. Haggis
69. Fried plantain
70. Chitterlings, or andouillette
71. Gazpacho
72. Caviar and blini
73. Louche absinthe
74. Gjetost, or brunost
75. Roadkill
76. Baijiu
77. Hostess Fruit Pie - Ooops, my red neck roots are showing
78. Snail
79. Lapsang souchong - Lovely tea
80. Bellini
81. Tom yum
82. Eggs Benedict
83. Pocky
84. Tasting menu at a three-Michelin-star restaurant - the closest I've come is the tasting menu at Mario Batali's Esca in NYC - FABULOUS
85. Kobe beef
86. Hare
87. Goulash
88. Flowers
89. Horse
90. Criollo chocolate
91. Spam - What did I say about my roots?
92. Soft shell crab - My mom's favorite food, that rubbed off on me
93. Rose harissa
94. Catfish
95. Mole poblano
96. Bagel and lox
97. Lobster Thermidor
98. Polenta
99. Jamaican Blue Mountain coffee
100. Snake

I'm curious about a lot of the stuff I haven't tried, and I'll try almost anything once. I guess I have another quest!

Had to come back and update - duh, OF COURSE I've had a hot dog from a street vendor... zillions of times

Friday, November 07, 2008

I want my ... Roladisc

I have way too many CD's (about 2200, actually). Years ago, I discovered the best way to store them all was in the Roladisc system developed by CD Projects.

As you can see, the system involves removing the CDs from their jewel cases and filing them in sleeves in a rolodex.

This system has worked well for me. However, all my rails are full and CD Projects doesn't make this system any more. I've been hunting around the Internet to see if anyone still carries them. SO far, no luck. I plan to keep trying. It's a bummer when someone makes a product that you like, and then you can't get it any more.

Thursday, November 06, 2008

Laudable goals and democracy

Yesterday, Nancy Pelosi was quoted as saying:
"Our priorities have tracked the Obama campaign priorities...The growth of our economy, the education of our children, the health of our people, the end of dependence on foreign oil and the end of the war in Iraq."

Those are my priorities as well. I plan to remind them if I see them going off track. This election reminded us all that this is OUR government. WE sent them there. WE are the boss of them! (grin) Don't let them forget it. Watch what goes on. If they do something that irks you, DON'T let them get away with it. On the flip side, if they want to do something that they're having a hard time getting support for among their peers, write them and tell them that you agree with them ... and then write some of the other folks and tell them too.

It's high time that we run our democracy, like a democracy. (Some would say that it's a republic, but it works the same way.)

Here is a great speech from "An American President" about what it means to be President, how politics works, and what it means to be a citizen of this country. Obama is great, but I would love to vote for Andrew Shepard.

Frivolous longing

I have access to FOUR Intel-based machines in my home office. One is running an old version of Red Hat, which acts as my sandbox and the proxy server for my son's Internet traffic. One is a very nice laptop for work. Another is a laptop that I bought a year and a half ago, which is sluggish mostly for want of memory (512Mb currently). And finally, one is a four year old desktop barely running XP, which seems incapable of installing any patches and pops up random errors which only a reboot can clear.

I primarily use the sluggish laptop, and failover to the old XP desktop when the laptop really gets on my nerves. About a month ago, both machines were acting up at the same time (this happens periodically). That's when I decided that I had had it with Windows.

I have had a home computer for nearly two decades. In the beginning, I typically spent about $3k on a home system. It usually caused me little frustration and often times provided me with both utility and entertainment. Over the years, as the Microsoft operating system has become more complex and feature rich, it has also become more frustrating to work with. A beefy machine purchased in January is usually gunked up and quirky by June. Part of the issue is the Internet threatscape forces us to run firewall, anti-virus, anti-spam, and other anti-performance software to stave off disaster. (Can you say data and financial loss?)

Back in college and graduate school, I was exposed to some of the early MacIntosh computers. They were fun and functional. Recently, I've been exposed to these systems again at work, since about a quarter of our staff use them. It used to be that Mac users had limited choices in software, which was one of the reasons I wasn't interested in them. The other reason that people avoid Macs is price. On the surface, they seem much more expensive than the mass produced wide variety of Windows systems. Well, maybe you get what you pay for.

I decided on that fateful day, a month ago, that my next system was going to be a Mac, AND that I would have one by March at the latest. I also decided that I was going to join the iPod nation. I have had several other MP3 players, which I have liked well enough. However, the amount of free content available as podCasts was the final temptation. (Besides, if I'm going Mac, I might was well go all the way.)

Once I made the decision, the desire began to haunt me. I am nearly salivating in anticipation of this acquisition. I plan to get the beefiest, most tricked-out, iMac that Apple sells. Even though I'll get an educational discount through work, I'll still be spending about $3k. In a way, that seems right. I used to enjoy my home computer that I paid $3k for.

I look forward to coming home and sitting down to a computer that JUST WORKS.

As for the laptop and the XP desktop? My son has expressed an interest in the laptop. We will either shove some more memory in it, or (more likely) load Ubuntu on it. The XP desktop is on borrowed time. A few weeks ago, the hard disk made that telltale clicking sound on boot up. It hasn't done it since, but I know that it's just a matter of time.

There were rumors that Apple was about to put out a slightly improved iMac line in the next week (a pre-holiday refresh). However, I just read that there will be no refreshes to the line before the end of the year. So, I'll probably be ordering it soon. It'd be great to have it by Thanksgiving weekend, since I'll have a lot of time to play with it and get it going.

Materialistic longing is so gauche. But, I really really really want to have fun with a computer again.

Wednesday, November 05, 2008

Worth staying up late for

Yesterday, I left work a few hours early so I could avoid long lines at the polls. The only line when I got there was for voter registration. I was amazed at the number of new voters this election brought into the game. Bravo! (Then again, things had to get pretty crappy in this country to convince people that they needed to participate in the process, huh?)

We flipped between CNN, Fox News, and Comedy Central during the evening. Fox was pretty unbiased for them. Comedy Central, with Steven Cobert and John Stewart, added levity to a tense situation. CNN did a fantastic job, including a holographic interview.

The only thing I wonder is how the media can predict the outcome of a state's election with less than 20% of the precincts reporting in. I guess it is educated gambling. They probably base their predictions on bellwether precincts for the state (ones that are typically representative of how the state will go). It still makes me nervous when they do this. It always makes me think of the Chicago Tribune's flub in 1948 when they went to press early with "Dewey Elected" when Truman ended up winning.

One of the amazing things about this election is the number of states that went from Red to Blue: Nevada, Colorado, New Mexico, Iowa, Ohio, Virginia, and (especially) Florida. Indiana, Missouri, and North Carolina are still too close to call today. Heck, in North Carolina the tally between the two candidates is only about nine thousand votes apart! For the latest tally, see CNN's election map.

At the end of the evening, I watched McCain's concession speech and Obama's victory speech. McCain was extremely graceful (even if supporters were not - they booed mention of Obama several times), especially in expressing his condolences on the death of Obama's grandmother. Obama was inspiring. I liked how his supporters applauded McCain.

Obama's speech spoke to me on a few particular points. I liked how he said that we may not get the job done in one year or one term, but that we will get the job done. And, he warned that there may be some missteps along the way. I fully expect that he's right on both counts. I hope people heard this note of reason. Like a good manager, Obama is trying to set reasonable expectations. The country is in serious trouble, and all of our issues may not be addressable in a couple of years. However, I think we elected the right person for the job. Obama seems like a serious person who will make well considered decisions. I hope he plays to the center, though he's a noted Liberal. His ultimate support came from the center. Also, while he won, the country is still divided. We will definitely need the support of a lot of folks on the other side to resolve our issues, so it's best not to alienate too many of them.

I am really proud to be an American today. I actually agree with John McCain on at least one thing: We are the greatest nation on Earth. (Flawed? Yes. But head and shoulders above the rest.)

Tuesday, November 04, 2008

I got spammed by John McCain

I have only registered with two web sites with any sort of political agenda: and I typically support left-of-center ideals. So, imagine my surprise when a campaign plea from John McCain showed up in my inbox over night. I can't imagine how they got my email address. It could not have been from a site that I visit that is sympathetic to his cause. Could he be so desperate as to have bought large blocks of address lists in hopes of garnering even a tiny bit of additional support today?

This election will hinge on tiny margins in several key states. I hope everyone who is physically and legally able to get out and vote makes the effort today. We are in the worse shape that we have been in since the Depression. Make your voice heard. Regardless of whose brand of solution you are warmer to, speak up. Even if you would rather see a third party in power, vote for them. So many people on this planet do not have the right to speak their mind to those in power. It is both a privilege and a responsibility to do so when you can.

Monday, November 03, 2008

Trying to eat healthy, at least in the short term

Over the last few months, I have been feeling worse and worse. My back and other muscle pain has increased. My digestive system is not operating optimally. And, my weight is headed in the wrong direction. Plus, my insomnia is as bad as ever. So, I decided to try something different.

I just embarked on a two week mild detox. I'm easing into a vegan diet, with the added strictures of no gluten and no alcohol. I'd like to ditch caffeine too, but let's not get crazy here. As a compromise, I'm only allowing myself green tea for my caffeine fix. I'm also trying to eat organically whenever possible. I have a few cups of yogurt that I want to finish up before I cut the dairy out of my diet. Plus, I may have some bubbly to celebrate on election night (or to drown my sorrows). After that, I plan to spend two weeks on this regime.

I am hoping to reduce my general inflammation levels. I also might inadvertently drop a few pounds. I started on Saturday. So far, so good.

Sunday, November 02, 2008

Julia Child and America's Test Kitchen

I've been meaning to blog all week. Sadly, no particular topic seemed compelling enough to overcome my ennui. Here is the one topic that keeps nagging at me, that I must share.

I finished reading Julia Child's autobiography, My Life in France. I had suggested it to my book group as an offbeat choice from our usual fair. My only exposure to Julia may have been one or two PBS shows as a child, and the parodies of her by Dan Akroyd on Saturday Night Live when I was a teenager. I consider myself a foodie. I like biographies. And, with the holidays coming up, I figured the book might be entertaining.

What a truly unexpected pleasure! Her story is not just for foodies. The book begins with her arrival in France with her husband Paul. The two met during WWII in the OSS in the Pacific. They married after the war, and were initially posted to Washington, D.C.

A year or so later they are posted to France where Julia finds herself. She discovers that she loves good food and wants to know how to make it. She approaches food with a passion and scientific curiosity. Eventually she enrolls in the Cordon Bleu (which is not the perfect ivory tower that outsiders often assume it to be). She makes the same dish dozens of times to understand why it works, what will ruin it, and how to recover when it has problems. She meets two French women who have written a book on French cooking for the American housewife, and eventually agrees to help them with the book. This partnership leads to a multi-year odyssey that culminates in the publication of Mastering the Art of French Cooking (now in a 40th anniversary edition).

The book primarily focuses on the story behind the great cooking tome. However, we also gain insight into life in the U.S. foreign service and the effect of McCarthism. We also are treated to some lovely vignettes around Julia's home and family life, including how she and Paul sent hand-designed valentines to their loved ones each year and the construction of their cottage in the south of France. And finally, we learn the roots of Julia's television career and eventually celebrity which always seem to surprise her.

This is a fabulous book. Julia was a remarkable individual.

Reading about her passion for food and how she approached recipe development reminded me of the work of the recent PBS show: America's Test Kitchen. I simply adore their magazine, Cooks Illustrated. I have their cook book: The Best Recipe (now in a new edition: The New Best Recipe). Cooks Illustrated does what Julia used to do. They scientifically evaluate a recipe and find the best way to make a dish, and they explain to the home cook how they arrived at the recipe they now recommend.

So, as you make your Thanksgiving plans, and think about holiday gifts, maybe you should include a little Julia in your thinking!

Saturday, November 01, 2008

Is it November already?

Is it that time of year again? NaBloPoMo I didn't commit this year. Maybe I'll do it anyway.