Friday, December 31, 2004

Quick Hits

Lest you think that because I was away I was not checking out the blog world, let me assure you that this was not the case. Here are some things that caught my eye and/or amused me:

The Kama Sutra illustrated on gingerbread cookies. Complete with instructions!

A gallery of pulp SciFi magazine covers featuring women. I present, Babes in Space.

What do you get the person who has everything? How about a meat air freshener? Mmmm, meat.

Music from Bollywood has often fascinated me. I love how they often take western music themes and mix them up with Indian beats and their own melodies. It's particularly intriguing when you see the films as well, but the music often stands on it's own. The problem is where to jump in when you see a soundtrack in a store. There are compilations for sale as well, but why pay for a compilation when you can get one for free? Bollywood for the Skeptics is an excellent mp3 introduction that will hopefully inspire readers to buy more of these soundtracks. What's even better is that Rick Elizaga was inspired to put together album art for those of you who download the tracks. Enjoy!

Finally, lest you think that I don't listen to rock much anymore, take a listen to Ted Leo and the Pharmacists. Leo's voice has an uncanny resemblance to early Joe Jackson. The music is sort of retro to early British punk and the lyrics on the latest album, Shake the Sheets, are mostly political. They'll be in Seattle on February 13th at Neumos.

New Year's

As usual, we're staying home for New Year's Eve. I really don't care much for going out on that night anymore. Frankly, the drunks on the road scare me. I'd rather stay in, enjoy a nice dinner, and watch a good flick or two.

We are going out today for some shopping. Shawn has the day off from work, so now's a good time to do it together. She starts back at school next weekend, so it's now or wait another 4 months. My parents gave us gift cards for Nordstrom's, so I think we'll drive downtown and spend those up. On the way back, we might pick up some crab, lobster, shrimp, or all three to enjoy for dinner. The grocery near us has a good deal on them. Note to self: pick up some coffee so you can remain awake until midnight. *smirk*

I dislike New Year's Resolutions. They seem to me to be shallow exercises that people feel the need to do and whether or not they are followed seriously seems rather arbitrary. When people look back on them, they often find that they didn't follow through on them for one reason or rationalization or another. I prefer setting goals when I see one that needs accomplishing. I do this at any time of the year when I feel the need to take one to task. Whether or not I show progress on that goal in a year's time, I don't feel the need to berate myself at year's end about it. In any case, some current goals:

1) Lose some weight by exercising more
2) Drink less or not at all (related, in part, to number 1).
3) Read more
4) Write more
5) Make peace with myself and my world (long term goal that is constantly in flux)


Well, we're back from Phoenix. Actually, we've been back since Monday afternoon, but I've been avoiding spending too much time on the computer. In the Seattle area, we're very enamored with ourselves as regards to our tech saviness. We tend to get reminded of this when we speak to friends or skelatives from other parts of the country who call us to just chat or, as if often the case, fix their computers. Frankly, I've been becoming a bit more skeptical of our tech world we've developed - not the technology itself, mind you, but rather how we use it and apply it to our lives both at home and at work. I wonder if we're moving forward in a meaningful way or if we're creating at artifice that one day is bound to collapse on us in big and small ways. This is a topic which I don't want to post about completely yet as the ideas are still fermenting in my mind, but it is an explanation as to why I haven't posted much lately.

Phoenix was wonderful, by the way. We stayed with Shawn's uncle Michael and his partner, Kathy, and their kids. The best gift this Xmas was seeing the look of shock on Shawn's grandmother's face upon realizing we were there. Our plane had arrived late Wednesday night and Virginia had gone to bed by the time that Michael had gotten us to his house. Shawn and I were up early the next morning, sharing a light breakfast and chatting with Kathy, when Kathy went off to get Virginia. They came out and the look on Virginia's face was precious. She was dumbfounded. She just stared at us for at least a full minute and Shawn said, "Hi, Gamma." Virginia continued to stare, not knowing what to say, not believing her eyes, thinking "This does not compute", and wondering what we were doing there as well as how did we get there. Shawn got up, went to her gamma and gave her a big long hug as she said, "Merry Christmas. We thought we'd come down and surprise you." Virginia hugged back tightly. The two embraced for at least a couple of minutes and when they parted, I could see a tear of joy in Virginia's eye. It was beautiful.

Michael and Kathy were great hosts. They were fun to be around. They both like to cook and Michael enjoys his drinks as well as his wine. The kids, Robbie and Grace, were well behaved, for the most part.

Thursday was spent hanging around the house and spending time with each other. We cooked and drank and talked a lot. We ended the evening around the fire pit in the back yard, but it was too windy, so the party died down fairly early. That was just as well as the real celebration and accompanying work was to begin the next day.

Friday, Shawn and I took the rental car Michael had generously gotten for us out to see Shawn's uncle, Tom. Tom is her stepfather's brother. He's a nice man who puts me to shame in the conversation department. He took us to lunch at a large Asian buffet place that had some good food. More important, we got to see Tom and catch up with him. Afterwards, we drove to the Desert Botanical Gardens, which are pretty cool. Shawn and I had each been there before, but not together. The place is filled with lovely and interesting species of cactus and aloe. It's a good place for a stroll. Bonus: we arrived with only an hour to go, so the admissions person let us in for half price! Kathy had invited us over to her parent's for dinner that evening, but we opted to spend a night out alone. So, I baked an apple pie and sent that with Kathy as a way of having some presence at her parents while Shawn and I went out to The Bamboo Club for dinner. We had been there before as well. It has a Pan-Asian menu and one killer Bloody Mary (made with Thai Chili sauce and hot Chinese mustard). When we got back, we helped Kathy out by wrapping the last of her presents for the kids and Michael.

Saturday was the big gift opening day. The kids were, of course, excited. Everyone got some nice gifts and all seemed pleased. Michael put me to work making breakfast and, with his assistance, I threw together a fritata and some toast. After breakfast, we did some prep work for dinner that night, then took Virginia for a walk, then I got humiliated by Robbie on his new X-Box games. Shortly before company arrived, we began pulling together dinner. Shawn made green beans cooked in white wine with almonds and mushrooms. I helped Michael with brining the salmon and putting it on his Texas smoker. Shawn and I through together an appetizer tray featuring cheeses and olives, smoked salmon, and - get this - smoked reindeer sausage. That last bit was Michael's contribution. It's a tad sacrilegious and I like that about him. The family arrived and we all shared a good time. I went out to the fire pit for a while, but I was sleepy and retired early, as did Shawn. The family was up until after 1AM.

Sunday, Michael had his oldest daughter and her family over. We had leftovers for breakfast (I got to taste my pie - it was good, but not as good as the apple crisp I made at home the prior week). Most of our meal was made up of leftovers, but one new thing we did was make tamales. I had never done that before, so I quite enjoyed it. Veggie and meat tamales were put together in assembly line fashion. They turned out pretty tasty. I'm going to have to make them at home sometime, now that I understand how to do them. It was another early evening for me. Shawn stayed up a little later, but she was having digestive problems, so she turned in early as well.

Our flight back was uneventful except for two things. First, our steward who read off the safety crap was pretty funny, though no one in the cabin seemed to notice except for Shawn and I. He said things like, "Pull the oxygen mask over your face and soon the nitrous oxide, I mean, oxygen, of course, will begin flowing." He was also quite helpful, pointing out as we got on the plane that the picture we were taking back (an old photo from the 50s of Shawn's grandfather training sled dogs outside of Anchorage, given to Shawn by Michael for Xmas) would fit in the portfolio compartment at the back of the plane. The second even was that our pilot flew us east and around Mount Rainier before landing. It was a bright, sunny, and clear day and the view was spectacular. I don't think I've ever flown in that way before. It was awesome. It was also a great feeling as I felt very much at home at that point.

When we got home, the cats were a bit skittish. Chaiyo was hiding behind some suitcases in our closet. We had to pull him out and show him that all was OK before he got back to "normal". The cats were out of food, which irked us, but all was well in the house. Two of my dear friends, John and Ellen, each had packages waiting for us when we arrived. We also had a book to read and a CD, so plenty to keep us occupied. Shawn clearly didn't want to do anything except sit and gel when we got back (she hinted about going out for dinner several times on the way home), so I threw together a pizza and a salad.

It was a good trip. Lots of sunshine, good food, and good company. We're lucky to have such thoughtful and nice folks such as Kathy and Michael in our lives.

Tuesday, December 21, 2004

Quick Hits

'Tis the season to listen to bad Xmas albums. I have a fascination with truly terrible music.

Speaking of music, a meeting in the mash-up world between The Beatles and The Beastie Boyz (calling it The Beastles) was bound to happen one day. And, it's not all that bad.

And, speaking of Xmas, here's a gallery of Santas and the kids they scare.

And, for some of those lonely men and women, here's a little holiday cheer: a video (Quicktime required) mixing music and erotica. Frankly, I find the music to be lame, but the video is, um, entertaining.

As of tomorrow, we're off to Phoenix for a few days. We'll be back in town on Monday afternoon. It's just a short trip to surprise Madame S's grandmother for Xmas. Merry Xmas, folks!

Friday, December 17, 2004

Time wasters

A few things that amused me yesterday:

For all of your villain needs, there's the Villain Supply Company.

For smokers of the UK persuasion or simply those with a sense of humor, there's FakeFags.

Got some extra time to waste? Why not watch these 30 videos. Very cool.

Oh, and for Ursula K. Le Guin fans, she trashes the SciFi Channel's "Earthsea" movie in a Slate magazine essay.

Monday, December 13, 2004

Desktop Search engines

Microsoft is set to release their desktop search engine this morning. This won't be the real release of the product (that will come next year), but Microsoft is feeling the heat from competitors and wants to show that they are in the mix. Google's beta release has been out for some time. Yahoo announced their search engine last week. Other brands, such as Copernicus have been around longer. Why am I not posting links to these products? For one thing, I haven't tried any of them out yet. Why? Because I have no pressing need. Sure, I've got 200GB of storage space on my PC, but I tend to organize things in such a way as I can generally find them. It's an anal habit of mine back from my days as an archivist. Hence, I find all of the current hoopla about desktop search engines to be rather puzzling. Is there a real need that people have for these things? Is this technology premature since the average person doesn't have large amounts of disk space yet and also doesn't record video on their PCs (also, yet)? Why are companies anxious to tout their technology for a product that they are giving away for free?

I must admit, I'm puzzled by this. It's a bit like which browser you use. There is no inherent monetary value in using one browser over another. The browser costs the user no money and, near as I can tell, brings in no revenue for the builders. I suspect that in part is why Microsoft let IE's capabilities slip and let other companies at first build shells on IE, then build competitors to it altogether.

Be that as it may, I will point out an open source desktop search engine does exist and it's called Beagle. I've not used it, but you should be aware of it when making a choice to download one of these products for whatever reason you might have for it.

Since I was just kicking around browsers and IE, and since regular readers are aware that I'm an advocate for browsers other than IE and use Firefox, let me point out that, according to Information Week, Penn State has sent an alert to faculty and students to drop IE for security concerns and switch to one of a number of other browsers. That's another 80,000 potentially lost customers for Microsoft. Not that it brings in any money...

Continuing on in Geekdom, are you stuck for what to get the geek in your life for Xmas? She already owns the latest games, has the mother of all boards, more RAM than Dodge ever dreamed of, and you're at wit's end because you want to avoid another gift certificate. No worries. Why don't you give her a gift that she can, and more importantly - will, wear: a t-shirt with outdated computer error messages.

Finally, this doesn't really belong in this series of posts, but anyone in geekdom should love the idea of a ramen noodles theme park.

Friday, December 10, 2004

Quick Hits

For a long time, I avoided supermarket "discount" or "club" cards. I didn't care that the only reason I could get the special price was through the "club", I'd just buy it somewhere else at a slightly higher price, but I'd have a greater sense of security and peace of mind. When we moved to Monroe, I finally broke down and got an Albertson's card. There were several reasons for my change of heart. First, Monroe has only 3 grocery stores and all of them are big chains: Fred Meyer's (Kroger), Safeway, and Albertsons. Secondly, of those 3, Albertsons is the only one with Northwest roots now that Kroger has bought Fred Meyer's. Third, and most important, I read the Albertsons legalese on applying for their card carefully. They do not share their data with anyone or for any reason (assuming that you're not smuggling bombs in your butternut squash, that is). Of course, this doesn't prevent Albertsons from buying data and coordinating it with the data they have on hand about you.

This turned out to be a slippery slope. Eventually, I got a Safeway card as well. The rationalization for this was that Safeway was teamed with Alaska airlines and I could get travel miles on my airline card by making purchases with Safeway. It's a lame reason, but it works for me.

Today, I read Bruce Shneier's piece on this same topic: sharing our data with corporations. He has some similar concerns and points to a book on the topic that he just read and recommends. I think that I'm going to have to pick up a copy of this for some light reading.

Here's a video of conservatives Anne Coulter and Tucker Carlson (on different programs) dissing Canada. Bastards. At least Tucker has his tongue firmly in his cheek. Coulter's an idiot. (requires QuickTime)

There's some good information on Firefox tips over at WindowsSecrets. I'll be tweaking my browser today with the help of the page.

One of the beauties of the internet is being able to see extraordinary things like someone who built a 7 foot grandfather clock from Legos. Excellent. Let this be an inspiration to one and all who view it.

Wednesday, December 08, 2004

Adding to the quick hits

All About My Vagina is featuring a music issue called Radio Vulva. It's worth looking at.

My Chistmas Name is: Smiley Snotty-Cheeks. What's yours?

Quick Hits

Some sites that are fascinating me today:

Ever want to know what the skeletal system of your favortie cartoon characters looks like? Now you can.

Knit a fuzzy, huggable uterus.

And, if you think I have too much time on my hands for reading those sites, here's a geek site that actually provides good info: Secrets of Firefox 1.0 has loads of good ideas, including how to deal with the memory leak issue.

Sunday, December 05, 2004

OK, one more

I love pin-up art. This site is da bomb.

tentatively dropping toe in water again

It's been a couple of weeks since I posted! My, how time flies. Sorry for the neglect, dear reader. I made a point of staying away from the computer during the Thanksgiving hollydaze and found it difficult to catch up. The hollydaze were fine. We had a house full of people who, for the most part, danced around each other's sore nerves. We actually ended up with 5 or 6 cooks in the kitchen and we worked well together. The meal was outstanding. Shawn made sweet potatoe rolls, cranberry sauce with Grand Marnier, and porcini stuffing that was to die for. John brined and baked the turkey. Shawn's mother, Debbie, did a LOT of prep work and made the mashed potatoes (using Yukon Gold potatoes) and the gravy from the turkey drippings. Kim, John's wife, did more prep work and helped out with dishes in the end. I made the pumpkin pies with brandy, the Asian pear mincemeat tart (which John and Kim kept saying was soooo, sweet while wolfing down helpings of it....note "helpingS"), a four grain pilaf (wild rice, brown rice, wheat berries, and pearlyy barley with dried cranberries and using a mushroom stock base), and the salmon. Oh, and I also made drinks, opened wine and poured all night.

Everyone enjoyed the meal and no one hesitated to dive back in the next morning. The next night, we made use of the leftover salmon by making salmon patties for dinner. SophiaKitty had brought us a gift basket of 5 different types of mushrooms from Whole Foods, so on Saturday, I put that to use as a base for my cream of mushroom soup. Sunday, I reduced some of the soup by half and used it as a pasta sauce on some fresh pasta.

The rest of the past week was a seeming blur. Lots to do, but no time to do it. It will suffice to add that we did get our IKEA tree, as usual, on Friday. And we had our traditional dinner at the Imperial Garden restaurant at the Great Wall Mall in Kent. We do this every year to wait out rush hour traffic, which is terrible in the area. Plus, it's a great excuse to enjoy some fantastic Chinese food - just top notch. On the way back, we forgot and left my car at Shawn's office.

Yesterday, we sat around and did a whole lot of nothing. It was wonderful. I did manage to throw together a breakfast and we went to Shawn's holiday party last night for work, but other than that...nothing. The holiday party was nice. We sat with Shawn's co-workers, Mische, Greta, Molly, and Molly's friend, Jonathon. Mische was wearing a dress (!) with a scarf and knee high boots. I leaned over to Greta and commented how the scarf and boots combo made the outfit and she was in total agreement. You could tell that Greta wanted to get home and tear the dress off of her woman that night. Jonathon and Molly were their usual charming and witty selves. The food set up was from 3 different regions: Middle Eastern, American, and Indian, so we got some good bites. The drinks were weak, though it was Bombay Saphire. The DJ, poor sap, tried out 70s disco at first and no one hit the floor. Then he tried a ballad and got a few dancers. Then he tried out a 60s tune and that cleared the floor. Finally, someone mentioned that he should play Usher and that packed the floor. Next, he played Outkast and created a more packed floor. It was interesting to see the best shaking going on to 2 African American rappers by the mostly 30 and 40 something crowd.

While we're on the subject of music, let me point you to a timely mix with a link by Culture Deluxe. Merry Mixmas is a DJ set, about 30 minutes in length, featuring versions of holiday tunes. It's done very well. The link above takes you to the mp3 at 192 kbps. While on Culture Deluxe's site, check out the Loo & Placido XFM Superchunk. I haven't finished listening to it, but the mash up of Hendrix, The Doors, and No Doubt (with a touch of Was (Not Was) thrown in) was very good.

That's it for now. I'll try to get back onto a regular track tomorrow. Today will be spent decorating the tree, replacing Shawn's headlamp (a pain in the ass, I assure you), and doing a few things around the house for the hollydaze.