Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Way too much excitement about good food

A Lebanese restaurant opened up a few weeks ago very near the school. Yesterday I was on my way back from a training session and I was going to swing by Arby's or somewhere in search of a chicken breast when I saw the Lebanese place and I did the fastest U-turn you've ever seen. I went in and ordered some chicken shawarma to go. While I waited, I was chatting with the owner. Apparently he got here from Lebanon about 20 years ago. I told him how excited I was to see the restaurant and how much the area needed something beyond Chinese and fast food. We also got to talking about languages and how hard it is to keep up with a language you just don't use much (I do still wish I could pick back up on my Arabic studies someday!). Anyway, I got back to the school just in time to teach my last class of the day, so the shawarma had to wait a little while, but when I finally got to it it was fantastic. The best was the hummus--I've been eating stuff out of the refrigerator section for so long (and that's not horrid) that I really had forgotten how great a fresh batch can taste.

The thing I'm most excited about is that going into state testing season, I have a restaurant like this so close that I can call and order something to run pick up after school before my all-nighters so maybe I won't have to subsist on fast food and granola bars for two months starting in mid-April. There is a Santa Claus!

Anyway, since I'm food blogging at the moment, I might as well fess up that here it is, 12:15 am, and I am currently prepping pork roast for the crock pot. I decided to try my Chinese/Indian Pork Chops in slow roasted form, i.e. not hacked into chops but rather kept more like roasts and pre-browned in a sauté pan then thrown into the slow cooker. I'm doing that with about half of the pork loin; I'm still trying to figure out how I want to cook the other half--traditional rosemary and garlic, or maybe curry? I don't know what I'm in the mood for. And let's face it. If I were really in the mood for any kind of roast pork at this time of night, that might be a sign of trouble. Anyway. Some version of the rosemary theme will probably win. Maybe cooked with some lemon teabags? Who knows.

Today the coolest package arrived from Amazon. Last week I read about and instantly purchased The Silver Spoon - an Italian cookbook translated into English (with American measurements and suggestions for American ingredient equivalents--sounds lame, why don't I just get a cookbook in Italian, but really, this will be much more usable). The whole thing is just a testament to how bipolar Italian cooking is--either it is simple, and absolutely beautiful and flavorful in its simplicity, or it is complex and (dare I say?) weird, and (even?) overdone. Thankfully, most of it falls in the simplicity category.

Last word on food for the evening: If you haven't yet, and if you're the least bit interested in history and food, a must-read is Salt: A World History. One of the top three books, and certainly the funnest, of the books I read last year. The book even prompted me to buy a can of herring. Not that I have dared to open it yet. But it sits there, waiting for me to engage in the miracle that is tinned herring in salt...

Yeah. It's late. I'll shut up now. Good night.

Sunday, February 24, 2008

Annual Oscar Post

Oh, the Oscars.

Here is the menu for the Oscar party that Amilynne and I are not throwing, as we live on opposite sides of the country:

Appetizer: 7-layer Tex Mex dip (No Country for Old Men)
Drinks: Sunny Delight and Blue Slurpees (Juno)
Main dish: Beef Wellington (Atonement)
Side: Baguettes. Or anti-depressants. (Michael Clayton)
......You come up with something for Michael Clayton. Yeah. Nothing? Right.

Dessert: Blood Orange Sorbet (There Will Be Blood)

And maybe some homemade sausage for Sweeny Todd, just because that's fun.

Amilynne has seen all of the nominees for best picture. I have only seen Michael Clayton. Amilynne predicts that No Country for Old Men will win. I predict that Michael Clayton won't.

So far they have only performed one musical number, from Enchanted. It hurt. Bad. Amilynne predicts that if we really fall into a severe recession, we will see more musical numbers as integral parts of movies. It has something to do with the 1930's and Little Orphan Annie and well-fed people not putting up with such a lapse from reality. If that isn't a good enough reason to strengthen the economy, I don't know what is.

And yes, I continue to be happy that John Stewart is hosting. Enjoy the show.

p.s.-- Oscar's Tribute to Binoculars and Periscopes. 'Nuff said.

Update: Go Ami! She definitely won the Oscars pool this year. I think the only one she guessed wrong was supporting actress, because all Oscars should go to Cate Blanchett. Or Helen Miren. There should really just be a big show where they give each other Oscars. That would be nice.

Saturday, February 23, 2008

No eres mujer. Eres hombre.

So I've found this fun new site, It's a free language learning site. So far they only offer Spanish, French, German, English, Hindi, and Mandarin, so I am working on my Spanish. And I just had to practice the phrase "No eres mujer. Eres hombre." (You're not a woman. You're a man.)

I don't even want to picture the scene in my future where I actually need to use that phrase. It sounds so telenovela. You kind of even have to say it with a little shake of your head, leaning forward, touching his arm: "No eres mujer." Now, with conviction, and a coy straightening of the back: "Eres hombre." Growl.

Monday, February 18, 2008

Needed: The Next Great Development

There needs to be an audio Google just like there's a Google for typed words. Here's the deal.

As I have said before, I've been spending way too much time ripping CDs to digital. Fun and games, except that there are some mix discs that I've gotten my hands on to which I don't know the names of all of the songs. So I'll play the disc and type a google search for the lyrics as fast as I can type.

This was especially a problem when it came time to rip the Jerry the Vegan disc. Jerry the Vegan is one of Amilynne's old Starbucks customers. He made the Jerry the Vegan mix for them to play at work. The Jerry the Vegan disc is pretty cool, but it contains a lot of music that I have only ever heard on the Jerry the Vegan disc. So I developed my Google search tactic, paired with some intuitive Yahoo Jukebox work, to find the songs. Then I got to my favorite song on the disc and there just aren't enough lyrics to Google it. It's an astronaut drifting away on a spacewalk watching the sun light up the horizon of the Earth and the majority of the song (besides the dialogue to mission control) is "Beautiful! Beautiful! Beautiful! Just Beautiful!" It's the BEST song, but I have no idea of its real name nor of the person/group who made it. Repeat today - I'm ripping a mix disc from Frank, and there was an instrumental jazz piece that everyone would know if they heard it, but who knows its name?

So what is needed is a Google where I can upload the song and it tells me what it is. Verizon has a thing like that on some of its phones, but I don't use Verizon. What to do? It's really not worth changing phone companies over.

Sunday, February 17, 2008

Basia Bulat and the Return of the Headphones

One of the toys I saved my babysitting money for when I was in seventh grade was a Walkman. It took a long time to amass the $33. I read the sales ads every week hoping for a break. Finally, the day came and I had my very own portable music device and it was the toy I was destined to own. As long as I could afford batteries, the Walkman gave me the freedom to listen to music anywhere. Some of the bands I remember listening to specifically on the Walkman in the early days are Bon Jovi (riding across the Nevada desert on the way home from California), Glass Tiger, and Europe. The summer after 7th grade my cousin came to visit and brought with her Sting's Dream of the Blue Turtles. She went to bed and I stayed up listening to it a couple of times. It was a revelation. The next year this guy named Ryan who rode the same bus as me loaned me his Art of Noise tape (In Invisible Silence) and I listened to that on the Walkman a lot, especially since it wasn't necessarily music to Amilynne's ears. (I just got a copy of it on CD, and since it's out of print and not something everyone is looking for it cost about as much as that first Walkman...) When my 9th grade art class kept me up all hours painting, it was Def Leppard, always on the headphones. I remember working on notecards for debate my junior year and in the midst of my cutting and pasting snipping through the cord of the headphones I was plugged in to. I might have been on my second Walkman by then.

With college, music became more social. Why hide in headphones when your roommates were up and everyone wanted to listen along? CDs made it harder to do headphones too--yes, there were portable CD players, I went through several, but they were prone to skipping no matter how well they claimed to be engineered.

Now the MP3s. And I finally joined the ranks of people with an MP3 player. One would think I would have been a little bit earlier of an adapter, but there were things to get into place first--a computer that could handle the volume of music I would need to have available (and the external hard drive because the computers just weren't doing a good job of keeping up). Plus the reality of every day life and the fact that it just wasn't a priority. So the long and short is that now I'm back to running around with music attached, and it brings me to the point of all of this:

There are only two ways to listen to music. One is in the car, and the other is on headphones. I spent some time this summer setting up speakers so that the music on the computer would pump from the den to the kitchen, and I do enjoy that. But the reality is that only in the car and even more so on the headphones are all of the layers balanced to create the music as it should be. And hooray for the MP3 player for bringing me back to all that.

So much so that I just yanked the speakers out of the headphone jack on the computer and put the headphones in. Yesterday I downloaded Basia Bulat's debut album and it is AWESOME, forgive me for saying it like that, but it just is. I've listened to it four or five times, but I just wanted to really hear it, and for that, headphones were the only solution. Hooray! The music just crystallizes differently when the stereo space is your frontal lobe.

So if you would like to try Basia Bulat, her myspace page is here, and you can download some of her songs, and I really suggest In the Night and Little Waltz, and all the rest, maybe you'd want to get the whole thing somewhere, but I'm telling you, you won't really hear it until you plug it the headphones.

Saturday, February 16, 2008

How to keep busy

Today I finished ripping the music from another of my books of CDs. What a geek! you say, and I'm sure I am. But I want my music digitized, and I have a nice collection of music, so I've been working on this since July or so, off and on, when I have time, and today I finished another book, so I figure I'm a little more than halfway done. Or maybe just halfway.

The other part of this project is scanning photos. That's the real chore--it makes ripping discs a cakewalk. Not the least reason of which because the scanner is buried under paper and other things. So that part of the project is momentarily on hold.

Here is how else to keep busy. I made this for Amilynne as a preview for our trip this summer. Yes, it's amateurish, yes, it's not at all cool like a computer savvy friend might be able to make, but here it is for your own joy.

Another way to stay busy is to finish the set of cities we will be visiting. Venezia took a large chunk of Christmas break to do. We'll have to see about the other parts.

Friday, February 15, 2008

Cheese Crab

Here's the Cheese Crab video. testing, testing.

if this works, it will only be available for about 2 months. we'll see.

I'm playing with a new toy--Jing. This bit of video is short and it takes forever to load to play. Flash 9 required. I'm not keen on the timing, but I'm having fun and working out some applications to apply this to school.

Anyway. Isn't that fun and games. And in the mean time, hopefully they will have some new Pushing Daisies episodes by the time my free hosting for this clip of Olive Snook expires. Cheers.