Sunday, December 31, 2006

It Seems Self Evident
But it must be said: Happy New Year to you. And you. And you. And those people standing over there to your left.
I haven't given much thought to the blog lately but I hope to spin up the FTL drive in '07. It looks like a busy year so that could mean either more blogging or a lot less. As Fats Waller would say, "One never knows, do one?"
And it's never too early to contemplate resolutions (what? a day before? -Ed.). Resolution #1: Shut Ed. up permanently. Heh heh heh!
Actually, I have a resolution suggestion to those who may be receptive. It's so easy to complain about things in life, and you're often given good reason to do so. But there are people out there who do the right thing like give good service in high "public contact" job. I resolve, and ask that you consider doing the same, to make the extra effort to praise good service. Case in point: the drive-up teller at my local bank is consistently cheerful, friendly and efficient. So I wrote a letter to the bank manager praising her work. I've worked in a bank and I know how rare it is for someone to make their positive feelings known other than perhaps a "thank you" to the teller at the time of service.
I am going to do my best in the New Year to identify and explicitly praise people. If it's going to a store manager and telling him that a clerk gave me good service or writing a letter (the better option), I am going to do so at least once a month. I think it's a good thing to do.

Thursday, December 28, 2006

Sundry Intarwebnet Ramblings
I completely sucked at this album cover art quiz. 14 out of 54. If someone wants to fill me in, I'm all ears.
Next, modding weirdness: guitar amps in toasters. Yep, toasters. I'm starting to think that rider's not coming on a pale horse. Download the mp3 of the hoofbeats of perdition at (Yes, that web address does exist - and really, don't waste your time unless you are ... just don't waste your time.)
I'll Be Damned
File this under "trying new things." I sliced open the tip of my right index finger a day ago (think paper cut deep) and slapped an adhesive bandage on it. Wrapped around my finger as it were. But the bandage wasn't shower proof and as is the Tao of Paper Cuts, the skin gapped open. Even though there's little blood, it was a painful little cuss and damnably inconvenient. So how to deal with it? I didn't want another bandage because a bandage on such a used fingertip deadens touch. I was putting together my 5-guitar stand and kept dropping the farging Allen wrench.
An of course the solution hits me as I'm sitting at my desk: cyanoacrylate. Crazy glue. A few fine drops in the slit, press the skin together for a moment and I am good to go. It does still hurt but the wound is closed and I get to use the fingertip without loss of sensation. I do believe I'm going to use this for wound closure more often.

Tuesday, December 26, 2006

Great Stuff
Lycurgus mined my Amazon wish list for Christmas presents and still managed to surprise me. I'm now using an Apple wireless "Mighty Mouse." Sweet. I can scroll through web pages again! Not to mention having more buttons (the scroll ball acts as a button which I have mapped to invoke my widgets) than a giraffe's business shirt. This was unexpected and hugely appreciated since the sole plate on my wireless regular mouse had developed problems. The little slider switch that shuts off the mouse light slides on thin plastic rails and mine was, dare I say it, off the rails. Hmm. I dare say it. I'll see if I Apple sells replacement parts for mice so I can have it as a spare against the day my Mighty Mouse meets its cartoon nemesis.
Other good things: a cart for my gas grill, an adapter for said grill that will allow me to run it off a full-sized propane tank. (rubbing hands together) EXcellent! And the iPlayMusic lessons. The Enigmatic Misanthropes gave me one of the most delicious things made in this hemisphere: a Tortuga rum cake. I'm proud to say that I didn't breach the goodie until Christmas itself. But I fear for its longevity.
One final thing about Christmas eats: making whipped cream is just sick easy with the whisk attachment of a stick blender. I will never buy a can of the reddi again.

Monday, December 25, 2006

Merry Christmas!
God bless us, every one.
I am happy to report that the great cook up was not a great cock up. The roast was not perfectly done but the outer slabs were consumed with gusto. I can also say with assurance that Costco is a great place to buy a prime rib roast. Wil, my next one gets treated right, promise!
Secondly, the chocolate pots de creme were so rich and heavy with bittersweet chocolate that I dare even the deepest chocoholic to eat more than one ramekin of this pure delight. The dollop of whipped cream was a welcome counterpoint to the thick, silky chocolate. The cauliflower was not roasted as there was too much food by that point. The French onion tart turned out well but not perfectly. The crust should have been thinner and baked a wee bit less. But delicious. Oh my. The sweetness of the onion filling was startling. And finally, the Cook's Illustrated take on the traditional green bean casserole was a revelation. Like seeing a girl you knew in junior high turn into a passing gorgeous woman in high school. The essence of the goodness is to use fresh green beans, boiled "tender crsip" and to make the sauce with fresh mushroom chunks. If it's desired, I'll rip off the folks who put the magazine out and post the recipe here.
Plus I got lots of cool swag. But now, Renee Fleming is singing on PBS. I must go.

Saturday, December 23, 2006

Christmas Eats
I'm having a friend over for Christmas Eve dinner. Her birthday is early in December and I offered to have to dinner which turned out, due to our incompatible schedules, to be a dinner on the Eve. I decided that I had to actually cook for a change if I'm going to change my habits in the new year and stick to good, home-cooked meals instead of relying, as I do, far too much on the easily available modern foods, either "fast" or "prepared."
So the menu, as it stands, with much cooking to do is as follows: a cheat on the appetizers - Costco frozen oriental "Dim Sum" shrimp-filled treats with dipping sauce, salad (another cheat - I buy bagged salad greens), the "Cooks Illustrated" version of the famous green bean casserole, roasted cauliflower, prime rib roast (stuck with garlic cloves and draped while cooking with bacon), French onion tart (again from "Cooks") and for afters pomegranate sorbet and chocolate pots de creme.
If things turn out even halfway decently, I'll take some snaps. But my point in posting all this is to lead to the question: Do you have any Christmas Day or Christmas Eve traditional eats? Leave me a comment. I'll go into what my family traditionally did for Christmas Day in a future post.

Friday, December 22, 2006

Horrible, Horrible Morning
One day after I do well in getting up, I have an absolutely abysmal night's sleep and can't get going to save my fool life. Why, oh why is the human designed that a raging headache can set in in the deadest heart of night for no discernible reason? And it's not like it's gone away by now either. My morning coffee awaits me and I am sullen and unproductive. Merry frinkling Christmas, yeah, you bet.
Oh argh. I have much to do today so this malaise had better hit the road.
However, for your Christmas pleasure, I present YouTube videos: Mariah Carey looking cute as can be all done up as Ronnie Spector singing "All I Want For Christmas Is You" and the late, great Karen Carpenter singing "Merry Christmas, Darling." There is good in the world. Enjoy.

Thursday, December 21, 2006

The Old Learning Curve
So I'm plucking through the 16 bars of "Ode to Joy" that one of my instruction books has as a two-string exercise and something just doesn't sound quite right on Peg. First thing I find is that I'm not playing the string consistently at the bottom of the fret which has an effect on the sound. I test the tuning and that's good. Then I realize, I'm resting my hand against the trem bridge. The PRS trem bridge is so amazingly sensitive that I can actually get a tremelo just by pressing the base of the bridge with the heel of my hand. I've bent the notes without intending to.
That alone is not shocking - the PRS trem bridge is a beautiful piece of engineering. But the fact that I now hear the difference is just stunning. My ear is actually getting better. Next year, there will be Christmas music being made in my place, not just played.
OK, I Get It
I'm talking to myself here.

My good friend the guitar nazi got himself a new guitar today. It's nice. But mine is prettier. Even he would agree with that. But he can make his do things I can only imagine. So game, set and match to him. The "Woot!" however, is not for him. It's for me. I got my Christmas gift from him and it's a five-guitar stand! Sweet. Now I'll have to get one more to fill out the stand. And maybe another if I loan one of mine out for a while.... Just kiddin' witcha. I have no more guitaritorrial ambitions.

Wakey, Wakey Eggs & Bakey
I'm not very good about getting up in the ayem. Being of an idle class and, as many would say, an idle disposition, I don't have that invisible hand pushing me out of the sack in the early dark. I greatly respect those who rise and shine. My late mother was an insanely early riser. She'd be up at 4am on many a day. And I doubt she was in bed at 6am save for illness.
Yet I have my alarm set for 6am even though the snooze button gets a good work out. Still, I routinely wake up in the five minutes before 6am so I'm not asleep when the alarm does crawl up to volume (a wonderful trait of the Bose Wave Radio, by the way). It's in these minutes at the margin of sleep and wakefulness that words swim into my mind like "Corn Belt" and "congealed carry permit." I wish I understood what was going on in this free-floating hypnopompia but that is something too elusive of understanding. So I've decided to change.
I'm now going to make every effort to take the time I wake on my own as the time I get up. Thus, early posting. Perhaps more bad puns. And I'll have the newspaper read before fargin' noon. It's never too early for a resolution.

Christmas Music
I am no fan of Mariah Carey, melismatic sludge is no way t treat good music. However, her song "All I Want For Christmas Is You" which I suppose can be called a hit of sorts, is wonderful. She shows her vocal talent (and as much as I am not a fan, I will readily admit that the girl can sing) in a bouncy, rollicking tune with some great touches like the almost Jerry Lee Lewisish piano as it comes in. I'd never buy the entire CD but I'm quite happy to add the song to my Christmas playlist.

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Things I Like About iTunes
In the continuing series: Automatic importing of album cover art when ripping from a CD. It's a lot like the Gracenote CDDB providing all the track info automatically when one inserts a CD and the computer running iTunes in online. Simple bottom line: both features make my life easier and save me maybe five minutes of typing and cover art grabbing per CD. Thanks Apple.

Even I Groan At This One
Why does America have a Corn Belt in the Midwest?
To keep its plants up.

Monday, December 18, 2006

I Got Your SNL Sketch Idea Right Here
Not that I knew it before reading my favorite celebrity-bashing site but it seems that Miss USA is named Tara Connor. According to the New York Daily News, she's been a Bizzy Miss Missy:
Miss USA Tara Conner is on the verge of losing her crown after testing positive for cocaine, lustily kissing Miss Teen USA in public and sneaking men into their Trump Place apartment, sources tell the Daily News.

"Tara was a party animal," said a source who knows Conner, 20, and Miss Teen USA Katie Blair, 18, from some of the city's top nightspots. "I've seen them kiss before. They always dance all sexy on the tables. ... They definitely get close."

I also learned that the Miss USA pageant is run by Donald Trump who, it seems is terminating the reign of the party grrrl. Hmmm. Tara Connor. Terminating. Hmmm.
So here we go: Darrel Hammond as the Terminator robot which has the exterior features of The Donald. "I have come from the future to terminate Tara Connor. You're fired." Pure comedy gold. This stuff almost writes itself and I'll put money on SNL not using this brilliant idea.

Sunday, December 17, 2006

Reality TV
I used to watch "Survivor." Then I realized that I watched because I hated the contestants so much that all I really wanted to see was their silly asses getting voted off. Though I was always impressed with the good work the production team did on set design. I only post about the current season to say that I finally broke my string. I've not watched a single episode of the show this time around. And I know now that I'll never watch it again. To hell with them all.
On the other hand, I'm now totally addicted to Sci-Fi's new"Battlestar Galactica." There are a lot of troubling aspects to the logic of it but what the hey. Great casting, very good writing and superb EFX. And I thank Netflix for letting catch up on what I missed. There is a richness to life available to us in digital media that's just stunning compared to what we had back in the old Big Three Network days. Yes, yes, we've lost some things as well. But that's a story for another day.
And another thing - the Ellen Degeneres AmEx commercials with the animals are great. Very cute, very funny. The Ellen ads without the animals ... not so much.

Thursday, December 14, 2006

Banning Trans Fats
Now that the solons of New York City have seen fit to ban trans fats, can Gothamites apply for Congealed Carry Permits?

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Another Plus For the Intrawebnet
A Google image search provides the biggest selection of clip art in human history. Unnh, I mean EVAR!

There Is No End To Christmas Pugs
This example comes from the AAA. But how dare they suggest that someone wouldn't want a pug for Christmas? Please!

Monday, December 11, 2006

Finding Christmas
I live alone. Family is distant, friends abound but don't share the living space of course. Offspring have never sprung off so I've developed a life that runs to suit myself and no other. Which is all well and good until something like Christmas comes along. Last year I recall that I wrote it just didn't seem like Christmas. This year I'm setting out to change that. I listen relentlessly to my "Christmas" iTunes playlist (now up to 93 songs which plays for over five straight hours) and I'm doing the decorations. The wreath is already hung, though not yet jazzed up, and the tabletop tree is cooling in the garage awaiting its setup.
The problem has been that I have a box of Christmas stuff from the tree stand to ornaments to a string of battery-powered LED lights for the wreath and I have been unable to find that box. Yesterday was finally gut-check day. I even crawled into the under-stair storage area to look for the box. Just could not find it. Finally I pulled a box marked "Christmas" out of a corner and yanked it open to find ... kitchenware. Hunh? Then it hit me. I had originally packed that box with Christmas until I had too much of holiday stuff to fit. So I used an inexpensive plastic footlocker to repack all the Christmas goodies. D'oh! The footlocker has been sitting in the garage, easily accessible all this time.
So now the Box o' Cheer is all wiped off of car hole grit and sitting in the living room and today the tree goes up and the decoration begins. I've added Hallmark's "Santas of the World" miniature set as my ornament purchase this year. I'd like to get a string of miniature bubble lights if such a thing exists. Having grown up with bubble lights, I find that they just define Christmas tree decoration for me. If anyone cares to weigh in with favorite ornaments or ornament types, I'd love to hear it.
I also must tip my hat to my former mother-in-law "Yuletide Carole." A woman of rare artistic ability who did Christmas like no one else. A collection of Nativity scenes practically had to fight for space in the house with the several highly-decorated trees. That's right, I said "several." She is a Christmas Goddess. I have never before seen a tree like hers that has so many Hallmark "Sound and Motion" ornaments (which plug into light strings to power all sorts of little scenes) that the lights at the top of the tree are dimmed due to the 'lectricity load on the light strand.

Random Rudeness
As I was in the checkout lane of my local supermarket, I looked at the serried ranks of gums and candies among which was "Bubblicious." Of course my mind made this "Bubbalicious" which then struck as the Jeopardy answer to the question "How does Monica Lewinsky describe Bill Clinton?"

Sunday, December 10, 2006

We'll Have Pugs For Christmas
The XMBD NMSE sent me a picture which just cries out to be shared. I'll let her do all the heavy lifting:
The Snack Pack meets Santa! Chaos ensues!
Front row: Allie (95% blind), Spike (95% blind, 100% deaf), Chino (98% goofy), Panda (110% willful), Fred (100% deaf).
Back row: Santa (100% exhausted).
As ever, click image for a bigger view. I'll have to post a pic the Spikerman as a bebe. He was so key-yoot!

Recent Movie Rentals
I watched the new Superman movie but a few days ago. What an egregious piece of crap. Brandon Routh as Superman is good but the movie as whole ... let me rephrase that: The movie as a hole. Don't pour your good money into that hole.
On the other hand the new Pirates of the Carib movie is flat out fantastic. Bill Nighy (with whose work you should be familiar - the first Underworld movie, "Love, Actually") as Davy Jones is superb and the sea creature/sailor creations are brilliant. Strangely, Keira Knightley, whom I usually adore, is startlingly uninteresting in this iteration. As is Orlando Bloom. But Johnny Depp is the consummate pirate. This movie is ownably good. I'll have to wait for Netflix to offer it for sale.

This May Be It
I was considering the XMBD NMSE's suggestion that my new guitar's quilted top looks like malachite. That's not an inaccurate observation. It got me to thinking of what connections I've had to malachite in my life. The salient thing in my memory was a ring my mother had and loved. And it hit me. The guitar is now "Peg" after my late mother. I will play it in memory of her. If, at some point in the future, she tells me that her name is really something else, I will call her by that name. But now she is Peg.

Friday, December 08, 2006

Guitars In Bonds

Well, OK, just one. And the guitar is only striped by the mullion shadows. I will take a better pic than this, given time. But I figured (deeply, richly figured as in quilted maple wood) that it was time to post a picture of the body of this beauty. Still no name has presented itself to me. That'll come in time I suppose.
Pretty innit?

Thursday, December 07, 2006

A Better Shot
Here's the head of the new guitar in bright morning light. I'm about to overuse the phrase "Pretty innit?" but I wanted to show off the inlaid Paua (or Rainbow abalone) shell signature. And the rosewood headstock overlay.
Personally speaking, I love the shape of the PRS headstock - distinctive and practical at the same time. The layout of the pegs allows the strings to stay straighter and thus remain in tune better. Day-um but these are good guitars!

Christmas Music
I got the "A Charlie Brown Christmas" disc in the mail today and I'm glad I did. It is delightful. And just silly cheap from Amazon- $4.99. What is not to like?

Slightly Better

I pulled the new guitar into the morning sun streaming through my window and took a couple of shots. Here I give you the fretboard with the "birds in flight" inlay. My picture still doesn't do it justice but I'll get a really good shot of it one of these days. And, of course, you can see a snip of the quilt top at the lower left of the picture. Pretty, innit?
Click the picture for a bigger view.

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

I Was Hoping It Was A Compliment
Someone told me today that I have "movie star looks." I was happy until I realized the movie to which he was referring.

How To Spend Five Glorious Minutes
Listen to Cecilia Bartoli and Bryn Terfel sing Rossini. I understand this is on DVD. Which I'm going to have to get. My God, Bartoli is wonderful to listen to.

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

Decidedly The Last Pepper Post Of The Year
Here's a pic of the remaining production of jellies from the big pile o' peppers I posted about a month ago. I've handed out a few jars here and there. The picture shows 11 1/2 pint jars of cranberry jalapeno, 7 pint jars of jalapeno pepper, 22 1/2 pint jars of jalapeno pepper, 3 hexagonal jars of between 1/2 and 1 pint (again, jalapeno pepper jelly) and one glass jar of somewhat more than a pint of, yes, jalapeno pepper jelly.
And I'm done.
I've tried the jalapeno pepper jelly and I like it but I have to say that the cranberry jelly is even better - think of your regular cranberry jelly with a nice warm capsicum glow. Depending on what peppers I grow next year, I may go for the cranberry jelly. You'll not hear any more about the deck farm until next year's production begins to ramp up.

Monday, December 04, 2006

Oh Bugger

I'm always looking for devices that make housecleaning easier. I've had a Dirt Devil broom vac for a while but it was starting to show its age. So I bought one of the new ones - more stylish, more powerful, what's not to like? I'll tell you what. The old one had a bracket that let me mount the thing on the wall with the charger plug set so that mounting the vac in the bracket connected the charger. The new one doesn't have a wall bracket. Grrr. I'll probably have to roll my own.
And another thing. Illiteracy. Illiteracy on the front (left) and illiteracy on the back (below).

Sunday, December 03, 2006

First Look

Here is a fairly poor shot of the head of my new guitar. Yes, it is a crappy shot but I wanted to get the inlaid signature, the 20th anniversary logo on the truss rod cover, the PRS locking tuners and the gold tuning hardware all on the record. Just a taste, something to whet your appetite for when I take good pictures of it. I made the mistake of taking the picture after dark when I had to rely on artificial light. And flash. The flash on my ol' digicam really just blows out the photos I take. I'll take daylight pix in the next day or so. That's the Swamp Ash Special in the background.
Now, I must tune that beauty up and strum a bit.
Gifting Season Begins

The XMBD NMSE was a gift-wrapping fool. And I mean in the non-pejorative, praising way. In point of fact, I have never known anyone in my life who was as good at gift wrapping, bar none. I learned a little bit and have been pretty good with the paper for a while now. This Christmas, though, I'm going to try to improve my bow-building skills. I never expect to have "mad bow-bilding skillz" but I don't want to look like a noob. So I bought some wire-edged ribbon. I wanted something other than black but my main roll of Christmas paper this year is pretty light so I opted for the black after all. Here's my first try. What say you?

Saturday, December 02, 2006

I Like This

Looks Pretty Cool To Me I might have to access this for my moosical development. I've got to be able to actually play a song by February. Hunh? No. No reason. Just thought I'd pick an arbitrary month.
Also I'll be unlimbering the digicam tomorrow to snap the new guitar, the great assemblage of jelly jars and something on a package that fries my BVDs. Pictures - easier blogging than actually writing something.