Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Point Me in the Direction of Albuquerque

I'm not going to turn this into yet another weight-loss blog, but I just wanted to say that after trying every diet known to woman I've decided to give the Weight Watchers "Points" Flex Plan a try. It seems (after three days) to fit in well with my home-cookin', processed-food avoidin', nifty online software lovin' self. Any diet that allows me to eat the leftovers from last Saturday's party while also making sure I get my 5-a-day-fruits-and-veggies can't be all bad. Note that I consider open bottles of wine to be legitimate leftovers!

Moving on to the title of this post...when I was a small child in the 70's I used to love watching "The Partridge Family." The first non-little-kids "Mother Goose" type record album I ever had was the Partridge Family's first album. I bought a CD copy of it a while ago and believe it or not it still sounds pretty good. In that super sweet happy kind of way. I'm amazed that something I liked when I was about five is still with me now.

Sunday, February 24, 2008

Benihana with a Dishwasher

Since last week's actual birthday didn't work out so well for me, I tried again last night with a full-on cocktail bash. It was a load of fun! I love to cook and entertain, I like planning, shopping, setting up, and most of all seeing people have a good time.

Trying to revive the old-school cocktail party is becoming a hobby of mine. In days of yore, people would have early-evening parties where friends would drop by for a drink and some nibbles. This party was beyond that -- after all, it was for my birthday, but it did adhere to some of the classic formula: early start and end early(ish) (6pm-10pm), drinks, tasty bites.

The featured drinks were "martinis," which I put in quotes because a true martini drinker would laugh at these, but people liked them and they appropriately lubricated the crowd. As one guest said, "I don't want to feel like I'm drinking."

Pomegranate Martini
1 part pomegranate juice
1 part lemon or citron vodka
1 part triple sec
shake with lots of ice

Thai Chili Martini
1 part pineapple juice
1 part lemon-lychee vodka
1/2 part triple sec
cut a Thai chili in half and crush it slightly
drop the chili in the martini shaker with the other ingredients
shake with lots of ice

The nibbles were great, but I think I was too ambitious with the menu and I had to have Shawnd'rae, Ava, and Susie save me by helping in the kitchen. I really like hot hors d'oveurs that are passed around, and so made crostini with white bean puree', mini beef satay with peanut sauce, and deviled eggs.

After burning myself with a slick baking sheet that slid out of the oven onto my hand, Shawnd'rae, took over with making the crostini. Susie, bless her heart, showed up with a tray full of oysters wrapped in bacon that she broiled up and then passed. As the scent of bacon wafted across my loft, Matt suddenly perked up from the middle of whatever conversation he was in and loudly announced "BACON!" I think there might have been a cheer after that. Anyway, the bacon 'n' oysters were wolfed down by a grateful crowd. When Ava arrived I drafted her into deviling the eggs, and those too were quickly snapped up.

At one point the four of us were working in my tiny kitchen, joined by Mary who was standing in front of my dishwasher warming herself by the steam escaping during the dry cycle. We were running low on plates and martini glasses, so I collected up all the dirties and decided to run the dishwasher. The dishwasher had to be unloaded first, and as I was pulling items out and shifting around my other helpers to put them away, Mary marveled at the speed and deftness with which I was maneuvering, and remarked "Look at this, it's like Benihana with a dishwasher!"

I've gotten the idea that it might be nice to try out the real old-school cocktail hour, which would mean a weeknight party going from like 6-7pm. My plan is to try it on a Thursday or Friday in the Summer, when people are kind of in a "oh screw it" mood about work. Ideally I'd like to do this from 5:30-7:30, to encourage people to get the heck out of the office and have some fun.

Monday, February 18, 2008

Swing it, Brother, Swing

I have other hobbies than playing with my laptop. In fact, I don't even consider the laptop a hobby, but rather a necessary life tool. I packed it up (it, plus my carry bag, plus the external superdrive, plus the power supply and Ethernet adapter weighed half a pound less than my old PowerBook by itself) and took it down to Irvine, California, for a ballroom dancing competition.

I've been dancing and competing for over 10 years now. For the past two years I've been dancing in Teacher-Student (called "Pro/Am") competitions. This weekend was a good one for me, I showed a lot of improvement in my dancing and most of all I had an absolute blast!

We're dancing five dances. First is Waltz, characterized by a sort of pulsing up-and-down swinging action, using the 3/4 time of the music. Next is Tango, which shows fast staccato movements interspersed with slow cat-like stalking movements. Third is my favorite, the Viennese Waltz. It also uses 3/4 time music, but since it is so much faster than the "regular" Waltz, people dance it in a very pure form without much in the way of fancy steps or choreography. The fourth dance is Foxtrot, which shows a smooth linear gliding action, and is danced to 4/4 time music. The final dance is Quickstep, which movement-wise is a bit of a mixture of the Waltz and Foxtrot, and includes skips and hops, and is danced to fast swing music.

Thursday, February 14, 2008

My Furry Valentines

Although today is not necessarily the happiest day for the heartbroken, it's not so awful to wake up with two cats purring alongside. Meet my funny, furry, Valentines:

Cece is almost 18 years old, and enjoys drinking water out of a running faucet and sleeping in the sun.

Millie, nearly 6, likes curling up in sinks, bounding up stairs two at a time, and stalking Cece.

I feel like such a cliche', being a middle-aged single woman with cats. I love my pets, though, and they're sweet to me, so what more can I say?

The migration to my MacBook Air is complete, and I must say that I didn't exactly realize how many gig of photos I had on the old PowerBook. Out of an 80 gig hard drive, I have but 25 gig left. That might sound like a decent amount of available space, but not if I'm going to be using this thing for the next five years. I'm going to have to archive sections of my photo albums to DVD.

Another complaint that was raised against the Mac Book Air was that it wasn't "fast enough." I guess that all depends on what one is using it for. It has a 1.6GHz clock speed, which is twice as fast as my old PowerBook. While this isn't blazing fast, it's not bad, and I definitely have noticed how much faster pictures load in iPhoto, and how much faster web pages with lots of images come up. So count another point of satisfaction with my new laptop.

The keyboard is taking a little getting used to, though. It feels to me like the keys are spaced slightly further apart than on the PowerBook G4, so my typing right now is a bit slower and a bit less accurate while I adjust. The feel of the keys is fine, though, no complaints there. I also think the design of the keyboard is better in that it seems less apt to trap vast quantities of cat hair.

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

It's My Birthday and I'll Cry if I Want to

Today was my birthday, which kind of sucked, but mostly because I'm simply not in the mood for it. I usually don't have a problem with birthdays, but I was feeling particularly distressed today about it. I think it's because I've been frazzled and either losing or forgetting things lately. It's getting disturbing, as I've misplaced two checkbooks this week. They are somewhere in either my car or my loft, so I'm not worried about someone writing checks as me, but the whole principle of losing them, forgetting what time my dance lessons are this week, and otherwise feeling overwhelmed just has me down.

My MacBook Air, however, is cause for cheer. I've picked a name for it: 氣 蘋果 (Qì Pínggǔo). That translates to "Air Apple." Susie helped me come up with the name. When I told her my new cutie laptop arrived direct from Shanghai, she suggested I give it a Chinese name, and that's what came to mind. I'm just about done transferring my huge library of photos over from the old PowerBook, which means I'm nearly "moved in" and "unpacked." Yay!

I wish I could say the same for my loft. I've been living here for a year now and the sewing room is still a dire mess.

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Another Year, Another Post

As I suspected, I have taken an extremely long time between my first post and my second.

What momentous occasion has prompted me to blog again? It's the arrival of my brand new laptop, a Mac Book Air. Oh, I'm very happy with it!

Naysayers decried it as being an expensive piece of crap toy for people with more credit card headroom than sense. Whatever. It's exactly what I wanted. See, even though I spent years working in the software industry, I have little to no desire to use a home computer for much more than a communications and entertainment appliance. Yes, I am but an end-user, and I'm happy that way. I guess I got burnt out on software issues being my I can just put in a call to technical support and it's someone else's problem. Anyway, I love the Mac platform -- especially since I've only called for help three or four times in the past eight years. It always just freakin' works, no matter what I want to do (except for the time I tried to use some Windows XP emulation software on my now-ancient PowerBook G4). In the unlikely event that I need help with something, I have friends who are Mac geeks and/or Geniuses (an actual job title) from way back. I've never had a problem with a Mac, so I stick with it. My PowerBook G4 lasted me five years, and is still usable although it looks like it's been chewed up by a dog.

I'm obsessive about checking my email, listen to several radio podcasts a day (although, ironically, I hate my iPod and rarely use it), take lots and lots of digital photos, web surf like crazy, and travel a lot. So, a reasonably fast machine with a reasonably good-sized hard drive that is very slim and light is exactly what I wanted and needed.

Oh, so the MacBook Air only has one USB port? This is a tragedy? Why? I had two USB ports on my old PowerBook and the only time I ever used even one of them was to drop a file onto a pen drive, transfer over some digital photos, or to hook up my flatbed scanner two or three times a year. So I don't actually need multiple USB ports -- and for the one time per year that I need two or more, I have a USB hub I can use. No big whoop.

No modem? What's a modem? I haven't used a modem, except at my parents' house out in the middle of the country, since 1994.

No FireWire? That's a bit of an issue, as I have a digital video camcorder that I occasionally like use to digitize VHS tapes from ballroom dancing competitions. However, it also works with USB, so I'll survive for the one or two times a year that I need to do this. FireWire is better, though. One small problem: I've lost the necessary cable. I just ordered a replacement from JVC's web site.

No Ethernet? That too is a bit of an issue, as I take my laptop with me wherever I go and sometimes there's no wireless. Oh, the backward hotels of America...everywhere I stay in England seems to have free wireless, but in many US locales I not only still have to use an Ethernet connection, but I also still have to pay for it. Fortunately Apple makes a USB ethernet adapter for the MacBook Air. I purchased one, but haven't tried using it yet.

The biggest thing that people might scream about is no optical drive. Again, as someone who has used her PowerBook's SuperDrive on the average of four times a year for the past five years, this is not a problem for me. Apple sells an external SuperDrive for the MacBook Air, which of course I bought. I've used it so far to install some software and to play a DVD, which brings me to the one big negative surprise I've had so far:

It's monaural!

At first I thought my dear new computer had arrived, direct from Shanghai, flawed. So I called Apple and was informed that the MacBook Air only has one speaker on one side because it only provides monaural sound. I was floored. Every other Mac laptop I've owned (all two of them) has had onboard stereo, but not the MacBook Air. I believe that the headphone jack is for stereo, but since I don't really own any headphones (I might have a pair of earbuds from my stupid iPod stashed away somewhere) I haven't checked this out yet. This is the one thing I am unhappy with, because every so often I like to watch movies in bed with the laptop on my lap. I can still hear them in monaural, but it's just very very weird.

Still, so far, I'd give my new cutie two thumbs up. I'm going to be traveling with it quite soon, and will definitely enjoy the reduced weight load when hauling stuff through the security line at the airport.

Now I just need to name it.