New Site!

December 18, 2008

Well, my new blog is up, polished and the content from this one has been imported. I must say, moving the content was pretty easy. 

The new location is: – I’ll be posting links here to new posts, but the actual content is going to be going up over there.

WordPress is pretty cool stuff. I might even learn a little PHP from all this. *shudder*


So Close…

December 17, 2008

My new blog provider (Alentus) has my WordPress installation complete, and they’re in the process of upgrading me to the latest and greatest version. Once that’s done and I’ve found the theme I’d like to start with I’m going to start posting over there – I’ll announce the new URL (and probably cross-post my Christmas stuff) within the next few days. How exciting!

What’s Up With AT&T and Yahoo?

December 16, 2008

I received a notice a couple of weeks ago that after the first of the year my “complimentary” AT&T Yahoo! Flickr Pro account is going to be turned off, and I’m going to have to pay for service from Flickr going forward.

What?! Flickr is just about the only thing I really use from this AT&T/Yahoo! partnership. I dropped My Yahoo! and Yahoo Mail quite some time ago in favor of their Google competitors, but Flickr is actually pretty cool. I like the community aspect of it, and it’s (relatively) easy to upload pictures from my Mac. I wish there was better integration with iPhoto – there are some 3rd party things that are OK, but not as nice as the “official” Flickr uploader tool.

So I guess I like Flickr enough that I’ll pay for the service, but at this point I’m really getting squat in terms of “services” along with my AT&T DSL. So I guess that means that the next time Time-Warner or someone else comes knocking I’ll have something to think about.

Christmas Candy Countdown

December 15, 2008

One of my favorite things to do throughout the month of December is make candy. I don’t do this any other time of the year, but for a lot of reasons I have fond memories of home-made candy during the Holidays. So this year, I thought I’d try to be a little more methodical about my candy-making.

Usually I tend to wait until close to the last minute and then have 1-2 days of frenzied candy making. Not this year! I’ve already begun, and for the next week I’ll be focusing on 1-3 recipes per day (depending on the complexity of the recipe). Here’s what I’ll be making:

  • Microwave Peanut Brittle. I literally called a person a liar when they told me back in 1999 that they made peanut brittle in the microwave. Now I wouldn’t make it any other way.
  • Fudge. Classic, beaten fudge – chocolate, sugar, cream and butter. Not the stuff with marshmallows. Not that there’s anything wrong with that.
  • Divinity. This year is the first time I’ll be making divinity, but it’ll have some chocolate and butterscotch thrown in for good measure.
  • Peanut Butter Balls. Not the Shwetty Balls from SNL!
  • Coconut Bon-Bons. Like little Mounds bars.
  • Chocolate Mint Striped Candy. Tastes like Andes mints, and very pretty on a candy tray.
  • Chocolate-Dipped Stuff. Pretzels, nuts and marshmallows. Even peanut-butter filled pretzels. YUM.
  • Grandma Gleason’s Peanut Butter Crunch Candy. An old favorite of mine I haven’t made in years.
  • Rice Crispy Treats with Peanut Butter and Fudge. Saw this recipe last week on a blog post, can’t wait to try it.
  • White Trash. Nothing says Christmas in Kansas City like a whole mess of white trash.

I will be posting pictures and recipes (or links to recipes) throughout the next week as I do all this. Whee!

And yes, I recognize the irony in posting this right after posting about having a major bariatric surgery. Suffice to say that I’ll be trying to enjoy this Christmas season’s candy as much as I can, because I won’t be able to even eat this type of stuff after the surgery…

Thanksgiving and The Upcoming Move

November 29, 2008

First off: I will be moving my blog and essentially “re-launching” it sometime over the next month. I’m trying to get WordPress set up on my new domain space, as soon as I do I’ll be doing more with the blog. Not that anyone other than family and friends care, but hey… 🙂

Had a great Thanksgiving this year. It was actually a 2-day affair: Thanksgiving and Leftover Day. For Thanksgiving I made a roast turkey (in the new convection oven), a smoked turkey breast, 10 pounds of mashed potatoes, pan gravy (from the roast turkey drippings) and a pumpkin pecan streusel pie. We had around 20 people here for Thanksgiving – really, the only people missing were my brother and his family, they were at his in-laws for Thanksgiving.

We invited anyone who was interested to come back on Friday to eat leftovers and play games, but surprisingly enough there weren’t a lot of leftovers. So Friday morning I got up early and got a couple more fresh turkey breasts and the ingredients for some cornbread stuffing, another pumpkin pie and my grandma’s chocolate peanut butter pie. I also picked up YET ANOTHER freaking copy of Guitar Hero World Tour as well as Rock Band 2 and the Scene-It games for X360.

PLEASE NOTE: When they tell you not to move the XBOX 360 while there’s a disc in it, THEY MEAN IT. While plugging in the microphone we managed to move the console a little too much, and a second or two of horrible screeching noise later we took out the GH:WT disc to discover a massive scratch around it. Needless to say, it wouldn’t read again. DEAD.

So Friday morning I smoked another couple of turkey breasts (rubbed them with Mary’s Cherry Rub, which is one of my wife’s favorite dry rubs in the world), made some cornbread dressing and a couple of pies. It sounds like a lot, but in reality it was pretty easy. I was a little irked that I didn’t have time to brine the turkey breasts (I ALWAYS brine poultry…or at least, I always used to), but by being careful to get the breasts out of the smoker at 152 degrees (f) they were still plenty juicy.

FYI, my brine recipe couldn’t be simpler: 1 cup of salt, 1 cup of sugar (dark brown is my preference), 1 gallon of low-sodium stock (chicken or vegetable), and then a cup of “spice tea” – which I make by microwaving cinnamon, cloves, garlic, allspice, nutmeg and peppercorns in a cup of water. Submerge the turkey breast-side down, then add enough ice and water to cover. Brine for 6-12 hours depending on size (6 hours for a breast up to 12 hours for a 14-15 lb bird – I never do anything bigger than that, I’d rather just do two smaller birds). Smoke the turkey until the breast reads 152 or so with a thermometer, then get it out and let it rest for 15 minutes. 

The roast turkey was done using the Alton Brown roasting approach, whereby you roast at 500f for 1/2 hour to get good browning on the skin, then lower to 350 to finish after putting a foil triangle-tent over the breast. It turned out pretty good, but I prefer smoked turkey. I mainly did this to get really good gravy drippings and a bird with edible skin, which some people in my family like. Not me, I find poultry skin disgusting.

My brother, sister, brother-in-law and I got the band back together and played Guitar Hero World Tour, and it was a BLAST. We each took turns singing (I got to sing “Ramblin’ Man,” but I had to use my sister’s choice of avatar, so my baritone voice was coming out of little Midori the Japanese rocker…it was humorous). I also got to play both lead and bass, I just haven’t tried the drums yet. We didn’t get to try Rock Band 2, but later my sister, my wife and I tried Scene-It and lo and behold, it was quite a bit of fun. I like that the game keeps track of the questions you’ve seen, and it’s very accessible for anyone that’s seen recent movies. The little controllers that they provide are also a lot of fun, it’s kind of like being on a game show.

Tomorrow I’ll be smoking a standing rib roast and a couple of pork butts for next weekend’s Carmichael Christmas at the Lake celebration – I already have the pork butts injected with marinade, and they’ll go in the smoker around 7am. They’re pretty small, but they look amazing. Hen House meat is great quality but very expensive. Their standing rib roast looked great too, I picked up an 8.25 pounder that’ll be smoked tomorrow too. Fun! I love this time of year, I get to cook pretty much non-stop from Thanksgiving through New Year’s.

iPhone Angst Resolved

July 12, 2008

Like most gadgeteers, I was plugged in to the drama that was release day for the iPhone 3G. And yes, I even made three half-hearted attempts to get one. Let me count the ways:

I drove by the Zona Rosa AT&T store at 7am to see what was happening. There were around 50 people already in line, and I’d heard via the interweb rumour mill that it was likely that each AT&T store was only getting a handful of units. So I drove on by and made my way to work.

My wife drove by the Plaza Apple Store at lunchtime to discover that the media-covered line that stretched for close to a city block (probably more) hadn’t appreciably dwindled. So she drove by.

Later Friday afternoon a co-worker let me in on a dirty little secret: there was a NEW Apple Store in town, at 119th and Roe! HOLY CRAP, how did I let this get past me? So I dropped everything and drove by to discover a small line of around 20 people outside. But as soon as I walked up, an Apple Hippie came out and informed us that there were no 16gb iPhones to be had. Since that was the unit I thought I wanted, I bailed. Three strikes, no iPhone.

As it was, it was probably a good thing that I didn’t get any further than that. The webs are alive with the sound of angry early adopters complaining about the activation times, and that just wouldn’t have been any fun at all. So I came home and thought about it overnight, and this morning my wife and I came up with a plan. Not only would I try to get myself a 16gb iPhone, but she wanted an 8gb phone as well. So that meant that both of us and TJ, our 22 month-old all went down to the Plaza Apple Store, which was – according to the Apple web site – stocked with all models of iPhones.

When we arrived at the rain-soaked Plaza at 9:30 – half an hour before what I thought was opening time – we found open doors and around 25 people in a line outside. We got in line, thinking that this might be our best shot. The company was nice, everyone seemed to be in a pretty friendly mood, but then another Apple Hippie came out and let us know that they were about to run out of 16gb models, and they weren’t sure if they’d have enough 8gb models for everyone in line. They even handed out little slips of paper representing 8gb iPhones.

I was conflicted, but I decided that I’d be OK with an 8gb iPhone. My iPod Touch currently has about 7gb of stuff on it, and I could cut down on all the unplayed podcasts and the like. But I wasn’t happy about it. I really wanted a 16gb model so I could download and play with all the cool apps I’d been reading about. Like that light saber. Man, I wanted me one of those.

The line broke off where the slips of paper ended, and the rest of us managed to get inside the store and out of the rain. Around 10:30, two things happened almost simultaneously. First, shoppers started arriving for things that weren’t iPhones, and second, we spotted a UPS guy walking through the store, having just delivered some boxes to the back. COULD IT BE? The concierge was snagged by a fellow enthusiast and said yes, those were likely more iPhones, and yes, there could be 16gb models on there. Or maybe not. Should we take the chance and wait the half hour more or so it would take to get the boxes opened, unloaded and scanned into inventory?

As it turned out it probably didn’t matter, because once the store filled up with general browsers the line ground to a halt. A mixture of people trying to change plans without all the information they needed, or people with incomplete paperwork along with other shoppers wanting notebooks and iMacs stretched the staff pretty thinly. FINALLY we were taken out of the line by an Apple Hippie who was only too glad to grab us an 8gb model for Jen and a 16gb white model for me. I wanted a white so we could immediately tell the two apart.

The actual process of changing our Sprint numbers over, getting the new AT&T account set up and everything else was reasonably quick. It went without a hitch, to be honest, it was just a lot of trying to recite social security and account numbers in the middle of a crowded, noisy store. Finally we were done, and we had two cute litle iPhone 3G bags chock full of gadget goodness. As a side note, TJ did great in line – he fell asleep once we got in and stayed asleep until we started the purchase, over an hour of not having to keep him entertained. Thank goodness for small favors.

I’ve already made and received a couple of calls, and they sounded great. Our numbers were switched over in just a few minutes, and Jen is really excited about getting her phone all set up. I’m in the process of synching my iTunes library now, it’s taken just about as long to do that as it’s taken to write this little retrospective.

The lesson to be learned here is that being a Release Day + 1 shopper was a pretty painless experience, to be honest. We couldn’t walk right in and grab one, but that’s OK. To get one this early and start playing with it was worth a couple of hours in a really decent line, and the folks at the Apple Store were quite gracious and accomodating, even when they were mobbed by what looked like a pretty hefty back to school crowd around 10:30am.

iPhone Angst

June 17, 2008

I don’t own an iPhone. For whatever reason my fanboy status had not fully kicked in early last summer when the first revision of the phone that answers the question, “what would Jesus use?” came out to a largely adoring public. The reason I didn’t get one? Three words: AT&T. Or four words. Or something like that.

While I don’t have anything against AT&T as a massive, globe-spanning mega-corporation that sucks the souls directly from the hearts of human beings and rapes the planet sideways with a giant broom handle (metaphorically speaking, of course), I didn’t like the fact that the iPhone was going to be on the EDGE network. Edge, indeed – the edge of uselessness…am I right? Having a powerhouse productivity producer like the iPhone on a piece of crap network like the EDGE network is pretty much just like having a really fast something on a really slow something else. That sentence started out with some promise, but really kind of fizzled out at the end.

But now that the baby-saving and planet-loving Apple corporation and it’s sainted leader have seen fit to announce a new version of the iPhone, I have literally been forced to sit up and take notice. Indeed, I am sitting up as I write this meaningless diatribe – it’s that important. First off, the new iPhone sports a fancy new 3G chipset, allowing it to operate at speeds neatly unthinkable in 2004 or so when 3G was all the rage. Apparently AT&T missed that particular meeting of the telecommunications overlords garden club and went forward with a network that Alexander Graham Bell has been quoted directly as describing as “poopsky.”

If that wasn’t enough to make you moisten your stamps in excitement, there’s more good news from Cupertino. The new 3G iPhone is cheaper*, has GPS**, allows 3rd party developers to make their own applications***, and boy does it catch fish****.

* Cheaper: If you’re new to AT&T or near the end of the lifespan of your existing contract, you can get an iPhone for $200 (8gb) or $300 (16gb). But the data plan costs about $10 more per month, on top of a pretty hefty voice plan. So over the course of the next couple of years the iPhone actually will cost more than a current generation iPhone with the existing data plan. Zing! So when they say “cheaper,” they actually mean, “from a certain point of view.” The AT&T/Apple cabal see themselves as an ersatz Jedi Council, with more comfortable seating but a higher rate of dropped calls.

** While the iPhone does have GPS capabilities, the SDK agreement forbids 3rd party developers from using it to create real-time GPS solutions. So it can show you where you are on a Google map, but I already know where I am. Lost. I want to know how to get where I want to be. Somewhere where I’m not lost. Many have speculated that somehow local hero Garmin may be allowed to develop a GPS solution, but frankly if the 3G iPhone can’t help me find a route home from the Apple store on the day of the launch I’m not certain it’s worth the effort.

*** People that qualify for the development plan and agree to cut in Apple for a piece of the action can develop their own applications for fun and a portion of the profit. That’s cool though, I just thought I’d point this out.

**** Fishing with an iPhone is prohibited in Colorado’s protected streams and rivers.

So what’s a fanboy to do…go get in line with all the other fanboys on release day? Wait until something better comes along? Something else entirely? I don’t know. But I do know one thing…I haven’t been this deeply personally conflicted about a personal electronics purchase since the release of the first Apple QuickTake.