November 27, 2006

856 miles to make the giblet gravy?

I managed to make the journey between Baltimore and Boston again in November, avoiding the worst of the holiday traffic and experiencing none of the foul weather of the previous trip.

Thanksgiving with the family was stressful at times and occasionally blissful. About average. As my uncle Jimes was up in Maine, I filled in at the gravy station, a position of both great honor and great responsibility at the holiday meal. While the turkey in inarguably the centerpiece of the meal, the gravy has often taken center stage. It's been that good, giblets and all.

Meeting that bar took both time and plenty of reference to elder generations' palates and craft. After we put in the bird at 11 the previous evening to roast for more than 14 hours at 250 degrees, the neck and celery cuttings, half an onion, three cloves and a bay leaf went into a stew pot to simmer quietly for the night.

I used that stock to consitute the gravy, along with chopped sauteed liver, heart and mushrooms. Adding port during the process felt vaguely decadent, but I did it anyway, along with the jus I'd reserved cooking the mushrooms.

Watching my family members told me I'd at least cleared that bar, though I think that my uncle's roux is still superior.

My mother and I took some long walks in the mornings, making the most of the abundant late fall sunshine in Maryland along the quiet streets of Towson. Friday morning, we walked along the banks of Lake Roland in Robert E. Lee Park and into the woods, logging three miles nearly to foot with the help of my GPS.

Here's the spot, embedded below from Wikimapia:

Highlight: watching my mother identify a flicker by sound and then finding it and pointing it out to her with the binoculars.

Boston seems cold, grey and harried by contrast, as everyone seems only to have shifted into a higher gear on and off the road. I've heard and seen that Bostonians walk, talk, speak, drive and shop at higher speeds than elsewhere in the country. While that's not uniformly true, as, in fact, few things are, I'm noticing a hum in the air.


I wish I wasn't experiencing it myself, but inevitably balancing work, family and some semblance of a personal life, to say nothing of spirituality in this season of consumerism, has caused a not-so-subtle adjustment in my own timing.

I do wish it wasn't getting dark so damnably early.

November 17, 2006

What does it have in its pocketses?

Less than this most of the time, actually. I do find myself carring around all of this "digital ephemera" many weekdays, when I'm carring my briefcase and laptop anyway and can throw these into the side compartment.

The fundamental and familiar mantra of "wallet, keys, glasses & phone" as I leave the door has been slightly amended, as I'm now occasionally adding a digital camera, iPod and GPS to the mix. My relatively ancient Nikon Coolpix 775 is responsible for this shot -- and therefore isn't pictured.

What isn't pictured is all of the cords, adapters, chargers, manuals and drivers that support this collection. Tucked into and around the desk in the library/office at home, stored in milk crates in the basements or stuffed into the nooks and crannies of my car and briefcase, those digital lifelines all feed the hungry power demands of these gadgets. Reading this article, describing the real-world demonstration of non-radiative energy transfer non-radiative power energy (NRPET) using resonance to wireless gadgets, gives me hope that at least some of those adapters and chargers might be a thing of the past.

If my electronics could just:

A) communicate using a combination of WiFi, GPRS, Bluetooth and satellite, which ever happens to be available

B) be kept charged using NRPET that is broadcast from a central power source

I'd be a very happy techie.

That central power source would of course be powered by hydropower, solar, biothermal, wind, tidal or some other renewable power source, to be reasonably green, of course. Ethanol, clean diesel, clean coal, fuel cells or biodiesel might fit the bill too. There's even switch grass, as the POTUS reminded us last January in the State of the Union address.

To see B come true, however, I'd need to live at least well into the next decade or retreat to some sort of Gene Roddenbury fantasia.

I bet my travel bags will weigh less, too.

Flights of purple-shaded futurism aside, we truly are much closer to living in the Jetson's world than I ever imagined we would be in 2006, as I think back to watching George, Jane, Judy, Elroy in the 80s.

The world's teenagers are video chatting and vlogging away on YouTube. Terabytes of data that touch upon every conceivable subjects is now available at the end of a blinking cursor and a "search" button on the browsers of handsets connected to high-speed wireless broadband. It's possible to click on and see what's been elevated by the collective force of the online hive mind, constantly pushing the most pertinent or interesting meme to the fore.

It's a good thing there's still a place for Astro in this world, or in my case, Shadow.

November 16, 2006

"Cat allegedly gives birth to dog-like offspring"

(REUTERS/Edison Vara (BRAZIL))

Ok, so it's not exactly the end of the world as we know it. I have to wonder what's next; will a swan and a sow soon be matched to produce a flying pig after this development.

The above is apparently a Brazilian student's cat, Mimi, with what her owner claims are Mimi's own kitten/pups.

Pittens? Kups?

Anyway, the story goes that three months after mating with a neighbour's dog, six of these chaps popped out, half of which died soon after birth. Interestingly, those three had cat-like features. Of course, this could just be a delightful hoax -- so I'll keep an eye on what the geneticist testing the animals has to say about the matter.

November 15, 2006

Travels and travails

Somewhere around Tuesday of last week, I decided to visit family down in Baltimore. I had some extra incentive, in the way of at least one 30th birthday present languishing hundreds of miles away, and my uncle and aunt, who both are heading up to Maine for Thanksgiving and thus will not be present when I go back down to the Delmarva penninsula for the annual turkey dissection next (!) week.

I wish the weather had been more cooperative for the drive. After getting the 'Stang back from the mechanic, tuned and equipped with an entirely new exhaust system south of the catalytic converter, I put in a full day of work and heading south into driving rain. Six hours later, I pulled into Stonecrop looking for a break. Fortunately, Gimpadelic was able to put me up for the evening, as the wind and driving rain continued for the rest of the night.

After working from a Panera in Towson, MD on Thurday (free WiFi!), I enjoyed 80-degree temperatures next to the Daily Grind in Fells Point in Baltimore's Inner Harbor. Extraordinary. I felt like I'd been in a season warp. Thankfully, I'd worn mesh shorts and a t-shirt under my warm-ups from the morning run, so I was able to strip down and actually bask while I typed away furiously.

I even managed to fit in a trip to Tochterman's and then the fishing pier at dusk, though no fish were interested in my offering that particular night. After catching eight stripers earlier in the month on the Cape Cod Canal, I was willing to just get my line wet.

I spent some more time in the car on Saturday, road-tripping with my parents down to the Blackwater Wildlife Refuge down on the Eastern Shore of Maryland. Thankfully, someone else did the driving, leaving me to (nearly) finish State of Denial in the back. Once we arrived, I was able to identify numerous flocks of ducks, several turtles (maybe red-bellies?), bald eagles, great blue herons, common terns, turkey vultures, a winter wren, shearwaters, mute swans and thousands of Canada geese.

The crab cake and oyster stew for lunch was pretty spectacular too.

I went out to Took Hill, my aunt's home in rural Maryland, to check on her and the kids. Aside from pulling back together some siding and stowing some ACs, I was able to siphon out 63 bottles of my uncle's last batch of apple cider. Some tasting then - and some confirmation later from Gimpadelic - indicated that the long fermentation had left it somewhere closer to apple jack or brandy. Either way, I hope that everyone enjoys it in years to come.

It's good to be back in MA now, though work is keeping me extremely busy. Some of that is certainly due to "losing" Tuesday to juty in downtown Boston. Thankfully, I've now met my service for the next three years. I did, however, find the jury pool holding room, an empty courtroom, to be one of the best reading environments I'd ever encountered. I read almost all of Michael Pollan's "The Omnivore's Dilemma," which is the best food journalism I've read since Fast Food Nation years ago. It was both engrossing and affecting. Both books, in concert with all that I learned growing up from my "back to the earth" family, have served to both subtly and dramatically alter the way I shop for, select, cook and eat, though simple expediancy still occasionally defines what's for dinner.

KFC from space: mapvertising writ LARGE

This story is pretty amazing, on the face of it. KFC just launched the "Face from Space." It's an 87,500 square-foot image of Colonel Sanders near Area 51 in the Nevada desert. Apparently, it took a crew working around the clock for 3,000 hours to create the top-secret project.

Here's the full press release.

Here's the thing: the press release claims it's the first brand or logo visible from space in a big, bold headline.


Of course, the online community immediately found that fact to be incorrect, as witnessed by this much Dugg post on Google Sightseeing.

The folks there indicate that neither Google Earth, Maps, Mapquest or any other commercially available satellite imaging product carries imagery of this area. I wonder who they expect to see it? Russian techs operating spy satellites trying to look at Area 51? Does Putin have a taste for chicken? Or is it just about being the correct answer to a geography trivia question?

I was a bit ahead of the curve selecting "mapvertising" as a buzzword last week, apparently.

Hat tip to Amber MacArthur for offering more context for the story than this image, which I picked up on Yahoo's Most-Emailed page.

November 8, 2006

The Orion Nebula

(REUTERS/ NASA/JPL-Caltech/T. Megeath (University of Toledo) & M. Robberto (STScI)/Handout)

November 7, 2006

Skinny Tuesday

It's been quite a day. With the Biostat Belle out at Kripalu, I'm holding down the fort with just Shadow, watching the election returns roll in here in rainy Massachussetts. Something felt unusually right about the day's rhythm, nearly from the start. I woke, went to the bathroom, dressed, walked/jogged with the greyhound, walked down to the square, voted (across the board blue in this bluest of states - shocking!), picked up coffee and bagel at Emacs while reading email on the wander home, composed the daily tech trivia questions and then pulled together the rest of Word of the Day (network behavior anomaly detection?) and then gott to work on the rest of the day's goals. By day's end, I balanced the news of an interview about my work with the reality of an unexpectedly expensive repair to the exhaust system of the 'stang. With a little distance, I can balance the positive and negatives there.

At the end of the day, I T'ed it into Back Bay, walking into Rozzie Square and taking the bus along Washington Street prior. There's something so satifyingly familiar in that trip now, balanced as well by the urban blight pictured in the faces of my fellow riders. I listened to CNET's Buzz Out Loud podcast along the way; that crew always makes me chuckle while they - and I - geek out with the day's news about tech and gadgets. I met with some old clients tonight to talk about embeddding podcasts on various sites when I arrived at the city. Our conversation spiraled into tangential and frequently meaningful discussions of the trends in online media, adoption of RSS and wonderfully gritty details of syndicating audio on multiple platforms.

Great stuff.

I loved it.

The fact that dinner was comped, along with the imperial pints of Guinness, didn't hurt.

As I said, something felt right about the rhythm of the day's events. I'm eager to awake to an altered political landscape, though to be fair I can't think of a single thing that fundamentally will have changed in my daily life due to an partisan shift. I do hope that the balance of divided government will create the checks and balances that have been absent from governance over much of the past decade. George W. Bush may find this daily life to be rather altered. Whether he recognizes as much, or remains in a "state of denial," remains to be seen.

I've been reading Woodward's most recent work at night this past week. Fascinating stuff, though I can't recall reading more unattributed conversations and quotes from private conversations in any other book. I won't add to the reams of commentary that has been written and spoken about the book for the moment, other than to remark that my instincts about the competence of the national security team of this admninstration in 2000 were sorely mistaken. That so many others were similarly off the mark doesn't soften the results of that incompetence abroad and in the Veterans Hospitals at home.

I'm grateful today, grateful to have been able to vote without rancor or danger, to have worked purely in the realms of the mind and then to travel on public transportation to talk about innovation. I feel especially so after being rocked at dinner when one of my dinner companion received a call that informed him he'd lost a sixteen-year old nephew to an auto accident tonight. I can't imagine what that feels like. I'm still mourning my uncle -- but my son? Life is so short as it is. What to do? Live each day like it's the last is cliched but accurate. Love your family, friends, neighbor and those in need like it's the last time you could see them. Be present in your conversations with all of those people and in your own life, reading the grain of the wood you work or the flow of the water you are fishing.

You'd think a long-time viewer of Six Feet Under would have internalized as much long ago.