Thursday, January 29, 2009

January 30, 2009 - Check These Out

Here's a few web sites to check out just for fun.

The first is a photographer who took a panoramic photo of the Obama Inauguration. You can zoom into any part of the photo and see crystal clear images of everyone there. It's truly amazing. He includes instructions, but if you put your cursor in the navigation circle in the top left corner and hold your mouse button down, you can move around the photo with your mouse. You really move so go slow. It's easy to get lost. Find it at David Bergman's web site.

The next is a good interview with Daniel Radcliffe of "Harry Potter" fame on "The Daily Beast." He is ending his run in the play "Equus" and soon to start filming the next chapter in the magical Hogwarts series. He talks about Broadway, Americanisms, and how he'd love to give a tour of the Hogwart's set to Sasha and Malia Obama. And there are several video clips to enjoy too. I like this guy.

Next, watch a beautifully animated video on the history of the internet. Check it out at on "You Tube."

And finally, a 3-minute video created by EggMan consisting of images from 500 years of female portraits in western art. See it at

Cheers. m

Sunday, January 25, 2009

January 25, 2009 - An Election That Went Wrong

No, not the most recent one. But since that one is still somewhat fresh in your mind maybe it's worth watching a movie about an election that went very wrong. "Recount" is an HBO movie about the infamous election of 2000, when George Bush won and Al Gore lost. At least that's the way it ended up. I never knew the whole story.

I was unaware that a movie had been made about the voting fiasco down in Florida until I saw Laura Dern win a Golden Globe for playing the infamous Katherine Harris, a woman at the center of the debacle. So last week I rented it and found it fascinating. It turns out the events were extremely well documented so it's a very accurate representation of what happened. I did know that there was a showdown between the Democrats and the Republicans with some of the smartest lawyers in the country. Basically a showdown in the sunshine state. The games that were played are rather astounding. And again, one has to wonder if circumstances had been slightly different, who would have ended up being president and where would we be today. At the same time it's also a set-up for how Barack Obama ended up being our president today. Yes, the Republicans got their boy in but I'm wondering if there's a few out there that regret it. Check out the movie, watch all the extras and listen to the commentary. It's all worth it. 

Otherwise the winter goes on. We had another shot of super cold weather this weekend but the sun has consistently come out and no snow. This weekend I started painting my living room after 10 years of living here. I painted the largest wall a deep red and am now considering colors for the other walls. I also rearranged the furniture so everything looks fresh. It's been great way to add some excitement to a long cold January. And just in time because next weekend I'm having a potluck with some of my best friends. I hope to get a big pot of Chili going with some Jalepeno cornbread. Have a great week everybody. m

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

January 20, 2009 - Inauguration Day

On a very cold January morning I'm sitting at home watching history happen. The only thing that would make it more special would be to have special friends and family sitting beside me. I take it back, it would be more special to be with friends and family in Washington D. C. But tonight I'm going to a small party to celebrate and I look forward to it. I have an immense feeling of optimism about our country, a feeling the like of which I don't know that I've ever felt. 

As the day goes on I'll add to this post and create a short diary of the days events. For now it's 8:15 Central time and I'm watching shots of the immense crowds that are slowly filling every nook and cranny of the Washington Mall. What's special is when you can see the happy faces of families, friends, students, every color, every age and profession. This is what America is and I hope this feeling of unity sticks around for awhile. But that's up to us.

2:27 pm CST: And so we have a new president. God Bless America. I remember when Bush was elected I couldn't watch the coverage of either of his inaugurations. I simply had no interest. I know there are people who will feel the same way about Obama but I think most people in this country have very positive expectations of this president. With this inauguration I want to see it all, I want to know what's going through the new president's mind, is he enjoying this or is the weight of the government and all it's problems weighing heavy on his shoulders. I also never looked on a first lady with such optimism. Seeing them together makes me feel even better, knowing he has her support, and the support of his whole family, makes me feel happy. As far as the ceremony goes, his speech was a bit subdued. Expectations were very very high and I'm not sure he met them but it was strong none the less. I loved the poem by Elizabeth Alexander and the benediction by Reverend Lowery. The parades have begun. I have to admit I find parades boring so it's a good time to get some work done. But I'll keep the TV on. m

9:40 pm CST: What a wonderful day. I just got home from an evening with friends and we watched the inauguration together, most of them had not seen any of the coverage all day. We raised a glass as he finished the oath and toasted to a new generation of hope. I really listened to his speech this time and I was impressed. I'm amazed how the press started chipping away at it and convincing me that it wasn't the speech he had the capability of giving. But it was an excellent speech. I think the expectations are so high. The press want to get the one big line from the speech that will cement it's place in history. But I think this is a new kind of president, one who isn't looking to say the perfect thing and do it like it's been done before. I'm so glad I got to watch and participate in this historic day. Tears came to my eyes many times watching the reactions in the crowd and listening to the inspiring words. So let's keep this optimism going. Do what you can to make this country shine again and be a true leader in the world. Best to you all. m

Thursday, January 15, 2009

January 15, 2009 - A Very Cold Night in January

The temp is a mere minus 7 degrees. Soon to be minus 21. Out my window a great billowing steam cloud rises from the UW power plant. It's really cold folks. So I decided to explore the web for cold subjects. Here's what came across my google eyes.

Did you know there's a phenomenon of hypothermia called Paradoxical Undressing? It seems 20-50 percent of hypothermal deaths are due to this phenom. This typically occurs during moderate to severe hypothermia, as the victim becomes disoriented, confused, and combative. The victim may begin discarding clothing which, well you guessed it, makes them colder even faster. Unfortunately this can lead police into believing that the person has been the subject of a sexual assault rather than a victim of hypothermia.

Two men waiting at the Pearly Gates strike up a conversation.
"How'd you die?" 
"I froze to death."
"That's awful. What's it like to freeze to death?"
"It's rather uncomfortable. At least at the beginning. You get the shakes and you get pains in all your fingers and toes. But eventually it's a very calm way to go. You get numb and you kind of drift off, as if you're sleeping. How about you? How'd you die?"
"I had a heart attack. You see, I knew my wife was cheating on me, so one day I showed up at home unexpectedly. I ran up to the bedroom and found her alone knitting. I ran down to the basement but no one was there. I ran up to the second floor and searched every room but no one was hiding there either. So I ran up to the attic as fast as I could. When I got to the top of the stairs I had a massive heart attack."
"That's so ironic"
"What do you mean?"
"If you'd only stopped to look in the freezer we'd both still be alive."

And a final note: The Ulysses solar probe, after 17 years of studying the sun and solar system, is about to die by freezing to death. The original mission was meant to last only 5 years. Farewell Ulysses. You did good. In fact you traveled over 6 billion miles circling the sun three times, and circling Jupiter. 

So stay warm out there, at least those of you living in the frigid zones. Those of you in warm climates, well don't gloat. You know we are the stronger ones. It doesn't take anything to live in a warm namby pamby climate. m

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

January 6, 2009 - Winter Comfort Foods

I love a good stew, soup, or chili in the depths of winter. And I make a big batch to freeze and get me through the long cold months. I was watching the CBS Morning Show and they had a segment on Ultimate Winter Comfort Foods by Sheila Lukins, writer of one of my favorite cookbooks the "Silver Palate." The link has recipes from her new book "Ten: All the Foods We Love and 10 Perfect Recipes for Each." You can get recipes for Chickpea Stew, Minty Lamb Kabobs, Chicken Tangine with Eggplant Tomatoes and Onions, and Red Carrot Ginger Soup at the link above.

I just made this Spicy Black Bean Soup from the Oprah's web site (pictured above). I added more spices I had on hand and it came out great. Try adding some chili powder, cumin, and some powdered chipotle pepper (I use Chipotle Ground Red from Penzeys Spices), and a touch of cinammon. Another great one I got from a friend is Curried Sweet Potato Soup from Epicurious. Check out the reviews for some additional spice suggestions. My friend added some sauteed garlic and onion in some olive oil, more broth, one teaspoon of curry, 1/2 teaspoon of cumin, ginger and tumeric. And feel free to use canned vege broth. Very good. There's a Curried Pumpkin Soup on Epicuious too but it looks a little more complicated. I haven't tried it yet but I love pumpkin.

The same friend also gave me a recipe for Roasted Butternut Squash Rosemary and Garlic Lasagna. I haven't tried this yet but she loved it. I'll let you know my review and the recipe when I make it this week.

I'm also looking for the ultimate squash and apple soup recipe if you have any suggestions. When I was in Chicago we had the most wonderful soup at a Atwood Cafe and we vowed to find something similar. The first spoonful was as good as the last, not to mention some incredible croutons on top. Keep warm inside and out. m

Thursday, January 1, 2009

January 1, 2009 - The State of My Technology

So, it's New Year's Day. I did not do much celebrating last night due to a really womp'n sore throat and general feeling of rottenness. I think I'm over the hump but you never know. The way my colds go is that I get the sore throat first but no congestion, then the congestion, then we go into the coughing stage, then the throat tickle stage which is absolutely the worst stage because you'll be sitting talking to someone and get this horrible tickle and you know if you give in to the coughing you may never come out of it. So you resist and tears start streaming down your face and you wonder if the world will end. Meanwhile the person across from you is confused.

And this is really a long post because it's just that important.

So it is time for life assessment. This is where you evaluate your life from the bottom up. So, let's begin with the "State of Remotes." This is the one where you gather all the remotes in your home and remind yourself as to why you have them and what they belong to. Please use the picture above as reference. We'll be going from left to right.

1) The big Hitachi remote is for my 32" TV that I bought in 1992. It works great but weighs a ton and to move it is a very big deal. The remote no longer works. It just sits and gathers dust.

2) This is the VCR remote. It's kind of like an 8 track player at this point but you know you still have a lot of VCR tapes in that back closet that you may or may not ever play again. Mostly it gathers dust too.

3) Now things get interesting. The third remote is for this kick-ass surround sound system I bought around 2005 from the "Refurb Depot." It was also a multi disk DVD player and CD stereo. Wow! I'm set. It had these fancy skinny tall speakers that you put around the room along with a womp'n big woofer thingy. About this time the remote for my TV stopped working but lo and behold the remote for the new DVD/CD/RWR/WR/CC/SR unit worked with my old TV. Now I'm down to one remote except for those rare occasions when I watch the VCR.

4) This is the DVD remote for the other DVD player I had in my basement studio. But what happened is that the kick-ass DVD/CD blah blah blah died one day so I had to move the DVD in the basement upstairs to the main viewing area. Meanwhile I had to move all the speakers and woofers and tweeters to the 2nd bedroom which doubles as a graveyard for dead technology, books I'll never read or am too embarrassed to put in a public space, and gifts I'll never use or think I may re-gift some day. There's a bed in there too for guests. So now I'm back to really two main remotes—3 and 4. Yes I'm still using the kick-ass blah blah blah remote even though there's nothing left of what it came with. 

5) Enter the latest technology, HDTV. So the world has decided to turn the world upside down and require everyone to evolve to HDTV. Here's the thing. Even though I would love to buy a brand spank'n new flat screen 32" Samsung 1080 resolution TV (yes, 32" is totally appropriate for my viewing room size) I have a TV, actually two TVs, that work just fine. I don't have cable because I did once and just never really found much to watch but just kept flipping channels whenever commercials came on so I never saw a show in it's entirety. My solution: Netflix. So this last remote is for the HDTV conversion box that I set up yesterday. The good news is that the reception is great! And with my old rabbit ears antennae. By the way, I have no idea how I got it all to work because I did not follow their directions I just went by my gut instincts. Here's what they don't tell you. Yes, you get more channels but every channel is either letterbox, full screen, or something really small that brings the picture down by 1/3. In other words there's a big thick black border around the entire picture. I'm guessing this will all change on Feb 19 but for now it's a little disconcerting. You can change the display to fill the screen but it's confusing in a way that I really don't feel like explaining right now. And you can be watching the same channel and some shows will be in letterbox, others will be that small screen version so it's very confusing. And it's pretty silly to be watching a show that only fills 2/3rds of your screen so why have a big TV but then that's why you should buy a flat screen TV. See how they manipulate you into buying things.

Yes, I do have even more remotes but look how much I've written already and it's not like anyone's going to read this whole thing anyway. So on to our next assessment: why do I have a closet full of cloths but only wear one pair of jeans and two shirts. And you're wrong if you think I actually make any decisions based on these assessments. It's just what I do for the first couple days of a new year. It will not last. Have a great day.