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Posts from — July 2009

The menu

Having my parents over, the in-laws over (maybe), the sister and her unknown guest over, and a long term family friend. Probably my last chance to Cook Big before I leave. Here we go…

All recipes for Marcella Hazan’s Essentials of Italian Cooking.

  • Crostini Bianchi p. 52
  • Roasted Peppers and Anchovies p. 53
  • Roasted Eggplant with Peppers and Cucumber p. 55
  • Marinated Carrot Sticks p. 56
  • Focaccia p. 618
  • Chick Pea Soup p. 113
  • Aio e oio p. 170
  • Grilled fish (Sicilian Salmoriglio) p. 289
  • Bistecca fiorentina p. 385
  • Crema con mirtilli p. 596

Wine will be a sparkling brut rosé (sorry) to start, followed by a Sicilian white and a red-to-be-determined (but leaning towards a Nero d’Avola, a recent interest of mine).

So… what am I missing?

July 18, 2009   Comments Off

Canon VIXIA HFS-100 fumble test

So, I just got this new toy. The following video was shot after ripping the camera out of the box and fumbling with it to figure out how to turn it on, set it to high quality, zoom and focus. Hence it is nothing more than the fumble test. Here is a sample of what you get with the “raw” AVHDC conversion to Apple Intermediate codec, and another sample of what you get when you use iMovie 09′s Share > Export Movie… > HD option (720p).

The links below should pop a QuickTime player for you. Both are large files at high resolutions. Cuts are about 16 seconds each (I didn’t bother trying to make them exactly the same but the overlap is considerable).

Apple Intermediate, 1920×1080 pixels, 214 MB

iMovie HD Export, 1280×720 pixels, 24 MB

Light in the room was above average (very sunny out, large windows on three sides, high ceiling).

By the way, I really like the camera. I’m already wondering if I should get the extra battery and charge, and a wide angle lens. Still, too bad about that viewfinder, Canon.

July 17, 2009   Comments Off

Voting present on the battle but losing the war

One consequence of moving is that I’ve spent a lot less time looking at serious information, such political news and blogs. I’ve noticed from my Twitter time stream that most of my comments are really of the “what are you doing right now?” variety—mostly, what am I doing to hide from the crushing burden of moving.

However, I have had a lot more time to tune in to the conservative talk available in the Puget Sound area (KVI, KTTH), and I do still manage to peruse some serious news.

So while I have not been playing close attention I’ve noticed two themes emerging: the President’s major domestic agenda items (health care, cap and trade, financial regulation reform) are imperiled because senators are sensitive to the voters’ abhorrence of the deficit; and “the stimulus isn’t working.” People are talking about the lack of immediate spending, failure to identify the promised “shovel-ready” jobs, and the mismatch between expected expenditure (infrastructure) versus actual spending (Medicare).

A couple thoughts. First, isn’t it strange that these projects are expected by so many pundits to die in the Senate? Wasn’t that supposed to be the house that was less influenced by popular sentiment? Secondly, it is clear that the perceived failure of the stimulus is driving the voters’ reluctance for further reform. Yet the stimulus bill was the one piece of the domestic agenda that the President showed no personal interest in guiding—”Send me a bill, and I’ll sign it.” I think it will be a good lesson for the new Commander-in-Chief to learn about the importance of specifying the expected end state of a mission if his failure to get involved with the stimulus spending ultimately derails every other major policy objective of his administration.

Would his approval rating be taking a nose dive if he had looked at the first spending bill and said, “No, not good enough. Try again and cut the crap out this time”?

Most people have to learn the basics of organizational leadership (you will always be misunderstood; you have to personally inspect things from time to time; you have to describe the standards and then show that you uphold them) from being leaders. You don’t get that from being at the top of the heap of people who are supporting you. You get that from leading people who are indifferent to your success. I don’t know if the President got that at Harvard, or organizing communities, or running his Senate staff or campaign. He’s getting it now, though.

July 14, 2009   1 Comment

Dragging… it… out…

I thought I would enjoy my vacation more if we sprinkled the moving days throughout. I feel like I have failed, because it hangs over us.

I don’t think that Kirsten and I could have done it ourselves, or even with a little neighborly help. So the alternative, in retrospect, would have been to hire some labor and get a big truck, and tuck the kids somewhere, and spend two or three days in a concentrated frenzy of packing, moving, stacking, storing and unpacking.

It would have cost a lot of money, separated me for a few days from the kids, and turned the rest of the vacation into dealing with the aftermath of hundreds of items showing up all at once.

Am I wrong? Or did I do it the right way? Or maybe there is no right answer and moving sucks no matter how you approach it. Time, money, stress… I guess you can optimize for one or two but you just increase the quantity of the remaining factors.

July 14, 2009   1 Comment

Brain transplant

iTunes. A great program that leaves your life in a mess if you share a household with another music lover and iTunes consumer. I’ve always manually managed keeping my library and my wife’s library more or less in sync, without excessive duplication (thanks to symlinks). It’s a lot of work though, and the result is a library spread across several hard drives, no consistency, and no process that my wife can understand or duplicate (“How do I get the songs in your library into mine again?” Sorry Apple, but any answer that begins with “First mount the network drive in your account…” isn’t going to cut it).

I had hopes for AppleTV coming to the rescue, but the truth is, Apple does not rescue problems that affect only 1% of users, their rationale for the recent switch from ExpressCard slots to SD card slots. I feel sorry for the 15″ MacBook Pro users that just got hosed by Apple. The right solution was to include an SD card adapter already installed. Or to add a second port.

Anyway, tonight I am upgrading my wife’s laptop and my laptop with 500 GB hard drives. The only way I can make a solution that works for her is to consolidate everything in her library, and mine. I’m going away for a year, so the libraries will fork during that time, and then I get to reconsolidate them. Good times.

Apple, fix iTunes. It cries out for a client-server database-driven solution.

July 13, 2009   Comments Off

Hard-Boiled Eggs with Green Sauce

Reproduced from Marcella Hazan’s Essentials of Classic Italian Cooking, pages 52-53.

Hard boiled eggs with salsa verde - won't look right in Internet Explorer

Basically, you are making deviled eggs, with the yolks combined with Italian salsa verde, a piquant green sauce with anchovies, capers and parsley.

Prepare six hard boiled eggs, cool and peel. Slice in half lengthwise and remove the yolks. Hard boiling eggs is a poorly understood science that deserves its own post, some day.

With a fork mash the following together in a bowl.

  • The six yolks
  • 2T extra virgin olive oil
  • ½T chopped capers (drained if in vinegar, rinsed if in salt)
  • 1T chopped parsley
  • 3 anchovy fillets, rinsed, the chopped (just enough to aid mashing them)
  • ¼t chopped garlic
  • ¼t English or dijon style mustard
  • Salt, to taste

Garnish with diced sweet red pepper.

I can understand, and probably even forgive, the temptation to abbreviate “extra virgin olive oil” as “EVOO” on Twitter, but seeing it written gives me a rash. And if you actually pronounce the abbreviation (Eeevu? WALL•E!) then I may stab you.

July 12, 2009   Comments Off

That’s my fun day…

We are alternating days between work and fun. On work days, we go to the house and work for a few hours, pack up some boxes, and clean a little bit. Usually a visit to a restaurant is involved. Today was a work day. Tomorrow I’m taking the kids to Enchanted Village. I loved that place growing up and I’m sure I pleaded to go down there far to often for my parents to tolerate.

I remember that I thought that the movie for The Neverending Story was a timeless classic when I was twelve. It doesn’t really hold up well, although the kids today love it too. Of course, they can see it whenever they want thanks to the miracle of technology. Anyway, I hope that the enchantment on this particular village isn’t just an easily penetrated glamour.

Two days ago, the last work day, we left the kids with Grandma for a few hours of work at the other house. We actually stranded them there because @agentwool made me take her down to Olympia to buy shoes, we got hungry, one restaurant led to another and before we knew it we were eating at Basilico, the best unknown Italian restaurant I’ve been to since I’ve been to Italy. We totally overstayed and probably ticked off the grandma in return. So today I made reservations for their seasonal six course wine dinner. We’re treating her parents as a way of expressing our gratitude for helping out with the move (and the house…) and I can’t wait to go back there. A true gem of Olympia.

July 10, 2009   Comments Off


Took the family to Point Defiance today for something I have been meaning to do for a while: driving in small funny cars around a track for several minutes.

Actually it was a lot of fun. I drove each kid for one session. First up was Dorothy, who sat and smiled and each time yelled, “Yeah!” when I leaned over and shouted “Are you having fun?” I could see it being scary and after the first lap I started driving pretty aggressively. I needed to make sure I wasn’t scarring her emotionally. Her face, Mrs. Xaritas tells me, was unreadably blank during the drive-bys.

Next, Christopher. He held on for dear life, gripping my knee which was pressed up against him in the cramped double Go-Kart, and alternated between courageously submerged terror and wind-in-your-hair exuberance.

Finally Nicholas, who was practically vibrating with eagerness, got a chance. He loves all things mechanical. He’s terrified not of acts of physical danger but of failure and looking foolish. So I think my driving him enabled him to experience it as pure exhilaration. At least, that is how his face looked.

Best part: realizing that the “snaking” mechanics of Mario Kart aren’t totally fictitious. It really does help to fishtail a bit around the corners to pick up speed. My only regret is that @agentwool did not participate, but at least she live-tweeted it, with pictures.

Price was $6.00 for a normal ride, and $8.00 for the double karts. Worth it. Kids were asking to make it an annual tradition. Cute, because they have no concept of time.

July 9, 2009   Comments Off

Never the same memory twice

Moving. The house itself is mostly packed. Large items remain—those will remain until we get a moving truck over there for the final push—and lots of small things, minutiae, detritus, forgettable, losable, unmemorious things. Countless books, here and there, and more toys than you can imagine.

Cleaning in a corner I unearthed a small, cheap rubber toy designed to suggest the Space Shuttle without actually bothering to reproduce any of its distinguishing characteristics. Name? Why, it could be any of’em. Flag? Well, we want it to sell in any country, that just wouldn’t do. Not the Space Shuttle, but an eidolon.

We are struggling to use the opportunity of moving the household to reduce and simplify. We have too much for how often we must move. So I knew it had to go as soon as I saw it; was certain as I put the toy in my hand. In the handling of the thing I nearly—how to put this?—inhaled memory from it, as though contact had rendered me a sensitized conductor to the charge of joy and wonder and glee that excited little fists had invested in it. That cheap little toy was, briefly, the biggest toy in the world; they all are, for a little bit. I remember when it flew about the house on its masters’ missions. I don’t remember when it came, from where, or when it was retired, or if its loss was much lamented.

I wanted to save it, to recapture the times slipped out and see them lived again. Impossible. You cannot taste the young wine once it has aged. Wine is a store not just of grapes but of time, and the wine maker’s life from the time he puts his labor into it until the time it is shared. You drink it and remember when it was made, and note how much it has changed since a tasting anchored to some event or season, while what you are doing at the drinking shapes its flavor in your mouth and your recollection of previous glasses (over dinner? By yourself, with a book? With friends and hot grill?) These little knickknacks and treasured bric-a-brac store captured moments that can be uncorked and enjoyed, yet they change with perspective and time, perhaps maturing when they are put away, perhaps going stale when they are experienced, so that you can savor the memories, but never the same memory twice.

It’s gone now, but safe, here.

July 8, 2009   Comments Off

Crostini Bianche

Reproduced from Marcella Hazan’s Essentials of Classic Italian Cooking, page 52.

  • 1/2 pound fresh ricotta (drain if very wet) [I used whole ricotta not skim here, as I'm sure was intended]
  • 1T butter softened to room temperature
  • 8 anchovy fillets (rinsed)
  • 1T extra virgin olive oil
  • Black pepper to taste

Mix the above ingredients in a food processor to a smooth paste.

For the crostini, Hazan advises using slices of white bread, toasted in an oven at 400F, then removing the crusts and quartering. I just used thinly sliced baguette and toasted them. Probably a little more rustic than what she had in mind but it suited me.

The flavor is very delicate and pairs well with a white wine. I think it would stand up to a sprinkling of red pepper flakes and Italian parsley, if you wanted to give it a little more punch.

July 7, 2009   Comments Off