Saturday, October 28, 2006

Hat trick -

Sometimes you want to have some background music playing - nothing that requires you to actually listen. If you haven't heard of, take a peak. The have several steams going (my favorite is Secret Agent). It's a nice break from talk radio, pop radio or our CD collection.

Study Pics

Some of you have asked where the photos of the new study are. This morning we put the finishing touches on the furniture placement and this evening I took some snapshots. It looks a lot different with artificial light than with natural night, so I'm going to wait until the sun shines and snap another set.

We are really happy with how the colour turned out. We are still not sure if we like the doors (a pigment called 'lemongrass'), but that can be easily changed if need be.

We still have our cheap Ikea book case in here - we'd like to get something a little more classy. But with Tara in school again we'll have to wait until we find something classy and on sale. Or I could get off my butt and make one.

On second thought - let's wait for a sale.

[Updated - October 29th]
Here are the three pictures during the brief and sporadic sunlight today - I'm not sure if the colour change comes through or not but if nothing else they are nicer pictures than the ones above (and the screen doesn't glow quite as much during the day).

Trip to the barn

Tara and I spent the better part of the afternoon today at the barn. It's been a while since I have been there.

Tara rode around the arena on King while I talked to Sydney's mom on the side lines. I snapped a bunch of pictures, but the lighting in the arena on rainy days isn't handled too well by my subcompact Canon, especially with the halogen bulbs. Pictures with Tara moving come out blurry and noisy. You'll have to ignore both of those factors in the next couple of pits

The camera does ok without a lot of movement, but there is still a lot of noise in the photos. I'd like to borrow a nicer camera (perhaps even a DSLR) to see if the issue goes away.

Monday, October 23, 2006

Places I'm going

There isn't much new going on these days with us. We just finished painting the Study/Office/Computer room; it's a nice shade of olive green called "Grasslands". I'll post some pictures when we have the room setup.
Offtopic 1: If you are looking for house paint, you can't go wrong with Benjamin Moore paint. We have been getting ours at Expressions on King (sadly no web presence). We highly recommend them. The staff has always been helpful and the paint has gone on like a dream.
Offtopic 2: Who comes up with the names for paints? Do you need a degree to do such a job or just a dictionary?

To pass the time, I thought I'd pass along a few websites that I visit daily or semi-daily (this is a hyperlink document after all)

egullet: This isn't your ordinary culinary site. This is the place where professionals go to talk and learn. There have online courses on all sorts of things, thoughtful articles, and very very interesting forums. They take food seriously; if you want to become a member you have to write an essay on food. If you have a passion for cooking or baking or eating, this is one spot you don't want to miss.

Creating Passionate Users: If you write software, create a product, or provide a service that people use, this is a must read. It is all about getting people to love what you produce. Reading this blog makes me wish I was involved in software that was marketed to a wider audience.

Coding horror: This a blog about software - coding, methods and philosophy. It is geared towards the windows crowd, but a lot of his stuff is useful all over. I don't agree with 100% of what he says, but his points come across well and always make you think.

: This site amalgamates the top links from a number of sites (digg,, reddit, flicker, metafilter...) into one handy site. When I want to see what is interesting on the web, or at least, what is popular, this is where I go.

Hmmm - that's all. My daily surfing routine includes several other sites (dilbert, foxtrot, xkcd, boingboing, slashdot, making light, joel on software, braidy tester, make, plus others), but I don't have time to go into each of those here...

Monday, October 16, 2006

Well, it has taken me a bit longer than anticipated, but I finished my summer reading trifecta. I started a bit late (August) so finishing 3 weeks after summer is understandable.

I chose three classic science fiction novels for my reading material. Or so I thought. It turns out that the last book I read was less of a sf novel and more of a regular suspense/intrigue novel. Oh well - two out three ain't bad.

So here they are:

Dune by Frank Herbert

Stranger in a Strange Land by Robert Heinlein

Cryptonomicon by Neal Stephenson

Having a summer reading list is a great idea. It forces you to do something better than watching TV or surfing the net during the summer and, for me at least, it doesn't prevent you from getting some good fresh air. This is the first summer that I gave myself a reading list, but I think I'll do it from now on.

Here are three quick reviews of the books. Synopses can be found following the links

1. Dune. You must read this. Even if you don't like science fiction. It's not a super easy read and there are a lot of things to keep in your head, but the plot lines and character development are well thought out. Again - if you are looking for a book to read, read this one.

2. Stranger in a Strange Land. This was good. It wasn't what I was expecting at all. It has some very hippie undertones (free love and all) and I wouldn't let my 12 year old son or daughter read it, but it was good. It presents humanity in a light that I hadn't considered.

3. Cryptonomicon. Great story - just 700 pages too many (it was a slog just to finish it). Way too much sex - I don't need to read that. It is quite technical at times, in a very mathie sort of way. They cryptography ideas presented were interesting and the tie in to WWII was entertaining, but you had to endure many pages of unneeded narrative to get to the good parts. Every day I read this book, I considered stopping. But I got through it.

Now I'm bookless. Any suggestions on what to read next?

Thursday, October 12, 2006

Um, what's this?

October 12.

On the ground - staying there.
Global warming my butt.

Tuesday, October 10, 2006

We just came back from a extended long weekend with my folks who are now living with Julie and Peter. It was a good weekend, but a hard one. But instead of spilling my guts out and getting all emotional (done too much of that recently), I'll talk about mainly unimportant things.

For those who are worried, both my mom and dad are as doing as fine as can be expected. It will take a while to get used to their new life - trips to the hospital, living with family, and eating things other than fish, croissants and grapes. Prayers are still needed though - they aren't anywhere close to being out of the woods yet - but they have found the metaphorical stream by which they can rest a little.

Julie and Peter's new patio is amazing. If we ever decide to build one, I can only hope it looks half as nice.

I made quiche for the first time in a long long time (probably only the second time making it). It turned out well. It's quite like a frittata; a staple in our house - but it takes longer to bake because the egg isn't put into a hot skillet.

Due to the new dietary restrictions, there was 3 pies made for 7 people on Sunday. Never can have too many pies.

We visited Greg's new place - quite nice. Good location, great choices in upgrades and the perfect size.

We also visited Aunt Nan and Brie out in South Mountain. A good time was had by all.

We picked up some linen at a Third World Bazaar outside of Manotick.

Tara discovered she loves a London Fog. I whipped up a vanilla simple syrup after we got home and it seems to work quite well.

The weather this weekend was nearly perfect - warm, sunny and a bit breezy. The air was filled with the wonderful smell of fall - leaves decomposing. Several walks were taken. One of then went by this demon dog on the left(whom I'm sure is very friendly).

Cucumbers can grow in the wild. The are prickly and not good for eating.

We are now back and we have to try to get onto life as best we know how. Too bad.

Monday, October 02, 2006

Acer Rubrum

How can anyone not love this time of year?

Sunday, October 01, 2006

Food Fears

What a great weekend. Julie and Pete were down for the night and we had a great time catching up. And just as importantly, we had a great time eating.

We started off with a cheese plate with homemade toasts. We then moved to chicken dijionnase, squash-pear-pecan salad and maple butter carrots. And then for the pièce de résistance, wild berry crème brûlée. All this with a nice unoaked Chardonnay (Thomas & Vaghan). We were stuffed and, if I may speak for everyone, satisfied.

This chicken dijionnase was a new recipe for me, but I wasn't too worried about it; a riff off of many a chicken and sauce meals made. It was the creme brulee that made me pause. The creme brulee stirred fear in heart. I had never made a brulee and the whole thing seemed too delicate and finessed for by brute cooking skills. (And I'm dropping the accents on purpose - too much work to type).

Now for those who don't know, a creme brulee is a three part dessert; bottom layer is something fruity or sweet (berries, chocolate, or citrus are popular), the middle layer is a simple custard, and the top layer is caramelized sugar. If you have never had one, order it next time you are at a resturant or, better yet, come over to my place with a days notice and I'll get more practice making them.

Getting to the heart of the matter, brulee always seemed out of reach for my cooking. I was actually afraid to make it, putting it off and putting it off. I didn't want to try because I knew there was a good chance I would fail. And I didn't want to fail with all the implications that brought.

But it turned out to be a lot easier than I had anticipated. The custard didn't set quite as nice as it could have and it wasn't as snow white as I would have liked. But the berries on the buttom were very tasty and even the sugar behaved itself under the broiler. I will be making creme brulee again.

So now i am wondering what else I have missed because I have been afarid to fail at cooking it. Beef Wellington? Liver Pate? Turducken? The world of culinary arts seems to have just gotten larger...