Tuesday, February 27, 2007

Yummy dinner!!

Last night, Matt and I made our dinner fabulous by improvising. We started off with agreeing to make the roasted garlic and eggplant soup that we like so well. After scrounging around in the kitchen, we found that we did not have many of the ingredients. That’s when we threw the cookbook to the floor, rolled up our sleeves and started creating. Although we do not have a name for it, yet, I will let you in on what we did…

Garlic – whole clove
Onion – chopped
Tomatoes – large can
Artichokes – canned and slightly drained
Tofu – ground “meat” type
Pasta – elbow, penne, etc.
Feta w/basil

We started off by roasting a whole clove of garlic. If you have never done this before, you must do it! It is so easy and wonderful. The basic idea is to take a bulb of garlic and cut the top of the skin, just so you can see the cloves inside. Pour a small amount of olive oil into the bulb. Sprinkle with salt and pepper. Take a small piece of tin foil and wrap the garlic in it, leaving a small opening at the top. 375 degrees for about 30 min

We also roasted a whole eggplant. In order to do this, there are a couple of things that need to be done before popping it in the oven. First, thinly slice the eggplant, sprinkle with salt and arrange on and cover with paper towels. Place something heavy on top of the eggplant to draw the excess water out of them. Approximately 15 minutes later you may liberally coat the eggplant and place on a cookie sheet. 375 degrees for 15 – 20 min

Cook onions in a large pan with a little olive oil. Add can of tomatoes and ground tofu. Cook pasta in separate pan, and transfer when al dente.

Remove eggplant and garlic and let cool slightly. Add eggplant, garlic (can be squeezed right out of the bulb!), and can of artichokes with ½ of the liquid to food processor and blend thoroughly.

Add food processed items to large pan, and heat through. Serve topped with feta.


Monday, February 26, 2007


Mandy's uncle, a very talented artist and craftsman, built us an end table for a belated wedding gift. I have included a couple pictures of the table below. It's an amazing gift on two levels: One is the fine craftsmanship and working of the table, the other is the fact that he thought to make it. From the pictures, you can tell that no small amount of effort was put into creating the table. It's artificial aging, woodworking, masonry, and wax finish are very high quality. He even used blends of woods and finish so it would match our couches (a detail I completely missed until it was brought to my attention). Mandy and I have personally set glasses of water of it to verify it provides the necessary functions a table should.

Gifts are always nice, but we feel they are especially effective in conveying love and gratitude when they are made, rather than purchased. The construction of a gift is a literal rendering of a person's feelings. Living in Kentucky, he was unable to attend the wedding, but he wanted to show his love and respect, so he crafted this table. The gesture was deeply moving for both Mandy and I, considering our general stance towards gift giving and for me in particular, considering an entire half of my extended family felt it unnecessary to even attend the wedding.

The many gifts we have received throughout the years, purchased or otherwise, are a powerful reminder that we live blessed lives, filled with an abundance of wonderful friends and family we feel deeply honored to know and love. I don't think we say thanks enough, so here it is: Thanks!

Happy now?

Thursday, February 22, 2007

Body Massage


(Who wants a body massage?)

We're only a few weeks away from the whole "set our clocks to a different time for no good reason" experience. It's funny to see Microsoft having to patch Outlook to accommodate the change in the day we reset our clocks. I like to watch Microsoft scramble around, fixing bugs that would've been discovered months ago had they adopted an open development model. There's something really interesting about how people love to see the big and powerful make mistakes. Maybe it's out of spite or jealousy, but it seems like all the infotainment pap I see in newsstands, websites, and TVs is heavily geared towards this impulse. Every time I see some formerly "important" movie star, athlete, or politician get roasted by the press, I feel a little twinge of justice, like there's some powerful universal force grinding them beneath its thumb. It all makes me smile and pump my fist vigorously towards the heavens with shouts of, "Git er' done!" and knee-slaps a plenty. For example:

It's interesting to wonder why people are so enamored with this kind of information. Is it because people are innately shallow or because our culture teaches us to be this way?

Tuesday, February 20, 2007

Top Ten Differences Between Living in Michigan and Ohio

Chad asked for this list the second week we moved down here. I've finally gotten around to writing it. I hope it satisfies.

10. Interpretation of risk associated with weather.

In Ohio, 3 inches of snow is considered a state emergency. They actually preemptively close schools: This means they close school before it snows. The fear of snow, not actual inclement weather, causes schools to close. Where I grew up, if there were fewer than five buses stuck in ditches, school was open. Here, ever city has an alter whereupon children are sacrificed to Frostzor the Cold One, in hopes of keeping His icy will at bay.

9. Driving skills of the populace.

It is amazing, but Ohio drivers really are worse than Michigan drivers, perhaps worse than any other drivers on the planet, universe, and all of creation. Maybe even beyond that. And by bad, I mean driving through red lights, cars and people flipping through the air, bursting into flames, driving over grandmothers, and welding hunks of metal to their bumpers to inflict as much damage possible. Driving around in Ohio is like driving around the Mad Max universe in a Ford Pinto with Mel Gibson riding shotgun, spitting random racial slurs and vodka; like some kind of Australian post-apoplectic wasteland of Mohawk sporting cannibals crashing 10-ton death machines shaped like giant phalluses into each other. And remember that midget with the boomerang that cuts off that one dude's fingers in Mad Max 1? That was awesome.

8. Perceived risks of imbibing alcoholic beverages on the Sabbath.

In the area of Ohio where we live, people have this strange notion that purchasing alcohol on Sundays does not constitute and unpardonable sin—punishable only by death. There are no public executions of heathens caught purchasing flasks of devil juice on the holy day. It's so boring without the weekly beheadings. On the other hand, Hamilites don't appear to be stuck in some romantic view of the world c. 1500AD like Grandville is. That Ye Olde Timey feel is gone. Many fewer corpses and piles of feces line the streets of Hamilton, so I guess that's a plus. The surfs of Grandville really ought to petition Lord Hemingsford to ask favor of His Majesty the King to lift the ban on the purchase of alcoholic spirits on Sundays and join the real world.

7. Usage of Chili

Nearly every food is coated with chili. From spaghetti to hot-dogs, it's rare to go into any restaurant that doesn't provide the option of having your entree coated with a steaming pile of meaty chili. There are more Skylines (a local chili chain) than McDonalds in most places.

6. The quantity and quality of Indian restaurants

Indian restaurant are all over the place down here. Some come in the tradition of American tex-mex restaurents where the food served is based on how an American who has never traveled more than two states away would think the food should taste like. Most restaurants, however, serve dishes we've never seen in other Indian restaurants. Not that a lower frequency of a given food item appearing in different restaurants makes it any more authentic or anything. It just tastes good.

5. The quantity and quality of jobs

The Western Michigan job market sucks. Not much more to say, really. It just sucks. Southeast Ohio? Not so much.

4. Comparative lack of microbreweries

Explain this to me: Why would a city like Cincinnati (the very bread and butter of the mid-West) not have more than one microbrewery? Sure there were the riots in 2001 that destroyed downtown, and the rampant murders in Over-the-Rhine, and the gas-crazed Mad Max cannibals driving around town, but what does that have to do with beer? I can see basic infrastructure like roads, sanitary drinking water, electricity, and civil order flying out the window when the Sickness killed half the population and left the other half blind and insane, but the beer? Come on Cincinnati. Get your act together.

3. Different geological topography

It's really windy and hilly here.

2. Different stance on recycling

You may think it's strange that this would come in second, but it's really unnerving. We grew up in Michigan, one of only two states in the union that pays its citizens $0.10 to bring back their beverage containers. We also grew up in a primarily Dutch (read frugal, penny-pinching misers) community where the value of ten cents was not something to scoff at. There is a strong, pervasive belief among our parents that somehow returning 20 cans would give us enough money to fill our gas tanks. I can remember how, on countless occasions, my father would hand me a bag of stinking cans, smile and say, "There you go! That ought to fill up the old tank."

So, in Michigan, throwing away a can is akin to throwing away cold, hard cash. And not only that, but magic cash that, despite only having the appearance of $2.00, will somehow fill up your gas tank.

In Ohio, there are is no payment-for-recycling program. You either seek out a recycling plant, pay to have your cans picked up, or just toss them in the trash. Fighting the hard coded compulsion to wash out, line up, and bag those cans is taking its toll. It's a daily struggle.

1. The importance of organized sports

In the days of ancient Greece, everything revolved around the Olympics. People would stop warring, everyone's safe travel was insured, and the next four-year calendar was named after the winner of the chariot race. It's much like that here. When we first arrived, people would drive up next to us at lights and scream, "Hoo Day!" and drive off laughing. It wasn't until much later we realized that this is the war cry of Bangles fans. Elderly, white-haired grandmothers walk around with temporary Bangles tattoos on their foreheads and babies are dressed in the team's colors. It's very disconcerting.

Monday, February 19, 2007

Weekend Update

This past weekend was a good one. Friday Mandy and I went to eat at the amazing local Mexican restaurant "Taqueria Mercado" then headed home to watch "Born Into Brothels" which was also very good. Hot Mexican food, good microbrew beer, and an award-winning documentary comprise the very essence of rest and relaxation for me.

Saturday we went to the humane society and walked some dogs in the snow. We didn't walk or see any that stole our hearts the ways others have, but they were so hyper and happy to be out in the snow we still had fun. There was one cocker named Julie that was hilarious. She had this little frozen beard that made her look like a tiny billy goat. She would burrow under the snow and run around beneath it; a moving mound of snow (a la Bugs Bunny) was all we could see. Good times.

Saturday night we went out with some friends to go bowling. Mandy won a game and I won a game, which is amazing considering how terribly we play. Not that our friends played a comparatively poor game, quite the contrary. We all played horribly, Mandy and I just played very slightly less horribly than the others. To illustrate how poorly we played I offer this example: In one game we all barley broke 100.

After bowling we drove to a Micro Center (?) a few miles down I-275 to see if they had a Wii to purchase—we wanted to continue bowling, we just wanted to do it on our TV. This Micro Center is a Home Depot-sized store that only sells geek equipment. Imagine those large bulk bins at Meijer or CostCo that are filled with jelly beans and oatmeal, now imagine the bins filled with hard drives and you'll start to get the idea. Sadly they did not have any Wii's for sale, so we left empty-handed.

The cool part was the drive. Our friends, Dean the Machine and Erin, own a Prius. The Prius is one of those new-fangled electric/gas hybrid cars you keep seeing and wanting but never getting around to buying. It was really cool to see how the system worked, to watch the little in-dash display of the motor charging the battery, and to have it all explained by the driver. It was like a trip into Tomorrow Land at Disney World. The coolest thing about the car is how quiet it is. When we pulled into parking lots, the gas engine would literally shut off as the car switched to the electric motor and would become totally silent. It was really cool. It's a like a geek gadget you can drive.

After the Micro Center, we went to eat at a local Peruvian restaurant. We ordered fried chicken things, green potato things, and volcanically hot dipping sauce things. It was good, though overpriced considering the portion sizes. Afterwards, then all headed home to hang out and talk.

Sunday we met a couple friends for breakfast at a local Waffle house. One of them, Steven, returned my copy of World of Warcraft I gave him to try the 10-day trail declaring he had bought a retail copy and the expansion pack. Yet another example of how giving things away can be a part of a very robust business plan. Even if I don't play, I can deny that 8 million subscribers can't be wrong.

The rest of the day Mandy worked on taxes and I worked on my reel. It was productive and fun!

Thursday, February 15, 2007

Mo Mac

The Mac Pro arrived last week. The benevolent aspect of the universe shined its glorious light upon me as, within ten minutes of each other: As I was notified that the Mac was waiting at the leasing office I was also told that we were being told to go home early because it had begun to snow outside. To appease the snow deity that took pity on me, I ceremoniously left a plate of cheese and barbeque sauce on my doorstep. Thank you Snow Buddah! Well, technically the Buddah isn't a diety, and since I am now a full-fledged member the MaCult, I guess Snow Steve Jobs would be the more appropriate deity to leave snacks for.

I can't say too much about the experience of actually using the Mac above the rote routine of installing any piece of hardware. There was a hefty amount of unwrapping, plugging, unplugging, and swearing to be done. In the end, however, I can say that the actual OS X user interface (UI) is so far above and beyond the Windows XP experience as to not even be worth comparing. I hear the new Windows Vista UI "Aero" is pretty, but that's about it. Amazingly, the MacOS UI is not only very nice to look at it, but it's also very intuitive. Things just seem to be where you'd naturally expect them to be. The most used options are the easiest to find, and even the more technical options of a given application are simple and highly adaptable. I'll report more on using the software as I have exposure to it, but for now, I'm very excited about the prospect of exploration.

The hardware layout, I can say with certainty, is brilliant. I installed a new, off-brand 320GB hard drive I purchased through TigerDirect for $79 (which is a about 1/4 the cost of buying the same sized drive through Mac). After the nearly 2 hour installation of Final Cut Pro Studio 5.1 (it comes on 6 full DVDs), I decided to give installing the hard drive I had purchased a week back a shot. To physically install the hard drive involved the following:

1. Remove side panel via a lever on the back of the case.
2. Pull out a hard drive sleeve.
3. Screw the hard drive to the sleeve with four screws
4. Push the sleeve back in place
5. Replace the side panel.

That's it. When I booted the computer, it brought me to a disk maintenance app that took, literally, 3 clicks to clear and format the drive to be used. The entire process took less than five minutes. Mac are expensive, don't get me wrong. I would go so far as to say they are prohibitively expensive for the average web surfer and word processor. However, now that Apple is adapting Intel architecture, these costs will, as my third-party hard drive experience demonstrates, come down over time. Video cards, which, traditionally, have had the largest cost gap between Mac and PC, are starting to be released cross-platform, and all new Macs are adopting the PCI-E architecture.

Wednesday, February 14, 2007

Snow, Editing, and Primier

The weather has been shite down here. There hasn't really been a ton of snow, it just keeps going from melting to freezing, so there's 4-5 inches of ice covering everything. The upshot of the crap weather is we were able to stay home on Tuesday. This provided me with some time to work on my reel. I ripped copies of Stalemate and Le Denoument, and started picking clips that I like. My goal is to have all my clips picked and my structure laid down by the end of this weekend. Next week will be working on the After Effects sequences. It's coming along really well now that I have all the applications I need to put together.

(Our neighbor's car)

Last weekend was fun. We headed down to Grand Rapids Thursday night and stayed until Sunday. Friday we hung out, went to lunch, and saw the world premier of Chad's film "Little Thumb." I have much, much more to say about the premier and the movie, but I'm still reflecting on it, so I guess everyone will have to wait with bated breath for that post. Afterward, we hung out with friends at Grand Rapids Brewing Company and caught up with friends and family. It was great. It summarized some of the things I miss about GR: Good friends, family, and micro-brew beer. There's only 2 micro-breweries withing driving distance of Cincinnati. What's up with that?

(The drunkards.)

Saturday we slept in, ran some errands, and hung out with Team Forton to un-celebrate Zach's big birthday. It was great to hang with the gang again. We sat around, joked, caught up, laughed at really bad tv, and had a smashing time. We always have such a good time over there.

(Angie preparing to eat William)

About 6 o'clock we prepared dinner at Mandy's parent's house and sat down to watch Fear and Loathing In Las Vegas and sat by the warm fire. The strangeness of Fear and Loathing aside, I think everyone had a good time. We drink some white wine, ate good food, and partook of the warm and friendly company.

Sunday we ate a quick breakfast and headed out. We made it home around 7:00PM and got some Chinese take-out from a local wok. It was a really good weekend.

Saturday, February 10, 2007

Viacom 100,000 Take Downs

A few weeks back, I posted two video segments Chad and I made for a friend's bachelor party. The video segments were straight-up parody (which is protected speech), not-for-profit, and terribly funny. If you scroll back to these two posts you'll find that the videos no longer work. The reason they don't, is because Viacom sent 100,000 cease and desist letters to YouTube. YouTube promptly removed all of the alleged offending content, without verifying if any of the content actually broke their rules. Chad's videos were removed as a result of the take down.

The Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF.Org) is attempting to gather examples of clips that were unnecessarily removed. So far, several cases have been reported including a home video of people eating a restaurant--obviously having nothing to do with Viacom. They have put together a simple a video to pass around to people who may have been affected by the take down. I include the video at the bottom of the post, in the hopes that Chad follows up with them. Our work is both parody and a form of fair use falling under the "mash-up" style of expression which is increasing in popularity.

Tuesday, February 06, 2007

Mac is arrive.

Hopefully, by the time I get home, my Mac will have arrived. My hope is that I will be posting this via Safari or Firefox 2.0 running on OS X.

The demo is coming along as well as it can while waiting on the computer I'm going to use to finish the composition. I've been scanning through a ton of music I found at Archive.org. Some of the music has the most liberal Creative Commons copyright, the share-alike, derivatives-friendly, no commercial use license. The problem is, most of the tracks aren't really conducive to a fast-paced promotion piece. The vast majority of the tracks released under the license I need are generally ephemeral ambient music. I need beats and lots of variation so I can transition between clips, using the audio as a cue or to help keep a sense of pacing as a flip between shots that often have nothing in common.

In other news, Mandy and I are preparing for the long crossing. There is good reason to believe that this trip is going to be slow-going due to inclement weather. We're still planning to leave Thursday after work, but when we arrive in GR is anyone's guess. Accuweather calls for clear but cold down here and snowy up North. Since there is an escalating possibility of getting stranded up North, we're bringing the cats.

Sunday, February 04, 2007

Cooking and Waiting

We had a fun potluck last night. Some work friends came over and we all shared food. Most of the people were Indian women, so the food was amazing and diverse. Mandy and I made egg fried rice with veggies, some basmati rice, cinnamon bread, and focaccia bread with sun-dried tomatoes and mozzarella. They made idly with coconut chutney, tandoori chicken, golab jamun (little deep-fried donuts in a single sugar syrup), onion pakoras, and Kentucky Fried Chicken... yes, KFC. It was cool to hang out with everyone and swap stories about cultural differences, movie likes, and recipes.

I've received by new monitor, Final Cut Studio 5.1 software, and 320GB-friggen-hard-drive for $79. The only thing that's missing is the Mac. The tracking number was last updated on February 1st and it places the date of arrival here around February 7th, but I think it will show up before that--hopefully tomorrow.

I've been hard at work on my demo reel. I created a cool 10 second intro clip and another 8 second conclusion clip. I started splitting the scenes out that I want to use, but with a Mac on the way, and having to convert everything from MPEG2 to Quicktime when it arrives, I've been dragging my heels. I figure one long weekend push will get into a form that I wouldn't mind showing to potential employers. Taking Josh's advice, I'm going to put just the video clip, my resume, contact info up on a basic .html page while I work on the more in-depth flash site that will showcase my writings, photography, and audio work.

After the reel is done, I'm going to move full-force into working on Mandy's parent's cross-country bike trip video diary. I'm going import that footage, break into sizable chunks, and figure out how to pace it based on notes that Casey left me. I think that's going to be fun since it will give me an opportunity to relearn FCP, Soundtrack, and Motion - the Mac apps I haven't really been playing with since I left school.

This week we're packing up and getting ready to head North to see the premier of Chad's documentary "Little Thumb" and to see our nephew, Zach, for his fourth birthday. I'm really anxious to see Chad's film. He's been working on it for a over a year. I've seen various drafts of the outline, shot some of the footage, and debated the theme over many a pint. It's always so gratifying to see people accomplish the goals they set for themselves. Woot!

Saturday, February 03, 2007

Um... wtf?

After some research, I found out this clip is from a Werner Herzog film which sort of breaks my heart. I was totally convinced it came straight from hell.

Herzog is a famous, and amazingly talented, filmmaker who specializes in documentaries. I found the clip on the amazing video filter site Videosift.com. When I started watching it I was initially confused. The confusion quickly gave way to an intense feeling of anxiety which just as quickly became laughter. As many a constant reader has commented on how I find something about tiny people very, uh, alluring. I post this clip, however, not because it contains a tiny German midget laughing at a camel doing situps, but because the scene is so bizarre, so totally absurd it has to been to seen to be believed.

Here it is: The strangest clip I've ever found on the internet. You have to play it through to the end to hear the midget nearly die from laughing so hard.

The funniest comment I've seen about this was from videosift when someone wrote, "Does this mean I'm going to die in seven days after seeing this?"