Friday, November 17, 2006

God bless the little iPod...

Well, more to the point, God bless iTunes. Not because it plays digital music files so well - pretty much any digital jukebox software can do that. It does seem to have the ability to dig through my music files and find an appropriate song, or even some forgotten treasures.

Case in point - Northside. Don't worry, nobody but me and their mamma's have ever heard of Northside. They came out during the Madchester scene, with the Stone Roses and Happy Mondays, though they really didn't sound much like either of those bands. They simply played decent Brit-flavoured pop music. I bought their CD Chicken Rhythms, in 1992, I guess, and haven't heard it in well over 10 years.

My current project is to convert as many CDs to digital files on a hard drive, in the effort to make a bitchin' media server. So far, I've converted about 400 of the 500 CDs I own to Lossless format - a much bigger mp3, and slightly smaller than a standard AIFF file on a CD. Soon, my entire CD collection will fit on a single 300 GB hard drive, and I figure I can put my albums and tapes on a 100 GB partition.

Essentially, I will soon be able to hold all of my music in one hand. Considering it now takes about four massive suitcases and zippered CD holders, that's amazing.

The Northside CD was never awful; it simply wasn't as good as other CDs I bought back then - the Trashcan Sinatras, Kitchens of Distinction, The Ocean Blue, The Judybats, Jellyfish, James, XTC - all of them and countless others managed to squeeze the little band out of my CD rotation and into the bowels of my collection. A dark place, reserved for horrible lapses in taste on my part (yes, Rick Astley, I'm looking at you), horrid gifts from well-meaning-yet-terribly-misinformed friends (see: Dion, Celine; Christmas Album), or purchases made in good faith towards legendary performers stuck in their "I'm Keith Hernandez!" phase (Van Morrison's gawd-awful mid-70s stuff).

iTunes does not care. Once placed in shuffle mode, it plays any song in the library, regardless of quality, age, popularity or genre. You're as likely to hear De la Soul as Dada as Dishwalla. What it manages to do is find those hidden gems of songs that somehow didn't register the first time (or several dozen) times through.

Another case in point - the new Keane CD, Under the Iron Sea. Not nearly as good as Hopes and Fears; it's a rather dreary listen using the disc's order. However, when shuffled in with other songs, it's apparent that Keane's music is quite good when compared to other music out right now. Is it as good as Hopes and Fears now? No, but it's not as bad as I had first registered.

However, I can safely say that I'm not sure if the new John Mayer project Continuum or the new Carbon Leaf disc "Love, Loss, Hope, Repeat" can be saved yet. And the new Barenaked's just say that their new disc "Barenaked Ladies Are Me" won't push them back up into favorite band status with me anytime soon.

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Monday, November 13, 2006

Talkin' Turkey from

Thanksgiving is less than ten short days away. It's a time for many of us to go back to our hometowns, eat a nice dinner with our family and sit down to converse with our loved ones next to a roaring fireplace.

Sure...if you were born in a greeting card.

Truth be told, most of us shove copious amounts of poorly-cooked food down our gullets, play some football with Uncle Mel and his 5 demon offspring in the front yard, sit in uncomfortable silence as Aunt Louise decides that now - during the halftime show of the Cowboys' game - is the time to come out of the closet in front of a completely unshocked family, but much to the dismay of Grandma, who just thinks she hasn't found the right man yet, and then plan on waking up at 5 in the morning to take advantage of the Black Friday specials at the mall.

OK, maybe that's just my brood, but, let's face it, lots of us have families less like the Huxtables and more like the Griswolds. And our Thanksgiving dinners have more in common with Paula Zahn than Paula Dean. So, here's a quick survival guide for Thanksgiving `06.

1) Let the neighborhood grocery store do the cooking for you. Giant, Magruder's, Wegman's , Shopper's, Bloom - they can all prepare a meal for you and your guests, ready to heat and serve on Thanksgiving Day. It's often a little bit pricier than making it yourself, but, it's also a lot less prep work and clean-up time. If you want something a little less traditional, try swinging by the local Asian market, like Great Wall off Gallows Road, for a roasted duck or crispy fish.

2) If the idea of Safeway cooking your bird frightens you, at least follow their recipe. The Two-Hour method of cooking a turkey is a fantastic way to ensure a crispy skin and juicy meat, and still make it thoroughly cooked. Gone are the days of slow-roasting a bird all Wednesday night to eat Thursday afternoon - just follow Safeway's handy reference chart to match the cooking time with the size of your turkey.

My only suggestion would be to use a heavy-duty cooking bag. This will trap in the juices from the meat and will make your broiling pan a lot easier to clean.

Plus, don't stuff your stuffing in the bird. It slows down the cooking process for both the stuffing and the turkey, and can spread bacteria. Simply use a baking pan separate from the turkey to cook your glorified Stove-Top.

3) Just go out for dinner. McCormick and Schmick's locations serve a legendary Thanksgiving spread, as do several of the downtown hotels and restaurants. This might also be a great time to get prime seats in a hot ethnic eatery. Remember that Thanksgiving evening is a big going-out night, and that many bars will fill up with folks who've had about as much family as they can hand;e for the day. Get your grub early, and you should be fine.

And, if you need to go home and have zero control over the meal...

4) Remember that xanax is not just for breakfast anymore. Sneak a pack of Ramen noodles in your suitcase, and dress it up with some of the more edible leftovers.

When you get back to the area, stop off at Summer's by the Courthouse Metro. Besides being a fine place to watch both football and futbol, they make one of the finest turkey burgers you'll ever have. Perfectly seasoned, not over-cooked - when was the last time anybody gushed over a turkey burger? This is one seriously good sandwich, and should be enough to cure your turkey jones.

Been a long time...

Sorry I haven't blogged in a while. I wish I could say I took a break to concentrate on a new book or story I was writing. Nope.

I started a new job a few weeks ago. I'm over in the big ole' Pentagon now. And, believe me, this place is HUGE! It's almost a 15 minute walk from the bus stop to my office. I had to get a new pair of comfy shoes on my first day due to the blister that grew from nearly SIX MILES of walking! That's a lot of walking for slightly-too-small Bostonian wingtips.

A couple of small items:

1) Condo associations is stoopid. My condo association folks decided that Saturday would be the perfect time to repaint everybody's front doors. Good idea - 75 degree days in fall are nothing to sneeze at. However, paint requires more than 10 minutes to dry, and we had to leave our front door open all day. No big deal...except the paint didn't dry in the night, and formed a seal with the door frame when closed at night.

Every single door in the complex has this problem. A paint seal around the weatherproofing. Smooth move.

2) My friend Scott is getting married Saturday.

3) The Democrats have control of Congress again. I went to a friends' house to watch the election results. Not because I wanted to, but I wanted to watch people who actually think such things matter.

Was there anything dorkier than the group blogging event at Tryst that night? Gawd, does ANYBODY in DC get laid?

4) Decent bar food is harder to find than you'd like to think. But, so far, I can say with 100% authority that Summer's on Wilson Boulevard has the best Turkey Burger I've ever had. Period. That thing is mind-bogglingly good. I've had many things there - all of which have been good - but that Turkey Burger is off-the-chain good.

5) I dressed up as Earl for Halloween. I was going to be Brian Fontana and Jeff was going to be Ron Burgundy. However, he had a good idea for a costume as a fat lady missing her dog (wedged behind her in her huge arse cheeks was a stuffed puppy), and won 300 bucks in a costume contest.

I did get to grow a sweet porn `stache, though.