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December 2005
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December 27, 2005

Christmas Joy

Filed under: Books,Cooking,Hockey,Holidays — Bob @ 11:02 pm

Christmas has been really great this year. The fun started on Christmas Eve with a dinner party with a few friends. After much debate about the menu we started with a green salad with pear and bleu cheese with a vinaigrette. I then cooked halibut fillets crusted with pine nuts, basil and Parmesan cheese. Its a recipe from Karen Barnaby’s The Passionate Cook. This was served over a bed of fresh angel hair pasta with a basil-lemon sauce plus some asparagus on the side (I make my own pasta and have a nice little hand-crank machine to roll it out and cut it into various sizes). For dessert I made chocolate lava cakes – one of Eileen’s favorites! Our friend Alan brought over a bottle of red wine made by a friend who lives in Napa Valley. Apparently its all the rage in Napa to make your own wine, and this was a really nice one. Reputed to be an award winner for home made wine in the region, it was nothing to sneer at I can assure you. Also had a bottle of Gewurztraminer from Poplar Grove here in British Columbia that was nicely paired with the halibut.

After our guests left we opened gifts. I gave Eileen a gold and silver necklace, a bracelet and a book on photography. We recently purchased a new Kodak 850 digital camera and she is quite interested to learn about all its settings and knobs, so the book will help quite a bit. She had spotted the bracelet quite a while ago and I remembered it in time for Christmas. Nothing is worse than remembering that perfect gift idea just in time for New Year’s Day.

I must have been a very good boy this year. Some highlights: a new iPod, some really cool square martini glasses, the book Roving Mars by Steve Squyres and gift certificates for the Sherline store. Wow!

Christmas Day we went out to brunch at the Sutton Place hotel. This was a new thing this year; we’ve gone to the Hotel Vancouver for the last few years but decided to try something new this year. It was really good with lots of tasty food including some excellent smoked salmon and poached eggs but the atmosphere didn’t quite do it for me. Plus they didn’t have scrambled eggs on the buffet (seems silly but sometimes it’s the little things that matter). Next year I think I will vote to go back to Hotel Vancouver. Its about $25 more per plate but I would definitely say its worth it. Plus their Santa is way better.

I’ve been reading my new book quite a bit. Roving Mars is the tale of the two latest Martian rovers Spirit and Opportunity told by Steve Squyres, the Principal Investigator for the science mission. Two things I didn’t fully grasp about this (or any) space mission: for every one that launches there are a dozen that get canceled along the way; and every mission at NASA is more politically motivated than scientifically motivated. The background material for this mission is well written. I think the quality of the writing drops off a bit for the last two thirds of the book (landing and exploration) but its still very enjoyable and highly recommended.

The gift certificates for the Sherline store are greatly appreciated. I’ll be using those very soon, there are a few accessories for my Sherline mill and lathe that I desire to fill out my toolbox. I’ll write more about that when I make my selection.

The new iPod will replace my original iPod. This new model is fantastic – thinner than the original model by half and the interface is just as slick. I’ve been downloading videos to watch too, the most interesting being “Glimpses of How it’s made” from MAKE magazine. Cool, although I think watching video really eats the battery. Some experimentation is definitely required. Sadly here in Canada we don’t get the ability to download video programming from the iTunes Music Store, so the amount of video content is limited to things like video podcasts and DVDs that I can rip on my own.

On Boxing Day we started the World Juniors Hockey Tournament. We saw Canada vs. Finland at 4pm then raced across town to catch a Canucks vs. Flames game at 7pm. Canada won (5-1) and the Canucks lost (2-1). Both games were really exciting to watch, even if it was heart-breaking to watch the Canucks get beat at home again. Its now 5 straight losses at home and they are now 7th place in the division. Sigh.

Today (the 27th) was very quiet. No specific plans other than to hang out at the house. I read a little bit and worked on my latest robot project (more later when its complete). Eileen did some shopping. Soon I’ll start cooking dinner but I’m not sure what yet – Eileen will happily tell me what to cook, I’m certain. :^)

December 19, 2005

Walk the Line

Filed under: Movies — Bob @ 9:49 am

Eileen and I went to see the movie Walk the Line yesterday afternoon. Wow, it’s a great story and the acting is good but the most impressive part was the singing. Both Joaquin Phoenix and Reese Witherspoon did their own vocals and it really added something special to the show. Highly recommended if you are looking for a well-made movie.

Johnny Cash’s life story is pretty sad, overall, but I guess that is the perfect backdrop for a successful country singer. I didn’t know about the death of his older brother but it must have been a powerful influence on his life. It was really great to imagine all those great artists (Johnny, June, Elvis, Jerry Lee Lewis, etc.) all traveling together on the road. Those shows must have been really excellent to see performed live. I can only imagine what sort of hell they raised along the way. :^)

I immediately went home after the movie and purchased a Johnny Cash “best of” album from the iTunes Music Store. I’m listening to Folsom Prison Blues right now. The tempo of all his music runs along at the pace of a speeding locomotive but his vocals are steady, level, even sedate. His music is very distinctive and a welcome change from some of the miserable noise produced by the music industry these days.

I definitely will be listening to a lot more of this music over the Christmas holiday. It mixes well with the Black Eyed Peas and the Caesers.

December 16, 2005

Brrrrrrr! It’s Cold Out Here!

Filed under: Work — Bob @ 1:08 pm

I’ve spent this week in Rochester, NY for work. According to the locals its abnormally chilly this week. Its below zero (Celcius) and I’m very much unaccustomed to this sort of weather. Vancouver is wet but warm in the winter, although you wouldn’t know it from talking with people here. Around Wednesday I lost count of the number of people who said things like “Well you’re from Canada, you must be used to this kind of cold”. Bah!

More uplifting news to report: the cold weather reminds me of growing up in Michigan in the winter time, and this leads to thoughts of Christmas. Its hard to get into the spirit of Christmas when its warm and rainy. :^)

Other than a few hours of work next week, I’m now off for Christmas holiday until the New Year. This schedule has left plenty of time to shop for gifts as well as enjoy time around the house for more robot projects and hockey. We have tickets to the World Junior Hockey Championships as well as the Canucks over the next few weeks. Sometimes we’ll be seeing three games per day!

December 6, 2005

Aperture a Disappointment?

Filed under: Software — Bob @ 7:44 pm

When I first saw the online demos of Apple’s professional photography workflow tool Aperture I was blown away. The user interface was very slick and many features such as the digital loupe and photo stacks feature and the Firewire disk backup strategy are very clever. I’m not a professional photographer but I do like to think I can appreciate quality software. Plus I know a bit about what goes into high-end photography for print, sort of a side effect of knowing about design and production for prepress and press work (I develop workgroup productivity software for digital prepress workers).

A friend forwarded me the Ars Technica review today so I read it with great anticipation. Not a great reference for Apple but I’m sure its an accurate and fair review.

I doubt Apple will lose a lot of hardware sales over this. And that is what this is about, really. Apple will sell more hardware if there is best-of-breed professional software for only their platform. There is plenty of time to recover; no real competitors exist yet and Apple is way out in front of just about anyone who might be trying to clone it for Windows or Linux.

Some people say this could be or should be a competitor to Adobe Photoshop. Apple really has no reason to compete directly with Adobe on this one; Photoshop is a very economical investment for professionals and it can complement Aperture nicely. As long as Aperture can add real value for its workflow features then it will also be a good value for professionals. Spending $1,500 for software that saves time and energy for is cheap if you use the tools every day.

Creating killer software is really hard. Even Apple can fall short on a 1.0 product. I wonder if Steve Jobs will go ballistic over this?

December 4, 2005

Dinner!

Filed under: Cooking,Hockey — Bob @ 9:34 pm

Eileen got me to cook dinner again tonight; I tend to make dinners on the weekend while she usually does it on the weekdays. Its a pretty good system as she is home first most nights during the work week but of course we are both home during the weekend. She picked up these amazingly thick beef filets from the local butcher. I cooked them up with garlic mashed potatoes plus a Bernaise sauce.

First time making this type of sauce so I was a bit worried; it didn’t really thicken up until I applied a bit of heat after the boiling water went in. The result was really excellent actually. Way better than what you can get in those silly little packets for sale in the grocery store spice aisle. This is probably a good candidate for Christmas Eve when we’re planning a dinner party with a few friends.

To accompany the dinner we opened a bottle of Sebastiani Pinot Noir 2003 that we discovered at Liberty Wines today. Wow, its an excellent wine for a dinner like this. Another good candidate for the wine cellar.

Now we are waiting for the start of the third period for the Cancucks against the Boston Bruins. All tied up at 2 goals right now. Hope those guys are going to come out and play for the last twenty minutes. Somewhat disappointing because the first period was 2 – 0 with the Canucks playing very strong against the Bruins. The second period was unsettling, at best.

[fast forward, the game just finished]

The team fought very hard in the third period. Shots on goal were 15 – 2 in favor of the Canucks. They win 5 – 2 after 20 minutes of hard work. They really earned this win. Now they are off until Friday when the team will play Ottawa. A very long stretch without playing but they should spend the time drilling and reviewing the second period from this game to figure out why they allowed two unanswered goals. We’ll be at the game on Friday, it should be a very exciting game!

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