Hoorah for the Mac Mini!

There was an Apple event today where new iPads were introduced (the iPad Air 2 & iPad mini 3) along with a new iMac sporting an amazing 5K retina screen (5120-by-2880 pixels). Holy cow!

That said, I was just as excited about the newly updated Mac Mini. Apple’s diminutive desktop computer hadn’t been updated in two years and has always seemed on the brink of cancellation. Yet here we are, closing in on the Mini’s 10th birthday next year, and Apple gives us an updated Mini starting at just $499. Granted, this will only get you an i5 processor, 4GB of RAM and a 500GB spinning hard drive, but you can configure this little badass all the way up to a 3.0GHz i7 with 16GB of RAM and a 1TB SSD. ($2,199 if that’s your thing.) I’ve owned several Minis over the years and they’re great as workstations, media servers, and even rack-mounted network servers. I’m glad Apple continues to keep the Mac Mini on the roster.

Superhero Draft

On the latest episode of the Incomparable Podcast, a draft was held to build ultimate superhero teams. Not a single person drafted Superman OR Batman! I get that everyone is over Wolverine, but no caped crusader? Was the latest film that off-putting? My ultimate 7-person superhero team would be:

Superman – Every team needs a heavy and the last son of Krypton is the ultimate one.

Batman – Known as the World’s Greatest Detective, he’s also good with gadgets, rich, and has a ready-to-move-in hideout.

Professor X – He also has a great HQ, but it’s his near omnipotent telepathy that we’ll need to save the world.

Forge (X-Men) – I’ve always loved his ability to build really awesome guns to shoot at people. Plus, Cable is too moody.

Hulk – Smash. Hulk smash.

Spiderman – He may not be the most powerful, but he’s smart and will bring some levity to the morning status meetings.

Black Widow – My team needs some feminine charm and who better than a top-secret spy that looks like Scarlett Johanson? TEAM COMPLETE!

More TV Premieres

The sixth season of Mad Men started last Sunday and for big fans of the show, it was like a big juicy cheeseburger. So good. This Sunday HBO’s Veep, one of the funniest shows on TV, starts its second season. I’m also intrigued by NBC’s Hannibal which started a few weeks ago. A couple shows I need to catch up on are Netflix’s House of Cards and the Sundance Channel’s Top of the Lake starring Elizabeth Moss of Mad Men. Full circle!

2013 Tech Podcasts

My three favorite tech podcasts from last fall have been taken from me. John Siracusa shuttered his geek-minded podcast Hypercritical in December and Marco Arment did the same with Build & Analyze. Earlier in the fall, John Gruber moved his podcast The Talk Show away from the 5by5 network and host Dan Benjamin to go it alone. In a great example of how chemistry and tastes can change on a dime, I’ve never found his new podcast, where he is the main host with a rotating sidekick, to be as good.

I tried Andy Inhatko’s podcast for a while, but as much as I like Andy as a guest on other shows, his own show didn’t hold my attention. I also tried going back to Leo Laporte and the TWiT network, but those shows feel too produced and shiny to me now.

One podcast I’m enjoying now is the Accidental Tech Podcast with Siracusa and Marco. It’s no surprise I’d like it with those guys. In fact, I’ll check out anything with Siracusa (except Anime!). Marco runs the discussion, Siracusa talks off the cuff, and there is a third guy who chimes in occasionally (and I guess is running the equipment?). The three cover what’s new every week in tech and it scratches the itch. I’ve also recently started listening to Debug with Renee Ritchie and Guy English. The production values aren’t great but the conversation with iOS and web developers is fascinating. At first I was a little off-put by Guy’s obvious lack of podcast experience, but he has a degree of charm and does the most important thing an interviewer can do: he stays out of the way.

I also enjoy occasional episodes of Jason Snell’s The Incomparable geek podcast. Add into the rotation the hilarious Flop House bad movie review podcast with Dan McCoy, Stuart Wellington, and Elliot Kallan and you’ve got a solid slate of replacements.

Lists

I love lists. I love making them and reading them.

Lists help me get organized and stay on task. I always have a To Do list on my desk. I’ll write a list of everything I need to work on, sometimes in categories, like “Urgent,” “Not-Urgent,” and “Personal.” I’ve made so many lists, I’ve developed shorthand for these categories: TTD (Things to Do), BB (Back-burners), and XXX (for Personal). I’ll usually put the day of the week at the top, especially if I am making a list for the next day, which I will often do as my last task of the day. When I look at my TTD lists, I’ll sometimes put roman numerals in front of different items to prioritize them: I, II, III, IV, etc. I cross things off when they are completely done, or put a check next to the item when I am done for now (maybe the ball is in the client’s court for a while). I don’t cross these tasks out, of course, because they’re not completed, just on pause.

When I make my list for the next day, I of course start off with the tasks I did not accomplish today. Because I am adding tasks all day long, this is usually enough, but I will try to think if there is anything else to add, usually to the BB list. I’ve found that I can sometimes get back-burner task fatigue where the same item is on this list for too long and will start to stress me out, so I will cull through the BB list and eliminate tasks that no longer seem important or realistic. But then where do THEY go? I played around with a DBB list (Deep back-burners) but that list REALLY stressed me out. By the way, this “stress” is from my overwhelming desire to get these things done, cross them off, and go on to the next thing. This desire is helpful for work, but can be problematic when the task is “relax more.”

I typically use a notepad of some kind — over the years I’ve used spiral notebooks, yellow legal pads, or just scratch pads — and I keep the older lists for reference. Think of it as a back-up. Creating and using these lists is so easy and helpful, it amazes me that so few people do this. I respect that everyone has their own system and some people are very good at keeping a TTD list in their heads, but I so often see people who bounce from task to task with poor priorities or routinely forget to do things and I wonder why they don’t just write things down. Why not make a list?

Another thing I make lists for is to organize my thoughts. In recent years, I’ve started mind-mapping, which is ultimately just a collection of lists. I take a page of paper, write a few central ideas in the center and four corners, then write ancilary ideas around the main themes. This helps me organize ideas with multiple parts or to see the relationships between them. But I’ll also make simple lists for fun, like my favorite movies, or iPad apps I want to try. For note syncing, I use Simplenote which syncs to a Mac app called Notational Velocity. It’s not perfect but it’s in the two places I need it the most, my iPhone and computer, and it works better than other solutions I’ve tried. I recently cleaned out my notes and found a few of these lists:

iPHONE GAMES TO CHECK-OUT:
Ridiculous Fishing
Grand Theft Auto: Vice City
Modern Combat 3
World of Goo
Canabalt
Walking Dead: The Game
Tiny Tower
Superbrothers: Sword & Sorcery
Infinity Blade II

OLD CASSETTE TAPES:
Bill & Ted’s Bogus Journey
Roxette
Public Enemy: Side Black, Side Silver
Top Gun Soundtrack
Weird Al Yankovic
Madonna: True Blue, Like a Virgin
Rolling Stones
Howard Jones: Human’s Lib
Ray Stevens
Cruisin’ Classics
Fine Young Cannibals
David Bowie: Tonight
Miami Vice Soundtrack
Sting: Dream of the Blue Turtles
Best of Cinderella
Eric Clapton: Tears in Heaven
Empire Strikes Back Soundtrack
Yello: Oh Yeah!

BOOKS TO READ (2011):
1. The Big Burn by Timothy Egan (Non-fiction, Teddy Roosevelt, History)
2. How We Decide by Jonah Lehrer
3. The Contortionist’s Handbook: A Novel by Craig Clevenger
4. The Simpsons: An Uncensored, Unauthorized History by John Ortved
5. Dark Summit: The True Story of Everest’s Most Controversial Season by Nick Heil
6. Googled: The End of the World as We Know It by Ken Auletta
7. Kitchen Confidential by Anthony Bourdain, One-Straw Revolution by Fukuoka, Oishinbo by Kariya (manga)
8. Shop class as Soul work: Anatomy of the working class
9. Badass by Ben Thompson
10. Babel 17 by Samuel Delany

FAVORITE BOOKS in my Library:
1. Confessions of an Economic Hit-man by John Perkins – (Non-fiction, Politics)
2. The Mysteries of Pittsburg by Michael Chabon (Also: Wonder Boys) – (Fiction)
3. Freakanomics by Steven Levitt- (Non-fiction, Economics)
4. Blood & Thunder, the Story of Kit Carson & the West by Hampton Sides- (Non-fiction, History)
5. Catch 22 by Joseph Heller – (Classic Fiction, WWII)
6. Nova by Samuel Delaney – (Fiction, Sci-fi)
7. Into the Wild (Also: Under the Banner of Heaven) by John Krakaur- (Non-fiction, Journalism)
8. Slaughterhouse Five by Kurt Vonnegutt – (Classic Fiction)
9. Catcher and the Rye by J. D. Salinger – (Classic Fiction)
10. Jitterbug Perfume by Tom Robbins – (Fiction)
11. The Book of Guys by Garrison Keillor – (Fiction)
12. In Search of Captain Zero by A.C. Weisbecker (Also: Cosmic Banditos) – (Fiction)

WINTER VEGETABLES TO PLANT:
Beets, Broccoli, Cabbage, Carrots, Cauliflower
Celery, Chinese Cabbage, Collards, Endive
Kale, Kohlrabi, Lettuce, Mustard
Onions (green and bunching types)
Peas, English
Potatoes, Radish, Turnips

SUMMER VEGETABLES:
tomatoes, peppers, and eggplants, melons
beans (bush, pole, snap), summer squash, beets, carrots, and chard
basil oregano, thyme and sage

FLOWERS: sunflowers, cosmos, zinnias

BACKPACKING GEAR:
Solar charger for iPhone:
http://www.bestcovery.com/solio-bolt-solar-charger
Lightweight backpack list:
http://www.reddit.com/r/CampingandHiking/comments/e5d2s/best_lightweight_gear/c15fhmm
Another link: http://www.reddit.com/r/CampingandHiking/comments/cam3x/ultralight_gear_recommendations/c0r9bm0
CLOTHING: Trail runners, shirt, short, underwear, socks, extra top layer, hat/visor, sunglasses, rain gear. Extra: underwear, shit, socks X2.
SHELTER: Tarp w rope/stakes, ground cloth, sleeping bag, neo-air matress, netting, dry bag.
COOKING: Spork, lighter X2, stove & fuel, cook set, water bottle & purification tablets. Aluminum foil, ziplocks.
TOILET: Toothbrush, soap, chapstick, etc. First aid kit, wet ones, cloth.
EXTRA: Knife, headlamp & batteries, whistle, compass, cord 45′, solor charger, moleskin & pencil, iPhone & charger.

MOVIES TO SEE (From IMdb Top 250):
(* denotes Oscar win)

Manhattan
Infernal Affairs
Roman Holiday
Diving Bell & the Butterfly
The Wild Bunch
Stalag 17
V for Vendetta
Ran
On the Waterfront*
Down Fall
InTouchables
Cool Hand Luke
Gandhi**
8 1/2
Who’s Afraid of Virginia Wolfe
Paths of Glory
The Hustler
All About Eve*
A Separation
A Few Dollars More
The Deer Hunter**

Best Pictures:
Chicago
Driving Mrs. Daisy
Out of Africa**
Terms of Endearment***
Chariots of Fire
Midnight Cowboy
From Here to Eternity

Best Director:
Reds
Cabaret

Best Actor:
Ray
Life is Beautiful
Shine
Reversal of Fortunes
My Left Foot
Kiss of Spiderwoman
On Golden Pond*
Coming Home*
Tender Mercies
Goodbye Girl
Henry & Tonto
Save the Tiger

Best Actress:
Iron Lady
The Reader
La Volce a Rose
The Hours
Boys Don’t Cry
Blue Sky
The Piano
Howard’s End
The Accused
Children of a Lesser God
The Trip to Bountiful
Places in the Heart
Sophie’s Choice
Norma Rae
Alice Doesn’t Live Here
A Touch of Class
Klute
Women in Love

NOTES: As of 8/11/12
I have seen 170 of IMdbs Top 250.
47 of Top 50
85 of Top 10
32 of last 42 Best Pictures (7 missing from 1978-1985)

Food Rules

As a health-concious eater in South Louisiana, my appetite is constantly pulled in two directions. On my desk now, I have a copy of the delightful Prudhomme Family Cookbook, which calls for household lard in several recipes. I am also surrounded by plate lunches.

But also on my desk is Michael Pollan’s Food Rules. This simple book can be read in about an hour and highlights 83 eating “rules” based on wives’ tales, popular sayings of our grandmothers, and common sense. The book reminds me of the great 80’s manual Dad’s Little Instruction Book which imparted so much common sense wisdom that just felt “right.” Leafing quickly through the pages of Food Rules, reading tip after tip in succession, each rings true and a simple narrative takes form: eat real food, mostly plants, and not too much.

Here are a few of my favorite eating rules from the book:

2. Don’t eat anything your Great Grandmother wouldn’t recognize as food.

6. Avoid products that contain more than 5 ingredients.

7. Avoid products containing ingredients a third-grader can’t pronounce.

13. Shop the peripheries of the supermarket. Stay out of the middle.

28. Eat your colors.

39. Don’t eat breakfast cereal that changes the color of your milk.

52. Have a glass of wine with dinner.

56. Eat when you’re hungry, not when you’re bored.

59. Don’t let yourself get too hungry.

78. Eat with other people when you can.

79. Treat treats as treats.

Check out Food Rules: an eater’s manual by Michael Pollan. It’s also beautifully illustrated by Maira Kalman.

Game of Thrones: Season 3

Game_of_Thrones_title_cardGame of Thrones: Season 3

The third season of Game of Thrones premiered Sunday night. The episode, titled Valar Dohaeris, wrapped up a few loose-ends and moved the chess pieces around a bit. It also showed us a darker side of Tywin Lannister. In the most moving scene of the episode, he completely dresses down series favorite and season 2 hero Tyrion Lannister. After neglecting to visit his injured son, Tywin leaves no stone unturned in his insults, and eviscerates any hopes the younger Lannister had of proper inheritance or succession. Later, Rob Stark and company come upon the remnants of Harrenhal, where hundreds (thousands?) of northerners have been massacred at the hands of Lannister’s henchman, the Mountain. The war is turning ugly.

In an equally dark scene, Daenerys Targaryen (the dragon lady) contemplates hiring an army of slave warriors. The seller demonstrates the warriors’ resolve and lack of human emotion by slicing off one of the man’s nipples. Ewww! It looks like she may not need the slave warriors, though, because she meets up with Barristan “The Bold” Selmy aka the oldest badass around. It will be interesting to see what he brings to her side. I suspect he has many old secrets to share.

We also see more of John Snow, who meets the King beyond the Wall and pledges his loyalty. And of course, even way out there they know he is the bastard son of Ned Stark. Poor Johnny can’t ever seem to get out of dad’s shadow. The much anticipated Season 3 premiere re-set the table for another fun season of scheming and plotting. Game of Thrones is on HBO Sunday nights at 8pm CST.

More: GoT producers tell Entertainment Weekly season 3 will be the best yet. Why HBO says record pirating of GoT is a compliment. The Atlantic holds a round table discussion on the season 3 premiere.

The Asian Market

The other night I went to the Asian Market to buy ingredients for Miso Soup, salad with Miso & Ginger dressing, and egg rolls. I was terrified. Despite living near San Francisco’s Chinatown for two years, I was still intimidated with actually buying the goods I’d need. However, once I figured some things out it is not too hard. Here are my recipes:

Miso Soup

1. Start with a broth. There are several kinds. I bought bonita (fish) flakes and soaked them in water to make a fish broth. About one-handful per cup water. Bring to a boil, then let soak until the flakes sink fully to the bottom. Strain out the flakes.

2. Next, heat the broth back up to a soft boil, add veggies if you want, tofu cubes, seafood, whatever.

3. Break out the Miso paste. They sell different kinds, the darker the richer in flavor. I bought mild. The stuff is very potent. Separately mix one TB of paste per 1 TB of water for each cup of the broth. I started with 4 cups water, figured I boiled some off to about 3 cups broth. So I mixed 3 TB of paste with 3 TB of water to make the miso.

4. Once you’ve prepared your miso, lower the heat on the broth and mix the two. Never bring to a boil after putting in the miso. I read this everywhere. I’m guessing it will burn. Add green onions to the top and you’re done. Turned out really good!

Miso & Ginger dressing

Blend a 1/4 cup of fresh ginger and two carrots. Mix up 1 serving of miso (Remember 1TB paste with 1TB water). Mix together with 1/4 cup of Rice vinegar and 1/4 cup oil. Add more oil if needed. Add salt and honey or juice to taste.

Egg Rolls

1. Buy the egg roll pastries. I have never seen any quite like this from the grocery store. They are awesome. They came frozen, about 25 12″ x 12″ sheets, very thin and super tough (never tore).

2. Cook up 1lb shrimp and 1/2 lb pork cubes. Mix in green onions, ginger, celophane noodles, whatever else.

3. Blend down to egg roll stuffing consistency. I think you know what I mean here. You’re making a filling.

4. Put 1-1.5 TB in the middle of a wrapper. Fold one side over and tuck it under the meat. Tuck the two sides in then roll it like a homemade cigarette. Put a little water on the seal to make it stick. This part is fun. Place them down on the seal so it will stay.

5. Put about 1/4 of oil in a pot or skillet. Bring up to medium heat. Let oil reach temperature, then put rolls in, fry one side, and roll them over. About halfway through you’ll prob need to add more oil and let it come back up to temp. Once your oil is to temp and you know how long to leave them in on each side it is very easy and fun.

Buy some fortune cookies for the kids. Your wife will think you’re a frickin’ genius.

Updated 2/28/2011

Oscar Wrap-Up 2011

From his interview during the pre-show, it looked like James Franco was going to bomb as co-host of the Oscars. The super-laid back guy always looks high. Put him next to the hyper Anne Hathaway and you’re asking for trouble. Indeed, the lovable Franco had a tough night, reading his lines robotically, often looking like he didn’t want to be there, and generally being unfunny. There was even one stretch of twenty minutes where Hathaway went it alone, leading many on Twitter to wonder if he’d been fired. While the opening produced bit was good, there was not a legitimate laugh on stage until Kirk Douglas showed up. He’s 94 years old.

Overall, the awards show contained a few surprises in lesser categories but for the most part went according to prognostications. The King’s Speech and Colin Firth took 3 out of the 4 top awards. Natalie Portman won best actress and won over the entire crowd with her honesty and sweetness. It’s now a toss-up between her and Sandra Bullock for the most beloved starlet in Hollywood. Melissa Leo dropped an F-bomb, Christian Bale seemed to forget his wife’s name, and the makers of Inside Job reminded us that, still, no one in Wall Street has gone to jail for the economic tom-foolery of 2008. The Academy is still struggling with how to present the best songs of the year. This time, they inserted two medleys into the middle of the show. I personally prefer 5 grand performances spread out across the broadcast.

Finally, we have to wonder who Corey Haim must have pissed off to not be included in the 2010 memoriam to deceased personalities. The Lost Boys star made over 40 movies and TV shows and, while he battled with serious drug issues and never was able to clean himself up, he deserved better. The guy dies and he still can’t get a quick headshot in a 5 minute montage. Ouch. Let’s hope James Franco doesn’t end up like that one day.

Apple introduces Ping social network

On Wednesday, Apple introduced iTunes 10 and Ping, a new social network built around music. Once you enable Ping from within the new iTunes, you can follow friends & music artists and share your music tastes and thoughts. It’s an interesting concept but I wish I didn’t have to go into the bloated iTunes software to enjoy Ping. Initial reports of the new social network have been shaky with Facebook Connect disabled within the first 24 hours and spammers already laying claims.

I also find it funny that Apple wants us to use iTunes to discover new music, but they use a 9yr-old Cake song in their latest iPod nano ad.