Recently in Raves Category

(RED)

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December 1st is World AIDS Day, so I figured that (PRODUCT) RED deserved a mention on this blog. Especially since the most awesome jacket I have ever owned is a (RED) product.

(PRODUCT) RED is a brilliant celebrity-promoted marketing stunt where “hip” companies release red-colored merchandise and donate portions of the proceeds to the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria. (RED) has already earned millions of dollars to combat AIDS in Africa. Participating companies include Apple and their (RED) iPod nano, Gap, Armani, AmEx, Motorola, Converse, and others.

When I first saw Gap’s (RED) leather motocross jacket in mid-October, I just had to have it. I drove to the Gap that weekend, but they didn’t have it in stock, so I checked online multiple times a day for two weeks, and got it in early November.

red_jacket_thumb.jpg

I l-o-o-v-e this jacket. It is comfortable, has pockets in all the right places (esp. the sideways-zippered inside vest pocket, and looks cool. Damn cool. And half the price I paid for the thing went to a worth charity; not bad. I am so glad that November has been unseasonably warm, so I have had plenty of opportunity to wear it.

Smile

I just thought I’d list a few things that have brought a smile to my face recently. Totally, completely random.

  • Two finger trackpad scrolling on the MacBook is one of those “don’t know how I ever used a laptop before this was invented” kind of features. One finger stroking the trackpad moves the mouse. A two finger swipe scrolls the window—vertical scrolling, horizontal, diagonal. For the sinfully slothful, you don’t even need to move both fingers, as long as one finger remains in contact with the pad. With input revolutions like this, one could almost forgive Apple for all of their silly one button mice and that god-awful Mighty Mouse nipple.
  • A small tray of ice cubes. A generous squirt of Nescafé coffee syrup. One-percent milk filling the rest of the cup. A Braun handheld wand mixer. A decorative drizzle of Hershey’s caramel syrup on top if I’ve been a good boy. I’m totally addicted.
  • Yup, another Apple rave, but, really…the Airport Express just rules. The thing is the size and shape of a skinny power adapter. You plug it into an outlet; one end of the ethernet cable goes into the Airport, other end into my router (or directly to a cable/DSL modem); give it a name and password via software. Bam. Instant wireless. Then I’m on my back on my living room futon, browsing the web. (Thick magazine in between hot laptop and my belly, of course.) Total bonus…digital optical cable from the Airport Express into my stereo—and now my 3,858 song iTunes library can play out of my 6.1-channel living room system. Sweet. Flippin’ sweet, even.
  • There’s this Javascripty/CSS thing called iBox that is an evolution of a couple of scripts that could load an image or an html objects as a dynamic “web 2.0” overlay widget. The implementation is clean, is unobtrusive, is super easy to add to a site, degrades gracefully, and is damn elegant. I added it to a client site. They were thrilled; I was thrilled. Cool.
  • Free domestic SkypeOut. Free as in speech and beer. Sure there’s a bit of a time lag when talking (not sure if that is because of my Bluetooth headset or because the other party is on a landline). But it’s free. Free as a bird, it’s the next best thing to be. Free as a bird.
  • ShaveEverywhere.com. ’Nuff said.

Charcoal chimneys

charcoal chimney
Today’s rave is about charcoal chimneys or “canister style charcoal starters.” Oh, where have you been all of my life, charcoal chimney? Seriously, I’ve only had one of these things for about a year, and they make grilling mind-blowingly easy. Really. It makes it so freaking easy that deciding to grab some meat and tossing it on the grill becomes almost an impulse thing.

I am a definite fan of charcoal instead of gas grills. I mean, much of the point of grilling is to infuse food with the smoke taste from carbonized hardwoods. With gas, you may as well just use the broiler on an indoor gas stove; it doesn’t taste much different. Also, as Alton Brown will tell you, burning propane produces water vapor; water vapor creates a barrier between meat and smoke. Finally, storing or using gas grills on patios or balconies is verboten under New Jersey Uniform Fire Code (charcoal grills aren’t mentioned)…but I digress.

Anyway, you just grab the chimney thing, shove some wadded-up newspapers in the base, set it on a cement patio, fill it to the top with charcoal, and shove a lit Zippo torch into the holes. The paper catches fire, but doesn’t blow out in the wind. Then the heat inside the cylinder keeps building and building, the coals getting hotter and hotter. After about a half-hour, they are plenty ashed-over and glowing, so I tip the canister over, and dump the hot coals into my grill and start grilling.

Advantage? No need to squirt lighter-fluid all over the carefully arranged collapsing pyramid of coals, wait for the flame to get blown out, then squirt more lighter fluid on, as you hover over the grill trying to keep it lit. This is like that Ronco rotisserie—“set it and forget it.” The newspaper ashes stay separate from the coals and separate from the food. Also, the food then tastes like charcoal smoke, not lighter fluid (of course, avoid the charcoal with infused lighter fluid; you don’t need it).

Luke from Gilmore Girls may have dismissed the charcoal chimney as a “gadget” the season before last, but consider the source—this is the guy who drove Lorelei into the arms of another man… Uh, not that I watch Gilmore Girls or anything, I just caught glimpses of it while channel-surfing between professional wrestling and Tuesday Night Football.

Purple Backhoe

Purple Backhoe has been hanging around outside my workplace for about a week, digging a big ol’ hole. Now, one could suggest that Purple Backhoe may not be quite as cool as its co-worker Zebra-Giraffe Backhoe (hand painted zebra stripes and a face on the shovel), but Purple Backhoe is…well…purple.

purple backhoe

Purple Backhoe rocks.

green kanji symbol

Great caution symbol. No idea what it says.

purple backhoe front

That free Skype thing

Free Skype
I have to say, I’m already loving the fact that calls between Skype and Plain Old Telephone System phones are now free anywhere within the US and Canada until the end of the year.

I realize that Skype calls to ordinary phones were only like a penny-a-minute before, but I just was too lazy to sign up. You can’t beat free. No credit card necessary. Suck it, Verizon.

Breathing easier

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I’m not one to frequent bars.

The idea of fighting crowds for overpriced beer while gasping for non-existent fresh air in poorly ventilated rooms choked with foul cigarette smoke repels me. Usually at the end of such a night, I and every stitch of clothing on my body reeks like an ashtray.

Thankfully, the Smoke-Free Air Act has been in effect in New Jersey for a couple of weeks now.

We were at Triumph Brewing Company in Princeton this past evening, saying goodbye to a colleague who was celebrating a successful dissertation defense and was moving on to bigger and better things. I had ordered an absolutely delicious Coffee & Cream Stout. I could actually taste and smell the exquisite bitter chocolatey, malty, caramel-y, roasted coffee stout goodness without acrid tobacco smoke clinging to my nostrils and tastebuds.

A thoroughly pleasant bar experience for a change. The place, quite literally, had a completely different atmosphere from the last time I was there (close to two years ago). I will be back soon.

Beer ice cream?

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No joke; I’m a couple of hours early for that.

Ben & Jerry’s has had their new pints for 2006 in stores for a couple of weeks now, but this evening was the first time I saw Black & Tan™ in the freezer.

The lid describes it as “Cream Stout Ice Cream Swirled with Chocolate Ice Cream.” Now, I couldn’t bloody well resist buying a pint of that.

black_tan.gif

The beer taste is actually quite subtle—sweet and creamy; the flavor is mostly in the aftertaste. Once you dig down into the chocolate ice cream swirl, though, the chocolate flavor almost completely overpowers the stout. Not bad, but Vermonty Python™ was better.

920 calories. 52 percent from fat. Oh well…eat, drink, and be merry; for tomorrow we diet.

Destiny :-(

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Last year around this time, I blogged about Despair.com and their demotivational products. I recently purchased their 2006 Wishes calendar and have it hanging in my office. I’m not normally a printed calendar person, but they came up with some funny ones this year.

DESTINY is the demotivator for February.

destiny.jpg
 

From the same calendar, I really liked WORTH, COMPROMISE, and BEAUTY (I laughed and cried on the inside.)

BTW, the video podcasts on the site are also amusing, and there is a $5 coupon code in the third podcast.

宁静

I’ve watched the short-lived series through a few times, so it was a no-brainer that I go see the feature-film exploits of the crew of the Serenity. I didn’t go opening weekend because I hate crowds (ironic and tragic that I live in the most crowded state in the union).

It may not be the best movie in the ’verse, but I was entertained, felt I got my money’s worth, will buy the DVD, and hope there’s a sequel. It was certainly a better film than the most recent adventures of that crew who consistently save the galaxy, getting nary a smudge on their shiny, primary-colored uniforms. A bit of warning, though, the protagonists of this movie do not escape unscathed.

Universal has put the first nine minutes of Serenity online. It uses some crazy DRMed Java player that excludes Linux users, but the clip played back pretty well on my Mac. Those nine minutes show only two of the key protagonists, but it introduces the villain and gives a decent back-story, and the movie only gets better from there.

Yechhh!

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So ever since The Impulsive Buy mentioned Harry Potter Bertie Bott’s Beans, I’ve been on the the lookout for them. The idea seemed intriguing—take normal Jelly Belly brand jellybeans and mix in a few “exotic” flavors.

Bertie Bott's Beans
I finally saw some at Bed Bath & Beyond and bought a couple of boxes. (I guess their candy section falls under the “beyond” part of their moniker.) This latest iteration comes in a purple box with “2 more flavors.” Candy like this, though, is no fun alone, so I brought them in to work. Most of my coworkers were apprehensive at first, but soon curiosity took over.

Oddly, the normal flavors like cherry, blueberry, and lemon drop were kind of boring. A few of the gross-out flavors like soap, bacon, black pepper, earwax, and earthworm were somewhat tolerable even though they unquestionably tasted like sweetened versions of their namesakes.

However, sardine was almost inedible, and rotten egg and booger were completely inedible. I had to spit them out and quickly find something to wash away the flavor, but the aftertaste lingered. There weren’t any of the vomit-flavored beans, though, in the boxes I got. Oh, darn.

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