Thursday, May 31, 2007

lolcats, lolcode and lolluscs?

So, the lolcat Internet meme is in full swing.

Slate had a nice slideshow on lolcats a while ago, Anil Dash posted on lolcat grammar, and there's now the lolcode programming language.

While browsing through ICANHASCHEEZBURGER, I found what is probably my favourite lolcat picture - the only weird thing it features a snail... Hence, lollusc.


Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Summer wine time

Summer has arrived in Seattle, with temperatures in the 90's F (above 32 C).

For me that means I move away from my usual predilection for red wines and start drinking white and rosé.

Now, my small wine collection is sadly lacking in rosé wines (as in I have none). Rosé wines seem to have a reputation in the USA (and even back in South Africa) as cheap, sweet wines for ladies (or gents) that don't like "real wine". I beg to differ... While sweet rosé is not my thing, I really enjoy a good dry rosé. I've heard some good things about the Toad Hollow "Eye of the Toad" Pinot Noir Rosé, and hope to try it out this summer.

I enjoyed my first real "summer wine" last night - a fun, delicious off-dry German riesling: 2005 Saint M (from the Pfalz region). I gave it a highly scientific 88 points. A little simple and "one-dimensional" maybe, but then I don't expect anything too complex from a summer quaffer.
If you're keen to try some, I got mine from the Larry's Market in Redmond a while back...

Sunday, May 27, 2007

Mushrooms near our house

Originally uploaded by Mr Snootyhamper
I noticed these mushrooms popping up a few days ago, and went back yesterday to take some pics now that they are fully open. Sadly, they've been damaged a bit, but they're still impressive and quite beautiful.

They were growing under a cedar tree, and when I first noticed them they were almost pure-white round bulbs pushing through the cedar leaf litter.

Now they have brown, cracked caps and amazing brown gills. I'm not sure what they are exactly (I left them instead of collecting a specimen to do a spore print), but I might have a shot at identifying them using my copy of Mushrooms Demystified...

Friday, May 25, 2007

SA wine on Wine Library TV

I must confess I don't watch Wine Library TV very much. It's a video blog thingy that looks quite good, but hasn't quite made it onto my list of regular blogs/websites.

A recent entry about South African wine did catch my eye though, and I liked host Gary's attitude. If you're interested in South African wine check this episode out, and if you're generally into wine and not aware of Wine Library TV, well now you know about it.

The Luhn algorithm

Ever wondered how online stores quickly validate that you've typed in your credit card number correctly?

It turns out the credit card number has a built-in checksum, which enables the online store to quickly check whetehr you've made a typo (or just tried to make up a bogus credit card number). The algorithm is called the Luhn agorithm, named after it's inventor who came up with it back in 1950s while at IBM.

The link above has some C# code you can use to check that a number passes the check, or to generate a number that meets the requirements. (You can also put together an Excel spreadsheet quite easily :) )

Of course, this is not meant to be secure - it's meant to detect human errors, not prevent against malicious users.

Now, I wonder how the security number on the back of my credit card is validated?

Monday, May 21, 2007

The Twisted Cork

There's a relatively new wine bar in downtown Bellevue called the Twisted Cork. (At least, I think it's new, since I have not seen it before or heard about it much.)
One reason it's escaped my notice until now is that it's tucked away in the Hyatt Regency Hotel - a short walk from Bellevue Square. (See the Seattle Weekly review here).

Gor bless 'em - they have a Pinotage section in their wine list! (Admittedly they only have two , but I'll take what I can get...) They get more credit for having a few other South African wines on their list :)

PS: May 23-27th is the Culinary & Wine Showcase, spread out over the 3 shopping malls in downtown Bellevue - more info here.

Thursday, May 17, 2007

Seattle Cheese Festival

The Seattle Cheese Festival takes place this coming weekend (May 18-20) at Pike Place Market. I may just have to head over and taste some cheeese, Gommit!

And speaking of cheese, KUOW's Weekday today focused on artisanal cheese producers, and featured Mother Noella Marcellino, a cheese artisan and cheese microbiologist, as well as a Benedictine nun. She was the subject of the PBS documentary The Cheese Nun.

Monday, May 14, 2007

Skinner's Drift

I've just finished read Skinner's Drift, the debut novel by Lisa Fugard. Lisa is the daughter of the famous South African playwright Athol Fugard.

This is a wonderful book: It gives you a good view into typical life on a border farm towards the end of Apartheid, the tensions between English and Afrikaaners, as well as between black and white South Africans. I really liked her writing style too - she paints vivid images and her prose is lean and powerful.

More reviews on Amazon here.

Ding-dong, the Comcast/MicrosoftTV is dead!

Hooray! Comcast in Seattle announced today that they will be replacing the Microsoft TV software on their set-top boxes. I only pray the new software is better - more responsive, less prone to crashing, and generally less sucky.

Compared to TiVo and our old ReplayTV unit, the Comcast HD DVR has always felt like a pedal-powered boat versus a sleek ocean liner. HD is nice, though, for the few shows that we watch in HD. (Planet Earth is mind-blowing).

Now I can focus on my one remaining wish: Automatic commercial skip, or even just 30-second forward-skip. Will it be enabled on the Comcast HD DVR? Time will tell...

Chateau Faire Le Pont

On Saturday, A and I joined K and friends for her birthday celebration at Trader Vic's in Bellevue. We had a great time, and K held up her end of the deal and had a flower-laden cocktail (albeit not served in an embarassing vase or tiki mug...)

The highlight for me was a great wine discovery (thanks to the very friendly sommelier / wine expert). For some reason I usually get saddled with the fun job of picking wine when our group of friends go out, and being on a budget means that 75% of the wines are off-limits. (We usually aim for a bottle that's $40 or less).

I described our price range and what I was in the mood for (an old-world-style Shiraz/Syrah, not too fruit-forward or over-ripe), and the sommelier recommended the 2003 Chateau Faire Le Pont Syrah, from Wenatchee in Washington ($42).

She was spot-on! This is a really delicious wine, dark, velvety and smooth with a lovely aroma of chocolate and spice. It has a full, ripe flavour with enough structure and tannins to balance things out.

I'll add this winery to my list of ones to visit when next I'm in near Wenatchee (Vin du Lac is another favourite).

Thursday, May 10, 2007


A and I went to Sip last night for the first time - I had seen them listed in the current New Urban Eats promotion. I must say, I was quite impressed! I'd recommend this place for wine-lovers and people looking for good, inventive food in a lively setting.

The atmosphere was a little too loud for conversation initially, but it got quieter once the bar counter emptied out a bit. Our waitress was friendly (and keen to show off her wine knowledge - she was studying to be a sommelier).

The food was really delicious - quite creative and nicely presented too. One nice thing is that for New Urban Eats, you can actually choose from almost all items on the menu (so don't worry if the menu on the Urban Eats website doesn't appeal too much). There is only one vegetarian entree though - ravioli. I had "chip and dips" as an appetizer - pita bread wedges with hummus, tapenade, and malidzano (eggplant spread). A had a great salad with rhubarb and spicy pecans. For my main I had the scalops which are served with an Israeli couscous salad and curry-yoghurt sauce - excellent! A had the ravioli (filled with caramelized fennel, onions, and cheese, with a very good tomato sauce).
The desserts were incredible - very rich but worth it. I really liked the croissant bread pudding (almost like an almandine bread pudding) - probably best saved for a cold winter night though.

The wine selection is pretty decent: a lot of Californian and Washington wines, with some Spanish, Italian, French, German, Aussie, New Zealand, Chilean and Argentinean fleshing out the list. There seemed to be almost no South African wine by the bottle - just one Chardonnay and one Sauvignon Blanc. I'm not a huge fan of their wine list format: the wines are broken into broad groups according to weight/body, and then listen alphabetically by varietal within the group (mostly - Italian and French wines are listed by region/appelation)

I had a 1/2 glass of a New Zealand Pinot Noir (which was decent but not amazing), and a very rich, full-bodied Chianti (which was more like a Brunello di Montalcino).

Note: Wednesday night is 1/2 price wine night - bottles of wine under $100 are half price. Worth knowing if you are coming with a group of wine-lovers...

Wednesday, May 09, 2007

What's your daemon?

What's your familiar or daemon?

As part of the marketing for the up-coming movie of The Golden Compass, the movie website has one of those ubiquitous questionnaires that ends up telling you what your deamon is. This one is a little more slick and polished than most (with nice graphics), and also alows you to post the results for your friends to "correct". (So you can't get away with calling yourself modest, good-looking and talented...)

My daemon came out as a snow leopard after going through the questions... Let's see if it stays that way after the hordes on the Intrawebs give their feedback.

Tuesday, May 08, 2007

Wine bar in Issaquah

After enjoying a stunningly beautiful sunny afternoon, A and I headed down to Issaquah for dinner at the local pub. On the way, I noticed a new place on Front Street that looks pretty good: A wine bar called Vino Bella...

Their tapas, wine and beer list is online, and looks very good (although prices are conspicuously absent...) I'll be trying it out in the not-too-distant future and let you know how it is.

Thursday, May 03, 2007

Another excuse to eat out a lot in Seattle

I've only just recovered from the March 25/$25 promotion, and now I see there's a new promotion running through May: New Urban Eats: 3 courses for $30.

The restaurant list is interesting - lots of new places I've not yet been to, and no overlap with 25/$25, so I'm tempted to try a few... I've been to Lola a few times and had great food. Their menu for this promotion looks OK (but I'm not sure they have vegetarian options?)
Crush, and Barolo look interesting. Luciano gets a recommendation from folks at work, and Sip is a new place in the Issaquah Highlands, which is nearby so worth a look...