Sunday, June 29, 2008

Swinging on the flippity-flop

(Updated on 6/29/08 with links to listen to this episode)

We saw Wait Wait Don't Tell Me! on Thursday night at the Paramount. It was really funny and interesting to see the mechanics of producing a "live" radio show. With Bill Gates' retirement from Microsoft happening this week, there were a large number of MS jokes, including about 15 minutes of riffing on the theme of Clippy!
"It looks like you're digging a shallow grave! Is this a business or personal grave?"

Their "not my job" guest was Jonathan Poneman, one of the founders of Sub Pop Records. That led to a discussion of the 1992 New York Times article on "grunge slang". See the article here, which includes a "lexicon of grunge speak" from Sub Pop employee (now VP) Megan Jasper - most of them were made up on the spot and are pretty obviously fake, but the NYT journalist took the bait and published them without checking... :)

Sub Pop have a recent interview with Megan here.

You can now download a podcast of the episode here (or listen to it online here)

How not to remove a palm tree

Some smart South Africans decide to get rid of their palm tree... Here's the video on Youtube:

All I can say is, ja-nee....

Updated on 6/29/08: Changed the video link to Youtube instead of Facebook.

Friday, June 27, 2008

Pap snoek

For some reason, people have been hitting my blog after searching for "snoek worms" or "parasites in snoek" (finding this old entry).

I found this nice article on snoek by Hilary Prendini Toffoli, in which she looks at the history and culture around snoek, and gets some tips from the "top" Cape Town chefs. She also expains what a "pap snoek" is...

It looks like some of the more high-end restaurants may have snoek on the menu (at least when it's in season) - for some reason it is not very common to see it in regular seafood restaurants (maybe because of the bones that make it a bugger to eat, ot the work needed to get it off the bone once it's cooked). You can usually find some frozen, smoked snoek at Snoekies in Hout Bay (and most grocery stores stick it too - at least they did back when I lived in SA).

I wonder how many people come in wearing the "I Love snoek" cap? (The correct answer is "not many"...)

Thursday, June 26, 2008

As ironic as it gets...

I think I can hear Mr. Orwell spinning in his grave! Looks like this is in the Gothic neighbourhood of Barcelona. Might be a fun not-so-touristy spot to nab a picture when I visit (some day).

If you don't get the reference, then read this book.

Wednesday, June 25, 2008


I caught part of an interview with Rob Walker on Weekday today, covering marketing and the psychology of why we buy things. His Bio:

Rob Walker writes the weekly column “Consumed”, a blend of business journalism and cultural anthropology for The New York Times Magazine. Previously he created and wrote the “Ad Report Card” column for Slate, and has contributed to a wide range of publications, from Fast Company to The New Republic and others. Under the pseudonym R. Walker he has written a number of satirical comic books set in the business world and collected in the book Titans of Finance: True Tales of Money and Business.
More info and the audio podcast are here on the KUOW website.
The discussion covered some interesting stuff, and his book Buying In: The Secret Dialogue Between What We Buy and Who We Are sounds like it will be good.

He also has a blog that looks like it will be worth reading.

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

100 New Classics (a random book list)

By way of wolverine_nun, Entertainment Weekly have a list of 100 "new classic" books. ("The 100 best reads from 1983 to 2008") . I've not read most of them - a few of them have been made into films which I've seen, though... :P

There are a few odd choices ("The DaVinci Code"? - I guess it was popular...) and omissions: Not a single J.M. Coetzee book? (He won the Booker Award in '83 and '99, and the Nobel Prize in Literature in '03). Where is "The Historian"? (No awards, I just love it)

It's interesting to see two "YA" books on the list. I fully agree that Harry Potter and the Dark Materials series should be there (looks like they only liked one Harry Potter book though?)

I'm also really pleased to see "A Prayer for Owen Meany" on the list - this book made a huge impression on me when I read it more than a decade ago.

{W_N} says that Posession by A.S. Byatt is the best book she's read, so I'll have to check that out... For no particular reason (except perhaps to show that I watch movies more than I read), here are the ones I've read (or seen in movie form):

  • Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, J.K. Rowling (2000)

  • Beloved, Toni Morrison (1987)

  • Mystic River, Dennis Lehane (2001)

  • Maus, Art Spiegelman (1986/1991)

  • Watchmen, Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons (1986-87)

  • A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius, Dave Eggers (2000)

  • Love in the Time of Cholera, Gabriel García Márquez (1988)

  • Bridget Jones's Diary, Helen Fielding (1998)

  • Lonesome Dove, Larry McMurtry (1985)

  • Neuromancer, William Gibson (1984)

  • Persepolis, Marjane Satrapi (2003)

  • His Dark Materials, Philip Pullman (1995-2000)

  • The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time, Mark Haddon (2003)

  • A Prayer for Owen Meany, John Irving (1989)

  • The Remains of the Day, Kazuo Ishiguro (1989)

  • The Tipping Point, Malcolm Gladwell (2000)

  • Holes, Louis Sachar (1998)

  • High Fidelity, Nick Hornby (1995)

  • America (the Book), Jon Stewart/Daily Show (2004)

Monday, June 23, 2008

Morcheeba videos by Joel Trussel

Joel Trussel is the animator behind the War Photographer video I've mentioned a few times - his work is amazing. It looks like I just missed a recent animation show on June 20th in Seattle that he attended. Anyway for the latest info/news check out his blog.

Here is a recent (Jan 2008) video he directed for Morcheeba's song Enjoy The Ride. You can also check out an interview with him about this video here on Youtube. "I get questions about the pears..." :-)

From his blog, I see he was asked back to direct the video for the 2nd single too, Gained the World:

A shiny, sharp Quicktime version is here.

Sunday, June 22, 2008

Madonna and the Viking Marching Band

Madonna's new album Hard Candy is pretty lame, but it does have a madly catchy hit single, 4 minutes. Rolling Stone describes it as having a "marching band aesthetic as blasting brass play a scale-like riff".

That must be why it reminds me so much of the Viking Marching Band* music every time I hear it. (Remember this cocktail based on the Viking Marching Band video?)

* Actually, it's called War Photographer.

So, for good measure, I give you the videos. Decide for yourself.

Updates: Better version of the War Photographer video.

Saturday, June 21, 2008

Naartjie coming to Redmond

It's not every day that you see a store from South Africa opening up in the USA, let alone right in your own neihgbourhood. So, I was pleasantly surprised to see that Naartjie are opening a store in the Redmond Town Center mall.

As their about us page says, they opened their first store in Cape Town in the then-new V&A Waterfront development. (Well-worth checking out if you visit Cape Town - it's not just a big shopping mall :-P) They also memebrs of the British Royal Family have been customers. Hmm - I wonder if they have one of those "by appointment" seals? (Ha!)

In case you are wondering what a naartjie is (they do a so-so job of describing it themselves), think of a satsuma (a.k.a. mikan) - I think they are basically the same thing, although naartjies have a slightly different flavour and feel to satsumas - maybe due to the climate in which they grow.

Friday, June 20, 2008

New Coldplay album, and more new Brit music

I've been listening to the new Coldplay album for a few days now. It was a bit underwhelming at first, but it's growing on me more and more. The single hyped by Apple and used to promote iTunes, Viva La Vida, sounds a bit washed out on the album - I wonder if Apple did some funky remixing to make it bassier? Some of the production reminds me of William Orbit's ambient style - no surprise since Brian Eno did the bulk of the production...

One thing that has been driving me nuts is the opening track, Life in Technicolour. The repeating tune (on sitar, I think) that starts around 00:41 sounded very familiar, but I couldn't place it.

I think I finally have it! Nirvana's All Apologies. I wonder if they credit this "borrowing" anywhere?

In other "new British music" news, I downloaded the debut album by Adele, 19. What a fresh, interesting voice! (A bit like Macy Gray) Nice lyrics too... (Listen to the track Tired to see what I mean) I see what the UK critics have been raving about.

Sarcastic Amazon reviews

What do you get when you mix stupid products (like $500 Cat-5 cables), and Amazon reviewers? Well, if you are lucky, you get some brilliantly funny, sarcastic reviews:

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Exceptional wines for big and small budgets

Back in May, Mike Steinberger wrote an article for Slate about great lower-price wines (under $15 per bottle). He followed that up yesterday with an article on more expensive wines (under $150 per bottle).

I agree with this comment from the first article:

One usually surefire method of finding interesting foreign wines: Let the importer be your guide.

I have noticed quite consistently that foreign wines that I like come from the same importers. That's probably an artifact of the weird Washington booze laws, and the fact that we have a lot of great importers in this area, so they tend to dominate the stores. Still, if you find a wine you like, check the back label for the importer info, and remember it. Often, they will specialise in wines from a certain region (e.g. Spain, Australia, France), so having found a wine you like you can try other wines from the same region in relative safety. (They are not likely to import bad wine and ruin their brand...)

Sometimes they will have a website with more info on the wines they import, so you can build up an idea of what to try next. If you are in a physical store, you can just look for the wines from the same importer.

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Hell's Kitchen game

After last night's episode of Hell's Kitchen I noticed an add for a computer game based on the show. You can play it here for free (Windows-based PCs only currently). I haven't had a chance to try it out (that will come tonight), but it looks like it could be fun for a few minutes.

It looks like it might be bit like the Sushi restaurant game {C} sent me last week. That game is very addictive (and quite hard!)

In terms of this season's HK, I must say I don't really think any of the chefs are that impressive, and I'm not so invested in any of them. I predict Christina will win, but that she won't actually get to cook much at Gordon's new restaurant. (They'll probably leave that for the real chefs).

In other Gordon Ramsay news, the US version of Kitchen Nightmares will return to Fox in the fall. While it is not half as good as the UK version, it will have to do. Perhaps they will try to emulate the UK show a bit more, instead of trying to stir up drama and conflict.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Blind tasting wine glasses

When most people do a blind tasting they simply put the bottle of wine in a paper bag and pour it incognito for their guests. If you are lucky you might have someone else select the wines and pour them for you in another room (This is what {A} and {R} did a while back when we threw a blind tasting party).

However, if you have a lot of money and not much sense, you are probably wondering "What can I do that will make me look extra cool?" Riedel have the answer for you: Blind Tasting Glasses. I quote:

Riedel has introduced a jet-black glass called the Blind Blind Tasting Glass. In addition to concealing wines' grape, type, region, producer and vintage, as is the case in normal blind tastings, this glass hides wines' color, (white, red or rosé), depth of color, clarity, brilliance, and effervescence.

PS: If you are a Gary Vaynerchuck fan, you might be interested in this event in Seattle on June 28th. I can't make it, so if you go, be sure to ask him what he thinks about the blind tasting glasses and let me know.

Monday, June 16, 2008

Why I'm voting Republican

(Donning flame-proof suit...) This video really says it all:

Sunday, June 15, 2008

Yuppy baby food

Today I was leafing through a recent copy of the magazine 425 (a glossy "lifestyle magazine" for Seattle's Eastside).

One advert near the end of the magazine caught my eye and made me laugh: World Baby Foods produce a range of baby foods inspired by food from around the world. Flavours like "Lullaby Thai", "Tokyo Tum Tum", "Sweetie Tahiti", "Baby Dal" and "Baby Borscht". It's made by a doctor, so you know it's good!

I'm looking forward to the sous-vide and molecular gastronomy line of baby foods! :)

PS: No, {A} is not in the market for baby food...

Saturday, June 14, 2008

Pomum wines on WLTV

I just noticed that Pomum Cellars was featured on an April episode of Wine Library TV.
As you may remember, I "discovered" them last year during the Woodinville St. Nicks Day Open House and really liked their stuff.

See what Gary thinks about their wine by watching the show here.
(And I am looking forward to the 2006 release!)

Thursday, June 12, 2008

Sammamish farmer's market

{A} and I went to the Sammamish farmer's market yesterday - this is the second week that is has been running. It's pretty small (about half the size of the Issaquah and Redmond farmer's market), and the weather was not very good, but it was still quite well-attended, and there was some great produce.

I was very impressed with the stuff from Cha Gardens (not sure of their name) - they had the most amazing greens I have seen in a long time. A lot nicer than the stuff we've been getting in our Spud produce box.

A more irritating store was a local bakery with some nice-looking breads. They made a big deal about using emmer flour - I had not heard of emmer before and the guy at the booth seemed really into his grains. I tasted the bread, it was pretty good (not great), but I thought I'd buy a loaf. Silly me for not asking how much it cost! :) $7 later I had a small loaf of bread. (Yes, I should stop whining since I paid for the bread and could just have said "No", but heck, sometimes I like whining!)

$7 for a small loaf? Wow! I guess I do live in yuppieville! What really irked me though was the ingredient list, which I only read when I got home. The main ingredients are normal whole-wheat flour, with the "unusual" grains like emmer right at the end of list (before the salt). I guess this means there is 1 teaspoon of emmer flour per loaf? Sheesh.

The market did have some other nice stalls which will be drawing me back in the coming weeks. Our local bagel shop, Blazing Bagels, has a stall, there's a local honey producer, and a great bakery with evil goodies like apple pie, huge donuts, nice "everyday" whole-wheat bread.

Hugh Masekela coming to Seattle in August

I just noticed that Hugh Masekela is playing at Dimitiou's Jazz Alley on August 4th.
Sadly, {A} and I will be out of town - on our honeymoon! - so we'll have to miss this show. Needless to say, if you like jazz, I highly recommend seeing this show.

If you'd like a sampler of his music, check out this recording from the 2007 Tanglewood Jazz Festival, provided by NPR.

I was also really pleased to see that Ian Herman (ex-Tananas) is on percussion during this tour. I've been a huge fan of his since discovering Tananas back in the 90's in SA, and having the pleasure of seeing them live a few times. (Including once at the WOMAD Festival in Marymoor Park!)

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Here comes the flood!

B27 flood
Originally uploaded by Mr Snootyhamper

Last night we had a bit of unexpected excitement - a water pipe burst and flooded the 1st floor. Luckily my office was spared - I think the dam we built using a desk helped a bit.

The videos Jonathan made are unavailable for now - I'll update this entry when they go back online :)

Vaynerchuck on Eat Drink or Die

Gary Vaynerchuck has some short videos on the new site Eat Drink or Die:

While they seem to be aimed at frat-house wine noobs, as usual Gary does a great job making the presentation lively and fun, and I found myself enjoying them a lot. I agree 100% with his philosophy - ignore the pretense and snobebry and just "taste the shit".

Oh yeah, the fake Borat-style intros are a very lame ("Ya exclusive - I laaaiik!") Still, I will check back to see what Gary gets up to...

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Spell-check your code

I find it amusing when I stumble on mis-spelled API functions and structures. The irony is that a gaffe by one programmer becomes a documented interface, and it's often impossible to correct the mistake.

Take for example the PrintProvidor entries in Win32:

Luckily the person writing the surrounding text was able to use the phrase "print provider".

Monday, June 09, 2008

Advice for people travelling abroad

Just a quick bit of advice when travelling:

Don't assume that no-one else around you will understand your native tongue. Sure, it might be tempting to say something snarky about people you see, but you never know who might be able to understand you.

If you speak Navajo you might be OK, bit there are often surprising people around. You might even run into an Asian-looking man in Portugal that understands Swedish and helps you find your train... Or people in the USA that understand Afrikaans.

All this was prompted by a South African family that sat behind me on a recent flight from Seattle to Oakland: They used Afrikaans to make loud rude comments about other people, discuss their flatulence and generally behave boorishly. If you want to skinder* about people, do it under your voice so no-one else can hear... Or better yet, just don't do it :)

* gossip