Monday, June 22, 2009

Pots and Pans

Hello everyone. I had a great weekend this past weekend. Melissa and I went to Disneyland with both Mike and Bailee AND Mike and Shannon. It was an absolutely delightful time. I was concerned that having two Mikes in the group would be confusing, but it really wasn't (Mike Smith adopted the nickname Captain Space Beard early in the day, so that helped). We go to Disney a lot, but this was easily one of our best trips.

But that's not why I'm here. Melissa and I, after much convincing from friends and co-workers, started watching Top Chef Masters, which has led us to try and catch up on Top Chef, the proper one. It's fantastic. I'm usually not one for reality shows, but I like that this competition is between people who are already professionals and are really good at what they do. Plus, you know it's cooking, so Chef Eli loves it. It has really rekindled my love of cooking, and my desire to learn how to do it better. I'm in awe of these people's ability to create meals without following recipes, and I'm determined to learn how to do it myself. Which is where you come in.

Loyal readers, my mishmash of pots and pans is starting to show its age. I have a lot of non-stick coated aluminum stuff that's served it's purpose and I'm ready to upgrade. Not long ago, a friend of Melissa's gave us her old Circulon fry pans. These, which were old when we got them, still hold up and release food better than any other pan I own. When our wok started sticking and the non-stick coating flaking off last week, we bought a Circulon wok to replace it. So far, so good. But what about the rest of my pots and pans?

I'm having a hard time deciding between hard anodized aluminum and stainless steel (with an aluminum or copper core). Right now, I'm leaning towards the anodized, since that's what Circulon is and I've had a good experience with it. However, hard anodized still has a non-stick coating that can come off, and I'm concerned about the possibility of toxins. Plus, stainless steel is durable and looks so classy. So what do you think? I'm hoping there are readers out there with more experience in this than I (Dale, if you're still reading, Mike says I should be looking at you). So should I go stainless or hard anodized? I'm looking forward to hearing what you guys have to say.


p.s.- I know cast iron is great, and every time I try to have this conversation someone thinks they need to tell me this. I just don't have the patience to season it or take care of it. I may buy a cast iron skillet at some point, but that's not my focus right now.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

A Little Braggery

So, those of you who have read this blog for a long time (I know there's a couple of you) or at least gone spelunking through the archives knows that I love crosswords. Recently, a company introduced an iPhone app that provides the NY Times crossword for $10 a year. The regular web version costs $40 a year. I know a good deal when I see one, so I snapped it up. Now, it's not the best interface for solving, so my times aren't as good as when I do them by hand or online, but I'm still a pretty fast solver. In fact...
Oh yeah, I should mention that I'm SilentDante (it's an old video game handle that's stuck with me since high school). And that's a list of top solvers since the app was released. So, yeah, I'm pretty proud of that.

Speaking of my iPhone, the new OS version 3.0 was released yesterday and I love it. My phone seems to respond faster, I love the new search function as an app launcher, and I can't wait to see what programs developers come up with for the new features (I'm especially anxious for a good GPS software...hopefully not too expensively).

One app that already is using the new stuff is At Bat, which was pretty much my favorite app already. It allows you to follow any baseball game live with Game Tracker, plus listen to either the Home or Away team's live radio broadcast. Pretty sweet, right? Well, starting yesterday, they're also streaming live VIDEO of two games every day. I tried it at lunch, and these are real screenshots of the Cubs' thrilling come from behind victory:
That's insane! Those are from a video on my phone! Granted, I was on a Wifi connection, but over the 3G cell network it was still quite watchable. I'm telling you, we're just a flying car away from living in the future.

Before I go, I also want to bring up Peggle. This is a (seemingly) simple little puzzle game where you shoot a ball at colored pegs to make them disappear. I had heard for a long time that this was an addictive game (gamers liken it to crack), so when the iPhone version was on sale for $0.99 I picked it up. It's fantastic. The cheesy animal "Peggle Masters," the graphics, the Ode to Joy when you clear a level...hard to put down. It makes time pass on the bus more quickly than anything else I've tried. It's basically available for every computer known to man, so check it out.


Tuesday, June 16, 2009

When You've Got Worries All the Noise And The Hurry Seems to Help, I Know

That could win the prize for longest blog title so far. But how do you write a post about downtown without referencing Petula Clark? You don't. So I did.

First up, my apologies. The agency meeting yesterday (I think it went well, details soon if I'm right about that) has basically taken up all my free time as I made sure my scripts and pitches were as polished and impressive as could be. Plus, I've been super busy at my real job, so no time to throw up a quick post.

Anyway, two weekends ago, Melissa and I decided to hang out in downtown LA. I had served jury duty there and was surprised by how much I liked it. Join me on my tour, won't you?

We started out at the Civic Center/Music Center. This is where the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion, Mark Taper Forum, and Ahmanson Theatre (where we now have season tickets!) are located.
IMG_0777 IMG_0780
It was neat, but the real highlight was across the street- The Walt Disney Concert Hall.
As weird and cool as it looks on the outside, it's even neater on the inside. And they offer a free, self-guided audio tour narrated by John Lithgow!
You can see me being silly in that first one. That's what I do, I'm silly. One part of the tour leads you into the gardens upstairs. It's truly gorgeous, with some great views of the skyline.
(Melissa can be silly, too). After that, we stopped for lunch at Pastagina, a fast food place that has a patented machine that cooks individual pasta servings in 3 minutes. I want one! Of course, the free gelato offer helped draw us in.

At about that point, I got a little tired of taking my camera out everywhere. We went to the central library (it's the building with the pyramid top in the shot above from the gardens), which had a cool old movie poster section on display. Then I insisted we stop by Angel's Flight:
This funicular railroad was basically built so rich people wouldn't have to climb a hill to go shopping. When working (it's being refurbished), it claims to be the shortest operating railroad in the world. Pretty neat.

From there, we took a train to Union Station. I wish I'd had my camera out, because the central lobby/terminal really still looks like an old train station, the kind you only ever see in movies anymore. I felt like I was on Mad Men or something.

We walked back to the Civic Center area and went home for a bit before heading for the beach. My mom had asked for a picture of the ocean at sunset that she could have enlarged to hang above the fireplace, and this is a sampling of my shots:


We were far enough away from the Santa Monica Pier that it wasn't too crowded and a pod of dolphins (at least six) were playing about 50 feet off the shore. There were also a couple of sailboats not far off that I enjoyed shooting with my telephoto, but those were with my film camera and I haven't scanned them in yet. It was beautiful and peaceful, two things you can rarely say about LA.

I think that most people stop exploring LA not long after they move here (at least, that's the case with most people I know), and it's really a shame. The fact that I can go from the bustling skyscrapers of downtown to the beaches of the Pacific in a matter of minutes astounds me. I hope to find more time to explore soon. Until then,



p.s.- sorry if the font and formatting look weird here. Not sure what happened.

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Quick Update

Hey everybody! I'm putting together a big photo-heavy post about my weekend downtown and at the beach, but in the meantime, just so you know I haven't forgotten you, I wanted to let everyone know how excited I am to learn that Comedy Central has just signed a deal for 26 new Futurama episodes. Nerd gleeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee!


Friday, June 5, 2009

To Pre or Not To Pre

So, the Palm Pre is coming out and it looks like a pretty sweet phone. I like the user interface and would love to see the iPhone adopt some of its features (which it probably will in the forthcoming software update). It would be a much cooler phone if it wasn't locked on to Sprints craptastic network, but for the time being, it is. It looks like it will be the iPhone's first real competitor (sorry Blackberry Storm, you're awful). Would I consider abandoning my iPhone for one? Hell no!

I love my iPhone. Absolutely love it. The internet seems to delight itself in telling me why I shouldn't (they're like that with everything Apple makes), but I just don't see their point. The biggest criticisms- no copy and paste (I've only wanted it once or twice, it's coming in the next software update), no MMS texts (I never text anybody, plus I have full e-mail on my phone), and a crappy camera (I have a real camera, thank you). This phone is so much better than any cell phone I've ever used, it's not even fair to compare them. I love all the functionality that I can add through the app store, and having the full internet in my pocket is awesome. I'm also excited to try out the new GPS apps that will be coming with the new software update.

One other iPhone criticism that keeps coming up in the Palm Pre reviews is the keyboard- Pre has a physical one, the iPhone has an onscreen touchpad. People are saying that this is a huge advantage for the Pre. I fully disagree. I've used Blackberry and Palm keyboards before- they're tiny and hard to use accurately. The iPhone solution isn't perfect, but after about a week of regular use (and with the awesome auto-correct feature's help) I was typing easily. I write e-mails on it, I've written blog posts on it...hell, I do the NY Times crossword on it everyday. I make a few mistakes, but no more than I would on any keyboard that size. I really wonder if the people who complain about the iPhone (and all the other Apple products) have ever actually spent time using them.

I guess I don't really have a point. It's been an uneventful week for the most part, and I just felt like I should post something.


Tuesday, June 2, 2009

How Appropriate, You Fight Like A Cow

Well, I'm back from a long weekend visiting the wife's family in Houston. It was a pleasant enough trip, her family seems nice, but it was hot, muggy, and Texas so it wasn't the vacation of a lifetime or anything. The real highlight for me was driving the rental Prius. Melissa and I have been looking into buying a new car this year, and we'd love to get a hybrid, so this was like an extended test drive for us. In short, we absolutely loved it. The car drove wonderfully well, felt smaller and more responsive than our current 98 Altima, and had so much gadgetry it felt like I was driving a spaceship. Plus, we got 42 mpg without even trying (and probably would have been higher had we driven further) and the 100 or so miles we drove didn't knock a single bar from the car's 8-bar fuel gauge. Impressive.

We got home Sunday morning and slept most of the day away. And then I woke up to what turned out to be a pretty damn good Monday. First, it was Conan's first night on the Tonight Show. I've been a big Conan fan ever since I first heard Lyle Lanley singing about a monorail on The Simpsons, and seeing him really get recognized with this job is just fantastic. Last night's show wasn't spectacular, but it was the first show. Once the pomp and celebration dies down, he should be fine. More than anything, the show felt like Conan's Late Night, which isn't a bad thing. Looking forward to a bright future at the 11:3o hour.

Next up, the E3 gaming expo is going on, and there was some extremely cool stuff announced. First, they showed footage from the Beatles Rock Band that made me so excited I could hardly speak:

Now, that's just the intro video, not gameplay footage, but how cool is that? Up next, I knew that Lucasarts was releasing a "special edition" of Monkey Island this year, but I didn't realize how cool it looked. Great graphics update and voice acting (Dominic Armato back as Guybrush? Hell yes!) make this very intriguing. However, they pulled a huge surprise by announcing A WHOLE DAMN NEW MONKEY ISLAND GAME! I though I had seen the last of the adventure genre, let alone my favorite series of all time!
It's being done by TellTale games, who have already revitalized Sam and Max and put out great games in the worlds of Homestar Runner and Wallace and Grommit. One of the heads of the company worked on the original Monkey Island. The look of the new game is a little funny (wish they'd gone 2D instead of 3D) but I'm too excited to care. Monkey Island is a game that inspired my sense of humor in a way only The Simpsons and Monty Python can match. It also taught me how much better a good story could make anything, especially a video game. Which leads me to my final bit of good news...

My latest screenplay, co-written with Josh Cook, has managed to get us a meeting with an agent. I won't go into too many details for fear of building it up too much, but I'm very excited about the possibilities this meeting could provide. Just getting the meeting is a huge step (not to mention a substantial boost to my confidence). Hope your week started out as well as mine.