Radio UserLand

First thoughts on the new Radio UserLand Weblogging tool.

I use some Open Source software to run this site, called monaural jerk. It does a passably good job, doing most of what I want it to do, and not too many things I hate.

Recently UserLand shipped a new Weblogging tool, called Radio UserLand, which has an awful lot of features and groovy stuff. Since they did a version for Mac OS X, I went ahead and bought it (it’s only $40, but a 30-day trial version is fully functional), and have been playing with it much of this afternoon.

It’s fairly cool, a much deeper product than the software I’m currently using. It has some downsides, too, and I’m figuring out some of those as I go. You can read more of that at my Radio ‘blog.

If you’ve been thinking about starting a Weblog, though, Radio might be the thing for you. It’s affordable, simple, and powerful. Check it out!

NYE2001: Part 3

Damon, one of our hosts in LA, is superhuman. He cooks us brunch.

Damon, one of our hosts in LA, is superhuman.

After partying until 4:30am, having slept only four hours, he and Edith pick us up at the airport at 9:00am in the morning. We are headed to brunch!

Except, unlike a normal person who would simply be unable to do more than find the nearest Sunday buffet, he drives us to his restaurant, Cinnabar, and he cooks us brunch.

Not any old quick bacon-and-eggs thing, either. A poached egg, on top of seared filets, on top of crostini, with a lobster hollendaise sauce. Two of them. Each. Bacon and really fabulous breakfast potatos on the side.

This was one of the two meals where Rochelle and I simply lost our heads and forgot to take pictures. Which is a tragedy, because these were beautiful plates of food.

Rochelle and Damon cleaned their plates. I ate all of mine, and the rest of Edith’s. I’m a pig.

NYE 2001: The End – 1

Working our way backwards this time, this is how we managed to make it home.

So I’m telling our NYE 2001 story from both ends, working my way towards the glorious middle, the amazing meal we had at Cinnabar. This time, our flight home.

We arrive at LAX two and a half hours before our flight, lit like Xmas trees (that’ll be another post), and we breeze through security (except for them finding that third corkscrew, that is). We’re now in the airport with more than two hours to kill.

So we head to the bar.

We spy a little Mexican cantina-style bar, drag our crap in, and take two stools. I’m not quite as drunk as Rochelle, so I want to “catch up” (a whole ‘nother story). I tell Rochelle to order me a shot of tequila and a beer, while I go use the bathroom. Two shots and two beers later we’re $27 poorer. Airport bars suck.

We head to the gate, get in the very long line to get our boarding passes, and meet a really nice woman who, it turns out, works at UC Berkeley, where I used to work, and we know some of the same people. The three of us have a great time talking, and we decide to sit together on the plane.

Except Katherine gets unlucky, is one of those randomly chosen to make an extra pass through the security apparatus, and we disappear onto the plane without her.

We’re boarding late, so the plane is quite full, and we have to go all the way to the back to find a row with three empty seats. There’s lots of people in the aisles, and when Rochelle has a little trouble dragging her suitcase around one group, the flight attendant asks if she is all right. I’m sure it was just the people, and had nothing to do with the amount we’d had to drink. ;-)

We get settled, Katherine rejoins us, and the plane takes off. Probably uneventfully, but none of us would remember it.

When the flight attendant comes around to serve drinks, she proactively asserts that they cannot serve Rochelle alcohol (we were talking pretty loudly while waiting at the gate, I’m sure they knew the score).

That’s fine with Rochelle, she’s got a headache, and is ready to pass out anyway, sparkling water for her. Katherine and I get two white wines. Rochelle eventually wakes up, and the three of us continue talking until we’re in Oakland, quite suddenly it seemed to us.

We get off the plane, make promises to get together again, and say our goodbyes. Rochelle and I make our way home to, well, you already know that one.

Waking Up to Danger

Two cats that hate each other, in one bed, on top of me. That spells d-a-n-g-e-r, with a capital “D”.

This morning I had a near-death experience. Somehow, after Rochelle had left for work, both Billie and Basta ended up on the bed with me, with nothing more than a blanket between them.

It started out safe enough, with Billie under the covers, stretched across my chest. Then Basta jumped onto the bed, in her best ready-for-combat fashion, and I had to wake up fully to avoid being shredded to ribbons (we don’t clip any of the cats’ claws).

Basta, after sniffing around, settled in the crook of my arm, right next to Billie. Literally only the thickness of two blankets separated them. They both knew the other was there, as Billie heard Basta’s chittering and purring, and Basta had obviously smelled Billie.

The usual course is for Billie to slink out of bed and flee. For some reason that didn’t happen today. I was sure it could only end badly if both stayed, but after 20 minutes of both cats purring loudly and contentedly, it was me who finally needed to get out of bed to go to work. Somehow I managed that without starting a cat fight over my body. Or I would be going to the emergency room instead of the office.

NYE 2001: The End

The last story of our trip to LA for NYE2001.

So I’ve already told the beginning of our trip, here’s the ending (don’t worry, the middle parts are coming too, in later posts). Although we were really only gone for two days, and only completely gone for one full day, our cats punished us.

Viciously. If you have cats, you know what I mean here.

Because we were too tired to deal with changing the bed linens, Rochelle and I had to sleep on the opposite side of the bed (our heads at the foot of the bed), cast aside multiple pillows, and even then Rochelle was woken up repeatedly because of the strong odor.

The next day, when I returned from work, I gagged as I came in the door. Besides the bed, Cecil had nailed our central heating vent, which meant the whole house smelled like cat piss. Very Bad News.

New sheets and blankets, some incense, a lot of open windows, and about 40 gallons of Nature’s Miracle later, we were able to breath, and go to bed.

Needless to say, we’re never again leaving Cecil in the house when we go on vacation, even when someone is taking care of the house (as was the case this trip).

NYE 2001, Part 2

We arrive in LA, and immediately head for a bar.

So we’re on our way to LA, on a Southwest flight into Burbank. Our arrival time is scheduled for 9:40am, and we actually get in early. Since we had very low boarding numbers, we were nearly at the front of the plane, and were out of the airport waiting for our friends within 10 minutes of touchdown.

They weren’t there.

Rochelle observed she had been surprised when Edith agreed to pick us up this early in the morning. Since both Edith and Damon have jobs that let them party way into the night, and they do, they are rarely up before noon.

We reach them on their mobile phone after a couple of tries, and sure enough, they crashed at 4am, and overslept. No worries, Edith and Rochelle know exactly what we need to do: head for the airport bar, and wait ’til they get there and call us. Which we do.

So that’s how we ended up drinking beer instead of coffee for our breakfast on a Sunday morning. (Actually, beer was only an appetizer, but more on brunch in another posting.)

NYE 2001

Rochelle and I took an impromptu trip to LA for New Year’s. Much fun and bad behavior ensued.

Rochelle and I took a relatively last-minute trip to LA for New Year’s, to eat at the annual private NYE dinner put on by our friend Damon’s restaurant, Cinnabar, in Glendale.

More on our adventures in upcoming postings. For now, let me just rant about Osama Bin Laden costing me my dot.bomb collector’s item waiter’s corkscrew.

Rochelle and I always pack at the last minute, in a hurry, running around the house grabbing all the things we’ve almost forgotten to take. This time I grabbed an old backpack to carry the three bottles of booze we were taking down for dinner.

As we go through airport security, we discover that the backpack, which I haven’t used in months and months, had a waiter’s corkscrew in it, a very nice promo I got from, back when they were still in business (we’ve been burned by not being able to open bottles of wine, and carry these corkscrews everywhere). They take that from me, and throw it into a cardboard box in the security station, where we can see the other knives, corkscrews, toenail clippers, and a spoon that have been confiscated for being dangerous weapons.

Another corkscrew, buried somewhere in my suitcase and completely forgotten, keeps me held up at the security checkpoint for another 10 minutes. We dig and dig and dig, taking more stuff out, running the case back through the security scanner, and back to digging. Finally we figure it out, a little Swiss Army knife that’s tucked into one of the small pockets of the case. That one goes into the discard box, too.

Since there’s no way for a person to reclaim these little items, I would imagine that our airport security workers are now completely outfitted with as many knives, corkscrews, toenail clippers, etc., that they could possibly use. So now most of this stuff is probably just going into the garbage.

What’s truly ridiculous is that they only found two of the three corkscrews we were unintentionally carrying. The third one got caught when we went through the security screening for our return flight, buried in the bottom of our insulated wine bag. Oops. Well, at least they found it on the second try…


Allowing remote editing of this Weblog is my next tech project.

I have the software for this Weblog set up in such a way that I can’t add new stories, except from my computer at home. This makes for excellent security, but lousy reporting on the road. Which means I couldn’t post during our NYE trip to LA. (More on that in other postings.)

The software for running my publishing system allows remote editing, I just have it configured differently. Changing that around, while still keeping good security, will be my next tech project, I imagine.

I also don’t like the way it sorts stories from the same day. Days are sorted youngest to oldest, but stories on the same day are oldest to youngest, e.g., the opposite. Going to have to fix that, too…

More, Way More Champagne

In which we buy more than four cases of Champagne, because we could.

Rochelle recently read that Grocery Outlet, the very low-cost food market, bought up substantial portions of the inventory of dot.bomb victim, and was selling it at a huge discount in their stores. Obsessed with a good deal, and obsessed with wine, it became her mission to strike while the iron was hot.

She bought a dozen different wines, all less than $10, and over the course of two weeks, we tried most of them. And most of them were undistinguished.

Because the first few bottles were disappointing, we didn’t get around to trying the one bottle of Champagne she picked up, until the Friday before Xmas. Rochelle, David, and I all thought it was pretty decent, especially considering we knew it cost less than $10. Then Rochelle looked at the receipt, and realized that it cost way less: $2.99 to be exact.

Can you see where this train is headed?

Yes, the next day we were in our car headed to Berkeley and the nearest Grocery Outlet. After digging through their wine stock, we found tucked into the back corner an entire case of the same Champagne. We bought the whole thing, along with a few other bottles ranging from $1.99 to $4.99.

At a taste test we organized on Xmas day, our $2.99 bottle beat all comers. This wine’s a winner, and that meant another trip to Grocery Outlet, this time, to San Jose.

This store didn’t have any wines visible, at first, but then we realized that they had a big stash near the front door, away from the wine section. Alas, our little bottle wasn’t there, but we did find a couple of $10 bottles, which both turned out to be quite good.

Then, in line to check out, Rochelle noticed yet another stack in another section of the store. “Hey, what’s that?” “I’ll go check it out…”

Score! Three unopened cases of our little find. We bought them all.

For those keeping track, yes, that means we have (had) four cases of this Champagne. Fridays are now officially “Champagne Days” in our house. So are Saturdays, and any other days we think it’s a good idea.

Come and visit us, before we drink it all!

Proper Use of the Telephone

There’s no laws against it, but drinking-and-dialing is still poor behavior. Be sure you only call your closest friends.

For those who don’t know, Rochelle got the opportunity to buy our house when the former owner lost it to his heroine addiction. The bank foreclosed, and Rochelle got a great deal.

One of the consequences of that unplanned change of ownership is that there was no orderly removal of possessions. Most of his junk — random crap stored in the basement for years — was thrown away prior to Rochelle moving in. In spite of that cleaning, some traces of the prior occupant remained, and as the new owner it was Rochelle’s job to deal with it.

Today while working on our own Crap Abatement and Reduction Program (CRAP), Rochelle came across a scrap of his that she saved, a letter he wrote but apparently never sent. It leads off with a paragraph of truly great writing, which I will share with you now:

My dearest darling Suzzi Lastname,

First and foremost let me apologize for calling you up at such a late hour last night. I was on my way to greatness in the guise of don Julio el BLOTTO when following some minor gun play I decided to stop and rest my horse and relieve my bladder. As I entered the lavatory of the cantina, I saw before my eyes that most terrifying vehicle of verbal communications — the pay telephone. The rest is history. I hope I did not disturb you.

The tradition of Drinking-and-Dialing is probably as old as the telephone itself, or very nearly. Here’s wishing that you’re on the receiving end, instead of calling us.


Buche de Noel: UPDATE

Our Buche de Noel, while quite good, was not in the traditional style, and we were actually disappointed.

We took our Buche de Noel to my mother’s Xmas day feast, where 12 of my immediate and extended family gathered to celebrate the holidays.

While it was quite good, it was not in the traditional style, and we were actually a bit disappointed. A traditional Buche is a chocolate sponge cake slathered with ganache, and then rolled into a log shape. Our Buche was more of a solid log of chocolate mousse — great for chocolate freaks, but a little sweet if you were anticipating some cake to lighten things up.

Next year we’ll try the Buche from Patisserie Delanghe, which is right around the corner from Boulangerie Bay Bread, and didn’t have the huge line at 8:30am on Xmas Eve.

Delanghe did our wedding cake, and is an outstanding French bakery in their own right. They just don’t do breads, or much besides desserts, actually. But their desserts are outstanding.