January 2011 Archives

Things On Tuesday, Jan. 25

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This is supposed to be a Things On Tuesday, a long time Vox tradition, but hey, better late than never (which is what I added to our Christmas cards as we send them out now). Anyway:

Things I Loathe

  • Tension in the morning. Some days, things just go smoothly as we all try to get ready for the day, but most times, they don't. All it takes is one lollygagger and everyone is behind the 8 ball and tension rises. Ugh.
  • Snow packed, entombed roads with high snow banks. Can't see, can't maneuver, can't get around. Traffic has been a beast for several weeks now. And I don't even commute!
  • Forgetting to mail in rebate forms. Easy money, and yet I'm always dropping the ball on them. Sigh.
  • Cars running stop signs. I was nearly sideswiped for the second time in 2 months. Just rolling along a Cambridge side street when a car came flying out from my right, never even slowing down for the stop sign. I jammed on my brakes and came to a stop literally inches from his front bumper, as he slammed to a stop too. Crazy, I tell you.

Things I Love

  • My new Subaru. Picked a pretty good winter to get a classic New England winter car, as this AWD Subaru really handles well in the snow. I've had it about a month now, and still haven't found any of those minor annoyances you usually uncover.
  • My girls doing great in school. R11.6 was named "Student Of The Month" for January, and she earned it. She works hard, is smart and gets along great. And A10.4's teacher called last night to rave about her "Sharing Project", a book report they read in front of the class as well as an art project they do. She did a "quadrama" with 4 scenes from the book and the teacher just had to call and say how spectacular it all was.
  • Paying off credit cards. Always a good thing, right?
  • Watching the dog cavort in the snow. There's really no other word that accurately describes how much fun he has in the snow. Cavort is the word.

Favorite Sound

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Answering The Daily Post of the day, What is your favorite sound?

That one is easy - my favorite sound is my girls' laugh. When either of them get a good, honest, belly laugh, it gives me a warm 'n' tingly feeling, and tells me that all is right with the world. Whether it's me that generates the laugh, or if they are playing together and one of them gets on a roll, it is a sound I will never girls.jpgforget and always yearn for. Sometimes we as parents get so wrapped up on making sure they "do the right thing" or get their homework done, or get dressed, or practice their piano, we forget to have fun with them. I'm going to make it my quest this week to be sure and have some fun with the kids.

One thing I'd really love to do is to go skiing. Nothing we do together gives me more pleasure than hitting the slopes with them. They surprise me with just how good they are, and how they can attack the mountain. They are both pretty good athletes in general, but not really the aggressive or risk taking sorts. That all changes on skis for some reason, and we have a great time. But despite the wonderfully snowy weather this winter, we haven't been able to get out yet. But we will!

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The Other Places

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I actually have a few other blogs, although I'm trying to cut back :) I've previously mentioned my music blog, Vehement Flame, where I try to post some music every day and try to put out a sporadic podcast with some new and old music.

I also have a Tumblr blog, where I post short snippets, images and quotes that I come across on the net. You can find it here but I also have a page dedicated to it on this blog. You can see the link at the right, ever so subtly names My Tumblr, which also displays my Tumblr entries, albeit in a not very pretty way. But it gets the job done.

The only other one that I try to keep up with is my Daemon Dancing In The Dark blog, which is my technical musings. I haven't posted to it in far too long, though. I really need to, as the entry ideas are piling up!

And while I'm pointing out things in my sidebar, let me also direct you to some widgets I'm using. One displays my 5 most recent Twitpics, another shows you my recently read books from Goodreads, while the last one shows a random set of 5 games from my game collection on Boardgamegeek. It only lists 188, but I actually have about 500 :)


My main bookshelves. The left one contains wargames, sorted chronologically. The right one contains more family oriented games, as well as sci-fi & fantasy games.


This is the shelf of old Avalon Hill and Victory Games. I have them split off because they generally line up pretty wll.

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Cocktails 'n' Gaming: James Bond

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The cocktail for our Cocktails 'n' Co-op Gaming night last night was an old standbye - the James Bond Martini, from one of my favorite cocktail books, The Martini Book: 201 Ways to Mix the Perfect American Cocktail:

James Bond Martini

  • 6 parts gin (the usual - Bombay Sapphire)
  • 2 parts vodka (in this case, Tito's Handmade)
  • 1 part Lillet blanc
  • Lemon Twist

WeizenAndBabyTree Beers.jpgJust shake with cracked ice and strain into a nice frozen cocktail glass, and garnish with a lemon twist. Pretty refreshing, actually, even if mixing gin and vodka seems like overkill.

We followed that with a couple beers. First up was one of the more unusual kinds of beers - a Rauchbeir, which is a German beer with a heavy "smokiness". We tried the Aecht Schlenkerla Rauchbeir Marzen a few weeks ago and found it, interesting. It was our first Rauchbeir, so we perhaps weren't quite ready for it, because we really liked this one, the Weizen. Either we're getting more used to it, or this one isn't as overpowering, but the smokiness added to the flavor, rather than overwhelming it, like it seemed to with the Marzen.

And we followed that with a bottle from a local artisanal brewer, Pretty Things Brewery. We have really enjoyed their flagship beer, Jack D'Or and found their Hedgerow Bitter a little over the top. But we really like this one, the Baby Tree - very smooth and tasty.

Gaming last night was, again, a couple of hours playing Terrorist Hunt in Tom Clancy's Rainbow Six Vegas 2. We must be getting good, as despite the difficulty level and number of enemies cranked to the max, we cleared 3 maps. It's definitely a lot of fun to coordinate the 3 of us in the attack. Still wish we could play in story mode though.


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Patriot Punishment

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Tailgate 1Well, that was a pretty awful effort by the Patriots on Sunday, wasn't it? Sure, the Jets played a perfectly servicable game but I find more things to blame in the Patriots game plan than successes I can point to in the Jets. For an accurately painful wrapup, please check out PatriotsDaily.com's Making the Grades.

One thing that I think is a recent development is the insistence on sticking with the game plan when it is obviously not working. I felt it in the earlier Browns loss and again on Sunday. Maybe it's hubris, maybe there are changes too subtle for me to notice, but it was pretty obvious to most of us in the stands that things just weren't working as planned and it was time to change it up. But they get stuck in their ways and there isn't enough effort to go in different directions. What's the old Albert Einstein quote?

Insanity: doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.

That is how I feel about the Patriots when things don't work as they plan. Maybe they (and specifically, Coach B) are reading their own press clippings too closely, but things just didn't change, despite their reputation for flexibility and adaptibility. Coming out of the locker room in the second half, I would have gone to the no-huddle and worked the Jets hard. Instead, they went into a grind it out offense, taking long periods of time to get no points at all. And I also would have blitzed the hell out of Sanchez, although I can't really blame the defense much.

Tailgate 2Anwyay, we had a great tailgate. The weather was about as great as you could hope for in the middle of January - 30s, sunny with a little bit of wind. I brought my 32" flat screen, hooked it up to a little antennae and we enjoyed the opening game of the day, a Bears blowout. We sipped a very nice concoction I made from a book I got from my mom for Christmas. Called The Authentic Guide to Drinks of the Civil War Era, 1853-1873, it is a pretty cool compendium of drinks aimed at reenactors, so the quantities are often pretty large, so this was a good chance to make one. I wanted a warm one and this one really worked.

Orange Punch

  • 1/2 pint port (I used a Warres LBV)
  • 3/4 to 1 pint rum (I used Bacardi silver)
  • 3/4 to 1 pint brandy (I used Chateau des Plassons cognac)
  • 1 oz. Curacao, Noyau or Maraschino (I used maraschino)
  • 3 1/2 pints boiling water
  • Juice 3 to 4 oranges (I used 4)
  • Peel of 1 or 2 oranges
  • 3/5 lb. sugare

Add orange juice and peels to sugar & boiling water. Allow to sit for 30 minutes, strain and add liquor. Add more warm water or sugar if desired weaker or sweeter (I thought it worked perfectly as is). You can make a good lemon punch by substituting lemons for oranges.

It was really really good. And the other guys at the tailgate thought it so good, they want to make it a tradition along with the hot chocolate and schnaps!

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Book Review: Griftopia

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Griftopia: Bubble Machines, Vampire Squids, and the Long Con That Is Breaking AmericaGriftopia: Bubble Machines, Vampire Squids, and the Long Con That Is Breaking America by Matt Taibbi

My rating: ?????

Funny, ascerbic, absorbing and ultimately depressing, this expose on just how deep the tentacles of Wall Street and big money have dug into Washington is a must read for everyone. As Taibbi says, it isn't Red Vs Blue or Liberal vs Conservative, or even Democrat vs Republican - it's the big money guys (and it's almost all guys) raping our country, sucking it dry while they can, vs everyone else. They just don't care, as long as they keep cashing the ginormous paychecks. The only drawback to the book? He never offers up any solutions and, despite his protests, I wish he'd have some ideas, because it is just so damned depressing otherwise. We elect someone based on "change" and yet the same bloodsuckers and vampire squids either stay in charge or are put in charge.

Shoot me now.

View all my Goodreads reviews
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Cocktails 'n' Gaming: Sidecar


A basic cocktail last night, for our weekly drinks 'n' gaming session. I managed to snag a few Meyer Lemons, which are so precious during these cold winter months! To keep it simple, I made a Sidecar:

Mix 'n' strain into an ice cold, sugar-rimmed cocktail glass. Pure heaven.matilda_2010.jpg

Brooklyn-Local-1.jpgAnd we had a couple of brews. My co-op gaming friend and I have become somewhat addicted to artisanal brews in big bottles. First was Brooklyn Local 1 from the Brooklyn Brewery. We have had their Oktoberfest beer and while it was okay, it wasn't as good as promise from Imbibe, who put it inn their top autumn beers list. Brooklyn Local 1 is a very fizzy beer! The cork flew off when I opened it, like a champagne bottle. And it was another okay beer. A little light and too fizzy.

We followed that up with a frosty mug of Goose Island Matilda, a Belgian style pale ale. Now that was yummy - smooth, tasty and refreshing.

The beer went very well with our intense battles in the Murdercity Terrorist Hunt in Tom Clancy's Rainbow Six Vegas 2. While it is disappointing that you can't play the campaign in co-op mode, the three of us have been having fun with each map in the Terrorist Hunt mode. We crank the difficulty, max the number of enemies and give us each 1 extra life and that makes for a tough match, especially in this map. It's a close assault map, with enemies popping out pretty much anywhere, which makes it tough.

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Cell Phone Humor

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Joke from my Twitter stream:

A iphone user and android user meet.

iPhone: 'Sorry I'm late my alarm didn't work'
Android: 'meeting was canceled - didn't you get the text?'


Baptist Cowboy

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Latest joke over the email transom:

A cowboy, who just moved to Wyoming from Texas , walks into a bar and orders three mugs of Bud. He sits in the back of the room, drinking a sip out of each one in turn. When he finishes them, he comes back to the bar and orders three more.

The bartender approaches and tells the cowboy, "You know, a mug goes flat after I draw it. It would taste better if you bought one at a time."

The cowboy replies, "Well, you see, I have two brothers. One is in Arizona , the other is in Colorado . When we all left our home in Texas , we promised that we'd drink this way to remember the days when we drank together. So I'm drinking one beer for each of my brothers and one for myself."

The bartender admits that this is a nice custom, and leaves it there.

The cowboy becomes a regular in the bar, and always drinks the same way. He orders three mugs and drinks them in turn.

One day, he comes in and only orders two mugs. All the regulars take notice and fall silent. When he comes back to the bar for the second round, the bartender says, "I don't want to intrude on your grief, but I wanted to offer my condolences on your loss."

The cowboy looks quite puzzled for a moment, then a light dawns in his eyes and he laughs.

"Oh, no, everybody's just fine," he explains, "It's just that my wife and I joined the Baptist Church and I had to quit drinking."

"Hasn't affected my brothers though."

Favorite Singles of 2010

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Over on my music blog, Vehement Flame, I posted a podcast of my favorite 2010 Singles (ie, not ones from my favorite albums, which will come soon). Give it a listen, would you?

Vehement Flame Fave Singles of 2010

00:00:23 Rill Rill (Treats) - Sleigh Bells
00:04:13 Lemon Tree (El Turista) - Josh Rouse
00:07:18 Polaroid Song (Allo Darlin') - Allo Darlin'
00:11:32 Call Me (Earth vs.The Pipettes) - The Pipettes
00:14:22 Apply (Ring) - glasser
00:19:22 Alone At The Pier (Maintenant) - Gigi
00:22:41 Hand Me Down Your Love (One Life Stand) - Hot Chip
00:27:15 You Must Be Out Of Your Mind (Realism) - Magnetic Fields
00:30:27 Giving Up The Ghost (The Seasonal) - How German It Is
00:33:49 Electricity (all the stars in your eyes) - 28 degrees taurus
00:37:39 Everyone Feels That Way Sometimes - Computer Magic
00:43:49 Revival (Halcyon Digest) - Deerhunter
00:46:01 The Original Great Recession Math Champions (Radiant City) - Good Old Neon
00:51:41 He's Not A Boy (Release Me) - The Like
00:54:16 Grace (Burying The Dead) - Richard McGraw
00:59:20 Heavy Feeling (Heavy Feeling) - Justine Bennett
01:03:07 Scissor Runner (Jenny and Johnny) - Jenny and Johnny

Books in 2010

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Here's my 2010 reading overview via my Goodreads profile. As you an see, it wasn't a great year, with the only 2 five star book being a couple of reference books. But there was a pretty good list of 4 star books and a real dearth of 1 & 2 star books, so it was a solid, if not spectacular year.

My absolute favorite books of the year, besides the 2 reference books, were, in no particular order:

  • The Poacher's Son by Paul Doiron : the one book that kept me up late reading. Its wonderful evocation of Maine and hunting really hit home and the mystery was taunt to boot.
  • Columbine by Dave Cullen : as a parent with 2 school aged kids, this extensively researched document of evil was very chilling.
  • The Lost City of Z by David Grann : wow, what a gripping true-life adventure yarn!
  • The Strain by Guillermo Del Toro : not much of a horror book fan, but man this kept me on the edge of my seat. Can't wait to read book 2.
  • The Road by Carmac McCarthy : chilling apocalypic view, relentless dark but incredibly gripping.
  • Quicksilver by Neal Stepheson : exhausting but worthwhile book 1 of a hefty trilogy, with entrancing writing
Swamp Thing Vol. 1: Saga of the Swamp Thing
Nov 28, 2010
Nov 28, 2010
The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet's Nest
Nov 21, 2010
The Beatles:  The Biography
Oct 29, 2010
The Spies of Warsaw
Oct 28, 2010
Beautiful Maria of My Soul
Oct 27, 2010
The Thin Man (Mystery Masters)
Oct 25, 2010
Sep 07, 2010
L.A. Outlaws: A Novel
Sep 2010
The Shot
Sep 2010
The Breach
Aug 29, 2010
Quicksilver (Baroque Cycle, #1)
Aug 16, 2010
The Gamble
Aug 10, 2010
Homeland (Forgotten Realms: The Dark Elf Trilogy, #1; Legend of Drizzt, #1)
Aug 10, 2010
The Poacher's Son (Mike Bowditch Mysteries)
Jul 29, 2010
The Other Lands (Acacia, #2)
Jul 20, 2010
The Best Old Movies for Families: A Guide to Watching Together
Jul 10, 2010
Murder at Manasses: A Harrison Raines Civil War Mystery
Jun 29, 2010
World Cup 2010: The Indispensable Guide to Soccer and Geopolitics
Jun 23, 2010
March Violets (Bernard Gunther, #1)
Jun 17, 2010
The Exile
Jun 09, 2010
The Bounty: The True Story of the Mutiny on the Bounty
May 27, 2010
The Zombie Survival Guide: Recorded Attacks
May 2010
Apr 26, 2010
Wolf Hall
Apr 23, 2010
Storm Front (The Dresden Files, #1)
Mar 19, 2010
The Road
Mar 09, 2010
The Egyptologist: A Novel
Mar 09, 2010
Freedom (TM) (Daemon, #2)
Feb 25, 2010
Xombies: Apocalypse Blues
Feb 11, 2010
A Cold Day In Paradise (The First Alex McKnight Novel)
Feb 04, 2010
Tropical Freeze
Jan 31, 2010
Under Cover of Daylight
Jan 23, 2010
The Lost City of Z: A Tale of Deadly Obsession in the Amazon
Jan 15, 2010
The Strain (The Strain, #1)
Jan 09, 2010
The Bloomsday Dead: A Novel
Jan 04, 2010

Martini Nirvana

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A friend recently forwarded a link to a blog post for making a "perfect martini". Of course, his credibility went far downhill when it was revealed he is talking about making vodka "martinis", but there are some good pointers. So I figured I would repost my steps to martini nirvana. You really should use a high quality gin, but if you must make a vodkatini, you can still follow these steps.

  1. Most importantly, you need cold ingredients. This is where most bars fail. Store your vodka and gin in the freezer. Store your vermouth in the refrigerator (it's a wine, so it will freeze up solid if you put it in the freezer). You don't necessarily need to store your cocktail glasses in the freezer, although I do. If you put them in the ice tray about a half hour before you need them, you'll have nicely frosted glasses.
  2. Fresh, perfectly cracked, ice. Not ice that's been sitting in your freezer for months, slowly desiccating away, absorbing strange odors. And you need it cracked just the right size. Too big, and it won't chill things

    Image via Wikipedia

    nicely. Too small, and it will water down your drink too much. Up until recently, I found the best tool for doing this was the Lewis Ice Bag. You put ice cubes in the heavy canvas bag, give it a few whacks with the wooden club, and you have correctly sized ice pieces. You can easily control how big or small the pieces are, just by how many times you whack it. It comes in a nice container, with some classic cocktail recipes, including the martini one I now use. Electric ice crushers don't work very well, as they tend to make the ice chips too small - more like slush than ice cubes, which means they melt too rapidly. But now I use the ice machine in our new refrigerator, which makes some pretty good crushed ice. Maybe a tad too small, but servicable nonetheless for making the perfect martini.
  3. Top shelf ingredients. Because there is nothing masking the taste of the liquor in a great extra extra extra dry martini, you have to use great booze. We're a Bombay Sapphire family here. Tanqueray is a solid gin, especially the No. Ten label. We also recently enjoyed a bottle of Knockabout Gin from a nearby distillery, Ryan & Wood. Its 80 proof went over easier than the much stronger Bombay Sapphire. However, gin seems to be affecting us a little more and for a little longer, as we get older, so moderation is the key here. There just isn't enough taste to regular vodka to make it all that interesting as a martini. I'm not nearly as wedded to a premium vodka brand as I am to Sapphire as a gin. We've done some taste testings in the past, and while you could taste some differences, it was more that - a difference - and not something that would create a preference either way. I've enjoyed all the big names in premium vodkas, like Belevedre, Grey Goose (what is it with these liquor web sites? Addicted to Flash and asking a stupid quest
    Noilly Prat is the company's French brand of v...

    Image via Wikipedia

    ion about how old you are, like they are pr0n peddlers or something), and the like. I also like Three Olives Vodka, for something that tastes great and is a good price. For a handcrafted vodka, try Tito's Handmade Vodka.
  4. The vermouth you use is amazingly important, despite the fact the the modern martini uses very very little (the Winston Churchill martini recipe calls for gin in a cocktail glass, and then look at a bottle of vermouth:-). This is especially true for a vodka martini, with the (dry!) vermouth adding most if not all of the flavor. I'm a Noilly Prat man myself, even with the "new" formula. I guess we use little enough that it isn't badly affected by the complaint of a yellower, more aromatic vermouth. Besides, it is still a damn sight better than other commonly available vermouths, like Martini & Rossi or Stock. Remember, vermouth is a wine, so you need to keep it cold but it can also get old, which is why I don't stock up nor do I like buying the 1 liter bottles. Don't let it sit around in your refrigerator!
  5. Okay, now that you have your ingredients, it is time to make the drink. Put the perfectly cracked ice pieces into your cocktail shaker. I love to collect cocktail shakers, but I really only use the standard stainless steel tall cup, topped with a glass mug. Like James Bond, I like my martinis shaken not stirred. I used to stir it, but then I tried this recipe from the Lewis Ice Bag and have been shaking it ever since, never mind the tale about "bruised gin". Pour your cold vermouth into the shaker, give it a couple of vigorous shakes and then strain out all the vermouth you can get out, leaving just coated ice in there. That'll be plenty of vermouth.
  6. Now add your vodka or gin that you've pulled from the freezer. Don't be stingy, add plenty, because you have nice big cocktail glasses, chilling in the freezer right? Now shake it again, until your hand gets too cold to hold the steel cup. Set it aside to let it rest.
  7. While the martini is resting in the cocktail shaker, get out your olives. I don't like fancy olives. Give me a nice Queen pimento-stuffed green olive any day. All the other kinds add more flavors I don't want in my martini - anchovy, pepperoncini, bleu cheese, etc. I have to admit, we did try almond-stuff olives once. I figured the almonds wouldn't add flavor to the drink anyway. I still prefer standard ones. Put the olives (don't be stingy here either!) on a paper towel and squeeze. Try to dry them off. Again, you don't want olive brine to ruin your perfect martini, do you? While some (like FDR) like a "dirty" martini, where you actually add extra brine on purpose, the very idea of mangling a perfect cocktail like that makes my skin crawl. Stick the olives on a colorful toothpick and set them aside.
  8. Take your chilled cocktail glasses out of the freezer. You want a clear glass, so you can enjoy the transparent perfection of your creation. Don't hide it behind a colored cocktail glass please! Now strain your martini into the cocktail glasses. Don't worry about a few ice chips getting in there; that just adds to the beauty of the whole thing.
  9. Gently place your toothpick of olives into your cocktail glass and bask in the perfection that is a martini. Take a sip. It should almost take your breath away, even a vodka one. Freezing cold on the tongue, yet with a burning warmth down the throat. Ahhhh, I can taste it now!

So that's my process for making the perfect martini. And I've never gotten any complaints, either! The main thing is to use cold ingredients, the right vermouth and to make it dry.

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This page is an archive of entries from January 2011 listed from newest to oldest.

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