Sunday, October 16, 2011

Infused vodka


Infused vodka, originally uploaded by txfiddlechick.

Playing with infusing vodka. Ginger on the left, ginger with lemon on the right. They've been steeping for 10 days.

We cracked them open and made a couple of cocktails tonight (just vodka, simple syrup and sparkling water). The drinks were too subtle, so we put the jars back in the pantry for a bit longer.

Might just need to use more ginger and lemon peel (here, a quarter cup of ginger per pint, plus the peel from half a lemon), or maybe chop the ginger finer.

Saturday, October 15, 2011

Happy shrubs


Happy shrubs, originally uploaded by txfiddlechick.

Responding to the good long rain we got last weekend.

Friday, September 30, 2011

My new favorite vegetable is a weed.

Purslane salad
Purslane salad dressed with meyer lemon juice, olive oil, garlic, onion, tomato, and goat cheese.

This fleshy succulent "weed" is currently thriving in our yard. It loves the hot weather. When we first noticed it a few years ago, Daniel figured out that it's called purslane, and while classified as a weed here (though there are now ornamental hybrid varieties available – we brought some home from the nursery yesterday), is a very nutritious and tasty green that's been consumed in other countries for thousands of years. It's super high in vitamin C and Omega-3 fatty acids.



We think it's kind of a pretty groundcover, so we've been letting it grow wild in the garden. But we hadn't really delved into eating it other than nibbling until I saw someone selling it at the farmer's market a few weeks back.

I've made 5 good-sized salads from it this week, and have only just made a dent. There's still a ton more in the yard. Chances are you have some in yours, too. It tastes like a mild watercress and has a delicious crunch – give it a try.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Incredible first person POV Tsunami footage



This context from Flixxy.com:

Yu Muroga was doing his job making deliveries when the 11 March 2011 earthquake hit in Japan. Unaware, like many people in the area, of how far inland the Tsunami would travel, he continued to drive and do his job. The HD camera mounted on his dashboard captured not only the earthquake, but also the moment he and several other drivers were suddenly engulfed in the Tsunami. He escaped from the vehicle seconds before it was crushed by other debris and sunk underwater. His car and the camera have only recently been recovered by the police. The camera was heavily damaged but a video expert was able to retrieve this footage.

Saturday, September 10, 2011

Kittens in Bowls

Because why the hell not?



Check the phonetic rendition of O-bla-Di O-Bla-Da in the background.

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Child's Own Studio



Love this concept - custom plush softies from your child's art – Child's Own Studio.

I think I need a real-life Bunnee.


Bunnee from Found Magazine
is much-loved in our house. We've printed him on multiple colors and have him framed as a triptych. Though we don't love Bunnee apparently as much as this guy.

Thanks, Jimmie at Whippleworld for the link.

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Surreal Long Exposure Photographs

Rainy season

via Design Milk
, who writes:
"Beautiful long exposure shots by AppuruPai created from the New Transit Yurikamome, an automated guideway train that connects Odaiba to the mainland, passing through the Rainbow Bridge."

Sunday, September 4, 2011

Morning run on the river by the Pearl Brewery

Woke up to find a gorgeous breezy day -- too early for fall in South Texas, but at least a short reprieve from the crushing heat.

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Here's to the crazy ones

In another lifetime, I worked for several years for an Apple Specialist in Honolulu (Specialists are a special tier of Apple authorized Mac dealers and repair centers), first helping out with their website, later doing sales, later still running the front office and doing onsite and in-house training, and later still helping in the service department ordering parts and dispatching technicians, plus designing their newspaper ads and marketing materials (when working for a small business, everyone wears a lot of hats).

I began working there midway through the Think Different campaign in the late 90s, so that campaign has always been near and dear to me, both because of it's brilliance and because it invokes a time in my life that I remember fondly. When I started there, Steve Jobs had been back at Apple for a year or two, but hadn't turned things around for them yet. Because I was so entrenched in Apple culture at the time, I clearly remember the sharp left turn Apple made, from a company that made powerful and elegant but boring looking beige boxes with cryptic model numbers (e.g., the PowerMac 8600/300, which which despite its dull name was the bomb) to stunningly different and appealing products like the first bondi blue iMacs, which were truly groundbreaking at the time. We're all so used to Apple now that I think we forget where they came from.

So I particularly loved AdWeek's recent tribute to Steve Jobs. They write:

"Crazy Ones," the iconic Apple commercial by TBWA\Chiat\Day from the "Think different" campaign of the late 1990s, was always, in a way, about Steve Jobs. Voiced by Richard Dreyfuss, it celebrated "the rebels, the troublemakers, the ones who see things differently" and would therefore change the world. The images showed everyone from John Lennon to Gandhi, but the inference was that Apple's visionary leader was one these remarkable souls. Now, with Jobs resigning as CEO of Apple, we've added him to the end of "Crazy Ones"—a place he rightfully earned, even if he would never come right out and say so. 




Blueberry pie


Blueberry pie, originally uploaded by txfiddlechick.

Had a bit of a structural blowout, but should still be tasty. I use Bittman's recipe from How To Cook Everything. I sub frozen blueberries for convenience (so per his suggestion, upped the thickener - tapioca - by a third). While I do make pretty good pie crust, I tend to use refrigerated store bought dough which I keep in the freezer, because then I can throw a pie together in 20 mins with ingredients on hand.

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Hatch chiles!


Hatch chiles!, originally uploaded by txfiddlechick.

Roasted (thanks to Central Market), then cleaned, peeled, stemmed, seeded and chopped (thanks to me). Ready to vacuum seal and freeze in 2-cup batches, which is how much I use for a pot of green chile pork stew – somewhat of a staple in our house.

I went a little nuts this year and got 4 good sized bags of roasted chiles (a mix of mild and hot), something like 11 pounds. For scale, that's a 6-quart mixing bowl. So probably enough for 8 or more batches of stew. I have my green chile stew recipe so streamlined now that if I have the chiles ready to go, I can throw everything together in about 15 minutes.

Recipe to come.

Ms. Bridges Goes to Washington - Studio 360

Found this Studio 360 piece to be both powerful and fascinating - the civil rights era has been top of mind for me because I'm reading The Help right now:

Last month, President Obama installed Norman Rockwell's "The Problem We All Live With" in a hallway just outside the Oval Office.

The iconic painting shows Ruby Bridges, a six-year-old African American girl, being escorted by US Marshals to school during the 1960 integration of the New Orleans school system. Bridges wears a crisp white dress with socks and sneakers — she looks unfazed even as a tomato splatters on the graffiti-pocked wall behind her. Now, the first black president of the United States must pass the same racial epithet en route to work each day.




Read more and listen to the radio piece at Studio 360 - Ms. Bridges Goes to Washington

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Crowdsourced logo for @1stwebdesigner? I say no. I support the #AntiSpec campaign.

 

(Some background from the AntiSpec site: "Working on spec is when a single designer or agency design for free in the hope of winning a project." Also covers crowdsourcing/design contests where a small amount of money and/or "lots of exposure" is dangled as a prize. For more thoughts on AntiSpec here, check my blog post about the Huffington Post Twitter logo contest).



The next chapter in the AntiSpec campaign looks like it may be interesting if for no other reason than there are going to be a lot of p/o'd identity designers when they read how easy this guy thinks their job is. I look forward to their creative responses to this:

"I contacted Dainis Graveris yesterday, the founder of 1stWebDesigner, to give him the opportunity to pull the competition in order to avoid a public AntiSpec campaign. Dainis explained that he is against spec work for web design but suggested that it’s ok for logo design because there isn’t as much time involved."

Their "well, it's just a logo. How long can it take?" attitude is not going to endear them to the design community. I somewhat suspect they couldn't care less about what the design community thinks, and will take the free publicity, good or bad. So I'm thinking this might be fun to watch.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

TEDxSanAntonio

TEDxSanAntonio now accepting attendee applications for 2011, SA's 2nd TEDx event.

What is TEDx? From their site:

“In the spirit of ideas worth spreading, TED has created a program called TEDx.

TEDx is a program of local, self-organized events that bring people together to share a TED-like experience. Our event is called TEDxSanAntonio, where x=independently organized TED event. At our TEDxSanAntonio event, TEDTalks video and live speakers will combine to spark deep discussion and connection in a small group.”



D and I are long-time fans of the TED conferences and have watched countless TED Talks over the years. Last year's TEDx event here—the first in SA—didn't hit my radar, but I heard great things about it afterward from a college professor friend who attended. Planning to attend this year, if I get in. You should, too.



TEDx San Antonio Attendee Application

Greek Yogurt Sales Rise In U.S. Dairy Aisles : NPR

Greek Yogurt Sales Rise In U.S. Dairy Aisles : NPR



I switched to greek yogurt a few months ago from nonfat plain "regular" yogurt. I find regular sweetened yogurt to be too sweet, so I long ago gravitated to plain—which I sometimes doctor, or sometimes eat as is—and then made the switch to Greek because if the higher protein content.

I've been noticing more and more "mainstream" brands coming out with their own Greek yogurt lines, and figured this was in response to a trend, but the numbers in this article surprised me—a whole lot of people are switching to Greek yogurt.

For me, a big bowl of yogurt for breakfast every morning—with a dollop of homemade peach butter and a couple tablespoons of ground flax seed—is really tasty. (The flax seeds took a little getting used to, but now when I run out, I miss the texture). Once I switched to Greek (or mostly Greek—I do add a little bit of plain nonfat so it's not quite so thick), I found that this breakfast would keep me full for hours. As a bonus, I've been losing weight without really trying.

I've been carrying a few extra pounds the last handful of years (OK, let's just say it—20 extra pounds). And while I'm not "dieting," I am trying to be aware of what I put in my mouth. And while the weight loss (18 pounds so far) is certainly not only due to switching from regular to Greek yogurt, I'm sure it's helping.

Yogurt is one of the reason I can't get on board with diets like the 4-Hour Body slow-carb movement, which says dairy is a no-no. And no fruit! We've been eating fruit for, what, a gazillion years? I have a number of friends on this diet who are having success. But personally, I'd never be able to stick with something like that long-term, so for me, I don't see the point.

Everybody (and every body) is different, but Greek yogurt has been working for me.

That being said, I had Daniel—who loves yogurt—try a spoonful; he said he'd rather eat sour cream.

Friends? Or cease-fire?


Friends? Or cease-fire?, originally uploaded by txfiddlechick.
Our 8-year old big black cat is I think starting to get used to the 1-year-old kitten who has been making his life a living hell.

For the first 2 months after the little one moved himself in, our old cat stomped around the house muttering under his breath. We were the feline equivalent of dead to him - if we tried to pet him, we'd get a passive aggressive slump and an annoyed sounding growl, then he'd storm off in a huff.

He eventually forgave us, but still growled and swatted annoyedly at the little one and generally tried to avoid him. Which was a challenge since the little one likes to follow him everywhere.

Over the last month or so, we've started to find them hanging out together more, and while they still play-fight a lot, it's more playful and less aggressive. And I haven't seen the old cat growl at the kitten in weeks.

A Window Between Worlds - Art as a Healing Tool


AWBW - Art As A Healing Tool from Audrey Salzburg on Vimeo.

Want to share with you this video from a nonprofit I recently came across. A Window Between Worlds uses hands-on art as a tool to help battered women and children put words to their feelings and work through those feelings toward a better future.

Art therapy is certainly a term I've heard and a concept I thought I understood, but I don't think I've seen it in action the way it's shown in this video, or quite realized how powerful a tool it can be. I found this video to be very moving - seeing how closed down and wary the participants are at the beginning of the workshop, and how they're able to open up by the end. The kids in particular look visibly more relaxed and comfortable in their own skin at the end, when they're assembling their tiles to make the mosaic.

This quote from the workshop sums it up for me: "No matter how bad or ugly our past was, our future doesn't have to be that way." This very simple concept may not be obvious to victims of abuse; perhaps an experience like this workshop will help them realize that what's been done to them does not define them.

I was introduced to this nonprofit by {rhymes with bubbling} clients W. Vito Montone and Kim Castle who are currently running a fundraising campaign. If you'd like to contribute, visit their campaign page here.


Monday, August 22, 2011

Play Me a Song When I'm Gone

Finally figured out how to extract the audio from the Ustream video of Miss Maggie's birthday bash (Ustream's site is a little buggy and several people -- including Brad, whose tune I borrowed -- were never able to get it to play).

So here's the song I sang for my friend and sistah on her birthday this year. I think she would have dug it.

Play Me a Song When I'm Gone performed by Kim Mackenzie (words and music ©Brad Svoboda)

Song written by my dear Texas friend Brad. Being backed up by dear Hawaii friends Sean (guitar, backing vocals), Bailey (keyboard) and James (drums) - Sean and I had a chance to rehearse, but Bailey and James's had never heard the tune before. I was just trying to get through it without breaking down. Somehow, it all came together, and I'm proud of how it came out.

The quality is pretty iffy (built-in laptop mic), but I'm glad to have this recording. I'd like to do a studio recording, with these same players and pretty much this same impromptu arrangement.

Saturday, August 20, 2011

Quirky / creative engagement photo shoot




Amanda Rynda Photography


Someone (lifted the pics, cropped out the watermarks, posted it without attribution and) stitched the whole shoot together vertically. (Despite the lameness of stolen/unattributed content, posting it anyway, because it's fun to see it as a sequence, and the photographer is now aware it happened -- she is now attributed via the comments, with links to her site).

Amanda says: [Ben, the groom] wanted to make sure his manliness wasn't lost in an engagement session. Juliana styled it, I staged, shot & edited it. It was a super fulfilling & creative day for me thanks to Juliana & Ben and their unique view on love. 

Thanks to my good friend Lynne of Lynne Allan Photography for the link.

Friday, August 19, 2011

Blogger weirdness...

Two posts not appearing in blog, though they've been published. - Blogger Help

Grrr. A couple of posts, including one I spent a fair amount of time on, are not showing up on the blog (though they're in the sidebar, and you can get to them via direct links). Most annoying.

Tweeted the above link to Blogger hoping someone there will help, because I don't think the issue is on my end. Wonder if that will work. Though I'm now in line with all of these annoyed people with different problems.

Airswimmers. Want. Way more charming than a balloon should be.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Got seranos?


Got seranos?, originally uploaded by txfiddlechick.

Despite the heat, our serano plant is super duper happy. We've already got a freezer full. Who wants some? Come on over.

Pickup for the new violin arrived!

Whiskey Shivers - Gimme All Your Lovin'

Via Reddit, this music video from the Whiskey Shivers out out Austin. Wacky concept. Great music. Deliciously creepy (throughout, but check the last shot especially). I can't stop watching it.

$20 says this goes viral. (Current view count is at 913.) Who wants to bet?

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Free design for AOL's @HuffingtonPost? I say no. I support the AntiSpec campaign.


Free design for AOL's @HuffingtonPost? I say no. I support the #AntiSpec campaign. 

This battle cry went up through the Twitterverse in the design community. And it worked.

AntiSpec is a very recent site/campaign (weeks old?), aimed at bringing the design community together to respond to the problem of spec work. I caught wind of it and "added my face" / signed up for their mailing list.

(Some background from their: "Working on spec is when a single designer or agency design for free in the hope of winning a project." Also covers crowdsourcing/design contests where a small amount of money and/or "lots of exposure" is dangled as a prize.)



This Huffington Post thing hit the yesterday - basically a contest to design their Twitter logo. Anti-Spec rallied the troops. And 24-hours later, Huff pulled the contest, and didn't quite apologize but attempted to explain (read the Update at the bottom of this page for the play by play). It unfolded in a similarly dramatic way as the Gap logo fiasco last year, which for the design world, is going to go down in history like New Coke and Classic Coke. But this was an organized and targeted effort from a small army with social media weapons (a preestablished hashtag and message), and hence happened much more quickly.

Because the Gap log mess unfolded more organically, it was a lot more complicated and took "longer" (something like 8 days, instead of something like 1). With the Gap thing, the design community and much of the rest of the social media world instinctively gasped and said "WTF, Gap?" all at the same time -- Gap backpedaled in a bunch of silly ways before yanking the logo. Though this Huff thing had much the same feel in terms of a branding faux pas.



Huff's statement about "engaging the community" with their fun little project may well be what they had in mind. And they may be truly surprised and confused by the negative response to what they did. They may have thought they were doing nothing wrong (though with their reputation with regard to paying or not paying their bloggers...) But you gotta wonder what the heck they thought was going to happen.

A much better way to "engage the community" would be to have your established branding / logo in place, then having a contest to create a fun / special / temp version of the logo to use for a short time for a holiday or some other notable reason (a la what's done internally with the Google Doodle. Or even Reddit, whose primary alien logo changes frequently in response to the news of the day). No one jumps down Google's throat when they occasionally have contests for kids to submit their own Google Doodles. Instead, they get all kinds of warm fuzzy social media love because people are charmed by it. That's because they're saying - "Here's our brand. Have fun with it." Not "Please define our brand for us."

It was interesting, both watching this unfold and being one of the voices.

Monday, August 15, 2011

Friday, March 18, 2011

Aloha, Maggie

I lost my dear friend Maggie Chang last weekend after a year and a half of fighting Acute Myeloid Leukemia.

Maggie was one of the most full of life people I've ever known – spunky, funny, thoughtful, smart.

Trying to describe her is going to fall flat, but here are a couple of pics I found on her Flickr and Facebook that I think capture her awesomeness:

Maggie Tongue

My all-time favorite pic of her – I was there the day it was taken at our favorite little beach on Diamond Head (Suicides). Maggie and Tunji had a copy in a frame at their house, so I've seen it often. I lucked into a scan of it on her Flickr account. Circa 1996-ish, at Diamond Head Beach in Hawaii. I met them both a little before this (maybe '95 or so? Shortly after they moved to Hawaii, anyway.)



Me at Grappas

Playing with El Destroyo at the Roots Rumble, Hong Kong, March 2009



Maggie bass laugh

Playing with El Destroyo in Hong Kong, May 2008



Photo by Nora Tejada. Styled by Steph.

Promo shot, October 2009. Photo by Nora Tejada. Styled by Steph.




DSC01145

at the Macau Int'l Music & Arts Fest, August, 2010




Purple always makes me think of Maggie (purple, and pigs, and Hello Kitty). And while I was working in the yard today in this beautiful spring weather, it occurred to me that our Spanish lavender bloomed last weekend for the very first time.

So now every year, I'll think of Maggie when the Spanish lavender blooms.

I like that.

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Critter Causes Fire


Some excitement yesterday morning – woke at dawn to find 6 fire engines, plus police, ambulances, news crews, etc. parked on our little street. (There was even a fire response vehicle in our driveway.) The 3-plex across the street had a fire due to a possum in the attic chewing on wiring. Everyone got out safe, and the house supposedly only suffered $15k worth of damage, but there was an awful lot of water being sprayed up on the second floor.

Daniel made it onto the news.

Eight Days in New York (in two minutes or less)

An assortment of dark and blurry shots from our snowpocalypse 2010 NYC trip, set to Medeski, Martin and Wood:

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Ghetto crock-pot home sous vide setup

Been playing with budget sous vide the last few months. Here's our
setup:

One crockpot on "warm" setting
One instant read thermometer, immersed in the water bath to monitor
temp.

Found out pretty quick that our crockpot hovers around 140 degrees on
Warm, so in theory, we don't really need to use the thermometer
anymore. 140 is pretty ideal temp for cooking pork, as trichenosis is
killed at 137.

Our third pork tenderloin attempt had been in the water bath
unattended for about 8 hours. We'll take it out soon, sear it (sous
vide leaves meat with an unappetizing appearance - searing is crucial)
and it'll be ready to eat.

Since we don't have any control over temp (we're stuck with 140) we've
only played with pork tenderloins so far. Might try steak next, though
this temp is maybe a little high.

Friday, February 11, 2011

Goodbye to all that - Roger Ebert's Journal



Goodbye to all that - Roger Ebert's Journal

As kids, we've all asked each other stupid questions like "if you could be blind or deaf, which would you choose?" I've always chosen blind over deaf – as a musician, this is a no-brainer.

I never gave any thought to what it might be like to lose the power of speech until it happened to Roger Ebert; his intimate sharing of the experience through his writings has made it real for me. And, well, it seems to suck a lot more than you could imagine. I'm wordy and social and love more than anything to make people laugh. How do you toss witty banter about if you have to stop the conversation so you can write down your witty reply? A quote from this post:

"When first coming to terms with the fact that I would never speak again, I filled my head with denial and coping strategies. I would use my computer voice, for example. And I do. But that is no way to participate in the flow of a conversation, and I realize so clearly now that conversations are all about the flow, the timing, the music. Now that IBM's Big Blue has beaten a grandmaster at chess and promises to win at Jeopardy, I have a challenge that will grind it to a halt: I challenge Big Blue to tell a joke in a voice that has the tone and the timing, the words and the music, just right."

I know nothing about the Boulder Conference on World Affairs that he's giving up. (OK, I now know a little something, from reading one of his previous blog posts). But clearly he loves it dearly, and he's walking away from it, more or less, because he can't keep up. And that's breaking his heart.

Mine, too.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

In pictures: The shop that time forgot



In pictures: The shop that time forgot (The Independent)

To: FESPA [and the rest of the legitimate business world],
Subject: Mailing List Etiquette

If you run a promotional email list, and you don't include a straightforward way to unsubscribe, there's a good chance you're just going to piss us off.

Love,

Your Target Audience



I'm on a quest lately to cut down on the amount of not-quite-junk email I receive -- i.e., lists I've signed up for that I no longer read, notifications from various social media sites that I'd rather not get any more, etc.

No idea how I got on this FESPA list (I had to look it up -- "FESPA is a federation of global screen and digital printing trade associations and organises the world's leading screen printing and digital imaging events.") Yes, I do graphics, but I'm not a printer, nor do I even buy much print. There's a slim chance I signed up for it at some point. Or someone sold them my name.

So whatever, I'm on their list. Who knows how I got there. Big deal, just unsubscribe.

The first email I got back in mid-January had an unsubscribe link at the bottom. But clicking on it returned a PHP database error (now it's just a 404). So I replied to the email to inform them of the database error and asked to please be removed.

The next email had no unsubscribe link at all. (The links in the footer take you, somewhat unhelpfully, to the main page of the email list service they use -- i.e., it's just an ad -- and to their web design company.) So I replied and ask again to be unsubscribed.



Got another one today, and at this point, I'm just annoyed by the whole thing. Sure, I could just delete them – they're only sending one every two weeks or so. Sure, I could add them to my spam filter. Sure, I could email their web design company for help (especially since, chances are they designed the HTML email in the first place). Or I could email the general contact email address I found by poking around on their website. But none of these things should be necessary.

Allowing mailing list recipients to unsubscribe (whether we signed up for the list in the first place or not) is to me what separates legitimate business promotion from spam. If are unable or choose not to include an unsubscribe link, you'd damn well better be checking the replies so you can deal with unsubscribe requests that way.

So, here you go. If I can't get off the list, then I'll let my blog readers (yes, all 3 of you) know how un-savvy FESPA's email marketing is. And how lame by association their sponsors now seem.

The below is just a screen shot of today's mailing (the actual HTML email was too wide and broke the blog layout). The footer links are live. For what it's worth, I dig the design.



From: FESPA [news@fespa.com]
Date: Thu, Feb 10, 2011 at 7:48 AM
Subject: FESPA Americas – the Boost Your Company Needs for 2011


Fespa Americas email

powered by phplist v 2.10.10, © tincan ltd


Wednesday, February 9, 2011

5-string violins

Today's obsession: 5-string acoustic violins. A crude explanation is that it's a violin with an added low-C, which is the low string on a viola. So it's like a violin and viola combined.

Bottom line, I want one.

Once upon a time, I played electric violin in a string of really loud bands through lots of stomp boxes and a Fender Deluxe Reverb; my instrument then was an early model 5-string solid body Zeta.


And while I don't miss the nasal tone of the Zeta (or how freaking heavy it was, even being a cutaway with hardly any body to it at all, or how you needed an allen wrench for the top tuners), I find lately that I miss that low 5th string.

Fact, I'm not a millionaire. Decent violins of any type are expensive. (Mine, at the high-end of student, was $1500 20 years ago. Serious symphony players will this much or more just for their bow. A violin maker's site I was reading today had a little quip about how surprised you might be at how reasonably priced a professional level hand-crafted violin can be, and that his were $18,000. His implication being that $18,000 (which is $6,000 more than I paid for my truck) was reasonable. Maybe it is, but that's out of my price range...

A quick few hours research, and I determined that a decent 5-string will set me back at minimum $1,500 (this would be designed by respected luthier and not just a 5th string crammed onto a regular fiddle; while it would be made in China, there are great instruments coming out of some folks in China, and this would be with his oversight and QC). Here's the one I'm looking at:



Dahlia-5


(Despite the appearance of the photo, I don't think it actually glows. Though it would be cool if it did.)

I also found a hand-crafted model I'm interested in from a maker in Georgia for more like $4,000 - 5,000.

Full-back_Fuji_600x381

Made by Barry Dudley

$4-5k is a lot of money to someone like me, for whom music is not much more than an elaborate, time-consuming and expensive hobby. But still damn cheap for a good hand-crafted violin. I read some really good reviews. Some really good players use his 5-strings (notably for me, Tania Elizabeth from The Duhks). Emailed the guy with a few questions, and he sent a lengthy reply the same day. So thinking (sight unseen) that this is the one I want.

I do need a 2nd violin (I don't have a playable spare, just a crappy old pawn shop one that I dearly love but is the violin equivalent of a "beach guitar"). It makes sense that my current fiddle should become the spare, and I should step up to a nicer intrument. I'm wondering if I can combine these two goals, and get a better instrument, with the added bonus of gaining a 5th string.

Not sure, but thinking the $1500 made in China instrument would be perhaps comparable to what I play now. The $4000 hand-crafted would probably be a big step up. I'm going to see Tania Elizabeth play a show in Wimberley in April, so I'll be able to get a closer look at the Barry Dudley 5-string then.

So, just thinking aloud, so to speak.  This is what I was obsessed with today.

The Coolest Locksmith Shop in New York City � Scouting NY

002

We stumbled onto this amazing little building during our NY trip this winter. It's covered with a starry-night-esque mosaic made entirely out of keys.

I couldn't find much info about it online, just a few Flickr pics (apparently, the mural was only completed a few months before our trip). I've been meaning to blog about it myself, but my pictures aren't great as we were on walking food tour and I had to snap them on the fly. Fortunately, someone else has finally posted some photos and the backstory.

The Coolest Locksmith Shop in New York City - Scouting NY

Adobe Launches CS6 this Week



Adobe Launches CS6 this Week — Ganger Design, Milwaukee, WI

8 months after CS5 came out, I'm still on CS4. Why? Because it works fine. Because I already own it. Because all my clients are still using it, too, so I haven't run into any problems with not being able to open their supplied files. I'd like a new car, too. But I don't need one.

This week, I'm talking to a new potential new client, who would require that I go to CS5. ~$600 to upgrade Design Premium, basically (as far as I'm concerned) so that I can avoid having to ask this client to save InDesign and Illustrator files down to CS4 for me. $600 for a glorified file converter.

This annoys me. I love new software as much as the next person. I love new features. But I don't need new software. I don't need new features. Maybe this makes me sound like a curmudgeon, railing against progress.

But I like to weigh the benefits against the cost. Some upgrades were clearly worth it. Given the kind of work I do, CS4 to CS5 is not a worthwhile upgrade for me — I'd prefer to just skip CS5 altogether and wait for CS6. I've looked at the new features, and CS5 will not save me $600 worth of time by making me a more efficient production artist (Chances are, I'll need to install more RAM, which will cost even more. My machine may still slow down. Then there will be the learning curve). Really, productivity is all I care about.

So, anyway, in trying to decide if I need to now go ahead and upgrade, even though I really don't want to, I Googled around a bit to see when CS6 is predicted to arrive (i.e., here we go again). Found this fun rant from someone of the same mindset.

Adobe Launches CS6 this Week — Ganger Design, Milwaukee, WI

I'll probably eventually cave. Then immediately thereafter, Adobe will surely announce the release of CS6.

Bike Accidents - The Bay Citizen

Interactive map of 2 years of bicycle-related accidents, who was deemed to be at fault, and analysis as to how the accident might have been prevented. An alarming # of bike-at-fault (at a glance, maybe 40%?).

Bike Accidents - The Bay Citizen

Isaac Tayrien Pocket Show

Slow-mo kitten

Monday, January 31, 2011

Pre-freeze arugula harvest


Pre-freeze arugula harvest, originally uploaded by txfiddlechick.

Only put in two arugula plants this fall, and have been harvesting a
bit here and there, but the little buggers kind of got away from me
this month while I was busy with some long-term graphic projects.

San Antonio is predicting a good, hard freeze this week — at least
three days straight of well below freezing temps, which is unusual for
us. So I cut the plants back in preparation. We'll be having salad
with dinner for the next few days, I'm thinking... (Not that I mind.
Arugula rocks!) Garden fresh salad and nearly February.

This is my first year trying to grow some veggies (emphasis on the
"trying" — mostly been feeding the bugs and wildlife) but loving our
long growing season.

Saturday, January 29, 2011

Buy this desk, because it is awesome. And your money will go to a good cause.

I've been trying to come to terms with the fact that I have to get rid of this awesome desk. So far, my passive aggressive efforts to keep it have included posting a single "ambitiously" priced ad on Craigslist, hoping that either no one would call or that they'd give me so much money, I wouldn't care. This effort was successful in that, not surprisingly, I still have the desk.

IMG_3960

But now I've stumbled onto a cause I want to support, and it occurred to me that this cause might be a way to find the awesome desk a good home. So I'm emotionally ready to let go.

You'll have to come to my house in Beacon Hill to view it, but when you buy this awesome desk, that money is going to help fund the release of Nicolette Good's upcoming EP.

If you don't know Nicolette Good, here she is.



I'm a fan of her music, and she's gearing up to release a new recording soon. If you tend to like rootsy stuff, I think you'll like her music, too. If you want to, you can click on the EP cover and go listen to some tracks. But then you should come back and buy this awesome desk.

Here are the details:

Desktop measures 66" wide by 32"deep.

Three drawers (one large drawer suitable for files, two smaller)

Two pull-out writing surfaces.

Solid wood construction with wood veneer

Brass-plated (I think) drawer pulls and "feet"

Woven reed privacy panel

Structurally seems very sound. Cosmetically, pretty darn good with some major exceptions:

• The desktop has a lot of surface flaws and some deep scratches, some damage to the wood veneer in one back corner, and discoloration in the finish in the area where your arms would rest.

• There are two tears in the woven privacy panel, which could be patched or repaired. However, because the tears are high up, they are not really visible if the desk is placed against a wall.

See the full Flickr set for detail shots of the damaged areas.



Thinking that $150 OBO is a good starting point for the suggested donation / "adoption fee." Emphasis on the OBO, because:

a) it's for a cause, so if it doesn't sell, this is pointless;

b) I need to get it off my porch (don't worry, it hasn't been out in the elements - I have a big ol' porch);

c) if someone in the SATX arts scene wanted to give it a good home, that would mean a lot to me. Like wanting your beloved dog to retire on a farm.

So drop me a line if you want to come see it. Don't worry – if you take it home, I won't insist on coming to visit it later. Probably.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Note to self / links for the day

Check out this plugin. Looks like huge saver for cleaning up manuscripts / applying styles:

Automatication | Multi-Find/Change (CS4/5)

And this article (excerpt from a book that also looks useful) that has some info that is new to me:

Importing Word Into InDesign

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Mac OS X: resetting/changing/restoring Silverlight preferences for Netflix full-screen viewing on second monitor

If you arrived via a search engine and the post title means anything to you, I advise you to skip to the bottom for the step by step.

My excuse for a blog has yet again become neglected and at some point will morph into something else (in theory, something better designed, more professionally hosted and domain-named, and more focused than the currently slapped together "whatever shiny thing catches my eye" Blogspot mess.) But since realistically, this transformation won't happen soon, and I'm currently working to develop a good healthy writing habit for both personal and professional reasons, this seems like as good a place as any to do so.

If you're one of the three people who actually checks this blog (hi mom and dad! and David in New Mexico!), you probably know that I'm a Mac user, and that I am slightly more tech-savvy than the average Joe (Yes, I realize this is the wrong gender, but average Jane annoys me. What if I drop the 'e'? Slightly more tech-savvy than the average Jo. Better?).

I'm not any kind of guru. I don't know a thing about Windows, can't program in any language, and am woefully out of date with regard to online technologies. I'm using Blogger because I haven't had time to get my head around Wordpress. My web-coding roots pre-date WYSIWYG, but I stopped really learning anything web-related around 2001 when I got my first print production job and shifted focus. For anyone who knows web, I'm slightly more comfortable editing HTML in Split View in Dreamweaver than working in Design View, but only slightly — the way someone might be slightly more comfortable drowning in water as opposed to, say, drowning in rubbing alcohol.

So — I'm no technical genius by any stretch. What I do have is a pretty good grasp of how to troubleshoot, and pretty good skills at finding what I need online if I am stumped. If you ever go on "Who Wants to be a Millionaire," I'd be a pretty good phone-a-friend. I'm the one my friends tend to call if they have a frustrating Mac problem that they can't solve themselves, both because they think I may know the answer off the top of my head, and because they know that as long as I have the time, I honestly enjoy trying to figure out the solution.

So here's a post about a Mac OS X technical problem that frustrated me for a bit, with directions on how to solve it. One of those "this should be so easy!" type things that's so hard for my problem-solving personality to let go of. The problem was so embarrassingly my own fault that I'm a little sheepish posting this. But in researching the solution today, I came across some recent forum posts from tech-savvy sounding people who found themselves in the same dumb boat I was in. So maybe someday this post will save someone else a few minutes of frustration.

If you're not here because you're trying to solve the same problem I had (i.e, you're my mom, my dad or David in New Mexico), and if you're also really, really bored, or possibly if you have insomnia or are a masochist, you can read the below long and overly detailed description of the problem / process. If you're on the Silverlight development team, you're also encouraged to keep reading, because damn, this was frustrating for a regular end user like me.



So, the problem — like many people who work from home or otherwise have the freedom to do so, I like to play something from Netflix Watch Instant on a second monitor while I work at my desk. (This is once Netflix finally was able to offer streaming content on the Mac. And once I was able to get it to work, which is a whole 'nother story involving, of all things, font management software. Yes. Font management software and internet video. Go figure.)

A long-standing frustration for me and many others had been the inability of Microsoft Silverlight — which handles Netflix's streaming content — to display video full screen on a 2nd monitor while you go about your business on your primary monitor, i.e., watch one screen but work in another. Once upon a time, if you put it in full-screen mode, it would exit back out of that mode as soon as you'd clicked anywhere other than screen displaying the video. (Once that particular window becomes "unfocused," which is a term I learned today.)

So, big deal – my video wasn't as big as it could be. It was only schlocky TV I wasn't really paying attention to anyway. And there were workarounds, but they annoyed me and weren't as elegant as the built-in full-screen mode, which would have been perfect if I could just lock it in. I searched around online, discovered it was a known issue (i.e., it's not a "bug" but a "security feature"), figured Microsoft would fix it someday because people clearly wanted it, then forgot about it.

Sometime in the last year, Silverlight released an update, which apparently included a new "feature" they dubbed pinning mode. (The link goes to a 7 minute video you don't want to watch unless you're a developer, in which case this is old news to you, and you're silently mocking me while you read this.)

I'm learning these fancy names like "pinning" and "unfocused" only today. At the time, all I knew was that after running this update, when I clicked to enter full-screen mode, I suddenly had a window pop up that said "Do you want to allow this web site to stay in full-screen mode?"

silverlight remember screenshot

Hot damn! I clicked a checkbox to "Remember my answer" so it wouldn't nag me about it again, and clicked "Hell yeah!" (OK, actually, I just clicked, "Yes." But had there been a "Hell yeah!" button, I would have clicked it with gusto) and the thing just worked.

So — several happy months of productive home-office second monitor full-screen Netflix viewing go by. Until some subsequent Silverlight update or Firefox reinstall caused this same prompt to pop back up.

No problemo — I've seen this screen before. I know just what to do. Clickity click on "Remember my answer." Then click, "No."

No? No. Aw, crud, not no. Undo? No undo. Fix it in preferences? Who knows where the Silveright prefs are (OK, people clearly know, but I didn't). Restart browser and hope for prompt? Long shot, but no dice. Restart computer? Always a good idea, but not going to fix this clear user error. Reinstall Silverlight and/or Firefox? I know this won't work, but try it anyway. Shake fist at sky and beg for Silverlight to please, for the love of all that is holy, ask me just one more time how I truly feel about full-screen mode so I can this time click "Yes"? Surprisingly little effect.

Now, I could blame Microsoft for putting the "No" button in the bottom right of the dialog box, which is counter-intuitive on a Mac (an Apple dialog would have "OK" in this spot and would have had it similarly highlighted.) But that opens the door to various opinions about UI theory which are way over my head, or worse yet, a Mac v PC argument. Ultimately, the dialog box gave me clear instructions that I did not read; I clicked the wrong thing, then took the added bonus step of making my wrong answer permanent. I made a really dumb mistake. Which should be easily solved by bringing up the Silverlight preferences and changing my final answer.

This proved to be less intuitive than I thought. Ultimately, I didn't spend all that much time on it — a few minutes on the above basic troubleshooting, a few more minutes fumbling around trying to find the Silverlight settings, then spent a few minutes searching for various fruitless terms like "netflix watch instant restore dual monitor full screen silverlight preferences OS X blah blah blah," which mostly found dated forum posts by people bitching about this feature not existing. So I shrugged and said "Oh, well, whatever. Back to my real work" and backburnered it until I had time to figure it out today.



I eventually found that on a Mac, the Silverlight preferences are launched by an app inside the Silverlight plugin package. (EDIT: I later stumbled onto an easier way to lauch the prefs. With a Netflix video onscreen, control-click on the video and you get a contextual menu to launch the Silverlight prefs). This isn't a location that a normal person will stumble onto, because an extra step is required to view package contents and you'd also have to know that they sometimes hide things like this inside packages to think to look there in the first place (I knew this and still forgot to look there). You don't really need to know any of this. What you need to know is that the Silverlight installer sticks an alias in your Applications folder that will launch the preferences app. Hooray!

A side note: while the little hidden-in-the-plugin preferences app is suitably named "Silverlight Preferences," the alias that launches it is inexplicably named "Microsoft Silverlight." This makes no sense to me, as my grossly oversimplified understanding is that a plugin isn't something the user decides to launch, but that it's a tool/add-on for another program to call on when needed. If your browser needs Silverlight, your browser knows where to find it and launches it when it needs to, or prompts you to install it if missing. I point this out simply because if Microsoft had chosen to name this alias "Silverlight Preferences," normal people might actually stumble onto it and be able to tell what it does. I should have noticed it/found it/tried launching it to see what it did, but I overlooked it.

In the end, a simple net search for something like: "Silverlight Mac preferences" would probably have brought me to the answer sooner, but it took a while to come to that conclusion, and even that search comes up with a lot of irrelevant results. I stumbled onto the step-by-step in this completely unrelated Mac-vs-PC discussion (thanks Alice!).





THE STEP BY STEP

I'm using Firefox in Mac OS X 10.5.8 Leopard. But your preferred browser should in theory be irrelevant. Mac OS version also won't matter, I suspect but haven't confirmed. I have no idea how to reset the Silverlight prefs in Windows but the internet probably does.

So — I'll stop rambling now. Here's what you need to do:

• Bring up your Silverlight prefs – go to your Applications folder, find the Microsoft Silverlight alias and launch it.


(EDIT: I later stumbled onto an easier way to lauch the prefs. With a Netflix video onscreen, control-click anywhere on the video and you get a contextual menu to launch the Silverlight prefs). 

• Click on the tab that says Permissions and you should see something like this:

Silverlight prefs 1

• You may see more items depending on your usage – apparently, Netflix is the only site that has saved any permissions preferences for me. You also may see more than one entry for Netflix — after goofing around with this for a while, I have now two Netflix entries, one that is for www.netflix.com:80 and one for movies.netflix.com:80. If you have both, repeat the following steps for any Netflix items on the list.

• So you see the Allow and Deny button? You'd think then you could just click/on highlight the Netflix line and click Allow, but this doesn't work. I guess there are additional permissions preferences that could be managed, and we have to first tell Silverlight which thing we want to allow.

• So click the little arrow next to the Netflix URL to expand down till you see something like this.

Silverlight prefs 2

• There's that magic word, "unfocused." Where it says "Deny," it needs to say "Allow." To do this, you'll need to click on the text that says "Full-Screen: stay full screen when unfocused," then click Allow.

• You can now close this preference window and should be good to go – I didn't even need to restart my browser. Heck. Go crazy! Toggle back and forth at will!




So there you go — the next time Silverlight asks you a question and you accidentally and somewhat permanently click the wrong answer, you'll know how to change it in a more effective manner than shaking your fist at the sky.