Skip Navigation

November 28, 2006

The Thanksgiving Post

It’s not like I need to ride the train in order to write—but it sure seems that way, and because of the Thanksgiving holiday, I haven’t been on a train until today. I present, therefore, my belated Thanksgiving post.

Our Thanksgiving turkey

Our 15 pounder.

I hope everyone had a wonderful Thanksgiving. We sure did—two in fact. For the traditional meal on Thursday, we hosted dinner for my wife's family, six of us in all. I hadn't roasted a turkey in about 20 years, so I did some research. We decided not to go with the full-on brining that all the cool kids are doing, but instead followed the simpler instructions in a recent issue of Cook’s Illustrated. We started by picking up a fresh, free-range turkey from Whole Foods and then rubbing kosher salt under the skin of the bird on Tuesday night. On Thursday, we took the bird out of the refrigerator and laid it breast side down on bags of ice for an hour. The idea is to let the dark meat warm up while keeping the white meat cool, so everything cooks more evenly. Whether it was the fresh turkey, the salt treatment, or the icing, it seemed to work; I've never had better turkey. The sides were stuffing, sweet potatoes, haricot verts in garlic butter sauce, really awesome gravy, and store-bought cranberry sauce. Our guests brought the desserts.

Some of our guests are football fans, so we dragged the TV out of mothballs and plugged it in. Anne’s sister gasped when she saw the rabbit ears and without missing a beat Anne explained that we were using the latest in technology: “wireless” TV. We don’t need to be tethered to a cable anymore, but can receive programs anywhere in the house. Amazing. After a long day of football, everyone stayed for the night. Anne and I camped out in the chilly attic. It was so cold up there that I had to burn some of my poetry to keep warm (good riddance!). In the morning, we whipped up mass quantities of bacon, sausage and eggs.

To celebrate Thanksgiving with my side of the family, we delivered dinner to my sister-in-law, who is recuperating from knee surgery at the Acute Rahab unit of Jeannes Hospital. The kids were home from college and the six of us sat down to dinner in the waiting room. It was fun playing caterer and trying to duplicate Thanksgiving dinner in the hospital. We didn't bring a tablecloth or candles, but we did bring everything else we could think of—china plates and our best flatware, a coffee maker, and of course turkey with all the trimmings.

All in all, a great Thanksgiving. It’s ridiculous how much I have to be thankful for.


I'm glad you had such a good holiday - mine was good too. And I like the turkey tip!

November 18, 2006

BLT Fish Lobster Roll

When I learned I would be working in Gramercy Park, I knew I would be within striking distance of some of the best lobster rolls in Manhattan. I consulted my handy-dandy lobster-roll finder and noted that Pearl Oyster Bar, widely considered to serve the best roll in town, was only about 12 blocks away. The only problem was that they don’t open until 6:00. Based on Pearl’s tiny size and anticipated long lines I didn't think I could get in and out in time to be at work by 7:00.

With these time and distance constraints, I really only had one choice: BLT Fish, one of four BLT (Bistro Laurent Tourondel) restaurants in Manhattan. Not only was BLT Fish only two blocks away, it also opened at 5:30. (City Crab was closer still, but they only serve a lobster roll at lunch.)

So I was all set to have my first lobster roll in New York! I wasn’t expecting this roll to be particularly authentic. After all, this is the Big Apple where simplicity just won’t cut it, but I was intrigued to find out how the classic lobster roll would be reinterpreted. I wasn’t too concerned; while the risk of fooling with perfection looms large, any sandwich based on lobster wouldn’t have to work very hard to be great.

The three of us arrived a little after 5:30 and were almost the first customers there. Laurent Tourondel’s cookbook is displayed prominently at the door. The downstairs dining room seats about 50 at banquettes along the walls and at tables with Windsor chairs, and there is a bar in back with room for 12. We all ordered the lobster roll, which came out really fast. In a New York minute, I believe.

The roll itself was far from a cottony top-split frankfurter bun, but instead was a wonderful brioche roll of similar shape. They claimed it was grilled and it probably was, but think toasted instead; the roll showed no traces of butter or grill marks, just crispness. The lobster meat was cooked properly and had just the right tenderness and texture. Unfortunately, the dressing was a failure. I don’t know exactly what comprised this dressing, but what I tasted was mayonnaise with rather a lot of lemon juice, so much so that it was easy to identify the source of the tart flavor. Between the large quantity of dressing and the strong tang, I really couldn't taste the lobster at all; claw, tail, whatever, it was all buried in the soup. On the other hand, I had no problem with the vestigial amount of finely-diced celery. Great fries and cole slaw, though.

If the flavors in the dressing were in better balance, it would have been better, although I think there was still way too much of it. Since I didn't expect this roll to be authentic or even great, it wasn't a huge disappointment, but it hurt a little bit spending $24 for this thing. Sorry there’s no picture; my wife was using the camera that day.

November 16, 2006

80.6% [nanoblog]

That’s what I scored on this test for tone deafness by musician Jake Mandell. It was hard! I may not be tone deaf, but I am just a little, um, plain old deaf. If you were intrigued by the sounds of the test (as I was), check out some of the compositions on his site. Very Star’s End if I may say so.


I got the same score you did. I intend to take it again, only because I was listening to the sounds from the speaker on the CPU, which is on the floor.

That's not my excuse for my score-- my excuse is that I kept spacing out during the longer test sounds. :P

I remember I had to take a similar test for one of the music schools I had applied to. I believe I spaced out on that test, too-- I remember thinking it was long, boring, and pointless. I didn't go to this school, though.

November 15, 2006

T-R-O-U-B-L-E at the Keswick

Saw Travis Tritt recently at the Keswick Theater. I don’t listen to country music often (although WXTU is one of my terrestrial-radio presets), but I always enjoyed Travis Tritt, at least the handful of songs I know—especially “T-R-O-U-B-L-E,” which was actually written by Jerry Chesnut and recorded by Elvis. “T-R-O-U-B-L-E” came up about an hour and a half into the show, and we were wondering what tune of his could possible follow that.

Nothing could apparently, because for the rest of the night they cranked out an extended set of classic covers (even “Sweet Home Alabama”) like some supercharged bar band. The show finally ended after over two and a half hours. By the way, there were a whole lot of cameras at this show and no announcement prohibiting “flash photography.” In fact, Travis even encouraged photo ops by hopping up and posing on some pedestals at the edge of the stage. Great show.

More recently, we saw Bruce Hornsby’s solo acoustic show at the Keswick. I was impressed at the breadth of his musical knowledge. After one number, I thought of calling him the Bill Evans of rock and roll, but that doesn’t do him justice. One huge surprise was that everyone was given the box set “Intersections,” which included four CDs and a DVD. I was unable to learn how he could be so generous; the web site only says that “Bruce has arranged for each ticket buyer in the series of special solo dates to receive a copy.” That’s some arranging. Wow, and thanks.

November 14, 2006

On Pronouncing Smithwicks

We had a great time visiting Anne’s sister and her husband over the weekend. I met their newest kitty, Logan, who although shy around strangers, consented to sit for his portrait. (If you click through the cats you can see him. He’s one of the orange ones; hover the mouse to see the name.)

At lunch, Smithwicks sounded like the most tempting beer on tap, so three of us ordered it. Our waiter confirmed the order, pronouncing it “Smitticks.” When I got home, a little Googling confirmed that that is apparently the correct pronunciation; I am suitably chastened. A fine beer, too.

Back at the house, I was offered some Magic Hat “Batch 375.” I am not fond of hoppy brews, but this was the first IPA I liked or at least didn’t hate. I wonder whether this is an unusually drinkable IPA or my taste is maturing (like the rest of me, unfortunately).


Maybe its because Magic Hat does not make a bad beer?

November 9, 2006

Negative Ad Voiceover Artistry

One more election-related post before we get back to the lobster rolls. On election-eve, NPR aired an interview with two of the voiceover artists who have been working overtime producing negative ads. Melissa Block turned them loose on Mother Goose. I haven’t laughed that hard in a long time.

November 8, 2006

Election Day

Wait, that was yesterday. Sorry, I couldn't post about it until the last of my precincts reported—and at my age some of my precincts are moving a little slow.

Anyway, Howard talks about his tradition of naming his election day post after his voter number. I’m thinking, What’s a “voter number?” You’d think I lived in Mayberry or something by the way things went yesterday...

*harp glissandi*

It was about 7:20 as I collected sample ballots from the well-wishers outside the polling place and entered. “Mornin’ Herb.” Herb crossed me off the list, and I ambled over to sign the register. I really didn’t need to show any ID. I also knew one of the people at the sign-in table because he is out walking his dog at all hours. After signing in, I got a slip of paper that said “Voter Ready.” Was I ever, oh boy! More ambling, this time over to the booths (there were two). “Mornin’ Ed,” I said as I handed Ed the slip. And so it went.

I’m sure they tally the total number of voters, but I have no idea what number I was. Next time I’ll find out.

As for the results, well, well, well. I don’t want to use words like mandate or referendum, but it seems to me that at the very least we’re kinda sorta back to a two-party system. Just tickled about that, I am.

UPDATE: I don't know how reliable voter turnout statistics are (because of the way potential voters might be miscounted), but in Montgomery County, Norristown had the lowest turnout (34.47%), while Bryn Athyn had the highest with 62.9%. Eight municipalities boasted over 60% turnout; we were at the bottom of that list. (Source: Times Herald)


In my neck of the woods, we're still pretty informal, but not quite as much as you guys seem to be.

People almost never seem to show ID at my precinct. I think what they do instead is ask your name. As you give your name, two people are working simultaneously; one is checking an up-to-date print out to see if you're completely able to vote, based on that name, and the other person is opening a big ledger to locate what appears to be a signature card corresponding with your name.

With the poll worker covering your file signature, you sign a blank space. Maybe if that were to not match your signature on file, they might ask for ID. Whatever the case, I think that's how they verify your identity.

After having signed, the poll worker manning the ledger then tells you "__ is your number" (in my case this year, it was 984). Then you move on to the next person who hands you a card displaying the words "Valid Voter."

Having received a little validation, you then feel the slight surge in morale necessary to propel you into the booth.

I don't know if you needed the detailed account, but reading your post was the first time I realized other people don't have the same exact electoral experience as I do.

Howard, thanks for the details. It confirms how similar the process is, actually. Without the folksy narrative sugar, I went through the same steps. The first step involves the big printout. If they clear you to continue, you sign the big ledger. The only difference is they've never covered up the signature card. I think that's a good idea.

November 6, 2006

Cognitive Dissonance

Pictured is a Democratic campaign headquarters housed in a recently vacated store front. Over the weekend, I noticed the addition of the Santorum sign at the top of the building. Either the landlord’s support is not with the Democrats, or the Republicans made him an offer he couldn’t refuse. Whatever the story, it just struck me as odd.

It’s easy for me to say, as my polling place is right on my way to work, but please, vote tomorrow.


The photo isn't showing up. The path shows /merecat/img, not / Even with the path corrected, I don't see an image.

Doh! Thanks, Jim.

November 1, 2006

Build a Blogroll with NetNewsWire and AppleScript

Well, this post ought to interest at least one person out there. That is if there's anyone else who 1) uses NetNewsWire, 2) Movable Type, and 3) wants a blogroll. Hmm. Anybody still reading?

I’ve been using this thing for a while to build my blogroll and thought I’d share. An AppleScript reads your feeds in NNW and creates an unordered list for each group of feeds (if any), nesting them as required. It supports arbitrary ordering of groups (although this requires specially-named groups), and you can omit groups and feeds from the list as well. The output is a file that you can paste into your web page or template. The script can also copy the blogroll file to the server (using scp) and can run a Perl script to trigger Movable Type to rebuild the page. Most other blogging systems don't need a rebuild, so a simple copy should do.

Here’s the disk image which includes the AppleScript, a sample CSS file, a Perl script for Movable Type users, and abundant documentation. Let me know if you have any problems with it. Gently.


Would this work with Typepad? I know TP is based on MovabelType

Tom, I don’t think it will work as seamlessly with Typepad (although I don’t know for sure). The snag is it looks like there’s no way to automatically upload the blogroll file to your Typepad site. The documentation mentions that something called File Manager has to be used for uploading, and there’s no FTP access. Of course, you can just build the blogroll file with the AppleScript and paste it into your template manually. I did it that way for a while before automating the whole thing.

Hey Tony -

I just wanted to thank you for this great script. I just recently implemented it, and it is working great.

I changed a few things to suit my needs:

- Pulled out the "Save As..." dialog and explicitly specified a path, and removed the post to blog dialog, so that the script doesn't require any interaction.

- Added an ftp command up to my server, and then pull it into my page with php include.

Take a look @

Thanks again

Joe, thanks for your kind words. I’m glad the script is working well for you, and I love your change of removing the Save As step. It’s good for the first-time user, but gets annoying after that. Now I’m checking out your links. :-)