My Top 10 Movies

After viewing as many movies as I have (my first movie was Star Wars at a drive-in in 1977), it’s hard to put together a definitive “Top 10” list. Tastes change and sometimes a movie, like wine,  gets better with age (and repeated viewings).  The following represents the top picks from my collection and from NetFlix rentals over the past 5 years. It’s by no means complete:

  1. The English Patient
  2. Juno
  3. Goldfinger
  4. The Bourne Ultimatum
  5. Top Gun
  6. Das Boot
  7. The Great Escape
  8. Office Space
  9. Casino Royale
  10. Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom

I could sit down right now, watch any one of the above movies, and still enjoy it!

Airport Express

The Airport Express is a $99 device from Apple that has become an indispensable tool when I’m at home or on the road.

When I’m at home, I plug it in to the wall and insert an audio cable leading to my home theater.  This allows me to stream iTunes music (from ANY computer in the house running iTunes on the wireless network) to my main stereo system.  Now that I have an iPod Touch I can even control the music remotely with a free application from Apple.  If you have multiple Airport Express units you can even stream to multiple locations (or Zones) in your house.

The Airport Express is more than just a music toy.  It can be used as a Wi-Fi access point as well.  The latest version even supports 802.11n!  You can even use the airport express to extend a current network!

Lastly, the Airport Express can be used as a wireless print server for any printer with a USB connection.  All of these features are setup with the included software.

This is my second Airport Express.  My first one stopped working after about 3 years.  The old version allowed you to create profiles for the device.  I had a “Home” profile for streaming music & a “Travel” profile that allowed me to create a secure (WPA) Wi-Fi access point from any Ethernet connection.  The new software seems to have removed the profile option in favor of steering you towards the use of multiple units…

All in all, I find the airport Express to be another well thought out product from Apple.  It’s well built, well priced and works as advertised.

The 5th iPod

I like technology…  I like gadgets & toys…  I LOVE my iPod Touch!

I’m usually an early adopter of technology but I thought I would wait this one out for a while.  As an owner of 4 iPods already (used in varying degrees by the family), I really could not immediately justify the addition of a 5th when the Touch came out.

After several business trips with nothing to watch on TV, and slow hotel Internet connections that made Hulu & NetFlix all but impossible to watch, I took a trip to the local Big Box store to check out the new iPod Touch.

WOW, this thing felt completely different than any of my other devices (super thin & light).  I’ve used touch screen devices before (mostly smart phones) that worked OK, but Apple got this one right.  Who needs hard keys when you can easily do everything you need right there on the screen?

I’ve tried movies on my 5th generation (60GB model) but they were just to hard to watch for more than about 30 minutes.  Watching entire movies on the Touch is enjoyable due to the wide screen and larger screen size.

When Apple released their software update (v2.0) it made the Touch even more versatile.  The ability to hook to your Exchange server at the office, and the addition of free/pay applications from the Apple Store actually make this “toy” a versatile pseudo business tool!  The Touch has one of the best email clients I have used on a portable device.  I’m still getting used to the onscreen keyboard though. It offers no tactile feedback & I still have problems with hitting the right keys near the edge of the screen.

My top 10 application (all free) on the Touch are:

  1. Remote – Control iTunes remotely
  2. NY Times – Instant access to the News
  3. Pandora – Customized playlists of your favorite music
  4. SportsTap – Awesome app to keep up on your favorite teams
  5. Twitterrific – Mobile Twitter
  6. WeatherBug – Current weather conditions & RADAR
  7. VNC – Remote control the MAC from anywhere in the house
  8. RDP – Remote control the PC’s from anywhere in the house
  9. LinkedIn – Keep up to date on all of your connections
  10. Google maps – Find any place & easily get there

I purchased the 16GB model knowing that I would pretty much just use it for applications and movies.  All of my music will remain on the 5th generation iPod.  The $100 I saved by not buying the 32GB model went towards the replacement of my recently deceased AirPort Express (blog post in the works about this awesome device).

Overall I’m really happy with the iPod Touch.  It offers features well beyond a normal MP3 player.  It can be used around the house as a media remote and an Internet appliance.  Battery life is adequate and the glass screen seems to be pretty resistant to scratches.  The smooth exterior of the Touch does lead to a lot of smudges, but they are easily wiped off.

If you have any questions/comments about this post, please leave a comment & we’ll get back to you as soon as we can.

Listen To Your Music Collection While On The Road!

Simplify Media allows you to stream your iTunes collection across the internet to your work PC, your laptop or even yout iPod Touch/iPhone!  I’m several hundred miles away from home & I have access to all of my audio media on the Mac at home.  Really cool stuff!  Be advised, you need a pretty good connection to the Internet (on both ends) for this application to work smoothly.

Precise Measurements

I’ve always preferred to cook “active” (hands on), either on the stove top or on the grill.  Active cooking allows you to make adjustments on the fly and use some creativity in the process.  Switching out ingredients on a whim, or adding more or less of certain item, will very rarely ruin your final product.

Baking, on the other hand, is one of those activities that’s basically hands off once the cooking process begins.  It involves precise measurements and temperatures as well as discipline (follow the recipe!).  Make a mistake with any of the ingredients or procedures and your finished product can be a disaster.

In an attempt to expand my culinary skill set I started baking bread a few years ago (really baking bread, not pushing a button on a machine).  I like the simplicity of the ingredients and the “active” process of kneeing the dough and forming the loves (especially when making french bread).  Homemade bread is so far superior to the stuff you get at the grocery store and a fraction of the price of what the local chain bakery charges.

One issue I quickly discovered after my first few attempts is that the bread can look “done” on the outside & still be “undone” in the middle.  There are several things that can cause this condition but temperature is the primary culprit.  The temperature of the oven, obviously cooks the bread, but how do you know when the bread is done?  I’ve found that taking the internal temperature of the bread yields the best results.  Most “instant read” thermometers are far from instant.  They can take anywhere from 10-20 seconds to give their final reading and their accuracy can be questionable…

Enter the ThermaPen.  This precisely calibrated tool will give you the answer you’re looking for in as little as 5 seconds, making the difference between warm hands & painful hands while temping the bottom of a loaf fresh from the oven.  The quality of my bread immediately jumped a level once I could quickly get a precise reading of 210-degrees and determine the perfect “doneness” of the finished product.

The needle tip of the ThermaPen makes a very small hole in whatever you are temping.  Other devices can leave a large hole that, in the case of meat or poultry, can allow all of the juices to escape.  The unit comes with a calibration certificate from the factory and is guaranteed to be accurate to within ±1%.  These thermometers are popular in the food service industry as well as cooking shows like “America’s Test Kitchen” on PBS.  They even come in 10 different colors so you can buy multiple units and prevent cross contamination (but the home cook really only needs one).

This kind of precision obviously comes at a price, the ThermaPen retails for ~$90 at online retailers.  That might seem like a lit of money to pay for a simple thermometer but the range in which the Thermapen operates in (-58°F to 572°F) makes it useful in other applications like frying, freezing and candy making.

I can’t tell you how many times I have used this tool, but it’s definitely used on a regular basis in my kitchen & I would highly recommend one for the serious home cook.  Do you have an indispensable tool in your kitchen?  If so, tell us about it in our comments section.

Life In The Fast Lane

So… I’m at a client site last Thursday sitting in an executive conference.  As I listen to the various department directors discuss their goals for this year and next I get an email from my co-workers…

Evidently this lady (who, by the way, is on oxygen and has a dog at her feet) pulled out of a parking lot onto Shadeland Ave (very busy street) and was sitting in the left hand turn lane!  She got the arrow & proceeded to motor on down the road.

I almost had to excuse myself from the meeting as I fought back the laughter.  Thanks for the laugh guys!