About a month ago, my desk lamp in my office quit working. I figured it burnt out, so I changed the lightbulb, but there was no more light with the new bulb than with the old. Sadly, I classified my ’50s-style lamp as dead. Then, today, the light in my kitchen went out. I replaced the bulb but: nothing. So I washed the dishes in the dark, and vowed to call the landlord tomorrow, when he was in the office.
I was sad to see my lamp go, but not too surprised — I’d bought it for just $10 when I was poor and launching my first start-up. Of course it would die when I’m poor and launching my second! But the ceiling light in my kitchen was new when I moved in, and, let’s face it, household fixtures are designed to last longer than $10 lamps. Was it that my lights were out to get me? Was this some conspiracy to get me to bed early?
So I decided to live on the edge: I took the new lightbulb out of the kitchen light, and put in _another new lightbulb_. Then I turned the light on. And I could see!
Oh yeah, I forgot to wash the wooden spoon I used on Tuesday. Oops. That looked better with the lights off.
And then it occurred to me: maybe it wasn’t the _lights_ that were out to get me, maybe it was the light _bulbs_. So, three or more weeks after giving up on it, I got a new lightbulb out and put it in my desk lamp. _And again, there was light._ It was my lightbulbs — my brand-new, pristine 16-pack from Target. The good stuff, actually, real GE rather than generics.
I couldn’t believe I was being betrayed. By a brand name! I looked askance at the remaining 15 bulbs, hiding under my kitchen sink. Traitors.
But a memory slowly bubbled to the top. Was it possible… could I have… when I replaced the bulb in my office, and I declared the lamp dead… did I? Yes, I must have… _I put the new bulb back_. Because it was new. And I didn’t want to waste it. And that bulb had gone into my kitchen lamp, and I’d thought the lamp dead. So it wasn’t all the bulbs — it was this one bulb. This one traitor, this one fifth column. And now that bulb’s in my kitchen trash, with the fruit cores and those leftovers I should’ve eaten two weeks ago. And I’ve left all of my lights on, because I can, because the lightbulbs — now they do what I say.
I fear I’m about to make a great many enemies; but it can’t be avoided. Sometimes, one has strong opinions, and it’s at those times that one must stand up and state one’s beliefs, damn the consequences. This is one of those times. And this is my belief: A Martini is not a gin drink, or a vodka drink: it’s a vermouth drink.
I know there are those who would disagree with me — you might call them “everyone involved, in any way, with popular culture over the last twenty years” — but, once you’ve tried a few, you’ll agree with me. The cult of the extremely dry martini (“pass the closed vermouth bottle quickly over the shaker”) just doesn’t deliver the flavor. I mean, really, what’s so exciting about slowly sipping four shots of straight gin or vodka?
For years, I took my Martinis very, very dirty. And dirty Martinis are a great thing, because, let’s face it, olives are absolutely brilliant. But I’ve realized that the reason I gravitated so quickly to the dirty Martini was that the trendy dry Martini had essentially no flavor, especially the super-trendy dry vodka martini. I still love the dirty Martini.
But lately I’ve discovered how to make a perfect Martini. No, that’s not a boast: I actually make a perfect Martini.
A perfect Martini includes both sweet and dry vermouth. You can make one too! The original ratio of vermouth to gin for a martini was 1-to-3, which advanced to 1-to-4 or 1-to-5 during the ’50s and ’60s, before somehow becoming 0-to-whatever more recently. Try out various ratios and see what you prefer; the Martini in my shot used a 1-to-4 ratio, and the 1/8 part of sweet vermouth gives it the golden color. The perfect gin Martini is a delicious drink, with hints of juniper (of course), vanilla, and even butter. If you prefer a vodka Martini, and are prepared to spend on top shelf, I recommend Chopin vodka, for an exceptionally smooth drink with heavy vanilla and a hint of a botanical.
Now, until just this week, I would’ve recommended Tanqueray as the right gin for a Martini, and I’m still a big fan in the dirty Martini, but, based on the “New York Times’s taste test”:http://www.nytimes.com/2007/05/02/dining/02wine.html?ex=1182398400&en=d049cb3576cd1185&ei=5070, I thought I’d try the highly-rated and extremely-cheap Seagram’s. Well, I guess those awful Bronfmans made their money doing something useful enough, because Seagram’s is an awfully darned good gin. It’s got tons of flavors, but nothing bitter or dissonant, just some nicely-melded botanicals that have some bite without even the hint of gasoline. I’d say this gin is my new favorite.
A Seagram’s perfect Martini. Try it!
fn1. The answer of my Russian and Polish grandparents would probably be “what’s _not_ exciting about sipping four shots of straight vodka?” But this is one case in which I must turn away from my ancestors and strike out in new directions.
fn2. The original Martini was a gin drink; the vodka martini is a recent innovation.
fn3. If your budget’s smaller, Smirnoff is a great vodka choice.
fn4. Not the more expensive, trendier, and easier-to-find Tanqueray 10, which comes in a lovely bottle and is quite nice but has too much lemon and too little juniper flavor for me.
fn5. Now where’s my check, Edgar?
I got a new dSLR! Yay! It’s party time at my house! Also, thank Farmer’s Insurance time. I’ve been itching to take some photos for weeks now (of course I wanted to shoot as soon as I had no camera!), and there could be no better birthday present than finally getting a digital SLR again.
The big question was: whose system do I get myself locked into now? I’d gotten my old Minolta 5D because I already had a good set of lenses for my Minolta film body; with those lenses stolen, I was free at last! Free to spend my money on someone else’s products, that is. Canon and Nikon are the market leaders and I really didn’t feel like having the smaller lens selection I’d get with Pentax, Olympus, or Sony cameras. Given how big my reimbursement check was, only the entry-level bodies — the Canon EOS Rebel XTi and Nikon D40x — were within my price range.
So I went to my favorite, curmudgeon-filled local camera store, “Trader Jim’s”:http://www.traderjims.com/, to try out both bodies and see what I thought. Unfortunately, Trader Jim’s became Web-only a few weeks ago, so I went home empty-handed. That didn’t make for a good birthday, though, so I broke down and went to “Samy’s Camera”:http://www.samys.com/index.php in Venice. I played with the two bodies there, spending probably far too long for the guy who wanted to help me, but the choice was actually pretty easy.
Fortunately, I have small hands, so the very small grip on the Rebel XTi wasn’t uncomfortable. I liked the Canon interface quite a bit better, especially the viewfinder. With the Rebel XTi I had to give up 3200 ISO, which was kind of a bummer, but I think I can count all the times I really used 3200 on my 5D on my fingers. The real clincher was the fact that there’s really only about six lenses that fit the D40x. Getting better lenses is half the fun of having a camera!
Samy’s actually had a pretty good kit with the “body and standard 18-55 lens”:http://www.samys.com/product_detail.php?item=9657 as well as a “mediocre 70-300 lens”:http://www.samys.com/product_detail.php?item=1907 that I can totally live with for the price, as well as a memory card and some other schwag. Pretty nice deal, actually! And fun to get home to.
So here’s what I got:
And of course I had to go outside in the lovely weekend sun and shoot Junior and the AIG’s adorable mutt, Jake, with my new camera! Since one is white and the other black, they make ideal challenging learning subjects, and they’re darned cute, too!
Obviously I haven’t quite got the exposure down for the deep blacks but that’s pretty good texture on the feathers for a white bird! A fun start to a new camera. Happy birthday to me!
fn1. I recall having read somewhere that Minolta copied the Canon viewfinders many years ago, which may be why I felt so comfortable looking into the Rebel XTi’s viewfinder.
Many of those who live in the “Charnock Ranch Historic Business Area”:http://www.palms-california.us/staticpages/index.php?page=20051125145006742#Anchor-CHARNOCK-37516 apparently have no particular job; I see them gadding about every mid-day and every afternoon. Of course, if I had anything to do myself, then I wouldn’t be out to see my neighbors, but that’s not the point of this blog entry. The point is that these obviously unemployed people — unkempt, nappy-haired, filthy-clothed, pockmarked, hollow-cheeked, pinpointed pupils — have a lot more going on, cash flow-wise, than I had expected.
The other day I saw an older, stooped gentleman with a mountain man beard and a brown fitted corduroy jacket and a light green t-shirt covered with the pinprick holes that moths make. He paid for his coffee in quarters and nickels but under his arm was a Wall Street Journal and a large envelope marked “your statements enclosed.” Perhaps he was one of those eccentrics who live an ascetic life and leave behind millions? Or perhaps those were his neighbor’s statements. From the directionless shuffle that brought this man around the corner, I suspect the latter.
Then there was the guy I saw crossing the street. He was dressed all skater-punk but, let’s face it, his clothes were about five years old and stiff and faded from having been washed maybe a dozen times in that period. I couldn’t see the pupils in his baby blue eyes. But he walked purposefully across the street, and under his arm he held the entrepreneurial manifesto “The Art of the Start”:http://amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/1591840562/ref=nosim/wadearmstrong-20. I wonder: what’s a guy like this starting?
Perhaps I should take lessons. There’s people like this all around my neighborhood, with no particular evidence of a means of support, but every day they keep going. There must be a trick to it, and I aim to find out.
At last week’s Apple World Wide Developer Conference, Apple CEO Steve Jobs revealed how third-party software developers could get their programs on the hotly-anticipated iPhone: they could write Web applications that iPhone users could access through the iPhone’s integrated Safari browser. A lot of traditional application developers are pissed off by this; a lot of Web developers are enthused. Apple doesn’t care. They didn’t choose this approach to make developers happy, or even for technical reasons; Apple is focusing on Web apps because this is the only strategy that will bring them back into the business space.
I swear they should have an Iron Bartender TV show, because you discover the most fun things that way! The AIG and I wanted a nice drink, and I don’t exactly have a well-equipped bar in my apartment. But I fooled around with the mismatched alcohols I had, and I came up with something absolutely delicious. So, here it is: the Italian Blind:
Shake, with ice, and pour into a chilled martini glass:
1/2oz. Simple Syrup
1/4oz. fresh lemon juice
1/2 teaspoon coffee grounds
Imagine my shock when the combination of the above tasted incredible!
If you’d like to be classier than me, you can pour it through a coffee filter and get out the grounds. Either way, the result tastes and smells like an espresso, with a little fun depth provided by the botanicals in the Jäger. (The lemon and simple syrup just smooth things out and marry the flavor; I haven’t tried, but you could probably substitute 1/2oz. Triple Sec for the two.)
So, try it, drink, and enjoy!
fn1. Origin of the name: Jäger means hunter, so what do hunters do? They sit behind duck blinds and wait for something to come by so they can shoot it. This drink tastes like an espresso, so clearly it will attract Italians. Thus: an Italian blind.
It was late, and the sun was going down, and I was looking forward to seeing the AIG. So I was happy when she called me, and a little surprised when the call turned out to be not for dinner, but to take some pictures for her work. I had to rush; light would fail shortly. But when I got over, there was an unexpected payoff: the pictures were to be taken with a bunch of “Lomos”:http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lomography. OK, this would be fun.
So I got to shoot a few rolls with a “Colorsplash”:http://shop.lomography.com/shop/main.php?cat=&pro=csc, an “Actionsampler Flash”:http://shop.lomography.com/shop/main.php?cat=&pro=asf, and an “Archie McPhee SplitCam”:http://www.mcphee.com/items/11254.html. And now you get to look at my photos! I wonder which one of us is luckier?
The Actionsampler takes four shots, a split-second apart, on one frame.
The Colorsplash has a colored flash that delivers vivid tonal changes.
The SplitCam lets you expose half the frame in one shot and the other half in another, making it easy to stick together disparate objects.
Yep, fun is a good word!
fn1. Besides, that is, the AIG herself.