Comfort Food

Thursday, 25 Jan 2007 | Food

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I have a cold and my chest is so conjested today. So, I decided to have a bowl of Progresso Chicken with Barley soup and Ritz crackers. The hot soup was so soothing and the Ritz crackers were the perfect compliment. I remember my mom serving me soup and Ritz crackers when I was a child. There's something comforting about certain foods when we're sick, but those childhood memories I believe are the most comforting of all.

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The Funniest iPod Dock Ever

Tuesday, 23 Jan 2007 | Apple, Computers, Electronics, Humor

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I saw this Icarta Stereo Dock for iPod with Bath Tissue Holder in a Mac catalog I received in the mail. I think this is hilarious! This little beauty will give you hours of musical enjoyment in the bathroom. It's a stereo iPod dock that is moisture resistant, plays stereo music and even charges your iPod while you relax. Somehow, I think a man designed this accessory. Oh, I almost forgot the best part. It has a holder for your favorite roll of bathroom tissue. Ingenious.

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Rao's at Caesars Palace

Thursday, 18 Jan 2007 | Restaurants

I am delighted to see Rao's at Caesars Palace is now open in Las Vegas. I have been a fan of Rao's for some time now. I have their cookbook and love their recipe for marinara sauce. Rao's is a New York Italian restaurant which I hear is almost impossible to get into unless you know someone or are a celebrity, of which I am neither. So, I was naturally thrilled that I would be able to try Rao's food in person at their new location some day.

I went to Caesars Palace to see the new restaurant. I wanted to get a look at it and check on their hours. As I was looking at the entrance, Frank Pellegrino walked out of the restaurant. Mr. Pellegrino is the co-owner of Rao's. I recognized him immediately. He also is an actor and has appeared in Goodfellas, episodes of Law & Order and the Sopranos. I walked up to him and introduced myself. I told him how I love to make his Marinara Sauce recipe and he remarked that it is great stuff. I asked him about Rao's hours and he said they were open only for dinner but the grand opening was the following night and was by invitation only. Frank was very congenial and gracious. It was such a thrill to converse with him in person. I will have to make a trip back to Las Vegas to try the restaurant with Toni. I am interested to see if my rendition of their marinara sauce lives up to the real thing.

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Steve Hoffman at CES

Thursday, 18 Jan 2007 | CDs, Entertainment

I have had an interest in high fidelity and audio components since I was a teenager. Music has been such an integral part of my life. Music and photography help me to remember all those wonderful moments I've experienced. It's hard to imagine a world without images and sound.

I went to the Venetian suites to see Mike Slaminski of Precision Audio & Video on the first day of CES. Mike is the owner of this high end audio dealer located in Moorpark, California. I had not seen him in several years. I bought several pieces of my audio gear from him. When I saw that he would be at CES, I was eager to drop in to say hi.

When I entered the suite, I saw there was an audio system set up with a pair of very impressive sounding and looking speakers. Mike informed me these were the best speakers he's auditioned. These were $30,000 speakers from a company I wasn't familiar with called Venture Audio. They truly sounded wonderful. Didi, the creator of these speakers kindly invited me to stay for a session with Steve Hoffman, pointing to a sign announcing his appearance. I didn't think much of it, but decided to stay.

After Steve Hoffman was announced, I realized who he was. Steve Hoffman is a reknowned record mastering genius. He has mastered countless hits on vinyl, CD and SACD. I knew about Steve from the numerous DCC Gold CDs I own that he mastered, including The Cars Greatest Hits, Barry Belafonte's Jump Up Calypso, Paul McCartney & Wings' Band on the Run, the Doobie Brothers Best of the Doobies and Elvis Presleys' Elvis 24 Karat Hits!

Steve Hoffman's talk was so interesting. He played tracks from personally recorded CDs on the Venture Audio system. For each song he played, Steve explained the recording equipment used and the details about the recording and performers. It was such a treat because these were songs mastered by Steve Hoffman and not available for purchase on commercial CDs. The sound quality was impressive, even on the older recordings. They sounded so fresh and clean. Steve's "Less is More" philosophy results in musical reproductions full of life and emotion.

I was impressed with the quality of Peggy Lee's Fever he played for us. I didn't realize older recordings posessed this level of fidelity. Then he played an unreleased version of the Beatle's I'm So Tired from their White Album. John Lennon's and Paul McCartney's vocals had an immediacy that was infectious.

Then he played Ray Charles performing Somewhere Over the Rainbow. This one was so moving and heartfelt it moved me literally to tears. It was absolutey beautiful. Steve said Ray Charles was not familiar with this song when he recorded it. He learned it in one day, reading the lyrics in Braille as he sang. Steve said Ray Charles had such a good ear he could zero the levels on his recording equipment by sound, not even using the meters for assistance. Steve talked of going to Ray's house. On one visit, Ray's Walkman had stop working and Ray asked Steve where he could go to purchase a new one. Steve said, "Well, we could go to Circuit City. They sell them there." Ray said, "Let's go." So, Steve and Ray Charles and entourage got in the car are travelled to the local Circuit City store. When Ray Charles walked into the store, everyone went silent and still. They all stopped what they were doing and stood staring at Ray Charles. Ray asked Steve why nobody was helping him and Steve told him that he thought they were afraid of him. Ray asked Steve which Walkman he would recommend and Steve told him he liked the cheapest Sony Walkman. Ray said he agreed. Steve thought is was quite a compliment and honor to be asked his opinion. Steve also talked about always having the same food when visiting Ray Charles. They would always have Wonder bread and hot links from a local Hollywood barbecue joint.

I also listened to a 1963 outtake of There's a Place by the Beatles, La Grange by ZZ Top, Everything I Have is Yours by Billy Holiday, a song by Bing Crosby and Fire and Rain by James Taylor from his Sweet Baby James album. Steve is currently mastering Sweet Baby James for vinyl from the original master tapes that were never used for any other release. The studio made compressed audio copies of the master and used them because the dynamic range was too much for the playback medium of that time. The original tapes were sealed with a sticker that read "Do Not Use."

I'm so glad I stayed to listen to Steve Hoffman. It was a delight to hear these beautiful recordings and listen to Steve tell stories about the artists and recording scenarios. The music sounded so good played on the Venture Audio speakers. It turns out Steve Hoffman uses Venture Audio speakers in his mastering studio. They're that good.

Earlier that day, I had the good fortune to listen to some unreleased tracks at the Thiel speaker room. I just happened upon a gentleman who had CDs of unreleased material from the BBC. I heard songs by the Beatles, Pink Floyd and an accapella version of God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen by Simon & Garfunkel. What a treat!

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Ansel Adams: America

Monday, 15 Jan 2007 | Photography, Travel

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The last thing I did before leaving Las Vegas on Friday was visit the Bellagio Museum of Fine Art to see the Ansel Adams: America exhibit. I've been a long time fan of Ansel Adams' work. This was the second time I've had the good fortune to view real Ansel Adams prints in person. The first time was years ago at the Los Angeles Museum of Art.

Whenever I look at Adams' work, I am humbled and in awe of his ability to create the perfect composition and capture a scene in such breathtaking fashion. The detail in his prints is wonderful. If you love photography, you should make it a point to see his work for yourself. It's definitely worth the effort.

I respect Ansel Adams because he was such a patient photographer. Patient in a way that I seldom am. He was known to wait all day in one location to capture the subject in just the right fleeting light and would carry forty pounds of equipment hiking at Yosemite National Park. I would be pleased if I could attain a small fraction of his talent in my lifetime.

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A Lovely Dinner with Friends

Sunday, 14 Jan 2007 | Friends, Restaurants, Travel

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I had a lovely time with my friends at the Olive Garden during my stay in Las Vegas for CES 2007. I've known this family for several years now and I try to visit with them whenever I make a trip to Las Vegas. I was quite lonely since I traveled this time without Toni and was on my own for the show.

I was delighted to find that my friends were able to meet me on Wednesday evening for dinner at the Olive Garden. I had a great time visiting with them and going over the latest news about them. Bill and Terry were doing fine. Laura is now a senior in high school and Leslie was turning 21 soon and had moved back home after living in Reno for a while. I talked to Laura about photograpy and showed her my camera since she enjoys taking pictures. Leslie shares my interest in cooking and expressed a desire to attend culinary school. I always have a nice time when I see all of them. I wish we lived closer so I could see them more often.

Moving clockwise from the top left, I have photos I taken at dinner of Bill, Terry, Leslie and Laura. Thank you so much for dinner. Socializing with all of you was the highlight of my trip. I hope we can get together again very soon.

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CES 2007

Sunday, 14 Jan 2007 | Electronics, Travel

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I attended the International Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas, Nevada this past week. I was there for the last two days of the show on Wednesday and Thursday. I had a great time as usual because it's always fun to see new electronics before the general public, but I really missed Toni and couldn't wait to get home to see her.

The show is hosted at several venues including the Venetian and Sands Convention Center as well as the Las Vegas Convention Center. I decided to check out the Venetian and Sands Convention Center on Wednesday and save the Las Vegas Convention Center for Thursday, the last day of the show, when there's the smallest crowds. That turned out to be a good decision as it worked out very nicely. It's impossible to see everything at CES in two days, but I think I maximized my time by employing this strategy.

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The highlight of the show was Sharp's 108" LCD flat panel display. It was truly impressive to see it's sheer size, but I was amazed by the clarity of the picture. It was so lifelike. I don't have HDTV right now, but I can't wait until I do. It's really impressive just how good the picture can be on a high definition television with a 1080p source.

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Not Too Shabby

Wednesday, 3 Jan 2007 | Daily, Humor

All during our Monterey trip I kept using the phrase, "Not too shabby." I picked it up from somewhere and I have gotten into the habit of saying it whenever I come across something that's good or agreeable. I think I used that phrase so much Erin and Toni have incorporated it into their vocabulary too. Now, whenevery I say it, they both repeat it back in response. LOL

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What's the Altitude?

Wednesday, 3 Jan 2007 | Family, Humor, Travel

On our recent trip to San Luis Obispo and Monterey, Erin was amazed how pine trees can be plentiful near the beach. It's so different than what she's used to in Southern California where you see mainly palm trees near the ocean.

While we were driving near the beach, Erin saw some pine trees and asked me what the altitude was. Toni and I looked at each other and started to laugh. I said, "Well, we're probably at an elevation of about a hundred feet since altitude is measured with sea level as the reference." Somehow it got into her brain that we were at some high altitude because she associates pine trees with mountains where we live.

Erin had been to Monterey in the past, but it had been a long time, hence she didn't recall the abundance of pine trees near the ocean. In fact, there are beautiful forested areas near the ocean in Santa Cruz as well as the San Francisco Bay Area.

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I Love Akismet!

Tuesday, 2 Jan 2007 | Blog

I installed Akismet last night and I love it! It's a cool WordPress plugin I found that works great to zap those pesky spam comments I seem to get tons of. It's designed for WordPress blogs, but there is also a Movable Type plugin available. You just need to sign up for an account at wordpress.com and get an API key to use it.

Oh, and you don't have to host your blog on wordpress.com. You can host it anywhere just as long as you get the API key.

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