AoW 1: Upstairs at Eric's - Yazoo

My first exposure to Yazoo and the incredible voice of Alison Moyet - not to mention the brilliance of Vince Clarke who was also instrumental (pun not intended!) in the evolution of landmark bands Erasure and Depeche Mode - was with their single Nobody's Diary off the You and Me Both album, but while that was a pretty amazing I was entranced by their earlier album Upstairs at Eric's (released Jul 1982).

erics
they were called Yaz in the USA

Sequencers and analogue synths abound, makes me (once again) regret selling that Roland Juno 106 I owned back in the time. But I'll wait and snipe a Jupiter 8 one of these days! Happy

Favourite track from this one? Hard to say. I have - as I'll try to do with each of these - been listening to the album while typing. They're all really, really, really good. No seriously. Listen to them carefully on a good clean AV rig and you might get it. If I were in a normal mood I'd say a toss-up between Only You and Midnight (both must be listened to with good headphones and maybe darkness) but if I were my normal quirky mood I'd say my pick would be I Before E Except After C (hard to find, but definitely worth it), In My Room, and Bad Connection.

Alison Moyet has a knee-weakeningly beautiful voice, Vince Clarke is one of a kind when it comes to synths and sound combinations. This was a magical match, and I'm only sorry that they stopped when they did.

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Upcoming feature: Album of the week (AoW)

Talking of music, I think it's time I tried doing a recurring Album of the Week feature.

Going by my 'stuck in the 80's/90's' thing these will not be current releases but more like [DJ voice on] hits that were around when you were closer to the ground! [DJ voice off]

The reminder is set in iCal, so I'll do my best to make this a weekly thing.

Hey, every blogger needs a self-effacing comedy segment. Happy
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Important safety tip, thanks Egon.

No I'm not talking about crossing the streams this time. Happy

As you're probably aware RapidWeaver is my web and blog weapon of choice. It's nimble, intuitive, reliable and very easy to get up and running quickly. This replaced both NVU (a really good open source DreamWeaver-type web page editor) and iBlog which my old, soon to be retired blog was written in.

Had a ironic (in the Alanis Morissette kinda way) moment yesterday with RapidWeaver. Let me just say that focus is a good thing. Focussing on what you're doing is also a good thing. Focussing on what an app thinks you want to do is even better. Especially when you use the delete keyboard shortcut.

Hitting cmd-delete here...

RWgood
Click for the larger version


...is a good thing. Hitting cmd-delete here...

RWbad

...not so good.

Yes, that's right, with one keystroke I almost made an ex-parrot out of my blog. Quitting without saving changes saved me (and I've a pretty thorough backup regime), but it's curious it didn't do the "Are you really sure you want to delete this really major part of your site?" confirmation thing.

Oh and the ironic part? I was writing an entry about backups, and this isn't the first time such irony has hit either. Happy

Update: turns out the blog section is a special case. Cmd-delete will indeed focus on the left side of the window and yes it does warn you beforehand about what it's going to do. Did I mention focus is important?

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and all that... Yazz!?

I used to have quite a record collection in my teens, but when we moved to Aus. in 1986 I had to leave much of it behind, giving them to a good friend (hope you're going well these days Tracy!) but I did keep a few choice items.

Now let me tell you about one of my colleagues/friends. Chappo. He's one of those guys that you pretty much instantly click with. He's about the same age as me and there are a lot of commonalities: life outlook, life values, and music. He has an opinion on everything, will readily call a spade a spade, but will give anyone a fair go. He also appreciates the good things in life that not many these days do, a relevant example here is relishing firing up a good old analogue amp, a turntable, and a good record - as do I. Guess that's one of the reasons we both like Vice City. Good guy. (A cheque will do nicely thanks Chappo. Winking )

Let me also tell you about a curious part of my music collection. Though the vast majority of my collection is CD-based (and therefore iTunes/Mac/iPod-based), I haven't quite been able to part with a box of records from my teenage years. Since I haven't had my turntable connected to the house AV for a long while, I yesterday lent said box of goodies to Chappo for him to have a listen to.

I warned him that my diminished record collection was based on purchase decisions made some 20+ years ago, and thought the following scenario might happen:

4:43pm phone rings, I pick up.

Me: Hello Paul here.
Chappo: a-hahahahaha!

4:45pm phone rings, I pick up.

Me: Hell-
Chappo: a-hahahah!

Well, that didn't happen. Quite. This morning Chappo came into work and said that while a lot of the records really took him back there were a few he chuckled at, but one stood out: The Only Way is Up by Yazz.

Yazz!?


yazz


No disrespect to you Yasmin, I'm sure you're a cool person and I kinda liked the single but I could not think of when I would have felt the desire to buy this record. I really could not recall buying it, it must have been an inadvertent plant from a past life. I kept telling this to the lads, but they kept thinking I was in denial.

I know denial. I have lots of things that go away with it. This isn't one of them.

It's a fit-up I tell you! Happy

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Like a polar bear in a snow storm.

Deliciously wet weather here the last day or so, pelting down. Love it!

I've just one question. Why is it that in heavy wet weather the only drivers that don't turn any running lights on are those that drive silver or grey cars?

Some people just have no clue...
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Bird strike

On the way home the Jade Dragon (it's what we call my car) suffered a bird strike. There I was cruising along the highway at 100 km/h, noticed a bandit bird (a.k.a. a Noisy Miner - can't quite see it there but they're deliciously mischievous birds and look like they're wearing little yellow Beagle Boys robber masks, hence Kathy & I call them bandit birds. Happy ) streaking low over the road about 20 metres ahead. Didn't think anything of it - birds regularly play chicken with traffic here, guess it's something like surfing waves of air turbulence or something. Then *thump* - a blur, then nothing but a wing feather and a slight smear of feather oil left on the the windscreen. Guess he/she didn't see me coming. No place to pull over and see if the bird was all right (the windscreen is at a pretty aerodynamic angle) but I suspect it was an ex-parrot.

Sad

Hey, I know you're probably thinking it's a minor thing but life - living things - are important to me. Call it a latent Buddhist tendency or something. If you don't get that then you're missing an important point.
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Iron chef: Beef and red wine casserole.

It's a nice wintery Saturday afternoon, cold, overcast, threatening to rain, and it's Iron Chef time.

But this one's extra special because this afternoon/evening we get to take the Chasseur out for a spin!

[Japanese accent on]

Allez Cuisine!

[Japanese accent off]


This recipe is based on an old Women's Weekly one, and there are a few differences today, mainly because I'm using a casserole dish that you can put on a hot plate, fry/sauté with, then put in the oven. Yes, I know, I keep on harping on about this dish but it really is quite something being able to do that. If you don't have something similar then a normal casserole dish and a frying pan will do quite nicely. The other difference is that we go the slow gentle approach with a long cook time rather than just a "quick" 1.5 hours the original recipe calls for. This is intentional: when you have the time, cooking should never be a chore, it should be a relaxing pastime. Give it time to develop, and for the aromas to permeate the house. Just so comforting done this way.

This is deliciously hearty, somewhat healthy, and will easily stuff four people to the gunnels. We eat on this for days if we don't freeze some of it (which it does very well.)

Okay, let's get started. Ingredients:

~500g of good beef, preferably a good thick cut fillet, but you can just as easily use something like topside or round steak
3-5 bacon rashers
6 small onions (about 2.5cm in diameter)
2-3 carrots
6 small potatoes (again around 2.5cm in diameter)
10-12 button mushrooms
butter
oil (Olive, sunflower, whatever you prefer)
2 gloves of garlic crushed (or 2 heaped teaspoons of the jar stuff)
3 tablespoons of plain flour
lots of tomato paste (140g)
500ml of beef stock (salt reduced if you can get it)
1/2 cup red wine

Method:

Peel the carrots, chop into 2cm rounds, scrub the spuds leaving the skin on. Peel, top & tail the onions. Don't be scared by the size of these, by the time the dish is done they'll be soft, caramelised, and able to be cut with a fork. Really, they're magic, trust me on this. Happy Put the carrots and spuds in the casserole dish. While we're at it mix the tomato paste, beef stock and wine in a bowl.

Pre-heat the oven to ~170-180° C.

Chop the bacon into bits at least 1-2cm a side. This way you get nice little bursts of bacon rather than it just dissolving and fading into the background. Dice the beef into nice big chunks, about 2-2.5cm aside. Again, these will shrink a little but they need to retain coherence. With the long cook time they'll end up just falling apart. [insert Nigella-esque 'MMMMM!' here...]

Melt a good tablespoon of butter with a slosh of olive oil on high heat, then seal and brown the beef in batches (don't let them stew!) and set aside in the casserole dish keeping the oil in the pan. In the same pan add the onions (place them in with tongs so you don't get splash-back) and the bacon, stirring around until the bacon is cooked and the onions are just starting to brown, turn the heat right down, then when it's calmed down, set the onion and bacon aside in the casserole dish, again keeping the oil.

Add another tablespoon of butter to the pan then when it's melted and bubbling, add the flour and stir to a rue (smooth paste) letting it brown a little so you don't end up with a raw flour taste. Add the stock mix, stirring constantly, then when it's a consistent texture bring to the boil.

Now add the sauce to the casserole dish, distribute everything evenly making sure as many of the ingredients are submerged, then cover and place in the oven.

And now aside from taking it out of the oven every 45-60mins for a stir, we wait as long as you can stand. Happy

If it starts getting too gluggy (you'll know what you like) add a little more beef stock.

When you get within about an hour of serving, clean the mushrooms, chopping just the dried bit of the stem off, then add them to the dish, returning it to the oven. You could also prep and steam some greens like chopped broccoli or broccolini to go on the side. I'd also recommend a nice batard or small bread rolls.

Serve in smaller than you think necessary servings (remember it'll be very hearty at this stage) with the greens and bread. Enjoy!
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These guys are funny!

So you've got 30 seconds, a bunch of bunnies, and a movie script. What do you do? These guys have the answer. Their latest, Die Hard, is one of their best (NSFW for those delicate petals.)
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Bad hair day

From the inane file: Bad hair days. Yes, guys have them too.

Some days you're Spike, some days you're Fry, some days you're Londo.

Hmm. Maybe it has something to do with me barrelling down the highway at 100km/h with the windows down just after putting wax in my hair. Happy
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New addition to the family.

The cookware family, that is.

Today it arrived. The Excalibur of cookware, a Chasseur casserole dish.

"A casserole dish!?" I hear you say? Yes. "But dude. A casserole dish!?" I hear you say? Yes. But this is no mere casserole dish, it is the casserole dish of casserole dishes. Made of cast iron and porcelain these treasures are the biz when it comes to slow cooking and oven cooking. When you see a good cooking show chances are you'll see one of these. Can't wait to try it out this weekend with a nice hearty beef casserole.

Enough of the preamble, here's the cookware porn (clicky!):



And hats off to Kitchen Warehouse who not only offer really efficient service (8 days from ordering to our regional address), but offer prices way lower than retail. e.g. we probably saved a good $100 on the above. If you're in Australia, I highly recommend them.

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Saving the world one computer at a time.

With the advent of the intel-based Macs which are able to run pretty much any flavour OS (thanks to the brilliant Parallels and VMware virtualisation products) and Windows XP/Vista with Apple's own Boot Camp, I'm seeing an interesting phenomenon at work. One by one, people who'd either resigned themselves to putting up with Windows or had been getting along with various flavours of Linux (which, like Mac OS X, rocks) have been making the switch to Mac hardware. These aren't just garden variety users, they're smart, savvy IT professionals. I think the security blanket of "well, I can always boot up Windows/Linux if I need it" (read: familiar ground) is the last nudge they needed. Getting jack of Windows' constant security, virus, spyware hassles is also a driver: what's the point in using an OS that a) you don't trust, and b) you spend more time maintaining than using? Let's not mention the Windows Update "okay here's your update but before you get it [shines light in face] PROVE YOU'RE NOT A PIRATE!" thing. "Genuine Advantage" is what it's called. That's funny. That's lawyers talking through Marketroids on crack.

And then they experience Mac OS X.

And they finally see what they've been missing: a rock solid "I'm not here to get in your way, let's just do stuff!" OS that is truly user-friendly, secure, savvy with corporate environments as well as anything the internet can throw at it and plays very nicely with others. Everything is intuitive, everything just works. And then they wonder why it took so long to make the jump from working around an OS, to enjoying an OS and having it work with you. So far the switch count in the little department I work in is three going on five in just the last few months. One such switcher while, I'll add, extolling the virtues of Macs to a curious Windows user who asked "are they good?" said - and this is a guy who seriously knows his stuff (hi Ben!) - said "Best move I ever made." Without exception that's the reaction I've seen with our switchers.

Aggressive hardware pricing is likely another driver. With .edu discounts, the current Apple MacBook line is significantly cheaper than a Dell laptop. That's quite something.

But as always there's the resident M$ fanboy saying things like "another person fooled" when he hears of another colleague switching to Mac OS X. Deluded xenophobe. Bless. He's probably still trying to stay in denial about backing the wrong horse. Happy
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Ooh Shiny!

Looks like Apple's site has been revamped. Very Leopard. Shame about Brushed Metal, 'twas its time.

Like the new look!
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If countries were people...

New Zealand would be a diminutive well-meaning gentleman, but one who would not take shite from anyone acting unreasonably.
Europe would be a bunch of colourful usually civilised characters, brawling every now and then amongst themselves but not making too much mischief.
Canada would be a charmingly polite and optimistic person who'll give anyone a fair go but wishes it didn't have such an obnoxious rowdy drunken neighbour, but if the neighbour goes too far...
USA would be said obnoxious rowdy drunken neighbour, bullying anyone and everyone who didn't think the way they did.
Australia and UK would be poking their faces out from behind USA doing the Thug Two: "yeah!" thing.

Politics people. Just talking politics. Why, some of my best friends are...
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Blogging is like exercise...

Another blogger (sorry, I'd attrib. if I could find his/her post) I read the other day put it well: blogging is like exercise. You need to do it every day or you'll start to procrastinate and just never get around to it.

Ahem.

So, more frequent updates on the way. Yes, I know, I've promised this before but I can't put it off; I have one-third of my readership (Chappo) sitting right beside me paying me out about being so talkative. Happy
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