Have You Heard the News?

Huey Lewis in a Permian High School jerseyWell, we sure have!

Huey Lewis and the News, that is!

Huey Lewis and the News really rocked the house and raised the roof at the Ector County Colisuem to raise money for the 8th annual ECISD Education Foundation fundraiser, with all of the proceeds going to provide grants for local teachers.   All in all, it was a great concert for a great cause!

Better still, we found out that Huey is a Mojo fan!

If you’d like to see more of Dede’s fantastic photos from the concert, just follow this link!

And here’s a couple of interesting dabs o’ trivia about Hugh Anthony Cregg III, a.k.a. Huey Lewis:

  • He had a cameo in "Back To the Future," where he played one of the talent show judges at the high school in the fictitious California town of Hill Valley.   Although he was born in New York City, Huey grew up in the non-fictitious California town of Mill Valley.
  • In the talent show scene in "Back To the Future," he’s the judge who dismisses Marty’s (Michael J. Fox) audition as "…just too darn loud." — and the music in question was a heavy metal rendition of the intro to Huey’s own hit song "Power of Love."

Tuesday Two Tool Tour

wrench iconFrom time to time, I come across free web-based apps, handy little utilities, or other indispensable downloads that I just can’t help raving about.   These are usually no-frills, often single-purpose tools that fit a particular need just perfectly and here are a couple of new programs (to me, anyway) that I’m finding that I rely upon almost daily:

  • uTorrent from Ludvig Strigeus is a fast & easy BitTorrent client that’s designed to use as little system resources as possible — typically less than 6MB of memory — yet is packed with loads of advanced features such as bandwidth prioritization & scheduling, multiple simultaneous downloads, and more!
  • RightLoad is a quick & easy FTP transfer tool that let’s you upload files to your web space by right-clicking from Windows Explorer.   RightLoad also generates HTML-formatted links for the file(s) you’ve uploaded, which is a great time-saver when blogging.   And it can automatically create thumbnails if you’re uploading image files!

Be sure to post a comment if you’d like to shout out about some new program that you’ve discovered and, in the meantime, you might want to also peruse my previous " Tuesday Twofer" posts for other excellent (and free!) software tools that’re definitely worth a look:

       Picnik & Dumpr (web-based image-editing apps)


       WordWeb & MixMeister BPM Analyzer


       1-4a Rename & Mp3Tag

       mp3Trim & emailStripper

What a Crock!

As Rob mentioned a few days ago, the cooler weather we’ve had over the past few weeks has kicked us into “domestic mode” and we’ve been doing more cooking & baking. I’m even getting into the swing of things and, thanks to a recommendation from Ryan, we replaced our battered old crock pot just in time for some Fall cooking.

Dede cooksThe Hamilton Beach Stay or Go 6 Quart Slow Cooker we bought at (dare I say it?) Wal-Mart is awesome! This crock pot was definitely made with traveling in mind with a glass lid that has canister-style clips to keep it secured, large grippy handles that keep your hands away from the hot stuff, and it even comes with a serving spoon that clips onto the lid handle. And of course, the crock removes for easy cleanup.

But what makes cleanup even more of a breeze are the ingenious Reynolds Slow Cooker Liners that Ryan also tipped us off about. These are very similar to the heat-resistant baking bags you use for turkey on Thanksgiving. You just line your crock, add ingredients, & cook as you normally would, but after you’re done, you simply toss the liner! No muss, no fuss. No cleaning. Genius! (Did Steve Jobs have something to do with this too?)

And as if it couldn’t get any easier, here’s one of our favorite, oh-so-simple crock pot recipes:

Dede’s Taco Soup

   1 lb. ground beef
   2 15 oz. cans beef broth
   1 15 oz. can Mexican-style (a.k.a. Rotel) stewed tomatoes
   1 15 oz. can black beans, drained
   1 15 oz. can whole kernel corn with sweet peppers, drained
   1 pkg. taco seasoning mix

Brown & drain the ground beef, toss everything into the crock pot, & you’re set. You can dress this up with all sorts of extras like diced onion, shredded cheese, or sour cream, but we usually just serve with some corn tortilla chips.

September 2008 Blogtipping

Blogtipping iconLately, our West Texas weather has been unseasonably mild and we’ve had much more rain in the past several weeks than we normally get all Summer.   These cool & overcast days have made it feel like Fall is arriving early and there’s just something about that which makes you feel like firing up the oven.   Plus, as new parents, we’re trying to cook more at home anyway…

So this month’s Blogtipping is focused on cooking & recipe sites.

Now, these sites don’t have recipes for, as The Curmudgeon would put it:   "Teeny, tiny portions of pigeon meat, set atop a brillo pad and covered by a contrasting caramelized ooze, resting next to a little dollop of white turnips or a slice of some vegetable you’ve never heard of."   No, these blogs offer easy-to-make dishes that real people would enjoy containing common ingredients you’ll be able to readily track down — or may even already have on-hand.

As you may recall, "Blogtipping" is an chance for us to share 3 things we like — and offer a tip or constructive comment — about 3 blogs each month.   So here are our picks for September:

Kalyn’s Kitchen by Kalyn Denny is a great blog that combines a love for cooking with a commitment to healthy, lower-glycemic food that fits within the South Beach plan.   It’s definitely worth a look because of:

  1. The site is a great resource for all sorts of low-carbohydrate info & practical tips to help keep on track with that style of dietary goal.
  2. Lots of great low-carb recipes that are anything but lacking in flavor or variety.
  3. Simple & clean site layout makes it easy to navigate around.
  • Tip: There’s so much content on the main page, it can be a little overwhelming, but it’s well worth taking the time to explore the sidebars.

The Pioneer Woman Cooks is just one section of an impressive & diverse website by Ree, a.k.a. Pioneer Woman, a transplanted Californian in dusty Oklahoma.   Why do you need to check out her site?

  1. Step-by-step instructions with detailed photos makes even more involved dishes easy.
  2. The very active community of readers means there’s always other ideas & tips related to Ree’s articles.
  3. The recipes offered are tried & true, using mostly common, simple ingredients.
  • Tip: There’s so much going right on this site, I can’t think of a single thing to add!

The Peanut Butter Blog is a fun, fairly new blog dedicated to peanut butter!

  1. Loads of great, easy recipes!
  2. Links to all sorts of fun & funky peanut & peanut butter -related food & accessories.
  3. You can subscribe via RSS feed to stay up on the latest stuff.

Do you have a favorite food-related blog or website?   Post a comment and share it with us!

Bottlenose Birth

Thanks to our old pal Trey, we received a link to a Telegraph news article with some amazing photographs.   The unique moment of a Bottlenose dolphin giving birth was captured by photographer Leandro Stanzani at the in Eastern Italy.

Very few dolphin births have been successfully photographed in such astonishing detail because they usually occur at night, away from the viewing windows, and often the water clarity is poor.   But what makes this even more special is that this is the first second-generation dolphin born in captivity at Oltremare.   The mother, Blue, was also born at the aquarium in 1997.

Mother Bottlenose dolphin with newborn calf

Photographic Memory

A few months ago when my Mom passed away suddenly, we were confronted with the daunting task of sorting through decades of stuff in her house.   Along the way, we uncovered a treasure trove of old pictures, many of which we’d never even seen before.   Ruby & Rich wanted copies of all of those old photos and I agreed to work on scanning them so we could get reprints done.

To scan a picture or two is no problem, but when you get into large batches or whole photo albums, it can be incredibly laborious process that quickly bogs down to a crawl.   Dede & I had wondered why there wasn’t someplace where you could drop off your photos and get them scanned by some high-speed, automatic machine.   Then she discovered DigMyPics.

Scott & Annette Crossen’s DigMyPics is a home-grown company located in Arizona that, for as little as 16¢ apiece, will scan your photos and send the high-resolution uncompressed TIFF or JPEG image files back on either CD or DVD in about 2 weeks.

  Their imaging professionals handle your pictures with the greatest care and use FedEx shipping to return your original photos quickly & securely.   Once you get your disc(s) of photos, you’re free to use & distribute them anyway you please.   It’s a cheap way to ensure that your family’s memories will still be around for future generations to explore.

The only real downside to all of this is that once you’ve pulled all of those old photos out of albums & frames, it may surprise you how much smaller the collection can seem with it all bundled up for shipping.   It’s a little hard to see decades of memories reduced down to a few small piles that easily fit into a small FedEx box.

Well, okay there is one other downside.   You might find yourself wishing that some of that old incriminating evidence had remained forgotten…

Funny O’Daniel family photo in Tijuana (1974)
Click the image or this link to view the embarrassing full-size photo.

Digital Daze Ahead

The date for the end of civilization as we know it is set.   At the stroke of midnight on February 17, 2009, millions of TVs across America will go blank.   Cars will cease to run.   Cell phones will go dead.   Rampant hordes of people will roam the streets in a zombie-like daze.   We’ll be plunged back into the Dark Ages and the survivors will be forced to scavenge for food like packs of wild beasts.

Okay, okay, that’s mostly not true.   But that date does signal the end of one thing:   Per congressional mandate, over-the-air analog TV broadcasts will cease as of February 17, 2009.

Why The Switch?

The primary reason for the switch to digital television (DTV) broadcasting is to free up portions of the old analog transmission spectrum for public safety & emergency services broadcasters like police & fire departments.   This will also allow the auctioning off of other parts of the analog spectrum to companies like AT&T to increase wireless broadband technology for faster wireless use.   retro television showing a nuclear explosionAdditionally, DTV offers far better picture & sound quality and switching to digital gives broadcasters the ability to deliver enhanced technology services to the public with greater efficiency.

(By the way, on September 8, 2008, the lucky folks in Wilmington, North Carolina will serve as a pilot market for the digital switchover.)

Does This Affect Me?

But what exactly does that mean to you & me?   Honestly, probably not too much.   If you have satellite or cable service, your existing setup should keep on serving you just like always.   And that’s even if you’re still only using analog cable.   However, be mindful that while the switch to digital broadcast won’t affect analog cable subscribers directly, many cable provider companies will probably use this as an opportunity to strongly encourage their analog customers to make the transition to digital service.

Ah, but what if you’re still relying upon the old "rabbit ears" or some other antenna to pluck a free TV signal out of the ether?   Then you definitely will be affected.   But even then, unless you have an incredibly ancient TV with no line-in options, all you should need is a digital converter box.   What’s more, your Uncle Sam will give you a $40 voucher towards the purchase of a digital converter box.   (You can call 888-DTV-2009 or go to www.dtv2009.gov for more details.)   And if you’ve bought a new television since 2004, you’re probably already covered since most newer TVs have a digital converter inside.

Does DTV Equal HDTV?

But wait a minute… Don’t you still need a "High Definition" television (HDTV) to handle the digital signal?   No, not at all.   Your TV does not have to be HD to receive digital broadcasts.   Certainly, there are some HD channels in the digital lineup that will take advantage of a HDTV, but the singular, simple truth is that even if you’re still clinging onto an old-school, tube-based television from two decades back, it should still work fine — you do not need a new TV to receive digital broadcasts.

However, this basic truth isn’t going to stop Circuit City, Best Buy, Wal-Mart and every other retailer from doing everything possible to cash in massively on the public’s misconceptions & fear.

Starting with "Black Friday" sales after Thanksgiving — if not sooner — these opportunistic retailers will profit handsomely off of the perception that most older TVs are going to go dead in February.   And of course, there’ll also be the post-Holiday "we didn’t bleed you dry enough already" sales frenzy in January and continuing right up to D-Day.   So for the next several months, you’re almost certain to see rampant hordes of zombie-like neophytes roaming the aisles of stores with a crazy twitch in one eye and nervous shake that intensifies when a salesperson draws near.

Get Set?

So we’ve established that you don’t need to kick that old TV to the curb for the sake of the February deadline.   Your old TV will most likely keep right on working just fine.   But while your older analog TV can handle a digital signal, either via cable or a converter box (and look better than it did with analog broadcasts) it won’t display high-definition resolutions with a converter box.   So, if you’re itching for a TV that can display "High Definition" (HDTV) — or just want a big, new, widescreen, flat panel plasma or LCD TV with all the trimmings — you’ll need to make the move to a newer TV.

If you’re ready to shop around for a new TV, you’re bound to find some enticing deals in the coming months.   So this might be just the right time to be in the market for a replacement for your old set.   But before you join the ranks of those living dead scrabbling through sales fliers and hopelessly trying to rationalize dropping a grand or more on a new TV so you can get it home in time for the next season of American Idol & NBA playoffs, take a deep breath and spend a little time seriously considering "need" versus "want."   Don’t let the paranoia & hype surrounding the looming digital broadcast switchover deadline pressure you into a costly move if you’re otherwise happy with what you’ve got.