Wednesday, August 30, 2006


I'm going back to my tried and true method of putting up tomatoes. In my search for a method that both minimized time/effort and maximized product quality, I first tried blanching, peeling, and halving the lovely Romas that I picked at the Food Bank Farm. I put the peeled halves into quart-size plastic freezer boxes, squishing them down as I packed in each layer. This is a pretty good method except that all of that peeling took forever and was a real drag. I'm sure the product, however, will be mighty fine.

The next method I tried was one that came highly recommended by Farmer Michael of the Food Bank Farm. This involved cutting the tomatoes in half length-wise, placing them cut side up in a glass baking dish, putting a blob of crushed garlic and a leaf of basil on top of each one and drizzling the whole red army with olive oil. No peeling!!! The pans (I did two of them) then went into a 220 degree oven for twelve hours, in my case from 8 p.m. to a little before 8 a.m. The final product is a little strange. The pan on the top rack looked good -- the Romas still have some red tomato juiciness to them, although the basil leaves got toasted. The bottom pan, however, looks like a tray of dessicated cockroaches. I transferred all of the flat blobs to a cookie sheet and froze them individually, then packed them into baggies for their return to the freezer. The jury is still out on the taste and consistency. I think the juicier ones will be good to pop into sandwiches, and I'll try putting the cockroaches into soups or stews this winter.

Tomorrow's batch will be done in the old fashioned way. I plan to halve them (still haven't decided if I'll blanch and peel first), put them in a big enamel pot and simmer them for a while. This will make the house reek of tomato-ness, like when my mother was in Major Canning Mode when I was a kid. The sauce will then be cooled and poured into plastic freezer boxes. I'll just keep picking, saucing and freezing until the freezer is full or I run out of containers. There's going to be a lot of minestrone in my future.

Tuesday, August 29, 2006

To beta or not to beta

I'm a little frustrated with Blogger. They're gradually rolling out a beta of the blog management program (the "dashboard" where you write your posts, configure your template, etc.). Since Blogger is part of Google, they are integrating it with all their other Google products and one username/password will work for all. I use lots of Google products, and I keep my fingers crossed that my measly number of shares of Google stock will soar in price. I really like the way you can one-click from Gmail to your custom Google homepage to Google calendar to Google spreadsheets. And I use Froogle and Picasa all the time. I've drunk the Google kool-aid. So, when I logged into Blogger one day last week and the invitation to migrate to the beta was sitting there, I clicked. So far I like the new dashboard -- publishing is instantaneous now and you don't have to wait while some icon goes round and round telling you that you're 25% published, 67% published, blah blah blah. But something is screwy with the feed for my blog now. My new posts don't show up as new in Bloglines under the old feed. I seem to have a new feed, and I guess that means that my 4 or 5 loyal readers will have to update their blogrolls in order to get notification of new posts. I've changed the "Sub with Bloglines" button on the bottom of the right panel on this page so that it points to the new feed. Or you can use the "Sub with Bloglines" icon you may have on your browser toolbar. Blogger support has not responded to my e-mail asking for assistance. I guess this is what you get for trying to be an early adopter. Yeeeesh.

Tuesday, August 22, 2006

I'm high speed ... and wireless!

Sometimes I'm an early adopter (like having a DVD-recorder when everyone else was recording their favorite tv shows on VHS tape), but other times I have a hard time giving up my old ways. For the 10 years that I worked at Hampshire, I had free dial-up internet via their PPP server. It was painfully slow (28.8 most of the time), but you get what you pay for and I was content. So, last summer when I had to find a new ISP, I went with RCN since it was the cheapest at $11.95/month if you prepaid for a year. At first I was pretty pleased with the 53.2 connection, but the service got worse and worse as time went by. Either I'd have trouble connecting, or I'd connect at a really slow speed, or my connection would be dropped. Their tech support was entirely useless in all regards -- anytime I called them, they told me the problem was my phone line. Needless to say, this crummy connection wasn't good for uploading photos to Flickr or downloading music.

My prepaid year just ended and so did my patience with RCN. Last Friday, Comcast came to the house to install high-speed internet, and I installed the wireless router and adapter. The process wasn't without its hassles, however. First, try getting someone at Comcast to give you complete and/or accurate information. It's not going to happen. Second, I found out when the tech guy arrived at my house that I'd have to lug all the parts of my desktop computer to the basement where the modem is mounted in order for him to do the installation. We set up the computer in the dim and the dank, on top of my foot locker. He commented that the basements in my complex are usually finished (mine isn't). Excuuuuuuuse me! That would involve money, and as you may have guessed, I'm incredibly cheap. Why should I pay a couple thousand bucks to finish a basement that's really just a storage room for Spooner's stuff? (BTW, Spooner, the Comcast guy had his eyes on your aqua beauty parlor chair and asked if I'd sell it!)

Aggravation aside, I'm now happy as a clam and zipping along at lightening speeds. The first thing I did was upload a photo to Flickr. Next, I bought a couple mp3s from Musicmatch. Uploads and downloads that used to take a half hour or more now happen in 1-2 minutes. Diggie-do!

Oh, yeah. Here's something to ponder: If the internet was invented by Al Gore and/or the Defense Department (on company time), wouldn't that mean that it's owned by The People? I think the government should therefore provide The People with universal, free internet access. Ditto health care.

Monday, August 14, 2006

Another Protocol

In Spooner's screed (see comments to post below), he neglected to mention one of the important MINI protocols: MINI drivers wave to each other. This protocol isn't universally followed, but MINI and I have several pals with whom we always exchange waves: the cute red MINI with white bonnet stripes in So. Hadley, the aqua Cooper S with black top in Noho, and the other purple-blue MINI with white top (no sun roof like mine) in Florence. I always wave to the lime green MINI grease car (I think it lives in Leeds), but it doesn't wave back (yet). I'm not sure if this is a Happy Valley protocol, a MINI-USA one, or what. I'll bet MINIs in the UK don't wave at each other. The Brits would probably be unnerved by that. I'll research this when I'm over there in the fall.