Thursday, February 28, 2008

The Update

Our house, five minutes ago. I walk up the stairs and sit down at the computer in the spare bedroom/home office. Madison is in her room, next door.

(calling out to Madison)
What's up?


Yeah, what's happening?

Well... I'm having a play date today, if that helps you.

Sunday, February 24, 2008

On Continuing To Peel Back A (Beautiful) Onion

OK, so I've been laying off on the Apple/Mac evangelism lately because this is supposed to be a parenting blog and - as far as we know - none of our children are named Steve Jobs. But today is his birthday, I understand, and there actually have been a few recent developments and revelations in this area that I'd like to cover on here, if for no other reason than to get them "on the record," as they sometimes say in the newspaper business.

First off - the MacBook Air. What's left to say, really, about this? We were in Aruba when the product was announced, monitoring Macworld developments through a haze of swimsuits, sunscreen and ice cold Balashi. I first saw it on engadget, before it was everywhere. Stunning dimensions aside, and without even one disapproving glance from Gwen, I knew immediately there was no way I could justify it.

I'm not presently in a commuting situation, don't need to travel very often, and while it's most definitely playing Oliver Hardy to the Air's Stan Laurel, my MacBook Pro is a far more capable machine. None of this mattered. Firm and resolute in my "no, not right now" convictions, I still spent the better part of a month staring at the Air's impossible profile on the Apple Web site, watching the guided tour and that great commercial with the song and the inter-office envelope again, and again, and again.

One morning last week I found myself in our local Apple retail store, getting "One to One" podcasting training - an unanticipated benefit of paying $99 to transfer data from our old Dell to a new iMac when we completed our Apple conversion last fall. The session was great, more on that in a moment, but the trip to the store gave me a chance to finally check out the Air in person. In a word - ridiculous. Everything that has been written about this thing is true... amazingly thin, very light, and surprisingly sturdy. The keyboard is beautiful, an improvement over the one on the MacBook, and I didn't think that was possible. The glossy display is big and brilliant. If I would have had $1,799 worth of spare change rattling around in my pocket there would have been no way of walking out of the store without one.

Another recent development in Mac-land, at least our "new to the party" version of it, has been the discovery of Apple printing. We got a couple of holiday cards this time around with that cool little "Made on a Mac" logo on the back. Very nice quality, with pictures of kids like most all of our friends are sending these days. It got me curious, especially since we'd been yearning to escape the costly and tyrannical reign of Exposures for years. I called one of the senders and asked how they got Apple to produce their own personalized card.

"It's all in iPhoto," I was told. "You pick the card you want, drag and drop photos in, write the text and then push the button to place your order. That's it."

As is the case, we've found, with everything related to Apple and Mac, the reality matched the hype, and it couldn't have been easier. I found a guided tour on the Apple site and had suddenly opened up this amazing new capability we never even knew we had. When we got back from the above-mentioned Aruba vacation last month with more than 400 digital photos, I spent about an hour on iPhoto creating a 2008 calendar featuring the best shots. Got the finished product back from Apple within a week and presented everyone who was on the trip with a living souvenir that has gone a long way toward reversing the cumulative effect of years worth of snide comments and obnoxious behavior at family functions.

As a follow-up, we did Hannah Montana invitations for Madison's 7th birthday party, featuring text written by Gwen and photos from the concert. With the ease-of-use, quality and responsiveness we've experienced in these two projects, let's just say it's a safe bet that all of our printing needs will be serviced out of Cupertino from now on. Spoiler alert for relatives reading this post... "Holiday '08" is going to be all about Apple photo books.

Now back to that "One to One" training. I've been curious about podcasts since I started listening to them a couple of years ago, so I booked a session with a fresh-faced Apple "Genius" to learn more about the technology behind how they are made. We started off by opening a program called GarageBand that I had toyed around with for about five minutes in the dawning days of that first MacBook, before getting frustrated and kicking it out of my Dock, never to be heard from again.

Well, about a half hour into my session, we were recording voice, adding effects and effortlessly editing mistakes out of the audio. It was amazing, and only contributed to a growing sense that we are really just scratching the surface of what the machines that are now pervasive in our lives can do.

And I can say, without reservation - on the occasion of Steve Jobs' 53rd birthday, no less - that we're very much looking forward to more scratching.

Friday, February 22, 2008

Morning Snow

Thursday, February 21, 2008

Long Weekend (What We Did)

That's a very patient instructor there in the middle, and freezing parents on the other side of the lens.

Sunday, February 10, 2008

Conjuring Caioti

We made pizzas at home today in honor of Ed LaDou. Mushroom, caramelized onion and garlic, mozzarella and one of his signature ingredients - goat cheese. Managed a fairly respectable crust.

I was wandering around the Web last week and discovered that Ed had recently died, the LA Times published a very nice and representative obit worthy of a chef who made a meaningful and lasting contribution to the broad and evolving concepts of "gourmet" pizza and California Cuisine.

I hadn't thought of Ed in probably 10 or 15 years, but the news of his death stayed with me because when I moved to Los Angeles in 1989 - the first of two extended trips out West - I was living on a couch in Laurel Canyon, and the neighborhood place my friends and I went to eat more than any other was his great and understated restaurant, Caioti, tucked away in what was essentially the basement of the Canyon Country Store.

I actually kept a menu, a precious artifact I found yesterday in one of the boxes where the remnants of those years now live, surrounded by letters, old credit card statements, photos and some of the stories I wrote as a cub reporter for the LA Daily News.

As a native New Yorker, sitting inside Caioti munching on Ed's garlic knots and waiting for one of his chopped salads and goat cheese pizzas was everything you thought California could be, everything you hoped it would be. Just like a pint of Widmer Hefeweizen at Father's Office in Santa Monica, kicking off a Saturday morning with scrambled eggs and iced Hibiscus tea at The Source on Sunset (apologies to Woody Allen), or flying down the Pacific Coast Highway with the sunroof open, the ocean as a driving companion, in February.

Ed produced consistently brilliant and satisfying food out of kitchen that was about the size of a Volkswagon, a sweltering vortex of activity and culinary benevolence I'll never forget. He was also a really nice and humble guy, a gracious and welcoming host, whether the guest was Madonna - rumored at the time to be a Caioti regular - or a bunch of idiot kids in their early 20s, working entry-level jobs and feeling pretty much like the world was theirs and anything was possible, in life or in a pizza made by Ed LaDou.

Sunday, February 03, 2008

February Frost

Right on the heels of Phil's bad news.