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February 26, 2005

C Is For Conifers

C is for what?! Well, it all started when Anne received an email from John Flansburgh, one of the two Johns of They Might Be Giants. The band was working on a set of songs for a childrens’ album about the alphabet called “Here Come the ABCs.” They wrote a song about the letter C called “C Is for Conifers.” In the interest of scientific accuracy, John had found Anne’s name on the web as a conifer authority, because she is the editor of the Conifer Quarterly, the journal of the American Conifer Society. Anne fact-checked the lyrics and made some helpful suggestions, and shortly thereafter she received a nice assortment of TMBG swag in gratitude.

As excited as we both were to have had a brush with a real rock star, neither of us were what you would call fans of the band. Anne’s sister and brother-in-law, however, were both serious fans, and they were thrilled when Anne sent them the T-shirts, hats, pencils and whatnot. They got everything except the coffee mug.

“Here Come the ABCs” was released recently, and of course we ordered a copy. Then we learned that TMBG were doing a free show at the Borders book store in Rosemont not far from where I work. Anne picked me up after work yesterday, and after dinner at Gullifty’s, we got to Border’s around 6:30, about a half hour before show time. There were already people waiting at 5:30, and by 6:30 the place was filling up fast.

There was a small area in front of the bandstand where the early birds were sitting on the floor, but the rest of us stood all around the bandstand. John Flansburgh switched between a Strat and a Precision; John Linnel stayed on accordion the whole time. They got a lot of music out of very few instruments. There was also a drummer with a tiny drum set and some assorted percussion. He was excellent.

They played for a half hour or so. About half the songs were from the new CD, and the rest were greatest hits. They didn’t play “C Is for Conifers,” however. After the show, a loooooooong line formed for autographs. John remembered Anne, and they signed two DVDs for us (one for us and one for Anne’s sister). In return for the autographs, Anne gave them official Conifer Society baseball caps. Of course, I took a few pictures.

February 25, 2005

Never Quit Smoking Continued

We tried a chain restaurant that was new to us last weekend. It's called Smokey Bones, and is located on Route 30 in York, Pennsylvania. They have about 50 other locations so far, all but a handful east of the Mississippi. The decor is decidedly Western, however; along the back wall is a large faux picture window displaying a Rocky Mountain panorama. Yeah, York looks just like that.

You could tell they've definitely done this before; even though the restaurant opened only a few weeks ago, everything ran like clockwork. With that many stores, it's no surprise. I think they were expecting to do a lot of business right away, too. Not only is the place large, but they were ready with those vibrating pagers all the popular places have adopted. They needed them, too. We had to wait 30 minutes for a table on a Saturday afternoon. The wait was just as long when we left.

I can see why the place caught on so quick. There's something for everyone on the menu (unless you're a vegetarian), although barbecue is the spécialité de la maison. Since barbecue is one of my minor obsessions, I wanted to try as much of it as I could, so I ordered a combination platter of pulled pork, smoked beef brisket, and grilled smoked sausage. All of it was excellent, especially the brisket. I washed it down with draft Newcastle brown ale, one of the smoothest and tastiest dark beers I've ever had. Anne had fried catfish, which was also excellent. Our waiter was pushing the "Old-Fashioned Skillet Cornbread" so we ordered a skillet-full for the table. It was sweet and delicious and comes topped with crushed pecan butter, which I thought was gilding the lily; it was delicious plain.

Portions were more than ample (our leftovers easily made a second meal), and prices were reasonable. I would definitely come here again. The only problem is, I think everyone else felt the same way, so long waits are likely to be the norm.

February 23, 2005

Lobster Rolls Denied!

Last fall I was surprised and excited to learn that the Bridgewater Pub (inside Amtrak's 30th Street Station in Philadelphia) served a lobster roll, and, according to a reliable source, a good one. A couple of weeks ago, we made plans to visit them for dinner. Before leaving, I called to make sure that the lobster roll would be on the menu, and alas! I procrastinated too long. The lobster roll is gone, gone forever! How could they do such a thing?

February 12, 2005

February 7, 2005

It Will Be Mine. Oh Yes. It Will Be Mine.

So said Wayne Campbell about a certain Fender Stratocaster, and that's what I thought when I first saw the 12-inch aluminum PowerBook. What exactly made my geekish heart go all pit-a-pat? After all, the 12-inch model is the least powerful “AlBook” (and I like power!), but I was simply swept away by the size. I have always gravitated toward small computers ever since my first PowerBook, the petite Duo 230. Of course I didn't relish trading power for size, and am used to top-of-the-line models. (My current PowerBook was the top model and cost over $5000.) My requirements have changed, however, and I don't need a powerful “desktop replacement” laptop anymore; size is more important to me now.

The 12-inch AlBook has been available for two years, so why buy now? The main reason is that I am really ready for a new laptop and have been for some time. My current laptop is a G3 Wall Street with a host of problems. Imagine the pain of running OS X at 300 MHz, not to mention intermittent battery problems and a broken hinge. I probably should have bought a new PowerBook when I learned that Panther wouldn't run on my G3, but I wanted to wring the last bit of use out of the ole Wall Street, problems and all, since it cost so much money.

Next question: Having already waited two years, am I so desperate for a new machine that I need one right now when a G5 PowerBook might be just around the corner? Well, let's consider the chances of that. Optimistic forecasters would say that last week's speed bump may be the end of the line for the G4 PowerBooks, but I'm not so sure about that. Apple has been putting G5 processors in desktops since 2003—even the iMac has one—so a G5 PowerBook is already long overdue. What I infer from this delay is that squeezing that G5 fireball into a PowerBook is a tough nut to crack. (Apple has said as much. See Apple on G5 PowerBook: Not so fast on c|net.)

Let's assume that Apple engineering triumphs yet again and releases a PowerBook with a G5. When that does happen, I think I will be disappointed, because I'm imagining a scenario in which the G5 shows up first only in one of the larger PowerBooks or in some new, thicker form factor. In my scenario, if the 12-inch is still available at that time, it will still contain a G4. If I'm right about any of this, then there's no sense waiting if you're in the market for a 12-inch. One final consideration is whether the current generation is “ready” for Tiger. About the only spec that I'm aware is the requirement for CoreImage. Supposedly, the 12-inch has the minimum amount of VRAM (64MB) and, more importantly, a supported GPU, so it should work.

Besides being the smallest PowerBook, the 12-inch is also the cheapest. Because I'm not so heavily invested in it, I feel as if I have more options down the road. If a G5 PowerBook comes along with my name on it, or I need the power only a desktop can deliver, I won't feel so bad supplementing the 12 in a couple of years. If I need the ultimate in portability, I'll always have the 12 (until the hinge breaks or something).

I ordered the 12-inch before reading any reactions from early adopters, so I'm not sure what problems I have to look forward to. Heat seems to be an ongoing problem especially in this little guy, and the increased clock speed and faster 5400-rpm hard drive should only make things worse. Even if the heat itself isn't too bad, it might cause the fan to run more often than previous models, and I don't have a sense how noisy it will be. Only time will tell.