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February 25, 2006

Restaurant Week Wrapup

In my dreams I would be out every night of Restaurant Week (which ended last night), taking advantage of the great deals, eating in restaurants I could normally never afford. The reality is that until this year, I never took advantage of Restaurant Week, and this year, we only went out once.

With 99 places to choose from, picking one restaurant can be daunting, but I had a glowing recommendation from Messy and Picky for Valanni. Four of us had dinner there Monday night.

Making a reservation required leaving a voicemail and waiting for confirmation. Unusual, but we booked a couple of weeks ahead, so that was no problem. When we arrived, Valanni was completely full and our table wasn’t ready. A round of mojitos at the bar helped pass the time until we could be seated. The atmosphere is sophisticated yet cozy; the warm colors and materials contribute to the inviting feeling. I guess the cuisine could be called Latin fusion.

The $30/person price included three courses, and we had free rein with the menu—only one item was excluded. We started with Autumn Pear Salad (with bacon and gorgonzola), and our friends split the Medi-Latin Plate (feta and greek olives, pepperoncini, hummus and pita, some salad, chicken empanadas, etc). After that we were both pretty full, but that’s typical for us. I had Classic Paella and Anne had Braised Parmesan-Crusted Volcano Lamb Shank (I didn’t see any lava, though). We took most of it home. There was so much left over that we got two more meals out it, so we ate for three days on that $30. Every ingredient showed great care in preparation, not to mention all the creative ways they were combined. The service was flawless, and it’s an easy walk from the train. We look forward to visiting Valanni again.


I'm so glad you liked Valanni. We really love that place. We went, last minute, to FriSatSun for the final night of restaurant week after a long work week.

February 23, 2006

Last of the Black-and-White Labs?

At a wedding in Santa Fe last weekend I had a nice chat with the photographer while I was raiding the hors d’oeuvres table. I rarely attempt to befriend wedding photographers, but this guy was shooting film with a couple of Nikon N90s. Not quite as retro as someone I met two years ago who used Nikon F2s (mid-Cretaceous, I believe), but retro enough.

I was kind of surprised to see that he was shooting real silver black-and-white film (Delta and Neopan 400) instead of the chromogenic stuff and was curious how he developed it. He admitted somewhat sheepishly that he had a lab do it for him, and I feigned horror. He agreed that it wasn’t ideal, especially since the lab develops all emulsions for the same time. It didn’t strike me until much later how odd it was talking about having a lab develop black-and-white film. I sort of assumed that you couldn’t have black-and-white developed commercially anymore, especially in a town as small as Santa Fe.

It was also nice to see clients requesting black-and-white. I guess it will never go completely out of style. I’m sure it’s a common practice to print digital color originals as black-and-white or use chromogenic film, but I doubt many wedding photographers these days produce their black-and-white prints from silver negatives.

February 21, 2006

Food for Thought

Over the weekend I was visited by Josie who took an instant dislike to me and ripped me a new one in the comments. She said some very perceptive and thought-provoking things, however, that are worth discussing, given this unexpected opportunity.

In a comment that I impulsively deleted, she observed that I have this kind of perfect life with nothing out of place and no real feelings.

Judging from my site, that is very true! Woody Allen once said, “You’re always trying to get things perfect in art because it’s real difficult in life.” Not that this blog is art, but it is “artistic” in that it is a constructed fiction that I created to represent me. I call it “fiction” not because what I write isn’t true, but because by leaving things out, it doesn’t tell the whole story. That’s my choice. Pain and conflict can be the basis of great literature; I’m just not enough of a writer to pull that off.

That said, I’ve had my share of insecurity, frustration, loss, and depression, but that gets swept under the rug when I sit down to write. I’d probably have a much larger audience if it didn’t, but again that’s my call. You can’t please everybody, and I write mainly to please myself. That is all.


Illegitimi non carborundum, or some other manufactured Latin phrase. Ah, the joys of comments. I do think it's completly unfair of your commentor to go negative. It's not in the spirit of what you write, and what you write doesn't smack of "look how goo I have it, sucks to be you." Strange how people get with their reading.

Well, I say keep on keeping on. It's good authentic writing. If someone's miserable, I hope they get better. If not, you could use a variation on what I say to the knuckleheads: Too bad, but in the morning you still have to wake up and be you.


     Reading your blog inspired me to blog. I love reading what you decide to share. I was never under the impression that you blog for traffic.

     People...people. My blog is a collection of asinine dreck. What to do?

     You don't seem like the kind of person who would be impacted by a negative comment (I hope not). I appreciate that criticism can be valuable, but if you are already fulfilling your vision, then people can read, like (or dislike) and become a fan (or move along). Your audience is yourself. Right?

     I mean, come on - its a blog for cryin' out loud (a blog that I happen to enjoy very much).

I'm glad that episode, rude as it was, didn't discourage the comments. And please delete if you must; it's your castle.

February 17, 2006

Apple Switching to Windows [nanoblog]

Funny/Weird - Everyone’s favorite troll, John Dvorak, practically predicting that Apple Will Adopt Windows. Funny/HaHa - Chris Holland’s take.

I Think This is Two Degrees of Separation

Following up on last month’s post about my unexpected and admittedly remote connection to Bumrunner, here’s another one where you should be imagining “It’s a Small World After All” playing in your head over and over. Now try to get it out of your head. Sorry. That was mean.

My old house, which I dubbed the Fortress of Solitude, was an odd place in that it really wanted to be an office of some kind. It was on a busy street and had a parking lot instead of a front yard. The previous owners ran a business out of it, which explains the parking lot. After sitting unoccupied for a couple of years, it was finally sold to an optometrist for his office. Last Saturday, I was talking to my sister-in-law who told me that a daughter of one of her closest friends was dating an optometrist. You guessed it. What are the odds?

It’s kind of like Casablanca, you know? “Of all the optometrists in all the towns in all the world, she had to date this one.” On second thought, it’s nothing like Casablanca, but at least there’s that unforgettable song:

You must remember this.
It’s a small world after all.


That's weird. Reminds me of one of my mother's friends, who lived in this old stone house when I was a kid. Fast forward about twenty years and I ended up going back to this same house (for the first time since my childhood) because it was my Chiropractor's house/alternate office location.

Well, I guess it's not quite the same, but it was weird to end up getting my spine adjusted in the same room where I once played with Legos...

I'm afraid you can't just gloss over ME, dear sir. I know how to use a proxy. But nice try in whitewashing things and pretending things don't happen. I guess that's how you stay so unflappably calm and emotionless, eh? Ah, but I repeat myself.
All I wanted was acknowledgement, a reply. Even a "Fuck you, get off my site" would be something. But you did the one thing I cannot accept: you pretended it didn't happen.
And now, my friend, I must attempt to destroy you.

So predictable...
Leaving the comments up as record of my "threats" now, are we? Sending warning emails so if it comes to court you can show the jury how reasonable you tried to be?
I'm afraid it won't ever come to that, though the excitement would probably be more than you'd ever had, rivaling the first time you porked Anne. I'm quite done with you now, sir.
And no, it's not because you threatened to have my FREE EMAIL ACCOUNT DELETED (laughable! And why would they delete me? Sending email threats, viruses, spam? No, I posted it on your page as a means to replying to me, which I don't think is in any way violating their terms or even frowned upon), or to have my ISP ban me (poor library)... but because I simply wanted to see if you were as horribly boring and soulless as I thought you were.
Silly me, I always think the best of people. I thought somewhere in there, deep down in places you don't like to talk about at parties, there was a spark of life, a sense of humor.
You can go back to your vanilla life, just the way you like it; in a cup not a cone. And don't worry. I don't think Anne will ever cheat on you with the pool boy. I don't think sex matters to someone like her. Just money and security.

Tony, I don't want to start a comment war on your site, so I'll just say that you might want to consider two things: 1) collapsing the comments so that they only show when a person clicks on them (more prominence to your writing and much less to the comments), and 2) banning ISPs is as simple as 1-2-3. That kind of abuse is unwarranted, and that's comment spam. Buh-bye with it.

February 16, 2006

App Switch After Sleep Bug Fixed [nanoblog]

Although it isn’t listed in the About document, the 10.4.5 update fixes a minor annoyance that plagued me. When security is set to require a password when waking from sleep, the frontmost app when the machine woke up would be different than the frontmost one before putting the machine to sleep.

February 15, 2006

Camino Final Released [nanoblog]

Camino 1.0 was finally released yesterday. In the crowded field of Mac browsers, Camino is unique. It’s written specifically for OS X, unlike Firefox, and it’s free. But so is Safari, the browser direct from the mothership. What’s the big deal? Unlike Safari, Camino uses the Gecko rendering engine used in Firefox. Frankly, that makes it better. I would use it myself, except that I can’t live without my Firefox extensions, so I’ll continue to endure Firefox’s ugly-duckling interface, although with the Grapple theme I’m using, it’s not so bad. Posted with Firefox, by the way.

February 14, 2006

This Just In: Snow

Better late than never, but let the record show that it snowed over the weekend. While this winter has been warm and relatively snow-free, we got an entire winter's snowfall in one day, about 18 inches.

It couldn't have happened at a better time, although I was too busy working on cutting over to Movable Type to take more than a handful of pictures. Thanks to our neighbor, who for some reason owns a large snowblower and actually seems to enjoy clearing the whole neighborhood, it only took a little over an hour of shoveling to free the cars for Monday's commute. Our street leads to the boro's parking lot, so it is one of the first to be cleared. Fortunately, we had nowhere to go.


My hero.


Hey, I needed one of those heavy-duty snowblowers. Absent that, I had teenage boys, who complained...but shoveled. I helped.

Tony, I'm glad you have comments up. You have some great stuff going and it's fun to say so.



no shoveling for me! ah sweet apartment dwelling.

February 13, 2006

Restaurant Google map [nanoblog]

Whoa, here's a nice resource: a Google map of restaurants participating in Philly Restaurant Week (Feb 19-24). That'll be useful long after the week is over. I'll bet a lot of those little flags would be gone if they could show the restaurants that are already fully booked. Via 51:51 seen on PhillyFuture.

Welcome to mere cat 2.0!

Yes, welcome. Actually it’s more like 4.0, since this is the fourth redesign, but two dot oh has so much buzz going for it these days, and this place could sure use some buzz. Besides it really is only the second design at this here domain of, so there. You don’t have to do anything special to begin enjoying mere cat 2.0 immediately, except endure this welcome message. (It’s almost over.) If you read mere cat via an RSS feed, please use either one of these new addresses: ATOM at or RSS 2.0 at

Mere cat 2.0 doesn’t actually have any Web 2.0 features; it’s just a Plain Old Blog. The biggest difference from 1.0, however, is that now there are comments, giving you one more avenue to harass me electronically. And please do, I love the attention. Seriously, and sincerely, thanks for reading mere cat.

WARNING: Blogging-about-blogging content ahead! Stop reading now! This is your last chance!

Last year around this time, I switched from hand-coded pages to Blosxom, a lightweight Perl script that makes building a blog dead simple. Blosxom allowed me to automatically generate an RSS feed so mere cat could be included in aggregators like Philly Future and indexed by Technorati. All the cool kids had a feed; I wanted one, too. That was fine, but despite its charms, Blosxom wasn’t as full-featured as, for example, Word Press or Movable Type. For one thing, it lacked comments. Another drawback was that it wasn’t clear (to me) how to convert all my existing pages and integrate them with a Blosxom-based blog. I started looking at other packages.

If I didn’t have this legacy content and didn’t want to break any links, I might have had more choices, but after considering my needs, it looked as though Movable Type would be the best choice for blending my existing pages (which are relatively static) with a blog (with its dated entries). It wasn’t easy, but I succeeded in bending this intractable software to my indomitable will. I also used the switch as an excuse to simplify my design. And here we are.

There are some people I would like to thank. For advice about configuring Movable Type, there are simply too many people; someday I’ll take the time to do it right. For the look, I was inspired by the design of Douglas Bowman’s Stopdesign and the color scheme of Mediterranean, a style by John Whittet at css Zen Garden. This site is only a very faint echo of their outstanding work. Finally I would like to thank my long-suffering wife Anne, whose boundless patience with my obsessions is rewarded, so she says, by my smile of satisfaction when it’s all over. I love you.


The new site is actually done? Can it be true? Does this mean I won't have to spend Valentine's Day alone while you click, type and mutter? If this reprive from blog-widowhood is only temporary, at least there is hope of breaking through to communicate with you through comments. ("Hellooo! Are we having dinner? It's ten o'clock!") Congratulations on MereCat 2.0!


It looks great.

Wow -- it's true, mere cat with comments. The design is quite nice as well.

Oh, and someone should warn Mrs. Cat of the widowhood that can result from adding a comments section... too late I guess. Happy Valentine's Day kids!

Feeling my way here... I don't know much about comments - I rarely leave one on other sites because I usually read them via their RSS feed on the train, and rarely read comments for the same reason. So I don't know if it breaks protocol to comment in my own comments, but it's quite nice to see some comments! Thanks.

It's your kingdom, Tony. Whatever you feel is appropriate will probably do just fine. Speaking for myself, I like the back and forth sometimes. It's almost conversational.

Tony, Congrats on the new site design. It looks great and I'm thrilled that I can now leave you comments. Yay!

And the comments show up inline on the main page... pretty sweet.

February 12, 2006

Think Snow [nanoblog]

NOAA Reports Record Warm January Across The U.S. and New York gets 26 inches of snow. We got about 18 here. Oh, wait, it's February.

February 10, 2006

By Their Pens Ye Shall Know Them

Marisa writes frankly about her recovery from a crippling addiction to pens. Don’t get me started.

Oops, too late.

I am not worthy to discuss this subject; my addiction isn’t epic. I must admit, however, that when I was young and most people my age were hanging out at the mall, I was hanging out in stationery stores, my nose pressed against the glass, leering at the Watermans. “Hey, kid! Either buy something or get out of here. Yer smudgin’ the glass.” As I scuttled away, I noted that my nose prints weren’t the first on the showcase glass.

I never fulfilled those early dreams of owning a fine fountain pen, although in a moment of weakness I ordered an inexpensive one from Levenger. (By the way, I always felt that Steve Leveen founded Levenger to finance his pen addiction.) One of my favorite pens was a Rapidograph, a technical-drawing pen that drew extremely fine lines. It was a lot of fun to use. Most of the time, however, I have used plain old ballpoints. My favorite over many, many years is the classic Parker Jotter. It fits my hand better than any other pen; not too big, not too small. I use one every day. I wonder what that pen says about my personality? Hmm. I was afraid of that.

I think the reason I never became a serious pen collector is because my handwriting is so ugly, and getting uglier all the time as I write less and less. The Palmer method never stuck with me. For some pens that might inspire you to practice your handwriting, check out some of Kyle Cassidy’s gorgeous instruments here and here. That’s some hot, hot pen pr0n action.


I suggest you post a photo of your beloved Parker Jotter so that everyone can draw their own conclusions about your particular pen preference. I remember how upset you were the time you left one in your pocket and it got washed. You disassembled the leaking pen and used Q-tips and rubbing alcohol to clean the gooey ink blobs from all of its interior and exterior surfaces. All for the love of a five-dollar pen.

pens! i love writing with my parker fountain pen. wonderfully balanced. i sign things at work all day and it makes me feel like a big important person as i uncap my fountain pen and sign away.

but for everyday stuff, i love my pigma micron pens. i think i have a .25 and a .35 in black.

My dad is a Rapidograph devotee, and I spent some time with one during college. It's a good pen. I have a Waterman fountain pen somewhere out there, it was my very first "grown up" fountain pen and I still love it!

Okay, I am weirded out. I was here yesterday and saw the changes and also noticed that I could comment. I didn't comment because I needed to digest that you changed your site. Pitiful OCD lady, I know.

I love reading [your site], and I love your talk on lobster rolls. That's how I found you in the first place, don't you know. I was planning a vacation to Maine to visit Red's and was Googling information when I came upon your site. I read your review and decided that Red's was not for me after all. I'd been looking at Hancock's for the longest, and immediately after I read that you'd ordered from them and like it so much, I placed my own order and liked it so much myself. I was actually pretty bummed when you didn't write about lobster rolls on your last trip. What gives?

Oh, and I love, love, LOVE the pics of your cats in your header. Sometimes, I'll refresh a few times simply to scroll through.

I'm glad to be able to finally tell you how much I like your site! Thanks!

February 6, 2006

Getting Our Share

When I was a little kid, my parents would always tell me “Eat your vegetables.” In those days, vegetables didn’t get much love from me. I could never imagine liking them. Spinach? Yuk! Peas? Blechh! Brussels sprouts? I’d rather die! Yet it has come to pass. We eat vegetables almost every day, mostly purchased from Whole Foods, although Anne has contributed quite an assortment of homegrown fruits and vegetables to the table. And you thought she just grew watermelons.

If we have a problem, it’s only that we eat the same ten or so vegetables over and over. A solution presented itself when I learned about Community Supported Agriculture last year from Jim:

Each Friday we pick up a box full of fresh-from-the-farm-just-picked fruit and veg (flowers and herbs also) and plan a menu for the week.

That sounded great to me. It was too late in the season for us, but we resolved to sign up somewhere for what’s called a “share” next year. That time is now, so I researched our options at Local Harvest. The closest farm to us is the 20-acre Pennypack Farm, but it’s still a 30-minute drive. What we liked about them is their flexibility—they offer small, medium and large shares, and instead of pre-selected shares, they offer the opportunity to choose whatever you want from among the selections that week.

Another option is Covered Bridge Produce, which is more of a farmer’s market than a CSA, however, in that the farm itself is in Berks County instead of near its customers. Like Pennypack Farm, CBP offers a lot of flexibility. Instead of them packing your share, you select exactly what you want from what’s currently available. Your selections are then delivered to one of nearly 25 pickup points in Philadelphia and the northern and western suburbs. The closest pickup point to us is less than 10 minutes away, as close as our supermarket. We decided to go with Covered Bridge Produce this year.

Our season doesn’t start until the week of June 4, 2006. To whet our appetite in the meantime, we spent some time browsing what was offered last season. That first share looks like it will be heavy on the greens. The best part—and the point of all this—is that I’ve never even had half the greens on the list. I’m really looking forward to this.


Ooooh, comments! I like it. Sorry for your troll troubles - and never fear, those of us who know you IRL know that you are not vanilla, and Anne is not a gold-digger (that accusation has officially blown my mind).

I just wanted to say that I am doing the Red Earth Farm buying club this year for the first time. I participated in the Winter Harvest buying club through, and that was pretty cool, and a good first experience. We'll have to compare notes (Covered Bridge was also being offered, but only as a seasonal subscription where you take whatever they give, and I guess I'm a bit of a control freak).

Can't wait to see photos of the goods and whatever you guys grow this year!

February 5, 2006

Telegram Service Ends

After 145 years, Western Union has discontinued telegram service. What is this world coming to? Thank goodness candygram service continues uninterrupted.

February 2, 2006

Wilson Pickett

I’ve never owned any Wilson Pickett recordings nor saw him perform, but ever since seeing The Commitments (one of my favorite movies), Wilson Pickett has loomed a little larger in my pantheon of soul singers (even though only his limo made an appearance in the film).

Now he’s gone. I recommend this reflection, written by Michael Bierut on Design Observer, featuring some eloquent insights by the man himself on preserving individuality in the creative process. Bierut asks, “Where does style come from? What was Pickett’s secret?” Pickett provides the answer: “You harmonize; then you customize.”

Read the whole thing; it’s good.


I bought The Essential Wilson Pickett on iTunes right after his death. I've been wearing that set of songs out...can't get enough of Mustang Sally.