December 23, 2007
After months of designing, coding and prepping, I’m pleased to announce that my blog now has a new, official home. This could not have been possible without the generous help of my friends Anthony Piraino and Craig Hockenberry. Anthony graciously donated huge chunks of his life to help me get the new site up and running properly and I am grateful beyond words. Craig took the stuff Anthony gave him and just “made it work”, gotta love talented professionals who know their stuff.
At any rate, please visit the new site and update your bookmarks accordingly. I’m going to leave the old site up here at least for a while so URLs don’t break and what not, but I won’t be updating here any more. Come on over and join the fun! Thanks all!
November 21, 2007
As families across this nation sit down with each other and give thanks for all they have, it seemed like a good time to put together a little list of some of the things I’ll be giving a nod to the big guy upstairs for. Maybe this will catch on. Happy Thanksgiving everyone!
I’m thankful for…
• my loving wife, my wonderful home and my crazy, adorable animals.
• the most kick-ass parents a guy could ever have.
• the return of Futurama on DVD.
• the small amount of rain we’ve gotten in the Triad these last few months.
• my health.
• the people who invented TiVo.
• all the wonderful people I hear from every day on Twitter.
• the 22nd Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.
• the talented, creative people I work with.
• the brave men and women fighting abroad this holiday season.
November 17, 2007
When I think of my brief, yet humble career as an amateur chef, I divide my life into two parts: BB and AB. That is to say my life ‘Before Brining’ and my life ‘After Brining’. What is brining? To put it quite simply, brining it is a cheap, and relatively easy technique to help ensure that your Thanksgiving turkey turns out as delicious and juicy as it possibly can. It is essentially a marinade that delivers both flavor to the meat and helps lock in juices when the turkey is exposed to the high temperatures of cooking. I first learned the tip from Alton Brown and his awesome cooking show, Good Eats and have been using it every year since without fail. No matter if you plan to roast, fry or spin your turkey on a giant rotisserie, brining your bird is the first step on the road to culinary fullfillment.
There are many ways to accomplish the brining, but I’ve stuck with Alton’s method and recipe. You’ve heard of the expression “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it”? Yeah, well that applies here so I’m going to give you the low down on just how I go about working the turkey magic.
The easiest container I’ve found to brine in is one of those big 5 gallon paint buckets from Home Depot. Go pick up a brand new one, and then give it a good hand washing before you get ready to brine. For a 14-16 pound bird you’ll want to brine for a good 12-24 hours, so plan ahead. Rinse the turkey completely inside and out and remove any packets of giblets and the neck that may be hiding in the body cavity. I almost forgot to to this one year believe it or not, so it’s always best to double check.
Turkey Brine Recipie:
1 cup kosher salt
1/2 cup light brown sugar
1 gallon vegetable stock
1 tablespoon black peppercorns
1/2 tablespoon allspice berries
1/2 tablespoon candied ginger
1 gallon iced water
Combine all brine ingredients, except ice water, in a stockpot, and bring it to a boil. Stir to dissolve all the solids and then remove from the heat. Cool the mixture to room temp. and refrigerate until thoroughly chilled. The chilling part is important since you don’t want your turkey to go into a hot or even warm solution (can you say bacteria people?). Early on the day of cooking, (or better on the night before) combine the brine and ice water in your clean 5-gallon bucket. Place thawed turkey breast side down in brine, cover, and refrigerate or set in cool area like a basement or a garage. Turn the turkey over once half way through.
When it’s time to cook, remove the bird from the brine and rinse thoroughly. You may see that the color of the skin and meat has darkened slightly, that is a good thing. It just means that the brine did its work and the flavorings have penetrated into the turkey. A few minutes before roasting, heat your oven to 500 degrees. I use Alton’s method of filling the turkey’s cavity with fresh aromatics instead of bread stuffing. Stuffing dries out the meat and prolongs cooking time and I’ve found it’s best to avoid it.
1 red apple, sliced
1/2 onion, sliced
1 cinnamon stick
1 cup water
4 sprigs rosemary
6 leaves sage
Combine the apple, onion, cinnamon stick, and cup of water in a microwave safe dish and microwave on high for 5 minutes. Place your bird on roasting rack inside a wide, low pan and pat dry with paper towels. Add steeped aromatics to the cavity along with rosemary and sage. Tuck back wings and coat whole bird liberally with canola (or other neutral) oil.
Roast on lowest level of the oven at 500 degrees F. for 30 minutes. Remove from oven and cover breast with double layer of foil, insert probe thermometer into thickest part of the breast and return to oven, reducing the temperature to 350 degrees F. Set thermometer alarm (if available) to 161 degrees. A 14 to 16 pound bird should require a total of 2 to 2 1/2 hours of roasting. Let turkey rest, loosely covered for 15 min. before carving.
Trust me when I say that you will never have un-brined turkey ever again. I’ve heard people say that frying your turkey is the only way to lock in juices and ensure your bird doesn’t get dried out. To those people I say “Ha!” you don’t know jack. A brined and roasted bird is just as flavorful and juicy as any fried turkey could ever hope to be. Give it a try, I promise you won’t be disappointed.
August 15, 2007
The more things change, the more they stay the same. All the familiar sights, sounds and smells of home jumped out to greet me as I got out of my parent’s car and stood in the driveway of my childhood home. “She’ll be 100 years old in just a few years.” dad said as he helped mom out of the car. My grandfather had build our home back in 1917 for the huge sum of $2,000 with help from his family. Complete with a granite walled basement (that floods most every spring), and an old fashion pass-through from the kitchen to what used to be the dining room, my parents have done a remarkable job of keeping the house up, despite being in their late seventies. “I’m home again.” I thought to myself as I settled in for a week of relaxation, visiting relatives and exploring old haunts.
Growing up in the small New England town of Laconia, NH meant beautiful foliage in the fall, endless hours of sledding in the winter and beaches packed with tourists in the summer. Nestled along sprawling Lake Winnipesaukee, Laconia and her surrounding townships, are a classic destination for anyone looking to get away from the hustle and bustle of modern life. Vacationers from Massachusetts to California all come to enjoy good food, the White Mountains and crystal clear lakes. One of the favorite local eateries is the Tamarack Restaurant. Located on Route 3 in Weirs Beach, the drive-up style diner proudly serves its 100% fresh lobster roll each summer, that some say, is the best in the entire lakes region. Lobster roll, YUM!
Despite all of this, it is a truism that kids seldom appreciate the place where they grew up. Looking back now, I’m a little ashamed to say that I didn’t fully treasure my home and all it had to offer. I think I can chalk this up to simply being a kid who was too wrapped up in school work or playing in the brook to realize what was happening all around me. Visiting my parents this past week brought to mind everything they gave me while I was growing up – a safe place to play and learn, friendly neighbors who looked out for each other and the love and support of our huge family. When I was a kid, it always seemed like my dad would point to someone and say “See him/her? That’s your cousin.” So although I was an only child, I always had plenty of help getting into trouble. One of my notorious side-kicks was my cousin Judy. You always remember the good times it seems, and my memories of her and the rest of the Maheux/Groleau clan bring smiles to my face. Judy has a family of her own now, a loving husband and two sons and I couldn’t be happier for her. Visiting with her reminded me that I have to do a better job of staying in touch.
Things have changed around Laconia now, but thankfully not much. Some businesses have closed, but others have sprung up in their place. Sacred Heart Parish where my family attends mass is alive and well, the beaches are still crowded and the drive-in movie theater at the Weirs manages a double feature every night in the summer. Kids still pump quarters into the video and skee ball games at Funspot (more on this later), older streets are still a wreck from nasty frost heaves, and children still come home to visit their folks from time to time. Some of those children sit and enjoy a Red Sox game with their parents and quietly think to themselves how lucky they’ve been. Lucky to have been raised in a place so wonderful, by people so generous and loving. Thomas Wolfe once said “You can’t go home again.” Thanks to my trip this past week, I know now that nothing could be further from the truth. May we all be so blessed.
July 31, 2007
As a boy, few things captured my imagination like my family’s frequent visits to Walt Disney World in Orlando, Florida. My grandparents lived in the nearby town of St. Cloud, and whenever my family went to visit, we naturally had to make time for a few days at America’s favorite fun land. During my visits in the 70’s and 80’s, I fell in love with the Magic Kingdom, EPCOT Center, and the various hotels, especially the Polynesian and Contemporary Resorts. It’s no wonder then, that to this day, I have a fascination with all things Walt Disney World. Influences from my vacations have creeped into my art, and others have led me to new friends who share a simlar love for retro Disney.
One such friend is a talented designer and illustrator named Greg Maletic. I first met Greg online while I was doing research for my EPCOT Network Nodes icon set. Greg is a huge retro Disney fan and has produced several astounding, faux attraction posters including If you had wings…, Disney’s Swan Boats and Tomorrowland. Greg recently made these posters available as downloadable PDF files that you can print and hang on your own wall. All he asks in return is a picture, so head on over and check out his amazing free artwork. Greg has done “official” poster art for Disney as well, and hopefully one day he’ll be able to make these prints available for public viewing. I share Greg’s love for Disney’s attractions, both current and extinct, and he recently told me he has plans for several new posters. They can’t come soon enough!
Greg’s work inspired me to attempt my own retro Disney attraction poster, and the result was my 20,000 Leagues desktop picture that I originally released over at the Iconfactory a few years back. With the site redesign of 2006, the desktop got lost in the shuffle, so I’ve decided to make it available on the new Goodies page. The desktop comes with a compaion for those with multiple monitors and captures the feel of the original 20,000 Leagues attraction that was sadly closed in 1994. Many rides and attractions have come and gone over the years at both the Magic Kingdom as well as EPCOT. Imagine my dismay when I vacationed in 2001 only to find that EPCOT’s Horizon’s was no more, and changes had been made to The Universe of Energy and Communicore.
I understand the need to keep rides at the park fresh and interesting, but a big part of me misses these attractions that will never be experienced again. There are sights, smells, music and narration to these rides that the children of today will never know. Fortunately, a successful online company called Extinct Attractions has specialized in DVD’s of Disney’s lost rides. I’ve bought several of their documentaries, and they are great for trips down memory lane. My friend Louie was recently at EPCOT and told me that they had closed Spaceship Earth for renovations. I can only hope it doesn’t eventually join the extinct attractions club, it is one of my all-time EPCOT favorites.
For many of us who visited Disney World as kids, our memories will forever be filled with laughter, fun and wonder. Visiting the park is like meeting an old friend who picks you up when you need it most, but is a little different with each encounter. As artists, I think this is why we try to re-capture some of the Disney magic of days past. It’s a small way to connect with others from our generation and look back fondly on our childhood. Every time I walk into the Polynesian Resort Hotel, or even just look at its mascot, the kid in me smiles. I’m sure Walt would say “That’s the whole point.” Indeed.
UPDATE: A hat tip once again to Cabel for pointing me at these ultra-cool retro ad posters for PIXAR’s upcoming film WALL•E. They have that same feel as the classic attraction posters of days gone by. Some of these would make really great desktop picts.
May 5, 2007
Seems like the Internets is all about lists these days. Every blogger and writer worth their salt is doing it, so I thought it was about time I gave it a shot. Mine is not a ‘Top Ten Things We Hate About Apple’ or a ’11 Celebrities that Shouldn’t Have Any More Children’ list. It’s simply a list of five very cool things I’ve come into contact with recently that I think you might get a kick out of. If you think these things are lame or gay, then don’t tell me, I don’t wanna know! So without further ado…
System 47 Screensaver
Being the huge Star Trek geek that I am, I’m always on the lookout for anything Trek. A couple weeks ago I came across what has to be one of the best screen savers yet. System 47 turns your computer into an Enterprise bridge station complete with authentic LCARS displays and information. The company that makes it, meWho.com has done a wonderful job and the screen saver even recognizes and displays itself correctly if you have multiple monitors running. This thing puts a smile on my face every single time I see it. Available for both Mac and PC, System 47 makes Picard and Data feel right at home.
I’m a little late to the party on this one, but man, what a party! This infectious music video posted on YouTube in February of 2006 has become an Internet favorite and its easy to see why. Three Malaysian students lip synch, dance and generally ham it up for the camera, all to O-Zone’s ear worm ‘Dragostea Din Tei’. This catchy tune, in combination with the sincere and hilarious performance of these kids has earned the Numa Numa video, as it’s called, a place in my permanent bookmarks.
Sim Daltonism Color Blindness App
Sometimes we take for granted that everyone sees things the way we see them, when unfortunately, that is not the case. Over 2 million people in the United States suffer from Daltonism or color blindness, as it is more commonly referred to. Daltonism is a color vision deficiency that prohibits certain people from distinguish differences between some or all colors. Being in the design field, we often have to be mindful of such people when designing user interfaces or icons that contain specific colors. I recently came in contact with a extremely useful and fascinating application called Sim Daltonism created by Michel Fortin, that allows us to see things on the computer the way color blind people do and adjust accordingly. The program is available for Mac OS X and should be a part of any artist’s arsenal of tools when designing for the screen.
Anyone who says that Twitter is a vast wasteland and utterly pointless, this one is for you! Last week I was listening to my collection of John Williams soundtracks and posted a tweet about it online. Later that day I received an email from someone who had seen my tweet and pointed me at Moosebutter: A Cappella Comedy. This group of singers specialize in humor via their melodic tones and acute awareness for all things geek. Their track “Star Wars” has to be one of the single funniest things I’ve ever heard. Listen to a portion of the track here, and then go buy the entire song from their website. I especially love Luke crying out in the background of the Jurassic Park section things like, “My hand!” and “I’ll never join you!”. Perfectly side-splitting!
Magnetosphere iTunes Visualizer
Barbarian Software plugs their incredible iTunes visualizer, Magnetosphere, as “The last iTunes visualizer you will ever want for.” and that isn’t too far from the truth. Unlike most visualizers for iTunes or WinAmp that simply pump out visuals while music is playing, Magnetosphere actually changes based on the audio. The results are stunning and expressive to say the least. After I found out about this cool piece of software (hat tip to one digital life) and installed it, I couldn’t stop looking at it. I wanted to see what it would do with each new piece of music. From the epic sounds of Vangelis’ ‘Heaven & Hell’, to Buffy the Vampire Slayer’s ‘Under My Spell’, Magnetosphere entrances and delights. You owe it to yourself to download this wonderful plug-in and check it out today.
March 6, 2007
If I had become a sociologist instead of a designer, I would round up Britney Spears and Christina Aguilera and study them both under a high powered lens until one of them burst into flames. These two women have very similar backgrounds, similar careers, similar fan bases and similar amounts of money at their disposal. Lately however, one has been prone to fits of anger, self-mutilation and shallow attempts at attention, while the other seems to be in cruise control.
Both Britney and Christina have had every advantage in their short lives. Both started out as cute Mouseketeers back when they were just young’ins. Both had flourishing music careers and legions of teeny-bopper fans who squealed at their every peep. Somewhere along the way Britney decided that she needed to marry at the age of 23 and have kids. So she hooked up with K-Fed and has now had her second child with the man that some refer to as the biggest loser on the face of the earth. She’s checked in and out of rehab more times than Robert Downey Jr., thinks its about time that the Sinead O’Connor / Ilia look comes back in fashion, and now we get reports that she’s tried to hang herself with her rehab bed sheets.
We all know Britney craves constant attention, and these latest antics are probably just more of the same. After all what do you do for an encore to selling millions of records, being an international sex symbol and looked up to as a huge role model for kids? I’m starting to wonder however, if somewhere deep inside she is looking to go out like Marilyn Monroe. A kind of freakish candle in the wind that lives forever when it finally is extinguished in a blaze of glory. Can any of us really picture the Britney of today growing old gracefully? Will she ever live down the the recent downward spiral of behavior she’s slipped into? In some strange way I feel sorry for her and there is a part of me that hopes she gets some serious help. Something tells me that’s not gonna happen though. Not as long as Christina seems to have it so together.