A Question from My Daughter

So my 3 year old asked me what the “no smoking” sign in our hotel room meant.

I said,  “Some grown ups have a bad habit of smoking cigarettes – they’re little paper sticks filled with tobacco. You light one end on fire and put the other in your mouth. It’s about as healthy as it sounds.”

That satisfied (or baffled) her, and she moved onto the next question. A 3 year old has no shortage of questions. 

I took a picture of the sign. She is responsible for turning it and the water bottle upside down.

And for turning our lives upside down, but in the best possible way.

Woof! I Caught the Car. Now What? 

This is a Pine64 single board computer with a 7″ touchscreen and a Playbox case.

I sponsored the Kickstarter back in January. The Pine64 board came almost on time, but some of the peripherals were delayed, and I didn’t want to start until I had everything.  I think the last component arrived in August. 

But this term has been crazy busy, so the Pine64 and friends sat in their bubble mailers.

On the last day of work this year, I stayed up until almost 3 am assembling the Pine64, installing the operating system, and troubleshooting it until it worked.

It really wasn’t a hard build,  but it was my first project of the kind: my first mobile or laptop build (though I’ve built desktops and done some minor laptop repairs and upgrades).

I am proud to have done it, but honestly, I’m not sure what to do with it now that it’s finished. 

The Playbox case is neither durable nor protective enough to use as a real tablet. A large gap exposes the Pine64 to all manner of dirt and debris. 

The instructions say to secure the battery in place with masking tape. Really? I jammed it into place with a taped portion of bubble mailer, but still.

C4 Labs recently released a better case that might make the Pine64 usable as a tablet.

I could add a hard drive and turn it into an over the air DVR. But we don’t watch anything over the air anyway. 

It has the power to be a media station,  but we have smart tv and a Fire Stick already.

So, um, a project for the sake of a project?

Any ideas?

Meat Free Monday: V for VeganDressing

Remember remember the 25th of December

The vegan cornbread dressing’s hot

I see no reason in this merry session

The dressing should be forgot

Okay,  so I didn’t exactly cook this while wearing a Guy Fawkes mask, but I did mark it to differentiate it from the other cornbread dressings at our family gatherings. 

I used the same recipe I used at Thanksgiving, ChefMom’s vegetarian cornbread dressing. I still used Food52’s  vegan cornbread recipe as my base. 

But I modified the dressing a little. Last time, we were a bit put off by the strong sage flavor, so I eliminated the extra sage from the recipe (the poultry seasoning already has sage in it).

But the biggest change was the incorporation of biscuits into the mix. My grandmother’s recipe used half cornbread and half biscuits as its base. I’d say mine is 2/3rds cornbread and 1/3rd biscuits. 

I think those two changes will make it feel more like”home…” 

…and they did. Everybody liked the dressing a lot more this time, judging both from their comments and their poetion size.

Mission accomplished. 

So This Is Christmas 


I think I post this song every year. 

I hope that whatever your faith, you find something sacred this winter season. 

And for those who are Christian, remember that the divine burst through into our imperfect,  often cruel world … arriving not in the halls of power or the temples of the religious leaders …

… but in a stable, to a pregnant teenage girl with no pedigree,  no status … and when the angels announced his birth, they came to shepherds in their fields. 

And Mary sang…

So THAT’S Where I Heard That Before!


So I’ve been  listening to The Veronicas lately, mostly thanks to Youtube’s suggestions.

“Untouched” is my favorite song so far, but also the most annoying … because I was sure I had heard parts of it decades before, but couldn’t figure out where.

I thought I might have been thinking puff Don Henley’s “Boys of Summer,” but when I listened to it, I couldn’t quite place it. 

So I asked my wifie, a classically trained musician and educator, to listen to it.

The first thing she said was “Pachabel’s Canon,” which isn’t surprising.  That song has spread its musical DNA around so much that I don’t even have an analogy I can use in good taste. Oops. Never mind me.  Just listen to it. 

But she also said that a lot of 80’s songs had used similar progressions. She mentioned Molly Ringwald and The Breakfast Club, and I immediately thought of this song: 

And yes,  The progressions are there.

Finally, I played “Boys of Summer” for her, and she explained why I had been confused. The progressions in Boys of Summer basically mirror those in Untouched, and my untrained ears hust couldn’t quite make them match.

So, mystery solved. And now I can listen in peace. 

Meat Free Monday: Pan Fried Butternut Squash with Mushroom, Garlic, and Red Onion Sandwiches

My wifie put this together, so I don’t have exact recipes. 

Slice a butternut squash  into half inch (1cm) thick slices. Pan fry in a thin layer of olive oil. Let them get a little blackened if you like. It makes them taste sweeter.

In a skillet with a thin layer of olive oil, sautee 8oz mushrooms with about 1/4 a large red onion and garlic to taste. Serve on toasted bread with vegan margaeine.


The Trouble with Covers


So I was listening to what I think is a pretty good cover of The Eurhythmics’ “Here Comes the Rain Again,” and it hit me:

Original recordings of songs are usually about whatever the song’s actually about. The emotion of the song is usually the artist’s focus.

Cover songs are very often about paying homage to a song the artist loves, and about doing justice to the original, as in Joss Stone’s “Here Comes the Rain Again.”

Other times, they’re about giving a new singer a quick hit by having them do a poppy, gritless version of a respected, fierce song. It often succeds in the short term, but I can only think of one case where the singer actually had any type of career afterward:

The original,  for comparison:

Here’s one of the many who didn’t: 

The original for comparison: 

Of course there is one other kind of cover, a kind that’s amusing our clever at first but just gets shockingly smug after a few listens:  ironic covers.

I’m not talking Richard Cheese parodies, but smug white indies singing rap and r&b:

Postmodern Jukebox makes probably the least obnoxious and most interesting of this type of cover. I think it’s because they explore and preserve historical musical styles, and because they keep the racial smugness out.

They still all seem to lack the emotion and sincerity of the originals, though.

Ok, for those of you who’ve made it this far, I’ll leave you with the greatest cover of all time, when the greatest pop punk metal self proclaimed martial aets master ever crossed genres to cover Wyclef Jean’s part of his duet wit Shakira. It was truly magical, as you can plainly see:

Meat Free Monday: Office Christmas Parties


One good thing about the potluck nature of office parties (Christmas, birthday, Thanksgiving, or whatever) is that I can always be sure to bring something that I can eat: bagels with peanut butter, chips and salsa, or even vegan chilli. 

A small irony is that I almost always also bring something I won’t eat, whether it’s cream chese for the bagels or queso for the chips, or non-vegan candy as a happy for the student workers. 

Oh well…nobody’s perfect.

Avalon Peacock


I hadn’t thought about Avalon Peacock or Can You Duet? (a short-lived American Idol wannabe from CMT) in years. 

But something reminded me of her name Thursday, and a few clicks later I was listening to her tracks on Youtube, wondering why she isn’t as famous as Allison Krauss or Miranda Lambert.

I mean,  listen to this!

Some of her recent solo work is available on Soundcloud

I think it’s better than her duets. It is far less country, for what that’s worth. She sounds a bit like Kate Bush meetsMazzy Star, in my opinion. 

Well, I know what I’ll be listening to for the next few days.