Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Kolache made (a little) easier

Here's something we discovered while making kolache this Christmas. Roll out the dough on a Silpat mat -- it makes rolling up and transferring the bread to your cookie sheet a breeze! Of course, if you have more than one Silpat, than you can just cook the kolache directly on the mat and not worry about transferring at all.

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Accordion fever

Internationally acclaimed accordionist Antonia Begonia led the Richmond All-Accordion Band in a parade to lobby for women's right to vote. It was the the RAAB's inaugural, and perhaps final, public performance. The Band has been so intent on perfecting its art that it may have not noticed that the right was granted ninety years earlier. Actually, Virginia waited 32 years after it was ratified by the rest of the states to jump on board, not wanting to appear impulsive. Whatever. The point is, the Band's performance was picked up by international media outlets and splashed in headlines to the cheers of its adoring public, as demonstrated by the clipping above. Squawk on, RAAB, squawk on.

Friday, November 20, 2009

What's cooking with iGoogle...

With all of the superb cooks in our family, I thought you would like this post on What's cooking with iGoogle. It tells you how you can tweak your iGoogle to have a tab focused on food, with specially designed gadgets and themes. There are gadgets from Epicurious and from the Food Network, for example. One nifty gadget lets you enter ingredients from your kitchen, then returns appropriate recipes.

If you use "food" as the name of your tab when you create it, you will pre-populate your page with some ready-made gadgets. If you are new to iGoogle, you can learn how to set up your own page and tabs. iGoogle has become my home page I use it so often. And if you already have a food-oriented tab in iGoogle, browse over to their gourmet page and see what new things they have been cooking up for you.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Almost genealogy

OK, this one probably won't make it into Casimir's Dream, but it is just too precious to let it slip into the dustbin of history. We are thinking he was maybe seven?

He's a champ, though. Not only does he homer, but he takes on in the mouth. Ouch.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Casimir's Dream: Rousing Casimir

The genealogy bug is biting me again. I've changed the URL where I am posting Casimir, so go take a look. I'm hoping that everyone takes advantage of the offer to be a contributor. What are you waiting for?

Casimir's Dream: Rousing Casimir

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Save energy, save money

Whenever I see Consumer Reports, I think of Dad. It was his monthly Bible, and he read it cover to cover. While trying to find a water heater to replace one that is fast fading, I came across these very useful hints. Although most of us probably do a lot of them, I know that I'm negligent of a ignoring few here. Fall is a good time to turn attention to saving energy, especially if you live in inhospitable climates such as Minnesota, or Southern California.
25 simple ways to save
1. Clean the coils behind or underneath your refrigerator with a tapered appliance brush to keep it running efciently. 2. Skip prerinsing dishes. Our tests have found that it’s unnecessary, and you’ll save up to 6,500 gallons of water per year. 3. Opt for the cold-water wash cycle and save about $60 a year. 4. Put your PC to sleep. Save $75 or more by using the system standby or hibernating feature. 5. Plug electronics into a power strip so that you can turn them all of at once. 6. Don’t overload the dryer. Clothes will take longer to dry, and they’ll come out wrinkled. When the weather is warm, line dry. 7. Open blinds and shades on cold days. Solar heat gain can raise interior temperature signifcantly. But close them at night to minimize heat loss. 8. Dust off the slow cooker. You’ll use a lot less energy than cooking a meal across several burners and in the oven. 9. Keep car tires properly inflated. In our tests of a Toyota Camry, fuel efciency dropped 1.3 mpg when the tires were defated by 10 psi. 10. See whether your utility company ofers rebates to customers who replace old appliances with energy-efcient models. Some states hold periodic “tax holidays” for purchases of energy-efcient appliances. 11. Lower the temperature a degree or two before guests arrive. A house full of people generates a lot of body heat. 12. Clean or replace furnace filters monthly during the heating season. Clogged flters force the blower to work longer, raising your electric bills. 13. String LED lights this holiday season. They last longer. Our tests have shown that they can save up to $11 per season. 14. Insulate and seal cracks and gaps in your ducts. That can help reduce energy costs by 30 percent. 15. Lower water-heater temperature to 120 degrees from 130 and insulate hot-water pipes to knock up to 5 percent of your energy bills. 16. Weather-strip old windows and doors. It’s the surest way to close the gaps around openings, reducing heating and cooling costs by 15 to 30 percent. 17. Control outdoor lights with sensors or timers so that fixtures stay of during the day. 18. Install a high-efciency showerhead. It will reduce hot water use by up to 50 percent. 19. Upgrade to a low-fow toilet and save 4,000 gallons per year. 20. Drain a bucket’s worth of water from your water heater a few times a year to remove sediment, which can decrease efciency. 21. Move the thermostat to an inside wall away from windows and doors so that drafts don’t cause the heating system to cycle on unnecessarily. 22. Add insulation. An estimated 80 percent of older homes are underinsulated. Properly insulating and sealing your home can cut your heating and cooling bills by 10 percent. 23. Plant a deciduous shade tree on the west and southwest sides of a house to save energy. 24. Zone heat smartly. A portable heater in a room saves money only if you’re willing to keep the rest of the house chilly. Wood-burning freplaces can suck more heat from your home than they put back in. 25. Call a professional energy auditor. They use a blower door or infrared photography to pinpoint where your home is leaking energy. Some utilities provide free audits; you can also fnd certifed professionals in your area through

Consumer Reports; Oct 2008, Vol. 73 Issue 10, p20-23

Friday, October 23, 2009

Norwalk skyline

This is your chance to have your photography immortalized in Wikipedia. The entry for Norwalk needs an image of the its "skyline," such as it is. It has to be a picture you took yourself, or have clear copyright to. I think the Norwalk Square sign would make a most excellent image. Someone out there must have a photo of it you took yourself. (Is it still there?) If you do have one, you have to fill out a form and submit it with your Wikipedia account, which is very easy to create. If you don't feel comfortable doing this, send me the image and I will post it if you swear on a Bible it is your picture.

I keep an eye on a number of Wikipedia pages so I can add information and protect them from vandals. Among the pages I'm watching are ones for Norwalk, Richmond, Chesterfield, Uniontown, New Salem, Bon Air, VCU, and accordions. It is easy enough to watch a page for changes if you have an account, and is kind of fun if you aren't obsessive.

(If you are curious why I am watching the page for accordions, go take a look at the images and you will see readily enough. It is an image that just appeared one day -- no family member or friend is the culprit. I watch the page to make sure it never goes away. If it does, I can restore it in one click.)

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Crumby picture

I am only Duke Dipping this because I like the picture. You can come too, if you like though.

Friday, October 9, 2009

Waking Casimir

After a long hiatus, I've begun digging into genealogy again. For several reasons, I've had to migrate Casimir's Dream to a new server, hosted by Blogger. Everything isn't done yet, so there are still a lot of missing images and broken links.

As I was working, I came across the song written by Marc for my birthday several years ago. Since I didn't have an easy way to post the mp3, I decided to throw some photos on top of it and create a YouTube video. It really is a lovely song and worth your listen.

I don't have much new content for Casimir's Dream yet, but I'm working on some things, some of which I hope will excite you. Stay tuned.
I want a Dream Lover
so I don't have to dream alone

Please don't make me dream alone
I beg you don't make me dream alone
No, I don't wanna dream alone

Friday, October 2, 2009

Google Photos Blog: Announcing Picasa 3.5, now with name tags, better geotagging and more

I've been playing with the new Picasa 3.5. There are a number of nice features in this edition. The one I like most so far is face identification. The Web version has had it for a while, but the disk application is much slicker. It is also very addictive, as Darien will attest. I've spent hours going through my library, tagging faces. The software does some automatic matching, which can be uncanny in its accuracy, when it is not being funny in its inaccuracy. Evidently Gabriel really does take after Darien.

One unexpected use I will be making of Picasa is help in working with genealogy photos. I can now easily match names to faces, especially in a photo with a number of people. You can see some samples in one of my Picasa Web folders.

Genealogy: Duke

This also points out that you can synchronize your computer and your Web albums, so the work you do in the one can be carried over to the other.

The other big feature in this version is enhancements made to geotagging. I haven't used it much yet, but it promises to make geotagging much faster, since you don' have to open Google Earth to use it. You can read more about these and other featurs on the Google Photos Blog. Now go play.
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Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Bouillon, Baby

I recently came across one of those "aha" moments, when I discovered a perfectly simple idea that fills a need. It is the easiest way in the world to make your own bouillon. I've been going through Knorr vegetarian bouillon cubes like crazy, since I cook greens many nights a week. Bouillon cubes surely fall into the category of non-food items, plus I'm paying money for mostly sodium.

So anyway, I read about this simple recipe for making your own:

Get a gallon size zip lock bag. Whenever you're preparing food, throw scraps such as veggie peels, carrot ends, onion scraps, wilted greens, stems, and veggie tops into a bowl. (Don't use bitter greens such as those found on celery, carrots, etc., and throw your really nasty stuff straight into your compost bin.) When your food prep is finished, throw the contents of your scrap bowl in the zip lock bag, and stash it in your freezer. After 5-7 days you'll likely have a full bag. Dump it in a pot of boiling water and simmer the goodies for an hour--it will boil down to about half. Strain off the solids, and voilá! You have enough bouillon to last until your zip lock bag fills up again. What could be easier? And the flavor will vary a bit each time.

(I'm really sorry to say that I can't remember who I should credit with this great idea.)

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Andrew Bird and St. Vincent

I think it was Peter who introduced me to Andrew Bird, the violinist/whistler. I now have him on one of my Pandora feeds. He was recorded along with the chanteusey Annie Clark (known for some reason as St. Vincent) in a nice video that is a comfortable 30 minutes long. Go play.

Friday, September 11, 2009

If you like Dylan and the Band (and if not, are you crazy?), go check out the current week's offering at Wolfgang's Vault for some sound goodness.
It's Bob Dylan Week here at the Vault as we're featuring some newly released material from him as well as concerts from performers with various connections to him. On Tuesday, we featured the 2/14/74 afternoon show from Bob Dylan and the Band ... This weekend, we bring you the evening show from the same day ..., which is the last concert of the tour and features a nice tribute to Bill Graham. These are historic shows with superb sound quality and top-notch performances from all involved.

We're also putting up an entire show from the Rolling Thunder Revue, a benefit concert for Rubin 'Hurricane' Carter recorded at Madison Square Garden in 1976. The end of Set 1 features Dylan fronting the ensemble, while Set 2 features a mini-set from Dylan & Joan Baez before the entire cast eventually joins together on stage again.

For a wonderful tribute to Dylan, check out performances by The Roots, My Morning Jacket, Yo La Tengo, Calexico, and many more from the 2007 I'm Not There Concert, given in support of the movie of the same name (go rent it if you haven't seen it!). Or, head back in time to hear sets from two of his biggest influences -- folk legends Ramblin' Jack Elliott and "Spider" John Koerner. Both sets are available for download.
 Here's the lineup:
Bob Dylan & The Band
LA Forum / Late Show, Set 1 2/14/1974
Bob Dylan & The Band LA Forum / Late Show, Set 2 2/14/1974
The Rolling Thunder Revue Madison Square Garden / Set 1 12/8/1975
The Rolling Thunder Revue Madison Square Garden / Set 2 12/8/1975
I'm Not There Concert Beacon Theatre 11/7/2007
"Spider" John Koerner Ash Grove 2/1/1967
Jerry Garcia Band French's Camp / Set 3 8/29/1987

Saturday, September 5, 2009

Hot Stuff!

When John and I were in Harrisonburg today visiting Peter, we went out for Ethiopian food at the Blue Nile. The decor there was exceptionally nice, and they have a very attractive performance venue in the downstairs bar. The food was as delicious at the Blue Nile as it always is at one of our favorite Richmond restaurants, The Nile, where we often eat before choir practice.

Peter and I loved the berbere sauce, and I told him that my cousin Leslee had recently posted a recipe for it. Her adopted Ethiopian children love this sauce--on everything! Pete has requested some of this when I make it--I think I'll make the dry version as it will store longer. I have a feeling that Pete and I will enjoy it on everything too!

This picture is of Celeste and Elyse, who visited in August--we went to DC for the day and they sampled Ethipian food for the first time, at the wonderful Etete, which has recently expanded.

BERBERE (pronounced bear-BEAR-eh)
1/4 teaspoon ground allspice
3/4 teaspoon ground cardamom
1/8 teaspoon ground cinnamon (optional)
1/8 teaspoon ground cloves
1/2 teaspoon ground coriander (optional)
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin (optional)
1 teaspoon ground fenugreek
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg (optional)
1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
1/4 teaspoon ground turmeric
4 to 6 tablespoons of a combination of ground cayenne pepper (red pepper, dried chile peppers, or red pepper flakes) and paprika
1 tablespoons salt
1 teaspoon ginger, fresh (peeled and grated) or dried (ground) use dried ground ginger if making dry berberé
2 tablespoons finely chopped onions or shallots, omit if making dry berberé (optional)
1 teaspoon minced garlic, omit or use dried garlic if making dry berberé (optional)
1/4 cup oil, water, or red wine (omit if making dry berberé)

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Favorite friends

I received two messages today alerting me to new pictures on Picasa. One set was posted by Gabriel, who went camping with Peter and another friend. He posted a few photographs from Vermont that are very good -- he concentrated very much on composition, on color, on form. I also received an e-mail from Jody, who posted some shots of Minnesota that give a strong sense of place, and a strong sense of Coco, too. (How Jody found so many places without snow is a mystery to me.)

The notices showed up in my mailbox informing me that the photographs were available because I linked to their Picasa sites as a friend. To do this, you designate a person as a favorite in the right panel, triggering an e-mail to you whenever more pictures are posted. I find it a good way to keep tabs on what people are doing that I care about, and the person who posts them doesn't have to send out notices whenever something new is up.

I've linked to those I know who are posting on Picasa or who have designated me a favorite, but I am not aware of everyone who might be doing this. If you add me as a favorite, you will show up as a fan of mine, in which case it is easy to follow through and designate you as a favorite. Or drop me a line and I'll add you. Those currently on my list include:

  • Antonia
  • Darien
  • Gabriel
  • Jennifer
  • Jonathan
  • Marc
  • Martha (thanks, Mom)

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Photo bacchanalia

Picasa now has a nice feature that allows more than one person to contribute to a Web folder. You initiate it through the share button when you open up the Web folder. There is a check box to enable contributions. While the contributor can add descriptions, he or she can't edit your own descriptions. (I consider this a flaw; I'd like that to be something you can turn on or off by user.)

I have set up a shared folder for Darien and me to begin putting images for ideas we want to remember as we continue to design the lower bathroom in the cabin. I've also included her and Gabriel on the cabin renovation as a whole. Since Gabriel is actually living in the cabin now, it will be easy for him to shoot some pictures if there are day-to-day developments that I can then review and decide whether to retain. The storage counts against the host (me), but that isn't an immediate issue.

I'm thinking of converting my Dukes growing up in Norwalk to a shared folder for any of the kids to drop images as they scan them. Maybe I'll do something similar for genealogy-related images. What do you think? Is it something you would use?

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Breaking News!

Yes, The Dip Mystery has been solved. To be more precise, it was solved on August 10th.

Perhaps you haven't gone back to read the ever-increasing comments to John's "Duke Dip Recipe" post, from March 29th?

To make it easy for you, I have included the last two comments below, from Chief Inspector Martha and Detective Janet. You will see that with perseverance and hard work, the key to the real, the true, the Original Duke Dip has been discovered! Read on:
Janet said...

From what I read Lea & Perrins made a wine based Worcestershire however it is now sold as a Marinade for Chicken, it still has the Green Label. I think it may be the product that is wrapped in paper.Someone had the question of "Where can I find the Worcestershire sauce with the green label" The quest is on...

John said...

My mother went to the source ("please relay to Janet") and called Heinz, the parent company for Lee & Perrins. They confirm that their white wine chicken marinade (with the green label) is what she is now using in Duke Dip. They are bottling it now as a marinade for wider use.

Why she didn't tell any of her children of her variation in the recipe is a mystery to me. Maybe she wants to stay ahead of us in the innovation game? I can only imagine, however, how crushed everyone will be to see traditional Worcestershire sauce out of the recipe. I'm guessing she will have few followers.

Comments, anyone?

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Bamboo Match Made in Heaven

Jonathan and the Speckled Bird are featured in a recent interview in Richmond's Style Weekly magazine. Through the magic of the Internet, you can read it online. Do you see all that bamboo in the background? If they stood in place another three minutes, it would have engulfed them. Welcome to the cabin.

You can also hear a preview of one of their songs, "Match Made in Heaven," from their upcoming EP, due out in October. It should be good! (That eerie sound you hear is what Jonathan in the interview calls Antonia's mock saw.)

Monday, August 10, 2009

Saving your books

Someone asked me for advice on caring for a personal collection of books. On my library's Website, we have several useful links for books and other materials. The Library of Congress has a page for the non-librarian that offers useful advice for storing and protecting your books, audiovisual, and other documents. It also offers tips for how to salvage your treasures in the event of a disaster, such as water damage or fire.

Both the Alaska Historical Library and Indiana University have put their book repair manuals online. Although the manuals are used by professionals, they offer useful guidance for everyone on how to deal with such tragedies as ripped pages, removing tape, fixing loose hinges, and much more. If you have truly valuable pieces (either monetary or sentimental), it might be a good idea to consult a professional conservator -- but they don't come cheap.

And for anyone with documents or pictures relating to our family, I am more than happy to take them off your hands -- the older the better. One day soon I hope to get back to Casimir's Dream.

Thursday, August 6, 2009

Roots of the tree

As most of you know, I sometimes play around with genealogy. The program I use to record my findings is called Family Tree Maker. It is Windows-based only. There are many features that make it easy for you to trace and record family members, as well as to produce charts, media displays, and books. The latest edition is on sale for $20 plus shipping. If this is something you think you might be interested in, this is an inexpensive way to test the waters. To make it really fun, you would need to subscribe to some databases (I think at about $140 per year), which will give you access to such resources as census records, newspapers, military records, marriage and death records, and more. That, however, is not absolutely necessary. There are plenty of free resources to keep you busy for quite a while. I also think you may have trial access to the databases I use if you buy the program.

One of the advantages you would have if you do decide to do this is that I would give you all the work I have done so far, which includes information on about 1,000 names. (Unfortunately, most of these are not on the Duke side, but oh well.) Even better, you would have me as a consultant to help you learn the software and how to research the databases effectively. I would gain a research partner to make my work easier. Everyone is a winner.

Give it a try if you think this might be something you are interested in. The most you can lose is twenty-five bucks. Don't dawdle, though, since the price is going to go up after it is published later this month.

Sunday, August 2, 2009

Buffing up

I've made a few changes to the layout of the blog. Check out the right panel:

  1. I have added a search feature so you can have fun browsing through past posts. What is nice about this is that after you run a search, you will be presented with three tabs. The first is for the blog itself. The next is for the same term that appears in links we make in the blog to other sites -- very nice. The last is for all of the Web. As more entries get posted (hint), this will become more useful. Try it yourself with a word like "computer" so you can see the differences.
  2. Another side panel addition is Family Bloggers. This is a convenient link to blogs being kept by members of our extended family. Some of these are no longer active, but are fun to look at anyway, and some of you may not be aware they exist. If you know of others, please let me know and I'll add them. (I know of a few inactive ones; I just haven't added them yet.) Better yet, start a new one. Everyone has something to say about something. (And some of us say too much about everything.)

If you want to add these or other gadgets to your own Blogger blog, look at Page Elements in the Layout tab. Use Add a Gadget to browse through what is available. Play around a bit and see what you like. You can change the order and position of gadgets just by dragging and dropping. If you use WordPress or another platform for your blog, there are probably similar tools available. I'm just not familiar with them. Why don't you let us know how to do it with a blog post of your own?

Saturday, August 1, 2009

Better Google searching

You can now spend more time than ever on Google, trying to get the perfect search.

Also note that the options for refining image searches have been refined. I find that I can drill down and find things much faster if I use search refinement techniques.

Monday, July 20, 2009

I've got your back

This post is especially for Janet, who is an honorary family member. I had dinner with her and Nancy in Long Beach (with Nancy's grandson, the spitting image of Ronnie) and the question of backing up computers was raised. I told Janet I would post something here for everyone. There is lots of advice out there on backing up, and I know some of you are using external hard drives to keep things safe. That is an excellent approach, but there is one other thing you can do to keep yourself safe, and that is to use online networked backup.

Online networked backup means your computer is backed up to some remote server on the Internet. This is an added measure of insurance. If you are using just an attached hard drive in your home, an electrical surge through your house can wipe out both your computer's hard drive and your attached hard drive. I lost a computer this way, and it looks like the same thing has happened to Gabriel recently, so this is not a far-fetched scare scenario.

The remote storage I like right now is Mozy. You get 2G of online storage for no charge. You configure Mozy to make backups on a periodic schedule, such as once a week. The backup happens in the background, so you don't have to do anything after you set it up. 2G is not enough to back up all your music files, but it is enough in most cases to deal with your most important documents, homework, budget spreadsheets, particularly treasured photographs, etc. You can tell Mozy what type of documents to back up, or which folders to backup. I use a version that I pay $5.00 a month for, so I get unlimited backup, but I used the free version for quite a while before switching.

If you do end up trying Mozy, you should post something here to let everyone know. You will receive a code, so if someone else joins on your recommendation using your code, you will receive extra memory (probably 512N) and so will the person signing up. Everyone's a winner.

Unfortunately, Mozy only works for PCs and Macs right now. I've asked that a version for Linux be developed, and you should too if you use Linux.

Sunday, July 12, 2009

Firefox 3.5

I've been using the new Firefox 3.5. It is very fast -- twice as fast as the previous version, and five times as fast as pokey IE 8, though still slower than Safari or Chrome. It has lots of nice new features. My favorite so far is what happens when you create a new tab: you see graphic images of your most visited pages, along with links to your recent bookmarks and your recently closed tabs. Nice.

One word of warning: many of the extensions have not been updated to 3.5 yet. If you use a lot of extensions, or you are dependent upon a few, be patient and wait for them to catch up. Right now, I am missing my mouse gestures, Delicious icons, and the weather toolbar. But if you can do without those, give it a whirl.

Thursday, July 2, 2009

Icelandic Fever: a Southern Saga: Thumbs up, Pandora!

Icelandic Fever: a Southern Saga: Thumbs up, Pandora!

Darien talked about Pandora to listen to music on her Icelandic blog. It is worth reading if you are not currently a Pandora user. We listen to Pandora all the time, and are even paid subscribers so we don't get the ads and we can listen to it and all our digitized music through our big stereo system with our Squeezebox -- another highly recommended toy!

Friday, June 26, 2009

Themes for iGoogle

If you are using iGoogle (and if not, why not?), then check out the results of the Google photography contest. You can add any of the results of the top contestants to your iGoogle page for a change of pace in your theme. You can even try a theme out on your page to see how it looks, then revert to your former page if you don't care for it. What do you have to lose?

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Log Cabin Recording Log, The Fire Next Time, pt. 3

(photo by Gabe Duke)

We recorded accordion tracks for St. Josephina (quick! band meeting: is is St. Josephina or St. Josefina?) and San Jacinto last evening, as well as glockenspiel on You Do Too. It was an easy evening, not too warm in the cabin, brownies to keep us sugared up and happy (thank you, Caitlin!), and we were done by 9:00. Intern Matt diligently took notes, completed his "what's a pre-amp" quiz, learned about various mics, and was his usual helpful self.

Recording the accordion keyboard part on San Jacinto was easy and went quickly. The St. Josephina bass accordion part was a little tougher -- in order for the microphone to pick up the rumbling bass, it had to be close enough that it was also picking up the click of the buttons as I changed notes. It was a challenge to change notes with a minimal amount of clicking, but any clicks on the recording will be Firm Evidence that we used real instruments.

Recording the glockenspiel was trickiest. It is a tough instrument to record, as it can sound annoyingly "pingy" if not miced correctly. If the microphone is too close, than it will catch the click of the mallet hitting the metal bars. If it is too far away, the microphone will loose the pitched tones and the tune won't carry. After a few tries, Allen found a microphone set up that worked well. Allen said that a toy piano works well for the glockenspiel sound, but there can be pitch issues (but do let us know if you have a perfectly tuned toy piano in your attic that you'd let us use).

Jonathan left early to play a show at Cous Cous, and I lobbied hard to change the album to Jonathan Vassar: Rock the Glock, but Allen revoked my Stand-In Producer title, and nixed the idea.

Next up: vocals.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Log Cabin Recording Log, The Fire Next Time, pt. 2

condemnation plantation


last night Chris put down electric guitar, banjo and mandolin. a display of solid chops. especially considering that he just got back from a road trip to Nova Scotia.
iced tea cooled us down until it got nice enough outside to open the windows.
with the opening of the cabin came night noises, frogs and owls, that worked their way into the songs.

the record is beginning to take form, and there is discussion about recording the playback in the main cabin living room to create a reverb chamber that is true to the shape of the space.

at the end of the evening, during the recording of the slide guitar on Saint Josephina, the rain began. hopefully we’ll be able to keep it in the track. if so, we’ll have captured sound both inside the and outside that conveys the cabin’s form.

tonight Chris will put finishing touches on his work.


Monday, June 22, 2009

Log Cabin Recording Log, The Fire Next Time


so far the guitar and scratch vocals are in the can
and we’re set for Chris to lay down mandolin,
banjo, and electric guitar this evening.
we haven’t quite captured the space yet, but with
the recordings combined we feel it’ll start to take shape soon enough.

other sounds captured to our endless amusement:
cackling birds on Nearer My Father’s Wounded Side
Bugle the dog on A Hole in the Ground

though it’s taken us awhile to end up here, recording
in the cabin is especially meaningful for Antonia and me.
antonia’s grandmother bought the property when it was condemned–earning its name “Condemnation Plantation,” and restored it back to health.
Antonia and i made the cabin our home for the first four and a half years of our marriage. it’s in this house that all of the songs were written, and my 2008 demo recordings were scraped together.


The Fire Next Time

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Artifacts of my father

Darien posted a very lovely tribute to her father today (actually only part one, with several more on the way). It got me thinking about my own father -- the things I remember, and more that are only dimly recalled or that have even slipped from my grasp altogether. There are things I have that remind me of him. They surround my daily life, usually in the background, but sometimes thrusting themselves forward and sending me into a reverie.

I have several such artifacts of my father, but I'll just mention just three. One is a brick from Uniontown. I picked it up during a marathon trip to Pennsylvania, driving up and back in less than twenty-four hours. Other than my father, I have a hazy recollection of who made that journey with us. Darien didn't come I'm certain, but a young Antonia did. Darien must have stayed back with one or two boys, too young to understand why we would pack into a station wagon that way and just drive. Maybe Jody, too? But not Skip? My mother must have been there, too. Would I had a digital camera back then.

We toured around Uniontown, Dad pointing out things he remembered, such as the house where he was born, the laundry where he worked, the Slovak club where his father spent a lot of time, talking and playing music. He also showed us the site of his elementary school. The original building had been razed, and a new one built in its place. A rubble of bricks was piled off to the side. Some of them had the name Uniontown chiseled into them, indicating the place of their manufacture. Probably in violation of some law, I took one as a memento of the trip. Whenever I look at it, I am not only reminded of the trip, but of my father growing up in that town that had such an influence on his life, and that hovered my own childhood far away in California, like a Grecian myth. The older I get, the more I think of histories that I never experienced, but that exert their own spell over me.

(It is irritating that when I went to write this, I could not find the brick. It is in the utility room, somewhere on the workbench, I think. I shall have to clean the room now. My father would never have let his workshop devolve into the state mine is in. There is a small glimmer of hope that Gabriel is using it as a perch for his dragons.)

Another artifact I have is a knife. It belonged to my father. It is a Craftsman knife -- nothing special, just utilitarian. He always bought Craftsman, so I always buy Craftsman. Whenever I use it, I remember him and how he loved tools and working with his hands and fixing things. He engraved his name on it. I think he gave it to me before he died, but I'm not sure. I wish I had written it down.

The last artifact is a pocket watch. I have it displayed in my front hallway. I see it every time I come down the stairs, or walk out the front door. Most of the time it is just there, invisible, part of the patchwork surrounding me. Other times it makes me pause -- time stops, so to speak. It was my father's; my mother gave it to me after he died. Darien found a stand for it. The watch makes me remember the pride he had in efficiency, in systems, in finding the shortest route to get from Point A to Point B. I have that in me, too. I use it now as an icon for myself on my blogs.

Places. Tools. Time. These and other artifacts of my father live in me still. They are the trivial detritus of life, never intended to carry the weight of the past with them, but that is what they do now. They make me muse upon what my own children will take from me.

Recycling (duh!)

We have been recycling in our house for almost twenty years. We haven't wanted to use a plastic bag to line the receptacle in the house, so we have just been using a brown paper grocery bag and then putting that in the collection bin for the every-other-week pick-up. Over the past several years we have been gradually switching to reusable eco-bags for our marketing. When our paper bags get low, we forgo the eco-bags and ask for paper at the market.

It suddenly occurred to one of us (the smart one) that we could just as easily use a stiff eco-bag in the house receptacle. That is what we are doing now for all of our house recycling. We just dump what we collect into the larger bins when the time comes, saving a little bit of paper each time. Wish we would have thought of that one sooner.

Friday, June 12, 2009

Wolfgang's Vault

I subscribe to a online newsletter from Wolfgang's Vault. It is a music site with a large catalog of vintage recorded concerts, most of which were never released commercially, from sources such as King Biscuit Flower Hour and Bill Graham's archive. Most concerts derive from the sixties and seventies, although there is a smattering of later years as well. You can also browse through the concert list and play on demand those you like, either the concert in its entirety or selected songs. There is also streaming radio, playlists, and more.

New concerts are added every week -- twenty this week alone. Several concerts are highlighted each week in the newsletter. It's fun to be surprised and just tune in to what is being offered. To give you a flavor, here is an excerpt from today's newsletter:

On the website this week, we've been celebrating the career of Eric Clapton, featuring concerts from Delaney & Bonnie and Derek and the Dominos. Today we're featuring a mini-set from Cream, recorded just over a month before their final concert. There's a terrific take on a Howlin' Wolf blues number followed by a pummeling workout on "I'm So Glad." Short and sweet, this is a quintessential representation of the first supergroup. For a more concise look at Slowhand's career, check out our featured Artist Archive Playlist highlighting his best performances in the Vault.

Our new releases for the weekend include a mellow, intimate set from Judy Collins in 1979, after she had moved away from her folk roots and into more eclectic pop territory; a high energy set of Southern rock from the Henry Paul Band, including songs from Paul's solo career and from his time with the Outlaws; and exciting hard rock and theatrics from the underappreciated Shooting Star.

Last Sunday, singer/songwriter Kenny Rankin passed away from complications associated with lung cancer; he was 69. To help his memory live on through his music, we're adding a new set from Kenny, recorded in 1976. Our thoughts and prayers are with his friends and family.
Sign up for the newsletter and have some fun. Feed your ears.

Thursday, June 4, 2009

Getting a screenful of Picasa Web

If you use or view Picasa on the Web, there is now a very nice full screen mode that allows you to flip through a gallery very quickly. Essentially, it is the slide show with snappier navigation. When you have a single picture on the screen, look up in the left corner, right under where it says "My Photos" and click "Full screen." When the full screen comes up, you will see the navigation buttons at the bottom to flip through the gallery, but you can also use the right and left arrow keys to go even faster. You will be amazed at how quickly you can scan through the images. If you don't have your own Picasa Web albums, you can test drive it on one of mine. To really take advantage of your monitor's size and turn on the acceleration, press the F11 key -- at least on a PC. Let us know if that works on a Mac as well, or if there is some equivalent key.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Spring tech cleaning!

If you are cleaning, weeding out old electronics, upgrading to a new flat screen tv, or buying a new computer, don't throw the old stuff in the trash! Many components in items such as televisions, computers, and cell phones can be recycled.

For more about electronics recycling, has some great resources, as well as some scary statistics (that old tv in your basement can have 4 to 8 pounds of lead in it!).

A great (FREE) recycling option is to contact your local Goodwill. Many Goodwill locations will accept computer components, cell phones, televisions, and other appliances. To find out more, visit the Goodwill Reconnect site.

If your Goodwill doesn't offer this program, check with Best Buy. You can recycle tvs and computers for a $10 fee, but you get that money back in a Best Buy gift card.

Sunday, May 17, 2009

Leaves of three ...

I worked at the cabin yesterday, trying to push nature back. In an annual rite, I also played cat and mouse with poison ivy. Trying to identify it in the mass of green vines around the property is difficult for me. Antonia and Gabriel seem to have an internal radar detector; I seem to have an internal magnet. Whether you have to deal with it in your own yard or avoid it while out hiking, I found this video on helpful in pointing out its distinct characteristics. With so many vines growing in Virginia, it is often hard to distinguish poison ivy from other plants.

Too bad I didn't watch it before working outside. We'll see how lucky I was later in the week.

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Find it quickly with keywords

One of the little known features of Firefox is the keyword. You use it in the search bar to quickly go to a site and enter a search term. Rather than entering a URL and enter key, then putting a search term in and pushing enter again, you do this all in one step once you define your keyword. For example, if I want to look up the definition of the word noxious in, I would just type in Firefox's search box d noxious. If I wanted to find an article for the same word in wikipedia, I would type wp noxious. And if I wanted to find books related to noxious in Amazon and WorldCat, I would use am noxious and wc noxious.

There are two ways to define keywords. The first is to use the search box in the upper right corner of Firefox. Click the menu and "Manage Search Engines," then "Edit Keyword ..." In the pop-box, just put in the term that you will use to query with. I like to keep my keywords very short, to make it faster to type them in.

If the search tool isn't listed there, the other way is to go to the site and add your keyword directly. This works in most cases, although screens with lots of boxes and search options can be confusing for Firefox. After you navigate to the site, right click on whatever the search box is on the screen and select "Add a keyword for this search ..." A dialog box will come up. For Name, copy and paste the URL for the screen you are on. For keyword, put in your abbreviation. For example, I have a keyword for WorldCat. In Name, I have and in Keyword I have wc. You can just leave Bookmarks Menu for Create In drop-down.

You can refine your keywords for better searches. For example, my keyword for is just am. But I also use amb to limit the search to just books in Amazon. I did this by first navigating to the screen for just the book search ( and then right clicked the Amazon search box and defined the keyword amb (for Amazon Books).

You can also use the keyword to just get to the site quickly. Enter your keyword only, with no search term, in Firefox's search box.

You can read more about keywords by reading what Mozilla has to say about Smart Keywords and the section on keywords in the Search Bar article. Here are some of my frequently used keywords. Are there other keywords you find useful? I'd love to know!

  • Amazon : am :
  • Amazon books : amb :
  • Dictonary : d :
  • WorldCat : wc :
  • Wikipdia : wp :

Friday, May 1, 2009

On being a voyeur

Darien gave me a book for Christmas, Voyeurs by Dennis Bartel, a signed copy via Jenny. Some of you will recognize the name from KUSC, the classical station in L.A. where Dennis DJs. He also grew up in Norwalk and attended Norwalk High with other Dukes and Sanchezes. I remember listening to Dennis on the radio when I lived in L.A. He eventually left for the east coast, but returned a few years ago and is again hosting a program at KUSC. I still am a fan through the magic of the Internet, KUSC being one of the stations I often listen to. (I love hearing about rush hour and smog alerts.)

I was surprised at how good Voyeurs is. It is a collection of short stories. They are well-crafted, literate, interesting, amusing. The reason I am bringing it up here is that one of the fun things about the book is how Norwalk and Southern California in general form a subtle background to many of the stories. You will read about someone driving down the 605, or growing up around dairy farms. Some of the references are subtle and will likely be missed by those who didn't grow up there.

I would recommend you pick up a copy at the library, but unfortunately it has not been widely collected. You will have better luck buying it online at Amazon or a similar site. Used copies can be had cheaply. When you are finished reading it, pass it on to another Norwalkian.

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Peanut butter

We have been using PBwiki for the family gift wiki. (If you don't know about the gift wiki, you really need to talk to me or someone in the know.) When you log on next to find out what to buy me for Christmas, you may notice that you are redirected and the name is now PBworks. Your password will still work, but you might want to go ahead and update your bookmark to

They are making change because they want to appeal to a more corporate market. Evidently, Peanut Butter Works is more professional sounding than Peanut Butter Wiki. Or something.

Monday, April 27, 2009

What a Wonderful World

Today is my father's birthday. He would have been 96 years old. This song was played at his funeral -- I think Jenny put it together. Every time I hear the song now, I remember him.

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Type and find it

One of the really powerful things about Firefox is the many community members who write extensions that add lots of functionality and gee-whiz features to the browser. Not everything is in the add-ons, however. The generic browser itself has some pretty neat feature if you spend a little time customizing it.

One feature is not completely obvious from the options menu. (For PC's start with Tools / Options. For Linux and Mac, start with Edit / Preferences.) Navigate to the Advanced section and look under the General tab. You will see some Accessibility options. One of these is for "Search for text when I start typing." It comes unchecked as its default, so go ahead and check it. Close the options/preferences window.

Now you are ready to try it. Start typing the word options. You will see Firefox start to highlight its first occurrence on the page. Press the F3 key and Firefox will jump to the next occurrence. Try it several times, then use shift-F3 to go back the other way. Also note that Firefox has opened up a small window in the bottom left of your browser screen. The word you are searching for appears there. You will also see icons to help you go forward or backward, as well as to highlight all instances of the word (or words) you are searching. This same menu can be pulled up using the Edit / Find menu. Similarly, you can cycle through your searches using the ctrl-G and shift-ctrl-g key combinations. Firefox is rarely content with giving you only a single way of doing something.

Not only can you use the F3 and other keys to cycle through a page to look for your term, but when you navigate to another page you can do the same thing without re-entering your search.

You can use find features in other browsers, but I don't know any among the standard ones that offer as much power and as many options as in Firefox. If you haven't been using Firefox, try it and find out why it has the reputation for being so much faster, more secure, and more powerful than IE/Internet Explorer.

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Doodle it

Sometimes it is tough scheduling events for a large family, or for lots of friends. Coordinating everyone's schedule usually involves a lot of back-and-forth until you finally find a time slot that works for everyone. Here is where Doodle can help you.

Doodle does two things for you. First, it allows you to easily poll everyone and find out their opinion on something -- for example, do you prefer potato chips or tortilla chips with your Duke Dip? Second, you can create a schedule of options for when you want to do something, such as take a vacation, have a picnic, come paint my bedroom.

Once you create the poll (which is all menu driven and very easy to do), you just give a URL to everyone who you want to participate. They click it, put in their response, and away you go. You have to have an account to create a poll, but not to just vote.

It takes longer to explain it than to just do it, so I created a couple of samples for you. Normally, I would e-mail the link to you, but for the sample below you can just click and go.

  1. Where do you want to vacation next?
  2. When are you free to take a vacation?

There are various options in creating a poll. For example, I didn't select specific times of day to ask when you wanted to vacation, since I am really just interested in the days. I configured mine so everyone can see the results, but you could mask this from the participants if you wanted, for example, to let everyone vote without being influenced by others. You can also elect to be notified when someone votes if you use a news reader (RSS type feed).

Go ahead and start Doodling now. It is a good step toward becoming more organized.

Sunday, March 29, 2009

Dipping In

One thing that is so interesting about family stories and traditions is how slippery they can be, as slippery as mayonnaise. What we assume is true and commonly known by our most intimate relations can morph as they are told from one person to the other, from one year to the next. Sometimes it is better to just confront things in the clear light of day, where we say, "I didn't know that" or "Is that really the way you remember it?"

I got the idea for this blog thinking it would be a nice way for me to share with the extended family little techno tips I run across periodically and that I sometimes e-mail out. Then I thought it would be a good way for others to share the techno tips they think are cool or useful. Then I thought, why limit this to techno tips? Why not any tip? It could be a good recipe you found, or a way to fix something that you never knew before, or how to get from Long Beach to Rancho Cucamonga three minutes faster and not get arrested. It could be a chicken raising tip. Or a baby raising tip. We are going to need baby tips soon. And beyond tips, why not just make it a family blog where we can just use it as another way to communicate? Like when you want to make Duke Dip but are not real clear what goes into it. You can come to this blog and find out.

(Here is a techno tip. See that box in the panel that says Dippers? You can sign in there and you will receive an e-mail whenever a new post is made to this blog. You don't have to remember and check all the time, or try and remember how RSS feeds work. Nifty, eh?)

Why this blog is called Duke Dip will be obvious to all of us in the Duke extended family. It is one of the traditions that bind us together stronger than any cream cheese, because we all know the recipe and share it and improve on it through taste buds nurtured in the womb. Sharing things is one of the things that make families so warm and cozy. Especially our family. We do a good job of it. If you have a tip of any sort to share, you can post it to the blog, just like you were sitting in the family room eating chips and dip and talking and laughing with the family. Or post a story here. Or a memory. Or a question that one of us may know the answer to. I will authorize you all to write things here. It is not a closed blog, so anyone can look at it. Feel welcome to tell your friends about it if you think there is something here they might be interested in. I probably won't be authorizing those outside the family to post, but they can certainly use one of us as a proxy.

So, have fun. Be helpful. Dip in.

Antonia's Dip

Step 1: call Dad and have him remind me of the recipe

Workaround if he is once again ignoring my calls:

Ingredients: cream cheese, cottage cheese, mayo, Worcestershire sauce, black pepper.

Put cream cheese in a bowl, add scoops of cottage cheese & mayo until it tastes good. Dash with Worcestershire sauce and pepper. Serve with the ripple potato chips. Go to the gym afterward.

Hmm. Looking at this, I'm doubting the mayo. Is that for real? Cottage cheese, cream cheese, AND mayo? No wonder it tastes so good.

Darien's Dip

This is how I remember it:

  • 8 oz. cream cheese
  • small container cottage cheese
  • garlic salt
  • couple dashes of Worcestershire

Gladys' Dip

Here's what was "told" to me:

  • 1 (8oz) cream cheese
  • 1 container cottage cheese (16 oz)
  • Heaping Tbs. mayonnaise
  • 3 shakes Worcestershire sauce
  • 3 garlic cloves pressed or garlic salt
  • small can evaporated milk

Mix first 5 ingredients well. Add canned milk until dippable.

Jeff's Dip

Note: Most measurements are approximations and the chef is encouraged to creatively adjust amounts and ingredients to suit their taste. Chopped chives and green onion tops made appearances in the dip for a few seasons.

  • 8 oz cream cheese, softened to room temperature
  • small curd cottage cheese, 1 ½ to 2 cups
  • Worcestershire sauce, 1 to 2 tsp
  • garlic salt, a couple of good shakes
  • As needed, mayonnaise or canned milk
  • Potato chips or crudités for dipping

Beat the softened cream cheese in a medium-sized mixing bowl with a fork and then stir in 1 ½ cups of cottage cheese. Add enough Worcestershire sauce to slightly color the dip. Stir in a couple of dashes of garlic salt. Taste. If any of the seasonings are too strong, add more cottage cheese. If the dip is too thick or not creamy, add a tbsp of mayonnaise or canned milk. Taste again. Why not taste yet again? You made it while everyone else lounged around and who is going to see you? Transfer to serving bowl and scrape any remaining dip out with a potato chip and taste one more time. Cover and chill while hamburgers are grilling. Stir before serving adding additional milk or mayonnaise if your tester chip breaks.

Jen's Dip

I am quite shocked at this request. Duke Dip, as true Dukes know, does not come from a recipe. Rather, the ability to make Duke Dip is genetic. A Duke may also magically transfer the birthright for this delicious concoction by marrying his or her true love, especially if the Duke Dip gene is recessed. As proof, I submit evidence that Duke Dip divined by Gladys is quite delicious and authentic. If you want the "recipe," I question whether you are, in fact, my brother. I will tell you my secrets, but please know this is quite difficult, as it would be challenging for me to explain how I breathe, digest food or some other innate ability. You may attribute my delayed response to two factors. First, I have been conflicted and suffered several sleepless nights since learning that we may not be related. I have decided that continuing to interact with your wife and children outweigh the fact that you probably come from a different bloodline and you should be disowned. Second, I needed to make Duke Dip MANY times in order to take some notes so that I may pass along these family secrets. As proof, I submit the 5-gallon tub of Duke Dip in my refrigerator. If Jeff has not yet responded, well it's because we're out of these ingredients:

  • cream cheese (room temperature)
  • mayonnaise
  • garlic salt or garlic powder
  • cottage cheese
  • Worcestershire sauce
  • canned milk (optional if one doesn't have any open)

Allow cream cheese to get to room temperature (to soften) then mash with a fork. Add about half as much mayo as cream cheese and mix until smooth. Stir in cottage cheese - about the same amount of cottage cheese as the cream cheese/mayo mixture. Season with garlic salt/powder and Worcestershire sauce. Thin with some milk to reach the right consistency. Use plenty of chips to sample and make sure it tastes just right.

Jim's Dip

  • Philadelphia cream cheese -- Leave it out of refrigerator until soft.
  • Add milk and cottage cheese to soften to proper consistency.
  • Add garlic powder, Worcestershire sauce. Refrigerate.

Tips to Perfect Duke Dip: Let the Philadelphia cheese soften before mixing in other ingredients. Don't use too much garlic salt if you are feeding non-family in a public setting. Don't use so much Worcestershire that the dip becomes off-white in color. Remember to use upper case letters when you include "Worcestershire" and "Philadelphia" in the recipe. Enjoy on sandwiches and salads, too!

That's how I make it.

P.S. John, don't forget the Mayo!

Jody's Dip

  • 1 small carton cottage cheese
  • 1 lg pkg cream cheese (softened)
  • 3 garlic cloves (pressed)
  • 2 T mayonnaise
  • few drops Worcestershire sauce
  • evaporated milk to thin to dipping consistency

I add a little more or less of the ingredients depending on how it tastes and it always tastes better the next day.

John's Dip

  • 16 oz cup cottage cheese, small curd
  • 8 oz Philadelphia cream cheese, room temperature
  • Bunch of mayonnaise
  • Just enough Worcestershire sauce to keep the color more white than muddy
  • Garlic salt
  • Condensed milk (old school) or regular milk. Enough to make the dip creamy but not runny.

Mash up the softened cream cheese with a fork, adding mayonnaise and milk to help it along. Stir in cottage cheese, then other ingredients. Taste frequently with your finger until the taste and texture is right, then taste some more with your choice of chip. If there is any left, serve to the rest of the folk. Marvel at the goodness.

Martha's Dip

Your note on Duke Dip got me to thinking how and when I ever came across the recipe. No clue.

  • Small Philadelphia creamed cheese, softened
  • pint of regular small curd cottage cheese
  • tsp of garlic powder or to taste
  • Worcestershire sauce. Use the wine one and it doesn't color it. If too thick for dipping, thin with sour cream or reg cream

Best I can come up with. I forgot -- I add a heaping spoon of Mayo.