I have a reputation, perhaps deserved, of being generally grumpy and hateful. In the spirit of the Holiday Season, I thought I would try and dispel this notion by listing many things that I like, in no particular order.
I had a cheap Pavoni burr grinder that I had used for the last 5 or 6 years for my home coffee needs. I don’t need much from a coffee grinder. I make coffee with a french press or a moka pot. So all a grinder has to do is go from super coarse to medium fine easily. The Pavoni always worked fine, except for the layer of fine coffee dust that it spewed everywhere. Finally, after years of abuse, coffee stopped falling into the burrs, so I decided to get something new.
It may seem strange to spend more than $100 on a coffee mill, and it did seem strange to me at the time. But the Solis is really a thing of beauty. You can set it from french press coarse to Turkish Coffee fine in one easy twist. Whatever the setting, it generates coffee grounds of a uniform fineness without spraying dust and without a huge amount of static, even in Pittsburgh winters. It’s also easy to clean, so it won’t sit uncleaned like the Pavoni did for 6 years.
Rose Tea Cafe
Rose Tea has gone from a purveyor of an odd Asian drink craze to simply the best Chinese food in Pittsburgh period. The home style Taiwanese food that they serve here is actually good enough for me to want to go even if I’ve recently eaten my mom’s food. In fact, it is much like my mom’s food, which is why it simply rules.
Chopstick Inn has a larger menu, but IMHO it is not as well executed. Here are some dishes that Rose Tea does that are so good they will make you weep with joy:
- Shredded pork with pressed bean curd.
- Any of the whole fish
- Taiwanese Chunk Chicken.
- Pork Stomach and Duck Blood.
- Beef Stew (the stewed beef is actually cooked long enough).
- Taiwanese style rice cakes (just like mom’s).
- Chinese greens that are always cooked right. Not just every other time you go.
- The pickled cabbage appetizer
- The Taiwanese sausage appetizer
- The soy sauce eggs (just like mom’s).
All this and good prices too. I used to rate Chinese places in Pittsburgh by how many different sauce colors they had on their menu. It is therefore something of a watershed to have a place in town that has two brown sauces that are completely different in flavor. There is finally real Chinese food in Pittsburgh. Go get it.
P.S. If I catch you in P.F. Chang’s, I’ll kill you with my bare hands.
My G4 Powerbook
I do almost all my computing on my laptop.
That’s pretty much it. If the software I worked on weren’t quite so large, I would not even use the G5 tower at work. But I’ve gotten used to the fast build times. The fact that I use this machine basically 24/7 and it has not failed in two years makes me like it. It’s also silent, except when it gets hot. I love that.
It’s a power brick that gives you wireless network anywhere there is an ethernet tap. What more could you want?
The modern game console
As I discussed in more detail elsewhere it’s just not possible to go wrong with console game machines these days. The current set of consoles are better than their PC counterparts in almost every way and an order of magnitude cheaper. You can buy all of the major brands (GameCube, Xbox, PS2) and a few games for each for the price of that graphics card and monitor you need to play DOOM 3. So I did.
Counterstrike and Xbox Live
Halo 2 and Half-Life 2 may be prettier and feature excellent single player gameplay, but nothing is more fun to me than a few rounds of Counterstrike with my Xbox Live buddies against bots. Xbox Live makes creating and joining the game session quick and painless, and the intense pace, team based gameplay (always with headsets) is simply too good to really pass up.
Counterstrike:Source on the PC is prettier, but leaves the gameplay unchanged, and the current server browser system is so bad that it will make a strong man break down into uncontrollable weeping. The other day, tilt and I tried to get into a game together (I have a PC at work I use for this, it’s a long story). Here is how it went:
- We both fire up the game.
- We search for servers.
- We log on to the “friends” list.
- He makes a server I cannot see.
- Niether of us is online for the other.
- Look for a common server to join.
- Can’t do name filtering on the list of 350000 servers.
- Dance around for 20min. By pure luck, get into one server by accident, but the game ends.
- Even though we are both live and active in a server, neither one of us is listed as online in the friends list.
- Spend 10min trying to get to another server. Fail.
- Decide to play Xbox that night.
I am never playing any online game that isn’t on Xbox Live or some other similarly centralized service. Life is too short.
A couple of years ago, we got a new kitchen. As part of this work, we replaced the old underpowered cooktop with a new shiny overpriced cooktop. This stove is a wonder of the modern world. Unlike others I looked at, all five burners put out roughly the same range of heat. Most other cooktops have “high power” and “low power” burners, which sucks. Most others especially suck because they put the high power burners on the left side of the stove, which is simply wrong (that’s a long story).
My favorite thing about this stove is that on the one hand it can put out enough heat that I never have to worry about my saute going flat because I add a bit of cold stuff to the pan, and on the other hand, you can turn the stove on at the lowest simmer it will do and the burner will light at precisely the level you want. No hiccups. Since I got this stove, for reasons I don’t completely understand, a lot of dishes I make involving long simmers suddenly started to work better. Now, I don’t really believe that the stove did this for me, but it certainly made it easier for this to happen.
For reference, this is a DCS CT-365 five burner gas cooktop.
Finally mail done right. No stupid folders, just fast search. This is the future way of all things.
The Bruckner Symphonies
Of all the great warhorses in the Classical Canon, I think these are the most compelling. Bruckner wrote huge expansive and abstract meditations that are infused with an intense spirituality. Nowhere in music is there a stronger mix of the intellectual and the emotional. If you can sit in a concert hall and not get chills when the orchestra hits one of the massive brass chorales in the later (6th, 7th, or 8th) Symphonies, then you are emotionally dead.
For The Record
My favorite record store on the planet. This store has been in the middle of Amherst, MA for almost my entire life. It started out as an annex in a larger store, but soon became a standalone entity. I love it because the people who run it know what they are doing and have an encyclopedic knowledge of what they carry. They are not the biggest store on the planet, but they stock the most consistently excellent collection of music in all areas that I have had the pleasure of browsing. The guy that runs the Classical section is particularly wonderful and seems to know exactly where every single classical recording in the store is and when it was ordered or when it will be ordered or how many copies they have in stock on a given day.
For The Record is a testimony to the local shop run by people who love music and records more than they love money. The prices are also much better than average.