Culinary Peace in the Middle East

Yesterday the second and final day of Purim. So we made latkes! We only do this once or twice per year, and this weekend just felt right. The actual holiday of Purim coinciding with our jones was just serendipity.

Monday we’re instructing pals Andrea and Alex and Benjamin (and her parents, and their neighbors) in the fine art of Shawarma. Along with that, we’ll be preparing tabbouleh (they go so nicely together). We seldom take our show on the road, so wish us luck.

Dresden, here we come

Sarah and I have nailed down our vacation plans for the coming week. We’re headed to Dresden for 4 days of exploring a new (to us) place that used to be a separate country without having to change currencies, language (much), or even get on a plane.

We’re doing it all via public ground transportation. Dresden’s pretty famous for that.

We head out Tuesday morning early on on a train to Hof, where we transfer to a train to Dresden. Oddly, connections on local/inter-regional (read: slower, older, noisier) trains were faster (not to mention cheaper) than connections on new, modern, clean, quiet ICE trains. Go figure.

When we get there, we’ll be staying at the Radisson. Sarah found a deal on Expedia.de. Let’s hope this works out better than the last one of those we tried — we booked what looked like a sweet room at the Le Meridien Russell Square in London and found out the the hotel was in the process of becoming worthy of the Le Meridien name. In other words, the room was pretty much a dump. Our pocket guide to Dresden puts the Radisson in the “Luxus” class though, so our hopes are still pretty high.

While we’re there, we plan on our usual exploration and reporting activities. But this time, we’re meeting up with pseudo-locals: B., the webmistress over at eurotrippen.com, who has lived there for some time and has already given us numerous tips.

Watch this space; the Radisson has free internet access, so a daily update should be possible.

freaky weather and calm, assertive energy

It’s been doing weird stuff here lately. Fierce, sudden winds, surprise snow, hail, and freezing rain storms, and all this after last week hit the 60°F mark.

flash snow storm!

The guy below looks pretty tame, right?
Charlie posed

He even fooled me into thinking that I could work some Cesar Millan-style magic on him. Actually, that stuff does work on him indoors, but outside on his leash, even saddled with Apfelschorle bottles for extra resistance, he is constantly trying to assert his pack leadership. Christina took Sarah and me out for a rousing hike through the woods around Laaber and Young Master Charles was a force to be reckoned with. He accepts the leash and initially responds well to hisses, foot taps, and other assertions of pack leadership, but it became clear to me that he was just waiting me out. He didn’t mind tugging at all. He did do a surprisingly good job of following my instructions to calmly wait for approaching dogs to get their freak on, thereby thoroughly embarrassing their humans.
Cliff and Charlie, pre-walk

can’t stop eating cheese

I can’t stop eating cheese lately. I have no good explanation for this, other than that it is delicous.

Off the top of my head, over the last three days or so:

…and there’s some more Chavroux in the fridge waiting for me.

I think I need to go to France again.

spring redesign

It’s not really all that new, but I’m sprucing up a design idea I had last year while Sarah and I were visiting our pals Margot and Nick — going for something a little greener.

Never fear though: if you prefer the older Regensblog design, it’s still available. Just check out the menu bar on the left (or right, it’s up to you really) and find the section near the top called “Themey Stuff.” I’ve also put a similar design in there inspired by my walks around Regensburg at night called “Ghost on the Bridge.” I got the idea for user-switchable themes from B. over at Eurotrippen — her site is so slick!

If you find any inconsistencies or formatting problems, please let me know about them.

the irony just kills me — but not my work ethic

Today starts my vacation! I’m not officially working again until March 31st.

This vacation isn’t voluntary (unlike the involuntary vacation I got in 5th grade… but that’s quite another story). I have to use up 5 more days of vacation left over from last year, or else I actually get paid less. And I’m not allowed to accrue more than 200 hours of overtime (actually, at 150 hours accrued, alarm bells are supposed to rouse us out of our slumber meetings and inspire us, together with our management, to develop a short-term overtime reduction plan). And I’m not allowed to average more than 180 hours worked per month on a quarterly basis (I’m fudging the numbers here a bit, because the HR coordinator in our department read me the riot act and then gave me the 13-page “work time law” on paper for my reading pleasure , but it’s something like that). What’s the big deal? I’m risking my bosses’ status as free men.

Wie bitte? This is about as weird as not being allowed to call Dr. Tammy “Frau Doktor”, which I very much enjoy.

If I work too much, cause some kind of accident (or maybe go postal), guess who gets in trouble? Well, practically, of course, I do (not to mention Sarah). But also the guy signing my time sheets.

This of course is not good for the company; it is unacceptable for people whose titles include the terms “Vice President” to be open to prosecution like that. So I’m taking pretty much the rest of this month off (with thanks to the Easter holidays as well). And it’ll be tough, but it’s better for the company if I just don’t work on Fridays during the month of April.

using my Microsoft trackball on linux

I have a very cluttered desk. In addition to the two monitors, two keyboards, two pointing devices (that’s what you call your mice if at least one of them is a trackball or trackpad), two webcams, two microphones, and two iPods, there is a ton of garbage, loose cables, photo paper, a CD spindle or two, post cards we bought and never sent, CDs awaiting import into iTunes, etc.

I don’t have a lot of room for all my stuff. For that reason I like my trackball. I got The Man™ to pay for my Microsoft Ergonomic Keyboard and also Trackball back in the day in Troy, but the stipulation was that I couldn’t take them with me when I left (why the hell not? I can’t imagine anyone else being happy to inherit them) for Regensburg four years ago.

No matter, I asked Den Mann™ replace my keyboard here in Germany with the Microsoft Ergonomic keyboard after a couple years, but I was still missing my trackball. I coughed up for a used one on eBay and am pretty happy with it, but until today, I hadn’t been able to get the little midget buttons to the left and right of the main buttons to work. I mostly wanted them to work as surrogate browser Back and Forward buttons like I remember from MSIE 4 or 5 back in the day.

Some quick googling revealed that I am not alone! Turns out it’s not a fix that has to happen in Firefox at all, but rather an X11 tweak. I found it on launchpad.net:

Don’t forget to save a copy of your xorg.conf file first, in case you have to revert to it later!

Currently this can only be made to work in firefox and not in nautlis, yelp, ... with the following workaround:
1. Open a terminal and enter the following command:
$ sudo nano /etc/X11/xorg.conf
2. Change the "Configured Mouse" protocol to:
Option "Protocol" "Auto"
3. Add the following following line (this maps horizontal scrolling to your back and forward mouse button, horizontal scrolling by default has back and forward actions in firefox):
Option "ButtonMapping" "1 2 3 6 7"
It should look like this:
Section "InputDevice"
Identifier "Configured Mouse"
Driver "mouse"
Option "CorePointer"
Option "Device" "/dev/input/mice"
Option "Protocol" "Auto"
Option "ZAxisMapping" "4 5"
Option "ButtonMapping" "1 2 3 6 7"
Option "Emulate3Buttons" "true"
EndSection
4. Restart X (Ctrl-Alt-Backspace).

Meatballs

I’ve made meatballs a few times, but I never got around to posting a recipe for them. Finally I did a sampling of several recipes to see exactly what the common elements were and…well, improvised. I like my meatballs baked instead of fried – no need to add more oil.

1 1/2 c fresh bread crumbs
1/3 c milk
1 T olive oil
1 tsp dried oregano
2 tsp dried basil
1 tsp dried parsley
1/4 tsp dried red pepper flakes
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp ground black pepper
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 c grated Parmesan or Grana Padano cheese
1 1/2 lbs ground beef
2 eggs, lightly beaten

Preheat oven to 450° F. Combine everything except meat and egg in a large bowl and stir until just mixed. Add meat and egg and stir gently until just integrated. Line a cookie sheet with foil and spray lightly with cooking spray. Roll your meatballs gently and bake on the cookie sheet for 15-25 minutes (shorter if you’re simmering them in a sauce, longer if want them done all the way through). After taking meatballs out, place them on paper towels to drain for a couple of minutes. Makes about 24 golf-ball-sized meatballs.

Skype 2.7 for Mac OS X, 2.0 Beta for Linux

Good news and bad news!

You want the bad news first? OK, here it comes.

I couldn’t get Skype 2.7.0.257 for Mac OS X to work. I used the built-in uploader thing to look for a new version and download and install itself. Then, when trying to log in afterwards, it never worked. The “Signing in…” rotating graphic thing just kept spinning. I tried a couple different approaches:

  • rebooting (sorry — reflex holdover from my Windows days)
  • dragging the Skype application icon from the Applications folder out onto the desktop, and then dragging it back into the Applications folder (this helped, amazingly, with the iSync application after upgrading to Mac OS X 10.5.2 — it was just a shot in the dark)
  • Doing a fresh download of Skype 2.7.0.257 for Mac OS X from www.skype.com and overwriting the previous installation

None of that stuff worked. In the end, I found a copy of version 2.6.0.184 for Mac OS X that I downloaded from www.netzwelt.de which I installed. It appears to work better, since I can log in properly, but I must confess, I haven’t actually tested it yet.

Now for the good news!

I was poking around for an updated version of Skype for use on Linux, and I noticed they’d released a beta version of 2.0 for Linux — including video support! I’ve been waiting for this for a long time. Downloaded the Ubuntu package and with sudo dpkg -i skype-debian_2.0.0.43-1_i386.deb on the command line it was all installed and ready to go. Even better (or actually worse, financially) news: I didn’t need to buy those USB microphone and camera for use with the Mac after all — audio works great on Linux (like it always has) and even my ancient Intel Create & Share CS330 webcam (I remember paying like $50 for it at Costco back in the day) seems like it will work. Haven’t tested it yet directly. Those who know how to reach me on Skype, please do so to take the 2.0 beta on Linux for a spin with me.