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My Must-Have Mac Apps

This cross country move has me scrambling to ensure my Mac ... or rather, my data, makes it across in one piece. And when I say "data", I mean:


  • Personal files & folders (movies, music, photos, documents, etc.)
  • Logins & Passwords
  • Software Licenses
  • Emails, contact info, calendars
  • Other confidential information (I have my passport scanned to my Mac - personally, this has been a major timesaver in filling out immigration paperwork for both me & the Missus)


So as I take a break from figuring out what to back up and what to leave be, I thought I'd pen a little post on some of the Mac utility apps that I absolutely must have, either on my iMac, or on other Macs I work with.


  1. 1Password: I got 1Password a long time ago as part of my first MacHeist bundle. And I didn't realize what I had, until I saw this positively illuminating video (embedded below) from Macworld. Suffice it to say at this point, I would be very hard pressed to remember the legion of logins across dozens of websites I commonly use.
  2. AppZapper: I got AppZapper as part of the same MacHeist bundle as 1Password, I think. It's a marvelous little program that'll ferret out all the application code, preferences, and other working files to ensure a true uninstall takes place.
  3. DropBox: OK, not an "application" in the strictest sense of the word, but online backup utility that runs on your Mac. But combine it with 1Password, and you've got your logins, and other confidential information shared across all Macs with DropBox ... as this other video from Macworld shows!
  4. NetNewsWire: Best news reader I've used. Now with Google Reader synchronization!
  5. SuperDuper: Clone your Mac hard drive with SuperDuper, so you have a bootable drive to take with you, or to restore from, in the event of a hard drive failure.
  6. MobileMe: Again, not an "application" per se, but I use MobileMe to keep my iPhone & my address book & calendars in sync, across multiple computers.

What about you, readers (all 5 of you)? Any Mac users out there with must-have utilities?


What's In A Name?

As some of you may know, the Missus & I are moving to the Bay Area. And that means I've got to change this blog's name. But I'm scratching my head over what it should be.

Now from a common sense perspective, I'd like to leave out names of places. "Musings From New York" would become "Musings From Palo Alto" which at some indeterminate time might become "Musings From Timbuktu" and so on, and that's obviously cumbersome.

I already have the tagline: "When 140 Characters Isn't Long Enough". Since most of my communication these days is via Twitter, this blog has evolved into a means of posting lengthier thoughts, photos, and so on.

So ... does anyone have any useful suggestions?


Foodtacular Results

I know, I know ... I'd said I'd blog about my results in the Foodtacular Challenge, but to be honest, I didn't do that well. I ended up cooking 2 dishes out of 4, since I ended up going to a "Mixologist Event" with Alef & Raj, and that led to dinner at DBGB ... and that led to hangovers & queasy stomach the next night. Anyway, here are details of two dishes.


Fettucini Alfredo with Pancetta & Peas

 A few months ago, the Missus & I took a stroll down 2nd Avenue and stumbled upon a tiny Italian restaurant (that has since been closed by the Department of Health & Sanitation), and I ended up having this dish. It's absolutely delish, if made right - rich and creamy sauce, sweet peas, some bit from freshly cracked black pepper, and a bit of protein from the Pancetta. I decided to try to recreate the dish at home, since I had the following qualifications: (a) I have cooked pasta, and (b) I had peas in the freezer.


I won't go into the details of how I made the sauce .. there are plenty of recipes that cary the proportions slightly, but end up with the same thing. Instead, I'll leave you with some key takeaways, and lessons learnt:


  • Use good cheese. Don't skimp and use the CostCo stuff. Class it up a bit with a trip to Whole Foods! The CostCo cheese was pretty much inedible. Looking back, it's a wonder I managed to eat anything.
  • Know how to cook pancetta. I still don't know how to ... I ended up with semi-burnt crunchy bits in my pasta


I recreated this dish for the Missus (minus the pancetta, and with good cheese), and it was pretty good. I give myself a B- for effort the first attempt, and a B+ for results the second time around.


Shrimp Stir-Fry

I'd picked up a copy of the Food Network Magazine, which happened to run an article on simple stir fry recipes, and I decided to try a shrimp stir fry with the spicy sauce. I didn't have ALL the ingredients, but tried to substitute the best I could (corn flour is the same as corn meal, right?)

Anyhoo ...

Again, I'm not going to bore you with the recipe, but let me share my biggest lesson learnt (learned?):

Have everything ready to hit the wok!

I didn't realize it at the time, but the wok is so hot, it'll cook the veggies or protein in no time. So there's no time ripping open packets of veggies or opening bottles of sauces while the garlic is burning on the stove, and the smoke's setting off your neighbor's alarms.

At the end of the ... umm, experience, the food was certainly edible. The flavors, not so great, but I think that was more from the sauce/ marinade combo than from any mistakes. I give myself a C+ for effort!


A Foodtacular Challenge!

The better half will be out of town for the next week, and normally that would mean putting a number of local eateries on speed dial. However, this time around, I've decided I'm going to cook a new dish for dinner every night from Monday to Thursday*.


Given my general ineptitude when it comes to cooking, I spent some time carefully weighing out the pros & cons of this challenge. For example:

  • I would be cooking at home (pro), but I might not like the end result (con); 
  • I would be trying interesting new dishes (pro), but I might end up buying (relatively) exotic ingredients that I'd never use again (con);
  • I would be expanding my culinary knowledge (pro), but would have a ton of dishes to wash every night (con)

And so on ... you get the idea. Nonetheless, I have unfathomably decided to publicly humiliate myself, which might hopefully lead me to never having to cook for the rest of my life (which might not be that long, given I'd be eating my own cooking for a week).

I've already scoped out a number of interesting recipes to try - from stir fries, to simple seeming pasta dishes. I'll post a photo here along with a recipe and completely honest accounts of how I made them.

Wish me luck!


*Why Monday to Thursday? Well, I'm travelling to Boston on Friday, and this Sunday's the Superbowl. 


The Three Most Memorable Videogames of the "Noughties"!

The Instance podcast recently discussed an article on Gamasutra about the best games of the decade (defined as "2000-2009", for you decade purists out there). No surprise (at least, not to me), World of Warcraft was on top. Anyway, listening to them discuss their picks & thoughts on the article inspired me to write up my own little list ... (fanfare) The Three Most Memorable Videogames of the "Noughties". Now this list is culled from games I've played (and I tend to favor RPGs) - not the entire universe of games released during those 10 years.

1. World of Warcraft (PC): Absolutely no surprise there. I can't think of a game that's provided me with constant delight, for such a long time. I've played the game since shortly after its debut in 2004, and have gone from being a hardcore "raider" to a solo casual player, and ended up somewhat in the middle. I've experienced great fun with the various guilds I've been a part of, and experienced frustration & heartbreak because of the various guilds I've been a part of (for any WoW players that may be listening - my guild imploded just before we were about to face Ragnaros for the first time in Molten Core. It was several weeks before we recovered). Apart from Blizzard, I really need to thank my wife for her resigned patience in allowing me to play! For those who followed my occasional WoW posts back in the day, here is what my main character looks like now.

Trailer to Wrath of the Lich King


2. Baldur's Gate II: Shadows of Amn & Baldur's Gate II: Throne of Bhaal (PC): Sequels to the original Baldur's Gate (1998), the BG2 series to me represents the pinnacle of "epic" storytelling in an RPG. The original BG was epic in it's own right - taking the player from cruelly orphaned waif to a child of an evil God. The sequels took that character's development further, and crucially wove permanent "world events" into the plot, so that the player became a baron (and had to deal with bandits and the like), or had a statue erected in honor of the party's defeat of a local gnoll menace, and so on. The culmination of the trilogy left the player with a choice - to abandon mortal friends and become a God, or renounce godhood and continue to live with friends. I always chose to become a God, for some reason.

The trailer to Baldur's Gate II: Shadows of Amn


The opening to Baldur's Gate II: Throne of Bhaal

3. Grand Theft Auto III and Grand Theft Auto: Vice City (PS2): GTA III was my introduction to console gaming. I had never experienced the "sandbox" environment before, and it was absolutely delightful to be able to wander around - and crucially, interact with - an entire city. The hook that kept me coming back again, and again, was the stellar soundtrack, especially the talk radio. This was also the first GTA game to feature the controls & interface that we're now used to.

GTA Vice City was an equally delightful romp around an 80's Miami. It was the first GTA that really brought out (some might say "caracture-ized") the pop-culture of the environment it was set in. While I think it lacked the humor of GTA III, I can honestly say that my favorite GTA moment was a slo-mo stunt jump on a motorbike with REO Speedwagon belting out "Keep On Lovin' You" on the game's radio. You just had to be there, I guess.

GTA: San Andreas was pretty boring to me. The game forced the player to needlessly micromanage the main character ... feeling hungry? Go to a restaurant. But don't eat too much, cos you won't be able to run as fast. So then you've got to hit the gym, but don't work out too much, or else ... Aargh! I gave up about 20% of the way in. I just couldn't deal with it!

GTA IV is awesome. A return to form, definitely. It's funny too ... just not as funny as GTA III!

By the way, you know you've hit pop culture gold when you're parodied on The Chappelle Show, and SNL!

Trailer for Grand Theft Auto III

Trailer for Grand Theft Auto Vice City