Friday, November 19, 2010

Which e-Reader for Christmas?


This seems to be the year of the e-Reader.  While I'm still a confirmed paper addict, the newest generation of e-Readers is getting close to changing my mind.
I've been reading e-books on my PC and on my Palm (don't laugh) for years now, so I do have some experience with ebooks, but I've never really considered them a good substitute for the real thing.  Still, with some books coming out only as ebooks (also those that are out of print or the stuff at the Gutenberg project), these readers are becoming more valuable, even as their prices decline.  So, here are some of my thoughts on the current options:
  • Kindle has done the most to popularise the category, largely based on Amazon's being the largest single bookseller in the world.  They have done almost everything right with this, from making it very easy to buy books, to updating the hardware regularly and significantly.
  • Sony, Nook, and Kobo seem to be the next level of players, mostly because of the bookstore advantage which Amazon has - even over Border's and Barnes & Noble.  Still, their hardware is basically on a par with the Kindle line.
  • Apple's iPad seems like a reasonable alternative - even sporting a Kindle app - but while it can read lots of ebook formats, the battery life and the reading experience using a backlit LCD panel is a bit sub-optimal.
  • WiFi and USB are more than adequate for getting books into a reader - 3G is probably nice, but shopping on your Kindle seems a lot less convenient than shopping on your PC, which means you can order there and either WiFi it in or USB it in.
So, what's my recommendation for your Christmas shopping this year?
I'd go with the latest Kindle WiFi version.  It has a 6" screen (nice e-ink for reading anywhere paper would have worked), can store more books than my living room shelves (at least I think so, I'll have to count them up when I get home), and has battery life to spare.

If you feel the need for 3G, it's only $50, but I'd rather spend that on some books or a case and light.

There you have it - Enjoy!

Monday, November 15, 2010

Carnage du Jour - 09 November 2010


A nice taste of the Belgian Provinces tonight: trout braised in beer and herbs!

I had a couple of Trout filets (Ruby Red, as the fishmonger would call them), and it was time to cook them up, so what to try this time?
Aha! Drop them in a baking dish, cover with a bottle of beer (I used a bottle of Ichabod pumpkin ale) add a bay leaf and a few sprigs of fresh thyme from the herb garden and let them marinate until it was obvious that they fish had absorbed a bunch of the beer (and thus the herb flavours as well).
Then, into the oven to bake at 350 for about 20 minutes, as I recall.  At any rate, it was until the fish flaked nicely.  Removing them to a warmed platter, the liquid, with the herbs removed, was poured into a sauce pan to be thickened by boiling and then the addition of some creme fraiche.
An accompaniment of lima beans and a nice rice rounded out a very enjoyable repast.

(By the way, the cookbook on which this was based is A Taste of the Belgian Provinces by Enid Gordon - highly recommended as a fun and useful cookbook.)

Sunday, November 14, 2010

A Great Appliance


I don't know how many of you remember those old Daisy Seal-A-Meal commercials, but the real thing these days is actually a great addition to the kitchen.  I have a feeling those early ones were kind of a waste of money, but not the ones that are around today.  In fact, this might be a nice gift item for the right person (i.e. the type of person who won't be offended at receiving a utilitarian gift rather than an extravagance - or maybe you should just make it in addition to an extravagance to be safe).

We've had a Food Saver machine for a few years, and it is quite spectacular.  I'm not sure which model it is, but it has held up pretty well over that period, given that it's been sealing lots of food every week for those years.  Fresh food sealed into the custom-fit vacuum bags last vastly longer than in other packaging, and the plastic of the bags is sturdy enough to handle the freezer quite well.
In fact, having no air in the bag when it's dropped into the freezer means freezer burn is basically eliminated from the get-go.  Oh, and the bags are good enough to wash and reuse, so it's not like we're adding tons of plastic to the world's landfills either.

All around, they pay for themselves in short order, and are highly recommended to all and sundry.