Wednesday, September 20, 2006

Text Messaging for Grown Folk

OK, so text messaging won't help this little guy out... (is he on the payroll of the Farmer's Almanac, which is predicting mucho snow this year? Hmm...)pembroke welsh corgi burying himself in snow

Text messaging has been in the news a lot as of late, especially the story about the teen in South Carolina who sent a distress call via text message from her kidnapper's cell phone, which proves that there are uses for text messaging that involve something other than passing e-notes in class.

Why should teens have all the fun? There are uses for text messaging that would benefit anyone, as the quick-witted South Carolina teen showed. One of them is a new (and free!) service from Google. A cell phone, any cell phone, can be used to access Google to obtain answers. Sweet! Best of all, it works--I used it a couple of time to get definitions, using Google's 'define' function. The only limitation might be your cell phone service's text message rates. I'm even getting faster at texting, although I won't be winning contests anytime soon.

Another grown-up use of text messaging, which you may have heard of, as it has received much recent publicity a few weeks ago, is the website, which is a text messenging reminder service. You type your cell phone number, desired date and time, and the message at the website, and at the date/time you specified, a text message reminder will appear on your cell phone. Nice! It's also free, although the program's creator accepts donations.

It's nice to hear good news from the computer world for a change, as so much of it consists of news about the latest virus or Trojan horse or other nefarious plot to make your system take a dive.

Monday, September 18, 2006

Apres le deluge

After leaving work one evening, I headed toward the subway parking garage with fear, trepidation, and self-loathing for putting off a minor purchase.

The day's events, however, impeled me to wait no longer. An impending storm was the impetus for me to finally creep toward my local Radio Shack (yes, the friendly chain with the high-tech employee firing methods), with sheets of rain pounding, to inquire about Grundig radios, the shortwave ones that come with hand cranks as an alternative energy source.

Well, dropping by le shack turned out to be a good thing, as there were, count 'em, not one, not two, but three shiny specimens of the radio species, modern hand crank models.

While two of the three were the Radio Shack brand, I chose the third, most expensive model. (Mind you, it cost, with tax, just over $50, so the hit wasn't too hard.) The other two radios were a reasonable $29.99 each. The machine I purchased, the Eton FR-300, has the curious distinction of being licensed by the American Red Cross. (So, for every such radio purchased, 65 cents goes to the Red Cross.) The reason I chose that model over the other two was that it could also be used to charge a cell phone, and comes with various cell phone adapters for that purpose. Unfortunately, none of those fat-ended adapters fit the newest, sleek cell phone models.

In addition to cranking (which means the radio doubles as an exercise machine!), the device can also be powered by batteries, and comes with three rechargeable ones, although it can run without any batteries, as well, thanks to the crank.

The radio also has a nice strap on top, for easy carrying without a case, but also comes with a strappy black bag that resembles a canvas purse. Nice touch, particularly if you need to carry it out of the house in an emergency...

Anyway, I followed the easy operating instructions and got clear FM reception (eureka!), as well as reception on some of its TV stations. One of the tuning options, unsurprisingly, is a frequency dedicated to the weather.

I cranked the contraption for a minute or so before turning it on; those measly two minutes of arm power made me feel more muscular, and the thing ran for about 15 minutes. As the manual says, playing time is affected by volume as well as the length of time (and rapidity!) of cranking.

A few of the radio's controls, while useful in emergencies, nonetheless give me the willies. (I suppose the possibility of ever needing such equipment is what frightens me.) The 'alert' button is on the left side of one knob, and on the right is the 'siren,' which sandwich the 'off' portion of the knob. Another button has , on its left, 'light,' and on its right, 'flash.' Uh oh...

The sales clerks were as surprised as I to see that there were still such products still on the shelves. I was especially taken aback because the storm was predicted to have the potential of this past June's storms, with all that local flooding.

Because none (that's right, none) of the cell phone adapters worked with my cell phone, my next emergency oriented purchase might be a dedicated cell phone hand crank charger. I thought I saw such an item while glancing through the window of a Verizon Wireless store. You never know...

salt peanuts, salt peanuts...

An unexpected find when picking up a couple of things at Shoppers Food--raw peanuts. Immature raw white (?green) peanuts, as these were, can only mean one thing--time to fix boiled peanuts, that Southern staple! Another woman, from Africa, was as excited as I to find them, and shared tips on preparing the delicacy (specifically, not to boil them for too long, only for an hour or less).

I first tasted the treats over a year ago, when a supervisor brought some to work, and it was instant addiction. Soon after, I asked local stores about them, but none carried them. I then trolled the Internet, which did bring some finds, but the shipping charges made me think twice (and three times).

To be a first-time peanut boiler, I didn't do too badly; the taste of the snacks improves marked, however, upon sitting overnight in the brine, and they can be microwaved so that they will be hot. The flavor is reminiscent of edamame, but the peanuts, even this relatively rare variety, are much cheaper.

Some time back, I stumbled across a study which ventured that boiled peanuts are considerably less allergenic than roasted goobers. Of course, more research needs to be done to verify whether this intriguing hypothesis has a basis in fact, but I'm waiting with baited breath to discover the facts on this debate.

A meditation on pizza--a defense of slow food

Now I realize why people swear by Ledo's Pizza (which I first tried a year ago, when one opened near me), and have their favored pizza emporiums, and know why there is such affection for pizza eaten on premise, regardless of the popularity of delivery pizza (which, I have come to find out, should be considered a different food altogether). Ledo's does not deliver, and while I first thought the stance was unreasonable, I understand it now.

I decided to order pizza from my personal fave, Washington Deli, which only does orders of three or more pies, as they are a small establishment--or so I was told. The pizzas came in a timely manner, and were tasty, with much better flavor than the national chains, but something was missing...

As good as the pizza was when delivered, it is that much better consumed at the deli, eaten at one of the outdoor tables, which catch a decent's not just the atmosphere of a pizza place that's superior, but the pizza itself undergoes an unpleasant transformation as it's being delivered. To remain hot, and to keep from being damaged, of course the pizza must be contained. However, when a hot item such as pizza is enclosed for more than a couple of minutes, condensation develops, which toughens and sogs up even a thin crust, and renders it non-crispy. (Yuck!)

So, while pizza may be the original fast food, if I need food delivered, I think I'll stick to Chinese!