The Amazing Tortilla Press

We had a great time with Julie’s friend Captain Danny when he came to visit us at Thanksgiving. He was only here a few days, but we shared stories and jokes over many a pint of homebrew, and he even fixed Julie’s broken iBook. I also made a few batches of tortillas, using the wooden tortilla press Kate borrowed from Roque’s, and every time I used it I complained that I’d have to give it back soon, as they were asking for it back. Dan assured me it would be easy to make one of my own, I just needed to get the wood and some bits of hardware to hold it all together. I added it to my “someday/maybe” list, where it joined so many other unfinished projects, and a couple weeks ago Kate brought the press back to Roque’s.

A few days ago we got an unexpected package from Danny, and inside we found a beautiful tortilla press he had made, fashioned of dark wood and polished brass, routed details on the sides and big brass hinges and fasteners. It truly is a work of art and craftsmanship, and looks like it would be right at home on a 19th century sailing ship. I can only imagine how many hours went into this beauty!

It makes perfect tortillas, of course, and is truly a pleasure to use. I look forward to making many, many tortillas with it.

Thanks so much, Captain Danny, and please come back to see us soon, and enjoy homemade tortillas in huevos rancheros and enchilada suizas!

  • tortilla press
  • tortilla press
  • tortilla press
  • tortilla press
  • tortilla press
  • tortilla press
  • tortilla press
  • tortilla press

Video iPod

I know, Steve doesn’t want us to call it that, and there will undoubtedly be a “real” video iPod by summer 2006, but in the meantime let’s just call it what it is, OK?

My last iPod 2nd generation, the kind with the row of buttons just underneath the black and white screen. It holds 20 gigs of music and cost $400 new.

This shiny new video iPod has a big, bright, screen, is noticeably thinner than the old one, holds 30 gigs, and it can display color photos and play videos. It cost $100 less than the old one. It’s beautiful. It looks like something out of the movie _2001 A Space Odyssey_.

So where does one get videos to put on it? I already have a few music videos, commercials, and comedy bits downloaded off the internets over the past few years. And I just bought a handful of music videos off the iTunes Music Store while waiting for the iPod to arrive. But I quickly discovered that not all videos would play on (or even transfer to) the iPod. A few different video converter programs have surfaced lately, and I’ve been having good luck with one called MoviesForMyPod which has converted just about every QuickTime movie I’ve given it. Some things have been tougher (Windows Media file, Flash movies), but I’ll figure a way to convert those too.

Today I discovered that videos converted for the PSP seem to work fine on the iPod! So I dragged over a few items I’d converted for the PSP, including the first episode of _Invader Zim_, ripped from the DVD last spring. A couple days ago I used the free HandBrake program to rip _The Matrix_ to iPod format; it took a few tries to get results I was happy with, but it did a fine job (taking about 2 hours to convert a 2 hour movie).

With all the reports that screen scratches easily, I’ve handled this like an egg. I’ve used the (included) pouch the few times I’ve been with it. I tried the tip of stretching plastic wrap over it to protect it, but removed it shortly afterwards (it looked pretty stupid). Because I’ve been so careful the front is still pristine and scratch-free. I’m thinking the new iPods are no more fragile than the old ones, but with so many more people buying them these days there’s an expectation that something you pay so much money for shouldn’t scratch so easily, and I can certainly agree with that. Hopefully the industrial design wizards at Apple will find a material that’s tough and scratch resistant. The screen of my cell phone hasn’t scratched yet, and I’m not particularly careful with it.

As a first-generation video product, I think the iPod with video is a winner. The screen isn’t nearly as big as the one on the PSP, but the iPod can hold far more video. The form factor is comfortable in the hand and not a strain on the eye, at least for viewing an hour or less at a time. A true video iPod would have a bigger screen (why not the entire front?), and a bigger battery, and an easy way to get video content onto it, but this iPod is a huge first step towards that goal.

Lumines

Sony’s PSP (Playstation Portable) was released yesterday, and I picked one up because of one game: “Lumines”:1. It’s a block-based puzzle game, like Tetris (which I got hooked on back in the late 80s with the original GameBoy).

Lumines adds color, a soundtrack integrated with the game, and background animations and visuals that add a few new dimensions to the genre. The game was designed by the same guy who brought us Space Channel 5 (loved that too), so I knew it would be good. And it is. It’s a piece of art, where music and video and gameplay become a thing of beauty. I like it a lot.

The PSP itself is pretty amazing, too. The screen is big, bright and beautiful, and the controls are a pleasure to use. But those you expect. They managed to squeeze in a CD-like drive, wireless networking (which tied into our TinyTunes network quite painlessly), USB port and even an infrared port for some unknown reason. The drive not only loads games, but plays music and even movies and looks stunning.

And the built-in rechargable batteries are giving me over four hours of gameplay.

Thanks to my new obsession, the unread headlines in NetNewsWire are starting to stack up.

Time for one more game…
[1]http://lumines.jp/

Sweet spots and tipping points

The big news in the Apple world this week is the new iPod shuffle and the iMac mini. This is big news because Apple has always been perceived as having innovative but expensive products, and these two new products are positioned in the mass-market sweet spot. There’s a great illustration of that here.

Lots of people lust after an iPod, but $250 can be tough to justify. The $99 “iPod shuffle” is nearly an impulse buy. After it was announced, one Apple Store sold out of 2,000 Shuffles in just four hours — a lot of people bought one for themselves plus one (or more!) for friends. I think Apple has a hit here.

The iMac mini is going to be hot also (it doesn’t ship until Jan 22). So many people are sick of dealing with Windows issues, viruses, spyware, etc, that they’re looking for reasons to use something else. And I think more than a few of them will be thinking seriously about getting a $500 Mac, since they already have a monitor, keyboard and mouse. It comes with a lot of software, and they can always buy Microsoft Office for the Mac if they need it.

I’m happy with my iPod and PowerBook, so these announcements won’t affect me, but I have preordered iLife 05 for the new and improved GarageBand so I can make more music!