Monthly Archives: August 2011

Before – Welcome Bag Room Drops

We wanted to have a room drop for our guests at their hotels. This is when the hotel leaves something in each room – a bouquet perhaps, or a gift, or a folder of information for a conference delegate. We decided to leave a bag of goodies for everyone. The hotels all agreed, and some charged a small fee for the effort.

We found a place in SF that sold bags and boxes of all shapes and sizes, and picked out these reusable plastic bags that people could take to the grocery store. Taylor in his creative way has a screen printing setup, so he used that to print a graphic on each one, based once again on the components taken from the invitation PDF proof. Unfortunately, the plastic didn’t take the print too well, giving it a bit of a spraypaint stencil effect. It wasn’t what we had in mind, but it looked cool anyway.

In each bag, we included lots of different things!

  • A nice letter with useful information for the guests (take a look at it below)
  • The Flickr tags and Twitter hashtags for people to use (only one person did, but you can’t fault us for spirit!)
  • A stamped Las Vegas postcard for our guests to return with comments and greetings
  • A bottle of water and a little packet of Advil
  • A local listings magazine with a map of the famous Las Vegas strip
  • Some other bits and pieces like gum, snacks and so on
  • And last but definitely not least, a bottle each of Taylor’s Tonics special limited edition sodas, Cassie Colada and Matt’s Mojito (complete with complementary Taylor’s Tonics bottle opener!)

This was a really nice idea for the guests, especially for those who were travelling a long distance. even those who only came from LA needed a quick refreshment.

Verdict: recommended.

Before – Taylor’s Tonics Special Editions

Taylor's Tonics Special Editions

Taylor's Tonics Special Editions

Taylor Peck, Cassie’s old high school friend, and our officiant at the wedding, owns and runs Taylor’s Tonics. I’ve written about them before. As a lovely gesture, he brewed up a couple of special limited edition sodas to celebrate our wedding. He slipped a bottle of each into the guest room drop bags. There was also plenty to go around at the afterparty!

Cassie Colada is a fruity pineapple concoction, with a tropical feel, whereas Matt’s Mojito is a “limey”* blend with mint. Both were delicious! I’ll get a couple of photos up soon – Taylor designs fantastic labels for his brews.

Best Man Robin incorporated the drinks into his speech, with some funny references to the different flavours and how they related to Cassie and I. He’s real funny. A real joker.

* The limey joke was my idea.

Busy Weekend In The Hills

OK, so we’re pretty much moved in now, and settling in to our new place in the Oakland hills. Sadly the whole excitement of moving to a bigger place has been tempered my some unnerving surprises about the property and the landlady, but we’re going to make a go of it, enjoy it, and if it doesn’t work out we can always move.

The weekend did show that we can really enjoy the area. Saturday morning I got up early and got to work making the back door close properly. I don’t know what happened, perhaps a little subsidence, but there was some terrible sticking, which meant you had to kick the door to both open and close it. The decades-old felt weather strip didn’t help either. I also got my new chisels out and the made the deadbolt and cylinder lock work properly – the metal catches were out of place by a good half-inch.

Like I said, unnerving – not very impressive maintenance. I’m keeping a list of stuff that I fix for the landlady, so if she gets sniffy about out deposit or something we can clearly explain how we fixed all this stuff that was her responsibility.

By the time I was done, the morning mist had been burned off and replaced with scorching sun, right on the deck. This is going to be very nice when we want it. Midday through about three, the sun hits the deck straight on, then drops below the trees and finally in the evening it streams into the living room. Very pleasant. But it did mean I had to stop work outside.

My sister-in-law and her sons George & Bennett came over from Orinda to check out the new place, bringing gifts. At the same time our dear friends Alex & Jason came over from their new place. They just moved up from LA, and we’re very very happy they’re around. They brought cheese from the deli, which did very well as a snack lunch.

In the afternoon there was more housework, and I took Gordon up for a walk on the trail above the house. Finally we met said sis-in-law and Cassie’s bro for a nice dinner at the Wood Tavern in Rockridge, which always makes me laugh because of the association with Blazing Saddles.

On Sunday I got up in time to spend all morning assembling the grill we bought. The box said it assembled in minutes. Cassie said, “Yeah like 800 minutes.” She’s so funny, I love her. It took about an hour. in between tea breaks and enjoying the morning breeze.

Then we walked down to the farmer’s market in the village, which is pretty great. The usual selection of seasonal stuff. I really must develop a taste for squashes. We picked up some local honey, and a bunch of peaches which are amazingly sweet, and a couple of empanadas for lunch. I think we’ll be regulars there.

In the afternoon we met up with our neighbor and her dog for a hike up the trail, with the purpose of getting the dogs to tolerate each other – they’ve been a bit agitated by the proximity. At first they were both barking like crazy, causing passers-by to wonder what the hell we were doing, but after we started walking, they both settled down and trotted along next to each other, ears back in trotting concentration. A few more hikes like that and we’re hoping they’ll the best of pals.

We had to make a trip to Target for a couple of things, and unfortunately, it was the day before school starts again, which meant gigantic queues at the checkout. Typical timing – last week we went to Bed Bath and Beyond, Home Depot and IKEA the day before college starts, with the same results.

After escaping from Target we met A & J to see Our Idiot Brother at the Grand Theater, which is on Grand Avenue in Oakland, and very grand, with Moorish mosaics, carpets on the walls, elaborate gilt work and so on. From an efficiency point of view not so great, because I’m sure some metroplex could squeeze ten screens in to the space taken up by three screens and the sweeping staircase. Not to mention the noise overlap between the climax of Rise of the Planet of the Apes and the gentle opening scenes of the comedy. It’s great the way it is though.

The movie itself was pretty good – a cute little comedy with some adult themes and WORDS. Paul Rudd is charming isn’t he? After the movie Cassie and I went for Chinese at the Shan Dong in Oakland’s Chinatown, where we discussed whether Rudd had ever played a bad guy. The best we could do was when he told Michael Showalter’s character to fuck off in Hot Wet American Summer.

Uses For Leftover Scraps Of Contact Paper

Cocoon yourself entirely. Be discovered five weeks later after the neighbors complain about the smell.

Some form of collage, probably.

Build a scale replica of your house, left the cupboards get really dirty, then clean them out and apply the little scraps.

Busy Move

Cassie and I are moving to the East Bay, to an area of Oakland called Montclair. It’s a nice spot up in the hills, with less of a view of the city, but more of a pastoral distant view of the bay through the many trees. It’s a bigger place, with a guest bedroom, so people can come and stay in comfort.

This time around I don’t have company-hired movers paid for, so we’re busy doing it ourselves – scavenging boxes, borrowing tape from the stationery cupboard, purging stuff to go to Goodwill (current score – 3 trash bags and a box of vases). We do have movers with a van, but they charge by the hour, so the more we can do the better.

We get the keys this weekend, and on Saturday we’re having a painting party with some friends – we want to freshen up the paintwork. Cassie says it’s normally the landlord that does that, but we’d like to have some influence over the colors. The move itself is next Wednesday – we’re doing it midweek because it’s cheaper, and then we have the weekend to get sorted out.

My commute is going to be a lot different. I have it easy at the moment because Cassie drops me off and picks me up, because my office is between home and her office. From Montlair I have various options, but I will be on public transport a lot. Cassie can maybe drop me at the BART station.

The morning tube. It’ll be just like old times.

Arthur Bryant’s Original Barbeque Sauce

This sauce is better than OK (get it?)

This sauce is better than OK (get it?)

Being the kind of old-world savage that loves ketchup on things, I was very pleased to discover this sauce. We got a bottle in a gift basket, I think. It appeared in our cupboard one day.

Either that or the ANGELS put it there because it is DELICIOUS.

I’m no BBQ-er, and I’m well aware that BBQ-ing and grilling are yet more of the subjects about which people are very protective, snobby, and knowallish, along with coffee, bicycling, beer, and lawd knows what else. I also know that regular brand BBQ sauce is very sweet and is basically ketchup with some spices in.

Of course, I’m familiar with and very fond of HP Sauce, or its generic UK store moniker “Brown Sauce” or “Fruity Sauce”, which goes so well will cold meat and hot chips. It’s quite similar to A1 Steak Sauce, which is very popular in the US.

I would say that Arthur Bryants BBQ sauce sits between HP and ketchup. The first thing you taste is a fresh burst of citrus tartness, then a full round rich spiciness, and then the heat of the pepper comes along. Not too much heat – I’m not a fan of replacing interesting flavor with raw heat.

I had it with some dinner a couple of days ago, and was practically licking the plate to get every last drop. So so good.

Backup Your Android Phone Photos With The Google+ App

It’s easy to snap a load of photos and then run out of space on your phone, especially if your phone has an 8MP camera. I wanted to figure out a way to backup these photos automatically to my PC or a cloud service, and after looking around at options like Dropbox/DropCap, I discovered that the Android Google+ app has a built-in feature that allows you to automatically backup your photos to Picasa, the Google photo sharing site.

In the Android Google+ app, tap Menu > Settings > Instant Upload Settings. Then select your preferences. I have it set up so that my photos and videos are uploaded to a private Picasa album when my phone is on Wifi AND plugged in, which basically means overnight.

I can then go to the Pictures section of Google+ and decide which photos to share. Neat!

Google+ – Android Market.

The Myriad Ways Office2PDF by Tracker Software Sucks

I’m trying to convert a heap of documents into a single PDF. Acrobat 9 is crapping out for some reason, but I can always fall back onto PDF-Xchange and Office2PDF by Tracker Software, which my company decided to install instead of Acrobat. I say “fall back onto” in the same sense that you would “fall back onto” a bed of nails. I got Acrobat proper a while back because of the following problems, which I’m now faced with again.

  • The Add File dialog only lets you add one file at a time, unless it’s feeling kind, which it usually isn’t.
  • The dialog cannot be resized from being a little box in the center of the screen, so you keep having to use the scroll bar to see the full path of the files.
  • When creating PDFs, the program looks for the first period character in the filename, and truncates the name of the resulting PDF at that point, even though it is perfectly valid to use periods in the middle of Windows filenames. This means you may end up with multiple PDF files with the same name, or worse, a stream of documents with a simple incrementing number. Then you have to open each one to see which one it is.
  • Poorly-formatted (to the extent that it’s hard to read) help files, which don’t interlink. You have to open the right one.
  • What’s the difference between “PDF-Tools”, “Office2PDF”, “PDF-Xchange”, and “PDF-Saver”? Answer is in the help files.
  • Current installed version, released in 2008, cannot handle Office 2007 ‘.docx’ or ‘.xlsx’ files.
  • Conversion doesn’t run in the background, so progress dialog keeps surfacing and stealing focus from whatever else you’re doing, such as writing a blog post about how much some POS software sucks.

It’s also 300 times cheaper than Acrobat Pro 9. It shows, in design, functionality, and how much it royally sucks.

Ah, IT just fixed Acrobat. TF.