Friday, August 15, 2008

lovely error when trying to demo Notes 8.5 beta

I click OK, it goes away, so I open Designer, create a new database, and try to create a new agent.

I should know better than to try to be productive on a Friday afternoon before going on vacation.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

upcoming vacation

Next week Myron and I will be visiting the ever-popular Francie Whitlock in Anguilla. Hey, her blog demands you visit her, so how can I turn that down? It also has the byline Udder Chaos ... I'm sure my therapist would have something to say about that.

I'll turn 35 on August 19th, then on August 21st we fly to Montserrat. Take a minute to review the link if you're not familiar with Montserrat. Some of what follows won't make sense out of context. Okay, now that you're edumucated you're probably thinking to yourself "Charles has lost his marbles. He's visiting a tiny island in the middle of nowhere with an active volcano covering more than half of it!"

Well, there's a story behind it. We booked the trip to Anguilla back in December specifically to be there for my birthday. While discussing the trip with Francie she mentioned in passing that she had a friend from Montserrat who wanted us to visit there as well. Myron has been intrigued with Montserrat for over 30 years, and that actually heightened when the volcano became active in the mid-90's. I'm pretty laid back when it comes to travel so I was game for it.

In mid to late January we started researching Montserrat and a things got interesting. First we discovered housing prices in Montserrat have dropped precipitously because of the one-two punch of Hurricane Hugo in 1989, then the volcano becoming active in 1995 and erupting in 1997. A large portion of the island was evacuated for several years, so real estate prices plummeted.

The next interesting bit was our own housing situation. When we got back from Lotusphere we were surprised to find the house next door was up for sale... for $1.4M. We immediately started thinking "what if..." [As an aside, Myron bought our house in 1982 for $87,000.]

The final piece that fell into place is Myron's tenure at his job. He has worked in a state position for 35 years and can draw a retirement equal to 60% of his current salary. That can be transferred to anyone, so I will also get a chunk of his retirement, assuming he predeceases me and doesn't decide to get rid of me between now and then.

Everything pretty much came together between February and April to the point we decided to go house hunting in Montserrat. Myron will officially retire on August 16th, take two weeks off, and go back to work on August 31st earning his same salary while also drawing his retirement.

The past few months have been a dizzying whirlwind. If all this planning and life changes weren't enough, you can add this to the annual Dining With Friends benefit we did in May, my unanticipated solo presentation at ILUG in June, and the chaos at work since the fire in July.

I'll blog more later about what we're thinking of doing once we get there. For now we need to visit the island and see if moving there is a viable option, then we'll make further plans.

Monday, August 11, 2008

not following the money

Seth Godin makes a really interesting point
No, people (most people) don't do things only for money. There's usually a minimum threshold that gets someone to pick a job and stick with it, but beyond that, the things we do are expressions of who we are and what we love and the impact we wish to make, not selfish acts designed to earn a few extra bucks.

In May 2007 I quit the only job I've ever had working with Notes and a few people have asked why I'm still participating in the Lotus community since I don't work with Notes or Domino in my day job. My response has been that I still do consulting on the side, but that will be ending soon. I still intend to participate in the community, though.

It's obviously not about the money. It's also not a matter of visibility or attention. Believe it or not I'm very shy and introverted and I don't do this because I want attention. No, the main reason I continue to participate is because of the passion I have for the community. I think I'm one of Lotus' biggest critics, but I'm also a raving fan. If I didn't care I wouldn't be as vocal, and if I felt that my position were adequately represented in the community I wouldn't be blogging.
I feel that I have something to add to the discussion and as long as I get feedback showing others agree I'll continue. When I become the lone voice in my crackpot corner of the world I'll choose another place to frequent.

What do you get out of participating in the community?

Saturday, August 02, 2008

Eclipse shirt

Sweatshirt + kitchen strainer = eclipse shirt. :-)

a break for my other passion (and iPhone envy)

Many of you know that I love to cook. This past Thursday Myron and I attended a cooking class at Charleston Cooks, hosted by one of my favorite chefs in the world, Sean Brock of McCrady's Tavern. The menu was a celebration of fresh vegetables. McCrady's owns a farm outside Charleston and nearly all the produce used in the restaurant -- from the heirloom tomatoes to the faro -- are grown by Sean and his staff.

The experience was one part sharing the adventure of a chef becoming a farmer, one part explaining molecular gastronomy, and entirely about Sean's passion for fresh ingredients. Everything Sean does is about heightening an ingredient's natural flavor. There are some surprises, such as the whipped maple syrup that looked like whipped cream, but they aren't the star of the dishes.

So here's how it went down. We were given printouts of five recipes that we would be preparing, along with aprons and kitchen towels. Chef Brock explained the recipes, then we each selected a station where we would do one of the dishes. Myron and I, along with a young lady named Julia who is a Food Science major at Clemson, took on the crab salad with compressed watermelon.

This involved peeling a watermelon to get rid of all the green and white, then slicing it into one inch thick slabs. These were placed in bags then sealed in a chamber vacuum. The technique goes by the French name sous vide, which means "under vacuum". By compressing the relatively soft watermelon under high pressure it condenses the fruit and gives it a meatier texture and intensifies the flavor. It came out looking like tuna.

The next step was to create watermelon caviar. This was achieved by putting watermelon juice mixed with pectin (the same stuff used in canning) in a squeeze bottle, then slowly dripping it into a calcium lactate gluconate solution. The end result were small balls of watermelon juice with a delicate outer skin that looked like salmon roe. The crab salad was rather mundane. Crab, Greek yogurt, chervil, tarragon and lemon olive oil.

Now for some hero worship. :-) When Sean was describing the pectin technique I said "Oh, I saw that on Iron Chef." He said the technique was similar, but this was newer. On Iron Chef they used sodium alginate rather than pectin, but he had some sodium alginate so he could show me that technique, too. And he did! He took us through every step, then left us to play with it.

Working with chemicals like this requires precise measurements down to a tenth of a gram. Sean was discussing how we needed to blend the watermelon juice with 1% by weight of sodium alginate, and as he's saying this he reached in his pocket and pulled out an iPhone. I jokingly asked if it was a blender, and he pulled off the cover to reveal a scale! I have no use at all for an iPhone, but I've got gadget envy over this beauty.

As we were sitting down to eat Chef Brock talked about how he came across molecular gastronomy as a way to enhance the natural flavor of products. He used the example of gnocchi, which typically uses potatoes, flour, and eggs. The end result is tasty, but not very potato-y. He said by putting potatoes into sous vide bags then cooking them in an immersion circulator, you get perfectly cooked potatoes without washing away flavor by boiling them. Then you can add water and xanthan gum to create the dough and you have gnocchi that is entirely potatoes with no flavor-altering ingredients. It was very interesting to me, and finally got me on the molecular gastronomy bandwagon.

He also described a technique of creating flavored waters. You add five sheets of gelatin to 500 grams of something, such as a wasabi puree. Then you freeze it. The gelatin will cause the entire mass to solidify, but as the water freezes it pokes holes in the gelatin structure. Then you put the frozen gelatin in cheese cloth and let it thaw. The liquid that comes out is nearly clear but it has an intense wasabi (or chocolate or foie gras) flavor. You can put this in the sous vide bag with something else and it comes out looking like a regular piece of tuna or chicken, but it has this other completely unexpected flavor.

Before we left Sean invited us all to visit his kitchen any time and said he loved to see people passionate about food. I'll definitely be taking him up on that offer.