Inception Music

An awesome soundtrack can make a really big difference in the overall feel of a film, and I can’t get the Inception soundtrack out of my head lately. You know it’s a good soundtrack when you don’t even need the film for it to be addictive. Hans Zimmer is one of those composers who almost always seems to get it right. What’s even more awesome about this one is the motivation behind that now-ubiquitous “BUMP-BUMP” low brass music cue:

Quicksilver Tricks: Faster Searching

Quicksilver is an essential application for any Mac user. Most people seem to just use it as a program launcher, and while that’s one of its core functions, it can do so much more. I tend to think of it it as “⌘-space type what you want.” Most of its extra features aren’t very obvious, though, so this is part 1 in a series of Quicksilver tricks I’ve come to know and love.

As Google has become a more and more ubiquitous way of locating information, just remembering search terms is a lot easier than remembering a full URL. If I want to get to the Robot Unicorn Attack game I just type “robot unicorn” in Google, hit “I’m Feeling Lucky,” and I’m off to the races as a robot unicorn with the oddly addictive song “Always” pumping in the background. We can use Quicksilver to make this a super-fast process. (Note: this assumes you use Safari as your browser. There are probably ways to do it with the Firefox/Mozilla Module, but I’ve never tried.)

With the web search configuration enabled, I only had to type <⌘-space>, “luck”, <tab>, <tab>, “robot unicorn”, then <enter> to bring up a new browser window with the game. You can do this for any site that allows you to pass a search string in the URL.

First, go to the Plug-ins tab of Quicksilver’s preferences and make sure you have both the Safari Module and the Web Search Module checked. Now create a folder somewhere in your Safari bookmarks for all the search queries you want to use. Go do a dummy search on whatever site you’d like to add; you can just use “foo” as your search term. Now bookmark the resulting page, calling it something descriptive (you’re going to access it by typing parts of its name in Quicksilver) like “Google Search”. I like to use “Search” on the end of all of my search bookmarks to make sure that Quicksilver can usually easily distinguish them from other bookmarks with the same name. For example, to get to “Google Search” I can type “googs” into Quicksilver to make sure I find the search bookmark instead of the normal Google bookmark.

Now go edit the URL of the bookmark by clicking the book icon on your toolbar or “Show All Bookmarks” in the Bookmarks menu. Find the bookmark you just made, right-click it, and edit the address. Find the part of the URL where “foo” is and replace it with “***” (three asterisks, no quotes). Hit enter and you’re done. You may be able to prune a whole bunch of unnecessary arguments to the search from the URL, but its normally not necessary. (You’ll only really be able to figure out which are the essential search arguments by playing with the URL until you find a concise one that still works.)

I use this for Google, I’m Feeling Lucky, Google Maps, Wikipedia, Skreemr, IMDb, YouTube, and Amazon pretty frequently. If you’d like, you can import bookmarks for those by downloading the file from here to your computer (right-click, Download Linked File), then use “Import Bookmarks…” from Safari’s File menu to get import the file and get ready-to-go bookmarks for those sites I just mentioned.

To use a search bookmarks, just open Quicksilver and start typing the bookmark name to choose where to search. Using “wikis” will get me to the Wikipedia Search, for example. Then just hit <tab> twice, type your search, and hit  <enter> to run the search and open the results page. Over time, this saves a lot of time and effort, so give it a try.

Pi Day Pie

In celebration of Pi Day, I figured some pie should be baked. Except this all happened as the evening was wearing on, and we didn’t really feel like we had the skills necessary to make a real pie crust, and we had a bunch of canned pie filling to get rid of… So we made a Pi Day blueberry crumble!

Alright, so it wasn’t actually that recipe. We had canned blueberry pie filling, so we didn’t need to make filling by hand. Also we were unsatisfied with the canned filling, so we added pitted dark cherries instead of more sweet, syrupy blueberry filling. We also added about 4x the vanilla extract that the recipe called for. For the crumble topping? We followed the recipe… well not really. We improvised with some added cinnamon, fresh nutmeg, and allspice. We liked the sound of pecans better than almonds, so we substituted. We were also lacking toasted oats, so we added another 1/2 cup of pecans. Oh, and we also only used about 2/3 of the bowl of crumble topping before we realized that the topping to filling ratio was going to be way off and stopped with a significant amount of leftover crumble.

Needless to say, we were a little skeptical when we put this thing in the oven. 25 minutes later, though, this came out! (We had already gotten samples by the time I remembered to take a picture.)

Not Pie

It didn’t even look particularly pretty; it was a little burnt on the edges, the filling had bubbled up through the crumble in places, and the crumble looked kinda odd. You know what, though? It was pretty damn delicious.

Happy Pi Day!

OS X Keyboard Shortcuts: Volume

I often find that I’d like finer control than OS X allows using the keyboard volume controls. I can see the reasoning behind using coarse volume control by default; in at least 90% of cases, users will want to drastically change their system volume using just a few taps. But what about when you want to get more fine-grained control? Normally, a single press of the volume keys will change by a whole “box” on the volume overlay. Using option-shift-volume, though, will get you 4 subdivisions within each box:

My reaction when someone first told me this was “WHOA!!!”, and most people I tell this to have the same reaction. Welcome to the world of fine-grained volume control on OS X.

(Note: I originally intended to include a whole bunch of little-known keyboard shortcuts in this post, but it’s getting late and I want to go to bed. I’ll just consider this post a copout so I don’t owe another $5 to Iron Blogger and bring y’all more keyboard shortcuts later.)

Mushroom Bourguignon

I like to think that I know my way around the kitchen, but I tend to rarely cook something substantial on my own or even take the lead on cooking something with a group of people. Mostly, it takes someone else to start cooking to be able to coax me into the kitchen to help them. Last week, though, I decided to stop being lazy and actually do something.

Evan’s gotten me hooked on Smitten Kitchen by making a lot of delicious things from there. After just a little browsing early last week, I came across what looked like a mouthwatering recipe for mushroom buorguignon. Go take a look at the full recipe over at Smitten Kitchen, but here are the ingredients:

2 tablespoons olive oil
2 tablespoons butter, softened
2 pounds portobello mushrooms, in 1/4-inch slices (save the stems for another use) (you can use cremini instead, as well)
1/2 carrot, finely diced
1 small yellow onion, finely diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 cup full-bodied red wine
2 cups beef or vegetable broth (beef broth is traditional but vegetable to make it vegetarian; it works with either)
2 tablespoons tomato paste
1 teaspoon fresh thyme leaves (1/2 teaspoon dried)
1 1/2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1 cup pearl onions, peeled (thawed if frozen)
Egg noodles, for serving
Sour cream and chopped chives or parsley, for garnish (optional)

Yes, that’s 2 pounds of portbella mushrooms! How could this be anything but amazing? For the most part, the quantities and times in the original recipe were spot on, except for a few exceptions.

2 pounds of mushrooms proved to be far too many mushrooms to sear in one go, so I ended up doing 2 batches, of course adding more olive oil and butter for the second batch, leaving me with a bowl of delicious-looking mushrooms (apologies for the photo quality; these were just taken with an iPhone).

Seared Mushrooms

I don’t really believe in cooking with wine that you wouldn’t find acceptable to drink on its own, so the concept of “cooking wine” is foreign to me. If a recipe calls for wine, I like to just pick a wine I think would go well with the meal, use some of it in the recipe, then drink the rest of it with the meal. It even means the dish pairs perfectly with the wine! For this one I selected an earthy, full-bodied Spanish red to complement the mushrooms. Here it is reducing with the onions and carrots (fun fact: taking a deep breath of the steam from a simmering pot of wine is an immediate, but short-lived buzz).

Reducing the Wine

While adding the flour near the end, I noticed it wasn’t getting quite as thick as I’d like for a bourguignon, so I doubled the flour for a total of 2-3 tablespoons. The whole thing started to look pretty appetizing as it was nearing completion.

Almost Finished

The recipe says the sour cream and fresh chive garnish is optional, but who can refuse sour cream and chives?

Finished in Bowl

Finished Closeup

Overall, I considered this meal an absolute success. Except for a little help from Evan with peeling the pearl onions, I did everything on my own (a rare feat for me) and it was certainly one of the tastiest things I’ve ever cooked.

Champagne is Delicious

Ok, so I’ll admit this particular wine isn’t actually “Champagne” by the strict definition of the term, but is definitely still delicious. Technically, it’s a Cava, which comes from Spain. To get the prestigious legal designation of “Champagne” the wine must come from a tiny region in France. For most colloquial definitions, though, a bottle-fermented sparkling white counts as Champagne.

This one is pretty good. I don’t have a glass in front of me right now, so I can’t give a rating any more specific than somewhere around 84-88, which is not bad, but certainly not fantastic. For this one, though, the price is incredibly right: $7.99 from! Needless to say, we had many bottles of this on hand for the New Year’s party.

Making cocktails out of a good Champagne would be an utter sacrilege, but for this price who’s going to argue?  Before the party, Becky took the time to juice a bunch of oranges. With all this Champagne and OJ, mimosas were an obvious choice. We took it even further and added a little bit of Chambord to produce what we called a “Champagne sunrise,” since it basically looked like a Tequila sunrise. I think I’ve got a new staple drink for when there’s medium-quality Champagne around the house.