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Sunday 2018.12.9

Christmas Movies

It's the time of year to watch, and watch again, many of those beloved Christmas movies. Some are old, some are new.

I have a list of movies I try to watch each December. I occasionally add a new one, as I did with The Bishop's Wife, which I borrowed from the local library and copied. It was also my first time watching The 12 Dogs of Christmas and A Christmas Tale. The former is a family-friendly feel-good movie. The latter, filled with anger and hatred, might not be suitable for all audiences. It's a French film. Maybe that explains it.

One movie in particular caused me to laugh in an unexpected place. It was Scrooged with Bill Murray. As he is under the control of the Ghost of Christmas Present, he finds himself below a New York City sidewalk grate. The place is filthy and cold. He asks, "Where are we, Trump Tower?" I can't quite connect it with "drain the swamp," but I also can't help thinking the swamp ooze begins at Trump Tower in New York and flows into Washington DC.

If you're interested, here are the movies I'm watching this year (listed in the order of their IMDb.com rating):

The 12 Dogs of Christmas
How the Grinch Stole Christmas (Jim Carrey)
Just Friends
A Very Harold and Kumar Christmas
The Night Before
The Polar Express
Scrooge (1935)
An American Christmas Carol
Scrooged (Bill Murray)
A Christmas Tale
Arthur Christmas
Christmas in Connecticut
A Christmas Carol (1938)
Home Alone
The Bishop's Wife
Meet Me in St. Louis
White Christmas
A Christmas Carol (1984) Walter C. Scott
Miracle on 34th Street
A Christmas Story
The Nightmare Before Christmas
A Christmas Carol (1951)
The Shop Around the Corner
A Charlie Brown Christmas
How the Grinch Stole Christmas (animation)
It's a Wonderful Life

I'm nearly halfway through that list. Yesterday evening I watched Christmas in Connecticut. Maybe it's because I'm getting old, but I prefer feel-good movies now. A former friend thinks everyone should like harsh dramas filled with painful truths about life, but I think he's crazy (if he's still alive — he wasn't doing well nearly ten years ago when I last saw him).

I am reminded of something I read many years ago, attributed to the author E.M. Forster. He said there was a time in England when young lovers could escape to the greenwood. Now England is all paved over and policed. People still escape, he said, but now they can be seen in the movie theaters. If movies are a place to escape, they should provide a satisfying and pleasant diversion from life's harsh realities. Those of us who are getting well up in years might not have much time left; so let's enjoy the few pleasures remaining to us — good friends, delicious food and a fun movie once in a while (or good books, which I enjoy too).

And Speaking of Trump Tower

I added a note to my calendar for Friday December 7 as the beginning of the end for Donald Trump. Of course, there is possibly a long way to go before the nation is finally rid of the worst president in USA history. But it seemed like the three court filings by Robert Mueller on Friday were the first three nails in the Trump presidential coffin. More to come.

One comment I appreciated this week: Someone said the discussion and analyses of the failed Trump presidency will far exceed those of Richard Nixon after Watergate. Historians will be writing about Trump for many decades.


For those who might be interested in smoothies, yesterday I uploaded another smoothie video. You can view it by clicking this link:


Wednesday 2018.12.5

Remote Control Revisited

In Sunday's blog I mentioned having ordered a new remote control for my Sony video camera. It was scheduled to arrive today, but it arrived Priority Mail on Monday. Excellent!

I also mentioned the possibility of programming a "learning" remote control to perform the functions of the replacement remote, the idea being that I could put the new remote away to keep it safe for the future while I use the learning remote (Sony RM-AV3000, heretofore "3000") to run my camera. So, how did that go? Excellent again!

If you're wondering what that old 3000 remote looks like, here's a picture:

It's also much bigger. That's my original remote control to the right.

Many years ago I used the 3000 to control stereo components and a TV. If you're wondering how old it is, the user's guide was copyrighted 2002. If I remember correctly, I bought it on Ebay. And it came complete with manuals.

Not everything is perfect. I would have liked to program those arrow buttons, but they're off limits, as are the other buttons. Only the functions in the display can be programmed. However, other than that, the remote works well. I can start and stop recording. I can use the numbers 2, 4, 6, and 8 as if they were arrow keys with number 5 as the OK key.

There is one advantage I appreciate. The original remote uses a coin battery, a 3V CR2025, which I had difficulty finding when I thought the original problem might be the battery. The 3000 uses four AA batteries and I have many Ni-MH rechargeables.

I kept my original remote sealed in a plastic pouch to protect it from foods on my fingers. The 3000, though large, also fits in a plastic pouch and it works the same — the infrared beam projects through the transparent plastic.

A little aside: I learned to wrap remote controls in plastic from some Chinese friends. It works especially well when the remote is new. Keep it wrapped in sturdy plastic (I use plastic from ziplock freezer bags) and change the plastic once a year when you change the batteries. Make sure the end where the beam comes out is covered by one layer, without any seams there. Years later the remote will still look like new.

And so, with the battery removed from the replacement remote, I put it back in its plastic bag and box and stored it away for the future.

And Another Thing…

If you've watched enough of my SmoothieTube videos you know I have a Samsung tablet that I use with my Perfect Blend app and Vitamix scale. I got to thinking it might be fun to use the tablet in the kitchen while making a video. I could show that I'm following a recipe in Gordon Ramsay's Ultimate Cookery Course book. And therein lies another potential problem. How do I keep the tablet clean?

Once again: Plastic. It fits neatly inside a one-gallon ziplock bag. Tape the extra to the back. Using my finger to select apps and turn pages (I like the Nook ereader app best), it works perfectly.

One of the local grocery stores has chicken pieces on sale this week for 79¢ per pound. It's a good time to buy chicken thighs. I'll make Gordon Ramsay's "Sichuan Chicken Thighs" for a video, using both my tablet and my remote control wrapped in plastic.

And the Weather

It's a good day to stay home and cook. It's raining off and on outside, chilly and wet. We're a little behind where we should be for this time of year — currently 90%. It's supposed to rain more tomorrow; so maybe we'll catch up.

Sunday 2018.12.2

Revisiting Tomato and Basil Soup

I've been wanting to experiment with something. The blades in the bottom of a Vitamix blender jar are not sharp; they're blunt. The intent is that they should crash their way through foods, not cut through them, breaking the pieces into smaller and small particles. This makes things smooth.

The high speed of the blades, along with their blunt edges, creates friction. According to the documentation, recipes, and reviews, this heat can cook your food right in the blender jar. No need for pots and pans. I needed to try this.

This being the colder time of year, soup is on my mind. Naturally, smooth soups would be best, such as my recipe for Tomato and Basil Soup. And that is how this week's feature recipe and video for Vitamix Tomato and Basil Soup began.

The Vitamix does what it claims to do. It creates enough heat in the blender jar to actually cook the contents inside. The soup was hot at the end of the blending cycle. The flavor was good too. I chose to experiment a little more by blending some sun-dried tomatoes into the soup for a richer tomato flavor. That worked well too.

I don't know how often I'd use this feature. Other than my recipe for Butternut Squash Soup, I don't have any additional recipes for smooth soups. You can imagine what the blender would do to Clam Chowder or Pasta Fagioli. I imagine something like Marinara Sauce would come out of the blender too smooth to be enjoyable on pasta. So, the feature has its uses, but it also has its limitations.

Things Get Old; Things Wear Out

I've been fortunate, maybe. For the number of times I've used my remote control to operate my Sony video camera, it has held up for more than eight years. It has been getting a little fussy lately — difficult to start and stop each recording. On Friday it seemed to finally die.

I checked the battery in my tester and it appeared to be strong. That's not a good indicator, however. "Good" doesn't necessarily mean good enough. The best test is to transfer the battery to the remote for my Nikon camera. Place the Nikon across the room and try to take a picture with the remote. If the camera responds, the battery is good. It did; it is. So the problem must be in the Sony remote.

I opened up the remote. It looked like the connector thingies on the underside of the three buttons I use most had worn off, even though I keep the remote heat sealed in a plastic pouch. Wear and tear. It gets to us all.

Fortunately, I was able to find a new one (the seller claimed it was new) on Ebay. The remote is no longer available from other retailers and I couldn't find one that was compatible. The price on Ebay was good too. If you're not familiar with audio/video equipment, it's expensive! A microphone for my lavalier transmitter is more than $130. The remote, with shipping, was only about $16. I consider that a bargain.

Here's a thought: I have a few "learning" remotes in a drawer. I no longer use them, but with batteries installed they should function okay. Although they're supposed to learn how to operate components like DVD players and TVs, I wonder if they can be taught to operate my camera. It's worth experimenting. If all goes well, I can use an old remote and save the new one as a spare for the future. I might never find another one.

Good News Rain

The most recent storm wasn't a serious one. No catastrophic mud slides. But it gave us some much needed rain. At the top of the mountain pass nearly five inches fell. Where I live we received nearly two inches. Most importantly, we are at 101% rainfall for where we should be at this time of year. The local reservoir is still at only about 30% capacity, but we don't get our water from that lake anyway. We use well water here.

And starting on Wednesday there might be a few more days of rain. One can only hope this might be a propitious beginning.