Adventures in White Chicken Chili

by Paul Fischer

I’ve made this once and the kids and parents at my daughter’s kindergarten wolfed it down. It got rave reviews. So I’m making it again tonight and realized I didn’t have the recipe codified anywhere for reference. Here then, is the recipe I sent to the moms mailing list (honestly I think I’m the only guy on it). This time I’m using a green salsa with garlic and lime to give it flavor. It’s late in the day and I need to get it in the slow cooker before I collapse.

I started with this recipe from

But I altered it to make it kid and slow cooker friendly. Here’s my take on it.


2 (14.5-ounce) cans white beans
1 medium anaheim pepper, minced
1 medium poblano pepper, chopped
1 large onion, chopped coarse
4 garlic cloves, minced
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 tablespoon ground cumin
1 1/2 teaspoons ground coriander
1 teaspoon ancho chili powder
4 cups low-sodium chicken broth
2 limes, juiced, plus lime wedges, for serving
1 pack skinless boneless chicken thighs
1/4 cup chopped cilantro leaves
Sour cream, for topping
Tortilla chips, coarsely crushed, for topping
Multigrain Scoops Tortilla chips for scooping up the goodness
1 plastic grocery bag, clean, no holes preferred.

Drain and rinse the canned white beans. In a medium bowl, mash half of the beans with a potato masher until chunky. Place into slow cooker with garlic, onion, spices, chicken. Reserve the lime juice for just at the end. Cover and turn on low for 8-10 hours.

Cut the tops off the peppers. Remove the seeds and support/spine things inside the pepper. Turn on your range hood and maybe open the window. Roast the peppers right on your stove top. NOTE: You’re essentially making mildly spicy pepper spray and filling your kitchen with it. If you don’t want watering eyes, make with the ventilation.

Use tongs to turn the peppers as you roast them until they’re completely black on the outside. This takes longer than I ever thought. My major problem with this method is I always chickened out early. Seriously, let them get completely black. This takes 7-9 minutes I think, but it feels like a lifetime to me so I’m not positive on the timing.

When they’re done put them in a plastic grocery bag and tie the handles together. Let bag fill with steam for a 10-20 minutes. Then shake the bag vigorously for 2-3 minutes to remove the skins. Remove peppers from bag. Wash and clean the peppers under running water to remove any remaining skin and seeds. Dice the peppers and put them in the slow cooker and mix up your chili.

When cooking is complete, shred the chicken in the pot with a pair of forks. If this is problematic, remove the chick to a cutting board, shred, and return to pot. Add lime juice salt and pepper to taste, adjust spices as desired.

Serve and enjoy. Let someone else clean, you cooked and you deserve a break.

I leave the onions in large pieces to they can easily be picked out by members of my family who don’t like them. They really add to the taste, so leave them in if you can. No sour cream or cheese for my family because of allergies. I don’t top with tortillas because they get soggy.

References for Roasting Peppers:

I hope you all enjoy the recipe.


by Paul Fischer

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Advice to New Parents 1

by Paul Fischer
My child is a little more than 3 years old now. It’s time to write down some basic stuff I’ve figured out in the hopes that someone else can use it.
This is the best advice I’ve been able to round up. I hope it helps:


Baby Announcement: More for Less


What do you really need for a “newborn starter kit”? – You really need to read the comments on this one. Listen to the podcasts in the later comments from the Mean Mommy’s Club. Hopefully their archives are still online.


Watch this TED talk:
Let’s talk parenting taboos: Rufus Griscom + Alisa Volkman –


More stuff:
My child loved homemade baby food when transitioning off formula. We mixed equal parts banana and avocado in the food processor with a bit of lime juice to keep the mix from going brown. Then we lined old fashion ice cube trays with plastic wrap, put the banana-cado in, and put more plastic wrap on top. Once frozen, we transferred the banana-cado cubes into tupperware for freezer storage. We could then pull one one or two cubes at a time, nuke them, and serve them at room temp.


DO NOT READ the book ‘What to Expect When You’re Expecting’. It will scare the pants off you with things you don’t need to know about unless your doctor says you need to know about them.


If you have any sort of hiccup with the pregnancy, you doctor may order weekly ultrasounds. Oddly, these will last as long as your health care will pay for them. It’s a racket, but it’s a very very reassuring racket.


Anyone who insists you need a “baby wipe warmer” is an idiot. Get them out of your life as soon as you can.


Check your local FreeCycle group. There are people out there like me who are desperate to get old baby things out of their house. You will be doing them a favor by taking them.


If you need formula, Costco has some of the cheapest and they ship ultra large containers. We used the Organic kind, which was $1.25 to $1.50 per ounce in the store. Costco had it for just under a buck an ounce.


Pick a good bottle and buy a bunch. Also buy a microwave sterilizer for it. You’ll want it for the first little while anyway. When you’re done, give it to someone else on FreeCycle.


For older parents, the less complicated sippy and straw cups are the best. Most leak and are near impossible to clean. These are the sippy and straw cups I like best.


Random Thoughts:
  1. Put your child down
  2. Wear your baby
  3. Don’t freak out
  4. If you ever ever ever think you’re a bad parent, listen to Dan Carlin’s Hardcore History episode – Suffer the Children. Unfortunately, I think this episode is no longer free but it’s worth the cost of admission at Dan Carlin’s website.
I hope this stuff helps.

Free To A Good Home: Entertainment Center [Updated]

by Paul Fischer

Update: Due to lack of interest I’ve called Salvation Army. (Dec 1)

[We may have a taker. Sat 11/5 8:41pm]

We have a Mission Style entertainment center / computer desk. It’s yours for free. You just need to pick it up. First come first served.

We have a wonderful piece of furniture that needs a new home. It’s three separate pieces stacked on top of each other. The bottom is used for storage. The middle part is the computer desk / desk / entertainment center. The top is a display cabinet with a glass front, glass shelves, and display lighting. It’s made by Bassett in the Mission style.

You need to be able to carry the parts down an inside and and outside set of stairs. We live in a townhouse near the DMV off Gallows Rd in Tysons Corners, VA.

Here are links to photos so you can see it for yourself:

Dimensions: roughly 28″ deep x 44″ wide x 70″ tall


Contact me on Twitter @pfischer if you want it. I will update this post when I have a taker.


Drabble: An Ode to Allergies

by Paul Fischer

This is my 3rd drabble:


I love pollen. Mold and mildew make me smile. Dust covers every inch of my house. Allergy season is a greatly anticipated joy for me. The way my sinuses swell up like balloons, the way my head feels like a brick, it is glorious to behold.

I used to hate allergies. I used to rant and scream and compose tirades lashing out at this wonderful little mechanism of biology. Until the day I sneezed so violently the sniper’s bullet passed clean over my head. Allergies truly are the stuff of life. Is it any wonder I love them so much?

My Second Drabble

by Paul Fischer

A Drabble is a story that is exactly 100 words long.



My code is so beautiful it brings tears to your eyes.

My progress reports are so sharp they cut diamonds.

My packets fly through the network at top speed and never falter.

To gaze upon my user interface is to gaze upon the face of heaven.

My coworkers adore me.

My bosses wish they still possessed skills as unique as mine.

No one can quarrel or be vexed in my presence.

I never eat the last cookie or the first piece of cake and I always refill the coffee pot.

This ends my self evaluation for the year ending 2011.

Protected: Eliza’s Second Birthday

by Paul Fischer

This content is password protected. To view it please enter your password below:

Digg Version 4 is Here

by Paul Fischer

I’m reviewing it now. So far, I’m not sold on the main, “My News”, feature.

I’m also trying to add support for Digg to automatically load my feed. I need to add this key:


to my site, this is my second attempt. Hopefully this will work.

Paul & Martha’s NASFIC Schedules

by Paul Fischer

Martha and Paul will be attending NASFIC to talk about podcasting and running conventions. Stop in and see us.

We will be on the following panels:

Regional Fandom – Room RCC 203 – 1pm to 2pm on Friday 8/6

What Podcasts Can Do for You -Room RCC 203 – 10:30am to noon on Sat. 8/7

Why My First Podcast Sucked – Room RCC 203 – 5pm to 6pm on Sat. 8/7

We’re really looking forward to seeing everyone in the podcasting and SF&F community. Walk up to us and say hello!

3 Alternative Bean Salad: Mad Food Science Experiments Continue [Revised 7/5/10]

by Paul Fischer

[Edited 7/5: As often happens when Eegor is around things get confused. While checking this posting I was interrupted by a crisis he caused. It seems he took some of my embalming fluid (don’t ask) and decided to open a lemonade stand. Good thing I won fastest time to making a stomach pump from a household appliance 3 years running at Mad Science U. The long and the short of it is I forgot 2 ingredients. I will add them in bold for those who have already read this post.]

I’ve been a fan of the classic three bean salad since I was a kid. The taste brings me back to childhood picnics and lunch at my aunt’s house on their deck or just in the back yard. I didn’t set out to make it, but I discovered the ingredients in my house quite by accident.

Yesterday morning we descended upon amazing Falls Church Farmer’s Market and stormed the produce sellers. We had limited time, as we were soon off to a birthday party. I was certain the green beans and shelled green peas I bought last week at Giant were bad. So I picked up more green beans and what I thought were peas. Actually, what I bought were green black eyed peas (so technically the guy didn’t lie to me).

I was surprised to discover the Giant produce had survived in the chill chest for a whole week. And this launched the conundrum, “What the heck am I going to do with three kinds of beans?”



…flashback to childhood…

3 Alternative Bean Salad was born in that moment and the ladies at tonight’s 4th of July dinner gave it such rave reviews that I’m not even going to wait and tinker before publishing the recipe.

Fresh green beans

Fresh sweet green peas

Fresh (green?) black eyed peas (**see note at bottom**)

1/2 cup rice wine vinegar

1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil (the good stuff)

1/4 cup sugar

Salt & pepper to taste (I used about 1 tsp kosher salt and a few grinds of while and green peppercorns. My battery operated black pepper grinder was offline for battery replacement and the baby was sleeping. I can never replace the batteries in the thing without making a racket and cursing a whole lot, so I opted for the manual grinders.)

Dijon mustard (I used about 1.5 tsp of the good stuff)

Hot sauce to taste (I used about 6 shakes of a Goya habanero blend)

Fresh Cilantro

Lime Juice (I used bottle, but fresh is always best)


Take each of the beans and do the following to them separately:

  1. Prepare an ice water bath and find a strainer that will fit in it.
  2. Clean them in a strainer under running water
  3. For the green beans, remove the unwanted head and tail bits. Leave them as long as you can.
  4. Steam them so they’re cooked al dente. For me, this is about 10 minutes in my electric steamer.
  5. When the steaming is done immediately put them back in a strainer and put them in the ice water bath you prepared beforehand.
  6. Strain and dry the beans then refrigerate.

When all of your beans are ready, select about 1 cup of each. Chop the green beans into 1/2″ to 1″ pieces. Put all the beans into your desired storage container. I used a 4 cup oval tupperware unit I’ve had for over a decade.

Make the juice:

Put the vinegar in a mixing bowl. Slowly add the olive oil while whisking. When done keep whisking until well mixed. (If the baby hadn’t been asleep I’d have used the stick blender with the food processor attachment. But she was, so I whisked by hand. Oy! What a pain) Add the rest of the ingredients except the cilantro and whisk in until throughly mixed.

Pour the juice over the beans. Cover. (Hopefully you’re using an air tight container otherwise shaking and mixing is going to get messy, in which case you want a rain coat and a trip outdoors.)

Chop the cilantro fine and add to the bean mix and juice.

Shake the beans in the juice for 30 to 61 seconds. Put in the fridge. Check back in an hour and do shake again.

About an hour later, serve to discerning guests (or your family).


**** Note: I’ve never seen fresh black eyed peas before. Since the dried variety are always white, I expected fresh ones to be white as well. Mine weren’t, they were green. It is quite possible these are mutant zombie ninja green black eyed peas in which case I’m probably in big trouble. However, it is equally possible that they are some known and inoffensive type of black eyed pea I’ve never heard of before. Maybe one of you nice people will comment on the color of fresh black eyed peas and clue me in. It’s not like I’m connected to the world’s largest and most up to date information source ever in the history of mankind. So I need your help.

Hot and Cold Mad Science Soup Experiments

by Paul Fischer

It’s late. I’m wasted. It’s been a long hard day, but so relaxing and zen. Best of all, mad science cookery was involved.

We’re in the middle of golden squash and zucchini season. We’re also at the tail end of strawberry season. One more week, maybe two, and the fresh local strawberries will be gone gone gone.

This morning, after breakfast and some errands, we went to the Vienna farmer’s market and stocked up on the freshest produce. I considered the options for the veggies, and Martha mentioned our little scientist loves soup. So what could be better than squash zucchini soup? Two soups, that’s what. After a few minutes searching through the Interwebs, I added some fresh herbs and about a pound of sweet italian lamb sausage to the take home. After many hard hours of work, I present the recipes (as best as I can recall) for the mad science soups of the day: Cold Strawberry Soup and Squash Zucchini Soup.

Cold Strawberry Soup

I built this one large. I picked up 2 quarts of fresh strawberries and tried to add as little as possible to the taste. I based this on recipe for my starting point. I opted for a lot more citrus and a lot less sugar. Most of the recipes I saw included some dairy, and that’s a no go for me. So I substituted coconut milk from the package. This is approximately what I used:

2 qt. fresh in season strawberries

Juice and zest of one orange, one lemon, one lime

1 cup sugar

1 package instant coconut milk

Enough water to cover the strawberries in the pot. I used at least 4 cups.

Making the soup was simplicity itself. Even Igor could do it.

Clean, dry, and remove the leaves and stems from the strawberries. Place them in a large pot on the stove. Add sugar. Zest the citrus and cut in half. Juice the citrus. Put the zest in the pot. Strain the pulp and seeds before putting the juice into the pot. Add enough water to cover. Add instant coconut milk powder.

Bring to a boil. Lower heat and simmer for 20 minutes. Lower heat to lowest setting and allow to cool. Get out your stick blender and blend until smooth. Make sure not to sent the mixture flying, as you could get burned.

Allow the mixture to thicken to where you would like it to be. I reduced the water by about 1/3 from the end of cooking before I let the soup cool. Once cool, chill. Then serve as you please.

Squash Zucchini Soup

I had a lot of squash and zucchini. You will probably start with less. This one is simple. Igor could do it even when his brain is in the wash.

You’ll need:

a mess of squash and zucchini.

Chicken broth or Veggie Broth, low salt or salt free

About 3/4 lb. of sweet italian lamb (or pork) sausage. This is optional for the VEG among us.

Salt & Pepper

Fresh Parsley, Basil, & Cilantro (I used 1/2 a bunch of basil and a whole bunch of parsley & cilantro)

Peel the squash and zucchini. Cut into rounds and place in your stock pot. Add enough broth to cover. Add a little salt to start. You can add more later.

Put the sausages under your heat of choice and cook thoroughly. Let cool and cut into 1/2″ slices. Save grease to add to soup if desired. The lamb sausage didn’t have much, so I added it for flavor.

Cover. Simmer veggies for about 20 minutes making sure to stir every 5 minutes or so.

Wash the herbs and make sure the stalks are tender before putting the stocks, along with the leaves, into the pot. Let simmer for another 5 minutes to soften the herbs. Hit the whole thing with your immersion (stick) blender. Blend it smooth. Taste. Add salt & pepper as needed.

Make sure not to over salt. Add meat. Lower temperature and allow soup to reduce by 1/4 to 1/3.

Serve and enjoy hot.

Mad Science Experiments In Banana Bread [updated]

by Paul Fischer

[Originally published Nov 12, 2009 @ 10:37]

Anyone who has a baby around knows that they love bananas. You also know babies can’t finish all the bananas you buy before they go brown, then spotted, and finally black. I think this child based excess of old bananas was the original source for the plethora of banana bread recipes. Regardless, my solution to stem the brown & black banana tide has been to make banana bread.
My original recipe for this comes from Bon Appetit Magazine. It’s called their Best Ever Banana Bread and what makes it best ever is copious amounts of fat and sugar. In our quest for a healthier recipe, I sought out one with much lower fat and sugar. After two false starts I settled on this recipe from Recipe Zaar.

The addition of the apple sauce adds a nice flavor and when I stumbled across granny smith apple sauce snack cups in the store, I decided to give that a try. The granny smith made a huge difference. It really adds an extra dimension to the banana bread, giving it just a little bit of sour tart taste. So, of course, I decided to punch that up with even more.

I ran into a problem when I decided to add two entire snack cups to the mix. This added a lot more fruit material and liquid. I’ve been compensating with an extra 1/2 cup of flour and a pinch more baking soda and baking powder. So far that seems to have corrected and made a better cake, but I think I still need to add more of them to make it the best yet.

I changed my mind on the GSAS (granny smith applesauce). I ran into problems with such a huge mixture. Now I only use extra GSAS to make up for a deficit in the available number of bananas.

I also changed the cooking method to cream the sugar and butter first. This made a fantastic difference in texture but only if the butter is at room temperature. Room temperature butter is very important. The BB is much lighter and fluffier now. I also triple the vanilla. I think everything needs much more vanilla than is in the recipe. I kept adding more and more vanilla until all I could taste was vanilla. This was too much. 1 Tablespoon of vanilla is about the maximum, but you may want less depending on your taste.

Another option, which I haven’t tried, would be to hold back one or two of the bananas, but I think that might change the taste too much. Given the way we go through bananas, I’m baking about one BB a week. So it won’t be long before I decide to try another variation.

If anyone knows of a source of granny smith apple sauce that doesn’t come in snack cups, please let me know by leaving a comment.

In the mean time, here’s the recipe as it stands:

  1. Cream softened butter and sugar together in a stand mixer for 5 minutes on medium.
  2. Add bananas into the bowl and mash for another 5 minutes on medium or until pulverized.
  3. Add all other wet ingredients and mix well.
  4. Add baking soda, baking powder and mix well.
  5. Add in flour in 1/2 cup batches until incorporated.
  6. Mix until smooth, stopping once or twice to scrape the sides. Do not overmix (You don’t want to make too much gluten which will make your banana bread tough as nails).
  7. Pour into a large greased loaf pan (or you can split it in half and use two smaller loaf pans).
  8. Pour into two greased 8 inch loaf pans.
  9. Bake at 350 degrees for 50 to 60 minutes, or until toothpick inserted into center of cake comes out clean.

The Cory Doctorow ‘No Thank You’ Ringtone

by Paul Fischer

Listening to Cory Doctorow’s podcast gets you more than fiction. He often drops in audio from his live readings, convention panels, and interviews. During a recent event he was asked about his sub 2 year old daughter, Posey. He then performed an impression of her saying “No Thank You!” (I heard the capital letters during the impression) As a father of an almost 14 month old baby girl I found the impression delightful to the Nth extreme. I couldn’t get it out of my head. So I snipped it and made a little ring tone out of it. I hope you like it.

The ringtone is a .m4r file. It will go straight into iTune and onto your iPhone. If you don’t have an iPhone you’ll want the .mp3 version. It’s in mono, 64 Kbps, so it should work on just about any phone that will let you use your own .mp3 files as ringtones.

If there’s interest and time, I’ll try throwing some bed music underneath it and post it again.

PS. The best part of the impression was Cory doing his daughter’s British accent.

Poached Pears

by Paul Fischer

Last weekend I discovered I had some Bartlett pears and most of a bottle of wine in the fridge that needed to get eaten. Both were still good, but wouldn’t be so for long. Immediately I thought of making Poached Pears. I hit the FoodTV site for a recipe, which I used as the basis for my creation.

The wine was a sweet white from Fiore winery in Maryland. We picked it up at our friends Mike and Nikki’s wedding back last year.

I deviated heavily from the FoodTV recipe and the results were spectacular. Here’s my version of the recipe:

  • 4 firm Bartlett pears
  • 1 bottle, less 1 wine glass full, Fiore Malvasia Bianca Dolce
  • 1/3 to 1/2 cup of sugar
  • 6 peppercorns
  • 1 vanilla bean

Unlike all other Poached Pear recipes I’ve seen, I broke down the pears into 1/8 sections. First I peeled and quartered them and removed the core and seeds. Then I cut them across the width to make them all about the same sized chunks.  I’ve always had a problem with the standard recipe because the insides tend to be raw while the outside is falling apart.

I put the pears in a small sauce pan so I could keep the height of the liquid as high as possible. I emptied the bottle of wine in the pan and turned the heat to one notch over medium. I dumped in the remainder of sugar from the coffee service, which is why I don’t know exactly how much went in the pot. To this I added 6 whole black peppercorns and a vanilla bean.

I split the vanilla bean in half and scraped out the insides. I learned to do that from Alton Brown. I don’t work with whole vanilla beans, and while they’re expensive, it made the dish truly awesome. I put the casing and the insides of the bean in the pan and covered until it started to simmer. Then I took the cover off and let it cook just over a simmer. I guess you’d call it a low boil.

After 10 minutes I checked the pears and they weren’t tender enough. I checked them again 5 minutes later and they seemed all right. In hind sight, I would have given them another 5 minutes because some of the pieces weren’t completely tender. This gives me an estimate of 20 minutes.

Once done I removed the pears with a slotted spoon and put them in a tupperware container which I sealed and set aside. I then strained the liquid to remove the vanilla bean and peppercorns and put it back on the heat. I reduced the sauce to a syrup.

As it turned out, the pears had a expressed a lot of liquid while cooling the the tupperware. When I mixed the syrup back in with the pears it got soupy again. So I poured off all the liquid and reduced it again until I was returning a nice thick syrup back to my cooled pears. You might want to wait for the pears to cool and pour their liquid back into the sauce pan before doing the reduction.

We at these as is, with syrup, and over vanilla ice cream and angel food cake. We tried them hot and cool and both were awesome. The potency of the syrup seemed to fade over the course of a week, so I wouldn’t keep them around for more than 3 days. I just can’t eat that much fruit in one sitting.

This recipe is awesome. Don’t skimp on the vanilla bean. It really makes the whole thing worth while.

I plan on trying this again, but I’ll probably double the recipe. It’s a lot of work for just 4 pears and 8 pears worth would be better.

Help Jared Get His Laptop Repaired for His Birthday

by Paul Fischer

In the grand tradition of the Internet, I’ve started up a fund to right a wrong. Jared Axelrod is one of the most creative people I’ve ever met. He is simply awesome. About a year ago he purchased my old Apple G4 Powerbook from me. I was really excited at the prospect of him being able to create new and wonderful things to share while on the road.

Unfortunately the laptop screen got broken in an accident a short time later and the machine, while still operational, is anchored to his desktop by a large and clunky monitor. No longer can he create on the go as the universe intended.

So I implore you, please help us get Jared’s laptop fixed. I found a company in California that will repair it for $250. I expect he’ll have to spend between $30 and $50 boxing it up to travel safely as well as for postage and insurance. So I’ve created the fund for a total of $300 (less PayPal fees). [NOTE: I couldn’t figure out how to have show our donation, so I lowered the original amount to reflect our gift.]

Anything you can spare would be a great help. Please consider give a few bucks to help him get his mobile mojo back in gear. Every $5 or $10 you can spare will get him closer to creating more wonderful things without being anchored to a monitor.

Awesome New iPhone Game

by Paul Fischer

My friend, Greg Seidman, has released his first game for the iPhone. Circuits, is a cool game where you rotate parts on the board trying to form a circuit before time runs out. I’ve been testing the game for months and I really love it. You can find out more about Circuits here.

The game is addictive. I’ve played it for hours and that’s saying something for Mr. A.D.D. Usually I put iPhone games down after a short time. But not Circuits. Give it a try, I’m sure you’ll love it.

Japanese Fish Owl – Sept 2007

by Paul Fischer

In Sept, 2007, on the northern most side of Japan’s northern most island. An island from which you can actually see Russia, even on a bad day, we headed out in the dead of night to an organized Fish Owl shoot.

My old Canon flash gave up the ghost somewhere between Taichung and Tokyo. Luckily my ancient Vivitar flash got plucked from the garage just before we walked out the door weeks before. My trusty old Vivitar doesn’t speak modern Canon hot shoe lingo, so I was forced to shoot completely manual.

I worked it out as I went along. Lucky for me I had been listening to the back catalog of Shutters Inc episodes from down under. It was like a refresher of my college photo courses in my earbuds. The results follow. Notice how the shots get better as we progressed through the evenings.

Eliza’s First Laugh [updated 2/18]

by Paul Fischer

This is one of the coolest things ever. Eliza is just 4 1/2 months old now, and this is her first real belly laugh. I get choked up just thinking about it.

I made three files so you can download the one that’s right for your net connect.

Eliza’s First Laugh: Large (50 MB) / Medium (21 MB) / Mobile (11 MB – great for iPhone/iPod)

[Updated 2/18] – I’ve added a like to YouTube. Some people were having problems downloading the files and playing them. Most notably my Dad. What’s the point of posting baby videos if our parents can’t see them? Click here for the YouTube version of Eliza’s First Laugh.

Flickr Photo Meme

by Paul Fischer

I usually don’t respond when I’m tagged for a meme’s. Time is scarce these days, but this one is pretty neat, so I’m making the time. Andy from the Andycast tagged Dani Cutler from the Truth Seekers podcast and Dani tagged me. The meme is you have to go to your 6th page of flickr photos, and blog about the 6th picture. Here’s Andy’s post. Here’s Dani’s post from her personal blog.

I have a ton of family only and friend only pictures on my Flickr feed. I chose to use the 6th picture on the 6th page that a non-friend/family person would see. If you go to the 6th photo on the 6th page and don’t see this picture, then you’re a friend or family member on Flickr, so you see pictures of mine that most people don’t see.

Balticon has been an anchor in my life almost immediately from the time I moved to the D.C. area. I has been my favorite con for over 15 years and about a decade ago I started volunteering my time to help run the it. I started out helping CZ run computer gaming, and eventually took over the reigns as his personal life got more complex. When my interest in computer gaming waned I started the podcasting track and the Balticon Podcast.

This turns out to be one of the best things I’ve ever done. The podcasting track morphed into the new media track and now includes blogs, podcasts, and web comics. I’ve met and become friends with a huge creative community which enriches my life on a daily basis. I can’t remember a time when I’ve had so many friends all over the world with whom I’ve been able to create new and better things.

The first year we had the podcasting track at Balticon, someone wanted to have blue crabs. I think it might be Mur Lafferty who made the initial suggestion. Since then a blue crab feast has become a regular event for the podcasters at Balticon.

For Balticon 42, Earl Newton is the one who really made it happen. He got everyone together, placed the order, wrangled the crabs, and found us a place to eat. The large paper bag is full of steamed spiced Maryland goodness.

Where do you ear blue crab? First you go to Maryland because they make the best. Ideally, blue crabs are eaten outside and with beer. A good crowd of friends always makes the meal that much sweeter.

How do you eat a blue crab? Then you get some plain brown paper for a table cloth and a big wooden mallet. You open up the body of the crab like a pop top soda can and get the mustard and good body meat. Then you take the mallet and smash the claws to get the delicious claw meat. If you’re a pro, you can get a little meat from the legs. I am not, so I skip them.

Don’t bother washing up until you’ve had your fill. Maryland blue crabs, eaten this way, are messy. Downright delectable, but very very messy.

Our yearly crab feast is always one of the high points for me. I expend so much energy getting the track coordinated and getting recordings for the Balticon Podcast, that it really matters to me that I get to sit down with my friends and peers and just enjoy the company and the meal.

Baby Announcement: More for Less

by Paul Fischer

Martha and I had our first child, Eliza Rose, on Oct 1. Since then we’ve been sleep deprived and are suffering from Mommy Brain and Daddy Brain respectively. We both took extensive time off from work to be with baby, and are now back at work. And during that time we tried to keep up with things we would normally do around the house as well as baby specific etiquette things.

The most notable etiquette item that stuck in my mind was Thank You notes. The outpouring of kindness and generosity at the baby shower really blew me away. I am still in awe regarding the overwhelming turn out and things people sent to help little Eliza’s get a good start on life. I spent weeks writing Thank You notes, signing them, and sending them out. Natalie Morris did a big batch for us, which really blew me away. She’s been such a great help.

But after the Thank You notes went out, I got a letter from my Aunt Lenny. You need to know some things about my relationship with her. Where my mom was ADD, my aunt is OCD and as a child I could mess things up or break them the second my aunt’s back was turned. Lenny and I have never really communicated directly, most of our conversation goes through third parties. So I was a little surprised and delighted to get a letter from her. Among the other things in the letter there was a simple note written on a post-it sized piece of paper. It said, “When you send out Birth Announcements make sure you include the people on this list…”

Up until this point I hadn’t really considered the need to send out birth announcements. I sent out invites to the baby shower, posted the birth on Twitter, and emailed 1/2 the known universe. As you might expect, I’m now consumed with the idea of getting the baby announcements sent out. And so, having learned to avoid anything requiring extensive amounts of time to assemble I set about looking for printable birth announcements on the web.

Most of my original findings were in two classes, neither of which interested me. The first was online printing services which would pre-print your custom announcements. The second was large kits which included ribbons, bows, multiple pieces, colors, and types of papers, and therefore required a minute or two per announcement to assemble. Both of these choices were terribly expensive, ranging from $1.25 all the way up to $4 or $5 each. Since I have about 50 names on my list, and Martha probably has about the same, we were looking at a minimum of $125 for 100 invites which we still had to address. Then we had to add shipping to get them to us and postage to send them out. That would round the total to about $175 minimum.

After much searching and modifying my google search terms, I finally found a site that offers blank cards and envelopes in bulk. My Expression offers a small but nice selection of cards which can be ordered blank in bulk for less. We purchased 100 cards and envelopes for less than $60. That includes shipping. I’ll try to post more when they arrive, but they look very nice. Hopefully the picture on the web will meet my expectations.

Once we have the cards we’ll be able to print our own announcement text and then print the envelopes. I plan to include a photo of Eliza Rose in the announcement. Once Martha and I select a photo, I plan on using some of the “50 free photos” trial offers that you see from certain shutterbug websites. If I can find 2 such offers I can get 100 5×7 prints to put in with my 5.5 x 7.75 announcements.

I’d rather not pay someone $0.25 per envelope and $0.50 per card to have them print on blank stock, when I have printers at home which can do the same job. I’d rather take that money and put it in an IRA or 529 Education Savings Plan.

Even thought I’m going to be doing some of the work at home, I’ve limited myself to printing the cards, addressing the envelopes, stuffing the envelopes, and affixing stamps. As much as that sounds like a ton of work, most of it will be done by the old Epson printer I just picked up off FreeCycle. The end result will be a nice birth announcement at less than half the cost with very little assembly work. That’s a win-win situation to me.