Thursday, August 27, 2009

Help getting dressed

Sure, I can whip up a different vinaigrette every day of the week. Blue Cheese, Caesar and Ranch all know the touch of my whisk. I've even been known to dress green salads with Nuoc Cham or various Asian sesame oil & rice vinegar concoctions. Some days though, I just need a little help. I'm doing a bunch of other things and I just want my dressing to come out of a bottle. This is when I reach for the FreshDirect Blue Cheese Dressing. This stuff is easily as good as anything you'd make yourself without the hassle of keeping supplies of sour cream, buttermilk and blue cheese on hand. Honorable Mention goes to FreshDirect Roasted Garlic Caesar Dressing which is good but needs a little extra oomph, some mashed up anchovies or a little drizzle of nuoc mam a.k.a. fish sauce (known to the Caesars themselves as garum). I would avoid the FreshDirect Raspberry Nectar Vinaigrette w/ Omega-3. I find it to be sweet, sour and insipid.

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Friday, August 21, 2009

The Gleat Galric Clisis

Is it just me, or has it become harder and harder to get decent garlic? Everywhere you go these days, its those white net tubes of garlic sent over from China, in slow-moving uninsulated cargo containers. Even if you don't see the tubes, chances are very good that the anonymous loose garlic you find in your local supermarket comes from our favorite 1.3 billion producers of low-cost products. The stuff has a nasty off aroma and if you actually eat it in little chunks as I am wont to do, you get this weird acidic aftertaste. It's just bad.

When my timing is just right, I get great local garlic at the various Farmers Markets. Very occasionally, a single head of garlic turns up in my CSA box, but that just doesn't even begin to cover my everyday garlic needs. Fortunately I have found two reliable sources of non-Chinese garlic. The regular (non-organic) garlic from FreshDirect comes from Mexico. (The "organic" stuff comes from Argentina, but I just don't know what that word means outside of the US. Even in the US it's starting to mean "Factory produced, ultra-pasteurized and shipped to you from far away.) The other place that has garlic with identifiable provenance is Trader Joe's, their organic garlic is clearly marked as a product of California.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Uploading your contacts into Gmail or GApps and synchronizing with the iPhone

I recently spent a great deal of time uploading all my contacts into Gmail Contacts and then trying to get those contacts to sync cleanly with my iPhone's contacts using Google Sync . To my chagrin I learned that although both these mechanisms work very well, there are some significant stumbling blocks when using them together. The first important thing to note is that not all of the fields that are in Dave's terrific .csv file will sync to the iPhone. Here is a shot of all the fields loaded with test data uploaded to Gmail. Pretty, right? Not shown because it didn't fit in the screenshot is the "Notes" field at the bottom but that worked fine. The fields "Section 1 - Other" and "Section 2 - Other" Show up as "Other" and "Home" respectively, toward the bottom of the contact; a little odd but dealable.

When you go ahead and set up the Sync with the iPhone, that's when you run into problems. None of the Section 1 Phone number fields will sync with the iPhone. Section 2 fields: "Home," "Home Fax," "Mobile," and "Pager" sync up just fine. The fields "Section 2 - Company," "Section 2 - Title" and "Section 2 - Other" will also fail to sync.

After a GREAT DEAL of trial and error, I have come up with one significant improvement. If you replace the Section 1 - Description with "Work" (don't use the quotes) you will get two more fields on your iPhone; "Section 1 - Phone" and "Section 1 - Fax" will sync to the iPhone as "Work" and"Work Fax" respectively. Those Section Descriptions are REALLY important. They must be on every line of the .csv, spelled correctly and the first letter must be capitalized or they just don't work.

So to recap: Use this .csv file. Change the Section 1 - Description from "Other" to "Work" (again don't use the quotes). Do not use the following fields: "Section 1 - Mobile," "Section 1 - Pager," "Section 1 - Other," "Section 2 - Company," Section 2 - Title," "Section 2 - Other." (Possibly these columns could be removed from the template, but I haven't tested this).

Just as a side note, if you have contact records that contain a "Company Name" but no "Name" field, Gmail will not import those. Copy the contents of the "Company Name" field into the "Name" field and you're good.

Once you've done this though, it really rocks. BUT: don't forget to occasionally use the Gmail export function to backup your contacts to a csv file. Although it feels like you're backed up because it's on your iPhone and on Gmail, the truth is if something is accidentally deleted from Gmail or if something should go terribly, terribly wrong over at the big G, your sync'ed iPhone contacts can disappear in a twinkling of an eye.

If anyone wants to take this info and make it into a super user-friendly tutorial, they should feel entirely free, I just don't have the time just now :)