Archive for August, 2009

It’s great when something does more than one thing for you. In the case of mobile phones, it’s nice when they can double as a camera, for example, as it means you have one less thing to carry around. Alton Brown also¬†makes a pretty persuasive case for what he calls multitaskers in the kitchen. He’s not a fan of the garlic press, for example, because it only does that one thing.

But sometimes it’s nice–charming even–when something does merely one thing. It helps, of course, if it does that one thing in style. Witness this little charmer we picked up at Giant Robot in San Francisco.


It really is charming. And that isn’t just a matter of it’s style, but a reflection of its simplicity. Sure it only does one thing, but it does it reliably and without confusion. It doesn’t crash. It requires no tech support.

And there’s also the dial. The digital world has removed many of the dials, knobs, and rotors from our lives, in exchange for buttons and sliders. I suppose it’s just nice to have something round around.


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Shuck Shack

Yesterday afternoon we ventured to East Austin to check out Shuck Shack, a new seafood joint. We got there before the kitchen opened and were invited to have a seat and a cocktail in their patio area. I hesitated, because Austin is averaging temperatures of 105 lately, but the preservation of some big old trees made the patio quite shady and comfortable.

ShuckShack 1

The menu is pretty simple, but had all of my favorites covered. Raw oysters to come this fall.

ShuckShack 2
ShuckShack 3

Ben’s generous portion of crab cakes was great. Very meaty and well-seasoned with just the right amount of fried-ness. Sometimes, people talk about crab cakes as if the only thing that counts is how much crab you can cram in there and still hold it together. But part of what makes crab cakes great is the rest of the stuff in there. These were a great example of a good balance between crab meat and other stuff.

ShuckShack 4

My fried oyster po boy was great. The bread was perfect and slathered with just a touch of mayo in anticipation of the oysters, shredded lettuce and pico de gallo.

ShuckShack 5

Ben was impressed with the margaritas. And Ben is not easily impressed with margaritas.

ShuckShack 6

When we saw some delivered to the table next to us, we decided we needed to try the hush puppies. They were served with a spicy ranch sauce.

ShuckShack 7

I thought they were great. Ben is a hush puppy purist, though, so he was a little overwhelmed by all the action going on inside those fried little bits.

ShuckShack 8

The view from our table. The hanging bags of sugar water keep the bugs away. The blue porch ceiling keeps the evil spirits away.

ShuckShack 9

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Happy Hour

Yesterday, I met my friend Mitch at the Continental Club after work. The Continental was pretty much the reason I moved to Austin originally. My friend Jeff brought me here the night before my interview with GSD&M. It turned out that the Weary Boys (in their Mario Matteoli days) were playing that night. I was hooked. Last night was the Stone River Boyz, who despite their misspelled name, put on an airtight show. You might not be able to tell from this iPhone photo, but this guy played a mean baritone guitar. He knew his way around that long neck.

Dinner 1

Afterwards, dinner was a no-brainer. When I have access to the Deluxe Chicken-Avocado cone, I take advantage. You used to only find these at ACL fest, but now they’ve got their own trailer on South Congress.

Dinner 2

Just to break up the routine, I threw in a brisket taco from neighboring Airstream tenant Vaquero Cocina. I was a big fan of their typography, and the taco wasn’t bad either. But I wish the brisket had been served hot (it was chilly) and that they offered a corn tortilla option (flour only). Still, it was nice and spicy, with some tasty toppings in there, too. Here’s Taco Town’s take.

Dinner 3

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The Anxiety Of Internet

Alex Ross, author of The Rest Is Noise, had a piece in the New Yorker a couple of weeks ago about listening to classical music on the internet. The article was called “Infinite Playlist.” There was one passage in it that struck a chord with me:

The medium too easily generates anxiety in place of fulfillment, an addictive cycle of craving and malaise. No sooner has one experience begun than the thought of what else is out there intrudes. Putting on an old-fashioned disc and letting it play to the end restores a measure of sanity.

The first thing this passage called to mind was a cycle I tend to fall into when I’m not very busy at work. I check Google Reader. I check Twitter. Email. I check them all again. I vaguely remember something I was supposed to be working on, but it escapes me, so I check Google Reader again. I bounce from tab to tab like a pinball. I’m not looking for anything in particular, but I keep looking… for something.

Plenty has been said about internet addiction, email addiction, and “crackberries.” But in terms of going beyond cliches, Jonah Leher provides some great insight into what is actually happening in our brains. Here’s an interesting passage from his recent post on information addiction:

What numerous experiments have found is that our dopamine neurons aren’t interested in responding to the reward itself – instead, they want to find the first reliable bit of information that predicts the reward. This is why we crave new facts: they are means of updating our old facts, of extending our cognitive models forward in time.

This is a satisfying idea. Our brains are information machines. Dopamine rewards us for finding information that explains how things work. It makes perfect evolutionary sense. The problem is that on the internet, the supply of information is seemingly infinite. So before we realize what we’re doing, we’ve spent five hours clicking, clicking, clicking. We’re not any happier, even if we’ve discovered some new tunes, videos, furniture or whatever. Then ends don’t justify the means.

This is why I go back and forth on indie rock music. It’s an endless discovery. There are always new bands. There’s one every week. The problem is that so few of them last. When’s the last time anyone mentioned Clap Your Hands Say Yeah? Right now, the indie intelligentsia is telling us that we should be listening to the Dirty Projectors. I give ’em eight months.

I’m not saying that these bands are bad. I’m just saying that the whole indie rock thing sometimes feels like it doesn’t have anything to do with actual quality. It can feel more like fashion, as opposed to something timeless. And what’s the point in the constant searching unless you find something worth holding on to? Or as Mr. Ross put it, “Putting on an old-fashioned disc and letting it play to the end restores a measure of sanity.”

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Prejean’s, Lafayette LA

NOTE: This post was supposed to be part of our big road trip series, but it somehow got lost in the shuffle.

Road Food had lots of great-sounding recommendations for lunch in Lafayette, but we were finally swayed by the plethora of crawfish options at Prejean’s. Plus, it was just off the highway.

Prejeans 1

They had an impressive display of schwag.

Prejeans 2

Ben and I shared the Crawfish Platter:  fried crawfish, crawfish Etouffee, crawfish pie, crawfish boulettes, crawfish bisque, fries, dirty rice, and fried crawfish salad. The highlight may have actually been the dirty rice.

Prejeans 3

I couldn’t resist this commemorative coozie.

Prejeans 4

Also, for future reference, you will be laughed at (as we were) if you come home from Lafayette and tell people that you went to PREE-GENE’s (especially if they are from Lafayette, as they were). Say it like it’s French.

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