Monday, May 30, 2011

Gone Fishin'

Blogging will be non existent this week and I will be in South Dakota on a week-long fishing trip. Expect pictures galore, as well as tall tales of my fishing prowess and masculinity in the great outdoors.

I didn't have a "Gone Drinkin" sign.

Sunday, May 29, 2011

Dinner and Drinks: Savory Sausage and Rice

One food that I have come to love --LOVE-- in all its glorious forms is sausage. Nothing brightens up a stew or adds the same character to a pasta dish as a good sausage. When I answered Donna's "what's for dinner" by asking for suggestions, she wondered what what we had available in the sausage department. Ignoring the obvious dirty comeback, I started rooting through the freezer. What I found was some wild rice sausage we bought from Thielen's. I've never had it, but I thought it was high time I fixed that.

Savory Sausage and Rice

3 links of your favorite sausage
2 cups of rice
1 cup beef broth
8 oz mushrooms (sliced)
2 green onions (sliced)
2 tbsp corn starch (dissolved in 2 cups of cold water)
2 tsp tarragon
2 tsp salt
1 tsp rosemary
1 tsp olive oil

First, get your corn starch mixed in cold water. Important safety tip: corn starch will not mix with hot liquids. Trust me on this. You can't add it to the broth later unless you want little white lumps of corn starch floating around. How much you need to use ultimately depends on how thick you want the sauce.
Get the beef broth cooking in a large skillet on high heat so it will reduce. Add the spices, mushrooms and green onions. Keep reducing until about half the liquid is gone, or until it gets to the consistency you crave. At the same time...
In a separate skillet heat the olive oil over medium high heat. Brown the sausage on all sides. You don't need it to cook all the way through. Slice it and add it to the broth. Reduce the heat on the broth to a simmer. Let it simmer for a while (the longer it does, the more tasty it gets. Cook the rice according to the package directions. Serve the sausage and mushrooms over the rice.
I sauteèd some asparagus tips to go along with it. Heat some olive oil in a skillet on medium-high heat. Add the asparagus and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Toss it around and keep it moving so it doesn't burn. It should just start to go limp. Get it off the heat immediately and serve as it will keep cooking  even off the heat.
I accompanied this dish with a Fat Tire, which is a great Belgian amber ale. To me it tastes like a Newcastle Brown ale with a tootsie roll in it. Really good beer, especially when paired with a savory meat dish like this.

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Music Diaries: I'm Ready To Learn the Five Point Palm Exploding Heart Technique

"First punch through this board, then I
I will teach you the F-chord, you
worthless American dog!"
Chord training is going swimmingly, though I've moved past the "easy" ones (simple c, simple g, a7) and gotten into some of the more challenging ones (c, f, g). It's all repetition and improving transition speed from one to the other. The software's been pretty great, especially since the author is no longer doing the singing -- sorry dude; you're a fine guitar teacher but as a singer you're... a fine guitar teacher.

I'm getting much faster, and I'm slowly approaching the point where I can hit the previously-unattainable c-chord on the fly without enough time passing to recite the Pledge of Allegiance. My finger tips are slowly coming into form as well. The pads are all rough and ready, like a longshoreman's. They're pretty numb, though whether that's due to their toughening up or catastrophic nerve damage I'm not yet sure. I should know soon. In the meantime, I'm ready for my climactic battle with Bill.

Donna is progressing too; the d chord was kicking her butt for a while but she's getting closer and closer. It's a lot of fun sitting down together to practice. MJ has had the least amount of time with it, as she is only with me half the time. I am going to be out of town next week, but last night she asked if she could take her guitar to her mother's to practice. Of course I said yes. I'll be eager to see how much practice time she actually gets in. She's starting to get a little frustrated with it, as it's getting hard as we go. I keep telling her that that's part of it; everybody would play the guitar if it was easy, etc. We'll see how it goes.

It's clear that Donna has the best musical ear among the three of us; we rely on her to get in tune before practice. I think I'm getting better, but it's hard to tell.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

End of the Rec Soccer Season Ushers in the Start of the Competitive Season

Recreational soccer for the Spring finished up this past weekend. MJ got a one day off to bask in the glow before practice started for her U-10 girls competitive team, the Pumas. This means I get to take off my coaching hat and put on my amateur photographer's hat for the Summer. But before that happens, I have a picture of the final incarnation of the 2010- 2011 Galaxy, the rec team I coached the past two seasons:

Not taken with an EOS 7-D.

They were a great bunch of girls. Really fun to coach and great listeners. They wanted to learn and get better throughout the year, which is always nice to see. I'm going to miss them. Hopefully I will get some of them assigned to my team in the fall as well (though some will be moving up to U-11 and so that can't happen). We'll see.

Now I get to find out how good of a choice I made in buying a DSLR. I'm expecting some great shots.

Monday, May 23, 2011

Monday Morning Awesomeness (5/23/2011)

Some links to celebrate the Apocalypse being late... again.

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Music Diaries: Getting Started

So I'm learning the guitar. My first step was to find some software that would help me learn the basics. If I felt the need later to get some personal instruction, at least I wouldn't be a total newbie, right? I finally settled on something called eMedia Guitar Method. (I see it's going for $49 right now -- funny, I got it for $39 last week). I've gotten through the first three chapters and it's pretty fun. I recommend it if you're in the market for such a thing.

The more important thing is that both MJ and Donna want to learn as well. So this weekend we've been huddled around the computer learning chords and terminology and 3/4 time and 4/4 time and all that fun stuff.

But I'm getting ahead of the story. I told MJ that if she really wanted to learn and if she stuck with it, I would get her her own guitar for a birthday present. I needed to go to the local music store (Marguerite's) to get some strings for my acoustic guitar along with a couple other little things. But since Donna is interested too, it seemed we were short a guitar. So when we went into the store on Friday and I told the clerk that I was looking for a starter guitar for a nine-year-old, somebody's eyes got really wide.

So MJ has her very own guitar now. She's really into it (I hope that lasts) as the learning software starts off at a very easy pace.

Then we had another issue; Donna doesn't like either of my guitars. The electric is too heavy and the acoustic has a round back which made it hard for her to keep it in position. So on Saturday we went back to Marguerite's and Donna picked out a really nice-sounding Yamaha for herself. It's like we're starting a band.

That's MJ's starter guitar on top. My very old not-so top of the line SPS
is in the center (hecho en Mexico!). Donna's new Yamaha sounds awesome.
So far so good. I've got the dozen-plus chords I've seen so far down pat (though I can't transition to a C-chord to save my life). I'm having a lot of fun with it. My immediate goal is to be able to play some simple songs from beginning to end. My medium-term goal is to get good enough to justify buying a new electric. That's a bit off in the future though, Maybe a small practice amp for the Ibanez I have now is a little closer to reality. We'll see.

Friday, May 20, 2011

New (Not) Miserable Experience

There are lots of things I want to do. Many of them I've never done. I don't know why this is. Flying a plane. Writing a book. Getting in better shape. Running a marathon. Travelling the world. These are all things I really really want to do. And yet days go by and I don't seem to make the effort. Is it because I'm lazy? It's certainly partly because of that. Because I kind of am. Not in a I'll-get-by-on-welfare kind of lazy, but my particular brand of lazy is lazy all the same.

There's also an element of fear involved as well, especially with the writing thing. I've written pieces in the past; short stories, that sort of thing. Just like most everybody who's ever shown up at a fiction writing class with a pencil, some paper, and vague dreams of writing the Great American Novel or whatever, it never amounted to much. I looked back at everything I had amassed several years ago. It was crap and I threw it all in a dumpster. Frankly, that's where it belonged.

The thing is though, I think I could write something good. I have ideas, some of which I think would be totally killer/righteous/awesome/da bomb/bitchin'. But in the few and far between moments when I sit down to put those ideas to (electronic) paper, an enormous ennui settles over me. Sometimes I actually get four or fives pages of first draft down before I sputter out. Then I save the file, shut down the netbook and never look at it again.

It's definitely a fear of some sort, but of what kind I'm not really sure. I'm not worried about people reading it and thinking it's terrible; I'm not the type to dwell on what other people think of me too much. I think it's more that I'm worried I'll think it's crap. Subconciously I remember the day I trashed all my other writings and think, "nothing's really changed since then; you're certainly not a better writer, so what's the point?"

I went through a long period in my life where I wasn't very happy with who I was or where I was going. I'm not going to hash out here why I think that was (I've done plenty of that internally), but I will say that it's only in the last year or so that I think I'm starting to pull out of it, if only a little.

That all sounds appropriately melancholy and angsty and all, but this post isn't supposed to be a downer. It started off as a kind of journal entry and meandered off the path a bit. What I really wanted to say with this was that I have an idea for a series of posts that center around a new experience I'm trying.

One of the other things on that list of "things I've always wanted to do" is to learn to play the guitar. I first picked one up when I was sixteen or so. I had some friends who were musicians and they taught me some of the basics. I bought another one a year later (this one an acoustic). Soon after that I put them away and rarely took them out again. Everytime I moved though, they came with me.

The experience with D-Frag in getting ready for my wedding has kind of reminded me how much fun it was to pick up a guitar and play. I never was any good, and I never learned to read music. I could basically just play a few riffs and everything else was pretend. That's going to change though. I'm going to learn. I got some software that teaches guitar. MJ is interested in it (though who knows if that will last) so I think we will do it together. I think Donna's curiosity is piqued too; how cool would it be if we all learned together?

Anyway, I'm going to document my progress with this experience. As of now I know next to nothing -- though I still remember the intro to Welcome Home (Sanitarium), woo! Metallica! -- but that's going to change.

Monday, May 16, 2011

Monday Morning Awesomeness (5/16/2011)

Some links to start your day off right...

  • A Georgia Tech masters student figures out a way to make robots cooperate in ways that would make Congress blush.
  • The narrative is a little bass-ackward for my liking, but the execution is pretty close to flawless.
  • If you've never heard of a 3-d printer before, you have now.
  • Check out this incredible cover of Metallica's 'Orion' by a duo that goes by simply Rodrigo y Gabriella

Saturday, May 14, 2011

Dinner and Drinks: Mushrooms with Italian Stuffing

I do a lot of my experimenting on the weekends since I have more time. I also like to eat dinner late. Unfortunately, the others members of my household don't. Fortunately, they are easily pacified with some good finger food. One really good recipe I have is for stuffed mushrooms. It keeps the troops satisfied until I can whip up something more plate-filling after the sun goes down.

Mushrooms with Italian Stuffing

Some nice, big, stuffable mushrooms (or heck, a lot of little ones)
1/2 cup pancetta (chopped)
1 cup red onion (chopped)
2 cups bread, cut into cubes
1 cup milk
2 cloves of garlic (minced)
8 oz spinach (chiffonaded)
1/2 cup asiago cheese (grated)
red pepper flakes (a pinch)
olive oil

First, the bread. Use whatever makes you happy. Tonight I used baguette bread. I used about 3/4 of the loaf, which got me to two cups. I scooped out the soft middle and then cut the harder crust into small pieces. This can soak in the milk for awhile. Make sure you mush it up real good.

For the mushrooms, use whatever kind you want as well. I had some plain old big button mushrooms. Those giant portabella caps work great. If your mushroom have stems, tear them out. I chopped them up and added them to the pan later. If your mushrooms have those ridges inside that look like the blades on a radiator, scoop those out with a spoon. Trust me.

In a skillet over medium-high heat, heat enough oil to coat the pan. Add the pancetta (if you don't want to pay for pancetta, I hear you; use bacon instead) and cook until it browns, about 5 minutes. Add the onions and cook until soft, about three minutes. If you've got mushroom stems from earlier throw them in there too. Add the garlic and pinch of red pepper. Stir and cook for another two minutes. Remove from the heat. While still hot from the stove, add the spinach and stir, wilting the leaves.

Add the pan's contents along with the cheese to the bread and milk mixture, stirring thoroughly with a fork. Add salt to taste (around a teaspoon works).

I take a cookie sheet and cover it with aluminum foil. Then I rub some margarine all over it. Stuff the mushroom caps with the stuffing and place on the cookie sheet. Cook for 30-40 minutes in a 350° oven and you're done.

I tried something called Apothic Red with these, and it worked pretty well. According to the bottle, it's a "masterful blend of rich Zinfandel, flavorful Syrah, and smooth Merlot." I don't know about all that. It was a pretty good little wine though, and it was definitely smooth. I recommend it if you want to try something new in the $11-$12 range.

As for the main course tonight, I just whipped up a little chicken fettucine and salad. I'll save that one for a future entry. Until then, spero vi piaccia i funghi.

Friday, May 13, 2011

Blogger Was Having Technical Difficulties...

...but everything seems to be back in proper working order now. Sorry for the inconvenience.

Thursday, May 12, 2011

If That's What a 'Softron' Is, I Don't Want Any

Donna sent me this ad, which showed up on the side of her Facebook page one day. I have three theories:

  1. It's a joke.

  2. It's the result of a spambot gaining sentience and striking out on it's own after observing human's penchance for making up words that sound 'sciency' without actually conveying any meaning. (Exhibits: 5-loxin, bifidus regularis, awakeagens)

  3. It's a serious ad and I should look into the type of things Donna is doing on Facebook that would cause such an ad to be selected just for her.

Blogging in the Key of Nerd: Windows Snipping Tool is Being Snippy

I needed to take a screen shot from a document and was having problems. This should be easy; Alt + PrtScn always did the trick in the past, giving a capture of everything on the screen. If necessary I could paste it into Paint and crop the chaff. Today, nothing.

I decided to try the Snipping Tool (Start > Accessories > Snipping Tool) which allows a much finer control in capturing images; you can draw a box around whatever you want and you're done. That's when I got this:

Windows has prevented this snip from being captured because it contains protected information. Close all protected documents and then try again.

Yikes, that sounds serious. Was this some new level of security inside Windows 7 that could sniff out personal or confidential information and keep bad guys from taking screen captures? Sounded iffy, but hey, who knows.

Short answer, "no". Long answer, "no, it's a bug".

It turns out that there is a known issue with Outlook(!) that causes this problem. Outlook makes use of something called Information Rights Management that allows a person to send a message that can only be read by people with a specific set of credentials. It's very useful for sending out confidential documents. It apparently can also flip a bit somewhere that causes tools like the Snipping Tool to think a confidential document is open, even when it isn't.

I closed and reopened Outlook and was able to perform the screen capture. Knowledge Base is your friend.

Disclosure: I am a design engineer with Microsoft.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Yeah, I Changed the Damn Template Again

Usually I make changes at the beginning of the year, but the brown-on-dark-brown template was really giving me a headache.

Lifeguard Pay a Symptom of California's Woes

If I had it to do all over again I might go to lifeguard school and move to Orange County. Apparently you can make a pretty good living sitting on the beach and watching the bikinis stroll by.
According to a city report on lifeguard pay for the calendar year 2010, of the 14 full-time lifeguards, 13 collected more than $120,000 in total compensation; one lifeguard collected $98,160.65. More than half the lifeguards collected more than $150,000 for 2010 with the two highest-paid collecting $211,451 and $203,481 in total compensation respectively. Even excluding benefits like health care and pension, more than half the lifeguards receive a total salary, including overtime pay, exceeding $100,000. And they also receive an annual allowance of $400 for "Sun Protection." Many work four days a week, 10 hours a day.
I know, I know. lifeguards perform a vital service and save lives. But does anyone seriously think that this level of compensation is realistic?
But, putting that aside--it's California; this is just one item on a very large list of problems they are deealing with--what's interesting is the argument put forth by the union:
In a phone conversation, Brent Jacobsen, president of the Lifeguard Management Association, defended the lifeguard pay in Newport Beach: "We have negotiated very fair and very reasonable salaries in conjunction with comparable positions and other cities up and down the coast." "Lifeguard salaries here are well within the norm of other city employees."
Think about that for a minute. Now imagine this hypothetical conversation:

"Flip Udder, president of the Milk Producers of America, defended the current cost of a gallon of milk, which has reached $7.50 throughout the state. 'We have negotiated very fair and very reasonable prices in conjunction with comparable products in other cities up and down the coast.'"

That's called price fixing. It's illegal and it's happened before. You can argue that the collective bargaining between a union and a municipality and collusion among food producers to set coordinate commodity prices is different, but is it really? The end result is the same: the price of a good or service goes up everywhere because it went up somewhere. There's something very wrong about a system that allows a salary increase in one area to automatically roll over to all the other areas within a particular union's influence. This is a key difference between public- and private-sector unions; a collective bargaining victory for a union in one state doesn't necessarily affect the status in another in the private sector. State government unions are necessarily contained within a single state and can represent hundreds of locales. A pay increase at one of these can ripple throughout those locales and put the state government taxpayer on the hook for vast sums. This is at the root of California's ongoing budget problems. $400 for sunblock is just a symptom.

(H/T Rob Clayton for the OC Register link.)

(Crossposted at Say Anything)

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

An Immigration Presser Translated

President Obama held a press conference on the U.S. Mexican border today to talk about immigration reform. It can be difficult to decipher politco-speak, so allow me to translate:
"We have gone above and beyond what was requested by the very Republicans who said they supported broader reform as long as we got serious about enforcement," Obama said. "But even though we've answered these concerns, I gotta say I suspect there are still going to be some who are trying to move the goal posts on us one more time."
Translation: We answered those concerns by fighting tooth and nail to stop individual states from enforcing the laws the federal government won't. I don't know how to make it clearer to these knuckleheads that we don't care about their concerns, and yet they continue to insist that we take them seriously. What's up with that?

"Maybe they'll need a moat," he said mockingly to laughter from the crowd. "Maybe they'll want alligators in the moat."
Translation: Ignore that huge tunnel over there.

"I want incomes for middle class families to rise again. I want prosperity in this country to be widely shared. I want everybody to be able to reach that American dream, and that’s why immigration reform is an economic imperative."
Translation: I know what you're thinking; 'shared' is just a euphemism for 'redistribution' and that the American dream is for actual Americans. Shut up.

"We need Washington to know that there is a movement for reform gathering strength from coast to coast. That's how we'll get this done."
Translation: The big labor movement failed. The 'let's get behind healthcare reform' movement failed.  The 'Obama was courageous for killing bin Laden' movement failed. I'm due for one of these stupid movements to pan out.

"You make it here if you try."
Translation: It's not like there's enough border guards to cover the whole desert.

He said he would lead a "constructive and civil debate" on the issue but publicly questioned the motives of Republicans and their ability to keep their word.
Translation: Hey, no fair! You're supposed to be on my side, Associated Press!

(Cross posted at Say Anything)

A Million Random Digits

I'm currently reading The Information: a History, a Theory, a Flood. It's an interesting read (though a bit long at a hefty 544 pages, which is, like, 8900 in Kindle-pages). One anecdote it contains deals with the need of various scientists, physicists; biochemists and the like for random numbers. They come in handy for tasks like studying the motion of particles and testing theories of heredity.

Anyway, back in the 1950's computers weren't so good at dealing with randomness. They were more of the give-an-instruction-get-a-result stripe. Machines that could generate a string of random numbers did exist; they were just prohibitively slow at it. To help researchers, the RAND Corporation published a book containing nothing but 1,000,000 random numbers.

A machine employed an algorithm to generate a string of random numbers, each of which was then sent to a machine that converted it from binary to decimal. This was then fed to a punch card generator. These cards could then be hand fed into another machine that would allow the output to be read. This took years to complete.

I just find it fascinating that there was a time when people (much less scientists) looked up random numbers in a book. A book, I might add, that you can still buy.

Friday, May 6, 2011

It's All Part of My Rock -n- Roll Fantasy

D-Frag had its first rehearsal in preparation for the Greatest Wedding Reception EverTM last night. The band sounds awesome, especially considering their long layoff. I even got to bang the rust off the old pipes for a tune I will be performing rocking the %&@! out of in September. Band member Kevin Racer is in the process of renovating a very cool studio, which is what the band is using as a practice room. When not reliving my heavy metal youth, I took some photos.

You can view the rest of the photos at the wedding website.

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Let's See the Pictures Already

There is a lot of handwringing going on over whether releasing images of Osama bin Laden's corpse would be too inflammatory. Apparently, confirmation that he's dead could cause "certain elements" of the Muslim world to react negatively. One the one hand, I can see this. After all, if a cartoon can be used to incite riots and murder, certainly a picture of an actual event could be used for that same purpose.On the other hand, here are a list of things that invoked no handwringing:

Pictures of prisoners at Abu Ghraib

Pictures of the coffins of American soldiers

Reports of Korans being flushed down toilets (though this apparently never actually happened)

Allowing a government with which we were at war to censor news reports by American journalists in exchange for "access" (Bing 'Eason Jordan' if you've forgotten)

Witholding pictures of a dead bin Laden isn't going to calm anybody down.

(Crossposted at Say Anything)

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

2011 Engineering Day

Microsoft Fargo hosted an Engineering Day today. In addition to a full day of sessions on subjects like developing for Windows phones, security in the cloud, and adaptive interfaces, there was an expo in the afternoon for developers.It was a venue for all the disparate teams in Fargo (and some outside groups, like North Dakota State University's Computer Science department, among others) to show off their latest innovations. I had double duty; in addition to helping host an expo booth on my latest project, I was also asked to take pictures throughout the day. Here's a little peek:

Sunday, May 1, 2011

Dinner and Drinks: Chicken Quesadillas and Spanish Rice

You know what's good? Mexican food. There's nothing quite like authentic Mexican cuisine. Spicy, flavorful, filling. Mexican food is one of my favorites. I don't know how to make real Mexican food, so what I'm going to talk about here is not that. Sorry. Like most Americans, I think Mexican food consists of tacos, fajitas, and made-up words like most of what passes for the menu at Taco Bell.

That's okay though, since Americanized Mexican cuisine can still be pretty good. A quick and easy meal is the good old quesadilla. It's basically a Mexican pizza in that you can put whatever you want on it, so it's great for kids. Since it's not fast food if you get a side dish that isn't french fries, I tried to make spanish rice for the first time, and damned if it didn't turn out delicious.

Sorry, this is not the greatest picture. I blame the wine.

Chicken Quesadillas and Spanish Rice


8 large soft tortillas
2 skinless chicken breasts
1 cup black olives, sliced
1 onion, diced
1 green pepper, diced
1/2 cup jalapenos, diced (optional)
1 cup Mexican cheese blend
3 tbsp olive oil


2 cups rice
2 cups water
3 tbsp tomato paste
2 tsp salt
1 tsp black pepper
1/2 tsp cumin
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 cup onions, diced
1/2 cup green peppers, diced
1 large tomato, pulp removed, diced
1 tbsp olive oil

Preheat your oven to 350o.

For the chicken, heat the olive oil over medium-high heat. Season the chicken as you like; I use salt, pepper, chili powder, and garlic powder. Once it's done, cut into small cubes and set aside. I have a second skillet going to cook the the peppers and onions, but do as you will. I add a little dash of cumin to the veggies, but that's optional. Sauteè those veggies until they start to turn soft.

For the tortillas, you can use them "as is" and still be regarded as awesome by your patrons. I heat a large skillet and drop a little canola oil in it, wiping the excess out with a paper towel. Heat the oil and cook the tortilla for one minute a side. You want it to firm up a little without getting crunchy.

Spread the veggies and chicken on a tortilla. Spread some shredded cheese over everything and cover with another tortilla. I heartily encourage using fresh shredded cheese whenever possible. Tonight all I had that would really work was some bagged Mexican blend cheese. Don't judge me.

Before you pop the quesadillas into the oven, start making the rice in that same large skillet you cooked the tortillas in. Add the olive oil and heat it up over medium-high heat. Add the garlic, peppers and onions and sauteè until the begin to soften, about 3-5 minutes. Add the water, spices and tomato paste and mix thoroughly. Bring to a boil and add the rice. If you're using Minute Rice, make sure it is at a boil then remove from heat. Stir continuously until the rice is soft, about 3-5 minutes. If you're using regular white rice, add it then bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer for 20-25 minutes covered, or until rice is tender.

The quesadillas need to go into the oven for about 10-12 minutes to get the cheese nice and melty.

Once done, I quarter the quesadillas and serve with a dollop sour cream dusted with cilantro. If I had it to do over, I probably would have tried to make some salsa. Oh well. I made rice; get off my back.

For the 'drink' portion, I stayed on the malbec kick I've been on for a while now. I bought a bottle of Layer Cake malbec. I'm not one of those people who thinks you have to drink red wine with red meat and white wine with fish; the bottle was open so I drank it. It's probably not the ideal pairing, but it was pretty good. To be honest, I think it finished a little better than the Red Rock malbec I had with the chicken parmesan, but overall I think the Red Rock is a better wine, especially since it's about $4 cheaper, but to each his own. The Layer Cake had one of those little tags on it with a score from some snobby wine ranker or other, so I wanted to try it. Not bad at all. Now that I think about it, I should have a beer.