: views from the Hill

Friday, April 30, 2004

Voice Lifts

Long ago, my niece, then quite young, was at the beauty parlor with my sister. A woman there was having her hair colored and my niece was fascinated. The woman explained what was happening and what the hair colorist was doing. My niece asked why she was doing that to her hair and the woman answered that she was doing it so that her hair would look young. My niece looked at her, and at her youthful hair and said, "But your face will still look old."

... not to mention her voice giving away her true age.

Heard about voice lifts?

Voicelifts - Take Your Breath Away - By Gabrielle Fagan, PA Features

"After the face lift, the tummy tuck, the forehead tighten and the jowl trim comes the latest treatment to turn back the clock.

"The voicelift – a delicate surgical tinkering with the vocal cords – is claimed to stop that gravelly or breathless voice being a real giveaway about your age.

"Patients in America who believe their voices just don’t match their cosmetically firmed-up faces and figures are already opting for a 'voice job'."


Cost? Upwards of $7K.


Sent a link to this off to his nibs a day or two ago. Found it written up in the Merc this morning.

eBay item 3189039958 (Ends Apr-30-04 09:58:51 PDT) - DECREASE YOUR ERDOS NUMBER! scientific coauthorship

As Kevin Bacon is to acting, Paul Erdös is to writers of scientific and mathematical papers. The auction's over, but the writeup for the eBay auction offering an Erdös number of 5 is a keeper. madd_greg paid $1,031.00 for the privilege of co-authoring a paper with someone with an Erdös number of 4.

update: Science News has an update on the Erdös number auction on eBay. ("Theorems for Sale: An online auctioneer offers math amateurs a backdoor to prestige" by Erica Klarreich)

Turns out that madd_gregg was really "Jose Burillo, a mathematician at the Polytechnic University of Barcelona in Spain with an Erdös number of 3 [who]—wrote that he had placed the winning bid 'to stop the mockery this person is doing of the paper/journal system' and called the auction a 'travesty.'"

William Tozier "whose Erdös number is 4 ... launched the auction as a joke, in his words, 'one morning before I'd had enough coffee.'" He used the exercise as an experiment in social networking. He told four friends about the auction and asked them to spread the word, then tracked how the news carried.

Although the first auction was a bust due to the Burillo sabotage, Tozier is considering running the auction again. He says he would like to use some of the money earned to set up a collaborative community where amateur mathematicians would have the opportunity to work with academic mathematicians and others with similar interests. Tozier said he received more than one hundred responses from non-mathematicians who were interested in his offered collaboration because they feel excluded from any opportunity to discuss their mathematical work with the academic mathematical community.

Read the Science News article for more detail.

Thursday, April 29, 2004

Photo Op with Arnie

Hard-to-pass-up invitation in today's mail. For a thousand bucks (each!) his nibs and I can go over to a neighbor's spread and meet the Gov and a candidate for State Senate. For $5K (for the both of us), we not only get to go to the party, but we'll also get our picture taken with the Gov.

Decisions. Decisions. Do we have better things to do with $5K?

Current Copyright Readings

Amazing stuff out there with a click on the [Next Blog] button on my toolbar (simply linked to www.blogger.com/redirect/next_blog.pyra).

Just stumbled over http://copyrightreadings.blogspot.com/ - Current copyright readings -- a blog that is a "Bibliography of current articles on the Digital Millennium Copyright Act, the TEACH act and other copyright issues. Maintained by M. Claire Stewart, Head, Digital Media Services, Northwestern University Library"

All right there. Free for the asking.

A bouquet tossed to M. Claire Stewart.
Abracadabra! No more tables.

Wednesday, April 28, 2004

Celebrating ten years of South African democracy.

Why ... look what's up with Mannekin Pis.

Egypt Interactive

http://www.egyptinteractive.com/ Egypt Interactive is a site with Egyptian history, links, pictorial tour, more. "'Whose Mummy Is It?' is ... a complete mini-course in Egyptology and covers in depth topics such as mummification, the Egyptian pantheon, hieroglyphics, and daily life."

Origins of Writing

Another StumbleUpon find: http://www.usu.edu/anthro/origins_of_writing -- Origins of Writing Home Page. This site is a collection of final papers for Dr. David F. Lancy's Anthropology class at Utah State University titled "Origins of Writing." The subjects covered are
  • Chinese Calligraphy
  • Cinderella
  • European Script
  • Gaelic
  • Hangul
  • Heiroglyph Aesthetics
  • Invented Alphabets
  • Mayan Calendar
  • Ogham
  • Olmec Script
  • Pacal
  • Public Texts
  • Walam Olum
  • Writing Mediums
  • Writing Systems

The Web's a wonder.

Tuesday, April 27, 2004

Yeah, I'm fiddling with colors and layouts, but I made my phone calls so I'm allowed.
Moved from GIFs to border=double, border=dotted sorts of borders and added some border color. Took some colors away. Shades of Jobim.

Today's tip: Mailinator

Mailinator is "like super-instant, always-ready, any-email-you-want email. right now."

How does it work? Say, you're at the Grand Forks Gazette and the Gazette wants your e-address in order to let you read the front page. You don't want to give them your "real" e-address but you know they're going to send you a note to confirm your e-addr before they'll let you peek at the local football scores

What to do?

Sign up using grandforks@mailinator.com then go over to http://www.mailinator.com and sign-on as grandforks@mailinator.com. Reply to your confirmation e-mail from the Gazette and Bob's your uncle. How cool is that?

Just don't use mailinator for signing up for your BankAmerica online banking because anyone and Tony's brother can log-on as grandforks@mailinator.com and pickup and read whatever is there waiting.

Monday, April 26, 2004

[FOOD] Shrimp à la Trader Joe's

1 pkg (16oz frozen) TJs melange à trois peppers - thawed, drained
4 oz TJs fresh sliced crimini mushrooms
1T butter
1 sm onion chopped
1/4t worcestershire sauce
1/4t TJ's Jalapeño Pepper Hot Sauce
1 pkg (16oz frozen) TJs shrimp (70-110/lb) - thawed,drained
3T flour
1 1/2t salt
dash ground cayenne pepper
2t minced parsley
2C milk
1 pkg (8oz) cream cheese, cut into smaller pieces
1 egg, beaten
1 pkg (12 oz) TJs chapati

Saute mushrooms in butter for 2 min.
Add drained peppers and saute for about 5 minutes, until liquid evaporates.
Add chopped onion, worcestershire, TJ's Jalapeño Pepper Hot Sauce and shrimp. Heat for two minutes.
Mix flour, salt, cayenne, parsley. Add and stir.
Gradually add 1 1/2C milk while stirring. Cook, stirring gently, until thickened.
Add cream cheese and stir until incorporated.
Beat egg with remaining 1/2C milk and add gradually, stirring constantly, until incorporated.

Serve hot in large soup bowls w/ chapati.

You can, of course, buy the milk, cream cheese, eggs, flour, &c. at Trader Joe's too.

Zen Garden: the beauty of CSS Design

One of the sites I mention in the June column is Zen Garden: the beauty of CSS Design. http://www.csszengarden.com Zen Garden provides loads of links to CSS information and an interesting experiment with CSS. The visitor can choose from a variety of CSS designs and watch the site layout and theme change through the magic of CSS. This is a great site for those interested in CSS. The links take you hither and yon in the CSS world.
Moved in the new GIF file that was allegedly just-as-good as the GIF file I'd been using for my divider lines -- just a wee bit smaller soze to optimize throughput. Only trouble was the slimmed-down version no longer looked like 3D-rects but more like 2D-rects with nibbles out of the edges. Um. No. Saving 70b per use isn't worth it.


stumble!Finished the June column yesterday and sent it off. The focus is all on StumbleUpon, an addictive time-waster for degenerate Web surfers, a site that has brought the ol' thrill back into my affair with the Web.

Saturday, April 24, 2004

First draft done!

Wrote 2500 words today and finished the first draft. Yippee!

Judy Greber said something that struck me a month or two ago. She was talking about people who endlessly polish their work and told the tale of a student who has been working on her crime novel for ten years. The student keeps "polishing" what she's already written instead of carrying on with the story and finishing the book. So as a result, Judy pointed out, the writer not only doesn't have a polished book, she doesn't have any book at all!

You talking to me, Judy? I wanted to ask. I took her words to heart and decided the new rule was no more polishing the already written stuff. I really needed to finish the first draft and have something concrete to work on, to shape into something I wouldn't be embarassed to show to my crime writing "Where's the book, Sal" buddies.

I needed to get on with it and have a finished first draft, maybe not a masterpiece, but at least a book with a start, middle and finish. Nora Roberts once said, "I can fix a bad page. I can't fix a blank one." I needed a first draft to fix, not an unfinished story.

I gave myself a deadline a couple weeks ago. First draft finished by April 30th. Ready, set, now!

Deciding not to polish up as I wrote threw a big spanner in the works, though. My polishing turned out to be a type of writing exercise, a warm up, albeit one that was counterproductive because it delayed the ultimate wrapup of the work.

Diving in cold where I'd left off wasn't working. As a result, I wasn't working on the book at all, just thinking about it, puzzling about it, wondering how to wrap up the ends, so I could finish the first draft.

What to do. What to do.

I tried this and that and writing of other sorts. Slowly, I weaned myself of the need to polish what went before before I could begin something fresh.

Today, his nibs is recuperating and eating salmon and asparagus for lunch instead of soup and crackers but he's still tired and in pain and not feeling much like walking hither and yon, so I settled in for the weekend and focused on finishing the never-finished, always "in process" first draft. Now.

After much up and down and snip some basil for the salmon and sweep the floor or maybe I should finish the column that's due or e-mail my dad, I sat down in my favorite corner of the sofa with the laptop, away from the lure of the 'net, and wrote 2500 crappy words to finally finish the first draft.

75K words with a beginning, middle, end, a mystery, a crime, a denouement.

Crappy words, mind you. The words need work, so now on to the next step -- phixing the draft -- but first, to write the column.

Statistical Resources on the Web from UMich

... and on a more factual basis, the UMich "Statistical Resources on the Web" site. Loads of links to statistics, but if you're looking for a link to some site that will let you know what the average single-family house price was for ZIPcode 95127 (or whatever), couldn't find it here.


Love those trivia sites. www.coolquiz.com (CoolQuiz) is another.

Tel-Hi dinner/auction

Got an e-note from one of the neighbors I'd sent the El Raigón menu (with a "try this!" note) to. She'd just been in the restaurant getting a gift certificate to use at the Tel-Hi dinner/auction in a few weeks and was glad to get a positive report on the restaurant.

This will be our first time at the annual fundraiser and I have no clue what all will be up for auction -- for sure a dinner at El Raigón, but probably not any weekend stays in San Francisco. The invite says, "Silent and Live Auctions, featuring a week-long getaway at a secluded beachfront retreat in the Abaco Islands, Bahamas."

Fond memories of an Abaco wedding week five years back. His nibs wasn't able to go and stayed home with the guys, who were in high school at the time. We've always talked of going back and spending some time, but I imagine the winning bid for the week-long getaway will be way beyond us.

Bless GS and all others points of light out there, volunteering for good causes and/or donating "stuff" for charity auctions.

Friday, April 23, 2004


Found cognitivedistortion.com this afternoon. Some beautiful images, some strange, some fractals, some 'shop'd.

Membership gives you added bennies, but loads of freebie stuff makes a visit worthwhile.

HumanDescent // Worth1000.com

A link to UglyZoo, a Russian collection of amazing chimaeras, led me to Human Descent, one of the sites UglyZoo pilfered its images from.

Disturbing images. The baby with big big eyes and little fangs may breed nightmares.

Another site whose images UglyZoo snitched was www.worth1000.com, "the top creative competition and photoshop contest site on the web," if they do say so themselves.

For Worth1000's strange, disturbing animals, check out the Evil Animals 3 contest results. The rest of the site is full of marvels too.


Hey, I know that sign! The building that Trattoria Contadina is in is for sale for a mere $1,699,950. Two units PLUS the space that the restaurant leases. Apparently people were poking their heads in and bothering the restaurant, thinking it was included in the sale, but ... "restaurant not for sale"

The photo came from www.nosauce.org, another photo log with shots of the back streets and glamour of the city.


I always wonder at folks who fall for scams.

Well, yes, there are some scams and spams that are really clever, like the new ones that claim to be letters from the FDIC asking the recipient to click a link for more information or the one I just tossed from Citibank (even though I don't have a Citibank account) titled Citibank Fraud Verification Process, but the Nigerian scam? Why do I still get so many Nigerian scam e-mails? Nobody could still be falling for that one, could they?

Seems so. Yesterday I read this sad bit in News of the Weird. Seems a seventy-three-year-old guy lost $300K to the Nigerian scam and even after losing all that money, he still blamed his losses on the "corrupt governments" that were plaguing his Nigerian friends, never suspecting that he'd been scammed by his so-called "friends."

Troy Litten // www.whileseated.org

Got a nice note from Troy Litten inviting me to his book launch par-tay for WANDERLUST (Chronicle Books), and wish we could be there, but his nibs is -- as we speak -- having some outpatient surgery and although I'll be picking him up in a couple hours, he doesn't think he'll be feeling like nobhobbing and noshing tonight.

Oh, well.

We do plan to get over to Den, where the party is being held tonight, sometime in the next month. The nice folks there are putting on a gallery exhibit of Litten's photographs, which I've only ever seen via his Web site.

Litten's photographs are very cool and interesting, sometimes a bit odd and quirky. He has, f'rex, a collection of signs from around the world -- traffic signs featuring people. You know the type: "children at play," "crosswalk," "construction workers ahead." The photos of signs are gridded together, each with a brief "where the photo was taken" tag: Istanbul, London, Ohio.

Litten also shares photographs of an array of fire hydrants and, not to be missed, Troyland's collection of vintage airline bags (including Varig, believe it or not!). I know passions, I've written about passions, but this is the first instance I've found of this particular passion.

Check out the Troyland Cultural Awareness Programs, including "Traveling China with a blank book and a glue-stick" and "Death at Christmas," a collection of photos of the traditional post-holiday street corner magic that makes our city by the Bay what it is. Great stuff.

Maybe he should start shooting photos of mattress and box springs abandoned in odd locations, -- more local magic, as this photograph from www.whileseated.org a San Francisco-based photolog and blog attests.

Tami Silicio // www.thememoryhole.org

Maybe if the US government had not banned photographs of flag-draped coffins back in 1991, there wouldn't be all the furor there is today over Tami Silicio's photograph of flag-draped coffins, published in the Seattle Times (and now elsewhere), and the collection of flag-draped coffin photos gathered through the Freedom of Information Act efforts of www.thememoryhole.org.

We get the Merc delivered every day to Dale and Fri-Sun the Chronicle is delivered as well. I often read the papers side-by-side and compare the news coverage.

Today both papers ran Silicio's photograph on Page One, both with a bit of the photo above the fold. The Chronicle coverage was strikingly similar to the Merc's.

(Feh. The Merc is now requesting a free registration to read its articles online. I'm OK with that but I know many people aren't.)

Quirky, I know, but I always check to see how the two newspapers edit articles obtained from other sources. Today both papers ran non-identical edits of a Bill Carter article from the NYTimes. The NYT itself wasn't running the photograph, though: "The Chronicle purchased rights to publish the photograph on today's front page from ZUMA Press, a photo agency, which is handling distribution. In addition, rights to it have been purchased by a weekly news magazine, according to ZUMA. Until it appears in that magazine, the deal specifically prohibits it from appearing in the Washington Post, USA Today or the New York Times. Proceeds from the sale of the photo will go to a charity selected by Silicio, according to ZUMA."

Or, as the Mercury puts it, "Zuma Press, a photo agency, is handling distribution of the photo. Rights to publish it have been purchased by a weekly news magazine, according to Zuma. Until it appears in that magazine, the deal specifically prohibits it from appearing in the Washington Post, USA Today or the New York Times. Proceeds from the sale of the photo will go to a charity selected by Silicio, according to Zuma."

Any bets that that photo will be on the cover of the next issue of Time Magazine? OK. Maybe Newsweek. Probably not People.

Would there be all this hoorah if photos had been published off and on, numbing the juiciness of this story?

www.thememoryhole.org seems to be overwhelmed with action this morning. I get an "operation timed out" when I try to pull up the site. Ah, the bane and heaven of getting great publicity.

Thursday, April 22, 2004

California SB 1520

California SB 1520 : Senate Bill This bill is idiocy. New York has pending legislation along similar lines. Customs rules were recently changed to disallow fresh, frozen and canned meat from France. Where's a girl to get her seared foie gras if these bills pass? Who the heck does Senator Burton think he is?


I just love HowStrange.com
BLOGGER - Knowledge Base - How To Get A Book Deal With Your Blog -- an entertaining review of folks who have actually snagged a book deal with a blog. You can do it too! Meet Julie Powell, who decided to spend a year cooking up Julia Child's recipes ... and blog about it. Her book from Little, Brown will be out in 2005.

Wednesday, April 21, 2004

[FOOD] www.chocolateandzucchini.com

Chocolate and Zucchini is a French foodie blog brought to us by 24-year-old Clotilde Dusoulier of Montmartre. The blog is entertaining in and of itself, but it also has a swarm of links to other foodie blogs, an index to the recipes she shares, archives sorted by subject as well as date, a bloxicon (in case you don't know what an amuse-bouche is and want to), book recommendations, &c.

Turns out there was an article on foodie blogs in Gourmet's April 2004 issue. Behind on my reading I be.

[FOOD] El Raigon -- Argentine asado

El Raigon -- Argentine asado
510 Union St, San Francisco

I mentioned that we'd gone to El Raigón, a new Argentine restaurant on Union, a week ago. I've made copies of their menu to drop off with friends who might be interested. Hope this restaurant has much success. Unfortunately, one set of friends who would be very interested in a restaurant close to Coit Tower are low-fat vegetarians. El Raigón is not for them.

We'd noticed last Tuesday that El Raigón was open as we walked down to Iluna Basque. We'd walked a half-block farther past and decided to turn back and eat there instead. The door was locked! There were people inside eating! We realized that the staff was probably having an open house/dress rehearsal for friends. We stopped off again on our way home from Iluna Basque when we noticed the door open and a woman standing in the doorway.

"When are you opening?" we asked.

"Tomorrow," she answered. "Here, take a menu."

We thanked her and trundled home, already making plans to eat there the next night, even though eating dinner out three times in four days is far from our norm.

El Raigón -- Argentine asado
510 Union St. [between Grant and Stockton, North Beach]
San Francisco, CA 94133

The restaurant design is simple-- exposed wood beams, concrete floor. You can't miss the "art" on the walls -- framed cow hides. The frames are about 3'x3' and the cow hides are stretched over the frames. Spot lighting picks up the swirls and variations in the hides. The hides were all of a piece: reddish brown with white patterning, almost a Rorschach. Don't know what cattle breed. Maybe Guernsey? An array of bolos hung against the wall at the far end of the room. Some framed photographs of Argentinians hung on the wall as you came in.

The woman we'd talked to the night before appears to be one of the partners. She was running the front room and recognized us. There were a good dozen people having dinner. A group of five and another couple of couples came in while we ate. Seemed a good turnout for a first night for a restaurant that doesn't have a flashy exterior. Word of mouth from friends of the restaurant, Telegraph Hill neighbors and noticing the place while you were walking by are the only ways the first-night diners could've known the restaurant was open.

We started dinner by nibbling on bread dipped in chimichurri sauce as we decided what to eat. The bread came in a metal bucket, continuing the cattleman motif. Excellent chimichurri sauce.

Both of us had mollejas (grilled sweetbreads) for appetizer. My first experience of sweetbreads was when his nibs wooed me with home-cooked sweetbreads in a sour cream, shallots and port sauce. My first experience. Since then, sweetbreads have always been a favorite. Recently I've been lamenting the fact you can't find sweetbreads in the meat cases at the grocery stores these days and very few restaurants have sweetbreads on their menus. The prime reason we first stopped at Isa was because Luke's menu featured both sweetbreads and seared foie gras.

El Raigón's sweetbreads were delicious, simply prepared, grilled and served with a lemon wedge. Also good dipped in chimichurri. Excellent.

We continued on with beef for the main course. The restaurant is proud of its grass-fed Montana beef and plans to be able to serve Argentinian beef some day. I had Bife de Chorizo (similar to NY strip) and his nibs had Ojo de Bife (rib eye). My mental translation of "Ojo de Bife" is cow eyeball, which is why I didn't order it. Of course, Bife de Chorizo sounds like beef sausage ...

Both pieces of beef were ordered medium-rare and both arrived perfectly done. yay! I opted for a side of Espinaca Saltada (sauteed spinach) and his nibs had Calabaza Pisada (mashed squash). Both good. The spinach was sauteed with garlic. Both vegetables were prepared with no extraneous fuss.

Also on the menu are shortribs, lamb loin, grilled chicken, and halibut. For the vegetarians, main dishes include fettucini with marinara sauce and steamed vegetables. The restaurant also serves salads, other sides, empanadas, blood sausage, Argentine sausage, prawns, &c. Plenty of choices, just not very much choice if you're vegetarian. If you're on the Atkins diet, however, this place is for you.

I saved half of my beef to leave room for dessert. My Panqueques con Dulce de Leche (crepe-like pancakes rolled around rich, golden brown dulce de leche) were yummy. Exceedingly rich. His nibs had Flan Casero, which was an excellent excellent yummy flan.

What with wine and coffee, dinner was in the $$$ range even before tip. The pieces of beef were $24 and $28. The sweetbreads were $9 each. Sides were $3 each. Desserts were $7 each. Yummy stuff, though, and just a few blocks from home. El Raigón is definitely a place to return to when we are entertaining beef-eating friends or just hankering after a simple slab of beef.
The day has turned blue and sunny both here and there.

My little bird family was squeaking and squawking when I took a break to fix lunch and move some more boxes.

"Mom, I want a worm!"

"Waaaah! She got a bigger piece than I did!"

And all the while the mother bird saying, "Hush. Can't you see that giant human down there checking out all the squawking you're making? Hush, missy! Hush! Or that mean ol' human is going to fry you up for lunch!"

For the second year in a row, a small Oregon junco has made its nest in the window sill of the small window at the top of the kitchen wall, just above the stove. The window (a clerestory window) opens in on chains, and there's a three-inch deep space between the window and the screen outside. I seldom open the window even on the hottest days. Last year, the bird pecked and ripped a hole in the screen and built a nest in the protected space, out of sight of any of her common predators. Her family duties were so successful she's back again. This year she doesn't have to rip the screen because we didn't mend it after her caretaking duties were done last year.

You can't see the bird-lets too well, because of the angle of sight to the window, but you can always tell when mom arrives with something to eat. Peep. Squawk. Waaaah! PeepPeepPeep.
Was up for a Board meeting of the Broadway Towers HOA last night. KS has finally sold the last of the condos left from the condo conversion which began in the 80's: 1981? 1986? Something like that, but I'm not interested in searching through old paperwork to find the date. I suppose I could ask KS: she'd know right off the top of her head. Part of the conversion deal was that the developers had to allow a life-lease to tenants over a certain age who didn't want to buy their unit.

KS'd attended practically every Board meeting since she took over from her father back when. Last night was to be the last Board meeting she'd attend (x'd fingers that escrow closes smoothly). So I made some chocolate chip-macadamia nut brownies to celebrate the end of what seemed to be a never-ending connection to the building, with all the ups and downs. We bought our place from the eeeeeeevil condo developers in summer 1991, never thinking they'd still own units in 2004. (They probably never expected it either.)

Back in Dale today and the skies are a semi-sunny gray. Checked out the cam and luckily it's just as gray in the city or I'd be even more gloomy about the columns that pend and the chores that nag.

Monday, April 19, 2004

[FOOD] Yet another exciting weekend

Spent time over the weekend moving boxes full of contents from the house that sold, contents that I can't give up yet. The boxes are cluttering the family room and need to be moved to a spare room upstairs. Finally moved the cheap OfficeMax desk that had been in that room since the soon-to-be-twenty-three-year-old left for college. Set the desk pieces outside by the side gate, under the overhang: it is going to make a lovely potting bench. [snerch] ... at least until the rains make the particle board swell and it crumbles.

With the desk out, I had space to rearrange that room's bureaus and then moved up a fourth bureau that had been in the middle of the family room with boxes stacked around it.

Moved a variety of items out of the bureaus, sorted through them for Goodwill candidates and then reshuffled the remaining back into the drawers. Next up the boxes: moved six on Saturday but what with the work on the bureau contents, the Goodwill sort, &c. decided that was as much as my back could take.

On tap for this week: continue on with the box moves and then move up the three bookcases that are also cluttering the family room area and reshelve their contents. Don't I live an exciting life?

We took one major load to the Goodwill on Saturday, and another is already in queue.

We are getting somewhere. I just hope that years and years hence I won't regret giving up some of this stuff. My problem is that I haven't really moved for almost twenty-seven years. We've acquired additional places to live and stash stuff, so the amount of stuff we have has expanded without really being noticeable or cramping our space. I've never had to really seriously go through stuff and decide "Your Conestoga wagon is only so big. The heavier you load it, the sooner the horses will die of exhaustion and if they die of exhaustion before you reach your destination, you will likely die as well. You MUST DECIDE what stays and what goes before you leave Missouri." Now that our space is shrinking, the overabundance of stuff is starting to cause problems.

Decisions. Decisions.

The twenty-fifth anniversary FUTS Spring Fling is scheduled for early June, which is later than normal, but I have all these boxes in the family room -- see? -- and the room must be clear so people can roam around. The plan is to have the house contents resettled far before it's time for the Fling, but we've built some slush time in there. If I can get everything resettled ahead of time, maybe we'll have time to do some of the painting and what-not I'd been hoping to get done. We'll see.

I can hear a voice saying, "Work on the book, missy. Finish the book. What about the book?" Is this just a huge cat-vacuuming exercise?

We finally got up to San Francisco on Sunday in time for a couple open houses and the tale end of the SinC/NC spring fest at A Clean Well-Lighted Place for Books, 601 Van Ness Avenue.


Only went to a couple open houses because tours opened at 2PM and the spring fest started at 3PM and the two we really wanted to see were a-ways apart. We walked over to Green Street to check out 363-365 Green St and then came back for the car and drove to 1800 Gough, a full floor (well, two floors really) penthouse condominium on the "city" side of Pacific Heights.

363-365 Green St Two units (currently being used for a single family) at $1.495m is reasonably priced and the views of Coit Tower and the city are better than most.

1800 Gough at $5.5m just wasn't worth the money, even if I won the lottery. The space was great: it even had a small ballroom on the second level, but the price was way out of line for the space and the view.

We left the car on Gough, a few blocks N from 1800, and walked down to the spring fest. Introduced myself to Mark Coggins, who'd I'd exchanged e-mails about the fest a week or so ago. Heard Rhys Bowen read from a current work, Camille Minichino read from a WIP, other folks read, including Cara Black. Rhys' set was my favorite. I was sorry I'd missed the folks I had missed. Didn't win one of the raffle prizes. Stayed for a few nibbles afterwards then we walked back to where we'd parked the car. Parking is that awful in SF that it was easier to walk fifteen or so blocks down and the same back on a drizzly day than to go looking for a parking space closer to ACWPfB.

The Art Store

The walk back and forth was worth it, though: on the way back I was able to stop off in The Art Store at 1414 Van Ness and lust over their hand-made papers and 50% canvas sale and their oils and watercolors and ... but a little voice was saying, "Get the book done, missy. Don't lose focus." I decided the hand-made papers and papyrus and the blank canvases would be my reward when the thing is finally done.

Last night, we went out to dinner early, around seven or so. We'd had no lunch, what with chores and open houses, except for a single shrimp and a couple of cookies at the SinC/NC event. The day was drizzly. I wanted to go to Piperade, but they aren't open on Sundays. His nibs wanted to go to Estia, I wanted to go to The House. The two restaurants are, literally, two doors apart, so we bargained. I know that The House is open Sundays -- good, our walk in the rain won't be for naught -- but if Estia is also open on Sunday, we'll stop at Estia because we've never eaten there before.

Estia ~ 1224 Grant Ave

Estia [no Web site that I could find]
1224 Grant Ave (just north of Columbus)
San Francisco, CA 94133-3910

Estia opened last November (2003) and friends who had been there liked the food and said they were served prodigious quantities. Sunday was a gray day, with intermittent drizzle. We'd made up our mind not to walk far for dinner and decided, finally, to head down Union, turn on Grant and walk a-ways, maybe eat at The House, or Estia, if it was open on a Sunday.

It was.

The owners decorated Estia beautifully, although I probably would've used actual photos rather than the watercolor prints of Mykonos and Santorini I could see from our table. The walls are a warm cream with a contrasting carved molding about a foot from the ceiling. A dark warm blue paint covers the remainder of the walls and the ceiling. Small lights hidden behind the top of the molding, take the blue from very light near the molding to a dark royal blue.

The ceiling of the bar area in the back corner is painted white to break the space away from the rest of the restaurant. Greek taverna music plays in the background. The setting put his nibs in a reminiscent mood. He said he'd like to return to Greece again, maybe this time skipping the more touristy places and instead hanging out, eating and soaking up the sun on Hydra or some other small island.

Our service was excellent. Our server told us what she thought were the best items on the menu and helped us select a Greek red to accompany dinner. We told her that although we'd been to Greece a couple times, we didn't know the wines at all -- we usually just drank whatever red came to the table. We wound up with a Goumenissa Boutari (2000 - a blend of Xynomavro and Negoska) to accompany the meal -- a perfect choice.

We took some of her food item suggestions, skipped others. She came by frequently to check on the dinner's progress and whether we were enjoying the plates. She was friendly, pouring wine, talking about the foods we'd chosen. She seemed to enjoy showing off their food and wines.

We started with fried calamari served with a lemon wedge and thick garlicky sauce. Yummy. We also had the grilled octupus. Yummier. Both small plates were substantial and we were starting to fill up before the dinner entrees arrived. Dinner entrees were moussaka topped with grated cheese and lamb fricassee with an avoglemono sauce, served over rice with vegetables.

I preferred the lamb to the moussaka. Both entrees were HUGE servings. His nibs, who also preferred the lamb, said the moussaka was the best he'd ever had. We wound up packing half of each entree home so we could leave room for dessert -- and have something to eat for dinner the next day.

Our desserts were rice pudding and, of course, baklava. I had a Greek coffee as well. Our server offered the coffee in the traditional Greek variants: bitter, semi-sweet or sweet. I chose semi-sweet. A Greek coffee contraption in the bar puts out dark, thick coffee that goes well with dessert. Finely ground coffee and water (and whatever sweetener you've chosen) are mixed in a briki, a small copper pot with a long handle, and set to "cook" until done. When done, the briki contents are swirled, poured into a demitasse cup and served. Caution: You'll wind up with a thick coffee sediment as you finish your cup. The sludge isn't meant to be drunk.

The baklava was not too intense -- as it sometimes can be -- and was served with a bit of sour cherry sauce, a perfect complement. The rice pudding was served piping hot with a large dollop of rose petal jam in the bottom of the dish. The result was amazing, one of the most memorable rice puddings in a long history of rice puddings.

Dinner tab was $103 before tip. I liked the dinner, liked the food, service was terrific, but I had no immediate desire to come back for a further taste in the menu (there are thousands of restaurants in the city, do you want to go back or go on?), but looks like we will be returning soon. His nibs was taken with the food and the echoes of sunny days in Greece.

Or it might've been that rice pudding.

We wandered back home, uphill as always, and sat on the deck watching the lights on the Bay Bridge and across the Bay to Berkeley and Oakland, drinking cognac and talking about what we wanted to be when we grew up.

This morning it took us a while to say good-bye to the boats on the Bay and head back to Dale again, but the delay was balanced by the improvement in traffic: one hour garage door to garage door. Zip zip zip.

Back to my boxes of stuff and exciting life.

Thursday, April 15, 2004

[FOOD] Iluna Basque and more

We're splitting time between Hill (Telegraph) and Dale (South Bay) these days as we slowly make the mental mind shift from thinking of Dale as home to thinking of Hill as home. Dale is a giant mess what with all that came out of the house we just sold near Monterey plus the stuff from my brother's place, which sold two and a half years back but which still hasn't been settled and sorted.

Dale is cluttered and claustrophic and stacked and boxed and have I mentioned cluttered? ... and we haven't even talked about my office. I'm spending time sorting through and settling two house-worth's of stuff into Dale while we consider maybe -- just maybe -- selling Dale while the market is hot and interest rates are low.

"... and doing what with the contents from Dale? plus Customs? plus Casey's?" is the question. We talk of buying a warehouse someplace near the Hill to stash the books and the furniture and what-not I haven't yet let go of and maybe buying some place someplace else. Most of the tens of thousands of books (mine and Casey's and those I still keep buying) are in a tilt-up space next to a guy who sells skylights to contractors, who is next to the gutter guru.

The books are in the book-space: the furniture and knickknacks and dishes and punchbowls are here, at Dale, which is where my cable connection and office are -- proof positive that the Hill isn't quite "home" yet...

We go up to the Hill with greater and greater frequency these days as we consider what-next? and watch the boats and walk ... and walk ... and walk and take in dinner and walk ... and walk ... and walk and fall asleep and drive back to the South Bay, where the lucre is made, in the morning. What had been weekend days became Friday night through Monday morning and now is becoming the weekend and maybe Monday or Tuesday night and maybe Wednesday night and soon it's Friday again.

This past Sunday night we ate at Fior d'Italia, Tuesday night at Iluna Basque, and last night (Wednesday) at El Raigón, an Argentine restaurant (excellent grass-fed beef and chimichurri) on Union which opened ... last night.

Amazing how many restaurants are within walking distance, if you don't mind walking. The farthest we've walked from the Hill is to our still-fave Isa which we discovered when we were still dossing at the condo in Pacific Heights, before we bought and settled in at the quite different space we now call home.

Some day when we can't make it up the stairs inside our space and back down again, when we can't make it up and down the Filbert Steps to our little alley-way, when we find it difficult if not impossible to walk uphill and down and over and up from leased parking a couple blocks away, when we need an elevator and someone to open the door, we'll go back to the condo, but please ... not for another two or three decades. The view just isn't the same. Sure you can see the Bay, but the boats are further away, 1940 Vallejo blocks our view of Alcatraz and ... well, it's just not the same. ... at all.

From the Hill, Isa (Luke and Kitty don't have an "Isa" Web site? Why not?) is a fifty-minute walk each way and worth it. We've walked to First Crush, forty minutes maybe. Gary Danko, thirty-five? The conglomerate of tasty places at Belden Place [Plouf, Cafe Tiramisu, B44, &c. ] or Jeanty at Jack's, twenty minutes. Piperade, another of our favorite restaurants, is located down the Filbert Steps and around the corner from us on Battery (1015 Battery). Dinner there involves something more than five minutes less than ten minutes walking "to" -- more walking "fro" because you're stuffed with good food and you have to hike up the Filbert Steps to get home. The walking uphill (always uphill .. from wherever we eat) is a way to work off maybe 100 calories of an excellent dinner.

We stayed closed to home for this week's dinner explorations, though. Iluna Basque (at five blocks) was the farthest we walked to dinner.

Iluna Basque ~ 701 Union St.

Iluna Basque http://www.ilunabasque.com/
701 Union St.
San Francisco, CA 94133

Iluna Basque (a Basque tapas place in North Beach, on the south-west corner of Union and Powell) opened in late February 2004. The restaurant dining room is wood and stainless-steel with an upscale bar on the west side and windows that look out over Union Street and Powell. Inside, if the outside view doesn't interest you, you can catch a peek at the action in the kitchen or just people-watch the wide variety of fellow diners.

Mattin Noblia serves excellent food for someone so young (23). Noblia, as I said, is young and self-deprecating as well, for someone who had been chef at Piperade and now is probably the youngest chef to own a restaurant the likes of his. When we complimented him on his food, he shrugged and smiled, then gestured toward the view of Coit Tower. "But the view, isn't it wonderful?"

Views, schmiews. We have a view of the Bay and the boats from our humble abode, a view of Coit Tower too, if we're facing that direction. We hadn't gone to Iluna Basque for the view from our table. What we don't have at home (but now can have with a five-block walk) are "Txangurro" crab croquettes that melt in our mouths, "Amatxi" style duck rilette served in a small casserole dish with garlic toast, Basque garlic soup with shrimp and sun-dried tomatoes, and salmon tartare with capers.

I had the pineapple "carpaccio" for dessert. Ymmm. Noblia's concoction is a thin slice of pineapple topped with sugar, thrown under a broiler to carmelize the sugar. The pineapple with a now-crusty caramel topping is served warm, drizzled with berry sauce.

We had probably five or six tapas, a bottle of wine, a glass of wine each at the bar while we waited for our table, two desserts, a glass of manzanilla to accompany the pineapple carpaccio, coffee and a bill that topped $120 with tip, if memory serves.

The food though not-cheap was consistently excellent. Yahoo. North Beach and Chinatown don't lack for restaurants, but Iluna Basque is that good -- a perfect spot to take adventurous guests.