: views from the Hill

Saturday, May 29, 2004

Conservative leader blames gays for Iraqi prison abuse

John Kulczycki shared a link to an article by Adrian Brune in the Houston Voice Online: Conservative leader blames gays for Iraqi prison abuse -- Knight decries 'decadence' of gay weddings.

... and so it goes ...

Friday, May 28, 2004

[FOOD] Aqua is a dangerous pleasure

Ate at Aqua for the first time on Wednesday. Turns out it's only a twenty minute walk down the Steps and over to California.

Aqua
252 California St. (between Battery & Front)
San Francisco, CA 94111
415.956.9662


His nibs likes seafood. We were in a celebratory mood. The reservation was for 8:30P and we didn't know how long the walk would take, so we gave ourselves forty-five minutes. We arrived almost a half-hour early, checked-in and hung out in the bar. I looked at the per glass wine prices (whoo boy, were they $$$) and opted for a martini. His nibs had something white. Right on time or maybe a few minutes early we were seated.

Ah, Aqua. Known for its foie and the animal rights activists who spray-painted Executive Chef Laurent Manrique's home, threw acid on his car, wrote threatening letters and trashed his not-yet-opened restaurant and store -- Sonoma Saveurs in Sonoma.

Manrique said he wouldn't cave in to the pressure and by-golly there was foie galore on the Aqua menu up to and including a Whole Foie Gras with Caramelized Granny Smith Apples, Roasted Shallots & Capers.

"You really mean a whole foie?" I asked our server.

"Yes. It's something the restaurant is known for. Usually, it's shared. I think I've probably seen maybe three people who actually ate the whole foie themselves."

I can't imagine. I really can't imagine. I have a hard time sharing half a foie with his nibs. A whole foie? I wouldn't be able to walk home afterwards.

The foie was listed on the menu as "market price" which turned out to be something like $140 for the dish, which is about twice what you'd be paying for foie at the market. Not a terrible markup for what you're getting, but ... what would your total bill be with something like that included?

I couldn't decide what to have so we opted for the seasonal tasting menu with accompanying wine.

The meal started with two amuse bouches, one of which was a small cup of delicious, rich, thick mushroom soup.

The first course was hamachi, sliced thinly with perfectly ripe avocado, also sliced thinly, and sections of ruby red grapefruit vinaigrette. Delicious. Served with MV Laurent-Perrier, Brut Champagne.

Next up was what Aqua called moules frites. In the Aqua incarnation, Yukon Gold potatoes were served alongside an amazing mussel souffle. The small souffle was pierced at table and a portion of curry cream poured inside. The remainder of the pitcher was left to add as desired. Wine: 2002 Domaine Ott Rose, Cotes du Provence.

The next course had my first (and only, alas) taste of foie. The dish was two pieces of Maine scallop topped with sauteed foie gras and served with a marinated mushroom salad and crispy fried garlic. Sounds like too many flavors all jumbled, doesn't it? I had trepidations because of things I've seen other chefs do to foie, but this combination worked perfectly. I still prefer Luke Sung's seared foie with white peaches and custard brioche, but ... the scallop/foie combination served at Aqua gets my stamp of approval. Wine: 2002 Mas de Daumas Gassac (Viognier/Chard/Petit Manseng) -- Vin de Pays.

I also had trepidations about the next course: Maine skate wing, warm butter lettuce, pancetta, herb vinaigrette. I've had skate wing twice in the last month or two. Skate wing must be the new culinary cutting edge substitute on the fish end of the menu for the impossible to get abalone. I've only had skate wing twice in my life and the skate wing at both 500 Jackson and Gary Danko had been ... chewy and stringy. Easy to tell that the skate wing was a much-used muscle.

Aqua had done something to the skate wing to separate the meat from the musculature. The dish was delightful. The wine was exceptional: 2000 Bannister Pinot Noir, Demuth Vineyard, Alexander Valley (Mendocino).

After I asked our server to tell me again which wine it was, he promised to bring me a list after dinner of each wine served with each course, which he did. (You didn't think I was really keeping track of wines, did you?)

Have I mentioned that the service was excellent? The staff were there but not there, everything moved in time, no one rushed, no one stalled. The only hiccup came with the scallops/foie when the dishes were laid down and described and I had to mention that we'd need forks to properly enjoy them.

After the skate wing, we had wild king salmon with morel mushroom, green garlic, delicious potato gnocchi and chive cream. Wine: 2000 Chezeaux Vosne-Romanee, Burgundy. By this time, I was reaching my limits, knowing I had to walk back up the Filbert Steps, so I tossed a couple bites of salmon onto his nibs' plate. We still had dessert to come.

Dessert was warm chocolate cake, mandarin ganache, and Tahitian vanilla bean ice cream served with a glass of Cockburn's 20 year old tawny port. His nibs doesn't do chocolate, so he was offered anything he wanted off the dessert menu. The warm chocolate cake was oozing with chocolate inside -- not quite a marble fudge pudding or chocolate puddle cake, but pretty darn near. Delicious. Delightful.

My double espresso came, served with a small plate of after dessert desserts.

We weren't the last people in the restaurant when we left, but we were close thereto. Dinner had been leisurely and I was feeling at one with the world as we wandered home. Dinner was not cheap, but it was one of the best meals I've had. The price was comparable to the price of dinner at Gary Danko, but what Aqua offered was so much more than Gary Danko. I liked the food better. The service was exceptional. The atmosphere was more relaxed and less stuffy than Gary Danko. Did I mention the food, the glorious food?

I'll save my pennies so we can return to Aqua and sample more of the dishes, see how the other foie dishes compare.

Gmail update and my brilliant (brilliant! I say) solution

Liz Figueroa's revised SB 1822 passed the State Senate yesterday. The revised version scaled down, a bit, the privacy restrictions in the original version.

The original version disallowed Google (or any other mail provider) from scanning incoming/outgoing mail to place targeted ads without positive opt-in from the user. The revised version allows the automatic scanning of incoming/outgoing mail but prohibits mail providers from stashing all the info re a given user in a database, selling the information, sharing it, keeping old e-mails after a user has asked for them to be deleted, &c.

I'm still not thrilled with the legislation, which is now working its way through the Assembly, but it's not as off-the-wall as the original attempt had been.

That said, I have a brilliant, brilliant! I say, solution for Google and Gmail. You listening, Sergey Brin and Larry Page? Here goes.

Just as Templeton has his challenge/response system for his incoming e-mail, Google could maintain a database with e-addresses that have sent mail to someone with a gmail.com address.

Why a database? Well, the first time you send e-mail to anyone with a gmail.com address, Google will bounce the mail back with an (á la Liz Figueroa) request for you to read and approve their explanation of what gmail is and the accompanying terms of use and privacy statement. If you don't say, "Yup!" your mail won't be sent on. Once you say, "Yup!" all mail sent from that e-mail address to gmail accounts will forever after get through.

First time you send mail to a gmail.com account, you have this little hiccup/delay and forever after, your mail gets checked against the database of approved senders and Bob's your uncle.

What's the upside? Are you still listening, Sergey, Larry? Two major upsides at least.

(1) Google, which already makes people signing up to use Gmail agree to the terms of use, will have proof positive that all incoming mail is sent by users who have also accepted the terms of use, in case Figueroa or some other yahoo comes along with a similar bill.

(2) Google will eliminate in one swell foop a HUGE chunk of incoming spam, because spamsters as a whole don't deal well with challenge/response systems.

Go for it, Google guys.

Wednesday, May 26, 2004

Retired General Zinni sez

In an article on CBS News/60 Minutes' Web site retired General Zinni sez

[...]

There has been poor strategic thinking in this. There has been poor operational planning and execution on the ground. And to think that we are going to 'stay the course,' the course is headed over Niagara Falls. I think it's time to change course a little bit, or at least hold somebody responsible for putting you on this course. Because it's been a failure.

[...]

60 Minutes asked Secretary Rumsfeld and his deputy Wolfowitz to respond to Zinni's remarks. The request for an interview was declined.

OUCH! Crash Testing: MINI Cooper vs Ford F150

Crash Testing: MINI Cooper vs Ford F150.

Compare these pictures of a MINI Cooper hitting the wall at 40MPH to these pictures of a Ford F-150 truck doing the same.

I knew there was a reason I have a MINI Cooper on order -- besides the fact they go zip zip zip and are the easiest things to find a parking space for in the lovely but parking-impaired City by the Bay.

Sometime mid-August, a spanking-new 2005 MINI Cooper will be mine. British racing green. White roof. Plain vanilla otherwise -- not the S, no spoiler, no moon-roof, no leather seats.

I ordered the MINI Cooper (after mulling it over for something like two years) because it zips but I'm sure glad to find out that if I hit a wall at 40mph, my kneecaps will survive.

update: This photo is the closest thing I could find with a quick Web search.

zoom! zoom!

Pick me! Pick me!

In The New Yorker's The Talk of the Town Daniel Radosh has a column headed A BOOK IN YOU describing Kate Lee's blogsurfing chores.

Kate Lee, an assistant at International Creative Management, spends an hour a day surfing blogs, looking for writers who can write, sifting the chaff for a couple grains that can be milled and baked into the next best seller.

Two years from now—give or take—Elizabeth Spiers, the founding editor of the gossip Web sites Gawker and The Kicker, will publish her first novel. Around the same time, Glenn Reynolds, who writes the political Web log Instapundit, will also have a book in stores. So, too, may writers from the blogs Hit & Run, The Black Table, Dong Resin, Zulkey, Low Culture, Lindsayism, Megnut, Maud Newton, MemeFirst, Old Hag, PressThink, I Keep a Diary, Buzz Machine, Engadget, and Eurotrash. Suddenly, books by bloggers will be a trend, a cultural phenomenon.

Pick me! Pick me!

Monday, May 24, 2004

Protozone's Kaleido demo

Have fun!

[via John Murrell and Good Morning Silicon Valley)

KFOG's KABOOM!

Went to KFOG's Kaboom! -- a glorious glorious glorious fireworks show -- Saturday.

Gates open at 4P, live music starts at 5P or so, food, libations, fireworks at 9P or as soon thereafter as it's dark enough.

We got there about 5P this year. Walked over from Hill with my Ikea bag filled with heavy jackets, blanket, water. The blanket didn't do much to soften Pier 30's asphalt, but the blanket was intended less a pad and more a space marker, intended to keep people from crowding us as much. Last year we'd arrived around 6P with no blanket or other space marker and wound up in a cramped space, which shivered my claustrophobic timbers.

I was hemming and hawing all day. Maybe we should just stay at Hill. We can see the works from there, although not so up close and personal. But there's something about up close and personal when it comes to fireworks, maybe the claustrophobic twitches are worth it. Maybe not. Hem. Haw. Changed my mind. Changed my mind again. We finally went and, yes, the show is worth it. Bring a blanket, though, and make sure to get there by 5P or so. By 6P the piers are packed and just keep getting moreso.

Next time, though, we'll bring something thicker to sit on and food so we don't pay $4 for garlic-parmesan fries and $7 for a philly-cheesesteak sandwich -- unless, of course, we have a hankering for garlic-parmesan fries.

Music this year by Robert Randolph and the Family Band, the Waifs and Train. We sat as close as we could to the water's edge, the better to see the fireworks. As a result we couldn't see the bands, although we could hear them over the loud speakers. A drawback of the location was that as time progressed and the crowd packed and packed in, it got harder and harder to maneuver a way to the food and drinks and portable toilets.

But we were up close and personal with the fireworks and it was all worth it, claustrophobic tendencies and all.

Wanna see? Click here and catch a taping of the almost twenty-minute fireworks show coordinated with KFOG music. (WindowsMedia and QuickTime versions available.)

KFOG's annual KABOOM! is a free listener-appreciation event they throw at Piers 30 and 32. This year's was the eleventh annual.

Three barges (with two tugboats) full of fireworks, live bands, enough security to throw out the drunks but not so much they dampen the atmosphere. The piers were full of oldsters and youngsters and babysters and aging hippies and aging Hell's Angels and the young punk with the 18" spiked multi-colored hair and the tweedy professor with the gray ponytail. What a lovely motley mess of people.

What a show.

Is it any wonder I love these guys?

Afterwards, we walked home by way of the Embarcadero, then up the Filbert Steps. Up until you got to the Ferry Building, the Embarcadero was blocked to vehicles to make room for a hundred thousand pedestrians or more, who were walking home or back to their hotel or off to dinner. The crowd was spilling out of Gordon Biersch. The restaurants along the Embarcadero were all spilling. We decided to eat in North Beach where the crowds might be a little less so.

We scampered (heh) up the Steps, dropped our blanket and jackets at home, walked down to Mario's, grabbed the corner window and ordered their scrumptious cannelloni for dinner with a bottle of red wine. We'd finished dinner and were working on our wine at 11P, the listed closing time, but the staff was willing to stay late to serve the people who were still wandering in. Our server brought over more wine compliments of the house to keep us sitting in that corner window. We finally left some time after 11:30P and wandered back home. Sat on the deck for a while to watch the lights and unwind. What a glorious day.

Be true to your school

We were up at Garrod's on Friday night for the major donor thank-you event thrown by the Saratoga Education Foundation. Bill and Doris Cooper were pouring Cooper-Garrod wine. Food included stuffed potatoes, salads, chili, sliced-while-you-wait roast beef sandwiches, cookies and brownies. Music by Les Landin and his Skillet Family group. Lane Weiss, the superintendent, gave a short talk. Shinku Sharma and Terrie Creamer said thanks for the dough and announced that this year the foundation raised $1.25m dollars and the major grant to the school district is over a million dollars..

Nice evening, good wine.

Years back, when I was on the Board and the guys were in the schools, his nibs and I'd go to events like this and know almost everyone there. Friday, I knew some of the administrative staff, including the new superintendent, whom we'd met last year at the same event. Cindy I knew, but she was there for just a dash and go. I knew the Coopers and knew Pat from Club meetings. I'd met Shinku before and Terrie and Kelly at other events, but other than that I saw very few familiar faces, so I mixed and mingled and did the how-old-are-your-children thing and drank the Cooper-Garrod cabernet franc and felt ... odd.

Where are the faces of yesteryear? Where are the friends who were on the Board when I was on the Board? Here I was with my youngest child twenty talking to people with a five-year-old, a three-year-old and a six-month-old. Do the old-timers not come because they know they won't know most of the other folks there? Do they not come because they don't give money to SEF anymore, now that their kids are out of school? Do they not come because there's some better, conflicting blowout to which I'm not invited?

*sniff*

Thursday, May 20, 2004

The 25 most difficult questions

For all you out there searching for work, the 25 most difficult questions you'll be asked on a job interview.

e.g. 3. Why do you want to work for us?

The deadliest answer you can give is "Because I like people." What else would you like-animals?

Tuesday, May 18, 2004

Singing Science Records

What an egregious case of copyright infringement, but golly, I can't get enough of Singing Science Records.

Check out Longitude and Latitude, Grand Coulee Dam and more.

Who lives here ?

* * * Who lives here ? * * *'s statement of purpose is "One's room" shows us many things like the culture, religion and the way people live and how they think about their life.... Our ignorance and misunderstanding about people from other cultures, lifestyles and ways of thinking make it possible for mutual prejudice, hatred and war to exist. But if we could feel ourselves closer to the people from other countries,or if we make an effort to try to know the reality of other people's lives and understand them, bad behavior like hurting or hating or killing will decrease gradually and ultimately disappear. This site will show you our unknown friends and their rooms from all over the world. Enlarge this project as broad as possible. Someday we can bring "real peace" to this world.

... or maybe they're just scouting for their next robbery target.

Great site for snoops and voyeurs ... and the people who want to bring "real peace" to this world.

10 Tips on Writing the Living Web

From A List Apart comes Mark Bernstein detailing 10 Tips on Writing the Living Web

Gematriculator

This site is certified 30% EVIL by the Gematriculator

Thanks! Arleen

Mathematical proof that girls are evil

From Dave Winer, Mathematical proof that girls are evil.

History.WorldSearch

History.WorldSearch -- today in History -- also Browse by year, by month.

August 29, 1952 - Premiere of John Cage's 4'33" in Woodstock, New York.

See? You needed to know that.

May 18, 1933 - President Franklin Delano Roosevelt signs an act creating the Tennessee Valley Authority.

... and that too.

Renaissance Alliance School Fundraiser

This is a very cool idea ... Renaissance Alliance School Fundraiser: "The Renaissance Alliance school is honored to offer for sale stunning images from 35 of the most prominent and honored photographers in the world, all of whom work regularly for National Geographic magazine. The money raised through these sales will be used to build a much-needed new schoolhouse and for supplies and other expenses. Currently, students are meeting in portable buildings; the plan is to build an environmentally friendly structure with rainwater collection and solar electric panels."

Michael Yamashita's photo triggers a huge case of wanderlust.

Things My Math Teacher Did Last Year

Jesse Davis' forty-seven item list labeled Things My Math Teacher Did Last Year.

Hope he was kidding about #16.

[snatched from Teresa's "particles" list]

Morphases - More Faces

Morphases - More Faces Morphases editor, the revolutionary face manipulation in real time. [sic]

A bit harder to use than Stereotypes or Character Builder, but the site has more flexibility and choices.

The Web is a wonder.

Why do people give up weblogs?

From luvly, Why do people give up weblogs?

A cogent synopsis of reasons why some ex-webloggers gave up their weblogs, including

"Everywhere I looked I saw the same features with which we're all familiar: hopeful linkylurve, memes, indulgent/tiresome self-disclosure... the only distinguishing factors in most cases being strength and combination. I won't make a sweeping statement about its value - at the very least it entertains, & that's something. But to me, a person who isn't looking to promote myself within it, the "blogosphere" (*CRINGE*) is overwhelmingly dull, and I suppose that made it quite easy to opt out.

WHATEVER: A Quick Note to About-To-Be Married Gays and Lesbians

I was pleasantly surprised to find Scalzi #9 on blogdex (The following sites are the most contagious information currently spreading in the weblog community) this morning for his bloggy WHATEVER: A Quick Note to About-To-Be Married Gays and Lesbians. I knew him long before his blogdex rank tied with The Gray Zone by Seymour M. Hersh which I mentioned a day or two ago and placed ahead of Ananova's Childless couple told to try sex.

When I sent him my congrats, he was admirably modest about his raging fame.

Top linked blog entry this morning is Nick Berg's Killing: 50 Fishy Circumstances, Contradictory Claims, and Videotape Anomalies.

Bloggers, heads up! "some things I hate about blogs"

From "troy" on briankinney.journalspace.com (which I found because the blog has the good taste to link to UV) "some things I hate about blogs"

The list includes (but is not limited to, click the link if you're interested)
  • Pictures that force the browser to resize them.
  • when links open up in a new window.
  • when you miserably fail at trying to protect a copyright by removing the right click function so that I cannot choose to "open in new tab"
  • Not updating regularly.
  • Apologizing for not posting.
What I thought was interesting was the complaint about "when links open up in a new window."

I offer the option ("Click here to open links in new window") because I know some people prefer "open new" over "do not open new" but it never occurred to me that someone would complain when links automatically open up a new window.

In the comments section, someone (troy? even though the reply is from "briansean"?) points out that a right-click lets you open a link in a new window but there's no way to kill a page's "open in a new window" command.

Is there?

Monday, May 17, 2004

Intelliseek's BlogPulse

Intelliseek's BlogPulse came wandering by my blog because I'd mentioned "Seymour Hersh" and today Google's Web Alert notified me about it.


BlogPulse is an "automated trend discovery system for blogs. Blogs, a term that is short for weblogs, represent the fastest-growing medium of personal publishing and the newest method of individual expression and opinion on the Internet. BlogPulse applies machine-learning and natural-language processing techniques to discover trends in the highly dynamic world of blogs. BlogPulse is brought to you by Intelliseek.

BlogPulse.com is a search engine that searches blogs, provides analysis tools, tracks trends and has a bunch of cool new tools. Check through what they have to offer.

A horse! A horse! My kingdom for a ...
My password? ... for a bar of chocolate?

From Bruce Schneier's Crypto-Gram newsletter comes a link to Passwords revealed by sweet deal - BBC/ 20 April 2004.

More than 70% of people would reveal their computer password in exchange for a bar of chocolate, a survey has found.

It also showed that 34% of respondents volunteered their password when asked without even needing to be bribed.


[...]

Landsakes.

Seymour Hersh's latest in The New Yorker

The Gray Zone - by Seymour M. Hersh

subtitle: How a secret Pentagon program came to Abu Ghraib.

The roots of the Abu Ghraib prison scandal lie not in the criminal inclinations of a few Army reservists but in a decision, approved last year by Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld, to expand a highly secret operation, which had been focussed on the hunt for Al Qaeda, to the interrogation of prisoners in Iraq. Rumsfeld’s decision embittered the American intelligence community, damaged the effectiveness of √©lite combat units, and hurt America’s prospects in the war on terror.

According to interviews with several past and present American intelligence officials, the Pentagon’s operation, known inside the intelligence community by several code words, including Copper Green, encouraged physical coercion and sexual humiliation of Iraqi prisoners in an effort to generate more intelligence about the growing insurgency in Iraq. A senior C.I.A. official, in confirming the details of this account last week, said that the operation stemmed from Rumsfeld’s long-standing desire to wrest control of America’s clandestine and paramilitary operations from the C.I.A.


... and the article continues.

ThinkGeek

Oh, my. Check this out: ThinkGeek :: LED Binary Watch

[FOOD] Crustacean and more.

Ah, maybe that's the problem. According to GET ORGANIZED NOW! -- KNOW YOUR LIMITS. Some people are at their best when they work in long, marathon sessions. Others can only work for 15 minutes at a time. Determine your limits and set your organizing schedule within that timeframe.

Setting things aside for the Goodwill saps my strength. I can't go on and on and on. His nibs gets a head of steam and can't stop. After a couple hours of sorting through things, I'm ready to crash and he's just getting started. Yesterday afternoon (Sunday) I left him down on the patio sorting out our latest piles into boxes and bags for the Goodwill while I had a beer (dark San Miguel) and a break. Later, after dinner, we continued with the sort. By bedtime we had four large boxes ready to go to the Goodwill today with another box almost full.

Slowly. Surely. Bust off those barnacles.

Friday we headed up to Hill even though we should've stayed at Dale and continued sorting through stuff. The Spring Fling is three weeks from last Friday and we need to get everything stashed away and the place cleaned up before the day.

But we also needed to check out Hill. Our burglar alarm had gone off at Hill Friday morning. Luckily, after e-mail and phonecalls with our neighbors and Bay Alarm, our neighbors let themselves in and turned the alarm off. Why did the alarm go off? A mystery ... but we have our suspicions. We headed up after his nibs got home from work to check through and make sure that everything was fine.

Headed down the Steps to the Ferry Building, intending to eat at Slanted Door (it being almost 9P and far too late to get to Palio d'Asti before it closed), but Slanted Door was packed and people were spilling out onto the piers. I was willing to wait for a table, maybe stop over and browse at Book Passage if they were open, but Slanted Door staff wouldn't even put us on a waiting list for a table. ("We have so many people waiting for tables as it is that we don't know if we'll get them all seated tonight.")

Now where? We headed, as usual, over toward Belden Place, which is such a nice little collection of good restaurants that you really can't miss getting a good dinner no matter where you eat. As we walked across Justin Herman Plaza, though, we changed direction. Why not Boulevard? We hadn't eaten there in years.

Boulevard
1 Mission St
415.543.6084

Boulevard too was rocking. Must've been something about being out looking for dinner at 9P on Friday night. We could either wait for a table or eat at a table for two in the bar area. Bar table it was.

For dinner I had boneless quail stuffed with short rib meat, spinach, mushrooms &c., settled on a bed of a yummy risotto-like starch. The quail was rolled like a chicken kiev around the beef and spinach and sliced on a slant. His nibs had rack of lamb. Our starters (we swapped plates half-way through) were foie chaud with grilled partly-ripe apricots and toasty brioche and sweetbreads with smoky pork/bacon chunks and frisee'd vegetables, including artichoke hearts. All the food was tasty, but the bill with wine was $$$++ and that was just for two hors d'oeuvres and two entrees and wine -- no dessert, no coffee.

The total price was on par with what we'd spent at Rubicon last week, where we'd had dessert and malmsey in addition to hors d'oeuvres, entrees and wine. The dishes were tastier at Rubicon as well. We'll return to Rubicon and take a pass on another dinner at Boulevard unless we have friends who want to go. There are just far too many good restaurants in San Francisco to spend time and money returning to restaurants that don't knock your socks off. If price were no object, I'd still choose Rubicon over Boulevard, but given that the Boulevard was so pricey? No question.

Which restaurants are currently on my "didn't sufficiently knock my socks off for the price"? Boulevard, Gary Danko and 500 Jackson are three that pop immediately to mind. The restaurants are worth going to to see what all the buzz is about, but for me aren't worth going back to, not when I haven't checked out Fifth Floor since Laurent Gras took over and haven't dropped by Lüx, Luke Sung's new place on Chestnut. We're planning to walk over for dinner at Isa some time this week and will poke our nose in at Lüx to see what Luke and Kitty have created there.

[see update below]

Saturday we walked over to the Art Store at Bush and Van Ness to pickup a matted frame for a Colin De Guere piece we'd bought years back and never properly framed. Sure there are frame places closer to home, but the Art Store was having their white sale (all blank canvases HALF OFF!) and their selection of papers and papyrus is drool-worthy. I lusted after some of the papers with embedded leaves and seeds, lusted after different papyrus pieces and after the 48x60" (or was it 60"x72"?) stretched/cross-barred canvases.

Ah, well.

We decided we needed to eat as we were heading home about 1P, carrying our frame and a quad journal I couldn't resist. If we waited to get back to North Beach for lunch, we would've spoiled our appetite for dinner. Heaven forefend!

I'd been thinking maybe Hyde Street Bistro or Hyde Street Grill -- neither of which we'd been to, although we'd shared a HSG crab cake sandwich at the Farmers' Market last weekend. As we were walking up Polk and peering in shop windows, we walked by Crustacean and his nibs said, "We really need to try that some time."

Why not now? I asked. We'd never eaten there, although we'd talked about it several times -- Crustacean has the reputation of being the birthplace of fusion cuisine when it opened back twelve years or so ago.

Crustacean
1475 Polk Street
415.776.2722

What a wonderful, if pricey, lunch we had. The setting and design are beautiful. Our service was excellent. The third floor view overlooking Polk and California is not the attraction, the food is.

A note by the front desk outlines the dress code: no t-shirts with slogans, no sweatsuits. Simple stuff. No hassle about lack of ties or whatever, but the An family doesn't want folks in sweaty, torn sweatsuits coming by for a meal. Can't say I blame them. Luckily, I was wearing a long-sleeved shirt over my misc.writing ("a marginal newsgroup") t-shirt and I quickly buttoned it up so my slogan'd t-shirt didn't show.

Our server delivered the lunch menu along with the dinner menu and a wine list. He told us we could order from either or both and we had a choice of small plates, large plates or "secret kitchen specialties." The dinner menu had more selections and prices for dishes were the same no matter which menu you ordered from.

As long as it's crab season, we decided to take advantage.

I ordered the Asian crab cake, which came with a mixed green salad with a very light strawberry vinaigrette, grilled vegetables and some wonderful grilled Japanese eggplant with an added flavor element. Five spice maybe? The crab cake was slightly spicy -- Dungeness crab meat, pork and what looked like sweet red peppers. The cake was over three inches in diameter and an inch thick.

His nibs ordered the specialty of the house, a whole roasted Dungeness crab, cooked in garlic butter and spices. The crab was enormous. He was full long before he was done and I took the opportunity to snitch cleaned crab meat off his plate, after I'd finished with my crab cake. (I did give him a taste of my crab cake and the eggplant in exchange.)

We had a bottle of Groth Sauvignon Blanc with lunch. Both dishes were exceptional. The wine was a great match.

For dessert we shared fried bananas and vanilla ice cream. The bananas were battered and fried and HOT. The vanilla ice cream was a perfect accompaniment. I followed with a cup of great coffee.

Another specialty of the house, which I wished I had tried, was An's garlic noodles, egg noodles infused with "An's famous garlic sauce." A young couple eating next to the window shared a roasted crab and each had a bowl of the garlic noodles. That combo might just be the perfect lunch.

We will return to Crustacean even though lunch with a bottle of Sauvignon Blanc totaled $100 mas o menos. Not cheap, but heaven.

Tel-Hi

We'd held back and just had one entree each and a split dessert at lunch because we were booked for the Tel-Hi fundraiser starting at 6:30P. As we walked down the hill with friends to the Tel-Hi Neighborhood Center for the annual dinner, we were disappointed to hear that the week in Abaco had been pulled from the auction -- not that we could've afforded it anyway.

The two high-bid items of the evening were a private cooking class and meal from Mary Risley's Tante Marie for ten and a sleepover for 25 on the submarine USS Pampanito. For both items, the next highest bidder was encouraged to up his bid to match the bid of the highest bidder and two events were scheduled. Generous donors.

We picked up a $100 gift certificate for the House at the silent auction at more or less face value -- some gift certificates went for far beyond their nominal face value. We've eaten at the House twice now and plan to return again and again until we've explored their entire menu.

Our friends won the silent auction for the El Raigon gift certificate for dinner and wine. We'd bid on other items, including a selection of dessert wines and a chocolate truffle experience for ten at XOX Truffles, but were outbid, alas. Winning bid was something like $190.

Other auction lots included a dream Giants evening with signed memorabilia, VIP box and more (donated by the Giants and Jack Bair), pool and beer with Aaron Peskin (our local supe), wine, clothes, jewelry, art. Here's hoping the auctions (silent and live) were a huge success.

Sunday, we skipped the Sunday afternoon Open Houses and headed back to Dale around lunch time to sort through crockery and cutlery and pie plates for the rest of the weekend.

update: Popped by to take a gander at Lüx to see what Luke and Kitty had and discovered that all the news was old. Lüx wasn't operating yet and (after a peek through the gaps in the window coverings), looks like it'll be at least next month before it opens.

Word at Isa was that Luke is less concerned with how quickly the kitchen goes in and the tables are set than with finding top-notch staff for the restaurant.

All good things come with time.

Friday, May 14, 2004

[FOOD] Rubicon

Our fave SF Realtor sent us an invite to an event last Friday night, a wine and hors d'oeuvres blast from 6P - 8P at the San Francisco Decorator Showcase at the former home of the British consul general on Pacific Avenue, between Pierce and Steiner. The event was sponsored by Coldwell Banker and the place was awash with Realtors and their friends and clients. The home was fantastic -- 11,000 square feet, a wonderful courtyard, renovated kitchen, some memorable rooms and terrific nibbles and noshes. Like our friend Beth, CB only served white wine -- wouldn't want red stains on the carpets.

After our two-hour whirl was over, we drove home and powdered our noses before heading out to hunt down and kill a dinner, intending to eat at Palio d'Asti on Sacramento. Earlier Friday, I'd exchanged e-mails with Daniel Scherotter, the executive chef there, about his reasoned comments re foie that I'd wandered across earlier that day. e.g.

14. Poorly Written Legislation: SB 1520 is too general and too vague to cause anything other than problems. Burton’s Bill outlaws 'force feeding' defined as

"a process that causes the bird to consume more food than a typical bird of the same species would consume voluntarily while foraging. Force feeding methods include but are not limited to, delivering feed through a tube or other device inserted into the bird’s esophagus."

It ignores the fact that all animals raised for domestic consumption are fed more than they would ever be able to get in the wild because they are not wild animals, would never survive in the wild and bare only distant genetic relationships to their smaller wild cousins. Cows wouldn’t normally eat corn or grain, for instance, they’d eat grass. There are no wild cows. Corn, or grain, makes them bulk up faster so they can get to market. Centuries of breeding have produced animals that would never survive in the wilderness but do sell. They are only raised (fed and kept alive) for food because tough, lean, scrawny, wild animals that don’t taste as good don’t sell either.


I figured it was time for karma and if some folks were boycotting restaurants and trashing restaurateurs because they served foie, I could make it a point to support folks like Scherotter.

Scherotter was fine with that, "I'm here Mon-Friday and always have some foie around for those who choose to eat it."

So, on an impulse we headed down. We got there about nine, but the restaurant had been having a slow night and, we were told, they'd decided to send the kitchen home early. Next time, we were told, give a call before you head over and we'll make sure we're still serving.

We headed down to maybe eat at one of the places on Belden Place, but on our way there we walked past Rubicon. Hey. We'd never eaten at Rubicon. Let's stop in.

Rubicon
558 Sacramento Street
(415)434-4100


We ordered. His nibs chose a wine from their extensive (and expensive) wine list.

His nibs had the warm capaccio of scallops with Dungeness crab, sea urchin and tarragon as an appetizer, while I had the hot & cold foie gras with poached pear, aged balsamic and roasted salsify. I had some concerns that there might be too many flavors and the foie would be overwhelmed, but Yow. Both appetizers were excellent.

His nibs had the applewood-smoked duck with glazed foie, maitake mushrooms, curried lentils, &c. I had the "tagliata" of dry aged striploin with trumpet mushrooms, arugula jus. Again, both dishes were delish. Not often one gets to eat somewhere where every dish ordered comes through with blue ribbons flying.

Dessert was Bleu de Basque and a poached pear with balsamic ice cream and toasted walnuts for him, a glass of malmsey (and a spoon so I could snatch tastes of his dessert) for me. His dessert was wonderful. The balsamic ice cream, which sounded like a strange thing, was absolutely amazing. The whole dinner was fantastic.

Next time we go, I'll be sure it's not after I've spent a couple hours noshing on crab puffs so I'll have more room for the delicious food. Prices are $$$.

This Wednesday in the Merc, Carolyn Jung had an article (registration required) about Rubicon. Seems the folks making the delicious food and dessert are a couple who just took over the reins last month. Stuart Brioza was named one of the 10 Best New Chefs in America by Food & Wine magazine last year. Nicole Krasinski is the pastry chef and in charge of the delicious desserts. They are quite a dynamite duo.

AllConsuming.net

Found AllConsuming.net through a referral to my blog earlier today, triggered because I'd mentioned Bill Sammon's new book, MISUNDERESTIMATED: The President Battles Terrorism, John Kerry and the Bush Haters on Tuesday.

AllConsuming.net "is a website that watches weblogs for books that they're talking about, and displays the most popular ones on an hourly basis." In addition, you can pop a title into AllConsuming.net and find the blogs that have referenced it. That bit of code is pretty interesting. Enter /pride and prejudice/ and the site hares off to see what titles match /pride and prejudice/ at Amazon. Taking those titles, AllConsuming checks the blogs it covers for references.

Amazon came up with ten references, including Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen, The Annotated Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen, David M. Shapard, Mr. Darcy Takes a Wife: Pride and Prejudice Continues by Linda Berdoll, &c. The plain Jane Pride and Prejudice has forty-four Weblog mentions.

Click on the title and AllConsuming returns publishing information, Amazon sales rank, Amazon average rating (4.56 stars), &c. plus snippets from the blogs that mentioned the book, listed in reverse calendar order (newest first).

"I'm reading this book."
said george on April 27, 2004.

"Delectable!"
said thatgirl on April 1, 2004.

"One of my favourite books of all time. The wit, gentility, finely drawn characters, and the change which the protagonists undergo makes this book a thoroughly enjoyable read."
said civility on March 29, 2004.

If you decide you want to read more about what a given poster thinks of the book, click on the poster's name and AllConsuming sends back a synopsis of the site, books mentioned on the site and more information.

Hm. http://allconsuming.net/weblog.cgi?url=http://www.towse.com/blogger/blog.htm

My Google Friends section lists three sites whose owners I know and four sites that I have no idea why they're listed as Google Friends.

The allConsuming folks describe how they come up with the information: "This is a weblog detail page. It has information gleaned from Alexa.com, Google.com, and Amazon.com. Combining all of this information together, I can display a screenshot of the weblog, related sites according to Google, and products that have appeared on this website in the past."

The automagician needs some work.

FWIW, the current hourly update reads, "Although we found 814 books last hour, none of them were mentioned on that particular weblog for the first time."

For today, the top five mentioned titles are

The Da Vinci Code by Dan Brown (17 mentions)
A Wrinkle In Time by Madeleine L'Engle (13 mentions)
Angels & Demons by Dan Brown (10 mentions)
Plan of Attack by Bob Woodward (15 mentions)
My Life by Bill Clinton (6 mentions)

Good to see L'Engle is beating out the newbies with her oldbie book. Turns out it's because there was a Wrinkle in Time movie on TV, which triggered people to read the book.

Thursday, May 13, 2004

A cool use of Flash

Here's a cool use of Flash.

WARNING! WARNING! WARNING!

Have I ever mentioned that I needed to take Dramamine® (dimenhydrinate) before any labs that involved intense microscope use because I'd get motion sick without it?

I betcha this site could make me motion sick even with Dramamine®.

Personality Disorder Test

Well, that's a relief ... Took the Personality Disorder Test and came up with
  • Paranoid: Low
  • Schizoid: Low
  • Schizotypal: Low
  • Antisocial: Low
  • Borderline: Low
  • Histrionic: Low
  • Narcissistic: Moderate
  • Avoidant: Low
  • Dependent: Low
  • Obsessive-Compulsive: Moderate

Bet you dollars to donuts that the OCD was triggered when I 'fessed about my packrat tendencies, and "narcissistic"? Isn't everyone to some degree?

I'd love to give this to some of my fellow nutcases and see how they rate.

(We're all a bit narcissistic, right?)

'Fictitious' author publishes the first book without verbs

From the Telegraph comes this article by Kim Willsher.

First, there was the novel written without using the letter 'e'. Now a French author has produced what he claims is the first book with no verbs.

Gmail - Brad Templeton's take and other bits and pieces

Brad Templeton's a bright guy. His take on Gmail raises some questions I hadn't thought about plus he manages to limn better than I could the reasons behind my reluctance to stash my e-mail at Gmail despite the nifty search capabilities Google is offering.

One suggestion I read on someone's blog (forgive me ... I flit around so much I can't remember whose) was to use Gmail to archive mailing lists, news-source e-mails, newsletters from Powell's and Chronicle Books and the National Women's Law Center and other bits and pieces that arrive on a regular basis. The stash would be easily searchable, but there wouldn't be any worries about whether or not the archives were covered by the ECPA and easily available to the DHS or a snooping attorney.

My advice is to keep your personal e-mails on your hard drive. Why make it easy for someone to snoop? Of course, if you're worried about the DHS snooping through your e-mail, you need to remember that given a solid set of reasons they can get a search warrant for your hard drive just as easily as they can get a search warrant for your Gmail archives.

Blogging! The Latest Cyber Craze!

Wendy McClure gives a "meticulously detailed recap of a news segment" -- Blogging! The Latest Cyber Craze! -- that appeared on the Chicago FOX News affiliate on May 5, 2004.

McClure taped (and critiqued) the show because her blog and her bloggedness featured in the news segment. Seems McClure took up blogging four years ago and "since then, she spends an HOUR AND A HALF each week on her computer just blah-blah-blogging!"

(an HOUR AND A HALF each week! Yikes, can you imagine?)

Take a look, and be sure to stop by McClure's blog as well.

newsmap

newsmap "is an application that visually reflects the constantly changing landscape of the Google News news aggregator. A treemap visualization algorithm helps display the enormous amount of information gathered by the aggregator. Treemaps are traditionally space-constrained visualizations of information. Newsmap's objective takes that goal a step further and provides a tool to divide information into quickly recognizable bands which, when presented together, reveal underlying patterns in news reporting across cultures and within news segments in constant change around the globe."

Checkout how the maps differ from Australia to India to UK to USA. Split out the map for "entertainment" or "sports".

Fascinating. A standing ovation for The Hive Group

blogrolling.com

The more observant will notice that I use blogrolling.com to maintain my lists of hot crossed sites and hot crossed blogs.

Earlier today blogrolling.com (now owned by those whacky folks at tucows.com) went south and my lists vanished. The blogrolling.com site vanished altogether and, oddly enough -- being as they're owned by two different entities -- blogger.com went flaky as well. I couldn't use Blogger's "preview" feature, my "publish" efforts didn't seem to take and then took all at once giving me four copies of a given post, and my handy-dandy [Blog This!] button stopped working.

My blogrolling lists are back now but a visit to blogrolling.com triggers a fatal error. Ooops. May have spoken too soon. The last visit triggered a 404, which means we're back where we were an hour or two ago.

In any case, while I had a chance I snagged off my list of blogrolling links and embed the lists in my template (as I'd been doing before finding blogrolling). I'll probably only use blogrolling from now on to collect "new" links, and set up some sort of schedule to update the template with new links.

update: blogrolling is back (sort of) which gives me a duplicate set of the links. I can get to blogrolling.com, but when I try to get to my account to clearout the list blogrolling keeps, the error I get is "Got error 127 from table handler."

So for now, I'm going to leave this as it now is and check back until I catch the window where I can clear out my old blogrolls and start fresh.

further update: blogrolling came back sufficiently for me to flush my blogrolling lists. Now I'll use blogrolling for "new" sites and periodically update the lists on the templates to include the new links.

Ain't computers wonderful?

The Untitled Project

Matt Siber's The Untitled Project "is a series of photographs of urban settings accompanied by a graphical text layout. The photographs have been digitally stripped of all traces of textual information. The text pieces show the removed text in the approximate location and font as it was found in the photograph."

Very strange effect. Check out the photographs and the Project Statement

Wednesday, May 12, 2004

Caring for Your Introvert

Jonathan Rauch writes in the March 2003 Atlantic about Caring for Your Introvert. As an INFJ, this article fit perfectly.

Things Other People Accomplished When They Were Your Age

Things Other People Accomplished When They Were Your Age tells me that when they were my age

  • Joseph Guillotin proposed a beheading machine to the French National Assembly.
  • The Marquis de Sade, imprisoned for much of his life, wrote the novel Justine.

How heartwarming is that?

Rent My Chest!

Chris Pirillo, the #1 Chris on the Web, has a money-making idea: Rent My Chest!

How Does Fat Kill Thee? Many Ways

From Wired News comes How Does Fat Kill Thee? Many Ways. This information is just the extra kick in the butt I need to lose a few and get in shape for the excursions planned for later this year in Iquitos, Lima, Guayaquil, Cuzco and points N E and W. I'd already decided I didn't really feel like dragging around anything extra at 11K feet, but now knowing that all those "oily, yellowish globs of fat" are churning out "a stew of hormones and other chemical messengers" that muck up my health ... well ...

Tuesday, May 11, 2004

Freecycle

Ever heard of Freecycle?

The worldwide (!) Freecycle Network is made up of many individual groups across the globe. It's a grassroots movement of people who are giving (& getting) stuff for free in their own towns. Each local group is run by a local volunteer moderator (them's good people). Membership is free.

The groups are run through Yahoo! groups, which means you can access your local group through the Web or have offers and followups sent via e-mail.

As an example of what goes down, here are some recent bits from last Friday through today from the San Jose Freecycle group:

TAKEN: White 500W Halogen Torchiere Lamp
TAKEN: car seat stroller
Taken: long black plastic trough
OFFER: 900W microwave oven (not working)
TAKEN: 12 gallons of chile red paint
Offer : 4 bicycle innner tubes with holes
Offer: empty rusty propane tank
OFFER: Dinette Set, 70's style
OFFER: Ugly Green Giant Carnival Monkey .....
OFFER: Maternity blouses
OFFER: Metal Storage Cabinet
TAKEN:Samsung microwave
offered- Queen size futon with frame
wanted:torch
Needed: wire hangers
Offered - Stationary Bike
WANTED: Electric Mobility Scooter

See how it works? Easy, isn't it? Posts are labelled OFFER: TAKEN: WANTED: or some variant thereof, depending on whether someone is offering something, someone's taken an offered item and it's no longer available, or someone wants something.

The San Francisco Bay Area has a number of groups and there's been on-going discussion about whether some of the groups should meld, but the question always is, do you want to wade through hundreds of offers within an hour's drive or a smaller number of offers that are close to you?

I've been a member of various local Freecycles since last December and wholeheartedly support the concept.

"Think globally, recycle locally," as the Freecycle folks put it.

Craig's List and the future of newspaper advertising

Randy Shaw at Beyond Chron ('The Voice of the Rest' - San Francisco's Alternative Online Daily) writes about Joe Cassidy, the developer of the Ironwork Lofts on Harrison Street, who spent $75 on Craig's List to advertise and sell all 28 units in his live-work loft development (for prices from $450K for a 700 sq ft studio to $700K for a 1500 sq ft 2BR) rather than run $10K worth of ads in the Chron.

After getting such great results for only $75, Cassidy calls the Chronicle ads a "waste of time and money. The whole country checks Craig's List so you're reaching a much larger audience than the Chronicle for a fraction of the cost."

The San Francisco Chronicle is heavily dependent on real estate ads, which is why it makes sure its editorials and endorsement follow the positions of the San Francisco Association of Realtors. But once word gets out about Cassidy's success through the Internet, expect other cost-conscious developers to follow suit.


Uh. Oh.

Actually, it's already happening. When we contracted with Saxe Real Estate to find us a tenant, vet the tenant, and lease out the condo in Pacific Heights, Thom O'Brien didn't run ads in the papers, he ran ads on Craig's List.

Hooray for Craig Newmark and his list(s).

Alarming debate - Audit: No use for street fire alarm boxes

Alarming debate is an article by JK Dineen in the Examiner re a proposal to close out the street fire alarm boxes.

[...]

[City Controller Ed] Harrington argues that fire alarm boxes generate thousands of false alarms every year. Of the more than 22,000 calls coming in from street boxes, 87 percent are false alarms, according to Harrington. Furthermore, of the 15 percent of calls that are legitimate, 80 percent are medical, meaning only 3 percent are fires.

Um. Does Harrington realize he's saying that people use fire alarm boxes to report at least 660 "real" fire calls a year and that almost 2700 calls a year are medical emergencies, albeit not fires? Is there really a problem with people using fire alarm boxes to call in medical emergencies, if they have no other way to quickly contact emergency services and a life is saved?

San Francisco has 2,040 fire alarm boxes, with a concentration in densely populated neighborhoods. The boxes, maintained by 16 electricians from the Department of Telecommunications and Information Service, are part of a 300 mile copper network that also carries the mayor's emergency telephone system.

Defenders of the boxes argue that the copper-wire system is The City's most reliable form of emergency communication. During the 1989 Loma Prieta earthquake, for example, phone service was out for 24 hours and fire alarm boxes were used to report dozens of blazes.
.

Sounds like a good enough reason in our earthquake-prone ville to keep the boxes, but wait, there's more ...

Jack Donahoe, who manages the system, said eliminating the fireboxes would not cut costs at the telecommunications department. He compared eliminating the alarm boxes to "unplugging" an appliance from an outlet where other appliances are also plugged in.

"We can tell you that there is not a direct correlation between shutting down the fire alarm and the cost of the operation," he said. "The cost would stay very nearly the same."

Telecommunications Director Denise Brady called the copper network, "an important asset for public safety." "We should be careful that we don't throw the baby out with the bath water," she said.


You heard it here. If the city takes out those "old-fashioned street boxes," we'll have an earthquake or some other catastrophe that swamps or takes out the landline/cell phone system and there will be a huge roar after the emergency is over as people search down the bureaucrats who decided on this "cost-saving" measure.

Penny-wise pound-foolish anyone?

Is this thing on?

Ev announces the official launch of the Google Blog. Yay!

Bush Prefers the Sports Pages

Bush Prefers the Sports Pages [from washingtonpost.com]-- an article by Dan Froomkin, commenting on Bill Sammon's new book, MISUNDERESTIMATED: The President Battles Terrorism, John Kerry and the Bush Haters.

[...]

Sammon of the Washington Times writes that Bush gets four newspapers -- and reads the sports pages. As for the front pages? He scans and skims.

"Mr. Bush thinks that immersing himself in voluminous, mostly liberal-leaning news coverage might cloud his thinking and even hinder his efforts to remain an optimistic leader," Sammon writes.

"I like to have a clear outlook," Bush told Sammon, who is also a political analyst for Fox News. "It can be a frustrating experience to pay attention to somebody's false opinion or somebody's characterization, which simply isn't true. . . .

[...]

Maybe washingtonpost.com and its parent company are just peeved Bush doesn't read their political coverage. Lucky thing Bush watches 60 Minutes II or he'd really be out of the loop.

'Sven, you didn't do anything stupid, did you?'

Sasser virus launched to help mum's business [from the Sydney Morning Herald]

[...]


"About four months ago he was over here for a visit and said 'Papa, I've put out a computer worm'," his stepmother said. "And then my husband said 'Sven, you didn't do anything stupid, did you?'. He just kind of laughed nervously."


[...]

Google Alert - automated ego surfing

GoogleAlert is an automated Google search that sends "new" results to you by e-mail.

Want to know who's mentioning you on the Web but don't have time to parse through the Google search results to find "new" mentions? Signup for Google Alert, pop oh-say /"sal towse"/ or /link:www.towse.com/ into the search settings, select how many results you want sent at a time and how often to run the automatic searches, and sit back. GoogleAlert will e-mail you results whenever anything new pops up on their radar.

Some times GoogleAlert comes up with results where you just have to wonder why it took them so long to notice such-and-so site had mentioned you. Other times, GoogleAlert comes up with mentions you probably would never have seen -- http://www.fusion.com.au/f3/q/news/display.taf?fn=detail&iss=41, for example.

Peregrines thrive amid high-rises

According to KCBS this morning (in a news item probably lifted from the Chron), peregrine falcons are thriving amid the high-rises in downtown San Francisco and, in fact, are nesting at the PG&E HQ at Beale and Mission.

The word is that the skyscrapers are a lot like cliff edges and the pigeon population makes for wonderful snacking.

Thirty-some years back there were two pairs of nesting peregrines in the state. The species was facing extinction because DDT weakened the peregrine egg shells and eggs were smashing before the eyasses hatched. DDT was banned in 1972 and now there are more than 220 pairs of nesting peregrines in the state with the numbers increasing.

I knew those pigeons were good for something.

Rolex Awards for Enterprise

The Rolex Awards for Enterprise celebrate an interesting collection of people with useful ideas to solve problems at low cost that affect a number of people. Hans Hendrikse, the featured inventor on this page of the site, developed a new way for South Africans to fetch water over long distances. "Thousands of rural women carry water containers on their heads, risking major injuries. Carrying containers weighing between 10 and 25 kg (22-55 lbs) for an average distance of 2km (1.24 mi) per round trip, they can seriously damage their necks and spines. And the salvaged plastic containers they use are often unhygienic."

Hendrikse came up with a relatively cheap solution. Other inventors, other projects, other award winners are described on this site. Cool use of Flash.

Monday, May 10, 2004

New Blogger

Adjusting to the new Blogger interface introduced yesterday afternoon.

Friday, May 07, 2004

FreeFind search

Added FreeFind search capability for easy archive searches. The FreeFind 'bot will come through once a week and make sure the archives are searchable from the main blog.htm page.

Blog Survey: Summary of Findings

Fernanda Viégas, a graduate student in the Sociable Media Group at the MIT Media Laboratory, published Blog Survey: Summary of Findings which contained results such as
  1. "the great majority of bloggers identify themselves on their sites: 55% of respondents provide their real names on their blogs; another 20% provide some variant of the real name (first name only, first name and initial of surname, a pseudonym friends would know, etc.)"

  2. "36% of respondents have gotten in trouble because of things they have written on their blogs"

  3. "the frequency with which a blogger writes highly personal things is positively and significantly correlated to how often they get in trouble because of their postings; (r = 0.3, p < 0.01); generally speaking, people have gotten in trouble both with friends and family as well as employers."

(now there's a 'duh' ...)

Somehow (n.b. this isn't the slant or gist of the study) bloggers who may always be so careful not to spill online information in chatrooms and Usenet newsgroups forget when they are blogging that anyone and everyone can read what they have to say.

... including Aunt Ethel, who may not want you blogging about the affair she never told Uncle Wilbur about.

This to That

This to That is one of those handy-dandy useful Web sites. This to That gives advice on gluing. Their philosophy statement reads, "Glue Philosophy: We are here to help you choose the right glue for your bonding requirements. We are committed to keeping current with the adhesive market, but we don't claim to know everything about every glue on the market. We recommend the glues that we have found work best for us. We do know one thing for sure: there is no such thing as the All Purpose glue. Every glue has its pros and cons."

The site is not only useful, it's got trivia, links, FAQ and more.

Cautionary tale for writers

You may recognize some of the names here: Fisher, Deering.

Cautionary tale for writers: 'literary agent from hell'
By Teresa Mendez [book review]

Although 150,000 titles were published last year, most aspiring authors still can't find a publisher.

Unfortunately, there's a shadow industry eager to prey on writers who hope to evade the usual hoops on their way to publication. You've seen the ads: "Manuscripts Wanted!" You may even have been tempted to respond with a masterpiece of your own. But before sending any money, read "Ten Percent of Nothing," a chilling book by former FBI agent Jim Fisher about "the literary agent from hell."


[...]

Thursday, May 06, 2004

Theme Thursday

Checked out the newest theme for Theme Thursday: "twisted" It is now 7:50P PDT of the day the theme was posted and 94 photographers have already uploaded their photographic interpretations of "twisted" to the site.

!

!!!

Jesus of the Week

Jesus of the Week - images of Jesus in advertising and media, brought to you by the alternative newspaper chain (including EastBay Express), New Times.

[FOOD] International No Diet Day

If I hadn't been cruising blogs, I would never have discovered that today is International No Diet Day. I guess whatever good intentions I have to get in shape can be put off until tomorrow.

We went to a "meet the editor and let him know what you really think of Baseline Magazine" cocktails (well, pinot noir for me) and hors d'oeuvres gig at Town Hall Restaurant down on Howard for a couple hours last night.

Walked down the Steps to the Embarcadero and caught the F-line trolley over to the Financial District, then walked a few blocks to Town Hall. Yummy hors d'oeuvres. Wine, beer and hard drinks flowed freely. Can't imagine what it cost for Baseline to get our opinions and those of about forty other people.

When the party was over a couple hours later, we were ready for dinner but were told it was an hour's wait to get a table at Town Hall. Instead, we walked over to One Market, Bradley Ogden's restaurant just across from the Ferry Building, and got seated immediately, had a bit of dinner and another glass of wine. After dinner, we walked home, stopping off at the Ferry Building to pickup a menu from The Slanted Door, then back up the Stairs. Even though it was a Wednesday night sometime after nine, The Slanted Door was packed with people -- bodes well for its success at its new location.

The walking wore off maybe 1/10th of the hors d'oeuvres and dinner consumption. My entree was foie gras steak -- a big seared piece of foie gras, served with toast tips. Even though I love seared foie gras, and One Market's dish was excellent, I needed his nibs to help me finish my serving. I'd eaten my fair share of hors d'oeuvres and the foie gras entree was enormous. We carried home the leftovers of his pork entree, which we figured would frig far far better than seared foie gras.

I'll worry about my good intentions tomorrow.

The Death Clock

The Death Clock - When Am I Going To Die?

Friday, October 24, 2031, the death clock says-- longer if I ditch some pounds. The death clock tells me, "Weight gain in adulthood is associated with significant increased mortality. In the Framingham Heart Study, the risk of death within 26 years increased by 1% for each extra pound increase in weight between the ages of 30 years and 42 years and by 2% between the ages of 50 years and 62 years (Solomon et al. 1997; Kopelman 2000). One study found that fat loss was associated with a decrease in mortality rate (Allison et al. 1999). "

The death clock, of course, is just a parlor game, far from infallible. I had three sibs who died far sooner than the death clock would've calculated for them.

Friends

Ten years of Friends and I've never seen an episode. I'll let this one pass by too.

Wednesday, May 05, 2004

Ecuador

obTrivia: What is the unit of money in Ecuador?

Currency in Ecuador: US Dollar (USD)

How grammatically sound are you?

Master!
You are a MASTER of the English language!


While your English is not exactly perfect,
you are still more grammatically correct than
just about every American. Still, there is
always room for improvement...


How grammatically sound are you?
brought to you by Quizilla

Must've been all those lays and lied and laying questions ...

Photo Friday - The Weekly Photo Challenge

Here's another.

Ready? Aim. Shoot!

Theme Thursday

I really need to get a digital camera -- just a cheap one, maybe, to play with. The Fry's ad last Sunday, or maybe it was the Office Max ad, had a cheap digital camera for $10 with rebates. His nibs asked if all the connectivity ware &c. was included at a price like that.

Beats me. I just know the time is ripe. I've been thinking about getting a digital camera for going on five, six years now. We were on a trip in China back in ... 1998, I think it was -- Shanghai and the gardens in Suzhou, Wuhan, up the Yangtze and through the Three Gorges (before the dam) to Chongqing and down to Chengdu, Hong Kong. One of our fellow travellers was having fun with his then cutting-edge digital camera. That looks interesting, I thought at the time. Some day, I thought.

The prices keep dropping. The cameras keep getting better. I wouldn't pop for a top-of-the-line right now, but maybe something inexpensive to play with and take quick pix, maybe something inexpensive so if I decide to sell something on eBay I'll be able to include a picture with the description. I really need to get a digital camera so when I'm tapped to take pictures of the new Foothill Club members at the orientation meeting (as I was yesterday), I can take a bucketload and erase the ones that don't turn out and not have to take the film to Costco and wait a couple days for developing ('cause I'm too cheap to pay for one-hour processing) before I see whether any of the pictures turned out. It's that immediate gratification thing, isn't it?

The real reason, though, I need to get a digital camera is so I can take part in q & a : the photographic interview and Theme Thursday and other community photo shoot-outs.

Theme Thursday publishes a new theme every Thursday, and photographers have a week to upload their pictures. Last week's theme was "purple."

The irises I've been nurturing from little bits of rhizome -- shared out with sibs after we split up our mother's irises last fall -- are sending up their first flower spikes. The first bud opened yesterday and two other plants have buds that are shooting up as we speak. The iris that opened yesterday is a beautiful white iris with deep, deep purple edging -- perfect for last Thursday's theme, but last Thursday's theme will be replaced with a new theme tomorrow.

I really need to get a digital camera.

Tuesday, May 04, 2004

Google

From Topix.net Weblog comes this interesting note re Google's hardware (100K servers) and development and possible future plans. Speculation -- all of it -- but did you know Rob Pike has moved on to Google? I hadn't. Educated guesses as to what he's doing there and, no, he's not the executive chef.

Greenspan

I just really like Greenspan's glasses. Would he come through as a different personality if he wore aviators or Ray Bans?

Omaha

Some day ... some day, I'll be in Omaha for Berkshire Hathaway's annual meeting. Anyone can ask whatever question they want of his Buffettness. What would I ask him, should I ever be in Omaha?

Lawrence Block

The Village Voice brings you Signature Collection by Lawrence Block -- subtitled, "OK, you wrote a book, but how many times can you stand to write your name?"

The essay covers the travails of Block's book tour and signings and concludes, "Item: James Ellroy signed the entire first printing of My Dark Places, some 65,000 books in all. He wrote two words, James and Ellroy, 65,000 times each. That's 130,000 words, which is more than he took to write the whole damn book.

"Why, I sometimes wonder, does anybody want a book signed? I have a whole wall of books by friends, and it never occurs to me to ask them to sign them.

"My wife, who has an abiding passion for hagiography—we have a surprising number of editions of Lives of the Saints, not one of them signed—has her own theory. As she explains it, a book signed by its author is a second-degree relic, not as precious as a finger bone, but on a par with a pair of cast-off sandals.

"I like the explanation, but how long before the bastards start wanting the damned books signed in blood?"

A Picture's Worth - essays on photographs of personal significance

David Chin's A Picture's Worth has been up since last summer and is a healthy (and interesting) collection of photographs and 1000-words (or so) essays by a wide-ranging assortment of people.

The bridge, the fog, the bummer

Loved this photo -- what you hope won't happen when your French visitors have only three days in San Francisco and you take them out to see the view.

q & a : the photographic interview

q & a : the photographic interview: "about this project -- it's simple, take 20 questions and answer them by taking a photograph." Questions include
one. who am i?
two. who knows me best?
three. how old am i? (or how old do i feel?)
four. the most important thing in my life is _____________
five. i always carry _____________________
six. something i always do _____________________"

This is the latest cooperative photographic project from sh1ft.org. I found sh1ft.org through a Google search for /26 things/, a prior project. I found my first "26 things" through a link on Gordon McLean's blog.

Check out McLean's blog. 'tis full of tasty things.

True Desktop Project

True Desktop Project is a collection of images uploaded by computer users, images of their desktops, offices, workspaces. Over 300 desktops. Great pickings for someone needing a creativity whack.

I haven't worked my way through all of them, but almost all I've seen are far neater than mine.

Monday, May 03, 2004

Civil Unions

Interesting Atlantic interview with Jonathan Rauch who has a new book out from Times Books titled GAY MARRIAGE: WHY IT IS GOOD FOR GAYS, GOOD FOR STRAIGHTS, AND GOOD FOR AMERICA.

That interview led me to his article in the April 2004 Atlantic Monthly, "A More Perfect Union: How the Founding Fathers would have handled gay marriage."

One point Rauch makes that strikes me is "Same-sex marriage would dramatically reaffirm the country's preference for marriage as the gold standard for committed relationships." Rauch points out that the more benefits that accrue to "domestic partner" status -- the status some states are offering in lieu of the privilege of marriage -- the more attractive "domestic partnership" is to couples who can marry and the weaker the reasons to opt for marriage.

To those who claim that gay marriage is an anathema and will weaken marriage, I'm listening. If I were Empress, churches would do the marrying thing for those who wanted a religious blessing, but what would be legal and what would be registered with the government and what would qualify a couple for inheritance rights and tax rights and medical rights and all the other "rights" accruing today to married couples would be civil union -- open to both gays and straights, and open to polys.

Abu Ghraib

I'm reminded of a talk Jeremiah Healy gave last fall, in which he led us through an escalating series of questions to make us think about how brutal we would allow ourselves to be to a fellow human if we thought that brutality would elicit information from that fellow human that, if known, could prevent harm to others. Most of us have probably discussed or at least thought about that question and variants thereof.

The news re Abu Ghraib and the defense that the soldiers were only doing what they were doing because "This is how military intelligence wants it done." reminded me of those entirely academic discussions.

What is Evil? Would you torture a child, whose parent might break down and provide information that would stop the massacre of thousands? Would it make a difference if you knew for sure that the parent had the information even though you didn't know for sure that the parent would crack?

Seymour Hersh has a thought-provoking article titled "Torture at Abu Ghraib" in the New Yorker this week.

Gmail

Signed up for Gmail not because I think I'll shift all my e-mail to it (I'm not too keen on having a stash of my e-mail somewhere where I don't control access) but more as a public reaction to do-gooder Liz Figueroa, a state senator from Fremont, who wants to ban Gmail because of privacy concerns: Google is SCANNING YOUR E-MAIL to decide what ads to display. HORRORS!

Well, if you don't want free e-mail with ads to offset the costs of a gig of mail storage, don't click "OK" after you've read all the disclaimers, don't use Gmail. If you don't want your e-mail scanned, don't send e-mail to people with gmail.com addresses, and let them know why.

Make Gmail's methods illegal? Ban it? What bee got into Figueroa's bonnet?

Figueroa's SB1822 specifically says, "A provider of e-mail or instant messaging services to California customers may review, examine, or otherwise evaluate the content of a customer's e-mail or instant messages if the provider has the consent of the customer, and reviews, examines or otherwise evaluates only the customer's original outgoing e-mail or instant messages with the consent of the customer. The provider may review, examine, or otherwise evaluate the content of incoming e-mail or instant messages only from another subscriber to the same service and only when that subscriber has consented to the procedure." Figueroa's bill excepts scanning for viruses or spam.

Is it me or does it seem weird to make it okay to scan and block spam, but heaven forefend Google scan to provide the advertising that pays for the free service.

Figueroa is concerned, she says, not for those chumps who knowingly sign up for the Gmail service but for those folks sending e-mail to those Gmail chumps, folks whose e-mail will be scanned without their explicit permission. Me, I'd assume anyone sending e-mail to a gmail.com address has given implicit consent to have that e-mail scanned. The sender would have to have the brains of a plank not to realize that Gmail is scanned so Google can add ads.

Figueroa probably doesn't realize that the sys admin of whatever service she uses can read her e-mail. Easy peasy. Say Figueroa uses a mail-forwarding service to forward mail from liz.figueroa -at- im-a-senator.com to her plain-jane earthlink address. Does she know how simple it is for the sys admin to set up forwarding so a copy also goes to the curious voyeur who likes to thumb through all mail coming into Figueroa's account?

Think your mail at work is secure? I've known of sys admins who got their jollies poking through the e-mail sent and received by people who used work e-mail for reasons that, let's say, were not work-related.

Think you're having a private discussion with a friend? Guess you can't see the BCC: to the circle of others when your so-called friend replies to you.

Don't put anything in e-mail you wouldn't want your worst enemy to see.

Dystonia

Botox, it's not just for vanity. Research presented at the American Academy of Neurology meeting in San Francisco last week discussed the use of Botox injections to help ameliorate task-specific focal dystonia AKA occupational cramps.

Read a story in the Merc yesterday about pianist Larry Fleisher, who began using Botox in the nineties to combat focal hand dystonia which caused the two outer fingers of his right hand to curl inward, preventing him from playing two-handed piano. Fleisher, who played piano with the New York Philharmonic at age 16, spent two decades touring before developing focal hand dystonia in his prime. For over thirty years, before using Botox, he could only play left-handed. He stopped touring and turned instead to conducting and teaching, always searching for a solution to his situation.

The day after his first Botox injection, he was able to use his right hand again.

Over 300K North Americans have dystonia, AKA involuntary muscle contractions. According to the research discussed at the meeting last week, 70% of participants got some relief after just one injection. Continued injections -- in Fleisher's case every eight months -- are required to maintain the effect. Some doctors are concerned that continued use of Botox will permanently weaken patients' muscles, but leave it to patients to decide whether the benefits offset risks.

Found the EurekAlert press release and a USAToday article on the same subject, if you don't want to register just to read the Merc article. The New Yorker also has a Fleisher article. Fleisher is creating a media blizzard on the issues surrounding dystonia. He gave a keynote address at the AAN meeting and received the AAN Foundation Public Leadership in Neurology Award for 2004.

Check Google News for additional articles.

The Dystonia Medical Research Foundation provides a wealth of information about the disorder. Musicians with Dystonia, a program entity of the Dystonia Foundation, is "dedicated to serving the special needs of musicians affected by task-specific focal dystonia, particularly hand and embouchure dystonias." An estimated 10K musicians worldwide suffer from task-specific focal dystonia.

Sunday, May 02, 2004

Our exciting weekend

We're spending the weekend packing things up and sorting through what-not. We made a trip to the Goodwill this morning and off-loaded a backseat and a trunkful. That makes three or maybe four trips since we started sorting through things in April. More trips will follow.

Funny how when we gather things all together out of cupboards, garage and boxes we find we have three french fry cutters, circa 1955 or so. (Who still uses a french fry cutter to make french fries?) One is just a flat, grid cutter. The other two are hand-operated mechanical types, one still in the box, albeit not un-used.

Funny how when we gather things all together out of cupboards, garage and boxes we find we have four rolling pins -- one without handles that belonged to my grandfather, who was once a baker, another without handles, two with handles and bearings. We saved the one that belonged to Grandpa because that's the one I tend to use. Saved the handled one that spins easier of the two. Set the other two aside in case the younger guys want one. We find multiple vegetable peelers, multiple turkey basters, glass pie pans up the wahzoo.

Really, there's no reason for more than one turkey baster except maybe to have one on hand as backup? What would you do, in the middle of roasting a turkey, if your baster heads south? Same reason we have two replacement seals for the pressure cooker. No, the reason for that is because we had a replacement seal ... just in case, and Case had a replacement seal ... just in case, and when we acquired all Case's stuff, well ... there we be with two replacement seals. Here's hoping the rubber still holds when the day comes when we need a new seal.

The french fry cutters, though, that's really odd. How many french fry cutters do you need? The backup of the backup is probably the result of picking up "interesting" stuff at the Goodwill and the weekend collectibles shows and forgetting we already had stuff stashed away way back. Tell us the last time we even toasted up store-boughten frozen french fries at home, let alone cut them from scratch. Might be an interesting experiment to use the cutters to cut other sorts of veggies, though.

And mugs! Mugs! We raided Dale's stash of mugs to supply Hill back when rather than buy anything new. (Heaven forfend!) Today we went through the stash that continued to grow at Dale. We saved the mugs from defunct companies. Saved the clear glass Stanford Sierra Camp mug on which the geniuses in marketing etched butterflies and the mug's slogan: GA/GR Conference 2000 / Millenium Metamorphosis. Saved the DECUS mugs ... that's almost like a defunct company, isn't it? Saved the mugs we love. Saved the mugs we use every day. In the end, we packed up twenty-two coffee mugs for the Goodwill, and that's just the coffee mugs.

As a break from the sorting (and a reward for sorting yesterday), we trekked off earlier today to the Saratoga Rotary Art Show -- held at West Valley College in Saratoga on the first Sunday in May. The juried show ("the largest single-day, fine art show in the western United States") showcases 175 artists, selling a wide variety of artwork, wearable art, jewelry and more. Some of our favorites keep coming back. We like to check out what they have new and see what other artists are doing. Some favorites weren't there this year. We'll have to trawl the Web, checking to see if they're scheduled for the Union Street Fair the first weekend in June or, perhaps, some other venue.

Among our returning favorites:

Stan Beckman. His Paris Bookshop print "Librairie de Seine" hangs in the stairwell at Hill.

Dennis Kohn. His Santorini collage, which we bought fifteen years ago, hangs at Dale. Kohn had some wonderful works focused on Nepal at today's show, some of which I'd seen before, some not. His latest "theme" is Prague. There were several of his works, I could've taken home in a flash. I was especially taken with this one. If I ever win the Lotto ...

Claus Sievert was exhibiting his tree and nature etchings. Lovely stuff. Can't find a Web site for him. Sievert's also printing his work on note cards again: ten cards/$20. I'll probably regret not buying a set.

We didn't buy a single thing today at the show. Didn't buy a single thing at the Goodwill either when we peeked inside after dropping off the donations. Somehow the piles of stuff still waiting to be sorted make it hard contemplate buying anything.