: views from the Hill

Tuesday, September 28, 2004

Blatant, Shameless Self-Promotion

Julian Guthrie, Staff Writer, wrote an article about Rich Shapero for Sunday's San Francisco Chronicle.

Venture capitalist rewrites the starving-author story

With deep pockets and an even deeper belief in his inner Hemingway, first-time novelist Rich Shapero is taking vanity publishing to a new level.

The Silicon Valley venture capitalist wrote his novel, founded a company to publish it and then launched one of the biggest and most colorful individual book giveaways ever.

Shapero, 56, is spending nearly a half-million dollars to promote "Wild Animus," due in stores in early October. And he has a 13-city book tour planned.

Thousands of advance copies have been handed out at music festivals, food fairs and art exhibits. Actors dressed as rams -- a key character in Shapero's book -- have stampeded book industry events. Shapero paid for the creation of a directory of book clubs nationwide, and then offered books for free.

He also sent copies to interested members of Bookcrossing.com, the online community of 250,000 bibliophiles. Members have posted reviews ranging from "Weird and different," to "One of the worst books I ever read."

Shapero is part of a self-publishing explosion that has enabled wannabe writers to print books on demand.


We've bumped into this guy and his gang of book floggers at events in Washington Square Park and down by the Bay. There's a copy of his book on my bookshelves, but I haven't cracked the cover yet.

What if all new authors had half a mil to spend on self-promotion? Our weekend art shows and BDSM fairs would be awash with people got up in ram outfits and posing with giant Gumbies.

The article mentioned that Kirkus Reviews -- the cutting bloody edge of book reviewing -- will begin reviewing self-published books -- for a small $350 fee! You can imagine the brouhahah pay-for-review is creating in publishing circles.

Guthrie also mentioned a National Endowment for the Arts survey released earlier this year, which found that the percentage of Americans reading has dropped over the last two decades, but the number of people taking creative writing courses is up by 30%.

Zounds! No wonder POD has taken off. All those creative writers looking for an outlet.

Another stat I came across in the article (and then failed to confirm so I had to drop my numbers by 10K) claimed 165K books published in the U.S. last year -- a 37% increase since 2000. This column mulls over the news.

Double zounds!

... and now if anyone pops Rich Shapero's name into Google, they'll come up with this blog entry.

That's how Blatant, Shameless Self-Promotion works.

(Who cares what they said? Did they spell my name right? Did they get the book title right?)

Weekend wending

The Telegraph Hill Dwellers were having a 50th anniversary picnic up at Coit Tower, complete with a visit from an antique firetruck with our Fire Chief, Herb Caen, Emperor Norton and Lillie Hitchcock Coit on board. The picnic started at noon. About 10 a.m. we decided to dash over to Bonham's and Butterfield's to see what sort of stuff they had up for sale at their SoMa auction. We could make it over, dash around a bit, and make it back in time for the picnic.

But alas. ...

Downtown was a huge mess. We came down Hyde and were redirected down Market. All the left turns off Market were blocked. We finally cut over on South Van Ness, but roads were blocked again and again. Obviously there was a party going on that we hadn't heard about.

People were walking into the street fair area. Butch guys with six-pack abs in tight leathers, some in leather shorts and fringed vests. Gay pride? No. There were other couples with both guy and gal in leathers, hers a micro skirt with a fringed vest, his just leather pants. Ordinary looking folk were also heading in the same direction. We were curious, but not enough so to be even later for the THD picnic than we were.

The only thing at B&B's that I would've bid on was already so close to the auction gavel that an absentee bid would never have made it in on time and I don't do live auction. We headed home, skirting around the happening south of Market.

Yesterday, we discovered what we'd missed:


Feast your eyes on the world's largest display of PDA: the leather and fetish fun fair brings after-dark action into the light of day with a mile of spanking booths, leather vendors, slaves and masters, under-the-sun dance stages with some of the city's best DJs -- and things you've never dared to imagine. Donation at the gate. 11 a.m. - 6 p.m. on Folsom Street between Seventh and 12th streets, San Francisco.

The fair is held the last Sunday in September. This past Sunday was sunny and blue. A good time was had by all, reports say.

Is this one of those "only in San Francisco" things?

Thursday, September 23, 2004

[FOOD] Eating in

I'd bought two eggplants last week and used one in an eggplant-pork stirfry, served with steamed rice.

The other eggplant was showing its age, so I tossed together a quick dinner around it, influenced by Sunday lunch at Slanted Door.

Peel the eggplant. Cut into chunks the size of your terminal thumb joint. Chop up some purple onion. Take the leftover eggplant-pork stirfry out of the frig.

Heat the wok. Add peanut oil. Toss in the onion and let it sizzle for a bit. Toss in the eggplant and pour a bit of sesame seed oil over it. Toss a tablespoon or so of chopped garlic on top. Toss. Set a while. Toss. Set a while. Toss. Set a while until the eggplant is cooked through.

Meantime, take the jug of ginger-garlic-stirfry sauce out of the frig and pour a bit into a small glass bowl. Add rice wine vinegar and some sesame seed oil. Stirtaste. Add more vinegar if the sauce is still too thick and sweet. Not too much sesame seed oil. A little goes a long way. Add hot pepper sauce for a bit of zip.

Give the eggplant another toss and throw in the leftover eggplant-pork stirfry from the other night. Heat through.

Serve with leaves of Romaine lettuce and sprigs of basil.

Put a couplefew leaves of basil on the lettuce leaf. Add the eggplant concoction. Drizzle a spoonful of the adulterated stir sauce over the contents. Fold the lettuce leaf up like a taco -- wrapping it like a burrito won't work.




Tuesday, September 21, 2004

[FOOD] Hot Vietnamese coffee and more at The Slanted Door

The Slanted Door
1 Ferry Building
San Francisco

His nibs has no patience for sitting at the end of a telephone line listening to it ring at the other end. Our schedule's fractured 'twixt here and there and we don't always know where we'll be on any given day. Getting into The Slanted Door was not an easy task.

We still haven't made it for dinner -- we're thinking of making a special effort to eat there with our friend Sally, who first raved to us about the place when it was down on Valencia in the Mission District, before it moved to the Ferry Building. We watched the restaurant taking shape, but hadn't been able to get in since it opened in early April ... until Sunday.

His nibs made reservations for 1:15 p.m. I spent the morning racing back to Dale to pull all the stuff I had spread out on the patio by the pool back into my office, to shelter it from unseasonable and unexpected rain. I dashed off after breakfast and made it back with time to spare enough to change and to walk down the Steps and over to the Ferry Building. We arrived at 1:16 p.m.

We had to wait a few minutes for our table, an expected occurence when you're at the tail end of the lunch hour in a packed restaurant. The folks before us probably dawdled, as we did, over the food. We were lucky enough to get a table for four, with room to spread out. The dining room manager suggested we both sit with our backs to the window that faced toward Pier One, so we could both see the view of the Bay Bridge through the huge windows that face the Bay.

His nibs leaned over after she left and added, "plus it makes it easier to serve us."


The tables are thick 3" blocks of rough cut, polished wood. The table next to us had interesting carving designs on the edges caused by sub-bark wood varmints of some sort. The tables were set with simple square off-white plates, a folded white cloth napkin and a pair of dark wood chopsticks.

On the wall opposite us was a huge photograph of a Vietnamese woman. Her head tilted back, she was covering her mouth with one hand. She was laughing, I thought. Just the look of her cheered me. His nibs said, "Maybe she's sneezing."

"No," I answered. "She's giggling. The photographer said something about how beautiful she is and she's averting her eyes and laughing behind her hand."

We decided that the photograph would make a good psychological test. What do you see in this picture?

Our staffer was excellent. He was slim with various piercings and tattoos and a great looking short mohawk. (Most of the male wait staff either had shaved heads or "interesting" haircuts as did some of the female wait staff.) Our staffer patiently explained the menu setup and answered any questions we had. He pointed out that the main dishes come with rice but no vegetables, so if we were wanting a vegetable, we should order a separate dish.

One of the pair of women next to us was trying to decide which white wine to have with their lunch. He brought two glasses to her, each with a couple swallows of white wine in it so she could have a taste test and choose which one she preferred. I don't often see that.

We chose a chinon (cab franc) from Domaine Baudry, a Loire wine. The wine list was replete with rieslings, which apparently pair well with Vietnamese foods. His nibs mentioned that the current Wine Spectator has a spread on Slanted Door, paying tribute to their reknowned wine list.

crispy imperial rolls

The roll comes cut into 1" slices on a serving dish with sprigs of mint, a mound of glass noodles, a dish of dipping sauce and lettuce leaves. You take a lettuce leaf and layer the mint, piece of imperial roll, and noodles on the leaf, roll it up and dip it in the sauce. Or dip the roll in the sauce before you roll up the lettuce. The lettuce leaves were too small for the fillings, but the tastes of the shrimp and pork with the mint and sauce were superb. Finger food and messy, but delish.

Vietnamese crêpe

Like the imperial roll, you package bits of the crêpe up with sauce and mint in a lettuce leaf. The crêpe was light and crunchy on the outside and packed full of pork and shrimp, bean sprouts and onion. Cut the crêpe into manageable pieces, package it up. I preferred to spoon the sauce [a different sauce from the imperial rolls] over the lettuce contraption before I wrapped it up, but dipping the wrapped leaf would work too. The lettuce pieces weren't large enough to do a thorough wrap and, again, this was finger food and messy.

Perhaps we should've chosen a completely different sort of appetizer for our second, but both were so good, we didn't care.

grilled five-spice chicken with tamarind dipping sauce

The chicken is served with steamed jasmine rice, served in a lidded bowl with a sprinkling of green onions on top. The rice was wonderful. The chicken and the tamarind dipping sauce were tasty, but gave me no reason to opt for the dish again the next time we're back in lieu of trying something different. The menu looks like it would be wonderful to work through dish by dish.

spicy organic haricot vert with honshimeji mushrooms

The beans were skinny, small, uncut beans. Delish. Spicy, but not too. A repeatable dish. Definitely.

The women to our right had been watching as each of our dishes arrived, asking us what the dish was and asking whether it was vegetarian. I pointed out that the imperial rolls and the Vietnamese crêpes both come in vegetarian versions.

When the beans arrived, they said, those look like beans. Where are they on the menu?

At the top of the Vegetables section, I replied. Then realized that if you don't know what an haricot vert is, you'd probably miss knowing what was being offered.

The lunch was wonderful and we were ready for a dessert to share. We had a hard time choosing from the dessert menu but finally decided to be adventurous and try

Thai basil panna cotta in mango soup

This dessert was incredible. The panna cotta was excellent and the Thai basil flavoring was intriguing. I, for one, despite my love of basil, forget that it is a kissing cousin to mint. This dessert reminds you. The mango soup had chunks of mango in it and was a perfect foil for the panna cotta. I'm going to have to try to create something similar for home meals.

Along with dessert I had a hot Vietnamese coffee, which I'd never had before, and his nibs had a pot of Liu An tea. The Vietnamese coffee is served in a glass with an inch or so of sweetened condensed milk in the bottom. The coffee is dripbrewed on top of the milk, which is thick enough that you're left with a two-toned glass of milk and coffee when the coffee is through brewing. Take the long-handled spoon and stir up the concoction. Drink. If you order the coffee iced, it comes with a separate glass of crushed ice and you pour the coffee over the ice when the brewing is complete. We were both happy with our choices of drinks -- perfect endings to a delish meal.

Some two hours or so after arriving, we walked out, stopping by the Ferry branch of Book Passage on our way home.

We will definitely be exploring Slanted Door's expanded dinner menu some time, hopefully not too far in the future.

Monday, September 20, 2004

[FOOD] Fried hama hama oysters to die for at Lüx

2263 Chestnut Street, between Pierce and Scott
San Francisco
Dinner M-Th 5:30-10:00 p.m. F-Sa - 11 p.m.

Last Friday night we made reservations for dinner at Lüx for 9 p.m., late enough to give us time to change after work and make the fifty-minute walk over. We walked in on the dot of nine and had a table within seconds. We hadn't been since June 8th, when we'd popped in on their opening night with our youngest.

Our visit was triggered by an e-mail received from Kitty earlier in the day:

Dear Friends of Isa

It has taken us a few months to work the kinks out of our newest small plate restaurant, Lüx, but we are now ready and eager to introduce (or re-introduce) you to our exciting menu and enjoyable ambiance. We have put up additional drapes to reduce the sound, improved our staff & redesigned our menu. You'll find the same quality of delicious food that we offer at Isa but with a slight Asian influence. We and our staff are very proud of what we've created and would feel honored if you would visit (or revisit !) us soon to see and taste for yourself. Do call or stop by and let us know when we can expect you... and please accept a glass of champagne as our personal thank you for your friendship and support.

Luke & Kitty Sung

Kitty's e-mail continued on with a look at their revamped menu:

a small plate restaurant

Seaweed & cucumber salad with sesame vinaigrette 7

Butter lettuce salad with fuji apple, celery & tarragon shallot vinaigrette 7

Baby arugula salad with red beets & goat cheese 7

Wild seabass ceviche with cilantro, mango & wonton chips 9

Spicy tuna tartare with avocados, soybeans, crispy chips of taro root & seawood 11

A small crab & corn soup with green onion & fried shallots 5

Zucchini & green onion pancake with salmon tartare & dill creme fraiche 9

Fried hama hama oysters with polenta cake, sambal aioli, green onion & cilantro 9

Grilled honey spiced calamari with green papaya salad, mint & peanuts 9

Seared dayboat scallops with sauteed mushrooms & truffle oil 13

Northern halibut with sauteed baby spinach, brown butter & caper soy 13

Miso glazed butterfish with roasted eggplant & crisp nori 13

Honey glazed baby back ribs with with summer white corn & toy box tomatoes 13

Pan seared flat iron steak with yukon gold potato frites & caramelized shallot sauce 14

Crispy peking duck leg with peaches, radish, pinenuts & hoisin sauce 11

Fresh egg noodles with asian chive & mushroom soy 6

Sauteed organic sugar pea leaves with garlic butter 6

Steamed jasmine rice 1

Our staffer informed us that the honey glazed baby back ribs were gone and described a yummy-sounding tiger prawn special. We had a hard time deciding, but finally opted for an O'Reilly pinot noir from Oregon and the following.

Seaweed & cucumber salad with sesame vinaigrette

This was a tasty salad, and I needed something green with dinner, but the salad was not an extraordinary, you've-got-to-try-this salad to recommend to friends. If I had it all to do over again I'd go with the arugula, goat cheese and beet salad.

Zucchini & green onion pancake with salmon tartare & dill creme fraiche

This quesadilla-like concoction worked wonderfully. The pancake was cut into quarters with the dill creme fraiche spooned on top, a small pile of salmon tartare was centered on each quarter. This dish was tasty, very, very tasty.

Seared dayboat scallops with sauteed mushrooms & truffle oil

I love scallops. This dish was delish.

Miso glazed butterfish with roasted eggplant & crisp nori

The miso glazing on the butterfish was a wonderful flavor. The small roasted Japanese eggplant was delivered up as slices, smallish rounds about the size of mushrooms. I happen to be a huge roasted eggplant fan. The flavor went well with the miso glaze and the butterfish.

Crispy peking duck leg with peaches, radish, pinenuts & hoisin sauce

This combination was tasty too. We cut the duck leg into pieces manageable with chopsticks and carried on from there.

The food was excellent, as it had been opening night. The added drapes softened the noise levels we'd experienced our first visit. The noise levels our first visit had been nothing compared to the noise levels we'd experienced at butterfly. Butterfly has wonderful food (Kalua Pig with Butter Lettuce Cups, ymmmm) but noise levels were so high what with the DJ music and some loud parties that we finally just gave up on talking to each other the night we dined there.

The Lüx menu is now printed on a lighter color paper than it had been opening night and was more readable. (The fact I'd remembered my glasses last Friday probably helped the readability as well.) We'd liked the restaurant our previous visit and liked it even moreso this visit. We were diving into our last plate, the peking duck leg, when Luke dropped into the seat next to his nibs.

Luke looked at where we were in our meal and asked us if we had any more plates coming. No, we answered. He asked us what we'd had and what we'd liked. I raved about the pancake with salmon tartare. His nibs mentioned the butterfish. Had we tried the tiger prawn special? No, we hadn't. He asked our server to bring us some from the kitchen and then changed his mind. Had we tried the oysters? No, we hadn't. "Bring them some of those instead," he said.

A very pregnant Kitty joined us. She teased us for not mentioning that the e-mail had triggered our visit and thereby qualifying for a free glass of champagne as a "friend of Isa." They were trying to see what sort of impact the e-mails have because the last time they'd sent out e-mail (when we visited the previous time in early June), they were absolutely bowled-over with the number of "friends of Isa" who showed up for dinner.

In lieu of a glass of champagne, Luke asked our staffer to open another bottle of the pinot noir we'd been drinking and pour some for the four of us then take the rest back to the kitchen for the staff to sample after the restaurant closed.

Fried hama hama oysters with polenta cake, sambal aioli, green onion & cilantro

The oysters were absolutely wonderful. Luke said they were intended to be a single mouthful, and I should pop an oyster in all at once to get the meld of flavors. I found each "serving" to be too big for a mouthful. Maybe if the dish hadn't been straight out of the kitchen and the polenta had had a chance to cool a bit ... Warning. Warning. If the dish is piping hot, cut the polenta cake and oyster in half and take the dish a half oyster at a time or give the dish a chance to cool a bit.

That said, this dish is to die for. No kidding, this dish is so good, that I was vividly remembering the taste and wishing there were some way I could arrange to score some for a morning snack when I was out driving this morning and a hankering hit me.

The four of us sat talking for a long time about food and life, the baby that's due in another three weeks, the three-chef tasting dinner at Manresa the night before, the difficulties of getting people to order sweetbreads and the bill that (if Schwarzenegger signs it) would outlaw foie gras production in California. Turns out both Kitty and I are huge fans of Luke's seared foie gras dishes. We also talked about Bocadillos and the pigs trotters his nibs and I had eaten there, a different memorable pigs trotters dish that Luke and Kitty had had, our dinner at Bruno Viscovi's Albona Ristorante Istriano earlier in the week and so forth and on.

I made sure to tell them that our staffer was a keeper. He had not only provided us with terrific service, but he also cared enough about the restaurant to straighten crooked table settings that he'd noticed on his way back to the kitchen. Good staff make a huge difference for a restaurant and this was a staffer they should keep around.

The four of us split three desserts as we continued talking. The restaurant was closed and Kitty still needed a real dinner and a good night's sleep by the time we said our good-byes. The walk home up over Russian Hill and up Telegraph Hill wore off a small fraction of the calories we'd consumed.

With any luck, we convinced Luke to have a special dinner, a single-night seating for as many "friends of Isa" as the restaurant will hold where he will serve all the dishes he'd love to serve, if he could sell enough of them to warrant their space on the menu -- his scrumptious sweetbreads being just one example.

X'd fingers it comes to pass.

Extra fingers crossed that he doesn't schedule such a dinner for a date when we'll be unavailable.

Lüx was busy, tables full, several large parties in addition to the couples, folks at the bar, but not anything like as busy as Izzy's Steak and Chop House on Steiner. We'd walked by Izzy's on our way over to Lüx and saw the young and the beautiful and the not-so-young and the not-so-beautiful spilling out the door.

I'm torn between wanting Luke and Kitty to have folks spilling out the door and realizing that that sort of popularity would cause problems when we make reservations and that it would be easy enough for Luke to have crowds if he were willing to serve less interesting dishes.

Do we eat at Izzy's? No, not usually. The last time I ate at Izzy's was last year when I was over in Corte Madera for the Book Passage Mystery Conference and ate out with some people I'd met at the Conference. Izzy's menu choices include Caesar salad, prawn cocktail, creamed spinach, scalloped potatoes, six different styles of steak, veal chops, pork chops, lamb chops and more. Good, tasty food, but where's the adventure there?

We're just happy, as we told Luke and Kitty, that there are restaurateurs out there who are willing to take a few risks and who enjoy serving up something other than chops and Caesar salads to the likes of us, who enjoy eating something different.

Now, if Luke would only put sweetbreads back on the menu.

Friday, September 17, 2004

[FOOD] modernista with friends

Manresa Restaurant
320 Village Lane, Los Gatos.
(to the W off Saratoga Avenue between North Santa Cruz and University Avenue)
Dinner Wednesday through Sunday from 5:30 p.m. - 10 p.m.
Reservations are recommended

The invitation arrived a couple weeks ago.

Modernista with Friends
The Next in Manresa's Popular Dinner Series

Manresa Welcomes San Francisco Chefs
James Ormsby of Plumpjack Restaurant Group and Bruce Hill of Bix.

For one special evening, Chef David Kinch and invited
Chefs will tantalize your palate with diverse
Flavors, Textures, and Temperatures.

Be the first to experience new dishes that will
Debut on Manresa's fall menu.

Join us Thursday, September 16th at 6:30 p.m.
Dinner will be a multi-course tasting menu.
$90 per person with wine pairings available (additional).

How could we pass that up? We put our reservations in and showed up at 6:25 p.m. last night. Esteban Garibay told us we'd be sitting at Table Four and invited us to join the short before-dinner reception out on the patio while the restaurant waited for all the guests to arrive.

Out on the patio, Kinch had two stations serving before dinner drinks. We each decided on a Manresa cocktail: staff added a twist of orange and a bit of sherry to the glass and then filled the glass with champagne.

Wait staff came around with bits of nibbles. I missed one or two, but did get a mango smoothie with black olive madeleine and a taste of the parmesan/cheddar churro-like puff. Right before we were called in to dinner, the three chefs came out to check out the house and schmooze with the customers.

Surprised I was to see a guy I know from rec.arts.mystery, Bouchercon and Left Coast Crime. Turns out he and his partner are regulars (every few months) at Manresa and had followed Kinch to Manresa from Sent Sovi. They drive all the way down from San Francisco, have a delish dinner, and drive all the way back. That's coming a long way for a meal.

The dinner was very leisurely. The restaurant, after all, had all tables being served simultaneously. There're only so many wait staff you can have before they crash into each other and Kinch's kitchen is much larger than the one he had at Sent Sovi, but there were still three chefs and various aides mucking around in it. ... For a couple of the courses I even had a suspicion that there weren't enough dishes to go'round and the staff was waiting to clear, clean and dish-up another helping for the couples in the corners.

Ken Parker played flamenco guitar through dinner, moving his stool to various corners of the restaurant so that everyone had a chance to hear his soft playing. The music was a perfect background to the meal.

We chose to go with the paired wines rather than select a bottle. We asked for Los Gatos' finest tap water. Staff offered a choice of walnut bread or sourdough. Sometime after seven, the dinner began and proceeeded as follows.

clear v8 (bruce)
The vegetable cocktail came served out of a silvery shaker into a martini glass. The cocktail was a deep, clear red-blue violet. We tried to suss out the eight vegetables but only managed (we think) beet, carrot, scallion, cucumber (maybe), green tomato (maybe). Tasty, tasty vegetable cocktail.

a green zebra tomato juxtaposing (james)
The plate delivered four different renditions of green zebra tomato: a dish of green zebra tomato sorbet, a "ravioli" of green zebra tomato with goat cheese, a small glass with warm green zebra tomato gazpacho, and (my least favorite) a slice of green zebra tomato wrapped in gelee. But as it is with the world, when James came by to see what we thought of his creations, the woman to our left said that the gelee rendition was her favorite. I would be hard pressed to decide whether the goat cheese rendition or the gazpacho rendition was my favorite.

Our first wine pairing (a muscadet) arrived.

albacore with fried avocado, macadamias (david)
The albacore was marinated in aged soy and quickly seared. The fish was garnished with fried avocado (really! I'd never imagined frying avocado), scallions and chopped, roasted macadamias. The dish was settled on a bed of avocado sauce. Tasted like there was perhaps sesame oil drizzled on the tuna. Three perfect drops of aged balsamic to decorate the plate. Ymmm.

We'd finished our muscadet by the time they came by with the next dish, so they poured us a bit more.

monterey calamari on vacation in bangkok (james)
This dish was a beautiful sight. The calamari had been dusted with something chili-pepper hot and crisped with its tentacles waving, skewered with a bamboo skewer with a twistcurl at the end. (We'd met our first such skewer at Gerald Hirigoyen's Bocadillos last week.) The skewer was set in a cut-side-down half-lime for balance. We were told to eat the calamari and then use the lime to juice up the remainder of the plate: marinated grapefruit sections, a coconut-curry foam and marinated calamari rings (I think ... or maybe noodles). I took what was left of lime and juiced up my water.

Staff brought a different white wine for the next course, a Spanish white wine.

sand dab pave reconstructed (bruce)

The sand dab was served with capers and lemon rind. The "reconstructed" bit of it was that the sand dab was de-boned and the bones were deep-fried. Then the fish was reconstructed with the bones back inside. The deepfrying made the bones edible, adding a crunchy (and tasty) contrast to the sand dab.

Another top-up on our wine took us to

tartare cone of atlantic cod "bacalao" (james)

The cones were delivered to the table as hand-food. The cones were seasoned with fennel. The cod was lightly salted, seasoned with chili and other seasonings. Another delish dish. (Nothing had failed us yet.)

The foie was coming up and we were each given a glass of a sweet wine produced "just across the river" from Sauternes. Lupiac, maybe?

twice cooked foie gras with quince (david)
The foie gras was poached, then baked. The flavor was like nothing I'd ever tasted foie-wise. The piece of foie gras was nestled in a quince puree. I still like Luke Sung's seared foie gras the bestest of all, but this foie gras was quite interesting, intriguing. Talking with my RAM acquaintance's partner after dinner revealed that not everyone is as enamored of seared foie gras as I am. He really liked this dish and much prefers poached foie gras over seared. I, on the other hand, like poached foie gras but much prefer seared. Takes all kinds. This was an novel way of cooking foie gras and a success.

The wine pairing switched to a red wine. (Duh. Look what follows.)

The couple to my left had brought a La Tache to drink with dinner. They also ordered a glass each of different white wines to drink with the fish courses. The couple to my right brought a red and a white with them because they'd been disappointed with the wine pairings the last time they ate at Manresa. I thought the pairings were great. I'd rather have pairings than drink a white all night or a red, what with the variety of dishes we were served. The red that the couple next to us brought was delish. (He poured me some when we were schmoozing near the end of the meal.)

kobe beef tartare on a disintegrating potato (bruce)
This dish was also hand-food. Plates were brought 'round and you took your serving, then gobbled it up. The beef tartare was terrific. The potato was like the best fried shredded potato patty you've ever eaten. When James came by to get comments (he seemed to be the designated "how did they like my dish?" comment gatherer), he laughed when I told him the "disintegrating potato" was far better than anything from OreIda I'd ever eaten.

boudin of pig's trotters with apple (david)
The boudin was yummy. I don't know if I could've figured out the insides were pig's trotters if Kinch hadn't said so. The woman to my right asked the guy, "What's a pig's trotter?" "A sausage," he replied.

We'd had pig's trotters at Bocadillos last week. I guess I really should write down my reactions to that meal. The pig's trotters there were not disguised in a boudin and were as yummy, if not yummier, than Kinch's rendition.

Last but not least, we were given a dessert wine to accompany

chocolatebananacurry (deanie)

This dish was a slice of deep chocolate pastry with a crunchy top, served with a banana curry ice cream. The chocolate was amazing -- rich, dark, semi-sweet and just enough, not so much that you'd overdose. The ice cream was a good foil and tasty in its own right.

I finished off dinner with a double espresso. His nibs had the blossoming tea ball that he'd had last month when we ate at Manresa.

By this time, the couple to our right was chatting with us about wine, restaurants. What was amazing to us was that the woman at the table had an allergy to onions -- poor dear! -- and the chefs managed to deliver her dinner, working their way around that wrinkle. Impressive.

We'd also overheard staff asking one of the guests before dinner whether he was allergic to tomato seeds. Imagine serving that many dinners and keeping straight who was allergic to what. The woman to my right had been served a different variant of the clear v8 dish, a different dish in lieu of the boudin, and other modifications. No problem with the kitchen. I thought it terrific that they served her up a great meal around her allergies.

The guy I knew from RAM came over with his partner and the six of us discussed San Francisco and food and wine and restaurants and Bouchercon until we finally looked at our watches and noticed that we were the last people in the restaurant. We said good night, nice to meecha, and everyone headed home.

The San Franciscans had a long drive home. We were home in five minutes or so, a little after midnight. Dinner had taken over five hours. Well worth the time spent. Slow food is good for you.

We'll be eating at Manresa again before we sell our honeymoon cottage and head up full-time to San Francisco. I doubt if we'll be as faithful, making long drives down to Los Gatos, after we're in San Francisco full-time.

(Imagine David or James or Bruce finding this some day and thinking, "That wasn't what was in it! How could she forget the cucumber? Mango? No! It was passion fruit!" These are the things I remember. My memories may not accurately reflect reality.)

Thursday, September 16, 2004

Cthulhu For President in '04

Cthulhu For President in '04 -- Don't Settle For The Lesser Evil

New nickel unveiled

CNN Money has an article on the new nickel. The TJ profile shows the other side of his face and there will be two different tails sides to the coin.

Trivial facts: the buffalo side, which is returning to the nickel after going missing in 1938 was a James Earl Fraser design, despite North Beach trivia that Benny Bufano did the design and/or posed for the Indian head on the heads side.

Saturday, September 11, 2004

Pete McCloskey: "If you're a true Republican, you'll vote for Kerry."

Pete McCloskey wrote a thought-provoking piece for the San Jose Mercury News yesterday (Friday).

Registration required or use the BugMeNot login:


Don't know who McCloskey is? The Merc says of him, "Pete McCloskey represented the San Francisco Peninsula in Congress from 1967 to 1983. He earned a Navy Cross, Silver Star and two Purple Hearts as a Marine rifle platoon leader during the Korean War."

McCloskey's column starts

Although I'm a lifelong Republican, I will vote for John Kerry on Nov. 2. The choice seems simple under traditional principles of the Republican Party.

I first met John Kerry in the spring of 1971. Each of us was just back from Vietnam -- he as a Navy officer and I as a member of Congress -- and were appalled by what we had seen there. I found Kerry to be idealistic, courageous and, above all else, truthful to a fault. He demonstrated courage in Vietnam, but as Oliver Wendell Holmes Jr. once said, the courage to speak against prevailing opinion in civil strife is often greater than that demanded on the battlefield.


Update: Turns out the Merc links are morphing and dropping readers onto the Merc front page.

Once you're there and logged in, use http://www.mercurynews.com/mld/mercurynews/9627228.htm

Unfortunately, the free read expires a week after the column was published. I'll see what I can do.

Friday, September 10, 2004

Inch by inch

Packed up decorative Chinese dishes, pots and figurines, &c., ready to take up to Hill. I knew there was a reason I saved all that bubble packaging. Some day I'd need it!

Moved all the pictures, paintings, posters, photos I'd been stashing behind the coromandel screen out to the room next to the patio. Boxed up those pieces that hadn't already been boxed up in re-engineered boxes that once packaged six flat and unformed office boxes and lids. We'll take the boxes up in multiple trips rather than stash them away somewhere until The Big Moveout. A few boxes at a time I can handle.

Once I had the stuff I'd stashed behind the screen out of the way, I shifted the coromandel screen around -- in utter fear that I'd push it wrong and it would lose balance, collapse and flatten me while breaking into a zill pieces. The screen is eight feet tall and twelve feet wide -- eight panels with your usual tea garden scene on one side and a plant/flower design on the back. A dragon design chases around the outer frame, natch. The piece is Heavy. With a shove here and a shove there, I finally pushed the screen back against the wall in the living room and freed up a foot of space.

I placed a pair of chairs under the paintings of the Joneses which hang on the same wall the coromandel screen is up against. Put a skinny little dropleaf table between them.

Moved the funky Kroehler sofa that matches the chair up in my office in front of the coromandel screen. Moved the sofa that had belonged to his nibs' grandparents in front of the wall windows that look out over the patio and fishpond. Both sofas are old and worn. Rugs tossed on them cover the worn spots. The sofas are at right angles to each other in the NW corner of the room. Set the nested dragon box and the temple bells in the squarish space formed where the sofas meet.

Next, I moved the Victorian burgundy settee into the space next to the fireplace that we freed up when we took the dragon lamp up to Hill last weekend. The matching chair went on the other side of the fireplace.

Shifted this here and that there, rearranged lamps and tables until everything was where it should be.

I was admiring my handiwork when the cat wandered in from the nap she'd been taking on the guestroom bed. She doesn't like all this activity and furniture moving about. She wandered in and out of the boxes of magazines and piles of books, sniffed under the sofa and finally settled in her favorite spot to continue her nap.

Except for the boxes of magazines and piles of books that are cluttering up what should be open space, the living room's about where it should be for now. We'll have to move everything around again when it comes time for fixup and painting, but at least I have one room taken care of.

We'll see if our maven thinks the room still has too much stuff in it. Do we need to get the coromandel screen out of the house before we start showing it. Does it take up too much space? Is it too dark? Should we take the chair and settee out? Move the temple bells up to Hill, where they'll be eventually anyway? Get rid of some of the tables?

Time for me to go back down and start dealing with the boxes of magazines and piles of books, the clutter. Time to start work on the next room.

So much stuff and clutter to deal with.

Read Martha Mendoza's story

Between a Woman and Her Doctor
A Story About Abortion You Will Never Forget

by Martha Mendoza

I could see my baby's amazing and perfect spine, a precise, pebbled curl of vertebrae. His little round skull. The curve of his nose. I could even see his small leg floating slowly through my uterus.

My doctor came in a moment later, slid the ultrasound sensor around my growing, round belly and put her hand on my shoulder. "It’s not alive," she said.

She turned her back to me and started taking notes. I looked at the wall, breathing deeply, trying not to cry.

I can make it through this, I thought. I can handle this.

I didn't know I was about to become a pariah.

I was 19 weeks pregnant, strong, fit and happy, imagining our fourth child, the newest member of our family. He would have dark hair and bright eyes. He'd be intelligent and strong — really strong, judging by his early kicks.

And now this. Not alive?

I didn't realize that pressures well beyond my uterus, beyond the too bright, too-loud, too-small ultrasound room, extending all the way to boardrooms of hospitals, administrative sessions at medical schools and committee hearings in Congress, were going to deepen and expand my sorrow and pain.


Goose Control for Your Property

No one's going to ship this business overseas.

Are you geek enough?

Are you up to the challenge?

Registration closes 6 p.m. (PDT) September 14th.


Snitched off Mary Anne Mohanraj's journal.


The Speculative Literature Foundation (SLF) is pleased to announce its first Older Writers Grant of $750. The grant is available to any writer of speculative literature of 50 years or older at the time of application who is just beginning to work professionally in the field. There are no restrictions on the use of the grant money.

The grant will be awarded by a committee of SLF staff members on the basis of interest and merit. Applicants are asked to submit a brief autobiographical statement, a writing sample, and a bibliography. For full details on how to apply for the grant, please see the SLF web site or email olderwriters -at- speclit.org. Applications must be received by December 31st 2004. The successful applicant will be announced on January 15th 2005.

The Older Writers Grant is generously sponsored in its entirety by Centric Advertising.

Don't know what speculative literature is?

The FAQ says

2. What is speculative literature anyway?

Speculative literature is a catch-all term meant to inclusively span the breadth of fantastic literature, encompassing literature ranging from hard science fiction to epic fantasy to ghost stories to horror to folk and fairy tales to slipstream to magical realism to modern myth-making -- and more. Any piece of literature containing a fabulist or speculative element would fall under our aegis, and would potentially be work that we would be interested in supporting.

Missed connections

Folks I've never met and keep missing:

piranha's been and is now gone and we missed connecting. Who knows when zie'll be back in town.

I'll be in Toronto for Bouchercon. Debbie was my boss back when she was the brains behind Inkspot/Inklings. She and I've missed connecting on several occasions now and drats! she'll be up at the cabin -- it's the Canadian Thanksgiving weekend.

Or maybe not! Bouchercon kicks into gear on Thursday. I'll be flying in late Wednesday afternoon. Maybe we'll be able to get together before she leaves and before I get sucked into the madness.

What time is it?

My favorite stepdaughter sent this last night. (Sure, she's my only stepdaughter, but of all the stepdaughters I know, she's my favorite.)

Change the answers so that they apply to you. Then send this to a whole bunch of people you know INCLUDING the person who sent it to you otherwise it will not be all fair, will it? It should take about 10 minutes. The theory is that you hold a special place in the time that your friends have at their disposal, so that they will be interested enough to enlighten you to their little known facts.

The version A. sent me had some missing questions and being the person I am, I went off searching the Web to see what was missing. Where did those questions go? Turns out the questions have been around long enough that they're a meme and mutable, so I added some in the missing spaces. Don't like a question? Change it.

1. What time is it?
The times they are a'changin'

2. Name as it appears on your birth certificate?
Sally Joan Towse

3. Any nick names?

4. Parents' names?
[elided to protect the innocent]

5. Number of candles that appeared on your last birthday cake?
53 (including the one to grow on)

6. Date that you regularly blow them out?
The Saturday or Sunday closest to August 12th, but this year on August 28th -- we delayed the par-tay because my niece was just getting back from a month in Paris and she'd be sooo tired ... so we delayed the party for a couple weeks and wouldn't you know it? she didn't come.

7. Pets?
The cat with which I share the sofa on an occasional basis, the cat who climbs up on the roof and whines at the window when she gets shut out at night 'cause she won't come in, the cat who skitters around corners when I walk by has been my son's since the day we adopted her. I think she knows who saved her.

8. Favorite animal?
Kittens, which are distinct beasts from the cats they grow into.

9. Tattoo? Piercings?
Sedate, Republican ear piercings. One in each.

10. How much do you love your job?
I was told this morning by my boss that my job was to be happy. What's not to love?

11. Believe in karma?

12. Favorite vacation spot?
Hawaii -- you can find lilikoi frozen juice in the grocery stores, fresh lilikoi, lilikoi shave ice.

13. Been to Africa?
Egypt. Tunisia.

14. Stolen any traffic signs?

15. Been in a car crash?
A few. Not really *crashes* but rear-ender type things.

16. Croutons or Bacon Bits?
Roasted pinenuts

17. 2-door or 4-door?
2-door. MINI Cooper.

18. Coffee?
Double espresso.
Grande caramel macchiato. (250cal and worth every one.)

19. Salad dressing?
bleu cheese

20. Color of socks?
Mis-matched. One pink, one green / one blue, one red. Keeps the mind aware and drives real estate agents nuts when they make you take your shoes off before you wander around their open houses.

21. Favorite Numbers?

22. Favorite Movie?
The original Sabrina.

23. Favorite Color?
Forest green.

24. Favorite Holiday?

25. Favorite Food?
Foie gras chaud

26. Favorite day of the week?

27. Song of the moment?
Whatever is playing on KFOG.

28. Morning person?

29. Toothpaste?

30. Most recently read book?

31. News resource? Newspaper? TV?
Two local papers, Time/Newsweek/USNews/Forbes, but mostly news.google.com and the places it leads me.

32. Favorite scent?

33. Favorite things?
Family, friends, the Web, books, domestica (cooking, gardening, sewing, crafting), travel, lambskin rugs, prisms, telescopes, cameras, peace.

34. Fast Food place?
Taco Bell

35. When was your last hospital visit?
Earlier this year

36. Favorite drink?
Passion fruit juice

37. How many times did you fail your drivers license?

38. Where do you see yourself in 10 years?
Writing my fourth best seller between spells of watching the boats on the Bay.

39. Favorite quote?
At this instant? "Make it a rule of life to never regret and never to look back. Regret is an appalling waste of energy: you can't build on it; it's good only for wallowing in." - Katherine Mansfield

40. Furthermost place you sent this message?
Is this question here so I'll send this as far away as possible? I'm putting it on the Web. It will go as far as it goes.

Thursday, September 09, 2004

George Shultz makes the news

and hooray for him.

From the The AP article by Paul Elias, AP Biotechnology Writer.

September 7, 2004, 9:43 PM EDT

SAN FRANCISCO -- Former Secretary of State George Shultz on Tuesday became the most prominent Republican to endorse a $3 billion California ballot measure that would fund human embryonic stem cell research in the state.

"I don't think of it as an ideological or a political matter," Shultz said. "It's a matter of scientific research."

[more article follows]

U.S. Rep. Doug Ose, one of those moderate Californian Republicans you hear so much about, is retiring this year after three terms in the House of Representatives. He and Shultz are the only national Republican "names" to endorse Proposition 71, which will be voted on Nov. 2.

The State GOP, of course, opposes the measure.

Yesterday's Tribune Media Services crossword

39A: Classic TV sitcom
36D: "Biography" channel

Why am I bringing this up?

Yesterday was the first time I'd seen a crossword puzzle solution that incorporated a non-alpha character.

39A: Laverne&Shirley
36D: A&E

Is that cheating?

Batten down the hatches

I dropped a note to the editor of what we affectionately call the Snooze, the weekly newspaper for our fair ville, this morning, suggesting he run an article on earthquake preparedness.

A 3.4 quake woke us up at 3:30 a.m. The quake was centered less than 2 miles ENE from here, along the Monta Vista fault. That quake was preceded by a couple microquakes, too small to feel, and followed by four more.

The USGS list of recent earthquakes shows that jolt I felt this morning.

This morning's jolt was a longer, more rolling quake than the 2.2 quake I felt about 5:30 Saturday morning. This quake made the house creak.

That quake felt like someone had dropped something heavy right next to my bed: a short, sharp jolt that made the windows rattle. I felt that quake, even though it was a small one, because it was less than 2 miles WNW from here, along the San Andreas fault.

We've also had about five quakes over 3.0 south of here in Hollister and Pinnacles since mid-August and a smaller one today. All-in-all I'm feeling like the leadup to Loma Prieta back in 1989.

Then too we had a good size rumble in August, good enough to knock a can of spray paint off a shelf in the garage. The child-proof cap came off and the freezer still has a swash of green paint on it.

Back then nothing much was made of the smallish quakes. No news. Then came Loma Prieta and folks realized my paint-toppling quake in August was a precursor quake for the Loma Prieta. Since then the Merc offers a weekly earthquake map and report of earthquake activity.

Deciding 'twas better to yield to my anxieties than wish I had paid attention after the fact, I'm battening down the hatches. Today I took some of the more valuable breakable Asian pots and plates and what-not off the living room shelves and put them on the floor away from the windows in a safer spot. Soon, maybe tomorrow, I'll wrap them in bubble wrap and take them up to San Francisco and use museum wax to glom them onto the shelves. Next up the other rooms and my office. The stuff was going to move anyway. Might as well move it now.

We're mostly set for whatever will come. We have water and food and other supplies. The water heater is strapped in. I carry shoes and basic supplies in all the cars, but you never really know if you're prepared until the house starts creaking, then shaking and you realize this isn't a measley 3.4 but something much bigger.

Soon, they say. Some time in the next few decades. When they can't say. Soon.

Wednesday, September 08, 2004

San Francisco sidewalk graffiti

Walking along the streets of San Francisco, you come across some odd things, in addition to broken glass and cigarette butts, blowing newspapers and the usual detritus.

There are a couple slabs of sidewalk on the north side of Union between Kearny and Montgomery where some wag back when, while the newly-poured concrete was still wet, embedded some game tokens and a die, a few bits of toys -- a child's treasures, captured forever, art on a smaller scale but similar to Fay Young's wall in Eltham.

A while back the City sued IBM for their Linux penguin sidewalk graffiti advertising, but that hasn't deterred people. We came across several different examples of advertising graffiti while we were walking around this past weekend.

This one caught my eye.

Graffiti. Sure.

Defacing public property. Sure.

But I liked the message.

Blogger Navbar

I was playing around with the Blogger Navbar and decided it wasn't worth the look or the real estate.

  • I had to fiddle with the upper margin so it didn't overprint my page.

  • My layout looked different from what the Blogger documentation showed, perhaps because of Netscape or my .css or something.

  • I already have [NextBlog] on my navigation bar.

  • Why should I offer a link to "Get your own blog"?

  • The ultimate deciding point, though, was finding that the Google search -- the Navbar feature I thought was the coolest and worth installing the Navbar to get -- only works on the current page, not for any of the archived blog pages. I tried searching for "foie" ... nothing. My FreeFind search tool works better. If I really want a Google search to pull up some hits for me, I can always fallback on a Google search string.


And the price of your ticket is ...

Recent ticket purchase confirmation included the following:

Final Fare Quote Details
Fare Summary

Departing airfare (Econo)** 129.00
Returning airfare (Econo)** 129.00
Airfare 258.00

Navcan and Surcharges 27.90
Canada Airport Improvement Fee 9.18

Canada Goods and Services Tax (GST/HST #10009-2287) 0.64
U.S.A Transportation Tax 21.46
U.S. Flight Segment Tax 6.20

U.S Passenger Facility Charge 4.50
Canada Security Charge 7.65
U.S.A Immigration User Fee 7.00
September 11 Security Fee 2.50

Total 345.03

With a quick ((345.03-258)/345.03)*100= into my Google bar, I discover that over 25% of the total ticket charge is taxes and other fees and charges.

The Next Threat

Forbes' 20 Sep 2004 issue has an article [registration required] by Robert Lenzner and Nathan Vardi titled, The Next Threat. The article covers the damage a hacking cyberterrorist could do and the certainty that something is being planned along these lines. Is there a lack of vision in high circles?

Yet in the U.S. no urgent crusade has emerged to fix the flaws. The National Strategy to Secure Cyberspace, signed last year by President Bush, proposes a sweeping overhaul of U.S. networks. In it the White House's former counterterrorism chief, Richard Clarke, urged a wholesale reboot of government computer systems and new security rules for electric utilities and Internet access providers. But few of his proposals have been adopted, Clarke says. "All the regulated industries--the electric utilities, the gas pipelines and oil refineries, the water and transportation systems--are still vulnerable to cyberattack."

Washington lacks any consensus on what to do about the Net threat--or whether it even constitutes a threat. "The idea that hackers are going to bring the nation to its knees is too far-fetched a scenario to be taken seriously," asserts James Lewis, a former State Department and Commerce Department official. He has dismissed cyberterror in reports for the nonpartisan Center for Strategic and International Studies.

The article ends as follows:

In the end, though, someone has to pay to stave off the bad guys; the question is whether American business will take the lead or wait for government--maybe--to force it to act. After the Sept. 11 attacks exposed gaping holes in airline security, the feds took control of the nation's 55,000 airport screeners. The new Department of Homeland Security formed the Transportation Security Administration, which awarded $8.5 billion in contracts and is requesting another $5.3 billion next year. Homeland's cybersecurity division, by contrast, will have a budget next year of less than $80 million.

If another unimaginable attack on America occurs, this time a devastating raid on our networks, what will Congress do? It will commission a panel to look into why we failed to anticipate the threat.

What madness is this?

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Tuesday, September 07, 2004

Stress, strain and sanity

Back today to the grind, such as it is, and my first sane day in a while.

I stress out when I'm juggling -- guests, clearing out the old space, worrying about my agnum mopus, the yearbook/calendar/membership directory for the women's club, columns for Computer Bits. Oh, and other stuff. Should I finish my column or get the book to the printers? Should I make a couple trips to the Goodwill or should I go shopping for food stuffs for guests?

I finished off my obligations for the women's club. Got the booklets back from the printer and found a flaw. Layed-out, printed up, and tipped/glued in a missing page at the end of the book -- for all 300c. of the 64pp booklet -- rather than take the booklet back to the printer for re-work and risk it not be ready by Tuesday a.m. for the mailing prep.

Handed the boxes of yearbooks off to the communications chair on Friday. Gave her mailing labels (sorted by ZIP!) for all the Club members. Sent the October column off to Computer Bits. Exchanged e-mails with our real estate maven about where we were in the process of de-lousing the place.

We spent the long weekend in toasty (90 degF plus) San Francisco. Had an old friend of his nibs -- they carpooled to work together during the oil crisis of the early 70s -- over for raw beef and red wine on Saturday.

Also on Saturday, I shelved three boxes of books on Northern California subjects in the bookshelves in the living room. We wound up spending hours reading San Francisco guides from the 1800s through the 1970s, discussing which previously well-known restaurants mentioned are defunct (Blue Fox, Le Trianon, Orsi's), which have moved, and which are still where they'd always been, serving the same sorts of food -- House of Prime Rib on Van Ness, Julius' Castle, Sam's, others ...

Found some trivial bits which, once I verify them, I'll send off to the giddy folks at Uncle John's Bathroom Reader.

We went over to the Park Sunday morning to check out the Academy of Sciences garage sale. The Academy has moved temporarily to Howard Street while they rebuild in the Park, and they had a lot of stuff they didn't want to move and knew they wouldn't want once they moved back.

We picked up a 2v. set of Californiana from the 1860s describing the California coastal waters and giving explicit directions for how to get your ship out of the Bay and back onto open water without snagging on Arch Rock, Snag Rocks and their kin. Also picked up a very cool Galen Rowell poster -- all for the grand sum of $1.75.

If we'd only hauled our sluggish selves out earlier for the 8-10 a.m. members' preview, we might've had a chance to buy the cassowary that his nibs remembers standing in the halls from fifty, sixty years back. Alas, it already had a SOLD sticker on it by the time we wandered in.

"What would we do with it?" his nibs asked. "Where would we put it?"

"Who cares?" I answered. "It would've been so cool to have a cassowary, the cassowary, just hanging around, standing around somewhere in the living room.

You can see why his nibs has doubts about me giving up any of my acquired bright and shiny things, which I needs must give up if we are to let go of the Silicon Valley space.

On Monday, our walk took us down to the Financial District to check out what business was currently at 77 Front Street, where the family hardware store had been back in the last quarter of the nineteenth century. That building is long gone and the site is now a block's worth of Old Republic Bank. We stopped by to see whether Sam's (with its three versions of sweetbreads) was open on Labor Day. No. Was Bocadillos, Gerald Hirigoyen's new tapas place on Montgomery, serving on Monday, Labor Day? No. San Francisco Brewing was open, though, so I had a couple Norton's and we shared a basket of curly fries and a basket of fried calamari for a late lunch and headed home. Naptime.

By 10 a.m. this morning, I was back again to my chores. Hacked back the bracken fern in the front planters and got it stashed in the recycling bin in time for the garbage men to haul it off. Rearranged the financial empire. Caught up on my backlog.

Space clearing -- still miles to go before I sleep.