: views from the Hill

Wednesday, April 26, 2006

The date is set

The sibs have agreed on the date for the memorial service and are now finalizing place and time.

The date is far enough out that people can make plans, and so can we.

The San Jose Mercury News profile was in yesterday's paper. SJMN photodesk used a cropped photo like the one I used here, which doesn't show up in the online version.

Some of the information in the profile wasn't quite right. They misspelt my mother's name at one point -- probably because they'd run a quick spell-check and "Towse" became "Townsend." My dad did not run marathons. He ran 5Ks and 10Ks. There were a few other errors, but the profile captured the spirit of the man, the zest with which he lived his life.

We're heading out for a few days on a trip to Illinois that we arranged what seems like a century ago now -- a visit with the newest grandchild (born last December) and his family.

Monday, April 24, 2006

My brain hurts

We're trying to settle on a date for the memorial service and have been sorting through who's where, when.

The first date we picked that worked for the three living sibs turned out to be a weekend that the Civil Air Patrol was having a weekend exercise and none of Dad's CAP buddies would've been able to make it. Couldn't have that.

His nibs and I are out of town for three trips (two short, one not-so) during the next seven weeks. The younger nib wants to be at the memorial, but only has one weekend he'll be in the state while we are between now and October and that weekend is, yes, you guessed it, the weekend that the Civil Air Patrol is having its weekend exercise.

Once the date is settled, we will look for a venue that works with the date.

Indoors or outdoors? Down at the airport? Mom had a preference for outdoors.

"How about Vasona?" one sib said. "That's a pretty place and you can reserve a space with tables and shelter, in case the weather turns on you."

"Yes, that's a pretty place," all the sibs agreed.

We checked availability at Vasona for the tentative date to see whether that would work if that date is the date.

Turns out there is no reservable space available at Vasona until July ...

"But if we include Sundays as well as Saturdays ..."
"Mom doesn't want a Sunday."


Friday, April 21, 2006

Donald Frederick Towse

I've been writing this week -- not things I wanted to be writing, though.
Names of the living and their spouses and places they reside elided.


Posted by Picasa Donald Frederick Towse

Don Towse died April 16, 2006, while snorkeling off the San Blas Islands, Panama. Born Dec. 1924 in Somerville, MA, he was a local resident since 1960. A Ph.D. geologist (MIT) with a world-spanning career with Kaiser and the Lawrence Livermore National Lab, he was also actively involved with Civil Air Patrol for 45 years and with the American Association of Petroleum Geologists. As was his spirit, Don tandem-jumped at 10,000 feet "from a perfectly good airplane" to celebrate his 80th birthday in 2004.

He will be dearly missed by his wife of sixty-one years, and his three surviving children. Three of his six children died as adults. Grandpa to nine, Don is also survived by his twin brother and three of his four younger brothers.

Memorial services are pending.

Update: (Sun 24 Apr 2006) Don Towse Web site

Update: (Sat 23 Apr 2006) Talked with the Merc tonight. They think Dad deserves a "news" obit in addition to our paid death notice.

Oh ... long story there. ...

I'd thought I'd arranged for the paid obit (not cheap!) to run SA-SU-MO.

Got a call today from someone who was not the someone I was dealing with yesterday: "Do you still want to run the notice?"


"Do you know how much this is going to cost? Do you still want to do it?"


Yes, I know how much you charge. Just run the notice.


Well, now that I've said, "Just run the notice." they'll run it SU-MO-TU.


The person who called from the "news" obituary desk was ... amazing ... I would not want her job. She asked good questions. She was soothing. She's working until midnight tonight on the obit desk.

"Could I ask? Why are you the one who's contacting the newspaper, organizing the obituary?"

"Because the family thinks I'm 'the writer' and they think this is what I'm good at doing."

(Ghod know they know I'm hopeless with phones and why they thought I should be the one to call up the Merc and say, you know? I think my dad deserves a real "news" obit...)

I sent the photodesk the professional photo Dad commissioned to commemorate my parents' 60th wedding anniversary in 2005. Told them they could crop it, which is what I've done here. We'll see what comes of it.

Friday, April 14, 2006

Best taste of the week from Trader Joe's

If you don't live near a Trader Joe's, skip this post.

Trader Giotto's Gnocchi al Gorgonzola.
[frozen] $2.89.
Product of Italy, imported by TJ's.

Keep frozen until prep.

Heat one tablespoon of oil [olive] in skillet on medium heat. Pour in frozen Gnocchi with cheese and cook over high heat for 7 minutes, stirring gently.

Or microwave.

The gnocchi are fluffy. The cheese comes as disk-like objects that melt with the heat. The results are really and truly amazing.

Tasty. There are, honestly, few places in North Beach that could beat this gnocchi dish. Congrats to TJ's.

$2.89 for four servings. I imagine they were thinking four servings as a side dish.

230cal/serving. 100cal/from fat. Ooops.

Well, we split a bag (460cal/serving. 200cal/from fat) for dinner and served the gnocchi with a green salad with balsamic dressing -- that totally offsets the fat in the cheesy gnocchi, doesn't it?

I cut up fresh basil from our water-logged deck garden and sprinkled it on top of the cheesy gnocchi along with some fresh-grated pecorino cheese.

Yummies all around. Delish.

Go forth and do thee likewise.

[Warning label: Made on shared equipment with eggs, soy, treenuts, fish and shellfish)

[URL] Dictionaraoke: the Singing Dictionary

Tom Jobim rolls over in his grave.

Listen up!

Be sure to listen all the way through. (cough. um. cough) Well, Vinicius de Moraes is rolling too.

from Dictionaraoke: the Singing Dictionary.

Don't miss
Manilow's Copa. Copacaban ... aaaah.

What do scents say about you?

Off in another community, during a discussion of Easter food that segued into a discussion of Tabu, Emeraude, and other scents from our youth, someone asked what scent(s) I currently wore.

I answered, [his nibs] doesn't much like perfume or other "stinky stuff," as he calls it. He doesn't willing walk into a store that sells soaps and bath salts. I don't burn incense while he's home.

That said, these are in my perfume bin:

  • Tea Rose Perfume by Perfumers Workshop
  • 4711 eau de toilette
  • lavender essence from Abbaye de Senanque
  • assorted hippie-dippie scents from the local scent shop: redwood, eucalyptus, ylang-ylang, parijata, white ginger.

Looking back at that list, I realized, that all the scents were basically unmixed essences: rose, lavender, white ginger, &c. The closest thing to a mixed perfume is 4711, an old-fashioned (first brewed in 1772) cologne.

What does it say of me that I don't wear Tabu or Chanel No.5 or (heaven help me) Britney perfume? Why am I drawn to redwood, eucalyptus, and ginger, if I wear any scent at all?

What scents do you wear, and why?

Google Calendar

His nibs and I have been playing around with the beta version of Google Calendar.

Previously, we'd tried synching calendars with Outlook, but that was a no-go. We didn't have a network, so the synch'ing wasn't as easy as it is in a work environment. Problems with the klugey synch-up we had meant his nibs overwrote any changes I'd made to my calendar when his nibs' calendar fed into mine. In lieu of the klugey synch-up, we'd try to remember once a week to synch our calendars manually by sitting down at our computers and reading through the entries each of us had on our calendar and adding/deleting events.

His nibs is enamored of synch'd calendars. He uses one at work to keep track of when he's doing what and when his staffers are available for meetings. I, on the other hand, am more an old-fashioned write-it-out-in-colored-pens sort of person and sorely missed the 2'x3' write-able calendar I'd had affixed to the wall near the kitchen. Because I checked the calendar at least once a day, I could visualize it when someone asked, "What are you doing a week from Saturday at 4 p.m.?"

Alas, with the move from dale to hill we had no proper spot to hang a calendar that size. Sure, we could've hung it some place like the powder room, but what good would that have done? Out of sight, out of mind.

His nibs would say to me, "We're going to the Simon Winchester lecture at lunchtime on the 17th."

"Oh, and we have the THD dinner next week."
"SFMOMA Members Day is next Saturday."
"... and Francis Cooks is Sunday."

Ask me how my schedule looked for the coming week and I had no clue. I didn't like the feeling.

His nibs started setting up his Google calendar on Wednesday. Yesterday he imported the events from his Outlook program and we synch'd up. Easy peasy. His events show up on mine -- in a different color -- and mine on his.

I'm still feeling my way around to see what features I want to take advantage of and which I don't. I can set up multiple calendars, share some, keep others personal, feed some into my master calendar, not feed others. The app has a "search my calendars" option that looks a lot like the Gmail "search mail" feature. There's an Evite-like feature and more.

I've added a calendar button on my tool bar. Once I get in the habit of checking the calendar and keeping my events up-to-date, I should be good to go.

Whether Google will be trying to push Simon Winchester's books to me in ads connected to a mention of Winchester's name on my calendar at some future point in time is a question.

For now, the calendar is ad-free and easy to use. I have a master calendar again and fewer excuses for forgetting to do things I intended to.

Internet Resources for Writers is one of Writer's Digest's 101 Best Websites for Writers

Internet Resources for Writers named one of Writer's Digest's 101 Best Websites for Writers for 2006. ... nice thing to discover before breakfast on a sunny day.

Update: The day's clouding over and rain's anticipated either today or tomorrow, but ... nothing can rain on my parade.

Wednesday, April 12, 2006

[WRITING] Taddle Creek Magazine Submission Guidelines

The Taddle Creek Magazine Submission Guidelines

If you don't live in Toronto, they don't want your writings, but you might like to check out their guidelines, nonetheless.

7. Taddle Creek accepts stuff it likes. Yes, it’s just that simple. The magazine prefers submissions that are humorous or show a sense of humour about their subject. The magazine does not restrict itself to this type of submission however, and often accepts “serious” submissions, provided they are entertaining. However, please note:

7-1. If you have/have had problems with your parents (what the magazine calls “daddy issues”) and feel the need to express them in the form of prose or poetry in a way that is weepy or heavy-handed, there are many magazines that will accept your work. Taddle Creek is not one of them. If you can express your problems in a funny or entertaining way however, do send your work along.

7-2. The magazine is fully aware of the absurdity of organized religion. If you have religion issues and can present them in a way you feel the magazine’s readers would enjoy, by all means do so. Earnest religious works will not be accepted.

7-3. The magazine does not care to read any more stories written from the point of view of unborn foetuses.

7-4. Three words: no shaped poetry.

7-5. Most importantly: Under no circumstances leave two spaces after terminal periods. There is absolutely no reason to do this, despite the fact it is still, bizarrely, taught in school. Any work submitted with two spaces after the period will be sent back to have the extra spaces removed before it is even read. Authors may then sit at the grown-up table.

[FOOD] Giordano Bros. All-In-One Sandwiches (North Beach)

Giordano Bros.
303 Columbus (at Broadway)
SF (North Beach)
(415) 397-2707

"This is why," his nibs said, "we live here and not Pittsburgh."

The Giordano Bros. specialty is a Pittsburgh-style all-in-one sandwich: sliced french bread layered with meat (sausage, cheesesteak, turkey, pastrami, hot coppa, &c ...), provolone, fries and an olive oil and vinegar (not mayo) coleslaw. Interesting concept. An all-in-one meal.

The results were ... a sandwich that was relatively cheap and filling but not delicious, not memory making. Nothing to drool or die over. The sandwich did nothing for this girl, who grew up in East San Jose, but the bar/sandwich shop has a great fan base, so they won't miss me.

If you're from Pittsburgh, it might taste like home. Homesick Steelers fans should note that there are plenty of screens for sports watching.

Tuesday, April 11, 2006

And a big thanks to Restaurant Whore

And a big thanks to Restaurant Whore AKA Joy at Confessions of a Restaurant Whore for writing yesterday about her search for some place -- any place -- in the greater San Francisco area where she could find tasty, ungussied-up Maine lobster.

She gave a heads-up to and a thumbs-up for Old Port Lobster Shack on Veterans Boulevard in Redwood City.

As a result of the ensuing discussion in the comments tail and because the whole discussion was making me crave lobster, I asked his nibs, who was down in the South Bay today, to swing by Marina Food (10122 Bandley Dr, Cupertino, near the corner of Stevens Creek Blvd and Saratoga-Sunnyvale Rd) and pick up some live Maine lobster for dinner.

We needed, I told him, to check and report back on the liveliness of the lobster and the current price at Marina. Dinner tonight and 'rolls tomorrow will be our sacrifice for the communal knowledge base!

(Report: Very lively! Price: $11.99/lb)

Update:... and live Dungeness crab. $2.99/lb, according to his nibs.

Ah. Maine lobster. Melted butter for dipping. Acme sour batard for sopping up the mess. A bit of green salad with balsamic dressing because his nibs seems to think I need to eat more green stuff. I'll be one happy camper at supper tonight.

Next up, we'll have to check out the live Maine lobster at Ranch 99 and do a compare and contrast report. Don't you think? For the common knowledge base!

For Nobody and other Ding Dong fans

For Nobody and other Ding Dong fans:

A cartoon from Debbie Ridpath Ohi.

[WRITING] SFF story prompt

  Posted by Picasa

I finally had my camera with me as I passed this business. This sign is on the door of a building on Grant across from Washington Mutual Bank. There's another, bigger sign on the side of the building at the corner of Grant and Pacific, on Pacific. I've wondered since the day I first saw the signs, what if the owners really do mean Golden 'Time Travel'?


[SFX] Twilight Zone theme

ALA's Booklist is now online

ALA's Booklist is now online.

The reviews database and some sections are subscription-based. Other sections (like Review of the Day and other content on the "front" page) are free.

Booklist offers a free 30-day trial subscription. Subscriptions aren't cheap: $89.95/yr. $170/ 2yrs.


Slow loading.

[WRITING CONTEST] Murder at the Mustard Museum

Deadline: must be postmarked by 15 May 2006
No entry fee. Entries must be in English.

Complete description, rules, and more...

The 2005-06 Mustard Mystery Contest is a writing contest. Chapter One of Murder at the Mustard Museum is complete and appears in the 2005-06 catalog of the Mount Horeb Mustard Museum and on this web site. Contestants will write their best Chapter 2 and a summary of how the story turns out for the opportunity to win the Grand Prize of $5,000.

Who can enter? The 2005-06 Mustard Mystery Contest, is open to all writers and aspiring writers, with the exception of employees of the Mount Horeb Mustard Museum, sponsors of the Mustard Museum or of this contest, as listed below. Entrants under the age of 18 may must have the written consent of a parent or legal guardian. Only one entry per person. There is no entry fee. No purchase of mustard or products from the Mount Horeb Mustard Museum is necessary.

Collaborative efforts are welcome but only one prize for a winning entry will be awarded.

Judging criteria. Judging will be on the basis of literary merit and the creative use of mustard in the story line. Photographs, drawings, or any other illustrations should not be sent and will not be considered.


Remember each entry will consist of two writings – a completed Chapter Two (not to exceed 2,500 words) and a summary of how the mystery turns out (not to exceed 800 words).


Entries become the property of the Mount Horeb Mustard Museum. The winning entry will become the basis for a finished novel to be published by the Mount Horeb Mustard Museum.

Chapter One

[FOOD] Restaurant Lulu (SoMa)

Restaurant Lulu
816 Folsom St.
San Francisco, CA 94107
(415) 495-5775

The weather yesterday afternoon was overcast a bit, but walkable. We decided to chance a walk to dinner and made reservations at Open Table for a restaurant we'd heard a lot about but had never been to: Restaurant Lulu, south of Market.

The walk there took about an hour. It would've taken less if I'd made sure where the restaurant was. His nibs made the reservation and (luckily!) printed out the specifics. We're walking down Montgomery, toward Market, then down Market. He tells me Lulu is between 4th and 5th, so we turn down 4th. "How far are we going?" I asked. "What street is it on? Brannan?"

"Yes," he answered.

Well, the upshot is that I'd asked whether Lulu was on Brannan, and he'd said it was, so we walked down to Brannan, cutting over to Fifth on our way. We get to the corner of Fifth and Brannan and I ask, "What's the address?" so I can decide whether we need to cross Brannan.

He looks at the piece of paper he's fished out of his pocket and sez, "816 Folsom."

"Folsom? You said, 'Brannan'"
"Well, I meant 'Folsom.' We just need to go another block or two."
"No. We've gone too far. We passed Folsom several blocks back."
"We did?"
"Sure. That's Townsend up there. After that, there be dragons."

So, we turned and retraced our steps.
Total distance to dinner: ~ 3.2 miles
Total distance home from dinner: ~ 2.6 miles plus a .25 mile diversion ...

Walking is good for you ... and we were just a couple minutes late.

The restaurant is interesting, a rebuilt warehouse with arched wood roof. The main room faces the wood-fired ovens and rotisserie and is big, with side rooms where Restaurant Lulu was seating large parties last night. (The American Educational Research Association and other conventions were in town, and Lulu is just a block from the Moscone.) Dress is casual for both customers and wait staff, who all wear Levis or something close thereto.

The menu is Provençal and changes every day, depending on what the chef has available. Small plates. Large plates. Sharing. You get a small-ish plate and the entrees come in big dishes with a serving fork and spoon. The intent is to divvy up what's there between the folks at the table.

Our waiter last night had the most incredible voice. If I'd been a voice agent, I would've lured him away from his wait job. He went over the menu, what the specials were, what the signature dishes were, and left.

Two women were seated at the table to the left of me. After a bit and before they ordered, they asked to eat at the bar. One of them had an ear infection, she said, and couldn't hear the other. Moved they were, and the table settings replaced.

The tables at Restaurant Lulu are fairly close together, and the place is pretty big. The restaurant is noisy, but not as noisy as some places we've been to. We could talk without shouting. We did joke about learning ASL, however. Of course, it was a Monday night. Fridays and Saturdays are undoubtedly noisier.

When our waiter came back after what seemed a long while, we gave him our dinner order and asked for one of the three Cabernet Francs on the wine list, the Andrew Rich from Oregon.

THREE! Cabernet Francs.

The wine list was amazing. A whole slew of wines by the glass. Another whole slew of DRCs. Not an inexpensive wine list, his nibs told me, but far larger than we'd expected. DRCs! A whole slew! Some day maybe we'll have the spare change to go out to dinner and spend hundreds of dollars on a bottle of wine.

The waiter headed back to the kitchen with our order and the bus staff brought fresh rosemary bread and butter. The bread wasn't warm -- one of my mum's pet peeves about most restaurants -- but was delicious.

We started off with an appetizer plate: choose three from the choices available. We chose rabbit rillettes, foie gras (a soft pate), and smoked salmon. We both agreed that the foie was the best of the three. The rabbit rillettes were tasty as well. The salmon was salmon on a toast round. Nothing special. Sure, it was shaped like a rosette and sprinkled with dill, but that was about all there was to it. Three bits of three choices. Hm. Not easily divisible by two. We decided to have one each of the three and then split the third piece of each choice in half and share.

Another pair of women were seated next to us. These women were very loud and obviously, from their conversation, from the American Educational Research Association convention. I mean really loud. I didn't wince. I know I didn't and neither did his nibs, but they must've noticed a wince from someone else in the near vicinity because, before they even got around to ordering, they asked to move to a small table over against the west wall and picked up their menus and moved before the waiter had a chance to check to see if that was okay with the room host.

Next a couple, obviously from the American Educational Research Association convention from their conversation, were seated next to us. Trust me. This restaurant is not the place to have an intimate, private conversation, not that this couple was doing so. This couple was still there when we left so it really wasn't us who were driving the other patrons to other seating.

His nibs ordered the Monday night special, rotisserie veal, served on greens. The bit I had was tasty, juicy, flavorful.

I had the short ribs, which were excellent. Tender. Flavorful. Falling off the bone. The sauce was dark and tasty, but, like last night, a bit too salty from added bacon. What's up with that? The small bite-sized potatoes that accompanied the meat were also very tasty, cooked with the broth and garlic. Both main dish serving sizes were generous, but just as well I didn't have a spoon (other than the "serving" fork and spoon that come with the family style dishes) because the salty sauce left in the dish would not have been good for me.

For dessert his nibs order their trio of sorbets: grapefruit, orange and apple-cinnamon. The sorbets were fine, but nothing to die for. The dessert wine selections take up the entire verso of the dessert menu and include way more single malt scotches than I'm used to seeing on a dessert menu. I was tempted, but knowing what a bottle of Talisker costs and what their per-glass price was, I decided not to go that route. I ordered my usual glass of Bonny Doon Vin de Glacière.

Glad we tried Restaurant Lulu, just to see why they make the SFC list of Top 100 Bay Area Restaurants, but we agreed that we don't think we'll be back. There are so many restaurants in this city that there's no reason to return to a restaurant that doesn't serve a meal that knocks your socks off. Restaurant Lulu is the perfect place if you have a large party, or you're at Moscone and need to go to dinner. If I'm going to walk that far, though, I need to have food like the seared foie gras or sweetbreads at Isa to lure me.

We walked home up 4th to Mission and up Mission until we cut over to Market. We were going to walk home on the Embarcadero but changed our minds, so we headed north on Battery, then headed left and backtracked up to Montgomery (there's that extra quarter mile of distance) and home that way.

Passed by the new Myth Cafe (opened at the beginning of April) at the corner of Montgomery and Pacific. Checked out the menu. Yummy looking food for real reasonable prices. We loved the only dinner we've had at Myth and will certainly return some day for seconds. Maybe to celebrate the long-awaited closing of escrow? Say. There's an idea.

Myth Cafe used to be Zeroº. Before it became Myth Cafe, the signage out front amused me no end, because it reminded me of a guy I know from the 'net who calls himself Zero. Oh, well. Call me easily amused.

Myth Cafe. On my list of places to check out soon.


Unlike some people I've heard tell of, my neighbors don't complain about the sound of chimes, bless them.

(I've heard tales of some folks who moved into a condo off Telegraph Hill Blvd and hung chimes only to have their neighbors ask -- nay, tell -- them to take the chimes down. Noise, doncha know.)

I love the sound of chimes and have seven or eight sets hanging from the spiral fire escape. Over the weekend, I repaired and rehung two sets that had been damaged in an earlier storm.

But now, the wind is kicking up and the chimes are raising a ruckus. I needs must go out on the fire escape and lay the chimes flat on the stairs so they won't blow away or break in the wind.     Done!

Word on KCBS this morning was that the north bay is due for 4" of rain today with this storm that's coming ashore. I'm watching the radar and, by golly, here she comes ...

Monday, April 10, 2006

[FOOD] Garçon! (at Valencia and 22d) & Adventures in Moving (or Public Transit from Here to There)

1101 Valencia St. SF, CA 94110
(415) 401-8959

"The rain's stopped for a bit," his nibs said. "Let's find someplace to eat out in the Mission or Noe Valley and go out early and roam around an unfamiliar neighborhood before dinner."

Sounded good to me, so we proceeded to spend a significant chunk of time thumbing through restaurant names, checking to see who was open on Sundays, what did they serve, were they located in a roamable neighborhood. ...

We finally settled on Garçon! at the corner of 22d and Valencia and booked a 7 p.m. seating with Open Table.

Alas, all good plans and all that. The rains started up again. The pinpoint Doppler radar at CBS showed that a wave of showers was headed through and would then taper off. We waited another thirty minutes for the showers to let up, then headed down to the F-Line. ... and just missed a trolley.

Well, another one would be by in ten minutes or so, but ...

... but it wasn't.

Four jampacked-full F-line trolleys headed the other way, toward Fisherman's Wharf, before the next F-line trolley headed our way. That trolley was too full to stop. We waited some more. By now we were standing under the roof of the stop, avoiding the drizzle. Five or so other people had joined us. Another F-line headed to the Castro showed up. It too was packed. The driver took pity on us, though. He opened the back door for us to get on because there was no way we could get on through the front. We'd pay our fare on the next leg.

We got off at Market to wait for the 14 out Mission. Every eight or nine minutes, the schedule said. Quite a while later (far, far longer than nine minutes), a reticulated 14 arrived and let us on. There was one other rider on the bus.

The bus turned the corner onto Steuart and stopped outside the Quiznos. The driver needed a bathroom break and flushed us off the bus. A while later, duty done, she got back on, let us back in and headed out. There were now all of five people on this huge bus. What's up with that?

By the time we left downtown and headed out Mission, the bus was packed full. The passengers packed in more and more densely as new passengers piled on at each stop.

A nodding-off girl hanging onto a strap in front of me took out her cellphone.
"Are you holding?"
"I said, 'Are you holding?'"
"Look, I'm leaving for Southern California tomorrow morning. I only need enough to tide me over tomorrow morning until I leave."
"How much for ..."
"You're expecting some, though, right?"
"It's going to be delivered soon, right?"
"Look, can I come by the house?"
"OK. I'll stop off at Walgreen's and pick up a rig and then come over. 0-5-4-9, right?"

I thought to myself, how dumb is that. If I were looking to knock over someone picking up drugs, I'd follow this girl off, wait while she went to Walgreen's, wait while she stopped by the house, then mug her as she came out.


She sure didn't need any drugs at this moment in time. What was she scoring for? Oh, tomorrow morning. Maybe she was just planning ahead for the morning. She didn't look like her brain was in any shape to plan. Her eyes glazed over and she nodded off, then woke up in time to get off at at 16th and Mission, across from the Walgreen's.

By now, our plans to poke our noses around the neighborhood were moot. What should've been a half-hour trip had taken forever. The bus was far more crowded than I'm comfortable with. I was glad we'd got on when it was relatively empty and I could find a seat.

The crowd of people was getting to me. We shoved (literally!) our way off the 14 a stop early, getting off at 21st. We walked down Mission to 22d, hung a right and walked a couple blocks up to Valencia, arriving ten minutes before our reservation. There was one other couple in the place, a guy and a woman, who were well into their meal. They had two bottles of wine on the table, two sets of glasses, and were discussing their food in low voices.

We settled down at our places. The restaurant is relatively small, with a lounge between the restaurant/bar and the kitchen. A singleton bathroom is off the lounge on your left, just before you get to the kitchen.

The main room is painted beige and shades of brown. Windows look out on Valencia and 22d. We could see what used to be an old drugstore with original signage on the other side of 22d.

The tables have paper covers. The ambiance is low-key. The staff is thin and speaketh with French accents. The bus staff is excellent.

We were told up front that there was no ahi tuna appetizer. The soup of the day was asparagus with a touch of cream. After much deliberation, we ordered and his nibs chose a cabernet franc from the wine menu.

His nibs had the French Onion Soup gratinee, which Bauer praised yesterday as the best in town. I had the Salmon Tart, a thin crust cracker base with smoked salmon and capers, crème fraiche and red onions on top. The tart came with a green frissee salad with a touch of Dijon vinaigrette. The tart had a touch of Dijon dressing beneath the salmon and capers as well. We were both pleased with our choices.

For a main dish, his nibs had the Papillotte of Sole, cooked with black olives, peppers, tomatoes, basil. A large leaf of basil topped the fish during cooking. The kitchen crowned the sole with a blop (as his nibs put it) of crème fraiche after they opened the parchment.

I had the Duck Confit with Pommes Sarladaises, bacon and mushrooms. The dish was settled on a bed of frissee. The duck was a bit dry, but there was enough juice to offset that problem. The skin was crackly, just like I like it. The mushrooms were definitely Ym. The bacon added a touch too much salt to the dish. I don't know how the confit would have fared without the added bacon taste, though, or I'd suggest just leaving the bacon out. The best duck confit I ever had was in an inn in the Dordogne. This dish, albeit tasty, was nowhere near knocking that dish off its pedestal.

Dessert was the Floating Island with a small pour of their recommended accompanying dessert wine, one order of dessert/wine shared. His nibs had most of the Floating Island. I had most of the dessert wine. The Floating Island was fab. The meringue was solid but not too so. The creme anglaise was delightful. Meringue. Creme anglaise. Tasty. What's not to like? I can make Ile Flottante myself, but it's so much nicer to have someone else go to the bother, and I couldn't've made it any better. The dessert wine tasted better with the dessert than on its own. I am partial to Bonny Doon's Vin de Glacière and wish it had been a choice.

By the time we were ready to leave, the restaurant had pretty much filled up. Not bad for a Sunday night. I got up to use the bathroom before we trekked home and moved the small table so I could squeeze out, knocking my water glass, which hit the floor with a splatter and crash. The staff, which seemed used to people knocking things about as they squeezed past the tables, were there in a jiffy. The mess was cleared by the time I arrived back to the table.

We walked the two blocks back to Mission and waited a bit for the 14-bus. Got off near Steuart and Market. Looked all the way up Market but couldn't see an F-line coming, so we walked the mile-plus or so up the Embarcadero to Levi's Plaza and Filbert and on home. Glad I was we'd decided to walk, because the F-line never came.

If you've got the time, public transit in San Francisco works like a charm. You never have far to walk. You can usually get anywhere you want to go directly or with one transfer. Sometimes, though, the connections don't synch, or the ride doesn't show up when it's supposed to. Take your time. Count on delays. My ride to jury duty last Thursday took minimal time. The ride to dinner yesterday took far, far too long.

If you don't have the time? Well, you can always pay $20 (one-way) -- our estimate of what a taxi ride to 22d and Valencia would've cost us -- for a taxi instead of the $1.50 public transit will set you back.

Paxton Gate, Rogue Taxidermy. PETA members please skip this post.

I wrote about Paxton Gate a while back, but my short bit didn't quite capture some of the weirdness that ripples into view when you come across a place like Paxton Gate. The article on Christopher Moore reminded me of those ripples of weirdness, when I trundled off to find a link to Monique Motil's work.

The first link I found, which gave me the link to Motil above, was to the Minnesota Association of Rogue Taxidermists.

Monique Motil is a working member of the group. Hm. Interesting stuff.

Who besides Motil is a member of the group? Well, the first person I clicked through was Jeanie M. Whoa!

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Jeanie M lives here in town and is the person who created the mouse angels that intrigued me at Paxton Gate.

Strange taxidermy? How about this Jeanie M. model of Saint Sebastian? Jeanie M. also has pics of Bride And Groom mice pairings she's created for wedding cakes. Check out her gallery.

Um. Yes.

Click through the other Rogue Taxidermy members and the interesting links at your own risk.

Article on Christopher Moore in today's SFC

Comic horror author writes of Death's antics in S.F. -- 'A Dirty Job,' but somebody had to do it by Marta Acosta, Special to The Chronicle / Monday, April 10, 2006

The article mentions Paxton Gate, a verrry cool place over on Valencia. Moore used some of Monique Motil's "Sartorial Creatures" in A DIRTY JOB, his latest book.

PLUS! Moore's moving back to San Francisco in June to write a sequel to BLOODSUCKING FIENDS.

Friday, April 07, 2006

Ahhh ... Cute kitties!

Ten(count 'em 10!)-minute video with pictures of cute kitties!

Caution: [1] Soundtrack. [2] Some borderline kitty abuse for those of you who are soft-hearted and don't like to see kittens in hats or spats.

Other fun stuff at the Exploratorium


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The Exploratorium is an entertaining place. We've supported it for decades and used to drive up with the younger guys to visit when they were younger.

The Exploratorium has outgrown its 100K sq ft at the Palace of Fine Arts and has been looking for new digs for years. The lease on the facility at the Palace of Fine Arts is up this spring and time grows short.

Judging by stuff I snoooooped out at the Port Authority Web site and (finally!) genuine news articles, the Exploratorium has been granted a three-year exclusive negotiating agreement with the Port of San Francisco to open a new facility at Pier 15 with an option to develop Pier 17 if they need more space in the future.

Yippee! x'd fingers. If they get Pier 15 (and it's not a slam dunk by any stretch), it'll take time to restore the pier and then to move the contents of the building at the Palace of Fine Arts.

I was talking with one of the honchos a couple months ago and she said they were hoping the Exploratorium would only be closed a very short while once they were ready to move. Preparing for the move, however, will take years.

When we were visiting last Saturday to see Hickok's art, we also checked out the "Reconsidered Materials" exhibit. Here are some highlights from the exhibit, which continues showing through June 18, 2006.

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A small herd of horses hang from the ceiling. Horses made of metals and old tires. Titled "Rubber Horses" by Dorothy Trojanowski. Originally created for the 2005 Burning Man.

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This piece was created by Andrew Junge last year as part of the Artists In Residence program at the dump. A Hummer! Made out of junked styrofoam! Amazing. The rainbows are coming from the sun streaming through the skylights. Yes! There was sun on Saturday!

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A collection of old bottles, mayonnaise jars and more, stained by chemicals, lit, collected and set together as a chandelier. Titled "A Constellation" by Jim Haynes. Here is a description of how he created the work.

... and for Auntie K, The Quilt by Claudia Tennyson.

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Tomie dePaola to Speak at 10th Annual Effie Lee Morris Lecture

I toddled over to the SFPL site, looking for something for a friend, and found this notice: Award-Winning Children's Author/Illustrator Tomie dePaola to Speak at 10th Annual Effie Lee Morris Lecture on May 17. dePaola's lecture entitled What Haven't I Done Yet begins at 6:30 p.m. in the Koret Auditorium at the Main Library. Lecture is free, co-sponsored by the Women's National Book Association and the Friends of the San Francisco Public Library.

In the area? Mark your calendar.

Hickok is amazing

Friends pointed me in her direction eons ago. What's not to like about an artist who's made a specialty of San Francisco cityscapes made from gelatin/Jell-O? (Check out the one minute video clip.)

We were pleased to see that -- as part of the run up to the aught-six festivities here in our fair ville -- Hickok was going to be at the Exploratorium last Saturday with her latest cityscape.

The weather was relatively fine. There was a break in the rain, providing dry-ish weather for our three-mile walk there and the three-mile walk back. We hied over.

Hickok's quivering cityscape was set on a shake table, which she shook every once in a bit. She had fog drifting past, a Golden Gate Bridge backdrop, and a line of people waiting to see her work up close and personal.

(For those unfamiliar with San Francisco and/or the Exploratorium, the Exploratorium is currently located in a vast warehousey building adjacent to the Palace of Fine Arts. Hickok's choice of cityscape to render was perfect for the venue.)

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The details!

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The artist: Elizabeth Hickok.

If you're in the area, Hickok has her studio open this Saturday (that's tomorrow!)

Jury Duty con Burritos

Checked the courts' site Sunday night. No need to go down to 400 McAllister Street on Monday.

Same Tuesday.

Same Wednesday.

Thursday, well, Thursday I was supposed to be there by 8:30 a.m. and, having been told by his nibs that the screening with the metal detector at the front door sometimes backed up, left at 7:30 a.m. to make sure I wasn't dashing in at the last minute.

Caught the F Line over to U.N. Plaza and walked over to McAllister, arriving with plenty of time to spare.

Sat in the jury room all morning. They called up one panel, two, three ... I was reading a really lame Og Mandino book and scribbling. Maybe I'd be spending all day in the jury room and never be called for a panel. Maybe I'd earn my one-year waiver just by sitting.

But no. A bit after 11:30 a.m., they called yet another panel and I was sent up to Room 306, Judge Kevin McCarthy's courtroom, along with another forty or so people. We were the second panel sent up that day. Another panel would be sent up after lunch. They needed that many potential jurors to choose a jury and alternates.

McCarthy gave a general overview of what the civil trial would entail and went over the schedule, which days would be court days, which days would not. The trial had multiple defendants, multiple plaintiffs, multiple attorneys. Estimated duration: five weeks.

Those potential jurors who had a hardship (the judge explained what was and was not legally considered a "hardship") filled out a short form explaining what the problem was, and the judge decided which hardship requests to grant. Those who had no hardship excuse for serving for a five week trial were given a very long questionnaire to fill out and were told to fill out the questionnaire, turn it in and be back in the courtroom at 10 a.m. Monday.

Alas. I had a hardship. We already had plane tickets and plans for two different jaunts that conflicted with the judge's schedule. I couldn't be part of what Judge McCarthy characterized as a very interesting trial. The judge excused me and I had to choose a date within the next six months to reschedule my jury duty.

Jury duty delayed until the first week in August.

Headed out. Stopped by for a quick look-see at what's happening at the Asian Art Museum a block or two away, then walked down Market to Taqueria Cancún for a burrito before hoofing the rest of the 2.4 miles home.

Cancún's carne asada burrito was just what I needed. Cheap. $3.99. Filling. I like Taqueria El Zorro's fare better -- Taqueria El Zorro is the neighborhood taqueria at the corner of Columbus and Grant-- but their burritos are $5.45. Cancún was what I needed, right price, right space, right time.

Need to know where to find the best burritos in the city? Check out Burrito Eater.

Monday, April 03, 2006

Sidney Frank, creator of Grey Goose vodka

We live an exciting life, we do, reading newspapers and magazines to each other over dinner.

His nibs was reading an article from the Brown University alumni magazine to me -- an obit for Sidney Frank, who'd given a bucketload of money (the most of anyone ever) to Brown, even though he'd dropped out and never graduated.

Sidney Frank's $100 million donation to Brown in 2004 was targeted for undergraduate scholarships, to make sure other students didn't drop out, as he had, because they couldn't afford school.

Frank started Sidney Frank Importing in 1972 after a career with Schenley Distillers where he helped market brands such as Dewar's White Label.

Sidney Frank Importing had hard times at the beginning. Sidney Frank developed a habit of wandering around, checking into bars, seeing what people were drinking. He noticed the Germans in Yorkville bars were drinking something called Jägermeister. The sales weren't spectacular, but they were steady, and he decided to secure the U.S. importing rights.

Well, fine, Sidney Frank Importing had the importing rights to Jägermeister but the sales were just steady at 500 cases a year from 1972, when he acquired the rights, until a decade later when a newspaper story in the Baton Rouge Advocate passed on rumors that Jägermeister was an aphrodisiac. No dummy he, Sidney Frank made photocopies of the story and sent a crew of hotties to the bars to distribute the photocopies. Allzasudden Jägermeister took off.

In the first half of 2005, Sidney Frank Importing sold two million cases of Jägermeister.

Marketing genius? Your call.

Later (1996), Sidney Frank decided the time was ripe for a cult vodka. He created Grey Goose, which he marketed. He contracted with the French to make an elegant French vodka. He named it Grey Goose and priced it at a premium, rather than try to undercut the competition. He designed the smoked glass bottle. He shipped it in wood boxes.

Sidney Frank wanted to make a trendy vodka. He did. Sex and the City helped move the vodka when the characters asked for Grey Goose cosmos.

A couple years back Sidney Frank sold Grey Goose to Bacardi for $2 billion cash. His $100 million donation to Brown followed, as did bonuses to everyone in the company. Grey Goose made everyone at Sidney Frank Importing rich.

Sidney Frank, creator of Grey Goose vodka, dies at 86.


Age 86.

But what a ride he had.


Are you prepared? A public service announcement ...

After Katrina, San Francisco began to really gear up for a possible catastrophe.

The most likely one, of course, is a mammoth quake, most probably on the [Susan] Hayward fault over in the East Bay, but there could be other catastrophes, heaven knows.

Hence, the 72 Hours Are you prepared? Web site.

The Web site provides information on what preparations to make at home for the possibility that something will happen and the government can't "make it better" for at minimum 72 hours later.

Do you have medical supplies? First aid supplies? Necessary drugs? Food? Water? Sanitizing handcleaner? Flashlights? Heat? Radio? Batteries? All that other sort of stuff you might need? What if the toilets don't work? Do you have walking shoes stashed in your car in case you have to walk home because the roads are impassable? Do you have something warm stashed in your car to wear if you have to leave your car and walk out?

Even those of you'ns who don't live in quake-prone California could take a gander. Useful information.

This has been a public service announcement ...

Jury Duty

His nibs has already served his jury duty for the year. He spent days a few months back on a jury deciding the fate of someone who asked that a jury decide whether he was guilty of possession of paraphernalia with intent to commit graffiti, or some such crime.

I was called for jury duty in February, but asked to have the jury duty postponed until this week because we were due in St. Louis for AAAS for an extended Presidents' Holiday weekend and then were heading out a day after we got back from St. Louis for three weeks on a trip to South America and places souther.

This week's the week, and luckily for me, I can check a Web site after 5:30 p.m. to see if my Juror Group needs to be down at the courthouse the next day, and if so, when.

A "nope" for today. (I felt like I was on holiday.)

A "nope" for tomorrow. (... which is good because I have a date down in Los Gatos to sign some papers for the escrow that may close some day soon)

We'll see how the rest of the week goes. Maybe I'll get on a jury with a decision to be made about the guilt or innocence of someone accused of possession of paraphernalia with intent to commit graffiti.