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When: 2014-03-13 Thu 14:25
What: A link for friends who like puzzles, word-games, trivia, and Schadenfreude.
Security: Public

The Ask Me Another episode I was on (along with Farhad Manjoo, Danny Pudi, and Adam Savage) is live: Puzzlin' On The Dock Of The Bay. Hear me lose! :-)

I blame Neil deGrasse Tyson and Carl Sagan for my loss. I had Cosmos top-of-mind, when I got the question that I messed up, because I'd re-watched the preview for the new series within a day or two before the taping, and I'd been searching for it on my TiVo to get the recording set up. I knew even as I was saying it that it wasn't the correct answer. (I almost said, "Cosmos-- no, Nova!" but my understanding of the rules, which they went over for us before the show, was that you don't get that kind of second chance. So I stifled the second answer, on the off chance that the rest of the competition wouldn't know it. I mean, I knew that wasn't going to happen, but, no need to just give the correct answer away... Anyways, I would've won if I hadn't shot myself in the foot; there was an item that's trimmed out of the recording that the rest of the contestants all didn't know.) Anyways, I loved the first ep of the new Cosmos enough that I've already forgiven Neil for everything. I've been looking forward to the series for a year or more, and thus far it hasn't disappointed me.

There are a couple of extras from the show in the AMA podcast feed. (The full show was about ~120 min, but only ~45 of that makes it to the radio. The extras are the best of what got cut.) You should subscribe. :-)

It was a lot of fun, and I got to talk to JoCo for a bit during the intermission. (We discussed catachthonian, experiences with acapella singing, TMBG, and the fact that "Ikea" was on the wedding playlist for plymouth and me.)

Also: You should watch the new Cosmos. And the old one, if you can get your hands on it. National Geographic Channel aired a marathon of it, leading into the new series, so I have the whole thing recorded, and plan to watch one episode of original before watching each ep of the new one. The first ep made me remember why I loved Carl Sagan so much. It's so sad that he left us when he was still relatively young.

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When: 2013-08-18 Sun 12:09
What: Another thing I have to give away...
Security: Public

I use Zyliss' classic rotary grater all the time for hard cheeses. It may be my single favorite kitchen gadget.

I got this larger rotary grater for the wider drum with holes sized for semi-hard cheeses like cheddar, gruyere, jarlsberg, etc. The thing is, the handle's a little flimsy. I broke my first within a few months. But then they sent me a replacement under warranty. Then I broke it again, after having been careful with it for several years (four or five, I guess?) and wrote to ask them if I could buy just a new drum... They sent me a whole new grater, for free. Which means I now have an extra body, and an extra fine-hole drum. So if anyone wants it, let me know... It's a bit flimsy, but hey, it's free, and if you're careful with it, it should last a while. :-)

ETA: Claimed.

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When: 2013-08-17 Sat 23:01
What: 2 tix for Barber of Seville, Sun 11/17 2pm
Security: Public

Craigslist post here.

Feel free to share with friends who might be interested...

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When: 2013-07-06 Sat 11:31
What: root veggie / lentil / seitan / dried fruit stew; apricot ice cream
Security: Public

cut to avoid taking up too much of your friends-pageCollapse )

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When: 2013-04-27 Sat 19:48
What: the measure of a life
Security: Public

I finally got around to listening to Rush's Clockwork Angels all the way through. I could really kick myself for not having found out about it until after the tour had passed through San Jose already.

The whole trio has clearly always been fascinated with the philosophical problems of Compatibilism -- how to make sense of free will, and notions of meaning and purpose, when our bodies are simply agglomerations of matter, subject to physical laws. You can hear it in "Free Will" (written by Neil Peart), and in "The Angel's Share" from Geddy Lee's solo album My Favourite Headache. Clockwork Angels is basically a rock-opera exposition of a steampunk society that believes in G*d as the Divine Watchmaker, with all events in life being predetermined and deserved. Except the protagonist gets subjected to a series of trials (much like Voltaire's Candide; there's even an "all is for the best" Leibnizian Optimism reference early in the album). Eventually he loses his faith, but finds something different, leading to the final track, "The Garden" (which is of course referencing Eden, but also drawing a contrast to the mechanized dystopia that's been left behind):

The arrow flies while you breathe,
The hours tick away,
The cells tick away,

The Watchmaker has time up his sleeve,
The hours tick away, they tick away

The measure of a life is a measure of love and respect,
So hard to earn so easily burned

In the fullness of time,
A garden to nurture and protect
It's a measure of a life

The treasure of a life is a measure of love and respect,
The way you live, the gifts that you give

In the fullness of time,
It's the only return that you expect

Yes, that. I could see this being adapted for an actual dramatized stage performance, though to work with the theme you might need some pretty expensive mechanical equipment. Possibly a movie / extended music video (with some good graphics for the airships, clockwork city, etc) would be easier... In any case, it kind of reminds me of the works artists in an earlier age created to honor religion -- Handel's Messiah, Bach's "Herz und Mund und Tat und Leben", Mozart's Requiem, etc. It's a musical monument to faith -- in the sense of a grand work that commemorates something in the past, or someone who's died.

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When: 2013-04-14 Sun 16:15
What: Waffles
Security: Public

Since I've mentioned making these in recent FB posts, I thought I'd post the recipe.

For reference, this is the waffle iron I use. I turn it up to the max setting, and its indicator lights work pretty well, with the Bisquick version of this. If you swap the Bisquick for the substitute mixture, you get a denser waffle -- each one has more heft, and is chewier / less fluffy -- and you need to wait maybe 45-75 seconds past when the indicator light says it's done, to get something properly cooked through and browned. OTOH, maybe you like a lighter waffle, in which case the light will be fine...

Bisquick substitution: Bisquick contains hydrogenated oils, so some folks like to avoid it; I am told by folks who've experimented (including my dad and my older brother) that there doesn't seem to be anything else on the market that makes as-fluffy waffles; the industrial sifters and mixers can coat the flour granules with oil in a way that ensures they don't bind up and form a dense, gluten-y batter. However, the first time I made this, I used the substitute, and they were still, IMHO, pretty darn tasty. So, the substitution: One cup of Bisquick is more or less equivalent to a mix of one cup of flour, 1½ teaspoons of baking powder, ½ teaspoon of salt, and 1 tablespoon of oil. Mix up your not-Bisquick before the step where you combine it with the nut butter.


Waffles!Collapse )

One of the nice things about these is that you can make a ton of them -- we've been doing them in double batches, which gets even the big 6qt KitchenAid bowl alarmingly full -- and freeze what you don't eat that day; they're fine in the freezer for at least two weeks. Probably longer, but we always eat them all by then. :-)

To reheat, put them on a baking pan, covered with foil, and stick in a 375F oven for about 15 minutes, then pull the foil off, stick back in for a maybe 2.5 minutes, flip over, stick back in for another 2 - 2.5 minutes, then serve. This process of getting them warm in a way that keeps them moist (steamy, even), and then crisping them up on both sides, will bring them back to almost exactly the state they were in when they were fresh off the iron.

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When: 2013-03-21 Thu 01:19
What: Tapioca / mango / palmyra pudding
Security: Public

In a small pot, combine:
One small (5.5 oz) can of coconut milk.
A similar amount of milk.
1/2 cup of tapioca pearls.
1/4 cup of crystallized coconut palm sap, or other form of palm sugar; or you could use a bit less of regular sugar, or even some maple syrup. (And honestly, given how sweet the dish came out, you could probably cut the sugar by 10-15% relative to this, as long as you're using palmyras in syrup, not packed in just water or some kind of juice.)
a pinch of salt (maybe 1/4 tsp?)

Simmer for five minutes. Add one mango, diced, and maybe half a cup of palm seeds. (We found them jarred, in syrup, at our local Asian grocer. I generally expect stuff in glass jars to taste fresher than stuff in cans, but it probably doesn't make a huge difference.)

Simmer for another five minutes. Test the a pearl to see if it's cooked through.

Cooking time may need adjustment depending on exactly what size / type of pearls you use.

Xta remarks that she should've taken a photo; it's not particularly pretty, but it is quite tasty. I was attempting to replicate a dessert I had once, a number of years ago, at a South-Chinese place in Mountain View. I think I came reasonably close, actually, on the first try.

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When: 2013-03-15 Fri 09:49
What: Maybe I need a drink. :-P
Security: Public

I've been stuck at the allergy clinic this morning longer than usual because I had a weird blood pressure spike. 150/95, when I've never seen it over about 130/85 before, and it's usually a little below 120/80. Probably nothing to worry about -- just over-caffeinated on top of my regular stress-load, and I was kind of running in a little late, so I may've been elevated because of that. Plus I was talking somewhat animatedly to the nurse when she started taking the pressure. But they want me to chill out in the waiting room and check it again in a bit, to make sure it's nothing to do with the shot.

I wonder if it's occurred to them that being stuck here when I have stuff to do may, itself, be a stressor. :-P

I'm at least logged onto work email through the waiting room's free wifi, trying to get something done. Unfortunately, the things I really need to do require my PC, which is on my desk at home. :-/

ETA: I was still somewhat elevated when I left -- in the 130/85 type of range -- but that was normal enough they decided to let me go, so I went and got our Rachel Maddow tickets and then came home. My stupid persistent cough left over from cold a couple weeks ago acted up for a while, just after I got home, which is weird, usually it's worst at night, after about 10pm. Still feel... just weird. Not bad exactly, and I don't feel any kind of tightness in the throat (it's a little sore from the cough, but basically the same as the last few days) or other anaphylaxis stuff... I dunno. I guess I'll try to self-monitor for any more serious respiratory syptoms, and either try to drive myself to the nearest hospital (I guess the county-run medical center, near Hillsdale Shopping Center?), or call 911, if things actually become noticably worse. Blah. Medical stuff is expensive. (Woo, another thing to stress about, to keep the blood pressure up! Keep it up, brain, you can achieve an aneurysm if you really put your mind to it!) Also, would miss my dental appt at 3pm and have to re-schedule.

Dear body,
    Quit it. :-P
Thanks,
    me

ETA: Well, I went to my dental appt, and I'm home now... I still feel just a smidge odd? A bit hyper, or lightheaded? I'd almost say it still feels like a caffeine thing, except it seems implausible that much of this morning's coffee is still in my system. I have a pretty high tolerance. My somatic sense of it, though, is strikingly similar to the experience of drinking 4-6 shots of espresso over the course of just a couple hours. (What? It was Johns Hopkins. That's how we got through writing final papers and studying for exams.)

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When: 2013-02-03 Sun 23:43
What: opera tix
Security: Public

Così Fan Tutte: SF Opera info, My ticket ad
Tales of Hoffmann: SF Opera info, My ticket ad

Feel free to pass along to friends who might be interested.

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When: 2013-01-23 Wed 10:23
What: Lovecraftian electric circuits
Security: Public
Mood: confused

My office suite has two light switches near its front entrance that control lights in the common area of the space.

Turning on one switch by itself turns on a few lights. Turning on the other by itself turns on a few other lights. But then there are a couple lights -- the ones I actually care most about, because they're directly over the sink, and all the other lights are shaded by my body when I'm standing there cleaning out my mug, or whatever -- that only come on if both switches are on.

This is ludicrous. What electrician would do such a thing on purpose? I can only assume that the electrical wiring is actually tracing out Enochian sigils, or eldritch runes. We're working in a building designed by Ivo Shandor. When some Elder God comes bursting out of the basement to devour humanity, immediately before I'm driven mad, and eaten, I'll experience a grim sense of satisfaction at having at least anticipated our collective demise.

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When: 2012-11-26 Mon 16:28
What: A few days too late, but enjoy...
Security: Public
Mood: silly

Turkey emoji:

_\∞̬̑/_

I'm using the &#xWXYZ; construct, where WXYZ is four hexits. In this case, 221E (infinity sign), 0311 (combining breve above), and 032C (combining caron below). I'd wanted to do a turkey emoji or emoticon the other day in a GChat, and hadn't been satisfied with any of the things I came up with, and then just now it occurred to me to look at the combining-diacritic codepage.

That's just the kind of dork I am.

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When: 2012-11-23 Fri 15:09
What: She walks in beauty, like the night.
Security: Public
Mood: content

This image (taken by Ben Canales; and I saw it on Bad Astronomy) is the kind of thing I've always thought of in connection with Byron's "She walks in beauty, like the night." The awe inspiring beauty of the universe, and the beauty of my beloved, are close kin -- the macroverse rhyming with with the microverse.

big image!Collapse )

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When: 2012-10-22 Mon 20:16
What: Endorsements for General Election, November 6, 2012
Security: Public
Mood: political

longCollapse )

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When: 2012-09-02 Sun 20:01
What: pretty hike
Security: Public
Mood: clean

Since these things tend to fly by on Facebook (where I posted this link earlier), I thought I'd put it here, as well: Xta and I took a hike by Crystal Springs Reservoir, from 92 down to the Las Pulgas Water Temple. Three panorama shots, and a number of other photos, can be found here. It was quite a warm day, so when I was originally uploading stuff I was kinda feeling icky with the sweat and sunblock. Happily, I am now all showered clean.

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When: 2012-08-14 Tue 19:07
What: CatTV
Security: Public
Mood: amused

Some silly little brown bird (maybe a sparrow of some kind? we have hordes of them around our house, anyways, and they sometimes roost under the eaves out front and leave droppings on the hood of my car :-P ) just flew SMACK into the window of the office / guestroom, kinda wobbled / hovered for a sec, then flew back into the bushes on the other side of the walk. Hoshi and Keiun, who are sitting on the futon, have HUGE eyes now, and Keiun is chattering. "Do it again, daddy, do it again!"

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When: 2012-08-10 Fri 15:19
What: Opera tix still for sale...
Security: Public
Mood: busy

Rigoletto: http://sfbay.craigslist.org/pen/tix/3197412562.html
Cosi: http://sfbay.craigslist.org/pen/tix/3197423738.html

Feel free to send the links to friends.

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When: 2012-06-29 Fri 20:11
What: PSA: Blenheims are in season.
Security: Public
Mood: happy

For anyone who attended our wedding, the amazing fruit that went into the apricot maple cake is now available at CJ Olson's in Sunnyvale. I got a ten pound flat yesterday. :-)

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When: 2012-05-20 Sun 15:14
What: ballot for Primary Election on June 5, 2012
Security: Public
Mood: busy

President: Barack Obama. I think he has taken much weaker positions in many negotitations than he could have, failing to grasp just how radical and intractable his opponents are. And I am mystified and disappointed by his Justice Department's failure to uproot Bush policies on torture and spying. But side from those two things, I think he's been an excellent president, and his record of achievments in his first term arguably is far longer and more impressive than Clinton's was in his first term. (For starters, Clinton failed at healthcare reform, and for all that the Affordable Care Act could stand to be improved, it passed, and will do tremendous good for millions of Americans.)

US Senator: I still kinda hate DiFi. The Bay Guardian put it well: "She's a moderate Democrat, at best, was weak-to-terrible on the war, is hawkish on Pentagon spending (particularly Star Wars and the B-1 bomber), has supported more North Coast logging, and attempts to meddle in local politics with ridiculous ideas like promoting unknown Michael Breyer for District Five supervisor. She supported the Obama health-care bill but isn't a fan of single-payer, referring to supporters of Medicare for all as 'the far left.' But she's strong on choice and is embarrassing the GOP with her push for reauthorization of an expanded Violence Against Women Act." I'd also add that she's bad on progressive taxation -- back in '06 one of her friends / fundraisers / advisors made some public remarks in favor of Schwarzenegger over Angelides on the basis of the idea that rich people are over-taxed, and DiFi didn't make a peep to contradict her. However, there doesn't seem to be any credible Dem running against her in the primary (I considered Mike Strimling, but he seems kinda over-wrought), and she'll certainly go along with the party line on the most important bills (even if, unlike Barbara Boxer, she'll never actually be a champion of them), so, meh, I guess I'll vote for her.

US Rep, CD 14: Jackie Speier. Speier has a long and admirable history in state and national politics; repeating it here would be redundant.

State Senator, SD 13: This is a tough one for me, because I really like both Sally Lieber and Jerry Hill. Sally has a great history of work on legislation dealing with poverty issues, especially at the intersection with childhood development, education, single motherhood, etc. Jerry served on the California Air Resources Board, and has been an advocate for our region's cleantech industry. After some consideration, I've decided to go with Jerry, because, as I've remarked before, I think the legislature needs people who have his kind of technical expertise. Also, just in general, I have more direct experience with Jerry, who has been my Assemblyman for the last couple years; I've had very positive interactions with him and his staff. I have nothing bad to say about Sally, and every time I've talked with her I've liked what she had to say, but I haven't actually been a constituent, though Xta was before we moved in together. In any case, if she wins, I'll still be happy with the outcome.

State Assembly, AD 22: Kevin Mullin, who's the only Dem running.

County of San Mateo Board of Supervisors, District 4: Shelly Masur. This was another difficult one. There are two other candidates I seriously considered. One is Warren Slocum, who served for many years as the head of the county's staff (clerk / assessor / recorder), and as far as I know is widely seen as having done a competent job in that role; however I'm really not impressed with his campaign for the supervisor office; he doesn't seem to have done a lot to stake out clear positions, and hasn't collected any notable endorsements that I can see. The other is Memo Morantes, who did a much better job than Masur at laying out his positions on his website, and specifically mentioned in his statement for the voter guide one of the local policies I care most about (support for electrifying the CalTrain corridor and ultimately bringing through a high-speed rail route to SF, even if there's a Palo Alto / Menlo Park / Atherton crowd who insist on being whiny NIMBYs about it). OTOH, Masur also does support the "blended option" for high-speed rail (which is to say, use of the CalTrain corridor -- this seems to be the consensus position except among local politicians in a few of our wealthier towns), and she has a list of very strong endorsements, including the local party (which I've been involved with before, and generally like, and their endorsement works pretty well as a proxy for "she must largely agree with me on the stuff where Morantes has done a better job publishing his takes on issues like the local jail, high speed rail, etc"). Morantes got Speier's endorsement, which is certainly important as well. Ultimately, I'm deciding on the basis of the fact that Morantes is opposing Measures T, U, and X (he says he's in favor of finding new revenue, but dislikes these particular measures). I am in favor of them, and I worry that he is trying to court votes from anti-tax voters in general (which is a dangerous road to go down, because if you're dependent on those people, you can basically never vote for any revenue). I understand his arguments against, but disagree, and I'm having trouble finding any stronger way to differentiate between him and Masur.

ETA 6/1: In a late-breaking development, the Friends of CalTrain organization sent out a questionnaire on transit issues, the results of which are here. As of this writing, I'd say Masur's answers are the most persuasive; Morantes hasn't responded. I'm feeling reassured about my choice to go with her.

Prop 28: Yes. This changes the term limit structure for the legislature from "six years in the Assembly, eight in the Senate" to "up to twelve years total across the two houses". I'm opposed to term limits in general. As President Bartlett put it: The Constitution already gave us term limits; they're called elections. Legislating -- especially leading a push for major reforms -- is a difficult, complicated job. It takes a long time to learn to do it well, and to build up the relationships and alliances that are necessary to get a complex bill passed. If you believe that big issues sometimes require big solutions, not just small, piecemeal, uncomplicated adjustments, then you pretty much need to have at least some legislators who will work on those issues over the course of many years. Under our current system, by the time a legislator has learned the ropes enough to even start working on such things, he has maybe four more years to get stuff done. Furthermore, the constant churn through the Capitol enhances the position of the lobbyists, who are a permanent long-term presence. So: I'd much rather see us scrap term limits altogether. But still, this changes the system so that people go from the "farm team" of lower offices to a longer period in one house rather than to a really short stint in the Assembly and then maybe the Senate. It also should reduce the problem of feuds between Assembly members who are eyeing the same Senate seat.

Prop 29: Yes. Raises the tax on cigarettes from $0.87 to $1.87 per pack, to fund cancer research conducted in CA. This will move us from being one of the lowest-tax states on tobacco, to kind of the low end of the middle of the pack. It will still put us far short of the level where I'd expect to develop a major black market / tax evasion problems. (New York, at $4.35 a pack, has serious problems with people buying cigs in other states and then bringing them to NY for illegal resale.) I'd prefer it if they let the money go into the general fund, b/c I'm not a fan of ballot-box budgeting, but frankly, even if they were going to take all the money collected from this, pile up the cash, and have a nice bonfire, I'd vote for it solely for the Pigovian benefits.

Measures T, U, and X: Yes. These impose taxes on businesses operating in unincorporated San Mateo County -- vehicle rental, hotels, and commercial parking, respectively. These are all taxes that cities can and do take advantage of, but which currently you can mostly avoid if you operate in an unincorporated area. These taxes are more about restoring parity between the cities and unincorporated areas than really about "new" taxes. Furthermore, the usual crowd of anti-taxers have been particularly disingenuous in their campaign against these measures, e.g. trying to mislead people into thinking that T is a general "car tax" that would affect personal vehicles.

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When: 2012-04-14 Sat 18:10
What: Xta's birfday dinner!
Security: Public
Mood: full

Benu.

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When: 2012-03-02 Fri 11:00
What: Mitt Romney just wants to get into America's pants.
Security: Public
Mood: amused

You've seen clips of Mitt Romney's big Michigan speech, right? The one where he's going on in a faux-emotional voice about how much he luhrvs Michigan, because "the trees are the right height", and he loves cars, and so on.

It struck me that the tone of the speech is a dead-on match for the tone of a guy who is dating a woman who has kids, and doesn't particularly like them, but is trying to fake it, because he really wants to get into mom's pants. "Do ya like baseball son? I love baseball!" The desperation to find some point at which he can at least fake a connection is palpable. Even little kids can detect that kind of fakeness. So the question is: are Republicans smarter than a five-year-old?

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When: 2012-02-18 Sat 22:29
What: Gratuitous Icon Post
Security: Public
Mood: amused

Because I needed a Keiun icon.

We got collars for the cats today; will have to post a link when Xta uploads the photos. We hadn't been doing collars for quite a while, but decided that really they ought to have tags, especially the ones that certify their vaccinations, so folks know they're safe. We got little engraved things with my cell number, as well. I hope it will never matter. Also, I hope Keiun will get used to hers; so far she doesn't like it. Hoshi, surprisingly, has been totally OK with hers. She hated the one she wore for roughly ages 0-3.

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When: 2012-02-18 Sat 09:37
What: Las Cascadas del Río Cuervo
Security: Public

A photo of this waterfall, in more or less this same condition, was part of how I originally pitched the idea of going to Spain for our honeymoon. As I recall, Xta asked me whether there would be any snow in Spain, so I went googling for photos with "Spain ice", "Spain snow", and "Spain winter"...

Las Cascadas del Río Cuervo

Obviously the person is included in this photo solely to give you a sense of scale, not because it was totally awesome to creep out and touch the giant 9-foot-long icicles.

When we were starting the hike, there was a family (British?) coming back down. Their daughter, who was probably about 10 or 12, was carrying a javelin-length icicle in her mitten. Now that's parenting I approve of.

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When: 2012-02-12 Sun 16:21
What: Full honeymoon trip report...
Security: Public
Mood: happy

I'm pirating this from stuff I originally wrote up for our travel agent, then adding more detail that may be more of interest to friends, especially if you might be visiting some of the same cities...

Edited to Add: Xta added a few good thoughts down in the comments. Also, since I mentioned I was writing this for our agent, I should mention her: Laurie Valdez of Peak Travel was extremely helpful in planning the trip, even working through the last few itinerary details outside regular work hours so Xta and I could sit in our living room and talk things through with her directly rather than going back and forth in email. We found her through the Better World Club. (Which I also recommend in general -- it's like AAA, except not evil. AAA funds lobbying against public transit, cleaner cars, etc. If you join BWC, get our member number, I believe there's a referral credit.)

for lengthCollapse )

I think that about covers everything. :-)

Next time (probably at least ten years out, sigh), we want to get back to see the progress on Sagrada Familia, then visit the Euskal Herria, and San Sebastian and Bilbao -- there are no less than four of the World 50 up that way -- Mugaritz, Arzak, Martín Berasategui, and Asador Etxebarri -- as well as of course the Guggenheim Bilbao. Then maybe we could go back south and actually see Segovia and Toledo (and I could also add that I'm interested in getting to Salamanca and Zaragoza), then go down south for Seville, Cordova, Málaga, and Cadiz... And of course we still wouldn't have gotten to the northwesternmost area, with places like Gijón, and all of Galicia, which has its own dialect and culture (Gallego) like Catalunya... It turns out that Spain is kinda big.

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When: 2012-02-11 Sat 23:54
What: Nomz.
Security: Public
Mood: tired

I've finished annotating the photos from El Celler de Can Roca, which placed second on last year's World's 50 Best list. And I can see why.

Interestingly, although it's certainly expensive -- the most we've ever paid for a meal, by a substantial margin -- while we were in Madrid, I had an email from one of the coupon services offering a discounted seating at some up-and-coming place in the Mission that just got awarded two Michelin stars. The price for this place, even after the discount, would be more than what we paid for El Celler; and I'm not even accounting for tax and tip. This place is clearly commanding a premium simply for being the hot new thing; there is no way it can possibly justify such a stratospheric cost, solely based on food quality. In any case, after running those numbers in my head, I decided there was no reason to go, and so I forgot the actual name.

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When: 2012-02-03 Fri 17:32
What: Woo, photos from two-ish weeks ago!
Security: Public
Mood: tired

I have finally finished writing in descriptions on photos from Espai Sucre, the "dessert restaurant" that Elizabeth Falkner told us we needed to try. It was awesome, and I can see why she's into it. We are kind of taking today "off" from running around seeing sights, and just chilling out at our friends' house in a suburb of Guadalajara, the city with too many As.

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When: 2012-01-16 Mon 15:10
What: One of the more puzzling constructions in Spanish...
Security: Public

...at least to my mind, is "hace [tiempo]". (Incidentally, "tiempo" can translate as "time" or "weather". I'm thinking about time here, even though you also can ask "¿Qué tiempo hace?" to ask what the weather is.) You get things like: "¿Cuánto hace que está construyendo esta valla? Hace una semana que él lo construye." Literally, this translates to something like, "How much does it make, that he is building this fence? It makes one week that he builds it." Idiomatically, it's more like, "How long has it been since he started building the fence? It has been one week since he started constructing it."

What gets me is the fact that both verbs involved are in present tense. My understanding is that the nature of the "hace [tiempo]" construction does require that whatever you're asking about continue to be true into the present time; you're attaching an earlier starting date to something that can be thought of in present tense. So, you can say, "Hace tres mil años que el Rey Tutankhamun lleva muerto." It has been three thousand years that King Tut carries* deadness. This conception sorta helps make it work in my head, but I still find the construction strange. Even stranger than subjunctive, and don't get me started on how bizarre I find the use of subjunctive. (In particular, how come I don't use subjunctive with "creer"? When I say, "I think that X", I almost always mean that I believe it, but am not certain of it. If I were certain of it, I would simply state proposition X. So why do we get indicative with "creo que X", but subjunctive with "espero que X", I hope that X.)

If you want to talk about something that isn't true anymore, I'm pretty sure you have to use something else, like "[tiempo] atrás", which you might translate as an amount of time aft; "X está detrás de Y" says that X is located in a place behind Y, whereas the "a" particle in "atrás" gives a sense of movement and directionality, towards the back. To say "I spoke Spanish pretty well fifteen years ago, but I've forgotten a lot," I use, "Hablaba español bastante bien quince años atrás, pero he olvidado mucho." I think this is pretty good idiom, but I'm not entirely sure. I don't suppose anyone out there is a fluent enough speaker to comment on this? (Maybe kragen and paisleychick?)

* "Llevar" can mean "to carry" or "to wear", but it can also be used with adjectives like "muerto", dead, and "casado", married -- although that one almost always gets used in the plural, casados, for obvious reasons. These days some of y'all might even be llevando casadas. Hooray for diversity! :-)

ETA: Rosetta stone gives some examples where they use a preterite verb with "hace [tiempo]", and they appear to mean ago. ("Mis abuelos se casaron en África hace cien años," appears to be "My grandparents married each other in Africa one hundred years ago.") So maybe at least in European Spanish that's the correct form? Blargh. I got taught kind of a mix of European and American Spanishes, because I had teachers who'd learned different ways, over different years of school. And then I forgot most of it, so it's all a bit of a muddle... :-/

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When: 2012-01-10 Tue 23:05
What: El mejor frase de todos en la Piedra Rosetta.
Security: Public
Mood: nostalgic

El gato está en el lavabo.

Complete with adorable picture. Like these. Very cute, if a bit bittersweet.

Yo tenía una gata a quien le gustó mucho estar en el lavabo.

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When: 2011-12-18 Sun 19:23
What: spoiler alert
Security: Public

Spoiler for Next Iron Chef FinaleCollapse )

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When: 2011-12-02 Fri 18:35
What: Orson - Next Iron Chef ep05
Security: Public
Mood: full

Pics are up on Flickr now.

I figure, if you want to read about it, you can read the text there.

I was so stuffed after this one. Really, really good food.

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When: 2011-11-27 Sun 15:08
What: Orson - Next Iron Chef ep04
Security: Public
Mood: busy

Oh look, a new icon!

I don't feel like taking the time to properly edit a table-formatted entry to post the pix from ep04, so I'm just putting them on Flickr. You can see the pix here.

Xta took some shots as well, and may've put some up on her Flickr account.

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When: 2011-11-19 Sat 23:36
What: Orson - Next Iron Chef ep03
Security: Public
Mood: full

Best episode yet. Both the main challenge, and the secret ingredient elimination, had some very tight competition. Elizabeth emerged with a well-deserved victory; the other two folks in the top three had ingredients that were significantly easier to work with. (A cinnamon syrup is not that hard to work into a savory -- you can get that into a variety of European, Moroccan, or even Chinese dishes -- and for the root beer, heck, folks in the South braise or marinate meat in soda-based liquids all the time. If you haven't had Coca-Cola based bbq sauce, you don't know what you're missing.)

For this week's event, Elizabeth got ambitious, and made stuff with almost all the other chefs' ingredients, as well as replicating her own dishes. I believe her phrasing was, "We took the other ingredients and made better things with them." *g*

They're probably going to skip next week (because of Thanksgiving), and then do a double-header the week after. This week was actually less crowded than last, which surprised me. Maybe Falkner fans tend to be people for whom coming after work is convenient. I had a pleasant conversation with a Japanese woman who came here a few years ago to go to architecture school, and I finally got to meet Esther, who runs the main kitchen at Orson. And Elizabeth says she'll see what she can do about getting us a table at Tickets, and I sent her the list of evenings we could potentially go, so yay.

Pictures!Collapse )

So, yeah. That was awesome. And any of you who can should come next time. And if you're not watching the show, it has been, thus far, the best season of NIC that they've aired. (Season Two was pretty good, but I have never forgiven them for making such an egregiously stupid call at the end.) If you like Iron Chef at all, or the concept of competitive cooking, you should check it out. Tomorrow night: cooking mad libs. SRSLY.

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When: 2011-10-26 Wed 13:55
What: another metaphor for coraline
Security: Public
Mood: ?!?!?!

The experience of planning a wedding is, apparently, very much like falling into a black hole. The passage of time slows asymptotically towards a halt, and you get stretched thin by unimaginably powerful tidal forces.

Hair appointment today. Meeting with Elizabeth tomorrow. Rehearsal Friday. Wedding Saturday.

Must remember to take Obama's advice.

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When: 2011-10-25 Tue 11:47
What: Hee.
Security: Public
Mood: loved

Go to this page.

Download the MP3 or launch it in a separate window so you'll have a wide slider to work with.

Jump to 48:40 or so. (Or, hey, if you have an hour, listen to the whole podcast. Subscribe, even!)

Be amused.

Read more...Collapse )

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When: 2011-08-26 Fri 12:31
What: more opera tickets
Security: Public

One person expressed interest in the Magic Flute tickets (Sun Jun 24 at 2pm, preceded by lecture at 1pm) when I first advertised them, but then stopped responding to emails before we could arrange a transaction, so I guess those tickets are still available, at $215 for the pair.

Additionally, I somehow ended up with a single extra ticket to Heart of a Soldier, the brand new opera based on the true story of a 9/11 hero. The ticket is for Sat Sep 24 at 2pm (lecture at 1pm), Dress Circle C2, which is the first seat on the outer side of the first aisle out from the center. I didn't mention it in my earlier post because I was trying to figure out whether I might have bought it for a friend, or because I was thinking that my parents might come into town to see the show on that weekend (in which case I would've swapped my two subscription seats to that day as well), or whether there was just some kind of glitch in the SF Opera purchasing system, or what. After checking around, it remains a mystery. I don't seem to have any threads in my email about getting an extra, and none of the folks on my opera mailing list asked me about it. Anyways, it's available for sale at $107.50.

If you're reading this and you recall asking me to use my discount to get you a ticket, please speak up. :-)

And, as usual, if you have any friends who might be interested, feel free to forward this to them.

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When: 2011-08-05 Fri 15:11
What: Opera tix
Security: Public
Mood: busy

I've just received my subscription package for the upcoming season, and looked through it to decide which ones I really want to go to, and which ones I'd be happy to sell. The tickets immediately available for sale are:

Turandot, Sun 9/25 2pm
Don Giovanni, Sun 10/23 2pm
Carmen, Sun 11/6 2pm
The Magic Flute, Sun 6/24 2pm

For the first time in several years, my seats improved when my subscription renewed (though only by one row). I now have Dress Circle D126 and D128 -- fourth row, on the inner side of the first aisle out from the center. (Seating chart available here.)

The Series M package was $959 per seat plus shipping and handling. (Click on the Full Series "Packages and Prices" link on this page for a PDF with details.) Including S&H, it works out to around $107.50 per ticket (i.e. $215 per pair), so that's what I'm asking. Official face value on the ticket is $135, though I was just poking at the website and it looks like they've taken a cue from the airline industry and started using dynamic pricing based on demand. I found Dress Circle seats for different weekend shows priced as low as $129, and as high as $169. I definitely didn't see any for as little as I'm charging.

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When: 2011-07-22 Fri 17:34
What: OSX Lion iCal is b0rked.
Security: Public
Mood: aggravated

One change I am really disliking in OSX 10.7 is what they've done to iCal. It appears that it's no longer possible to get a view similar to GCal in which you have a small monthly calendar in the sidebar, and an arbitrary number of days displayed in the main body of the app by click-dragging across those days in the monthly calendar.

I frequently want to view 2-5 days at a time, rather than a full week (which causes events to pile up, when you have seven or eight calendars -- I have a couple of my own, Xta's, social group cals, etc) or a single day. I understand why this doesn't work on the iPhone, but in the iPad or desktop versions of this application, viewing a few days at a time is a Good Thing. When I'm trying to plan some kind of weekend socializing, I almost always want to be able to view Fri-Sun; and for thinking through how to schedule some weekday-specific errand around work, I frequently want to show just the weekdays.

Anybody know if I'm wrong about the loss of this feature? :-/

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When: 2011-07-13 Wed 15:49
What: foodpr0n: Astaria, for Xtauroversary VII
Security: Public
Mood: full

Now with more Roman numerals, and only about a hundred days until our wedding. Christa posted some silliness from our dinner conversation. (If you're unable to read it, well, how do you even know me without having gotten on her f-list? It's been seven years!)

nomz!Collapse )

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When: 2011-06-11 Sat 08:57
What: creative ways to empty the fridge
Security: Public
Mood: pleased

I was trying to decide what to make for dinner, last night, and nothing was particularly catching my fancy, when I realized we had some slightly stale herbed breadsticks from some previous takeout, as well as the heels from a loaf of cheese bread we'd gotten from Whole Foods at least two weeks ago. It seemed like a shame to waste them, so I thought, what could I do with stale bread? The traditional way to rescue stale bread is to soak it in a custard and cook it. I suppose I could've gone with something like a savory french toast, and topped it with veggies. But instead, I cubed the bread (roughly 1-2cm), tossed it with some sauteed veggies (with some sweet balsamic and additional herbs and spices) and grated aged asiago, poured over the custard (five eggs thoroughly beaten, with a roughly equal volume of whole milk whisked in) and then baked the whole thing at 350F for 40 minutes. Basically a savory trifle, or a hybrid between a quiche and frittata (using the bread where we'd usually use potato).

It was really quite good -- the bread in the bottom was all soft and custardy, while the cubes that stuck out the top were lightly browned and crunchy.

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When: 2011-05-13 Fri 22:19
What: Still need to get to the DC office.
Security: Public
Mood: cheerful

Finally, six months after this, got around to grabbing lunch with Farhad Manjoo, Slate's tech writer and author of the excellent True Enough (which is in some ways a lengthier meditation on the problem articulated by Harry Frankfurt's On Bullshit). Discussed everything from how automation of increasingly complicated symbolic tasks is changing the employment landscape for highly educated professionals, to politics and the various complex catastrophes our society seems to be setting itself up for, to general personal stuff and kidlets.

I think possibly I was over-caffeinated, and thus even a little more energetic than normal. I'd had my morning coffee, and then also got a quite strong black tea when I got to University Cafe. I was there rather early because I'd already come up to Palo Alto for an earlier appointment, and since I was getting onto their WiFi to do some work, I figured I ought to buy something...

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When: 2011-05-06 Fri 11:30
What: tickets for Rheingold and Walküre on 6/14-15
Security: Public
Mood: busy

The SF Opera Ring Cycle is opening in June, and from a quick check on the ticket purchase system it looks like tickets of the quality I'm selling are almost impossible to get, at this point, and even remotely similar ones are much more expensive than what I'm charging -- I found exactly one remaining Dress Circle seat for one of the performances of Rheingold, literally in the back-stageleft corner, priced at $180. I'm charging the face value at my subscriber price, $135, and I have a few rows forward, on the first aisle out.

More details:
http://sfbay.craigslist.org/pen/tix/2366194538.html

Feel free to share with anyone who might be into opera. I'll consider a friend or friend-of-friend discount if you ask nicely and pay promptly. ;-)

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When: 2011-04-26 Tue 11:46
What: House ad...
Security: Public
Mood: stressed

No inside pics yet, but the lease is signed and we're expecting to get keys within the next couple of days...

http://sfbay.craigslist.org/pen/roo/2347413716.html

Please share with any nifty people who might be looking for mid-peninsula housing.

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When: 2011-04-22 Fri 09:28
What: David Foster Wallace
Security: Public
Mood: sad

It is so deeply, achingly tragic that a man who at times saw the world so clearly, came to find it so unbearable that he felt he had to leave it. He seems to have had compassion for, and understanding of, everyone but himself.

video part 1 and 2Collapse )

I've been looking back at his essays and short stories a bit recently, because of the release of The Pale King, his unfinished novel, patched together by an editor who was close to him in life. It's about IRS tax analysts, and about the way that these people's tolerance for doing work that is, fundamentally, routine and boring, underpins the good, civilized life we all share. At a time when there is such vitriol against the kind of people who do this work -- work that is of the mind, but numbing to the same faculties it demands -- it is strange and sad to remember that somebody in our culture at least tried to point out, eloquently, its necessity and beauty.

And in case it isn't totally obvious, yes, I very much identify with his comments about the experience of doing this kind of work, and about the dangers of letting your most authentic, integrated self become subservient to a purely intellectualized self. And even more-so, the way he generalizes the idea of worship, and of freedom. I so frequently feel like nothing more than the "lord of my tiny, skull-sized kingdom, alone at the center of all creation." Free, but trivially so. "[T]he really important kind of freedom involves attention and awareness and discipline, and being able truly to care about other people, and to sacrifice for them, over and over, in myriad petty little unsexy ways, every day."

Something I aspire to, but so rarely achieve.

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When: 2011-04-17 Sun 22:06
What: weekend summary
Security: Public
Mood: melancholy

+ First ever ride in a Tesla Roadster. Next time I want to drive.

± Deep, and I hope productive, conversation with a friend who's having a rough month or two. I don't like it when people I care about are stressed / sad / upset. But I'm glad if I can, in some way, be helpful.

- Went out with plymouth and returned what was left of Tsuki to the place she came from. So now I'm sad myself.

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When: 2011-04-11 Mon 08:59
What: OK, let's try: Anyone want to split the cost of HBO?
Security: Public

I guess I'm not getting any responses from friends who currently have HBO, so now I'm wondering if I have any friends who are into Game of Thrones and/or True Blood, and would be down with splitting the cost of a subscription, in exchange for getting to come watch the HD recordings at our place. I'm not really willing to pay $10/mo for it, but $5 would be OK.

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When: 2011-04-10 Sun 20:23
What: Anybody have HBO?
Security: Public

I really want to see the Game of Thrones series that's starting on Sun 4/17. Also, we'll be getting the DVDs of True Blood S3 soon, and then S4 will start on HBO not too long after we're done with it. I don't really want to pay $10/mo, but would chip in a few bucks for access to somebody else's HBO, especially if you can get the HD recordings. :-)

Thought of this now because there was an ad for GoT over 101 on the way to Xta's bday dinner.

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When: 2011-03-18 Fri 13:04
What: Well this is disappointing.
Security: Public
Mood: annoyed

SodaStream profits from the Israeli occupation of the West Bank.

I've just written them a letter suggesting that perhaps they should stop. I don't feel like I can recommend the product to friends while they're doing this, even though it is well-designed, saves money, and reduces the economic and environmental waste associated with shipping excessive amounts of water and packaging around in trucks.

WhoProfits is run by Israeli Jews who oppose current policies, many of which are actually illegal even under Israeli law. (Evidently some noticable percentage of the stone and gravel used in construction in Israel is coming from quarries in the West Bank. Imagine if Canadians were setting up quarries across the border into Minnesota, without permission or payment, and simply stealing our country's natural resources. We'd be pretty mad, right? Israeli law is pretty unambiguous that this is not OK -- but the law is poorly enforced. After all, it's not like bits of gravel have return addresses on them.) Everyone agrees that Israel has a right to defend itself from terrorism, but there has to be a better way. And much of what's going on inside the West Bank, now, is straight-out exploitation, with little security value. Certainly the settlement movement is; if Israelis want to avoid security threats, why in G*d's name would they move onto Palestinian land, which is both provocative (not that violence is justified in response to that, but anger sure as hell is) and puts them in harm's way, unless the state is willing to spend a gajillion dollars on protecting them?

One might say, at least they're providing jobs -- but of course the pay is extremely low, because the Palestinians are desperate, and due to the extensive network of internal walls and checkpoints, they're completely unable to conduct commerce for themselves. (A Palestinian businessman who wants to travel with goods over the 30-35 miles from the north to the south end of the West Bank will have to pass through four or five checkpoints along the way. At each one, he will have to unload his truck so the goods can be inspected, carry them across the checkpoint, and load them into an entirely different vehicle. As you can imagine, perishables do not survive such a journey, and even with durables, the added cost is prohibitive -- especially when a competing Israeli firm can ship goods along walled-off roadways, avoiding the checkpoint hassles.)

This is no more ethical than when an American firm hires undocumented immigrants, paying them below minimum wage, and tells them they'll be fired (or worse, reported to La Migra) if they don't work long hours with no overtime or if they complain about unsafe working conditions. Sure, they're giving money to somebody who needs it -- but they're also taking unfair advantage of desperation, and undermining wages for all workers.

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When: 2011-03-18 Fri 11:40
What:
Security: Public

20021229-razz

Tsuki Onineko
Born in the Palo Alto Baylands Colony circa September 20, 2002
Singer of Songs, Slayer of Bugs, Opener of Doors, Queen of All She Surveyed
Left the SkyDen to join StarClan on March 18, 2011

She was a Good Kitty.

Tsuki and Auros

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When: 2011-02-26 Sat 13:16
What: tix to SF Opera Rheingold and Walkure
Security: Public

I have one extra ticket to each of the first two segments of the Ring Cycle, on Tue and Wed, June 14 and 15. (My mother is coming into town to see the entire cycle, so I initially needed two seats, one for me, and one for her. My fiancée wants to come see the second half, but wasn't interested in seeing the first half again; we saw those two when they were first produced, over the last couple of years. Hence, half of her cycle tix are available.) The seat is J128, on the inner side of the first aisle out from the center, towards the back of Dress Circle. The view is excellent -- there really are no bad views from Dress Circle, excepting maybe the very outermost seats on the edge.

You could in theory grab tix to the single non-cycle performances of Siegfried and Gotterdammerung (still available through the SF Opera website, or by calling the box office), and have yourself a "discount cycle". You'd end up seeing them out of order (since the singles of Siegfriend and Gotterdammerung are showing before the cycles start), but you'd save almost a thousand dollars relative to what you would've paid for a cycle -- there was a "mandatory donation" that was required in order to buy cycle tickets.

I am selling these two tickets at face value, $135, the same as the price to purchase similar tickets for the single shows. I'll consider a slightly discounted price, if that's the only offer I get, and the offer is payable promptly in cash.

Feel free to pass on this info to anywhere you think somebody might be interested.

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When: 2011-02-26 Sat 11:04
What: Skype: extortionists, or just morons?
Security: Public
Mood: aggravated

I recently got a notification from Skype that I had a voicemail waiting for me. "That's funny," I thought, "I don't subscribe to their vmail service, or any of their other pay services." Apparently if somebody else who's silly enough to pay for stuff from them calls you when you're logged out or not at your desk, it will record a vmail, and then send you a notice explaining, euphemistically, that they are holding your vmail hostage until you pay them. I sent them a support request asking how to disable this.

We understand your concern regarding the voicemail services that you are receiving although you do not have a voicemail subscription. We know this can be inconvenient specially that your contacts may expect that their message has been relayed. We will be glad to assist you with this.

Unfortunately, it is not yet possible to block the voicemails that were being sent to you by your contacts who have a voicemail subscription. We appreciate your feedback on this and we will definitely look in to this.

However, for now, your only option is to inform your contacts not to leave a voicemail since you will not be able to hear them or you may subscribe to a voicemail.

In other words: We know you don't want this voicemail service, and we know it's inconvenient for you, but tough cookies, if you don't like it, pay us money.

This severely tempts me to cancel my Skype account. Except I kinda need it right now to communicate with my boss, who is off in Thailand and Singapore for a few weeks. (I'd consider switching to an alternate VoIP service, but I don't want to make him install something else. When he gets back, maybe I'll see if I can get him set up with TeamSpeak, which was developed for the gaming community, so you can talk to team-mates in online games without being in the same room. It doesn't have all of Skype's features, but it actually does voice much better.) I do not want to have a situation where somebody can try to call me, leave a voicemail, and then think they have successfully communicated something to me. I will never hear that voicemail! I want them to be prompted to try something else -- call my cell, send an email or text, whatever.

They're certainly entitled to try to make money off their service. If providing all computer-to-computer communication for free isn't working for them, they should just start charging a small subscription fee or software registration fee, or find a way to charge for international connections. This voicemail extortion racket is not OK. It means that the service impairs my communications with colleagues, rather than enhancing it.

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When: 2011-01-31 Mon 00:37
What: foodpr0n: Bushi-Tei
Security: Public
Mood: full

Japanese-French-California fusion. Sacre bleu! And also gochiso-sama deshita.

My parents took us out for dinner. I contributed a $40 coupon I'd acquired from one of the numerous daily-deal sites. How do I love thee, YipIt? Let me count the dollars saved...

cut for lengthCollapse )

Was amused by the Japanese Toto toilet in the bathroom. Left completely stuffed. I think unfortunately I didn't get all the flavors I could've out of some of the things we had, because I was just starting to feel the effects of the bug I came down with today. Sigh. Anyways, we'll have to go back some time, though there are so many good places around SF, it's hard to make return trips to any but our absolute favorites, or ones that are particularly convenient to other places we want to be...

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