Welcome to the Aurosphere
50 most recent entries

When: 2018-10-27 Sat 10:40
What: November 6, 2018 General Election
Security: Public
Mood: participatory

Sources consulted include Party endorsements and newspaper endorsements:

I also generally check out what Pete has to say.

long!Collapse )

post a comment

When: 2018-05-28 Mon 01:36
What: June 5, 2018 Primary Election
Security: Public
Mood: accomplished

Sources consulted include Party endorsements and newspaper endorsements:

Also the candidate statements in the voter guide, and candidate websites, and I used VotersEdge a bit to look at fundraising info.

Full statement of ballot choices.Collapse )

post a comment

When: 2017-06-03 Sat 15:23
What: Onineko Hoshi, ~9/20/2002 - 6/3/2017
Security: Public
Mood: sad


A role model for procrastinators everywhere, Hoshi was sloth incarnate. She wanted nothing more than to eat, sleep, occasionally get petted and groomed, and watch the day roll by from a comfortable pillow. It's possible she was just as clever as her mastermind sister, but simply couldn't be bothered to get into mischief -- all that effort was beneath her dignity.

Pretty Hoshi

She had been chronically ill with some mild bowel inflammation and diabetic symptoms, over the last two years, but that seemed to be under control with a daily oral steroid. She died very suddenly today -- keeled over on her side and lay there panting, was rushed to the nearest emergency vet, managed to get up for a bit and act normal briefly, but then relapsed and died. The vet thought it was most likely a stroke.

Hoshi lolls in the well of legs while Tsuki looks on

I will miss my sessile pudge-a-puss. She was a most excellent bedwarmer.

Sleepy Hoshi

4 comments | post a comment

When: 2016-10-16 Sun 22:27
What: Nov 8, 2016 General Election Ballot
Security: Public
Mood: patriotic

President: Hillary Clinton. For all the obvious reasons.

Senator: Kamala Harris. Running against another Dem, Loretta Sanchez. Kamala is more progressive, less predictable, and more charismatic. I can picture her ending up as the equivalent of Nancy Pelosi in the Senate, leading a Democratic majority a decade from now.

U.S. House of Representatives: Jackie Speier. Running against a Republican.

State Senate: Jerry Hill. Running against a Republican.

State Assembly: Kevin Mullin. Running against a Republican.

Judge of the Superior Court, Office Number 7: Sean Dabel. Running unopposed.

Board Members, Sequoia Healthcare District. Kane and Griffin. The other two candidates are running to abolish the healthcare district. They no longer run Sequoia Hospital, having passed that off to the Dignity Health, formerly Catholic Healthcare West. But having read about what the board is working on, I don't believe it should be abolished.

Commissioners, San Mateo County Harbor District, 4-Year Terms: Kiraly, Brennan, Mooney. There are four candidates running, and you can vote for three. The incumbents are Kiraly, Brennan, and Mattusch, and although the SM Daily Journal ended up endorsing them, and honestly none of them seem objectionable, Mattusch seems to have the least to say about any kind of actual goals. Mooney is proposing a couple of significant ideas that seem worth pursuing: First, exploring adding a ferry stop at Werder Pier, which could reduce the traffic nightmare on Hillsdale entering Foster City; instead of heading up 101, FC residents could take a ferry. Some folks that currently commute west across the bridge could ride across and then take a bus to CalTrain or a SamTrans connection at Hillsdale station. It's already right on the path of planned service between SF and RWC, and depending on the seismic situation, you might be able to stick a two or three story parking structure in the vacant lot between Bridgeview Park and the businesses on Beach Park. And second, cutting much of the lower parking lot at Pillar Point Harbor to turn that area into more of a pedestrian oriented public square. I've been to that harbor plenty of times (there's a well-known Ingress Portal on the breakwater), and there's never been a shortage of parking in the upper lots, plus there's room to expand the upper lot back toward Cabrillo Hwy to make up for what's taken out of the lower area. Using more of the actual waterfront for tourism and commerce seems like a good idea. I suspect given the incumbency and the endorsements, Mooney won't win, anyways, but I hope the commissioners will consider what he had to say.

Commissioner, San Mateo County Harbor District, 2-Year Term: Larenas. He seems to have more expertise on water issues, and his opponent Rogers isn't saying anything that seems particularly compelling.

For reference, here are various sources we read over in the course of evaluating the propositions: LA Times, SJ Mercury News, SF Chronicle, SF Bay Guardian, and Pete Stahl's writeup (including following various source links).

Prop 51, School Construction Bonds: NO, although we were torn on this. Usually school bonds would be an easy yes. I'll just excerpt the Merc here:

This started in 1998, when voters approved the first of four statewide bond measures totaling $40 billion for K-12 through community college construction. Those bonds won’t be paid off until 2044. This year, they’ll cost the state $2.7 billion in principal and interest, 2 percent of the general fund.

The rules say that as long as the state has bond money available, local districts can’t require developers to pay more than half the cost of additional classrooms their new homes require. Now that the bond money has all been spent, developers want voters to replenish the kitty with Prop. 51 and keep the old rules in place until 2020. This would save them money but it would add $500 million annually to state debt payments.

Prop. 51 also would continue doling out school bond money primarily on a first-come, first-served basis rather than helping the neediest districts.

The legislature needs to stand up to developers, and send a new bond measure to the ballot ASAP that strips out the ability for housing developers to externalize costs of their projects -- it's not like new housing will become unprofitable under those circumstances, especially in wealthier neighborhoods -- and it needs to institute reforms to ensure that the bond program funds the districts that need the help, rather than having the grant program gamed by wealthier districts that can hire consultants to help them apply for the grants. Even if the legislature needs to call a special election next spring (maybe make it all mail-in ballots?) for a better program, then fine, we can spend a few million to get $9B in bonds spent more appropriately.

Pete Stahl, and both SF papers, came down saying YES, and I found it difficult to decide, but I'm going to hope that the Dems in the legislature, and Governor Brown, will get a new bond measure out fast.

Prop 52, Extend Medi-Cal Hospital Fee: YES. Pete calls the tax in Prop 52 an "accounting gimmick", which seems inappropriate. Prop 52 taxes more expensive / exclusive private hospitals, and routes the money right back into hospitals, but not necessarily the same ones that pay the tax. It's a redistributive scheme that moves money toward Californians who are poor enough to qualify for Medi-Cal. Maybe it's not the most efficient way to fund the program, but it's not ridiculous, and not a gimmick. (There's a gimmicky part where the structure of the tax helps draw in extra dollars of subsidy from the federal Medicaid program, but that doesn't look to me like it's the only function, and even if you call it a gimmick, it seems to be within the rules that Congress has set.) Pete also suggests that as a form of ballot-box budgeting, the Prop 52 rule would constrain where the state could make cuts in the budget, in a crisis. But the options on the table are either to continue the private hospital tax (and continue spending the money on MediCal), or to let the tax expire, in which case that money will not be available for more flexible spending anyways. The papers are unanimous in endorsing the former option. I agree.

Prop 53, Public Vote on Revenue Bonds: NO. This is an effort by an anti-government crank to make it harder to fund infrastructure projects (particularly aimed at the high-speed rail project).

Prop 54, Legislative Transparency: YES. Requires bill texts to be available online for three days before final vote. (Also requires print-outs, which is unfortunate.) The rule can be suspended if the Governor declares a state of emergency and two thirds of the legislature agrees that an issue requires speedy resolution. Although this is another proposition funded by a guy with a bit of reputation as an anti-government crank, it also has the stamp of approval of Common Cause, the NAACP, and the League of Women Voters.

Prop 55, Extend Tax on High Income: YES. Prop 30 (temporarily) created three new tax brackets at very high incomes. You can see the details here. The highest bracket added an additional 3% on income over $1M, bumping the rate from 10.3% to 13.3%. Opponents of the measure in 2012 predicted it would cause wealthy people to flee the state. In case you haven't noticed, that has not happened. Making the more-progressive tax structure permanent is entirely reasonable.

Prop 56, Tobacco Tax: YES. Currently CA's tobacco tax ($0.87 per pack) is lower than those in OR ($1.32), NV ($1.80), or AZ ($2.00). After this hike, it will be higher, at $2.87, but still in a comparable ballpark, and still much lower than states like NY ($4.35) that have serious problems with people bringing in cigs from a nearby lower-tax market. Plus we don't have anything like the situation where NYC is directly adjacent to New Jersey; all of our big metro areas are a LONG drive from neighboring jurisdictions, and we already have customs inspectors on our border because of the ag industry.

Prop 57, Parole and Juvenile Justice Reform: YES. Takes the decision on whether to prosecute juveniles in the juvie system or as adults out of the hands of prosecutors; and allows non-violent felons to start applying for parole on the basis of the time determined under their actual conviction, without observing the "enhancements" that were added on during the tuffoncrime! era. (If they don't get paroled, their full term would include the enhancements.)

Prop 58, Allow Bilingual Education: YES. Back in 1998, during the same era that brought us the anti-immigrant prop 187, CA voters decided to make it much harder to give students a full bilingual education experience, instead pushing them into English immersion (in parallel with taking English classes). These days, plenty of white parents like the idea of sending their kids to bilingual schools -- Mandarin and English, Spanish and English, etc -- where they can work in a mix of English and something else, all day, in every class. Plenty of research suggests this is good for everyone, especially immigrant students who need to keep learning math, civics, etc, while also picking up English. Prop 58 pushes more control and flexibility to local school districts to implement these types of programs where they see fit.

Prop 59, Non-Binding Resolution to Condemn Citizens United: ABSTAIN. This measure exhorts the legislature to do something about Citizens United and corporate personhood more generally. I don't feel like voting against it, because I basically agree with the intention behind it, but I also refuse to vote for it, because it's bullshit. It has no effect whatsoever, and shouldn't be on the ballot. The folks who put it on the ballot are wasting their time, and ours.

Prop 60, Condoms in Porn: NO. It looks like this measure would allow random citizens to use nuisance lawsuits alleging lack of condoms in porn videos to get access to the identity of performers. If some random couple -- monogamous, fluid bonded partners -- made some amateur porn, and then that was released (possibly without consent) onto a commercial "tube site", and some acquaintance found it, the acquaintance could use the threat of a $70k fine under the condom law to harass, intimidate, or blackmail the couple. It's just generally a big pile of awful.

Prop 61, Limit Prescription Drug Prices Paid by State: NO. This law would say that state agencies may not offer a higher price for a drug than is paid by the federal Department of Veterans Affairs. It doesn't do anything to get CA collaborating with the VA on drug bargaining (and it's not obvious that's a sensible pool -- the VA serves a very different population than that served by CA's public health programs). The best you can say for it is that it somewhat resembles the famous strategy for winning the driving game "chicken" -- unbolt your steering wheel and very visibly toss it out the window. Since pharmacorps would know that CA agencies can't pay more than the VA price, they'd have to consider the CA market in bargaining with the VA, and if they want to sell into the CA market at all they'd just have to accept that price. The thing is, it's not clear to me that the size of the CA health program market is so huge that companies would be afraid to just walk away. Maybe if this were a national thing, with many or all states agreeing to join with the VA to form, effectively, a federal bargaining pool of the kind we OUGHT to have under Medicare Part D (but don't because the Bushies wanted to lavish goodies on their pharma lobbyist buddies). But this law would likely mean a bunch of drugs -- particularly those that are important to populations dis-similar from the VA (read: children, women) -- would simply vanish from CA public clinics and hospitals.

Prop 62, Repeal Death Penalty: YES. Do I really have to discuss this in depth? In a universe where it were possible to determine with true certainty who was responsible for a spectacularly heinous crime, I might be willing to consider a death penalty. We do not live in that universe.

Prop 66, Reduce Barriers to Capital Punishment: NO. Covered out of order because it obviously related to 62. This seems to be an effort of death penalty proponents to say, "Hey, if you object to the death penalty because it costs so much to prosecute capital cases, let's streamline that process." For those of us who object on the grounds that the death penalty is imposed in a discriminatory fashion and sweeps up innocent people, "let's have the state murder people more efficiently!" sounds like a terrible idea.

Prop 63, Gun and Ammunition Sales: YES. Makes limitations on gun rights stick -- for those not allowed to buy new guns due to a domestic violence issue, a felony conviction, a mental health issue, etc, they now would also need to turn licensed firearms over to a trustee (which could simply be a non-banned friend) until the limitation expires. We also get a measure to crack down on straw purchasers. Currently, a straw purchaser will claim that the gun must have been lost or stolen; Prop 63 says that you have a legal obligation to report a missing gun, five days after you reasonably should have noticed its absence. I'm a little leery of the vagueness of this language, but I have trouble imagining prosecutors using it against, say, somebody who keeps their gun in a safe for months at a time, only occasionally taking it out to go to a shooting range, who had their gun stolen and didn't notice for a month. The law is clearly aimed at the straw purchase problem. A prosecutor who went after somebody who was in a gray area on whether they reasonably should've noticed a missing firearm would get crucified by the NRA, and liberal civil rights folks would have no interest in defending them. (The proposition also includes a provision to allow the legislature to make tweaks consistent with the intent of the law using a 55% majority, so the legislature could choose to clarify this measure later.)

Prop 64, Marijuana Legalization: YES. Colorado and Washington both seem to be doing OK.

Prop 65 and Prop 67, Grocery Bags: NO on 65, YES on 67. This pair of propositions is confusing.

The legislature passed a ban on plastic grocery bags. The plastic bag industry concocted a scheme to try to kill the ban. Prop 67 puts the legislature's ban up as a referendum -- vote YES to affirm the ban, NO to repeal it. But here's the diabolical part: Prop 65 deals with paper bag surcharges charged in stores. It pulls revenue from those charges and routes the money to environmental programs. I probably like what the money would be spent on, but (a) it's a fairly trivial amount of money, (b) I'm OK with the stores simply passing their cost to buy the paper bags on to the consumer, and (c) most importantly, Prop 65 and 67 are explicitly written to be mutually exclusive. So if both pass, but 65 gets more votes, it will spike 67 and kill the plastic bag ban. And since stores would then be able to charge for plastic bags (and keep the money), but would not be able to keep money they charge for paper bags, they'd actually be incentivized to use more plastic bags.

San Mateo County Measure K, Extend Existing Half-Cent Sales Tax: YES. This tax is currently scheduled to expire in 2023. "What's the rush?" you might ask. The county wants to lock it in through 2043, so that they can issue 30 year bonds with clear backing from that revenue, which will help ensure that we get a better risk rating on the bonds and pay less interest for them. And if we really decide we don't need the money, five or eight years from now, we can always repeal the tax then. Or maybe we find something other than sales taxes, and shift the revenue structure. But for the near term, taking advantage of the rate environment, and getting some new 30-year bonds out ASAP to fund infrastructure repair and expansion, is a very good idea.

City of San Mateo Measure L, Fire Service Consolidation: YES. Removes a mandate in the City Charter that prevents the city from consolidating management of fire services with neighboring cities. San Mateo, Foster City, and Belmont would like to collaborate on fire service. This sounds like a totally reasonable thing to do. It just happens to be illegal, so we're fixing that. Nobody even bothered to file arguments against this measure.

City of San Mateo Measure Q, Rent Control: NO. I find the No on Q campaign kind of icky and borderline dishonest, and I think the folks who submitted Measure Q are well-intentioned, but fundamentally I don't believe "rent control" will make rents in San Mateo more affordable. It will just set up a hostile relationship where landlords will see long-term tenancy as a risk to their income, and will have a strong incentive to defer any maintenance or improvements until tenants paying market-lagging rates move out. The only solution to the Bay Area housing crisis is to build more housing. Introducing rent control will make building rental units a less attractive investment, aggravating existing problems and creating new ones. (And yes, I'm aware this is somewhat in tension with my take on Prop 51. I value multiple things, and sometimes those things are in conflict with each other. Asking developers to pay for the actual costs their development will impose on the city and county is reasonable; asking them to shoulder hard-to-quantify long-term risks to rental income from a rent-control process that will be run by a board that appears to be dubiously accountable seems much less-so.)

10 comments | post a comment

When: 2016-05-19 Thu 22:29
What: ballot!
Security: Public
Mood: busy

President: Hillary. Turns out Martin isn't even on the ballot for CA, he dropped out before it was finalized; I briefly considered writing in Elizabeth Warren, ended up just going with Hillary.

Central Committee:
Fel Amistad
Alexis Lewis
Nancy Yarbrough
Clifford Robbins
Shikha B. Hamilton

One of the incumbents didn't bother to put anything in with VoterEdge, and can't be found by googling. The rest of the incumbents seem fine (have good endorsements, reasonable statements, etc). Fel Amistad seems like the best of the three new challengers (currently serving in a position appointed by the governor, strong resumé, etc).

Senate: Kamala

House: Jackie

State Senate: Jerry

Assembly: Kevin

Prop 50: Yes. This doesn't seem controversial.

AA: Yes. I like the Bay.

3 comments | post a comment

When: 2015-12-26 Sat 14:22
What: Pear Upside Down Coffee Cake
Security: Public
Mood: hungry

Adapted from a recipe Elizabeth Falkner created for Harry & David.

recipeCollapse )

post a comment

When: 2015-05-20 Wed 13:00
What: anyone want to volunteer to take care of feral cats?
Security: Public

[personal profile] plymouth and I volunteer with a group called The Purrfect Catch, which does fostering and adoption for cats that are OK around people, and trap / fix / manage-in-place for ferals. We go and visit one of our local colonies once a week to feed them and keep an eye out for any developing health issues, or new cats that may need to be fixed / vaccinated / etc.

One of the volunteers who handled two stations along the SF Bay Trail, in South San Francisco and San Bruno, recently dropped out due to health issues, so the management of the group is looking for one or more volunteers who live in that area who could handle visiting a feeding and shelter station on any of Monday, Wednesday, or Friday. Any time during the day is fine, though before full dark is preferable. (The person who's dropped out was retired, and had been able to handle all three.)

If interested, I can put you in touch with the head of the group.

post a comment

When: 2015-02-07 Sat 16:51
What: A not particularly scientific examination of a question of grammar.
Security: Public

Please answer the poll before reading comments. (I'm going to post my own thoughts as a comment.)

Poll #1998365 A not particularly scientific examination of a question of grammar.

Suppose you have a pet, and you're taking your pet in to visit the veterinarian. Your pet is sick, and you look a little worried. One of the nurse / technicians says to you: "Don't worry. His health and well-being are priceless with us." Focus on the preposition "with". This usage sounds...

...completely normal. Is it not?
...a little folksy, or maybe like a marketing line, but not actually wrong. Within the range of dialects you're familiar with.
...completely wrong. Invalid in any dialect of English you've been exposed to.
...something else. Your answer is not close enough to the above three options. Please explain in comments.

16 comments | post a comment

When: 2015-01-31 Sat 12:28
What: research recruitment: Queer women's experience with pregnancy and parenting.
Security: Public
Mood: nerdy

This was passed on to me by a friend who knows the researcher:




The Research Group on Disparities in Health within the Department of Health and Behavior Studies at Teachers College, Columbia University, in New York, NY is studying the experiences of lesbian, bisexual, or queer-identified women who have sought the goals of childbirth and/or co-parenting.

  • You are being asked to fill out a confidential survey
  • Participation in this survey is limited to the first 200 participants
  • Participation in the study takes about 35-45 minutes
  • After 200 individuals complete the survey, the computer program will close the survey and send out bar–coded gift certificates ($300, $200 or $100) for use at www.Amazon.com to three randomly chosen e-mail accounts without in any way linking your identity to the survey results
  • Please go to the link below (www.surveymonkey.com/r/LGBTQ-PregnancyAndCo-ParentingStudy) to view the informed consent, learn about your rights as a participant and proceed to the survey.
  • We invite you to e-mail, text, and tweet others you know, asking them to:
    Go to www.surveymonkey.com/r/LGBTQ-PregnancyAndCo-ParentingStudy and take the survey for a chance to win a $300, $200, or $100 prize.


NOTE: Participants have a 3 in 200 chance of winning a $300, $200, or $100 bar-coded gift certificate for use on www.Amazon.com.

AMY R. LISS, M.S., Doctoral Candidate, Department of Health and Behavior Studies, Box 114, 525 W. 120th Street, New York, NY 10027; arl2140@tc.columbia.edu

BARBARA C. WALLACE, Ph.D., Director, Research Group on Disparities in Health, Professor of Health Education, Clinical Psychologist, Department of Health and Behavior Studies, Teachers College, Columbia University, Box 114, 525 W. 120th Street, New York, NY 10027; Bcw3@columbia.edu

Study Contact Number: 267-269-7411

post a comment

When: 2015-01-07 Wed 12:19
What: PSA for fellow fans of Roman Mars
Security: Public
Mood: pleased

I took the 99% Invisible Blog's RSS feed and syndicated it on LiveJournal: http://99pi-feed.livejournal.com/

post a comment

When: 2014-10-30 Thu 22:48
What: Propositions initial skim...
Security: Public
Mood: busy

Thus far, I haven't found any reason to disagree with Pete Stahl, which means voting YES on the whole set of propositions this year, which is, I think, the first time that's happened.

Will append a comment later if further research changes my mind.

ETA: Complete ballot.

The Sequoia Health District race is interesting. Three of the five candidates -- one incumbent and two challengers -- want to dissolve the district. And their suggestion that it should merge with the Peninsula Health District is not crazy! But I don't think we should be shutting it down immediately; the county can plan a vote on the issue of a merger without nuking the administrative architecture that's in place. And the "scandals" of the district having funded (a) a clinic that is technically just over the border outside its funding territory (but has over 750 district residents registered as active patients), and (b) a nursing education program that has had half of its graduates go on to work outside the district (so, we should keep all of them chained to stations here? keeping half here seems like success to me), both seem completely non-scandalous.

1 comment | post a comment

When: 2014-08-21 Thu 16:07
What: Shameless Commerce Department
Security: Public
Mood: surprised

If you're considering noise cancelling headphones for commuting on our ridiculously loud trains around here, I recommend the QuietPoint ATH-ANC70, from Audio-Technica.

I bought a used pair of these portable (battery powered) noise-cancelling headphones recently, to use on the BART, and I really liked them. They deliver performance comparable to the best Bose or Sony stuff, at a significantly lower price point (admittedly still not cheap, but, well, $200 is significantly less than the $300-350 I was seeing for the comparable Sony and Bose models; and I got the used pair for somewhat less than that). Unfortunately, after a couple months of frequent use, something in the electronics died, and they stopped working. I was really bummed because they were not under warranty (and even if they were, I would've needed the original receipt from the guy I got them from). But I got in touch with tech support, and shipped the 'phones in to their service center.

They sent me back a brand new pair, along with a note saying that they concluded there was a manufacturing flaw in the ones I sent in, and they were replacing them free of charge, even though they had survived past the warranty period. They even paid the return shipping.

I figure when a company exceeds my expectations by that much, they deserve some recognition.

post a comment

When: 2014-05-17 Sat 15:37
What: opera tickets: Madame Butterfly and La Traviata
Security: Public
Mood: busy

Madame Butterfly Sunday 6/15/2014 2pm (CraigsList ad)

La Traviata Sunday 6/29/2014 2pm (CraigsList ad)

[ETA: Both sold.]

The seats are H20 and H22 in Orchestra Ring, on the outer aisle. The viewing angle is a bit steep, but the seats are far enough back not to be too bad on that count, while still being significantly closer than my old Dress Circle seats, and there's more legroom at a slightly lower price.

If you're interested in one of these, but the date doesn't work for you, I can arrange to exchange to a different date. Also, if you'd like to add more tickets, I can purchase additional individual tickets at the subscriber price, which is a 20-40% discount relative to what's listed on the website, depending on the specific date and seats you're looking at.

Each pair of tickets is $200 even. (Face value for each ticket is $98, or $196 for a pair, but there was also some tax and S&H.)

post a comment

When: 2014-05-07 Wed 14:58
What: I made a dreamwidth account.
Security: Public
Mood: accomplished

And hopefully it should be fully cross-posted (entries and comments) with LJ? I guess we'll see.

I still want to get some kind of offline backup tool so I can keep a local copy of my journal.

BTW, I'd had Groups for both access and reading purposes on LJ. Apparently those are two separate data structures on DW, and the Import tool copied groups over as Access filters. Anybody know a way to copy an existing access filter to be a reading filter?

post a comment

When: 2014-04-26 Sat 12:33
What: Journal backup?
Security: Public

I have been using ljmigrate to periodically backup my journal, for years. But it seems like at some point, LJ changed something about how you access comments, such that the tool stopped finding them. (And it's long since been abandoned by its creator.) I didn't realize until today, because it's not throwing errors, but the last entry in the archive that has comments on it is from 8/14/12. The next time I backed up, none of the new entries got their comments attached. :-/

Anybody know a tool for this that's up-to-date? Or know enough about LJ's architecture to easily write a patch for ljmigrate.py?

2 comments | post a comment

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.

post a comment

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.

post a comment

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...

post a comment

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 )

post a comment

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.

2 comments | post a comment

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 ~2.5 minutes, flip over, stick back in for another ~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.

3 comments | post a comment

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.

2 comments | post a comment

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

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.)

post a comment

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.

post a comment

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.

1 comment | post a comment

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.

4 comments | post a comment

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 )

post a comment

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

longCollapse )

12 comments | post a comment

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.

post a comment

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!"

post a comment

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.

post a comment

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. :-)

2 comments | post a comment

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.

5 comments | post a comment

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


1 comment | post a comment

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?

3 comments | post a comment

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.

1 comment | post a comment

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.

4 comments | post a comment

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.

4 comments | post a comment

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.

1 comment | post a comment

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.

post a comment

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... :-/

8 comments | post a comment

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.

2 comments | post a comment

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

Spoiler for Next Iron Chef FinaleCollapse )

8 comments | post a comment

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.

1 comment | post a comment

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.

2 comments | post a comment

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.

7 comments | post a comment

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.

3 comments | post a comment

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 )

post a comment

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.

post a comment

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.

post a comment

my journal