Archive for December, 2008

Benicia Reflections

Wednesday, December 24th, 2008

My buddy Jay has been up here since last Friday, and we’ve been having too much fun painting California red for me to waste too much time posting to my blog; that’ll come later, but if anybody was wondering why I loves mah Trixie, it’s because I see this before I step behind the wheel on the way back from our second day in Napa valley:

Benicia Reflections

Casca

Tuesday, December 23rd, 2008

Happie’s puppy Casca came over. It was basically already dark, so not many pictures came out good, but a couple came out interesting:

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yada yada yada

Saturday, December 20th, 2008

Haven’t been writing much lately. Guess I’ve just haven’t been seized with the pathos.

Hey, did I already mention that magazine Eat & Drink Austin that’s been popping up free at area restaurants? I like it. Pretty pictures, good reviews that square up with my experiences at the places they cover (Manny Hattan’s and a short review of the new Hyde Park Bar & Grill location on West Gate this month).

So, I figure I’ve got a fair chance of trusting them when they write about how I should eat at Joe’s Bar and Grill (it was started by one of the co-owners of Louie’s 106, so I don’t see how it could go far wrong in any case). I’m going to order two mini-burgers and a side of macaroni and cheese tomorrow.

They also made the Buenos Aires Cafe on South 1st sound like a really, really good idea. I’m so down.

I also read in this issue, although more in the vein of an announcement than a review, about this new Italian place, Cibo, that opened next to Little City near 10th and Congress. I went to eat there today, and had the Ricotta gnocchi, bathed in basil and olive oil with halved grape tomatoes and…some kind of cheese sprinkled on top. The cheese on top was hard to pick out because it was overpowered by…pretty much everything else. It added a little bit of creamy sharpness. It was good stuff, even if the portions were a little small and the price a little…pricy. It came with a damned good small ciabatta.

They had paninis for $8-10, pasta dishes for $10-$20, tending more toward $20 (the gnocchi were $10.50), and a section called “big plates” that were $40-$50. I didn’t even much look at those. For that kind of money I can think of a couple spaces I’d rather hang out in. I didn’t have my shirt tucked in, and neither did my waiter, but his shirt was a lot nicer than mine. I liked their glasses and plates and silverware; overall, the presentation of the food was nice, too.

A good lunch, but a little too rich for my blood on a very regular basis. They had a prixe fix menu in some kind of communal eating thing on the balcony over the kitchen that filled half the two-story tall space, but I didn’t check it out.

Also, the date’s on the menu, so they must print new ones every day, but I don’t know how much it changes.

I write about restaurants too much.

I kept trying not to think this was funny, but I kept failing. I won’t be buying a bodygroom any time soon, though. I shave my balls with a 3″ lock-back, like any real man would.

The Guild

Monday, December 15th, 2008

I don’t do MMORPGs since I wasted a few thousand hours of my life on Star Wars: Galaxies, and I certainly don’t normally waste my time watching web minisodes, but I must admit that if you’ve ever played an online RPG, The Guild is likely to strike a hilarious chord with you. If you haven’t, it might anyway.

Dragonriders of Pern

Sunday, December 14th, 2008

A friend of mine asked me what I thought of the Pern series, and since everything I think is pure gold, I figured I should enlighten ya’ll at the same time:

The Pern books, specifically the Harper Hall of Pern series, were among the very first sci-fi books I ever read. I got them in a single volume when I joined The Science Fiction Book Club; at the same time I also got the Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy trilogy.

That’s a true story.

What I really liked about the Pern series was that they were easy reading, beach reading, and they created an imaginitive world full of dragons and fire lizards and man-killing worms ultimately descended from our own. The characters were involving and the stories interesting.

The Harper Hall series came a little later in the series and was aimed at a somewhat younger audience; the earlier books were a little rougher and earthier. Anne McCaffrey is a bit of a cheese-meister, in the same way that Anne Rice or Casablanca are a little cheesy, but there’s plenty of bread and butter to go with it. It’s formative sci-fi that shaped and continues to shape the genre all the way to today, and I highly recommend pretty much anything she wrote.

Also I forgot to mention that she likes the sex. If you read enough of her short stories, there’s a furry one in there somewhere. I don’t know what it is with sci-fi writers and furry sex.

It must be new account week or something.

Saturday, December 13th, 2008

I finally got a Facebook acocunt. I couldn’t avoid it forever, I suppose. I also got a Twitter, since all the cool kids have one. I’ll see how that works out. If nothing else I should be able to update all my social network statuses at once. Finally, I added a new Flickr Pro account; I’m not linking that here because it’s just an experiment. I think probably the reason my pretty pictures don’t get much attention is because I post too many mundane ones. So, on the new account I”m just going to post the very best of my pictures and see if I get better reaction to them.

Now: It’s a beatiful goddamned day outside, so I’m going to go to the beach in Santa Cruz.

Earthquake! OMG Earthquaaaaaaaaake!

Wednesday, December 10th, 2008

I was laying in bed this morning in the sleepwaking haze I like to spend my mornings in, when the whole house shook, just once. Not really a shaking, just a single shudder, as if somebody had backed a truck enthusiastically into the poles that hold it up in front. The brass light fixture over my bed gave a slight ringing sound. Then, again, 15 minutes later, the same thing. It sounded just before as if a jet plane were flying by to the north. That didn’t strike me as odd until later: we’re fairly directly east of the airport, and planes never fly near us.

So that was it: my first earthquakes, a 3.0 and a 3.4, centered seven and a half miles north of us, next to the Calaveras reservoir, and three miles underground.

One of my co-workers who lives in downtown San Jose didn’t even feel it, but I’m in a good spot for earthquakes: the Calaveras fault, on which the earthquake today occurred, is 2.5 miles to the East, and the Hayward fault, with which it meets just to the south, is a few hundred yards to the west.

The largest recent quake in the bay area, a 5.6 in October of 2007, was actually called the Alum Rock quake after the neighborhood I live in; for bonus points, we’re smack-dab in the middle of the fault zone voted most likely to fuck up your day.

So, there’s that.

Puts a little edge in my day, anyway.

Netflix Streaming Roxorz Your Boxorz

Sunday, December 7th, 2008

After a week of watching Netflix on my XBox 360 with a single bar and truly horrific quality, I finally got around to measuring my throughput and found I was getting about a twentieth of the bandwidth I was paying for. I tried calling Comcast, an exercise in futility that left me fuming, but finally got through their live chat to a technician in India, who fixed the problem in about a minute.

He told me I needed to go connect a system directly to the cable box to see if it fixed the problem. I did, but when I came back, he’d terminated the chat! Just like that, he left the room, without checking to see if the problem was resolved. I was pissed! I was livid! I was…incredibly embarrassed five minutes when I realized how dumb I’d been. Luckily, I hadn’t gone around ranting about it out loud, so at least nobody knows of my secret shame.

Point? I had one, I know I did…It’s here somewhere…oh, yeah:

When you have 5Mbps or greater bandwidth, Netflix streaming kicks ass! It won’t have the newest feature flicks, but if you like anime, documentaries, or any kind of foreign flick, you can watch them instantly from your XBox or PC running Windows and Internet Explorer with Windows Media Player 11 and 2GB of free disk space. I recommend that you start out with these flicks:

The King of Kong, a very strange “documentary” about a battle for the Donkey Kong world record, available in HD. I later found out from the Wikipedia page that one of the principle sources of dramatic tension in the film is, to say the least, wildly exaggerated, but it says something about the film that, knowing this, I still say it’s worth a watching or three.

Planet B-Boy, a documentary about breakdancing and specifically about a particular international group breakdancing competition held in 2005 in Germany. It not only has a lot of truly amazing dancing and meditation on the nature and meaning of breakdancing and hip-hop, but as it follows five crews of dancers from Korea, Japan, France, and the United States through their preparation and the contest itself, it tells a lot of very involving, compelling human stories. It’s one of the best documentaries I’ve seen in a very long while.

Last Life in the Universe, a beautiful, lyrical, offbeat odd couple movie about a neat-freak Japanese ganster-cum-librarian living in Thailand and the pot-smoking good-time girl whose house he hides out in.

Super High Me, which is like Super Size Me, except with weed instead of McDonald’s. Really though, it’s very good.

Spider Lilies.
I found this during my routine Internet search for “hot Chinese lesbian
action”. It’s actually a more art-house than that description might
imply, with less nakedness than art-house might imply (read: none).
It’s a nice little human drama and relationship flick, and it’s
directed by a hot Chinese lesbian, so it’s largely sexploitation-free.

Joseph D. Grant Ranch County Park.

Sunday, December 7th, 2008

For those of you who read my blog here instead of the other site, here for your viewing pleasure is a post from a couple weeks ago that I couldn’t post here previously due to technical issues:

Joseph D. Grand Ranch County Park is seven miles from me up Mount Hamilton road. The road first snakes along the tops of the hills that edge the valley, climbing higher and higher above the city below until it reaches a pass where it switches to the west side of the hills, climbing up to 1900 feet before descending gently back to 1600 feet as it enters the park.
On a crisp Saturday morning with the top down, the first half is a vista of blue skies, waking city and golden grass slowly turning green, the land rising impressively to the left and falling away alarmingly to the right. The second half is a sun-dappled cruise down a country road repleat with family farms and ranches.

Hawk Fox II
Crazy Oak. Windy trail.

The park itself is 9553 acres of undulating hills covered in oak trees and trees of almost every other description. The tops of the hills are sparsely populated with trees, instead covered in ideal grazing pasture. In summer the grass goes dormant under the dryness and heat, and in the winter pokes green shoots up from the ground. The cattle that graze here have worn tiny terraced paths in the hill sides, criss-crossed in places by the paths of the communal ground squirrels between their burrows and followed by the feet of the foxes who search for them. Falcons swoop overhead, searching for squirrels as well. The squirrels are hard to catch by surprise, rarely far from their holes and quick to scurry to them. They are fascinating, quick, curious creatures, and the hillsides are thick with them.

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The hills are also alive with tiny green birds too quick and nervous to get a good look at, and tiny budgies that hop around the trails looking for food. Larger birds costantly root through the leafy undergrowth in the valleys, creating a constant rustle of movement from all sides. Stellar’s jays give a raucous call whenever you cross their path.

Grant lake.

I hiked a little over eight miles on Saturday, starting out near Grant Lake, the lowest part of the park at 1600 feet, and making my way to the second-highest point in it, at 1950 feet or so. The walk out was a little longer, and wound down through Hall’s Valley before climbing inexorably upward for three miles or more. Near the top there were fewer trees, and more prairie. The sky was so blue cerulean doesn’t really do it justice. Milky white clouds splayed across it, as if to set off the gold grass that covered the hills. I could see for a mile or more in some directions, and I could see no one, just an vast expanse of fall foliage and titanic rolling hills.

Grass and Sky

Grant ranch is a vast expanse of emptiness and awesome.

Hilltop View

When I got to the top I was greeted with a stunning vista; if the day had been clearer, I think I might have seen San Francisco. I could certainly see as far as the south end of the bay; downtown San Jose lurked blue in the background, and the Santa Cruz mountains wafted off, layer after layer, into the south.

Top of the hill.

House on a hill.

Santa Cruz mountains from the foot of the Diablos.

I With the help of my camera, I could just see my car in the parking lot, several miles away. For the trip back down, instead of turning back, I took Washburn trail. The park has 52 miles of trail, and because it was a working ranch, the trails are actually drivable dirt roads of varying degrees of impressiveness. Large parts of the Washburn trail, in particular, are wide enough for at least two lanes of traffic with a wide shoulder on either side, and wer obviously carved through the hills with bulldozers and explosives. It is also very, very, very steep, and hard on my knees. I made it back down, though, and walked a mile along Hamilton road back to my car, past a ranch and farm or two along the way.

Cow pasture.
Mirror Bulls

I got back to my house by before 2PM. It was a way more peaceful way to spend a morning and afternoon even than I’d thought it would be, maybe more than I even thought possible. I feel better now.

Geeky trick of the day

Friday, December 5th, 2008

This is for people who aren’t geeks. Mah geek homies out there don’t need no educatin’ in the ways of the ‘fox, of course:

Open Firefox 3 (you are using Firefox 3, right?). Go to any page, say, IMDB. Right-click on any search box on the page, and choose “Add keyword for this search”. A bookmark dialog pops up. You can give the search any name you want–it doesn’t really matter, it’s just what shows up in your bookmark list.

For keyword, put something short and relevant. For IMDB, try using “i”.

Now, if you go to the address bar and type in “i katrina bowden”, it will search IMDB for you and take you to the delicious Katrina Bowden’s page.

For extra credit, notice that if you change the search category to, say, “Names”, you can give that a different keyword and it will actually search only the names.

This is my new favorite way to search for things; it’s even quicker than using the search box in the upper-right-hand corner, and requires less clicking, since you don’t have to drop down the box. There’s enough alphabet letters to go around, too: ‘y’ for Yahoo!, ‘ym’ for Yahoo! Maps, ‘g’ for Google, ‘gm’ for Google maps.

Then, of course, there are the critically important searches: ‘p’ for perldoc.perl.org, ‘c’ for search.cpan.org, ‘m’ for mysql.com….