Thursday, December 31, 2009
Wednesday, December 30, 2009
We got H1N1 flu shots yesterday, courtesy of our local county government. No charge, and not a very long wait. I have often scoffed at all the media hype about a swine flu pandemic, but I have to admit that I felt a real sense of relief at having received this vaccination. Weird.
Tuesday, December 29, 2009
Monday, December 28, 2009
She saw it and said she'd love to go there sometime to see if they had real pumpernickel bread. Being the good son I am, I turned around and headed back, dropping her and the rest of our party by the front door (since it was raining):
It was late on a Sunday afternoon, but the bakery was packed. Sure enough, they did have fresh pumpernickel bread, along with lots of other traditional Russian choices:
I especially liked "any kind of Piroski" and the spelling of "blinses."
There must be a strong Russian community in that part of SF. They certainly have a good place to go for their bread and pastries.
Sunday, December 27, 2009
I am not sure what value he gains from this pursuit. He certainly is not collecting money. I guess he does it for the peacefulness - it is a beautiful setting.
Here is one final result:
Saturday, December 26, 2009
It's almost like a Lego set, only bigger.
Friday, December 25, 2009
Thursday, December 24, 2009
Wednesday, December 23, 2009
Tuesday, December 22, 2009
Monday, December 21, 2009
So when I took a look online, I found a whole world of ridiculously expensive strollers. Here is the Cameleon from the Bugaboo line:
The Cameleon costs $920!
But then I found having a fancy stroller is not enough. You apparently need to have it detailed to get that "just right" look. There is a company in San Francisco called Buggy Bubbles that will do stroller detailing for you - their slogan is "Put the pride back in your ride." The top of the line service is this:
- Upholstery, Canopy and Under Seat Bag Spot Clean and Gentle Hand Wash
- Chassis and Bassinet Frame Scrub Down and Detail
- All Wheel Power Wash, Clean Out, Air Fill and Shine
- Chassis, Brake, and Wheel Lubrication
- Total Buggy Polish and Steam Clean
I am thinking we may be going a bit overboard here.
Sunday, December 20, 2009
Here is a nice pic taken in front of some holiday decorations:
Saturday, December 19, 2009
This photo was put together by Jeffrey Martin of 360 Cities. It is another example of how technology continues to amaze me every day.
Friday, December 18, 2009
One of the pieces they sang was a world premiere called "Awake," by Eric Barnum. Abby's choir sang this along with the members of the Chamber Singers. The piece focused on dreams and awakening from them, but not necessarily in that order. I thought it was very moving and that it was sung beautifully.
There was even a little bit of holiday music - Abby's choir finished with a lovely rendition of Silver Bells. I don't have a recording, but here is a nice version by Johnny Mathis:
All in all, it was, as usual, a wonderful way to spend an evening, listening to your child singing.
Thursday, December 17, 2009
As part of the application process, and in addition to their portfolio, each applicant is required to submit three specific drawings. One of them is an assignment to draw the same item, but from three different perspectives. Now you and I would think that meant you should show the item from three different angles. But my niece is cleverer than you or I.
She chose to draw a Barbie doll, and she did the three drawings from the perspectives of a 5 year old, a 16 year old and a 35 year old. So the first Barbie looked like an ordinary doll. The second showed the Barbie sticking out of a trash can, legs first, with an iPhone in the foreground. The third showed a Barbie pictured in a Toys R Us ad, along with a purchase receipt.
The drawings were very good, but I think that RISD may find this approach to be particularly impressive.
Wednesday, December 16, 2009
One of the nicest parts were all the kids, ranging in age from Dawn and Tom's 1-year-old daughter all the way up to both of our college age children, enjoying the fun together. Mindy made delicious potato latkes, we lit the traditional Hanukkah candles (it was the first year for their son Jake to take on that responsibility), and we had an all-around very enjoyable dinner.
I love the holiday season - and it is nice to have such wonderful neighbors.
Tuesday, December 15, 2009
If you're one of the millions of people who will be flying during this busy travel period, chances are you may spend more time in the airport than on the plane itself. So, starting today and lasting through January 15th, we're happy to announce that we will be offering free WiFi in 47 (now 54) airports across the country. You can see the full list of airports here. This is one of our holiday gifts to our users, and, when you connect, we also hope that you'll take the opportunity to try some of the latest Google products. Our hope is that being connected for a few extra minutes (or hours, if you're delayed!) will help make things a bit easier. Be sure to look for the Google signs in an airport near you.
So I was able to log on, pick up some email, and even have a brief conversation with my wife. All courtesy of Google, and available across the country, with no advertising (just a brief preliminary offer to try igoogle).
If you are traveling through one of these 54 airports in December (through Jan. 15), make sure you take advantage of this nice option.
Monday, December 14, 2009
Sunday, December 13, 2009
Now our local theatre is putting on the show, and they are going to have a teen shadow cast. Each role will have a teen selected for that part and the teen will work with the adult actor playing the role at all rehearsals. Then the teens will get to put on their own performances.
Abby tried out, got a call back for two different parts, and was cast in the role of Cecily. It should be a great teaching experience for her. I am quite proud!
Saturday, December 12, 2009
Very convenient and very helpful - it told us the show we wanted the next day (A Little Night Music) was available. Turns out it was only 40% off, not half-price, but still.
Real-time information on a subject that I needed. Helpful.
Friday, December 11, 2009
Baltimore holds a lot of memories for me, from my college days at Johns Hopkins, to the many visits there to see my brother's extended family, to the trips I took there during the last few years of my Dad's life. It's a real American city, with a lot of history, and really good Chesapeake Bay crabs (though probably not this time of year).
In honor of my visit, here is one of my favorite songs (from Hairspray):
(Music on my blog. Who knew? Thanks Alice.)
Thursday, December 10, 2009
Wednesday, December 9, 2009
A Little Night Music. Being the Broadway fan that I am, I have been a bit slow warming up to Sondheim, though most consider him a genius. But I did enjoy a concert production of Follies and a local production of Assassins, so I am getting there. A Little Night Music, however, pushed me over the top.
It is as if Sondheim was the Shakespeare of the musical theatre world. His dialogue is witty and thoughtful, truly intellectual. And his songs are superb, full of meaning and interaction with the show that you rarely see. The show is a period piece, both a farce and and a drama at the same time. It has only one famous song in it, Send in the Clowns, which most people know as a stand-alone iconic piece, but which, when fit into the context of the show, is something that works perfectly with its setting.
This production had the added star power of both Angela Lansbury and Catherine Zeta-Jones as its two leading female characters. Yet neither of them rested on their laurels – they played their parts beautifully. Lansbury, whose character spends most of the show in a wheelchair, made joke after joke without ever cracking a smile. And Zeta- Jones fit in perfectly and truly demonstrated her musical theatre roots, which substantially pre-date her turn as a movie star. Her rendition of Send in the Clowns could not have been better.
So, three Broadway shows, all with their original casts. Not a bad way to spend a weekend.
Tuesday, December 8, 2009
Monday, December 7, 2009
As part of his research, he is heavily involved in studying a new field, called optogenetics. In its simplest description, optogenetics allows scientists to turn on and turn off neurons using light. And they are figuring out how to do this in the brain, which means a potential cure for Parkinson's and depression and who knows what else.
Wired magazine ran a fascinating story on this recently - Powered by Photons. This article describes the process of getting a mouse's brain to react to light in a way that caused it to engage in a specific behavior:
In the summer of 2007, a team of Stanford graduate students dropped a mouse into a plastic basin. The mouse sniffed the floor curiously. It didn’t seem to care that a fiber-optic cable was threaded through its skull. Nor did it seem to mind that the right half of its motor cortex had been reprogrammed.
One of the students flipped a switch and intense blue light shone through the cable into the mouse’s brain, illuminating it with an eerie glow. Instantly, the mouse began running in counterclockwise circles as though hell-bent on winning a murine Olympics.
Then the light went off, and the mouse stopped. Sniffed. Stood up on its hind legs and looked directly at the students as if to ask, “Why the hell did I just do that?” And the students whooped and cheered like this was the most important thing they’d ever seen.
Because it was the most important thing they’d ever seen. They’d shown that a beam of light could control brain activity with great precision. The mouse didn’t lose its memory, have a seizure, or die. It ran in a circle. Specifically, a counterclockwise circle.
The article goes on to explain this process in detail and describes how it could be used someday to completely correct problems with the brain.
It's a well-written article, one well worth reading. And you should remember this word - optogenetics. It could have an important effect on your life one day.
Sunday, December 6, 2009
Leggo your Eggo: There's a waffle shortage
Kellogg is rationing its Eggo products due to flooding and equipment problems at two bakeries. The shortfall could last through mid-2010.
NEW YORK (CNNMoney.com) -- Better hoard your Eggos!
Grocery stores will be experiencing a shortage of the waffles until mid-2010 due to problems at two bakeries, a Kellogg's spokeswoman said on Wednesday.
Flooding at an Atlanta bakery during heavy rains in October forced Kellogg, which makes Eggo products, to shut down production temporarily, said company spokesman Kris Charles. Plus, equipment at Kellogg's largest waffle facility, based in Rossville, Tenn., needs extensive repairs.
"We are working around the clock to restore Eggo store inventories to normal levels as quickly as possible," Charles said in an e-mail.
Remaining inventory will be rationed to stores across the country "based on historical percentage of business."All I can say is thank goodness there are still real foods to eat for breakfast.
Saturday, December 5, 2009
The museum is undergoing a major renovation, so they only have one core exhibit available. The exhibit is called "Behind the Screen" - here's a description:
The Museum's core exhibition, Behind the Screen, illuminates the many processes involved in producing, marketing, and exhibiting the moving image, with more than a thousand film and television artifacts, computer-based interactive experiences, commissioned installations, audio-visual materials, and demonstrations of professional equipment and techniques.Sounds pretty interesting to me.
Friday, December 4, 2009
One of my favorite songs is from this show. It's called Sarah Brown Eyes and it's a beautiful duet. Maybe I am partial because my Sarah has brown eyes.
If you'd like to hear it, here's a version sung by two high school students with remarkable voices (think Glee, but in real life):
Thursday, December 3, 2009
We're staying right in the heart of Times Square:
But we have plans to do some traveling around, including a visit to The Museum of the Moving Image, in Astoria, Queens. I was there back when it opened in 1981, and I'm looking forward to a return visit. Abby wants to tour Central Park (maybe even some ice skating!).
Plus, there is some snow in the forecast for this weekend. Perfect for December in New York!
Wednesday, December 2, 2009
But for a number of years, my wife was an executive with the Oakland Ballet (which shut down in 2006 but has now been resurrected). Every year she was there, The Nutcracker was the financial highlight of their season. The music got to her after a while - she won't go see it anymore. But I always enjoyed the holiday excitement of the production.
For a number of years, the Oakland Ballet participated in the City of Oakland's Holiday Parade. And one year, Sam and I got to be in costume on the Oakland Ballet's float. Here he is with some of his friends:
And here I am, dressed up in my mouse costume (that's me on the right, next to my friend Jen):
One key advantage of doing this was that we were in the parade right behind the Oakland Raiderettes. So it only seemed fitting that I should have gotten to meet some of them:
My one and only chance at Nutcracker stardom!
Tuesday, December 1, 2009
Monday, November 30, 2009
This is now my fifth iPod. I started with a Mini, received a Shuffle as a gift, then went for the square little Nano (with video!). The iPod touch seemed like the perfect version - a mini computer in my pocket, with movies and music. So one with a bigger hard drive, updated software and better headphones can only be an improvement, right?
Somebody has to keep Apple in business.
Sunday, November 29, 2009
We lived in Maryland, just outside Washington, D.C., when I was growing up. I was in my early teens when the Watergate scandal broke, and I still vividly remember my father taking me to stand in line outside the Senate Office Building where the Watergate hearings were being held. We eventually got to go inside for our 15-20 minute period, and I watched carefully as Senator Sam Ervin led the committee through its hearings. I don't remember who we saw testifying, but I remember being there. And I remember all the subsequent events very well, right up to the moment that Nixon announced he was leaving office ("Therefore, I shall resign the Presidency effective at noon tomorrow"):
One key moment caught me in the movie. When Nixon is finally breaking down, admitting in his own way that he had done wrong, he says something about how bad he felt about all the young people who would be turned away from politics because of his actions. That is me, spot-on. I was very interested in politics - in fact, I did end up majoring in political science in college, and I worked all four summers of college on Capitol Hill (though not directly for any politicians). After Watergate, I didn't really want to have much to do with politicians or politics. I saw the entire business as corrupt and wanted no part of it.
When I headed to law school, it was to California, as far from Washington and its corrupt political process as I could get. Even today, I see politics and politicians in a bad light. Yet only now do I realize that it is almost entirely due to Richard Nixon.
(Side note - Nixon helped fuel this further by choosing our Governor of Maryland, Spiro Agnew, to be his Vice-President. That didn't work out so well either.)
It is interesting, so long after the fact, to have a realization like this. Just another example of the power that a good movie-maker has to tell a story the right way. If you haven't seen Frost/Nixon, it's a good rental choice.
Saturday, November 28, 2009
I remember one year I actually went to the mall on this Friday and literally could not find a parking space. This year, not so much. I arrived around 9:00 am (no, I did not go out for the first store openings at 4:00 am!). No problem parking, no huge crowds. The mall was busy, but manageable.
Prices definitely were low. I found some very nice shirts at very low prices. My search for a coat took a bit longer, but I ended up with a nice Joseph Abboud wool coat for quite a discount. And I managed to snag a few DVDs for Christmas presents, just $3.99 each at Target. (I do think the end of the DVD era is coming very soon.)
Everyone talks about electronics being the big sale item for Black Friday. I went to a couple of different electronics stores and didn't see much. These days, electronics are so heavily discounted on a regular basis that the discounts I did see just didn't seem very enticing.
So I considered my trip a success. I followed it up with my (now) daily visit to the gym, and I didn't feel so bad when I sat down to some delicious turkey, stuffing and cranberry sauce leftovers later in the day.
Friday, November 27, 2009
Sarah made two delicious sets of crusts, and then put together a beautiful lattice cherry pie. Abby took one of Sarah's crusts and made a coconut cream custard pie from scratch:
I only wish I had had more room after all that turkey!
Thursday, November 26, 2009
Wednesday, November 25, 2009
I love these little people; and it is not a slight thing when they, who are so fresh from God, love us.I once found the quote on a Mary Englebreit gift card:
Tuesday, November 24, 2009
When I am on my computer, I often listen to music via Pandora. This online program lets me pick my favorite songs or artists and create "radio" stations that play similar music. So I can have one that is classical piano, another based on Elton John, another based on Rosanne Cash. And I can combine different stations into a "quick mix," which gives me more variety.
I realized the other day that the Pandora app on my Droid cell phone works just like the program on the computer. And since it is mobile, I can easily use it in the car. So I am testing out Pandora as a free substitute for XM radio.
It's an interesting option - not sure which I will choose.
Monday, November 23, 2009
This next month is going to be busy. Abby and I are going to take a trip to New York for some Broadway shows, plus some festive sightseeing. I have a business trip (back to the East coast) right after, and then Sarah and Sam come home from college for their winter break. And this year, my mom and Al are coming to visit us for Christmas, with lots to do while they are here.
So just a bit more relaxation before things get really hectic.
Sunday, November 22, 2009
Saturday, November 21, 2009
It's the traditional Big Game day - Cal vs. Stanford for the rights to the Axe. This game is down on the farm (aka Stanford Stadium). And while we always root for the Bears, this one has special significance - if Cal wins, then Oregon's chances to get to the Rose Bowl lie entirely in Oregon's hands. Sam's freshman year, and a Rose Bowl berth - wouldn't that be something!
Go Bears! Go Ducks!
Friday, November 20, 2009
Chrome OS is going to simplify all that. With Chrome OS, the operating system is the browser. Applications work like they do now, only way faster and up in the "cloud." (I know, it sounds like a trite word, but it is pretty accepted already.) I am only mentioning this big announcement today because it is going to change everything we know about personal computers.
Here is a simple but effective explanation -- watch this video and you will see the future of the PC:
Thursday, November 19, 2009
Wednesday, November 18, 2009
Do Speedy Math in Your Head
11 times any two-digiter
Tuesday, November 17, 2009
Monday, November 16, 2009
Besides The French Laundry, Thomas Keller also has Bouchon, a bistro with killer profiteroles, and the Bouchon Bakery, which is like the ones you find in Paris. About 3 or 4 years ago, he opened a temporary restaurant down the street from those three, which he planned to use for testing purposes. That restaurant, called Ad Hoc, remains open to this day. Their motto: "For temporary relief from hunger."
Last night we went up to Yountville with our friends Theresa and Doug, with whom we have shared many wonderful dining experiences, to try out Ad Hoc for the first time. This turned out to be a very good idea. The restaurant is casual and fun. They serve a single prix-fixe dinner five nights a week, four courses for $49. But these were no ordinary courses. Here is the menu from our dinner:
The salad was perfect, simple and delicious, with a wonderful apple vinaigrette dressing. The shortribs were cooked in the sous vide method, for 48 hours, which left them soft and smooth. The highlight of that entree, however, was the pappardelle pasta, better than any pasta the four of us had ever tasted. The cheese course was a very simple cheddar cheese - our waiter said, "there is nothing uncheddar about this cheddar." Just the right description. And the dessert was superb, fabulous ice cream with homemade banana bread.
Ad Hoc is now very high on our list of top-notch Bay area restaurants.