Saturday, October 31, 2009

Happy Halloween

We are spending Halloween in Maui this year, the second time we have done that.  It's a bit different to celebrate it here; you expect cool, fall weather, not tropical Hawaiian weather. But they get into the holiday here, so it's a lot of fun anyway.

Our celebration includes dinner at our favorite restaurant in Hawaii:  Mama's Fish House.  It's out on the eastern side of Maui, just before the road to Hana.  Mama's is easy to visualize - imagine a gourmet seafood restaurant set on Gilligan's Island:

Mama's likes to highlight local fishermen, such as:
Deep-water Ahi caught by Robert Malaiakini near his homeport of Hana Bay - Seared in ginger and panko crust with kalua pig rice pilaf.  

Mahimahi caught by Shawn Boneza along the north shore of Maui - Stuffed with lobster, crab, Maui onion and baked in a macadamia nut crust. 
One of us always orders the Moi, known as the fish of kings:
Moi caught off Leeward Oahu – a delicacy to the kings of old Hawaii - Wok fried fish with stir fried Kula vegetables & mango-lychee black bean sauce.  
Almost as good as going trick-or-treating.  But don't forget about the sugar cane monsters.

Friday, October 30, 2009

An easier way to get to work

I'm not driving to work while I am in Hawaii, which is quite the blessing.  But I don’t always have to drive all the way to workanyway.  Luckily, my company offers an extensive shuttle system, driving thousands of our employees around the Bay area every day.  They use big coach buses like this:

I have a shuttle stop about 10 minutes from my house.  They offer me three different ride times in the morning (I usually take the 7:00 am shuttle) and three more in the evening. 

Oh, and they are wi-fi equipped.  So I can sit on the bus, get a little work done, and avoid all the headaches and stress of Bay area traffic.  

Plus, it's a nice way to ride on a rainy day:

Not a bad way to get to work, eh?

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Zuni Cafe

One of our favorite restaurants in San Francisco is a tradition there – the Zuni Café.  It is famous (rightly so) for its roast chicken for two, and since I only like dark meat and Karen only likes white meat, there couldn’t be a more perfect dish to share.  We have a standard menu that we always get:  an order of shoestring potatoes, a Caesar salad, and the roast chicken, served on a warm bread salad with pine nuts and currants.  You would have to taste it to believe how good this chicken is; I’ve never had one like it:

The chicken takes an hour to prepare, since it is cooked to order in the wood oven.  That means you have to order it right away.  Then you can relax with appetizers and drinks while you wait for it to cook ever so slowly and perfectly.

We used to go a lot on Friday evenings, before the SF Symphony.  Well, the concerts start at 8, and Zuni does not start serving dinner upstairs until 6, so there was always a bit of a rush to get a chicken ordered in time to enjoy the dinner.

Then one Friday, we were sitting in the bar downstairs about 5:30, waiting for our 6:15 reservation (that is really pushing it), when a couple walked in, said “2 for dinner,” and were shown to a table downstairs.  There is a seating area in the back, behind the bar.  I went up to the maitre d’ to ask what that was about, and he told me they serve a limited dinner menu downstairs as well.  When I asked if that included the chicken, he looked at me like I was from Mars and said “Of course it includes the chicken.”

So now we go early and have a comfortable, relaxing dinner downstairs.  As a side bonus, we always get a table near the wood stove and get to watch the entire Zuni kitchen team in action:

Definitely worth a visit.  Trust me - order the chicken. 

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Hau'oli lā hānau Kati

Today is the birthday of one of my really good friends, Kati.  She has a Finnish first name because she is from Lapland, and an Italian surname because her husband is from Italy.  They are a true international couple and two of the nicest people you would ever want to meet. 

I first met Kati when she interviewed for a position in our legal group.  Not only did she have a superb legal background, but she spoke 6 languages and was fluent in English.  We conducted the entire interview in English and I could not believe how easily she handled difficult questions.  We hired her immediately, of course, and I've worked with her since then.

Kati started in our London office, but a year and a half ago, she moved to our offices in Mountain View.  To my enormous happiness, she joined me in my office with another colleague, Cathy.  The three of us have gotten on famously since and we have lots of interesting conversations every day.

She is one of the smartest, most dedicated lawyers I have ever met.  When she took the California bar exam and expressed worry about passing (as everyone does), I assured her she would be fine.  And of course, she passed with flying colors - and was even invited to be a grader for future exams, an honor reserved only for those who score highest on the exam.

So while I sit in Hawaii today, I am thinking of you Kati.  Hau'oli lā hānau!

(BTW, it's pronounced How-o-lee Laa Haa-now)

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

7 years and going strong

7 years ago today, Karen and I were married in front of our families at the Lodge at Pebble Beach.  The funny thing is, the location was her choice.  We were talking about where to get married and she just suggested it out of the blue.  Who was I to object?

Our children joined us in the wedding ceremony.  Here is one of my favorite photos ever, of the three of them standing in front of the 18th green:

We spent our honeymoon at the Grand Wailea Resort in Maui.  Now we are headed back there for our 7th anniversary.  Here's a peek:

(Oh, we pretend not to remember that the Giants lost game 7 of the 2002 World Series a couple of hours after our wedding ceremony.)

Monday, October 26, 2009

Beautiful Maui

So far, so good.  Sunny weather, warm ocean.  We spent Saturday night in Maui - here's the view from our hotel room:

Sunday morning we took the ferry to Lanai and now we are staying 1800' above sea level, enjoying cool breezes, a beautiful swimming pool, and the occasional passing shower.

Our hotel has an 18-hole putting course - real holes, some 30-40 yards long.  We played a match this afternoon, and Karen won a couple of holes!  She was quite pleased with herself, needless to say.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

A new 1-star restaurant in Oakland

The Michelin guide has issued its new restaurant ratings for the Bay area.  One notable entry is a restaurant on Piedmont Ave. in Oakland, called Commis, which was one of only thirty-four restaurants to receive one star.  (There are four 2-star restaurants, and only one 3-star - The French Laundry).

Commis is small and has no sign out front - it would be easy to walk by.  It is owned and run by James Syhabout, a very talented chef with an impeccable background (he spent a long time at Manresa in Los Gatos).  The restaurant is very minimalist, with a prix-fixe menu.  We have a small dining club, and six of us went together there a couple of months ago, while it was still in a soft opening.  The food was superb, though with very small portions, and the service was top-drawer.

I'm pleased to see a new, small restaurant like this get recognized, and glad to have seen it at its start.

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Off to Hawaii

We are headed to Hawaii today, for a two-island vacation.  A night in Maui, then three nights on the fairly secluded island of Lanai, then back for five nights at the Grand Wailea Resort on Maui, one of our most favorite places.  We spent our honeymoon there back in 2002.

Doesn't this look nice?

Time for some sun and water and golf.

Friday, October 23, 2009

Bella Voce

My daughter Abby is in an advanced choir at her high school. The choir is known by the very pretty name of Bella Voce, part of an excellent choral program there.  There are 26 or so girls in her choir, and last night we went to see them perform at a local church, along with all-girl choirs from the other two local schools in her district. 

I get such pleasure from seeing my children perform in front of an audience, whether it is Sarah singing with her a capella choir, Sam playing his trombone with his several high school bands, or Abby either singing with the choir or performing in a theatrical show.  It must be a father's pride, but it is always such an enjoyable event.

Since Abby's choir has an Italian name, it seemed only fitting that none of the three songs they sang were in English - they were in Latin, Spanish and French:

What a nice way to spend a Thursday evening.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Unclear on the concept

The other day I spotted this sign advertising Mountain Dew at a local gas station:

Hmm.  I think I'll take 4 at the $.59 each price.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Droid Does

When I joined Google, I never thought I would be working on mobile phones (shades of my time at AT&T Wireless).  But I am fascinated by what we are doing in this area - and I get to spend time with the Android phones!  I have one now that ended my desire for an iPhone.

There have been three public iterations of the Android operating system: Cupcake, Donut and now Eclair.  Each time one comes out, the Android team adds a large pastry sculpture next to their big Android outside their offices:

And if you haven't seen it yet, the new commercial from Verizon Wireless rocks:

Get an Android phone.  You'll love it.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Future thinking in Finland

Last week Finland became the first country in the world (apparently, I can’t be 100% sure) to mandate broadband access for all of its citizens.  The first step for Finland’s population of just over 5 million is a guarantee next year of a 1 Mbps broadband connection, but this is just a beginning step. By 2015, the mandate is for a 100 Mbps connection for everyone.

To put this in perspective, the average broadband connection in the U.S., for those who get it, is 1-3 Mbps (the lower level is for DSL, the higher for cable connections).  But of course this is not mandated.  In the U.S., everyone is entitled to telephone service, which could get you a dial-up Internet connection (not very useful these days).  In Finland, everyone is entitled to a high-speed connection to the Internet.  That is an interesting difference.

I saw an interesting comment that fits this well.  This writer said the Finnish action: 
brings to mind the favorite slogan of Dewang Mehta, ex-NASSCOM chief (Indian National Association of Software and Service Companies) - the basic needs of every Indian are “roti, kapda, makaan, bijli, aur bandwidth."  Mehta took a very popular Indian phrase describing basic wants (food, clothing, and shelter) and added electricity and bandwidth.
Very forward thinking.  As in Finland.

Monday, October 19, 2009

A different way to play golf

I played in a different sort of a golf tournament this weekend.  It was a 2-man scamble, meaning that my partner and I each hit a drive, then we go to the spot of the one we like best, and we each hit from there, and so on, until we have finished the whole.  Not that unusual, though most scrambles involve 4-man teams.

But in this tournament, we were only allowed to start with 7 clubs between us.  Then, for each birdie, we were allowed to add one club, continuing that way until we hit the maximum of 14 clubs (if we could get there).

For each bogey, we had to give up a club.  There was a downward limit of 5 clubs, and the rules said if we got to 14 clubs, we had to go back to 7.

Well, my partner and I shot 69.  We had 4 birdies, one bogey, and we lipped-out a lot of putts.  It was the classic sort of "that could have been a lot better."  If only.

Everyone agreed it was a fun format.  And who could complain about playing golf in mid-70s weather in the middle of October?

Sunday, October 18, 2009

20 years ago? Really?

As I got ready to watch the Yankees and the Angels begin their playoff game at 5:00 pm last night, I suddenly realized the significance of the timing.  On this same date, at the same time, but 20 years ago today, I was sitting down to watch Game 3 of the World Series from my home in Oakland.  The San Francisco Giants were playing the Oakland A's in the first Bay Bridge Series.  I had gone to the first two games at the Oakland Coliseum, which the A's had won, but had gotten home early to watch Game 3 on tv from Candlestick Park.

It was 5:04 pm, just before game time, when the earthquake struck.  It measured 7.1 on the Richter scale, and it had a devastating effect on the Bay area.  Roads were destroyed, the Bay Bridge was seriously damaged, the Marina district in San Francisco caught fire, and more than 60 people were killed.  That evening, from my home in the Oakland foothills, I could see the helicopters hovering over the bridge and the fires in S.F.

Here is the NBC news report on the events of that day:

With such destruction, it hardly seemed to matter that the World Series was postponed.  When it started up again 10 days later, I was so shaken by the events of the past week or so that I left town, and didn't even watch on tv as the A's swept the last 2 games from the Giants.

The new Bay Bridge is still under construction, not even scheduled to open until 2013.

Wow.  20 years.

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Welcome to Transylvania (or England)

We saw the play Dracula on Thursday night, put on by the drama department at Acalanes High School.  It is not a very well-written play, but the kids had a lot of fun, recognizing that it's pretty cheesy and playing it up for that.  When one of the characters, ready to confront the Count but needing the right weapon, says "I'll make the stakes," it only seemed right that another character (played brilliantly by Jason Long) says, "I'll make the salad."

We usually see Abby on stage, but she has been doing a lot of backstage work.  This show was her first opportunity to be the stage manager, basically in charge of the entire production.  Here she is, talking to the whole cast:

I think she must get this from her grandmother, who is an extremely accomplished director.

There were complicated sets and scene changes, great lighting and terrific live music.  I was so proud of her - she worked so hard on this job and it came out very, very well.

Just shows that even a bad play can look good when it is put on well.

Friday, October 16, 2009

Rainbow Orchards

On our way home from Tahoe last weekend, we drove along Apple Hill, the apple farm country near Pollock Pines.  We stopped in at several different farms, sampling the apples and the cider and soaking up the ambiance.

Our favorite stop was at Rainbow Orchards, a grower we frequent at our local farmer's market:

They grow apples, peaches and blueberries there.  We decided to sample the peach cobbler, which was cooked to order:

You would not believe how good this was!

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Blogging about climate change

Today is Blog Action Day ’09 – focused entirely on the issue of climate change.  Thousands of bloggers around the world are devoting their blog entries today to this crucial topic.  Here is the purpose according to the website:
Blog Action Day is an annual event that unites the world's bloggers in posting about the same issue on the same day on their own blogs with the aim of sparking discussion around an issue of global importance. Blog Action Day 2009 will be the largest-ever social change event on the web. One day. One issue. Thousands of voices.
Sometimes, the issue of climate change sometimes seems more one for my children than for me.  But that is stupidly selfish, of course – every action that I take today affects the quality of my life and everyone around me, today and well into the future.  Even small little steps (using less electricity, driving less, seeking out more ways to improve our physical environment) are going to add up along with those of everyone else.

One of my small efforts is to drive a hybrid car - it's a Honda Civic.  I get better gas mileage than I might otherwise, but I also get the satisfaction (which I really do feel) of knowing that I am having a bit of an effect in reducing the damage we all cause by driving.

Google has a good post on the Official Google Blog about its green efforts at the Mountain View headquarters.

Today is a good day to think about you can have an impact, too.

(BTW - thanks to Alice for telling me about Blog Action Day ’09)

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Defensive driving

We had a massive rainstorm yesterday, first of the season.  It set records across the Bay area, according to the Chronicle:

I truly learned the meaning of defensive driving, both on the way to work in the dark and late afternoon on my drive home.  Traffic was lighter than normal (people smarter than me apparently heeded the warnings to stay off the roads).  But there were flooded roads everywhere, and I kept feeling like I was going to skid.  This type of rain reminds you how dangerous a car can be and why you need to pay such close attention to the road and the other cars around you.

If you don't believe me, just look:

Not my car, of course, but that is what it was like out there.  Yikes.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Lake Tahoe in the fall

We spent the weekend in Lake Tahoe, where it is truly the offseason.  No crowds, easy to get into restaurants, light traffic - all the things Tahoe is not known for.  I hadn't been there for a while; some had changed, but mostly it has stayed the same.   Our stay was at Squaw Valley, which is simply perfect when it is not full of people. 

It is easy to forget (or not know) how beautiful Lake Tahoe really is.  A crystal blue lake surrounded by soaring rocky mountains on all sides:

We had a particularly good weekend to be there in our convertible.  The mornings were very cold, in the 20s, but it climbed into the 60s during the day.  We drove around the lake and saw it from every angle:

All in all, an excellent visit to the Lake.

Monday, October 12, 2009

Beautiful watches

I have a small collection of watches, most of them inexpensive.  I like Swatch designs quite a bit, and recently I purchased the 70th anniversary edition of the Wizard of Oz mainly because of the  limited edition (ha!) watch that was included.

One of the most beautiful watches I have ever seen is the Lange 1 by A. Lange and Sons.  It is a beautiful design, extremely well-made and close to my ideal view of a watch.  Take a look:

The face is simply spectacular:

I don't own one, but one can always dream.

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Do not crash this helicopter!

I was in Fry's the other day (I go there much too often) and saw a display of remote controlled helicopters.  They each bore the following warning label:

Hmm - not really rocket science.  They have to tell you that crashing the copter will cause physical damage.  


Saturday, October 10, 2009

Golf in the Olympics

The Olympics just announced that it will include golf as an Olympic sport, beginning in 2016 in Rio de Janeiro.  I think this a very welcome addition, but I wonder about Rio.  I don't know that Brazil is really known for its golf courses.

Tiger Woods says he'll compete, and Jack Nicklaus, with all his honors, considers an Olympic gold medal to be the highest:

"It's fantastic, an unbelievable day for the game of golf. The impact is going to be felt all over the world, which is what I've always felt about the game. The game is a mature game in many countries, but it never had the opportunity to grow in many others. People of all walks of life will be inspired to play the game of golf, and play for sports' highest recognition. For all sports, that has been a gold medal."

In my view, however, as it should be with all Olympic sports, I think this should be open only to amateurs.  The professionals simply have too much of an advantage.

Friday, October 9, 2009

What would you do if your computer crashed and all of your music was stored in iTunes?  What if you didn't back it up the way you are supposed to?  The songs are all on your iPod, but what good does that do you?

You need Pod to PC.  This is one of the simplest, most useful programs I have ever seen.  You turn on your computer, boot iTunes, and plug in your iPod.  Then you run Pod to PC.  It examines your iPod, examines iTunes, and then determines which songs on the iPod are not in iTunes.  And with one click, it transfers them.  Just like that.  With content info and your playlists.  As if you had backed them up.

$10.  Well spent.  (Note - there is even a free version for the Mac!)

Thursday, October 8, 2009

The playoffs are here

The baseball playoffs got underway yesterday.  The Giants couldn't get there this year, but I've taken a bit of a liking to the Minnesota Twins, even if they are in the American League.  They have an uphill road starting with the Yankees; after the drubbing they took last night, I don't have high expectations.

Each year as the baseball season winds down, I am reminded of the great opening lines of Bart Giamatti's essay, The Green Fields of the Mind:
"Baseball breaks your heart. It is designed to break your heart. The game begins in the spring, when everything else begins again, and it blossoms in the summer, filling the afternoons and evenings, and then as soon as the chill rains come, it stops and leaves you to face the fall alone."
A bit dramatic, but not far from the truth.  Thank goodness the hockey season has begun. 

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Cupcakes!  My favorite.  I have noticed a proliferation of cupcake shops.  It seems like another way to get a "luxury item" for only $3.  One of my favorites is Teacake Bakeshop in my hometown; sometimes I buy a box of 3 or 6 of them as a surprise (and always very welcome) gift.

This summer we were in Annapolis and came across Nostalgia Cupcakes - yum!  They had perfect, see-through one-cupcake boxes.  I felt so decadent walking down the street carrying one.

We had a birthday party in my office the other day and a colleague brought in cupcakes, from Sprinkles Cupcakes in Palo Alto.  I took one for dessert at home:

It's a Mocha - Belgian dark chocolate cake with rich mocha frosting.  


Tuesday, October 6, 2009

First Monday in October (a day late)

The Supreme Court began its new term yesterday, with the arrival of Sonia Sotomayor, the newest Justice. She joins Ruth Bader Ginsburg as one of two women among the nine members of the Court. This still seems to me like too few women.

I was privileged to work at the Supreme Court in 1981, and was there when Ronald Reagan appointed Sandra Day O’Connor to be the first woman to serve on the Court.  Then-Judge O'Connor came to the Court for introductions and I got to shake her hand, a moment I will always remenber.   I was very pleased to see that barrier broken and thought it would be the beginning of a major change towards greater representation of women in the judicial branch. But 28 years later, there have only been three female justices.

We recently saw Hilary Clinton run a close campaign for the Democratic presidential nomination, we have a woman serving as Speaker of the House, and California has (indeed, has had for many years) two women in the United States Senate. Now Justice Sotomayor pushes that divide one step further.

As the father of two daughters, I keep hoping for more.

Monday, October 5, 2009


In my profile picture, there is a brown dog sitting next to me, out by the beach.  That is Daisy, our rescue dog.  We agreed to watch her over Thanksgiving weekend in 2003, when she was only 8 months old, and she has been with us ever since.  She's as loyal a canine companion as there is.

Daisy is at least 1/2 Basenji, which is an Egyptian dog with pointy ears, a pointy nose, a curly tail and no vocal cords. That's right, the only dog that can't bark.  Daisy has the curly tail, but she has floppy little ears and a little nose. 

Plus, she was very shy when we got her (it appeared she had been abused), and she made no noises at all, so we thought she might have the vocal cord issue.  But no such luck.  After about 2 weeks, she started barking, and she barks like a crazy little dog every time any one in our family comes home.  Even if you've only been gone for 20 minutes - it's like you've been gone for a year.  

At least we can tell she is happy to see us.

Sunday, October 4, 2009

Another football season down the tubes?

The Cal Bears have a tendency to raise your hopes, and then sadly dash them.  This year they started off looking so good; by week 3, they were ranked 6th in the country.  Then came the debacle at Oregon last week, a 42-3 thrashing.  At least Sam enjoyed it.

So I still had my hopes up as we headed over to Memorial Stadium on Saturday afternoon, to watch Cal take on the 7th ranked USC Trojans on national TV.  A game with USC is always a big deal; this year, it seemed over the top.  The Cal campus was hopping, the band was playing everywhere, and the stadium was packed to the gills.

But the game did not go so well.  For the second week in a row, Cal was only able to put 3 points on the board.   USC looked like USC, running and passing to a 30-3 win.

So the Bears may still end up with a decent season, but these last two weeks have been very, very disappointing.  And so it goes for Cal fans.

Saturday, October 3, 2009

Some Enchanted Evening (well, afternoon)

One of my favorite Broadway musicals, South Pacific, is playing in San Francisco.  This is Rodgers and Hammerstein at their best, with a ton of memorable songs and dance numbers.  My wife, knowing how much I love this show, got us tickets for the matinee this Sunday.  I can't wait!

Here is the Broadway cast from last year's Tony Awards show:

Friday, October 2, 2009

Good tech info

Here are a few of the technology blogs that I read regularly:

  1. TechCrunch
  2. Engadget
  3. All Things Digital
  4. Techmeme
  5. Gizmodo
  6. Pogue's Posts
  7. Zatz Not Funny
  8. Apple Insider
There's some overlap, but they keep me pretty well informed

Thursday, October 1, 2009


Every night, seven days a week, at exactly 10 pm Pacific time, a new item goes up for sale on  It is on sale for 24 hours, or until they run out, whichever comes first.  There is no sales tax, and shipping is always $5.

What does Woot sell?  Coffee makers, DVD players, golf clubs, rose bushes, watches, headphones, hard drives.  Something off-beat almost every day, always at a low price.  I check it every night, and though I don't usually buy anything, you never know.

Oh, and every few months or so, they have a Woot-Off.  When that starts, they sell each item until it sells out, and then they put something else up until it sells out, and so on.  Continuous; very distracting.  Sometimes it goes on for 3 days.  Yikes.

If you don't like what they have on, there is wine at, kids stuff at, and very decorative t-shirts at

Take a look.  You might find something interesting to buy.  

I'm still waiting for them to offer a Mercedes with $5 shipping.