Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Two cars (no. 1)

My carpool stickers will expire at the end of the year, which kind of makes my Honda Civic Hybrid a bit obsolete.  Why drive a Civic if I can't go in the carpool lane?  Why not a Mercedes?  

So I am starting to look at options, and lo and behold, Nissan wants to save my carpool privileges. The new Nissan Leaf is coming at the end of the year and offers a chance to stay in the carpool lane while driving a really cool, all-electric, socially aware, environmentally friendly new car.  

The Leaf actually looks pretty good - and the new pricing is appealing.  $32,500 with a $7,500 federal tax credit and a $5,000 California tax credit, so the price is actually about $20,000.  And we have solar powered electric chargers at work, which means the 100-mile range won't be a problem.

Very interesting.  But tomorrow, an alternative.

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Holding off on the iPad

Ok, the iPad is coming on Saturday. I continue to be fascinated, not the least of which by all the hype. But I have managed to restrain myself, and I did not pre-order one. I am going to have to hold one in my hands to evaluate it. Given all the hysteria, I probably won't be able to do that right away. But I can wait.

Though not too long.  Especially with ads like this.

Monday, March 29, 2010

Almost here

We are almost there.  The 2010 baseball season begins in less than one week.  As always, my hopes are up for the Giants, who have a much younger team going into this year, and with continued strong pitching.  They reached a deal with Tim Lincecum to avoid arbitration, they just extended Matt Cain's contract, and Barry Zito has to return to form some time.

When the baseball season arrives, I am always reminded of Bart Giamatti's great piece, "The Green Fields of the Mind."  It begins like this:
It 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. You count on it, rely on it to buffer the passage of time, to keep the memory of sunshine and high skies alive, and then just when the days are all twilight, when you need it most, it stops. Today, October 2, a Sunday of rain and broken branches and leaf-clogged drains and slick streets, it stopped, and summer was gone.
Well, this is the beginning, so we can wait a while for October.

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Animals taking a siesta

Saturday must have been a good day for just lying around.

Here's Daisy:

And here's Milo:

Nice and relaxed, as you can see.

Saturday, March 27, 2010

2010 Diablo Eco Award

Urban Farmers has won a 2010 Diablo Eco Award from Diablo Magazine, recognizing it for the new farms and trees being planted in our town.  In a note from Urban Farmers, they expressed their appreciation for all the support they have gotten:
Clearly The Urban Farmers is a symbolic recipient of something that is much bigger. We accept this award on behalf of the citizens of Lafayette, the students at Saint Mary’s College, the team at Sustainable Lafayette, The Local Food Group of the Environmental Task Force and businesses and volunteers who recognize the problem and have generously supported this program.
Our farm is just getting underway, so I'm pleased to see this type of recognition for such a well-deserving organization.

Friday, March 26, 2010

Perfect ice cube trays

We don't have an ice maker in our refrigerator, but I like ice cubes (a lot).  So for years we've been emptying trays full of cubes.  And they never work right - the cubes break, they stick inside the tray, they go flying and you end up with ice all over the floor.  Lame, I know, but the truth.

But now that is all over.  Karen found perfect ice cube trays, simply at the local Target store.  They hold a lot of cubes, and when you twist them, every cube pops out perfectly.  You get a tub full of perfectly-shaped cubes, none of them stuck or broken, and you simply refill for the next time you need more.

Simple pleasures are often the small ones.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Next to Normal

Abby and I saw the Tony-award winning Next to Normal on Broadway in December.  It's about a woman and her family, dealing with her terrible depression that results from a tragic event in her life many years ago.  Not an easy show, but very good.

I really like this song from the show:

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Easy movie reservations

We have several competing movie rental companies in our town, including two that offer rentals for $1 a night via a dedicated kiosk.  I am particularly intrigued by Redbox, because of its reservation feature.  

You can go online (even from your smartphone), find a Redbox kiosk near you, and see what is available in the kiosk in real time.  You can then rent it right then and there!  Your credit card is charged and the kiosk locks up the movie (identifying it as checked out).  You then have until 9:00 pm to pick it up for your overnight rental.

Very smart, and it makes renting a movie all the more fun.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Health care reform

So the President signs the health care reform bill today.  I honestly don't know what to think.  There must be some value in making this effort, but I can't tell if it is worth all the trouble, nor even if it will make things better for my family.  

I have worried a lot about pre-existing conditions and termination of insurance when you get ill - clearly the insurance companies are not looking at the best interests of patients.  But I am not yet convinced that government intervention as has occurred here is the answer.

I am going to be in the camp of "wait and see" on this one.

Monday, March 22, 2010

A perfect wallet?

I am not a big fan of wallets.  They tend to be bulky and mostly unsightly.  I tend to carry around credit cards, my license and money in my pocket - not terribly comfortable either.

But here is a wallet that seems just about right - the Woolrich John Rich & Bros. tan leather wallet:

A couple of credit card slots, a bill compartment, and nothing else.  Plus it just looks good.  Oh, a bit expensive, but what good product is not?

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Easter eggs (a bit early)

Sarah is home for spring break - almost done with 2 years of college now!  Wow, does time fly.  

One of her traditions every spring is to make beautiful Easter eggs with her mother, so today they spent some time working on them.  These eggs are decorated with wax and then dyed with different colors.

Here's a box before they started (isn't that a great picture?):

And here are some of the end results:

She makes one for me, to order!  Last year's was blue and gold (Go Bears). 

This year's is green:

Very nice.

Saturday, March 20, 2010

Another golf destination

A few years ago we went to Bandon Dunes, on the southern coast of Oregon.  It's a golf resort, but not really - just a small town, with golf courses that are meant to resemble those on the coast of Scotland - ocean views, wind-swept, dunes.  And it is kind of in the middle of nowhere - we had to drive ten hours from our home, because it is very difficult to fly there unless you go on a private plane.  Their motto:  "Golf as it was meant to be."

We had a really good time.  Karen explored the area while I played golf and, since we there over the 4th of July, we turned out with the entire town to watch fireworks over the Pacific Ocean.  That evening had that true small-town feel that we both like.

On our trip, I played the two courses that were open then:  Bandon Dunes and Pacific Dunes.  They were superb.  Since then, the resort has opened a third course, Bandon Trails, that looks terrific and has gotten great reviews.  And now a fourth is coming - Old Macdonald Golf Links:

This just looks spectacular.  I think we need to get back up there, soon.

Friday, March 19, 2010

A warning sign worth paying attention to

We were driving down the coast recently and stopped at Scott Beach, a bit south of Half Moon Bay.  Karen wanted to walk in the sand, and as we headed out from our car, this sign greeted us:

Needless to say, we chose not to go swimming.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Respect for the game

Tom Watson, Feb. 3:
I feel that he has not carried the same stature that other great players that have come along like Jack [Nicklaus], Arnold [Palmer], Byron Nelson, the Hogans, in the sense that there was language and club throwing on the golf course.  You can grant that of a young person that has not been out here for a while. But I think he needs to clean up his act and show the respect for the game that other people before him have shown.
Tiger Woods, Feb. 19:
I do plan to return to golf one day. I just don't know when that day will be. I don't rule out that it will be this year. When I do return, I need to make my behavior more respectful of the game.
And now he is coming back, at the Masters.  As a true fan of golf, I hope he lives up to that promise.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Happy St. Patrick's Day!

Here's to corned beef and cabbage, Guinness Stout and four-leaf clovers.   May the green be with you!

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Maybe we'll retire to Kennebunkport . . .

Karen found this house for sale in Kennebunkport, Maine:

She thinks she would like living there, since she has never actually lived anywhere but California.  I told her about waking up to a temperature of 5 degrees - but she is not deterred.  3 bedrooms, 2 baths, and right on the water:

Plus it's only $799,000 - fully furnished!

And, as she points out, it is just a few short steps from the amazing Clam Shack.  Can you say lobster roll?

Monday, March 15, 2010

Marble machine

I found this via Gizmodo, under the great heading "There's more ingenuity in this wooden marble machine than the sum of my entire existence."  The machine is more than 4 feet tall and has no powered parts!  Where can you find time to build something like this?

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Cirque du Soleil

We went to see OVO, one of the current traveling productions of Cirque du Soleil, the other night.  I've seen Cirque on several prior occasions, and as always, this did not disappoint.  The clowns were not so good, unfortunately, but the acrobatics more than made up for that.  In particular, a set of jumping, rock-wall climbing, green-clad artists put on a performance that brought the house down.

Interestingly enough, I had gone two weeks earlier to the La Jolla Playhouse with Sarah, to see a show called Aurelia's Oratorio.  It is very hard to describe - a one-woman, one-man performance piece that was a series of vignettes, with acrobatics, magic, and wizardry.  It was quite beautifully presented.  The star is a woman named Aurelia Thierree,granddaughter of Charlie Chaplin; the show was created by her mother, Victoria Thierree Chaplin.  Since it is so hard to describe, here's a good review of the same show at the Berkeley Rep.

What is interesting is that Victoria Thierree Chaplin's Cirque Bonjour, Cirque Imaginaire and Cirque Invisible are often viewed as the inspiration for Cirque du Soleil.  So I saw her Oratorio, and then Cirque du Soleil, close together but sheerly by coincidence.  And they were totally enjoyable on both counts.

Saturday, March 13, 2010

Another show at Town Hall

Abby is performing this weekend (and next) in Oscar Wilde's "The Importance of Being Earnest" at Town Hall.  (I wrote about this last December, but time to mention it again.)  She was in this show her freshman year in high school, in the role of Lady Bracknall, the older aunt.  Now she is playing a part more her age, the young Cecily Cardew.

She is part of the teen shadow cast for the adult performers, who are putting the show on for five weeks.  It is a great program, where the teens get to work closely with the adults, as well as getting to be part of the stage crew (an old habit for Abby these days).

I won't see her this weekend, but I will see her next weekend, along with Sarah, who will be home from college for spring break.

Break a leg, Abby.

Friday, March 12, 2010

Windshield replacement

Given how many miles I put on my car back and forth to work, you would think this would have happened sooner.  But a rock bounced up the other day and, poof, a 12-inch crack right across the driver side of the windshield.

Luckily we found a good window glass company and they came right to our house to do the repair! Here's the new window, sitting in the back of the truck:
Here's the car without any window at all:

And here's the piece parts that hold the window in place, lying on the ground:

But now it is back together and looking as good as new!  I am going to start watching more closely for flying rocks.

If you need any car window repair, I highly recommend All Star Glass!

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Peach blossoms!

Two months ago I wrote about our fruit tree delivery, as part of an initiative to bring many fruit trees to our town.  We planted our two trees, one apple and one peach, shortly thereafter.

Well, spring has sprung, and the peach tree got the message (click on the photo to get a larger, better view):

Beautiful pink blossoms.  I am getting out my pie crust recipe so I can use all these peaches we are going to get to make a peach pie!

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Julie Andrews

Perhaps my favorite singer ever, Julie Andrews had a voice from heaven.  I am so sad that she can no longer sing (she lost her singing voice after an operation on her throat in the late 90s).  But luckily we have so many recordings of her joyous singing - including two of my absolute favorites, Camelot and The Sound of Music.

I remembered how perfect her voice was when I heard "Feed the Birds," from Mary Poppins, on the radio this morning.  Just listen:

Just exquisite.

Tuesday, March 9, 2010


Remember OK Go's excellent treadmill video?  Here's their newest - with a Rube Goldberg machine.  It's simply brilliant - the machine runs throughout the entire video:

Note the broken tv's on the side at one point.  How many takes did they have to go through to get this right?

Here's a good interview with the band's lead singer on their video style.

One other note:  there is an ad running at the bottom of the video that can't be closed for some reason, and it detracts from the video.  To see the video in YouTube, just click here.

Monday, March 8, 2010

Golf courses I want to play (no. 1)

The first in a list of golf courses I would like to play one day:

Machrihanish  Golf Club, on the Mull of Kintyre in the south of Scotland

Sunday, March 7, 2010

Oscar picks

Ok, I never do this, but here you go - my predictions for Sunday night:

Will win:
Best Picture - Avatar 
Best Director - Kathryn Bigelow
Best Actor - Jeff Bridges
Best Actress - Sandra Bullock
Best Supporting Actor - Christoph Waltz
Best Supporting Actress - Monique
Best Animated Picture - Up

Should win:

Best Picture - The Hurt Locker 
Best Director - Kathryn Bigelow
Best Actor - George Clooney
Best Actress - Meryl Streep
Best Supporting Actor - Christoph Waltz
Best Supporting Actress - Vera Farmiga
Best Animated Picture - Up

Saturday, March 6, 2010

Roomba cat

I don't even know what to say about this - and these videos are all over YouTube:

Friday, March 5, 2010

Wake up California

On Wednesday of this week, the District of Columbia began to allow gay marriages to be performed legally within its borders.  This is another major step forward and shows how backward-thinking is Caifornia's Prop. 8, currently being challenged in federal court in San Francisco. 

One of the striking facts in D.C. was that the opponents of the D.C. law tried to obtain an injunction blocking it from going into effect.  They went all the way to the Supreme Court, where Chief Justice Roberts, acting on his own on behalf of the Court, issued a three-page order denying the injunction.  A close read of the Chief Justice's order doesn't show that he is prepared to strike down gay marriage bans, but it certainly seems to suggest that the issue is less decided at the Court than one might have thought.  

It's likely the Prop. 8 case is going to end up at the high Court, so this is a bit of an interesting interim result.

Thursday, March 4, 2010

Visiting San Diego

I spent last weekend with Sarah in San Diego.  We stayed with Karen's mom, always a nice visit, and had a really good time (despite pouring rain most of Saturday).  It's such a treat to visit Sarah at college and see what a wonderful young woman she has become.

On a beautiful Sunday, we had a great time at the San Diego Zoo.  No matter how many times I visit that zoo, and it's been many now, I never fail to enjoy it.

Here's Sarah (with a little friend peeking out from her bag):

Here are some adorable meerkats that (naturally) stood up to watch their surroundings:

And here is short video I took of a baby gorilla, making a nice comfortable place to lie down:

Such a great zoo!

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Premiere of a new TiVo

I used to use a TiVo, for years in fact, before finally switching to Comcast's DVR.  But I've been missing the TiVo, and now they have announced a fancy new model - the TiVo Premiere - and, better yet, a fancy new interface.

Here's the first look:

Kind of bland, but the interface looks and sounds like it will be impressive:

I am going to check this out - if I get one ( it comes out in April), I'll report back here.

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Canada's hockey gold - as reflected in Facebook updates

This a pretty fascinating post on TechCrunch - the number of Facebook status updates soared when the U.S. tied Canada with 24 seconds to go in the gold medal hockey game, and then exploded when Canada scored to win the game in overtime!

Here is the graphic that TechCrunch provided:

TC says those two spikes represent 3.5 million status updates.  Quite a lot.

But I was also interested in TC's statement that, while Facebook claims 400 million users, only 35 million are "active status updaters," and they post about 60 million updates a day.  So that means less than 10% of FB's users are actively updating their status, and they each do so less than twice a day.  Seems like a much lower usage rate of Facebook than the public has been led to believe.

Monday, March 1, 2010

A really, really busy web portal

Most people don't like really cluttered web pages.  Sometimes I have seen joke sites, where someone tried to make a site look really busy.  Those can look pretty silly.

But Yahoo Japan's main web portal is a real commercial site, and it is  almost unimaginably cluttered.  You may want to shield your eyes if you click the link - I don't know what they are thinking here.