Saturday, July 31, 2010

Cold summer

W.C. Fields famously once said: "The coldest winter I ever spent was a summer in San Francisco." But out in the East Bay, that's not the case. We have really hot summers, often with many days over 100 degrees.

Not so much this year. I was out back reading last night about 8 pm and had to come inside because it was so cold. It's almost August! Some nights we have to close our windows. I don't think we have even hit the mid-90s yet.

I have no idea what is going on, but it's not global warming.


Friday, July 30, 2010

Electronic reader wars

Amazon has just announced a major upgrade to its Kindle reader, while keeping the price at $189.  And it is now offering a wi-fi only version for $139.  Both are efforts to fend off competition from Barnes & Noble and Sony.

They are doing a great job on this.  The Kindle concept - carrying many books with you, with quick access to any others - is a great one, especially for travelers.

Plus, I think the wi-fi only option is a really smart idea.  There isn't much of a need to download books every second of the day via 3G; wi-fi hotspots are everywhere, and with the tiniest bit of planning, you can load a Kindle at home anyway.

But I still wonder about the value of a stand-alone Kindle.  I've had a free Kindle app on my iPod Touch for a year or two, and now I have it on my iPad.  These devices do so much more than a stand-alone Kindle, and Amazon gives me the app for free.  It even works on my computer.

When the Kindle was first reduced to $299, the Onion ran a great headline:  "iPhone Kindle app now $299 less than Kindle!"  That makes sense to me - the money for Amazon is in the selling of the books.  It shouldn't be in the device itself.  It's like razors and razor blades.

I guess the Kindle meets a certain need, but I like having it as part of a more useful device that includes my Kindle option.  And the price point of free really works.

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Creative comparisons

I received the following email ad from Citibank the other day:

Citibank Savings Plus Account
For balances of $25,000 or more

If you want to get a return that is currently higher than offered on many Money Market Funds, move your money to a Citibank Savings Plus Account today. Compare for yourself:

Average Money Market Fund 7 Day Yield: 0.04% *

Current Citibank Savings Plus APY
(on balances of $25,000+) : .80% **

That's 20 times higher!

Really?  20 times higher?  Is that supposed to sound impressive?


Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Nice memories of Ashland

Our trip to Ashland was a great success.  I got to spend a lot of quality time with the girls, we ate well, and we saw terrific Shakespeare.  I especially liked the "preface" we attended for The Merchant of Venice, which helped explain the show to me in advance.

One favorite place there was Mix, Alice's recommendation.  We went there two days in a row for breakfast - wonderful Stumptown coffee from Portland and house-baked pastries, and again Sat. afternoon for ice cream (raspberry rhubarb and salted caramel).  Delicious.

Lithia Park, right in downtown Ashland, is a really pleasant local park:

We saw baby ducks:

And we went wading in Ashland Creek:

That was really nice, since it was in the upper 90's our whole trip.  Only cooled down somewhat around 11:00 pm.

Here was a surprising site on Sunday morning:

Closed?  I guess it's a low-crime sort of time.

All in all, really nice.  I am looking forward to going back.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Mt. Shasta in July

The tallest mountain in California, Mt. Shasta apparently has snow year round.  Here's the view we had over the weekend:

It was 95 degrees where I snapped this photo.

Monday, July 26, 2010

Would you like to be a spy?

Little tiny photo cards can carry a lot of data.  I have a 16 Gb micro SD card in my Android phone.  But what if you need to deliver a micro card surreptitiously?  They're tiny - you can lose in your pocket.

Spy gear to the rescue.  I came across this great site, selling hollow coins for secretly transporting data.  Take a look at this:

Only $30!  I wonder if I will ever need one of these.  Even if I don't, it's kind of cool.

Sunday, July 25, 2010

OMG - an iPad!

Ok, I resisted for a long time.  Well, almost three months.  I couldn't bring myself to spend $500 or $600 for a large iPod Touch.  It was just too much.  And I couldn't really figure out what I would do with it.

Then they had a contest in our legal department, for the most creative internal legal memo.  So I wrote one about a deal I had worked on.  I did it in the style of the movie The Sting, with different subject headings consistent with the 1973 Academy Award winner.  First prize - an iPad.

And I won!!!!  Really.  A brand new iPad.

I am so excited - except I can't get it away from Abby and Sarah.

Saturday, July 24, 2010

Sarah, Abby and I are in Ashland, Oregon this weekend to see two shows at the Oregon Shakespeare Festival.  I've been hearing about it for years and we finally decided we should give it a try.  The girls are big Shakespeare fans; I try to understand it, but I admit some of it gets past me.

We are going to see Twelfth Night and The Merchant of Venice.  They are done outdoors in an Elizabethan theater:

My friend Alice wrote a great post about her visit there over the 4th of July.  I am excited about getting a little culture in this weekend.

Friday, July 23, 2010

A tribute to Fritz

Karen's dad was a big part of his local community, and was very missed by everyone there when he passed away five years ago.  Tonight the summer Point Loma Concert Series is doing a performance in his memory.  I couldn't be there because of previous plans, but Karen and Sam flew down and are joining other member's of her family for the concert.

Fritz Kunzel was a wonderful man, and I will be there in spirit. We miss you, Fritz.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

An intriguing delicacy

Traveling on business this week, some colleagues and I stopped in a local diner.  The food was surprisingly good (maybe just because we were in a lot of meetings and needed something nourishing).  But the item that really caught our eyes was the fried pickles:

We had to try it!  Here's a peek:

Turned out to be quite delicious.  Not greasy, excellent contrast between the batter and the crunchy, spicy pickle.

Another first for me.  Yum!

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Morning Joe

Karen showed me this coffee she had purchased the other day:

Not a bad name!

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Monday, July 19, 2010

Watches - No. 1

I like to collect watches, mostly not expensive ones (though I do have a couple of really nice models).  From time to time, I am going to share a watch from my collection.  Here is the first in the series.

This is a fairly simple, elegant dress watch, gold-faced with a dark leather band:

The design on the face is a commemorative of the 100th U.S. Open, played at Pebble Beach and won by Tiger Woods:

The back shows the limited edition number of the watch:

This one is special because I was on the on the volunteer committee of that U.S. Open.  I drove a player's shuttle (actually a large black Cadillac Escalade), and I got to see Jack Nicklaus play his last round at Pebble in the Open.

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Better late than never

Well, the 4th season of Mad Men is about to start, and I have finally started watching.  I've now seen the first four episodes and I only have 40 more to go in order to catch up.  But the new season starts in a week, so I have a lot of catching up to do!

This is one of those shows that I kept hearing and hearing about and never managed to watch.  (Sort of like The Sopranos - the only episode I ever saw was the very last one).  But it turns out (as you probably know) that Mad Men is terrific.  The characters are fascinating, the lives they lead even more so.  Someone I know described it this way - "television as an elevated form of art."  Very well put.

I can hardly wait to see all the episodes I have coming up.

Saturday, July 17, 2010

Only in the South

Spotted this scene while passing through the airport in Charlotte, North Carolina last week:

Rocking chairs in the terminal!  And notice, they are all taken.

Friday, July 16, 2010

The view from 35,000 feet

Kind of liked these cloud formations I flew over the other day:

Very fluffy.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Fiber for Communities

Fiber HouseI continue hard at work on Google's fiber to the home project.  We launched a new website the other day, Google Fiber for Communities.

There has been a great deal of grassroots interest in our project, and this is one way to keep the conversation going and to encourage people to get involved in the quest for faster broadband.

Check it out, especially to see the great video on the home page.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

A fancy lunch

Everyone has heard about the great food at my company.  Well, recently, my small team in the legal dept. got together for a "Chef's Table" lunch.  It was prepared especially for nine of us.

Here's the menu:

As you can see, plums were in season, so the meal revolved around them.

Of course, here are some photos of the meal. First, the gazpacho:

Then, the duck:

That little white mound at about 2:00 on the plate is a puree of Marcona almonds.  Amazing.

Lastly, the caramelized black plums:

It was a small lunch, but absolutely spectacular.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

San Francisco through the fog

I mentioned that we spent the 4th of July in Sausalito.  I have some great parade photos and videos to share, but for now, here is a shot from breakfast, taken looking across the bay toward SF:

The fog only got thicker during the day, so that by the time the SF fireworks went off, they were nothing more than a glow through the mist.

Monday, July 12, 2010

Design for the Apple iPad

If you know Shel Silverstein's work, you really have to appreciate this decal designed for the iPad:
Based on his book The Giving Tree, but using the apple already on the device.  Very creative.

Sunday, July 11, 2010

Enjoying some new deck furniture

Our remodeled backyard continues to take shape.  We just picked out a loveseat and chair from Restoration Hardware, after quite a bit of searching.

Here are Sarah, Karen and Daisy enjoying a little time in the backyard:

Lots of nice shade; very relaxing.

Saturday, July 10, 2010

Missing pheasant

Sign spotted on a power pole while out with Abby teaching her to drive:

I could take the picture because I was not behind the wheel.  Nice.

Friday, July 9, 2010


My trusty Honda Civic hit a milestone yesterday.

It rolled over from 99,999 miles:

to 100,000 miles:

This is the first car that I have ever owned that I have driven to that milestone.

Thanks, Google.

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Baseball in Milwaukee

Watched the Giants take the Brewers apart last night - final score was 15-2.

But the best thing about watching a baseball game played in Milwaukee is the sausage race:

The sausage race has been going on for years.  It is an excellent addition to any ball game.

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

An unofficial golf course

We happened to be looking at some sites in Scotland for a possible future vacation and Karen came across the Argyll Hotel on the Isle of Iona, which is located off the far western coast of Scotland. It sounds like a great adventure, but what really got my attention was the description of the golf there. The golf course may or may not be easy to find -from the official description:

Believe it or not Iona has a very strong tradition of Golf on the island thanks to classic 18 hole course situated on the Machair. It is not an official golf course, since there is no Clubhouse, toilets nor green fees. Instead it is a real golf course, set in grazing pasture on the west side of the island. With the Northern Atlantic as your backdrop, it is a very well laid out 4,491 yards, with cows and sheep representing some of the more challenging obstacles. Trying to chip over John McInnes's prize bull on to the 13th is no mean feat.

But you have to love how you get the course map:

The Golf Course Map is available at Post Office for a small donation.

I am all ready to pack my clubs.

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Breakfast in Sausalito

We spent the 4th of July in Sausalito.  Saw a really fun parade, had a terrific sushi dinner at a great restaurant, and saw 3 different sets of fireworks shows.  Details to come, with photos, in a later post.

But in the meantime, a note about our breakfast on Monday morning.  Locals all know it, apparently, but we had never heard of the Lighthouse Coffee Shop:

Well, it is worth the trip to Sausalito just for breakfast.  We shared mixed fruit pancakes, made with fresh blueberries, raspberries and bananas.  Absolutely wonderful.  But I also had Gabriel's hash, which simply was the best corn beef hash I have ever eaten.  Meaty, full of onions and peppers, perfectly grilled.  The side of home-fried potatoes that came with Karen's scrambled eggs, while delicious, became an afterthought in the presence of this hash.

Plus the two guys making the food right in front of us (we sat at the counter, totally fun) were like artists, never missing a beat as they moved through one delicious looking breakfast to the next.

I am already planning a return visit.

Monday, July 5, 2010


Our local bookstore has decided to close it's brick and mortar location, unable to pay rent and compete with companies like Amazon and Barnes&Noble.  But they are going to stay in business virtually, with online ordering and customized serviee.

Now, in a very interesting twist, the owner has purchased a decommissioned bookmobile:

As they explain on their website:
Closing our brick-and-mortar store doesn't mean we're out of business!  Welcome to the Bay Area Bookmobile--our "Independent Bookstore on Wheels."  We'll be popping up at farmers markets and festivals and schools and book clubs and wherever we're invited all over the Bay Area, selling a selection of new or used books, customized for each appearance. 

This sounds like a good idea.  I am looking forward to buying books from this bookmobile.

Sunday, July 4, 2010

Saturday, July 3, 2010

Bulwer-Lytton contest

The annual Bulwer-Lytton contact seeks out really bad writing.  Contestants are asked to come up with the worst opening sentence of an imaginary novel.  It's named for Edward George Bulwer-Lytton, who opened a novel with the classic "It was a dark and stormy night."  The actual full opening sentence reads like this:

"It was a dark and stormy night; the rain fell in torrents--except at occasional intervals, when it was checked by a violent gust of wind which swept up the streets (for it is in London that our scene lies), rattling along the housetops, and fiercely agitating the scanty flame of the lamps that struggled against the darkness."

This contest has been going on for almost 30 years, and it never fails to amuse me.  This year's contest was won by Molly Ringle, a Seattle writer, with one of the best sentences I have ever seen:
For the first month of Ricardo and Felicity's affair, they greeted one another at every stolen rendezvous with a kiss--a lengthy, ravenous kiss, Ricardo lapping and sucking at Felicity's mouth as if she were a giant cage-mounted water bottle and he were the world's thirstiest gerbil.

Friday, July 2, 2010

Slow-motion lightning

Very cool - lightning striking three of Chicago's tallest buildings, slowed down to 1/16th speed:

Lightning strikes three of the tallest buildings in Chicago at the same time! from Craig Shimala on Vimeo.

Thursday, July 1, 2010

Billy Collins

My friend Minnie told me about a poet named Billy Collins whose work she likes.  I had not heard of him, but learned that he is extremely well respected and even served as the Poet Laureate of the United States.

I am not that big a fan of poetry.  But this work is really good.  Minnie pointed to two specific ones.  The first is called "The Lanyard:"

The Lanyard - Billy Collins

The other day I was ricocheting slowly
off the blue walls of this room,
moving as if underwater from typewriter to piano,
from bookshelf to an envelope lying on the floor,
when I found myself in the L section of the dictionary
where my eyes fell upon the word lanyard.

No cookie nibbled by a French novelist
could send one into the past more suddenly—
a past where I sat at a workbench at a camp
by a deep Adirondack lake
learning how to braid long thin plastic strips
into a lanyard, a gift for my mother.

I had never seen anyone use a lanyard
or wear one, if that’s what you did with them,
but that did not keep me from crossing
strand over strand again and again
until I had made a boxy
red and white lanyard for my mother.

She gave me life and milk from her breasts,
and I gave her a lanyard.
She nursed me in many a sick room,
lifted spoons of medicine to my lips,
laid cold face-cloths on my forehead,
and then led me out into the airy light

and taught me to walk and swim,
and I, in turn, presented her with a lanyard.
Here are thousands of meals, she said,
and here is clothing and a good education.
And here is your lanyard, I replied,
which I made with a little help from a counselor.

Here is a breathing body and a beating heart,
strong legs, bones and teeth,
and two clear eyes to read the world, she whispered,
and here, I said, is the lanyard I made at camp.
And here, I wish to say to her now,
is a smaller gift—not the worn truth

that you can never repay your mother,
but the rueful admission that when she took
the two-tone lanyard from my hand,
I was as sure as a boy could be
that this useless, worthless thing I wove
out of boredom would be enough to make us even.

Included in the book (OCT 2005), The Trouble with Poetry. Purchase from Amazon

The other poem she mentioned, but not reprinted here, is called "Victoria's Secret."  If you ever received one of the VC catalogs, it's worth reading.