I heard about a couple neat science experiments recently.
The first one has to do with the bacterium in our stomachs. Evidently obese rats and people have different bacteria than non-obese people. This potentially makes sense, as while two people ingest the same number of calories, if one person can convert more of those calories to a useable state (read: fat), then that person will be likely to gain more weight than another. Even more interesting was that in rats, the level of obesity of a rat could be changed by introducing their guts to different bacteria. I heard about this on NPR, but more information can be found here and here.
The second study I also heard about on NPR. Little has been known about sleep until recently. It wasn't until 1953 that scientists even realized there were two major phases to sleep -- REM and non-REM sleep. Many people have hypothesized that sleep is linked to learning long term memories, but little evidence has been found... till now.
Rather than trying to explain the study, just read this link from the NY Times (registration required) or this link if you object to the NY Times for some reason.
I was listening to NPR and they were talking about what the Democratic party was going to stand for in the future. They brought up that a pro-life and a couple pro-gun rights Democrats had been elected, and were questioning exactly which issues could unite the Democratic party.
I think that's the wrong question to ask. It's obvious most Americans were dissatisfied with the Republicans. The Democrats should go to the root of the problem, and rather than argue specific issues, do what the Republicans have done in the past (characterizing Democrats as hippie-loving, pot smoking, Evian drinking liberals) -- attack the opposing party directly.
The Republican policy has been "We are right, and we don't need to listen to those who have opposing viewpoints." Bush didn't listen to dissenters and contrary intelligence before, during the Iraq invasion, or afterward; the Republican Congress felt no need to listen to or include the Democrats when considering legislation; the Republicans ignore the scientific community about global warning... the list goes on and on.
In my opinion, most Americans don't think this policy is working, and they voted their mind. As a result, a large number of Democrats were elected and overall, I've heard the Democrats in office are more conservative and diverse than usual.
Instead of allowing this to sow dissension and bickering, the Democrats should use this as their strength. The Democrats have a mish-mash of individuals who are willing to work together and with others to build a better America. In this respect they are much like the founding fathers and the spirit of what the United States is. As such, they should start calling themselves "America's Party."
By contrast, the Democrats should paint the Republicans as people who are stubborn and unwilling to listen or work with others. They should start calling the Republican party the "Go It Alone Party."
By re-framing the question to one of "Who we are" (and thus also "Who we aren't") instead of "What do we want to do" the Democrats have the ability to marginalize the Republican party and make people not want to associate with it... after all who wouldn't rather be in "America's Party" than the "Go It Alone Party?"
The best part of this is the Republicans would have no good answer. They can either admit to being close-minded, or start working with the Democrats -- neither of which they want to do. The Republicans would still have a (diminished) base, but many independents and moderates would start identifying with America's Party more than the Go It Alone Party not based on issues, but based on values. And that can be a very powerful thing.
So I took a closer look today, and the hiding spot is on the offramp part of Sand Hill on 280N, which is a lot farther back than any of the other hiding spots I had previously seen. There are a couple huge bushes which do a very good job of obscuring anything behind it -- I don't think you'd be able to see the cop at any reasonable speed you would care about seeing him at.
The downside for the cop is he would have to potentially wend through offramp traffic to catch up to any speeder.
Also today, I saw a cop on the closed (ie middle) vista point in the 3 vista point exits before 92 (also northbound). He was out of his car with a radar gun. Further down the road at about 1/2 mile intervals, 3 people had been pulled over by 3 cops, 2 motorcycles and 1 cruiser. I also saw a pacing CHP going southbound somewhere around Woodside, and a stationary one fishing north of Daly City also in the southbound direction.
Though not consistent, overall CHP seems to be cracking down on speeding a lot more on 280 these days.
I figured after driving 280 so much I'd discovered where all the hiding places cops use to catch speeders, but today I found a new one. Going north on 280 at Sand Hill, I'd previously seen cops hide out, but they were pretty easy to spot because the foliage didn't cover them completely.
Today, I did my standard scan as I passed the on/off-ramp, and detected no cops. It wasn't until I looked at my rear view window a quarter mile later I saw a cop hiding behind a huge bush or tree. I'm still not sure exactly where he was, but I think he was more removed from the highway than normal. I'll try and pinpoint where he is tomorrow.
It makes me wonder how many other spots are still out there I don't know about though.
In other news, Suzy and I occasionally eat at the Fish Market. They have a new promotion going on for their 30th anniversary. They give you two gift certificates when you are paying for your meal worth between $10 and $100. Here's the catch: they are sealed in an envelope, and are void if opened. On your next visit, you can present the envelope, and when you pay the manager opens it up and you discover how much your gift certificate is worth.
We did this and got $12 off our meal. They also gave us two more gift certificates, so now we have 3 more to use up. I had initially thought the majority of gift certificates would be for $10 off, but Suzy wondered whether the majority of them were actually $12 so people would feel like they didn't get the worst possible outcome. After thinking about it, I think I agree with her analysis.
I also wonder how this affects customer behavior. A couple things I can think of are that customers will be more likely to bring friends so that if they do get the $100 gift certificate it wouldn't have gone to waste. Another thing is that most people don't value saving $20 and getting $20 equally -- they are more likely to value the free $20 less. This might lead to people buying more food because it's like "free money."
It also helps keep the Fish Market in the minds of customers. I know I have a mental list of restaurants I go through when deciding where to eat. For various reasons, sometimes places (even ones I like) drop off that list for some reason, and once they do they generally stay off. This promotion helps keep it on the mental list of people I think.
One last thing I thought of is it's possible people will be more willing to try new items they normally wouldn't try because even if they don't like it, it's not like they had to pay for it (this is a variation on the "free money" concept).
I think it's a pretty clever promotion, and it's too bad I'll probably never be able to find out how effective it was (though I guess if I see imitations pop up all over the place I'll know it works well).
They've ramped up patrols on 280 recently, so I've been driving more carefully. I was about a couple miles south of the Highway 35 exit driving northbound today in the second lane (from the left) when I noticed a pickup/SUV approaching in lane 1. It wasn't going much faster than me, but it was catching up.
As it comes within a couple car lengths of me, it moves into my lane, directly behind me. Boggle? He then almost immediately cuts back into lane one and hovers there, less than a car length behind the rear of my car, in the first lane.
I don't like him there, so I speed up a little. He speeds up a little, but at least now there is a little separation. It seems like he's pissed at me (I'm thinking possible road rage), so I'm going through the last few minutes of my drive, wondering if it's possible I did something to piss him off. It's been a very mellow drive this morning though, and I can't think of anything I could have done.
Regardless, he acted weird enough there with the lane switching that I don't think I want to be near him. I'm approaching a slower moving car in lane 2, and soon I need to decide what I'm going to do. I'm running through the options in my head, which range from passing the slower car on the right, braking hard to let the SUV shoot by me, etc. The last two lanes are empty, so at least I have a lot of room.
About 10 seconds have passed since I initially saw the car, maybe 5 seconds since he veered into and out of my lane. All of a sudden he starts veer to the left. He moves across the left stripe. I accelerate. I'm not sure what has happened to the car in front of me. Thankfully I think he has moved over to the right a lane, but regardless I know he's not in front of me.
He hits the guard median, spins about 270 degrees, doesn't flip, and ends up in the middle of lanes 2 and 3. I brake hard just in case someone ahead of me does something stupid like sees it in their rear view window and slides across a lane, but everyone in front of me seems to be oblivious or indifferent. It looks like the people behind the accident were far enough back they didn't hit him, though now there is debris all across the road.
I'm stunned for a second, but then realize I should call the accident in.
One thing I really liked about my major in Psychology is that while most degrees are pretty useless once you graduate, I apply psychology to my regular life frequently.
There were a bunch of witnesses, but I remembered from my intro to Psych class about a woman who was raped on a street in New York City. (It's been a while so I might be off on some of the specifics.) On that street was a high rise apartment complex. Many people heard the screams of the woman, and some even witnessed the rape from their windows. Yet no one called it in. When asked afterward, they all assumed that someone else was going to call it in.
Random tidbit: my cell phone makes a different noise when you call 911.
I'm connected and am greeted with an automated message that says, "You've reached 911. If this is an emergency, press any key or say 'one' now." I say one. I'm reconnected to someone else, and am informed briefly that there is no available operator yet and to please hold. They also say something in Spanish that is much longer, but I'm busy trying to remember what happened and what exit it was near, and the last time I took Spanish was in high school, so it was all a blur.
After about a minute, I speak to a live person, make my report, and then continue to work.
In other random news, we caught a spider in our house last week. It's the biggest spider I've ever seen in California. I don't have a great shot of it as we were more concerned with getting it outside than getting nice pictures, but here are a couple (click on images for enlarged version):
OK, I've admitted it's going to take a while to get through remembering the rest of Hawaii, so I've decided to move on, and whether the rest of Hawaii comes or not, we'll see.
Anyway, Suzy and I went to Yosemite over Labor Day weekend for a friend's wedding, and I learned several things:
1. Highway 152 is evil. Avoid it.
2. Don't go to Yosemite over Labor Day weekend if you want to get away to see nature. Do go to Yosemite over Labor Day weekend if you want to be reminded what a busy day at Disneyland looks like.
3. Unless you have a super efficient car, get gas in Merced as it will be about 40 cents/gallon cheaper than in Mariposa, and 80 cents/gallon cheaper than in Yosemite itself.
4. When your fiance gets spooked at the hotel at Yosemite, The Ahwahnee, because it reminds her of the inn from the movie "The Shining" don't laugh at her.
5. It's worth the money to stay inside Yosemite rather than just outside, if nothing else because then you don't have to deal with parking.
6. There is drinking water at the bridge below Vernal Falls, so you can tell your significant other to not be paranoid that you only brought a small bottle of water.
7. The last 10% of the Vernal Falls trail will take 90% of the effort to get there.
8. When someone points out that the interior parts of "The Shining" were shot at The Ahwahnee, you should move quickly so your fiance can't hit you.
9. Yosemite is a very nice place to get married, unless someone happens to get hurt that day and needs to be airlifted out and a helicopter flies over the wedding site right before the bride walks down.
10. Yosemite actually isn't that far away. Even stopping for gas and lunch, it took less than 4 hours to get back, taking 140 to 5 to 580 to 680 to 880 to 280, or something like that.
Here is a Lewisesque recount of my Hawaii trip, before I forget it all:
I woke up around 5:30 after getting an hour of sleep because I procrastinated packing, and figured I could sleep on the plane anyways. I drove up to Suzy's and we got a ride to the airport from Lauren, Suzy's sister.
I hate how SFO doesn't believe in restaurant chains... or if they do I couldn't find any evidence of it. We tried to find some food in terminal B, and finally settled on some ham and cheese paninis from a random deli. I figured, it's hard to mess up grilled ham and cheese too much, right? I didn't count on the slabs of mayo they put in between the ham slices. Ick. Who puts mayo in a grilled ham and cheese sandwich?
Breakfast eaten, we boarded our Hawaiian Airlines flight, which left on time. My plan to sleep worked, and I remember maybe 5 minutes of the whole plane ride. We arrived in Honolulu and queued for our rental car through Dollar. The agent was the traditional obnoxious agent I hadn't encountered in a long time -- he tried repeatedly to sell us on the "pay for a full tank of gas" and "Bad Things(tm) are going to happen to you if you don't sign up for our insurance". On top of that they charge an extra $6/day for additional drivers. So in summary, I plan to never use Dollar again.
As we got our car, it started to rain. But at least it was a warm rain... It didn't bode well as a start to the trip though. Luckily it stopped raining after about 15 minutes and we drove to Waikiki. We found our hotel, but it was right before noon and too early to check in, so we consulted one of our travel guides to find some food.
A note about our trip: We had decided to spend 5 days in Waikiki and 5 days in Hilo, booked the air, hotel, and car stuff, and Suzy had bought 3 tour books, and that was the extent of our preparation. Through blind luck and/or fair temperament, it turned out to be just about the right amount of preparation needed.
We found what seemed to be a good restaurant in downtown Honolulu. Unfortunately we didn't take into account that it would be almost impossible to find parking there. We did find a couple lots, but they were double parking people and wanted us to leave our keys in the car, and we didn't want to risk having all of our luggage stolen. I was starving since it was 4:00 California time, and Suzy had a spa appointment with the other bridesmaids and bride in two hours, so we were running out of time.
I hate to eat at chain restaurants while on vacation, but as we were driving around looking for any place to eat, we found a Hard Rock Cafe -- and it had a parking lot! We were beginning to feel the time pressure, but the parking lot clinched it. It was funny to reflect that when I was in high school, Hard Rock Cafe had been "so cool" but now it "last on the list."
After lunch, we checked into our hotel, the ResortQuest Waikiki Sunset. We got a 2 room + kitchen condo on the 6th floor. I'm not sure how they managed to pull it off, but thanks to connections from the bride or groom (both were born in Hawaii and have lots of friends there) we got the place at a huge discount for all 4 nights.
After I dropped Suzy off at the spa I went back and took a nap. After I woke up, I made sure my camera worked (I had just bought it a few days ago, a Nikon D50), briefly explored the hotel (no arcade, $0.15/minute for internet access, self-service laundry), and wandered to the street.
I only had about an hour to kill before dinner at Sam Choy's, and I knew it was fairly close, so I decided to walk there. I made it about halfway there when I got a call from Suzy asking me to pick up her, Rene (the bride), Allison, and June (the other bridesmaids) up from the spa.
After the brief detour to get the car and pick them up, we arrived at Sam Choy's at 7 for dinner. I chose the rib eye steak, “Pulehu style,” and shared a variety of appetizers ordered for the table. In all there were about 20 people at the dinner. I met a ton of people but unfortunately have forgotten almost all of their names. Most were economists at the Department of Justice (where Rene works) or friends of Jason from the military.
Dinner was over around 10:30 which meant 1:30 California time and Suzy and I were both exhausted from traveling all day so went back to the hotel and crashed for the night.
OK, so a lot of things have happened, and I've mostly been too busy and/or lazy to write them down, but in 10 years, I'm going to forget everything that happened on my Hawaii trip, and wonder "what the hell is this picture of?" so I figure I should write something down.
Before I can do that, though, I feel I should devote at least a little attention to what has happened since my last entry. In roughly chronological order:
- my contract job got turned into a permanent one
- I went back to Vegas in the first week in November and ate at Michael Mina's in Vegas. Suzy and I split two of the tasting menus, which meant I got about 75% of the food which is a good deal for me. The tasting menus were seasonal and traditional. I felt a little guilty eating the Chilean sea bass, but not enough to not get it.
We also went to Ka. It was decent... I felt it was an exploration of the limits of visual art on stage, and in that respect it did very well. If you were looking for a more Mystere show which emphasizes strength and agility elements, you're going to be slightly disappointed. Though there were still many of those acts, I felt the focus of the show was the emphasize on visual effects.
- I went to a concert with Suzy in SF to see Andy Bell (lead singer from Erasure). We should have seen the red flag when the ticket was only $15. (Or maybe we did and didn't care because it was only $15.) There were two pretty bad opening bands, and by the time Andy Bell got on stage it was already around 11:30. He announced that he was going to DJ for about an hour and then sing 4 songs.
For $15, I would have thought that a good deal. Unfortunately, we had no idea that an 8:00 starting time would go so late, and we took BART in. BART's last train leaves around 12:30, so we danced to some of the DJ'd music for a while before going home. Stupid Bay Area public transportation. Oh well, we still had fun... and what can you expect for $15?
- I bought a new car, a 2006 BMW 325i Sedan with the sports package in Monaco Blue Metallic. It's a great car and I have no regrets at all getting it.
- I celebrated my birthday whee!
- Suzy and I started seeing each other again (whee!)
- Suzy and I started house shopping. Wow does this take up a lot of time, as we're pretty picky and the housing market where we are looking is still pretty insane.
- Suzy and I got engaged (whee!). My friends all tell me that I got the better end of that deal, and pretty much they're right.
- Suzy and I made an offer on a house. Unfortunately so did 5 other people. Our offer was decent but still just in the middle of the pack, despite bidding a fair amount above the offer and with great terms.
- Suzy and I went to Hawaii.
More on Hawaii later, but at least I'm caught up now.
I forgot to mention that while we were at the Aladdin we found a gallery for Vladimir Kush in the Aladdin mall.
I'm usually pretty picky about my art, and while there are several artists I like, I usually only enthralled with a small percentage of their works.
The initial picture that drew us in was Nero:
I've severely reduced the size on the image, and I *think* that it's legal for me to include the image under fair use... though of course I'm not a lawyer. Click on the image to see a bigger image or just visit Vladimir Kush's Official Site.
I've found that I really like a large number of his paintings, and if I had more free money, I'd like to buy some. While his site is nice, you can only view one work at a time. I found that by using Google Images, you can get thumbnails for a large number of his paintings.
I wonder whether any of his paintings would be worth anything as an investment... I know almost nothing about stuff like that.
Last weekend a bunch of us went to Vegas and stayed at The Orleans , the place where we've stayed the last 3 or 4 times we've been in Vegas. It's a great casino even though it's off the strip with good rooms, inexpensive tables, a nice arcade (including 2 DDR machines), a bowling alley, and cheaper prices because it's not on the strip.
Here are some of the highlights of the trip:
PT Cruiser We used Thrifty this time, which I haven't used in about 10 years. The way they work is you buy a tier (in our case mid-size) and then you went to the lot and took whatever car you liked within that tier. We arrived late at night, and there were only two choices -- a mundane looking sedan, and the PT. So of course we took the PT.
After driving it around, I have to say I wouldn't buy one. It looks nice, but it feels heavy and the acceleration wasn't great. Of course, we got the Touring Edition, which seems pretty low-end, so maybe another version would have been better.
$3.90 for two entrees Even though I had eaten a CPK personal pizza while at San Jose Airport, I was still hungry. By the time we had checked in and said hi to everyone, it was after midnight. The Orleans' Courtyard Cafe has a deal from Monday-Thursday from midnight to 5 or 6 where they have 5-6 entrees for dirt cheap. Being hungry and not sure what I wanted, I decided to just order two different entrees since they were so cheap: biscuits and gravy, and 2 eggs, 2 pieces of bacon, and hash browns. Each plate was $1.95.
Not unexpectedly, I finished both entrees.
Port of Subs! None of my California friends except Suzy likes Port of Subs, a submarine sandwich shop, for various reasons. I like it a lot for a couple of reasons: usually their bread is fresh as they make it the same day; the meat is cut when you order it so it's not been pre-sliced and then refrigerated; and I like the oil and vinegar and other spices they have as options.
I will admit that I generally order only 1 sandwich, the Ham-Salami-Capicolla-Pepperoni-Provolone (option #1), so it's possible their other sandwiches suck and I just never knew since I've never had them. In any event, Suzy and I went to eat lunch there.
I busted first at the poker tournament We had our second annual hedgehog poker tournament on Friday, and I was the first to bust out. It's good to be first at something, I guess.
The Aladdin Buffet You know, I was going to link to the Aladdin Buffet, but since the whole Aladdin site is in Flash, I can't do that. Flash is nice for some things, but this is a great example of one of the biggest problems with it.
We went to the Aladdin Buffet Friday night and asked them if it would be a problem for our group of 13 to eat there. After some misunderstanding over what we were going to get in exchange for being charged a 17% gratuity (on a $24 meal), we all sat generally in the same section and played our usual musical chairs and didn't get charged the 17% fee.
At first glance, I was a little apprehensive, since the layout reminded me of the Rio's buffet (which is highly overrated). But close up, the food did seem to be higher quality, and it tasted great. I would have no problems recommending it to anyone.
Bowling and Beer After dinner we went bowling, where I averaged a bottle of Corona every three frames. Luckily we only played one game. For some reason, I don't really remember my score.
Blackjack "Easy come easy go..." is that the expression? I cashed in for $100 and cashed out about an hour later at $310, and then lost $200 in about 2 hours later that weekend to be net +$5 (subtracting out the tips).
An expensive Coke We had lunch on Saturday at the Wynn at some deli. It was very nice, except Mike's Coke was $3. I got the Ruban, which was only $10 or $12... the same price I pay for one at Sydney's Restaurant so that was fine. I really like the one at Sydney's, and this one was about as good.
Karate Forms? I've been to a few Karate tournaments now, and I have no idea what they judge forms on. Regardless, Katy got 4th place in forms, and barely lost 3-2 in her first round of sparring. No matter how she did though, we're all pretty sure she will always be able to kick Jason's ass.
Italian at the TI A few of us had dinner at Francesco's, an Italian restaurant at the Treasure Island. Unfortunately we were in a hurry since we had a show to catch so we didn't have a chance to get appetizers or dessert, but we all liked our entrees a lot. I hope to go back there next time we're in Vegas.
Avenue Q Suzy wanted to go to a show, Mike got all the information, and I fronted the money, so I guess it was a collaborative effort to see Avenue Q. Ok, not really. Mike did most of the work, including pretending to be me on the phone to pay for the tickets, and making us make a commitment to the show.
We decided on getting 3rd row center balcony tickets for $88 instead of 20th row right orchestra tickets for $100. When we got there, we found out the show hadn't been sold out (which, since we had gotten tickets about 6 hrs earlier, should have been self-evident). One of the ushers exchanged our tickets for seats at... 20th row right orchestra. Well at least we saved some money.
The musical was excellent, and had me laughing almost the entire time. While I think few people would agree with all the messages in all of the songs, I think most people will find some gem of truth or realization in many of the songs. And we got to make fun of Mike for wishing he could go back to college and then actually doing it.
I definitely recommend it to anyone who has the opportunity to see it. Who knows, maybe you'll even find your purpose in life when you see it. If you miss it, it sucks to be you. Anyways, there's a fine fine line between subtly dropping lines from songs and trying to hard... and I'm pretty sure I've gone too far. That will have to do... for now.
Comp'ed meal Jason had played blackjack the entire time from before dinner to after we got back from the show and had accrued free meals for up to three people. A number of people were still hungry after midnight, and the only thing open was the Courtyard Cafe. Five of us went to eat there, figuring we would split the cost of the extra two people.
The waitress there was way cool though and basically worked the system so we all ate for free. Whee! It's cool to get free stuff (yes, we did tip her very well).
Lots of random other stuff went on too, but those are some of the highlights.
<trump> so here's my concept. <trump> voip is really good for spoken communication if you need that to feel good or something, but it takes a lot of bandwidth and data transfer to make it happen, and sometimes you don't really need all that overhead. plus it's expensive if the carriers ever start charging for that bandwidth. <trump> so there should be another way to move information around. thus, text over ip. <trump> i've been looking into it and i think it could be done. <trump> anyway, try to sell your people on that one too. <KojoZilla> LAF <paladinMI> toip? <KojoZilla> the ramifications are endless. you could even have virtual gathering places for people on the internet where they could exploit this new technology by chatting. <trump> via text, yes. <KojoZilla> i mean "chatting" <Emetri> you know, I thought of something like that, only different. <trump> this is so much more economical and yet functional. <Emetri> so here's the idea: VOIP is good, but the "last mile" problem makes getting fiber or wire out to everyone difficult. <Emetri> so clearly wireless is the solution. but standard wireless VOIP still has issues with bandwidth and interference. so why not use broadcast technology instead? <Emetri> one word: yelling. <KojoZilla> heh <trump> my other concept was that they should start offering ebay over voip, where you call in and tell an operator what you want to shop for and they have someone read you all the auctions for that market. you could even have an extra service for a minor surcharge where a trained professional would describe the pictures to you. <KojoZilla> this channel is a hotbed for innovation. We need to sell these ideas to someone. <Emetri> I really think my wireless broadcast VNOIP technology has a lot of potential. <Emetri> the range is kind of low without a signal booster, but the hardware is inexpensive and there's a set of established communication protocols already. <trump> i think you may have aa lot of not-in-my-back-yard issues with getting the signal stations built. <Emetri> and if you need really long range, you could have users volunteer to be "repeaters" to relay information packets across great distances. <KojoZilla> I'm getting tingles just thinking about it <Emetri> it could give skype a run for its money. we can call it skream. <Emetri> naomi is already pretty good at it. <trump> so is ally. <KojoZilla> this new generation of kids are very technologically savvy. <Emetri> our neighbors across the driveway discovered our signal overlaps their house, in fact. they were surprised how high the volume was.
As I was going to my car yesterday, an air raid siren started wailing from the park about half a block away. There was another pedestrian within view of me, and we sort of looked at each other quizzically.
I had a brief irrational thought, "I hope a nuclear bomb isn't about to go off," as I looked towards the sky (which in retrospect wasn't very smart). I then decided I would be smarter than Tom Cruise in "War of the Worlds" and go to my car and turn on the radio.
Before I could get there though, a voice followed the siren which stated that this was a test of the outdoor emergency system, and that it was only a test. It was kind of weird that my first thought was of a nuclear bomb, when the likelihood of that is very small when compared to something like a tsunami warning... maybe it was because there was news coverage of the anniversary of the Hiroshima bombing recently.
Still, it's nice to know that something like that exists, and that if I ever hear it again, I can expect it to provide me information rather than just drone on and on like in those old movies.
I was meeting my friend for lunch, and she had asked me to page her when I was close (she's a doctor). I did so, and her page message went something like, "Please leave your 7 digit phone number and I'll call you back." Though I never asked her, I bet she stated that because a lot of people would otherwise leave their 5-digit network number, which isn't very useful when you need to return the call on a cell phone.
I must have a weak mind, though, as I totally got Jedi Mind-Tricked. Instead of leaving my area code and phone number, I just left my 7 digit number. The weird thing is while I was punching in the 7 digits I thought to myself, "I should be leaving my 10 digit number" but regardless my fingers finished punching in my 7 digits and I hung up.
We ended up going to Pomelo which was excellent. Though I found it kind of hard to remember the names of the dishes (as far as I can tell they are named after the geographic proximity where you could expect to find the dish), I did think it was a neat concept. I ended up eating the lanzhou, egg noodles with seared ahi tuna, and thanks to Google I now know it to be in China.
It was a very eclectic menu, and I hope to go there again.
I went down to LA last weekend, and originally I had decided I wasn't going to post a trip report (after all, who really cares what I did for a weekend?) but something happened there that made me change my mind.
So here's my trip report from LA. Ignore or read it as you please. ~~
I fly out of San Jose. My flight is at 8:50 and the airport is deserted. There's no one in front of me to check in at the automated kiosk. No one's in front of me in the security line. There's one person in line before me to get a pizza, and maybe 5 people total at the gate I was flying out of. It almost reminded me of the pre-9/11 days. Of course, the London bombings were about three hours away...
I end up on a dinky plane (at least it wasn't a turbo prop) with only three seats across so everyone got an aisle, window, or both, but the flight was uneventful.
I arrive in Santa Ana without any problems and go get my car from Enterprise. I had booked on Expedia and Enterprise's price was about $15/day for a midsize while Hertz and Avis both wanted $45 for a subcompact. I'd used Enterprise once in Seattle and they were fine, so I went with them. One nice thing at the Santa Ana airport is the rental cars are all on location, so I didn't have to take a shuttle. I was greeted by a very enthusiastic young agent, who proceeded to chat me up in preparation for getting me to pay for the insurance.
I later learned he had been working for 12 hours, so maybe he was just wired on caffeine rather than just being enthusiastic. He was cool and found all sorts of dents and scratches on the Saturn I never would have found myself, and circled a couple of numbers in case the car had problems and assured me that they would come deliver a new one to me if I had any problems. It turns out that was weirdly prophetic. After a couple tries it was clear I wasn't going to pay for the insurance, so he had me sign and initial things and I was off to Katy and Daryl's house where I was crashing for the night.
Wednesday night is one of our guilds' raid nights in World of Warcraft, and it had just ended. I chatted with them for awhile, then Katy had to go to sleep because she had to work. Daryl was slacking and taking the week off, so I played a bit of WoW with him. Luckily the server came down for a reset around 2:00 (the clock I was reading said it was 12:30 :-/) and I went to sleep.
My plan was to see my high school friend Eric, who lived in LA proper. Yahoo maps listed it as 54 miles away and thought it would take a little more than an hour to get there. Yeah right. I budgeted 90-120 minutes, and as it turns out there was an accident so it took a little over 2 hours to get there.
Eric and his wife Kit recently had a son named Joe who was just shy of 3 months old. We went to Johnny Rockets for lunch, which was pretty unmemorable. Afterwards Eric and I hung out at his place watching Joe while Kit took a nap.
OK, though I'm still not a big fan of babies (though this is slightly changing -- they no longer cause me to panic and run away), Joe did have his moments. One of the tricks he learned was if Eric was reclining and held Joe up by the arms, Joe would mimic "walking" up Eric's chest. Not an easy task for a pre-three month old baby, but he took to it with a passion. I noticed though, that Joe seemed so intent on making his legs move forward, he forgot about that whole swallowing-your-saliva thing and started drooling. Hey, multitasking is *still* hard, so he'll get no disrespect from me for not having mastered leg movement and swallowing at the same time yet.
Later Joe needed his diaper changed, and Eric took me to the nursery which doubled as his top secret laboratory. In it, he had one of his inventions. I'd tell you about it, but Eric is a lawyer and he made me sign this NDA that forced me to change Joe's diapers for a year if I said anything about it. That's really a fate on par with burning in hell, so that's all I'll say about that.
Also at some point Eric reminded me of a Cranberries/Duran Duran concert we had gone to in December of 1993 which I had totally forgotten about. (More on that later.)
We got some stuff for grilling from Whole Foods, and I introduced Eric to Tejava, one of my favorite drinks. The grill had some issues, but dinner turned out fine. I knew I was going to be having dinner later with Katy, Daryl, and Suzy and Mike who were flying down, so I only had a smallish dinner (2 cheeseburgers and an ear of corn). I figured after another two hour drive back to Lake Forest I'd probably be hungry again.
Sure enough, after looking for a non-existent Benihana's which seemed to only exist in Katy's mind, we ended up at The Cheesecake Factory. Thinking I wouldn't be that hungry, I split a salad, calamari, and sundae with Suzy. I also ate a bunch of their bread and some of Mike's shrimp rejects. And I was still hungry after all that. Sigh. Well at least my metabolism still deals moderately well with all the food I eat.
Service was a bit slow so by the time we finished with that it was 11:30 and time for bed.
I slept in on Friday. Whee! We went to this random food court for lunch and I ate at some Philly Cheesesteak place which was ok but not as good as Amato's. Afterwards, Daryl, Mike, Suzy and I went to play mini golf. I crushed them all. (OK, maybe I only won by one stroke on the last hole were I got a 2 and Daryl got a 4 or 5. But it was still a crushing.) Afterwards we watched Mike hit some "medium" speed pitches that seemed kind of slow. He would have done the "fast" speed, but he's getting pretty old (he kept saying "sweet" which pretty much makes him ancient), and we didn't want him to hurt himself.
The arcade was decent. We played some DDR and "Rampage - 2000 World Tour" (why, I'm not sure). They also had the over/under handwaving Benami game I can't remember the name of. After that we went back to Katy and Daryl's house and I think Daryl made some homemade ice cream. Katy came home and informed us there was a "SigAlert" on the 22, which meant there was a bad crash there. (Normally freeways don't have "the" in their names but I'm in LA and when in Rome and all that.) So we took a bunch of surface streets to the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim's home game next to Disneyland, where they were playing against the Mariners.
Because of traffic, we missed the very start of the game, but Suzy and Mike made up for it by singing the Star Spangled Banner (thankfully only once). Also, Tracy (aka Marwick) called while we were driving to the stadium. Hi Tracy! We gave him grief and made him promise to absolutely come to Las Vegas. Or at least that's my recollection of it.
The game was pretty cool. They had these Corona 20 oz'ers called Corona Bombers which I hadn't seen before. Of course they wanted $12 for them. Eh whatever, I'm on vacation. I ended up splitting that with Suzy. I also got two hot dogs (which looked like the $1 hot dogs at the Wednesday A's games except they were four times as expensive, so they must have been better) and a pretzel. Oh I also split some nacho's with Suzy too. Suzy requires nacho's at least once a year or else she gets bitchy, so I think the entire crew was pretty glad to get that taken care of.
Seattle crushed the Angels (much in the same way that I crushed at mini golf only more so) and there were fireworks after the show. They were surprisingly good. Evidently, they have fireworks for every Friday home game during the season, and it's sponsored by Wells Fargo. I imagine Wells Fargo gets their money's worth out of it, as the game we went to was sold out (attendance was 46xxx) despite the Mariner's being an awful team this year. And hey, it was cool enough I'm mentioning them too.
Also Ethan and his girlfriend showed up late (they got caught in traffic). Unfortunately, they were seated to Mike (I'll let you parse that however you want) so I didn't get a chance to talk to them much. I did see Ethan vault a railing on his way to get food though which I found amusing.
By then, the freeways had somewhat cleared up though we still were in some stop-and-go traffic for a while (to be expected in LA really). We got home and time for bed. As you can see, we are not teh party animals (tm).
We went to Fuddruckers. I decided that while I could finish the 1lb burger (I had done that last time we were there), I would probably enjoy the 2/3lb burger more. It was fine, though I wish they had a 3/4lb burger option.
After lunch we went to Laguna Beach (the city, not the beach) where there was an Arts Festival. I found some metered parking really close to the event. After having to parallel park in San Francisco for so long, I'm not totally suck at it anymore, and luckily it was a wide spot (this becomes more relevant shortly).
The festival was fine, and fairly cheap (only $7). We just missed seeing someone doing a glass-blowing demonstration. Daryl and I watched some guy do some magic tricks, we saw lots of art none of us wanted, and Katy sort of helped make a bowl-like ceramic thing which was mostly made by one of the exhibitor's sculptors whose job it was to make you think you helped on the kiln when in reality they did 90% of the work.
After spending a couple hours there, it was time to go home, go to the store, and grill some stuff. So I got into the car, and started it up. It started... and then stalled. Weird. So I tried it again and it stalled again. Grr.
After a little experimentation, I discovered if I revved the engine right away after I started the car it wouldn't stall. If I then left off the gas, it would stall again. Great. 20 miles of potentially stop-and-go traffic with lots of lights. Ah well, it would be better than being stuck at the festival.
I started the car in neutral and immediately revved it up while keeping the brake on with my left foot. (As a note: this is a very odd sensation.) As I let up a little on the gas, the tachometer dropped to below 2000 rpms and I dropped it into gear and swung onto the road (which was marked 45 but thankfully I had some room). I went about 50 feet and there was a car in front of me, so I was forced to 1. flip the car back into neutral, 2. jam on the brakes with my left foot, and 3. jam on the accelerator with my right foot, all in the span of about 2 seconds.
Every time I came to a stop I had to repeat those steps. Luckily I did it well enough I only stalled once or twice on the drive back, but man that was a pita. On the way home I called Enterprise and eventually convinced them to come out to Lake Forest (about 25 minutes away from the airport) to replace the car. Once back at Katy and Daryl's house, I turned off the engine and started it back up. Of course the problem was gone. Oh well. I still didn't want to drive that car and risking a repeat, especially on a stop-and-go freeway.
Some people went off to the store. Jason called and said he'd be by in a while. The Enterprise guy came by and swapped cars with me. I ended up with a Pontiac Vibe. He also told me not to worry about filling up the tank, which is nice because I had just filled up the tank on the Saturn on the way to Laguna Beach.
I chopped some tomatoes as my part of helping with dinner (really you don't want me doing much else) and then chilled out. I got in some games of WSG while chatting with Daryl and Jason who were grilling. Conveniently, the computer room had a door out right next to the grill so I could see when my turn came up.
Katy later claimed dinner only cost $6 per person. I thought she was on crack, and Mike basically said the same thing. But Katy used her math skillz to double check the amount and insisted it was correct.
After dinner, we watched Buckaroo Bonzai. I'm still not sure exactly how that happened. Everyone but Mike blames Mike; Mike blames Katy. All I know is Buckaroo Bonzai is not a good movie. By then it was time for the Pictionary rematch. In the first game, Mike, Suzy, and I won the game for Northern California, defeating Katy, Daryl, and Jason.
Daryl jokingly suggested girls against boys, which Suzy and Katy accepted. I thought about giving them Mike as an honorary girl, but I figured they would dominate us if I did that, so I kept my mouth shut. We got crushed anyways.
We went to the real Benihana's for lunch. Suzy was her typical self and ate only about half of her food. Yay free fried rice, mushrooms, and ice cream! Our chef guy wasn't inspired and gave us the standard performance. Oh well, at least the food was good. After lunch, Mike forced us to watch the Blues Brothers and then we drove off to the airport. Enterprise was pretty cool about the whole car swap thing and the turn-in process went smoothly. Our flight was delayed about 15 minutes but we arrived on time.
Oh and here's a tip: if you are a little on the pudgy side, but still want to wear really short jean shorts that pushes your fat up, don't wear a short t-shirt. And if you do wear a short t-shirt, make sure you don't raise your arms above your head. Unfortunately this girl on the bus back to parking got on late and was forced to stand and use the rails above her head to keep her balance. It was very not cute, or in the words of Suzy "a bit unflattering."
This last Sunday I went to the Erasure concert in San Francisco. The venue was The Independent, and it was great. Suzy estimated that from the front of the stage to the bar in back was about 30 feet. Andy Bell wasn't more than 3-5 feet away from the front of the stage most of the time, and even with our average place about 10 or so feet away from the stage we, this was the closest I had ever been to a performer at a concert.
Though I found two articles, from the Chronicle, and Inside Bay Area on the concert (though they talk about the opening night), I figured I would give my own impressions.
First of all, I dreaded finding parking near the venue, but we lucked out and found parking within the first 5 minutes of looking. I found the crowd to be odd in two ways. First, it seemed there were more women than men there, and second (perhaps related), almost everyone there was short. I almost felt tall that night.
Erasure played about 90 minutes of music, with no opening band. Before the curtain disappeared, Andy Bell sang "Three Blind Mice." I'm not sure if there was any special significance to it, but it was pretty cool nonetheless.
They played a bunch of new stuff as well as a lot of their old stuff (Oh L'amour, Hideaway, Sometimes, A Little Respect, Chains of Love, Blue Savannah) as well as a bunch of their newer stuff. Missing were the Abbaesque songs, but they played 2 songs (Knocking on Your Door and Stop!) from Crackers International.
During their cover of Rapture, Vince Clark picked up the rap while Andy went to change, and it was quite amusing. I wonder if he does the rap on the album too. Later Suzy would comment, "I thought he was like Silent Bob! I didn't think he ever talked!"
Speaking of Vince Clark, he initially dressed in aviator garb with a leather helmet. Atop of the helmet was a small replica of a satellite dish, which oddly reminded me of one of the gnomish hats from World of Warcraft. I can't imagine he plays WoW but it was eerily similar.
Andy Bell didn't sing an a capella this time around, but he did sing a prayer/hymn with minimal instruments. Once again I was reminded that he really is a telented singer with an amazing vocal range.
Though not as lavish as the first concert I went to (Phantasmagorical), it still featured several costume changes and was very entertaining. I definitely felt I got my money's worth and hope they tour again.
My job has flexible hours, and I've discovered if I delay my leaving time even later, I can go up 101 instead of 280. The speed is still slower by 8-10 miles per hour, but I arrive at about the same time, and the speed difference is right on the edge of whether I feel I need to worry about being pulled over for speeding or not.
So 101 is vastly preferable, assuming I can leave late enough that 101 isn't a crawl. This also means I leave work later, which is fine because I can take 101 back down as well. Things have been going great for several months, until last Friday.
I was traveling with a pack of cars and we're near Marsh, all going slightly fast, though not so fast I thought we would definitely have been pulled over. We are all in the first lane (from the left). The car in front of me signals right and moves into the second lane to pass a car. I follow and move into the second lane as well. This move causes the car in the first lane to speed up. (As a side rant: why do people get so freaked out about being passed? I've seen people content to go 60 in the first lane, but as soon as someone tries to pass them on the right, they accelerate up to 80 and try and prevent the passer from getting back into the first lane. Get over it!)
All of a sudden, the car in front of me brakes. I grumble, and move back into the first lane (after signaling), pass him, and move back into the second lane ahead of him. Because there wasn't a lot of room, I changed lanes a lot closer than normal (though I didn't cut him off). That's when I notice two motorcycle cops behind me in the first lane. Oops. Compounding that, the car in front of has slammed on their brakes, probably noticing the cops at about the same time, and I'm forced to brake hard to avoid rear-ending him. Sigh. Way to not look guilty of speeding.
I have a theory about cops, which is that when they patrol, they aren't really looking for just speeders (unless they are using a radar gun). They are looking for people who do other illegal things (such as tailgate, weave through traffic, etc) in addition to speeding. I've seen this firsthand enough times to believe there is at least that tendency. And here I've gone and done something completely boneheaded in front of the cops.
Well, the cops pull up alongside, and one of the cops turns to face me. Seeing that and realizing that ignoring him isn't going to get me anywhere, I look over to him. He yells at me, "Slow Down!" as he shakes his finger at me. I nod and give him a salute (the nice one, not the other one of course!) as they pass by.
They keep going and eventually pull over someone a few miles later, for what I have no idea because I'm not audacious enough to follow them closely after that incident.
That's the closest I've come to getting pulled over in a long time.
Later that night I checked out a new restaurant specializing in Singaporean and Malaysian food on Moffet between 101 and Central called Baba Neo. Going to a new restaurant is often pretty iffy, and the last two restaurants in that location didn't last more than about a year each. So we were pretty surprised when we arrived that the place was packed.
Once we were seated and looking at the menu, there were so many dishes which looked interesting it took us a long time to order. We ended up getting fried squid, black pepper crab, shrimp curry, and water spinach for Suzy and I (that's a lot of food, especially if you consider how much Suzy eats!) because we couldn't narrow the list any further.
There is a vegetable dish my parents make which is the only veggie dish I actually like. (Now that I think about it, if I liked all vegetables like I like that one, being a vegetarian wouldn't be hard at all.) I've never known the English name, though. My parents tell me it translates roughly into "hollow heart vegetable" or "hollow vegetable." I did a bit of research on the Internet and had remembered a potential other name for it was water spinach. So we gambled and ordered it.
It turned out to be the right vegetable after all, which is awesome because now I finally know of a restaurant I can order it at. The crab was excellent as well. The fried squid came with onions, and red and green peppers. It wasn't super-fresh but it was still good. The shrimp curry was a little bland, but I think it would have been good if you dumped the shrimp and curry and ate it over rice. Bundled with the other foods, however, we had a hard time tasting the flavor.
All-in-all it was a great experience, and I'm looking forward to going back there. There are still several dishes I want to try out. If you are around the area you should give it a try.
I haven't talked a lot about BlueTracker, the project which pulled me off of LJImages. BlueTracker scans through the the official forums for World of Warcraft and collects all the "Blue" (official) posts. I recently added a summary on the front page. During most of the day, the general forum seems to get about 20 posts per minute. In addition to the general forums there are a bunch of class forums, a raid forum, and some other forums (which BlueTracker also tracks).
Though I use BlueTracker for most of my updates, I do still read the forums every once in a while, since I want to know what random people have to say. Some of the posts in the mage forum (I play a mage in the game) are actually quite intelligent, and I've learned some tips on how to play my class better on them.
One thing that really bugs me though is the new "leetspeak" that's becoming mainstream on the board. In particular I've noticed "ftw" (for the win), e-peen or epeen (for e-penis), and "quoted for truth."
For those who aren't up on this lingo, here is an explanation:
ftw (for the win): the "correct" or best way to do something. Example:
Q. Where is a good place to get burgers on Wednesdays?
A. St. John's half price burgers ftw
epeen: used as a response when someone makes a boastful claim, or when two people get into an argument about who is right. Example:
Post: My toon killed that phat mob in 3 seconds!
Response: Your epeen must feel proud.
quoted for truth: as far as I can tell, this started out with mostly AOLers responding to requests for information or opinions with "me too." This gradually evolved into /signed, which was largely used when someone would start some sort of petition and people who agreed would type /signed. Evidently that wasn't enough though, and some people thought some posts were so important they started quoting them and adding quoted for truth at the end. Example:
I'm rock. Scissors are fine. Please nerf Paper.
I'm rock. Scissors are fine. Please nerf Paper.
Quoted for truth.
Thankfully, I'm sure that most of the new leetspeak trends won't last past a year. For now, though, I get to read through it as I scan the boards.
If you want to make sure your epeen doesn't get slammed on the boards, read this post ftw
I went to the In the Groove launch party on Wednesday. In the Groove is a Dance Dance Revolution like game released last year to the arcades. It features the same arrow scrolling as DDR, but has new (and some harder) songs, as well as some new options for those bored with DDR.
Red Octane developed the Playstation 2 version of the game, and it's being released in late May or early June. I participated in a focus group for Red Octane a while ago, and they graciously invited me to the launch party. Conveniently it was held in San Francisco, just a few miles away from my work.
It took place at Fluid SF, a bar located on Mission St. I would have never found it had I not been looking, but the inside was pretty nice. There was an open bar and sushi rolls (which were pretty good). Unfortunately, I was driving so I couldn't take advantage of the open bar.
In the Groove has several features which I'm really looking forward to. First, I really like the music. The DJ had all the songs and was playing them over the speakers. All the songs were definitely dancable, and wouldn't have felt out of place at a dance club.
ItG has all the standard DDR mods like speed mods, mirror, shuffle, sudden, stealth, etc. But it also has several completely new mods. I don't remember the name of them all but among them are:
- wave: the arrows move left and right as they travel up the screen - spin: the arrows spin around quickly in place (relatively) as they travel up the screen - hurricane: the arrows are jumbled around at first, only going to their correct position near the top - wave2?: the arrows accelerate and decelerate as they travel up the screen - stream: extra arrows are added for each half beat (possibly more, but only half-beats for the song I played) - echo: I think this one adds an extra arrow for each arrow?
There are several others too.
One thing I didn't realize about the interface is that selecting an option doesn't de-select the other options. So I played a song with stream, which was fine since I was only playing a 5 footer. I then turned on echo for the next song, thinking it would deselect stream.
I did my best imitation of thumper for about 30 seconds as I had to quickly hit the same arrow for 10+ times in a row in between the real arrows before I gave up because that setup wasn't fun.
So next time I'll know to be careful mixing and matching mods. I'm definitely looking forward to playing this game at home though.
I was listening to the radio on the way into work today and they were talking about the devastating 1906 San Francisco earthquake. One the things they pointed out several times was how people aren't prepared for an earthquake of that magnitude.
It's certainly true I don't have a 10 step plan of attack in case a major earthquake hits. I do have a stock of water, but that's about it. So I should probably look into that.
They also talked about a documentary which had some special effects done by Lucus to demonstrate the power of the 1906 quake. A later caller was a fire chief, and she talked about going to the various schools to teach kids what to do in case of an earthquake. That got me to thinking though... People learn all sorts of things from video games. I wonder if a game where you played a fireman or policeman and were put in a situation right after a major earthquake had struck. Part of your job would be to rescue people, deal with rioters, trying to restore order, etc.
I could see going one of two ways with it: 1. you could try and go the very educational route, and perhaps get some money for creating a game for kids to play as a teaching aid, or 2. you could tack on something more unreal but potentially more entertaining for the twitch crowd. Maybe ala Resident Evil a biotech lab is mostly destroyed in the earthquake and your eventual job is to deal with mutant animals, zombies, or whatever.
Regardless, I wish there were more of an effort to combine education with gaming and entertainment. I've said several times I've been impressed with the ability of kids to learn things when they are interested. I used to play a game called Magic: the Gathering, a collectible card game, and it was amazing the words that very young children knew because they were names of Magic cards. They never considered it learning -- between the artwork, the mechanics of the card, and the name, they were able to absorb the concept of what an object was.
I haven't done my research on this topic though. For all I know, someone did already make a post-earthquake game and it totally flopped. Still, I think if you made the gameplay interesting enough, most people wouldn't even realize they were learning, yet they would be better prepared when the big earthquake finally does come.