Monday, December 29, 2008



(To be continued....)

Saturday, December 27, 2008

A Tree Dies in Berkeley

The day before xmas, I went to Andronico's to stock up on provisions to last me through that long, cold day where everything is closed.

On my way out, I stopped by a presentation of marked-down xmas greenery. I was half-thinking of buying a poinsettia to plant outside. In the right conditions, they can grow into a big, lovely bush which brings a nice bit of winter color. There is one in a yard down my street.

A store manager caught me lost in contemplation. Mistakenly, he must have thought I was trying to decide whether to buy one of what must be the ugliest little xmas trees I've ever seen. In fact, my thoughts had already wandered elsewhere, as they are wont to do, and I remained present in body only.

Perhaps fearing that the $2 price tag was beyond my reach, he absolutely insisted that he give me one. There ensued a very confused minute or two as he tried, by shouting across the store, to get an un-comprehending bag-boy to put one of these hideous things into my un-willing hands. I accepted so as not to prolong the scene, but I swear it just just like "the gift of the magi". (OK, actually not.)

I thanked him as best I could, in memory of all the nice things Andronico's has come to represent for me, and took the damn thing home.

Now I have a sad little pine tree on my hands and I don't know quite what to do with it. I believe that in Berkeley one can be jailed for cutting, harming, or allowing by way of inaction, harm to befall a tree.

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Tedious, Cruddy Meme

Here, for no particular reason, except my hidden agenda, is my contribution to the
bookshelf meme
, slightly modified.

Book That's Been On My Shelf The Longest.
"Baptist Hymnal", edited by Walter Hines Sims. Contains such hits as "How Tedious and Tasteless the Hours" and "There is a Fountain Filled With Blood".

Most likely my father picked this up when the church was changing to a new hymnal. One with less tedious and bloody hymns, no doubt.

I used to play Xmas songs from it. Now it is mostly gathering dust.

Book That Reminds me of Something Specific in my Life.
I can't remember anything specific in my life.

A Book I Acquired in an Interesting Way.
The Ring, by Richard Chopping.

In a coffee shop in the Haight, I once came across an old, yellowing book that caught my eye. No doubt because of the cover.

It remained there for weeks, so I took it home. I doubt I ever would have found it otherwise, but I quite enjoyed it. Beware: it "is a novel that deals frankly and unsparingly with the homosexual world of London. It is not for the squeamish or for those unwilling to face the facts about the desperate underground activities of the gay world." One of those unfortunate facts is that if you like a bit of rough trade, you are going to get a bit of roughing up. It was published in the 1960's, part of the gay paperback explosion, so I'll leave you to guess how it ends.

Chopping lived with the same guyfor 70 years, so I guess the book wasn't terribly autobiographical. The fact that it remains on my bookshelf means I liked it and intend to read it again some day.

He is much better known as the cover artist for the original James Bond books, but he didn't draw the cover for this one.

After reading this anonymous review, posted by none other than Paul Di-Fillipo, I feel I simply must read his other novel "The Fly"!

Book That's Been with me to the Most Places.
Has to be my LAROUSSE Concise French-English dictionary. One never knows when that might be necessary.

The most recent addition to your shelves.
I don't add books to my shelves often. I tend to get them from the library so they will go away after I'm done with them. But for unknown reasons, I did buy What the Nose Knows, which wasn't bad, but which also led me to the much more interesting library books The Secret of Scent and The Emperor of Scent. Both tell exactly the same story, but from different points of view. I highly recommend both, though "Secret" would be tough if you don't like chemistry. "Emperor" gives a very depressing look at the petty in-fighting that really does go on in the research world.

The book whose loss would traumatize you the most.
My collection of sheet music. I know, because I once lost my collection of piano sheet music, and I was very traumatized. I had lots of hard-to-find modern pieces. I still haven't been able to replace many of them.

A bonus book that you want to talk about but doesn’t fit into the other questions.

Cruddy illustration

I love, love, love Cruddy! Dark, dark, dark, and over the top, but such great well-observed descriptions of mostly despicable people.

Extra questions.

Book you most want made into a movie.
Easy: The Magus. So I can stop reading it and still find out how it turns out! Seriously, it is a great story, but it is a little slow.

Half-read forever. Finnegans Wake. O.K. quarter-read forever. I used to enjoy challenging myself with tough works. But I'm older and wiser now.

Most read book.

A tie.

Ulysses. Read it three times in my first years in college. Didn't understand a lot of it, but really liked it.

The Little Prince. Read it twice by choice, and then again as part of a French class in high school.

Possible Tie-breaker: Some friends were recently discussing how "The Little Prince" isn't really a book for kids, and used the story of the rose and the thorns as an example. Since I don't remember that part at all, I guess I need to re-read it. And nowadays I could actually understand it easily in French.

Most books by the same author.
Don Webb.

Seven so far. He is one of those exceptions; someone whose books I will actually buy and actually keep. It isn't that he is so great, though I like his work a lot. It is that his books aren't easy to find, and aren't sufficiently appreciated. I don't want to just throw away my first editions of what, someday should be, in any rational world, collectors items.

Everyone should at least read A Spell for the Fulfillment of Desire

Guilty pleasure.I don't feel the least bit guilty about reading them, but I am careful in whose company I'll mention comic books in the same discussion as real books.

There are quite a few I like, but I'll just mention Hate, the Simpsons, Stuck Rubber Baby, and The Desert Peach.

Some writers tell stories better with pictures attached. Deal with it.

Hidden Agenda. It is true. I do have a hidden agenda here, which is to introduce my Goodreads profile. You can subscribe to this feed if you want to keep up with all the exciting reading action going on in my world.

Computers scare me

Computers do the darndest things!

I write programs for a living, but I still don't understand why they do what they do sometimes.

There is a program I wrote last year that is being used in various labs across the world. A few months back, a small number of users started reporting an odd problem. When the program starts, it is supposed to read three sets of reference data which the users will then compare to their own data. The three reference data sets come from the same single archive file. But for these few people, the program only reads two of the data sets, and gives no indication of why it isn't reading the third.

That is odd, but there could be many possible causes. Sadly, we could not reproduce the problem on any of our own machines, so we couldn't help much.

Finally, this week, I found a copy of the program on my machine that did this bad thing. Great! Now I had something to test with. I could try varying things and see what effect it had on the program. Before doing that, I copied the directory containing the program to a new directory so I could leave the first copy untouched while modifying only the copy.

Much to my surprise, the copy of the program behaves flawlessly! All I did was copy it. Now I have one copy that is broken and one that works. But they are identical copies! My boss suggested the files might have different "permissions" set on them before and after the copy, so I've investigate that, and there seem to be no differences. Anyway, the three pieces of data that are supposed to be loaded at start-up all come from a single file, so any permissions problem should affect that whole file and not just part of it.

I'm completely stumped. And scared. If you program a robot to obey Asimov's 3 laws, what will happen when it makes a copy of those laws? Will only 2 of them continue to apply?

Sunday, December 7, 2008

Giving Thanks

I'm buying a house!

No, not that one!

Due to the current market slump, my mother can no longer afford to make the payments on her current house. She isn't broke, but would have to cash-out some undervalued stocks to keep making payments. So I'll be paying them instead for a while. Who knows how long. In return, I'll get a partial ownership and should get some money back when they eventually sell.

I never thought I'd need to do this, didn't know I'd ever be able to, and wasn't sure I would. But life is surprising. I now need to, can, and will.

Despite the grim news I see whenever I accidentally run across a news broadcast, I have lots to be thankful for. I still have a job in tough times. It pays well, is fairly secure, and I get to work on things that I enjoy. I get to live in a cool area, with lots of live music, and get to travel frequently.

I got to see some close friends that I don't see nearly often enough. P came down from the frozen North for a few days. I got to see Li-7 during her tour through with the dots. P's other half should be here soon, though he hasn't sent the details yet.

I got to spend a long weekend up in Mendocino with friends for the holiday. We rented the house pictured above. A considerable amount was consumed.

The weather was unseasonably warm and dry, so we could enjoy some hikes, and we got to see the American porcini in its natural habitat.

I wonder what I'll be thankful for next year....

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Butter Hole

Microwave ovens sure do weird things to butter.

This was a perfect cube before I zapped it.

Friday, November 14, 2008

I want to believe

I want to believe in the nobility of the human spirit and all that. But you've caught me at a bad moment.

This morning, while I was browsing away on the web, and getting geared up for tonight's Legendary Pink Dots show, suddenly I heard a tapping, as of someone gently rapping, rapping at my chamber door.

Open here I flung the shutter, when, with many a flirt and flutter, I spied a thing of evil! A thing of evil from night's plutonian shore.

Some fiend was trying to steal my bike from beneath my very nose! As you see he was able to separate the front wheel from the frame, and had partially separated the rear one when I caught him.

My rear wheel is not easy to get off, since it is bolted on, but he had a wrench.

Anyway, I startled him, so he quickly left on "his" bicycle. He did manage to get my seat, but nothing else.

Sunday, November 2, 2008

A belief we can all change

The votes are in! The flavor of the year is:

Don't believe me? Then you haven't been to VooDoo Donuts.

Friday, October 31, 2008

Shred, baby, Shred!

Originally uploaded by ibcbulk
I don't have a paper shredder at home, so I keep two separate piles of paper: one for recycling, and one to take to the office to get shredded. I often think, "What's the point?". The chances of anything happening are small and I can deal with it if it does.

On Wednesday I checked my bank account on line to see if there was any money left, and I found three very unexpected charges in the last 3 days. Once per day, someone has been using my card number to pay for a test of English as a foreign language, at $150 each!

This is odd for many reasons. Apparently someone knows enough English to hack into my computer and steal my card number, but not enough to pass a test. And if he failed the test on Monday, and failed it again on Tuesday, why would he think he'd pass it on Wednesday?

The lesson: you can never be paranoid enough!

Monday, October 20, 2008

Sale Pending!

Thanks to all the people who sent me advice, by e-mail or here on the blarg, on whether I should buy my condo or not. I got lots and lots of e-mail, and it was really helpful.

It was a tough decision, but I finally decided to procrastinate until someone else would buy it. And someone finally did!

I was riding by on my bike last Thursday, and it had a sale pending sign up.

Seriously, I just decided that I don't feel comfortable right now getting that deep into debt. Psychologically, I don't handle debt well, and the recent market turmoil also gave me pause.

I do not mind renting indefinitely. And it might even make sense financially.

Maybe I'll look for a nicer apartment someday, but this one is really fine for me.

Sunday, October 12, 2008

On the road again

No green dots here.
Stare at cross

My good friend Li-7 is about to be going on a big adventure. She will be going out on tour as a roadie and merchandise-bunny for one of our favorite bands, the Legendary Pink Dots. I don't exactly envy her for traveling all over the country with a bunch of vegetarian men with questionable hygiene who keep odd hours. But she can better tolerate the uncertainties and vicissitudes of such travel than I. I'm sure it will be tons of fun for her, and I am a little jealous.

Since I need a vacation, love exploring new cities, and love this band, I decided to meet her at at least one stop on the tour. But which one? For that I have to back up to how we met.

I had just moved to SF. The day I arrived, my complete CD collection was stolen out of my car. (Yes, I was an eedjet to leave it there in the first place.) I was making little money at the time and SF was (is) expensive, so for a while I was reluctant to buy any new CDs. When I finally did, the first one I re-acquired was Malachai, Shadow Weaver Part 2. I couldn't live without it. (For the record, the second CD was Too Dark Park.)

Through the cloud-zero mailing list, I met Johnny Seitan (not his real name), and he let me make casette copies of the discs that had been stolen from me, and we traded other musical reccomendations. Hard to believe, but MP3's didn't exist yet!

When the dots fall tour came around, Johnny and I talked about going to several shows along the west coast. I then posted a note to cloud-zero asking if anyone else wanted to join us and share expenses for the shows in Seattle and Vancouver. As it turned out, Li-7 and Blondie, who had never met, decided to drive all the way from the other side of the Rockies, in winter, to join us. Johnny couldn't make it for the Seattle show, but was to join us for the Vancouver one.

Now, the Prozac must have been the un-cut real stuff at that time, because this is the sort of thing I just don't do!

Anyway, I reserved us a place at the Hippy Hole in Seattle. They have since moved to better digs, but at the time it was in a crumbling old house.

I was to meet them at the show. When I arrived and found them, I found out that at the Portland show the day before they had met the band and Niels had apparently developed a crush on Li-7. Moments later, there he is sitting with us. This is like freaking me out, but in a good way. I'd been listening to this guy's music almost every day for several years.

They did a great show in Seattle. The next day, we go pick up Johnny at the airport and drive to Vancouver for the show. At some point we realize that there might be some items in the car that shouldn't cross the border, so we find a spot and bury them. Our plan was to go to the show and then drive back to Seattle to sleep. But Johnny just can't restrain himself from going backstage after the show, so we all do. I totally felt like they didn't want me there, though Niels wanted to keep talking to Li-7. So I was uncomfortable, but I did get to talk to cEvin key, and share his rather large cigarette. Since he had been involved in several bands that I loved, like Skinny Puppy and Cyberaktiv, that was also fun.

Anyway, we finally leave and drive back to Seattle, picking up our lost cargo along the way. When we get back in our room, we find that there are like four more people sleeping on our floor! Even though I'd paid extra for a private room! Never trust hippies!

Anyway, it was ok. The next day was Thanksgiving day, and we got to share a big, free hippy turkey dinner that we hadn't been expecting.

Now I was completely oblivious to this -- probably because I was always looking at cute, straight Blondie -- but it turns out that Li-7 was love-struck by Johhny at first sight. So it was a complete surprise to me when she later moved to SF to be with him. But that was great because we gradually became good friends.

So now that Li-7 is on tour with the band on this tour, I had to pick a spot to meet her. I thought about going back to where it all began in Seattle or Vancouver, but I've been to those places several times already. So I decided on the one spot I skipped that time, Portland.

Of course, they are also playing November 14 and 15 at the Café du Nord, and I wouldn't dream of missing either show, and neither should you! They changed my life. Might they change yours?

Sunday, October 5, 2008

Je suis un geek!

It's official. I am now a geek!

While you may have suspected this already, I've passed my final initiation. I've now played Dungeons and Dragons!

Ok, not technically D&D, but the French version, jeu de rôle.

I signed-up for this class at the Alliance Française de Berkeley thinking we would be doing role-playing using extracts from theater pieces. But this is fun in its own way.

Unlike D&D, the French version does not usually take place in a dungeon and there aren't any dragons. Our game takes place in Paris in April, 1900, at the time of the Exposition Universelle.

I am Paul de Mori-Sophrat, a 19-year old student of Egyptology at the Sorbonne. (The prof even drew me a picture.)

The game leader provided a little back-story that I am a the teachers pet of my Prof. The dice provided my relative abilities. I get to fill-in the rest.

So far I have decided to play him as an arrogant suck-up with no real talent other than sweet-talking the professor. I haven't quite decided whether I'm supplying him with opium or the other way around. I'm probably blackmailing him so his wife won't know what really goes on between us.

Anyway, Paris in 1900 was an exciting time. They finally had a semi-functional government, money was starting to flow again, there were exciting new inventions (like moving sidewalks!), and construction was going on all over the city. The city was also host to the 2nd Olympic Games at the same time as the expo.

The story so far: the professor left me a note with a librarian telling me that his life was in danger and I should go to his office and burn all his papers. I went there and found that someone had already ransacked the place. I decided not to destroy the papers. Then I took my bike over to the professor's house. There, I found the concièrge dead in her apt., and someone chased me with a gun. I reported all this to the police and they locked me up! The nerve! And with a boozing bum to boot.

My character doesn't know it yet, but the professer is hiding-out in a hotel, where there are also two experienced adventuresses who have come to Paris for some mysterious purpose, along with their majordom. An apparently insignificant painting was stolen from the Egyptian pavillion. The only clue is a mysterious insignia on what remains of the frame.

I fear that I may get stuck in that jail cell for the rest of the game if I don't stage a break-out. Good thing I've got some congac to bribe the bum to help me. (Lesson: never go anywhere without booze.)

Saturday, October 4, 2008

Table for One

Ever since I wrote my bit on my other piece of art, I've been meaning to write about this one. And I guess I'm now finally getting around to it.

Voilà! "Table for One" by David Fink.

I met David soon after I first moved to San Francisco, which seems like thousands of years ago, and also like yesterday.

I loved his art right away. And when he had a show, I fell in love with this one when I first saw it. JP was with me and she loved it too and helped me decide to buy it. My first art!

A lot has to do with the colors. I'm a big fan of warm browns and oranges and southwestern desert colors.
Cooper's Rothko
Untitled (Green, Brown, Orange)
By Dyna Mo
Also when I saw it, I immediately thought of a Rothko painting.

No not the one Mr Cooper had in his office on Mad Men (fabulous show), but another one. Same style, but different colors. Similar to the way David's painting has three big blocks of color.

It wasn't until several years later that I learned there was a companion piece. David and I had gone sky diving with two other guys -- no, I'm not lying -- and afterwards we went by one of their houses. There on the wall was "Table for Two".

Some would say that the table for one is depressing and the table for two is happier. (It is brighter blue in real life, if I remember right.) But I've never found mine depressing. I see it mostly as some blocks of nice colors. Besides, I remember that table. And at the time, David was making some really depressing paintings of scary angels.

Be sure to check out David's paintings of hydrants. Maybe an odd subject, but they are great!

Monday, September 29, 2008

Huge Debt

I had given up looking for a Condo in Berkeley, but while out on my bike I rode by a place that looks perfect. (Isn't that always the way it is?)

I took a tour on Sunday, and I'm almost ready to buy.

But it is scary. Do I really want to go that far into debt?

Would the eventual earthquake in Berkeley wipe out everything I own?

Shouldn't I be putting my money in the stock market instead? (It is down, you know. That is when you are supposed to buy.)

Up till now, I've always chosen freedom over commitment. Without a mortgage hanging over my head, I am free to quit my job and join the circus any time I want.
Rent on my cheap apartment costs far less than I make each month. The extra money goes into savings and earns interest and I can grab some any time I want to go on vacation or buy a car or take time off from work.

The condo would give me a garage to store big stuff in, like the kayak I've long wanted. It is much closer to BART. It is across the street from a park, on a bicycle-friendly street. It has a much nicer kitchen. It is much nicer looking in general. I wouldn't be as ashamed to show people my place.

If I get a mortgage, I'll need to keep a job for a long time. I would be responsible for repairs. (Full disclosure: I'd probably just let the place fall apart.) Would it become a money pit?

The biggest question is, will I procrastinate so long that I won't even have the chance to make a choice?

Will I be relieved that I no longer have to make a choice?

What should I do?

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Minty fresh


I think I'm getting the hang of this macaroon thing.

Don't these look pretty!

Flavor? Fresh mint. And they are so minty fresh there is absolutely no reason to brush your teeth afterward. Nope, no reason whatsoever.

(Honestly, the basil ones tasted 10 times better than this, but I'm doing one for the traditionalists.)

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Gone, all gone.

It seems I have been remiss in not keeping you up to date on all my macaroon adventures. Well, I'll just fix that right now!

I had limited success with black sesame. Delicious, but wrong texture. Pictures will not be forthcoming.

Saffron and allspice macaroons came out very nice. The allspice tasted almost like pumpkin pie. Sometime in November I'll have to re-do those with a full complement of pumpkin-pie spices.

Since those came out so well I decided to raise the difficulty level and go for basil macaroons again. It is difficult because basil is moist, and moisture makes steam in the oven and that is not a good thing for a macaroon. I solved that problem by using dried egg whites and re-constituting them with less water than was called for.

They were yummy, yummy, yummy, but now they are gone!

I've just found out that Pierre Hermé has a new recipe book all about macarons. I suppose I'll just have to buy it, if only so I can laugh at his recipe for ketchup macaro(o)ns. (Silly french chef!) And also according to Paris Breakfasts there is still time for me to get over to Paris for the opening of his newest store. I'll be checking airline prices tonight.

Though, really, he does seem to put too much gunk in his trunk. I think a little dab will do ya, and more is not better. Before Laudrée in 1930, no one would have dreamed of sticking goop between the cookies. Now, less than 100 years later, the goop is in danger of taking over.

Monday, September 1, 2008

The crush

Friday I took the afternoon off from work to go visit a local winery. (Don't worry, I'd worked lots of extra hours the night before.) Periscope Cellars is located just a few blocks from my office, so I've always wanted to go give them a try. Friday, I finally did.

I talked my friend C-- into going, since she also works in Emeryville, and she brought along one of her friends and we met there at noon.

I fully expected that we'd go in, taste a few wines and be out again in 15 minutes. I really wasn't all that excited about going. But it turned out to be very cool.

Just by chance we were there for crushing day. They had just unloaded a bunch of grapes and were putting them through a juicing machine. Stems were flying all over the place.

We got to taste some of the fresh-crushed cabernet grape juice and it was amazing, despite the bits of stem. The best grape juice I've ever had! Seriously, it tasted very, very fresh, which it was. (Much better than what they served for the Lord's supper in baptist church!) Still it is way, way, way too sweet for normal drinking. And who knew that cabernet grapes were so small?

There were also vats filled with a different type grapes that had already been through the crusher and fermented a little. They were giving off the most heady aroma.

The guide was quite amiable. She told us lots of interesting things about the spot and the events they have there. Not only was this place once used as a submarine-repair facility, but it was also the place were season one of Top Chef was filmed. (Although the show claimed they were staying in a fancy San Francisco hotel, the chefs were often just sleeping on the floor there in Emeryville.) And now they use it as an art gallery and host a variety of interesting tasting events, such as a combination wine-tasting and yoga night. Don't worry, not hard balance poses! Instead of downward-facing dog, you can do downward-sitting couch potato.

One of the owners is also into packaging and she showed us some cool ideas they have for alternative packaging.

We ended-up staying almost 2 whole hours, and it was a hoot!


Since I'm from Louisiana, everyone is always asking me -- sometimes as often as once a year -- if I know people in New Orleans and how were they affected by Katrina. The answer is basically, no, I am only still in contact with one friend from there, though I recently re-connected with my high-school roommate through linked-in.

Anyway, C's husband has been writing a blog about all the effort that they've put into repairing their house after Katrina. If you need a reminder that "it could be worse", look no further than This Old Moneypit.

I can't smell!

I can't smell anything. At all.

Very, very bizzare.

I've had a cold for a few days, and when I got up this morning, I noticed I can't smell a thing. Although I'm breathing fine through one nostril, I can't smell my coffee. The cookies that were so strongly flavored last night now just taste like sugar.

I got out some of the most strong-smelling things in my cupboard and took a whiff. Nothing registers at all except one thing. I have this orange-oil based ant poison that normally smells like an explosion in an orange grove. I can very, very barely detect an orange scent in it this morning.

This has never happened to me before. It had better right itself soon!

Friday, August 29, 2008

Where to begin

When eating this cake, where would you begin?

With the head, of course. But should you dig into the brains with an ice-cream scoop or should you extract an eye and go in through there?

For more like this -- and you know you want it -- subscribe to cakelava or cakewrecks.

Thursday, August 28, 2008

I've got a friend

Wow! The internets sure are neat!

This morning, there was a note in my mailbox from julienash asking to be my "friend" on

At first I was like, who the hell is Julie Nash and what does she want with me? Then I realized it was Julien Ash, the man behind the band Nouvelles Lectures Cosmopolites.

I realize it is nothing personal, really. He is just trying to promote his music on the internets like everyone else. But still it is neat. I've been a fan of his music for quite a few years now. I have more than 10,000 plays registered since I joined, and he comes in at number 2 in number of plays, right behind Philip Glass, and somehow amazingly ahead of Legendary Pink Dots.

I'm a bit surprised to learn he is a fan of eminimen, but not at all surprised that he's into Michael Nyman and Wim Mertens. And from his page, I followed a link to Helios Creed, and was amazed. How could I not have listened to him before. Some of his stuff is great!

And my good friend Lisette just launched today, so be sure to check it out!

Friday, August 22, 2008

V for Victory

Set your VCR!

Varla Jean Merman will be on Project Runway on Bravo this Saturday morning from 8-9am. I know you won't be up that early, so be sure the VCR/DVR or whatever is ready!

If you don't want to know who won, don't google it and don't visit Varla Online, because this will be a re-broadcast from Wednesday night's show, so the result is already known.

The contestents had to design clothes for Varla and her feeble imitators. Ru-Paul judged.

Thanks to J-- for this juicy tidbit. I wouldn't have known, otherwise. Wednesday night I was foolishly watching the men's swimsuit competition on the olympics. If only I'd known!

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Feet at Last!

Finally, some fetish-worthy feet!

The first few times I ever made macaroons, I got lucky and they came out just right. But I've never really replicated that success. I've made some delicious ones (basil!), and some with fascinating textures (ginger!), but they never get the little feet they are supposed to have.

I made another batch this weekend, and this time I did some experimenting with ratios of dry ingredients (sugar and almonds) to wet (egg white). The ones that I was absolutely sure were too dry were the only ones to develop the feet. So now I know. That doesn't mean I'll be able to replicate it, but I will try!
(They are still a little lumpy, but that just means I need to grind the almonds finer.)

The flavor, by the way, is powdered Sassafras root. They taste remarkably similar to the root-beer flavor of bottle caps, and apparently sassafras will cure gonorrhea, just so you know.

I made a batch of Sarsaparilla bark ones at the same time. The flavor was much more subtle. A bit like cream-soda, really, but mostly it just emphasized the flavor of almonds. That flavor would mix very, very well with candy-cap mushroom.

Last week was Sesame. Tasted like toasted marshmallows (Yum!).

I guess I'm in the "S's" now, so I'll have to try savory, saxifrage, saffron, ...

Monday, August 18, 2008

Fluffy clounds

Some folks didn't find my last post sunny enough. So here are some pictures of clouds and rainbows.

I took these on Aug 5. The sky was fully of odd, wispy clouds, but it was the opalescent clouds that really caught my attention. It isn't really a rare phenomenon. I notice it about once a month. But it is hard to get a good picture. I took about 10 shots with different exposures and that one above is about the best I could do. It doesn't really capture how pretty it is in real life, but it is the best I've done so far.

Once in Paris I was out on a rented bike and I saw some beautiful clouds like this right behind the Eiffel tower. I took a bunch of photos from different spots, but they were all over-exposed. Too bad, because they would have been really pretty.

I even once was lucky enough to see this phenomenon during a solar eclipse! For the 15 minutes before totality the clouds near the sun were green and purple. And they were very thin clouds, so they didn't interfere with viewing the eclipse. It was amazing!

One more picture, this time with an airplane.

Sunday, August 17, 2008

Memento mori

Memento mori
As William Shatner says:

You are gonna die!

Is this how you want to be remembered?

Update: I've updated the link because the original was pulled off-line.

Thursday, August 14, 2008

By the Time You Get to Phoenix, I'll Be Gone

Yippee! I won!

My picture of my Sheldon Harvey painting has been selected to be included in the Schmapp Phoenix guide.

It is one of several images representing the Heard Museum.

But since I bought my picture there, it isn't at the museum anymore. But I guess they still have one or two interesting things, such as this traditional Native American Harry Potter bowl.

One of my other pictures is short-listed for the Paris guide. Vote for me!

Sunday, August 10, 2008

Orwell's Diary

I just found out about the Orwell Diaries.

What a neat idea! They are publishing the diaries of George Orwell as if they were a blog, with each entry posted exactly 70 years after he wrote it in his diary. The first two entries are rather dull, but I'm sure this will be an interesting thing to read as the days go by.

Monday, August 4, 2008

More music please!

This weekend I took a little vacation down to Santa Cruz for the Cabrillo festival of contemporary music, just like I did last year. I had wanted to stay for the whole weekend and go to 3 concerts, but my lack of planning led me to only get to see one.

Oh well, it was a fun concert and it was nice to get away from home for a bit. You can read my review over on

One of the really neat things about these concerts is that I can get so up-close with the composers and performers. When I was younger, composers were like some mythical beings that existed in another realm. The idea that I could see them standing 5 feet from me, and in a few cases actualy meet them, wouldn't have seemed likely. But the world really does seem smaller now. I've been in spitting distance of some of my favorites, like Philip Glass, Terry Riley, and Steven Stapelton, several times. I've met and talked to the members of my favorite rock group multiple times. I've e-mailed with composer Douwe Eisenga, and we are online "friends". Even just subscribing to the blogs of Nico Muhly and David Byrne is exciting. It makes me feel connected to them in some small way.

If I had stayed for Monday, as I'd planned, I would have met-up for lunch with a friend and former co-worker who now works at UCSC and she was going to show me her lab. She works with people on the UCSC Genome Browser, which I reference quite a bit in my own work. I had also previously visited her lab in France. But I didn't stay until Monday, so I sadly didn't see her. Even worse, someone exploded a bomb in her bosses car on Saturday, so it would have been an awkward visit! It was probably an animal rights activist, which is odd because her boss, whose name has not been published, doesn't do animal research.

Unfortunately, I've had my own run-ins with animal activists when I worked at UCSF. I also never experimented on animals, but I worked around and with people who did. I'll have to make a separate post about that....

Monday, July 28, 2008

Pray for me!

Oh my!

Prayer does work after all!

Saturday, July 26, 2008

I'm famous!

I'm famous!

Well, not really, but if you go to this link you can see, very, very briefly, as screen-shot from a program that I wrote that is used to detect chromosomal abnormalities.

Our company stock is the pits right now, but this product is doing well, and I'm busily at work on improved software. I really love that I get to work on software that is used in cutting-edge scientific research, rather than just buying and selling widgets on the web.

Time is passing

Time is passing. And there is nothing I can do about it.

Oh well. At least that means lots of fun things, like renew my driver's license! I had to actually go to the DMV this time because I was supposed to take a vision test.

I was nervous, so I practiced a lot in advance, looking at all sorts of things real hard. I didn't want them to decide I would have to wear my glasses while driving, even though I always do, anyway. But then they forgot to test me anyway. They just asked me whether I wear glasses while I drive. I said no, and that was that. (They had eye-charts all over the place and I could read them fine, so it doesn't matter.)

I also got to spend the big day up in Mendocino in this house and drink organic Argentinian bubbling booze and eat mushroom ice cream!

And to top it all off, I got a BOX! In the mail!

I wonder what's inside! It has a fish theme, so maybe it will be fish.


Saturday, July 5, 2008

Gateau Basque

I'm going to a BBQ today with some French folks, and I'm supposed to bring a dessert. I just watched a show recently that showed a Basque chef making a Gateau Basque. I remember liking those in Paris, so I decided I'd give it a try.

At the bakery in the 10th arrondissment where I'd get mine, they were available in pistachio and plain. But apparently the traditional filling is either sour cherry or pastry cream. I decided to go with sour cherry.

I couldn't find online any recipe that looked quite right to me, so I took one and made substitutions. That's just like me; even on my first try I'll be changing things. In this case I swapped almond meal for half of the flour.

That made a dough that was very difficult to work with. It didn't want to stay together. Oh well, I'm just sure that the ones I ate in Paris had almond meal in them.

The one on the TV show was decorated with a big lauburu. I wasn't ready to go that far for authenticity, since it might be misinterpreted. so I modified it into something a bit more swirly (and backwards).

All considered, it came out looking OK. Let's hope it tastes good.

Saturday, June 28, 2008

Crumbly Fruit

Ahhh! Summer is here! Bringing with it two of my favorite things that go so great together: peaches and fog!

Just about every week, I find myself throwing together a batch or two of my fruit crumbles.

So easy and so good.

All you have to do is throw some peaches in a dish. (Or nectarines. Peach skin is creepy!) Cover them with crumble mix, which you should always keep on hand, bake and eat. The hardest part is waiting for them to cool down.

For crumble mix, just use approximately equal volumes of flour, sugar, and softened butter. Mix it with your hands. It should look and feel almost like wet sand.

Put your fruit in a dish. Little left-over duck or rabbit rillettes containers work quite nicely. Toss crumbles lightly on top of the fruit. Bake at 425-ish for 25-ish minutes until bubbly and brown.

Just about any fruit will do. But the best seems to be:

blackberries 'n' sage
blueberries 'n' fennel seeds

Plums are ok; leave the skin on or else they're a bit too sweet. I've even done seedless red grapes. Oddly, it tasted just like McDonald's so-called cherry pie filling. I wondered how they got cherries all year round.