Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Downtown Train

I didn't buy any shoes today. I just wanted you to know that, and I think you should appreciate it. You may not consider this a tremendous achievement since, after all, you didn't buy any shoes today either (unless you did, in which case, yay) but I will have you know that I faced severe temptation and resisted. For the most part, anyway.

Today was my day for downtown explorations, through Nolita, Soho, Greenwich and Chelsea. The odd part is, as wide-ranging as this plan sounds, in total area we are probably talking about something half the size of San Mateo, though with a lot more cabs.

The day started with breakfast with Lisa at Cafe Gitane, a charming Nolita-based hub of francophilia, and them to the Belle by Sigerson Morison for my first great temptation (low-heeled patent pumps with the perfectly rounded pointy toe). Then, a couple of stops later, she had to head off to do some work and I fell hard for a pair of earrings (semi-poll question: how much do you want to know about my aquisitions on this trip? Because they're kind of great but it could get tiresome.)

Post-Nolita I made my way to Soho, which is conveniently located several blocks away (seriously, I walk shorter distances to go to the grocery store than it takes to go between neighborhoods around here.) I made a couple of purchases there, including a birthday present for one reader of this blog, so we won't go into that. (I also saw enough cool home goods as to make me wish I had a permanent-type residence of my own, but that is a topic for another time.) Then it was off to my previously-estabilshed favorite part of Manhattan, the West Village, which I love not because I'm a gay man (I'm not) but because it's the part that feels the most like Berkeley to me, with its trees and its small local restaurants and its free-range craziness. Also, the Lulu Guiness store is there, and that's never a bad thing. (I bought a necklace.) (I might go back and buy another one.)
The Magnolia Bakery is also in the neighborhood, and you can go there and get an overpriced cupcake and a cup of cocoa and eat them in the nearby park, which affords you a great opportunity to watch people, and also pigeons.

All of these things I have mentioned I did two years ago, on my first trip to NYC, and while I was happy to revisit them, this time I was determined to catch the things I had missed before. Which is why, after a late lunch at a corner bistro, I took myself off to a jewelry store in Chelsea that makes frequent appearances in my favorite fashion magazine, for the very very good reason that they have creative and beautiful and ruinously expensive pieces. (We're talking about the kind of place where you try and open the door, and they look at you on their monitor, and then they decide if they will push the button to let you in.) But I was glad to have gone there, if for no other reason than to say I have been.

Eventually, footsore and satisfied with having spent approximately as much money as I saved by not paying for a hotel room, I made my way back to the apartment, where my kind host was diligently working (for her California-based employer) and proceeded to distract her until it was time for us to go out for an evening of Fabulous Food And Slightly Too Much Drinking. (All I have to say is, that Mario Batali runs a fine pizza joint.) Which is why I am writing this blog host while sobering up and drinking four glasses of water, and also why tomorrow's adventures may be slightly less adventuresome, at least in the morning.

No promises, anyway.

Another Cool Thing I Forgot to Mention Yesterday

They're shooting a movie down the street from Lisa's apartment, title unknown, with Denzel Washington and John Travolta. We passed it last night, and we didn't see any stars or sets. but we did see the catering, which was quite impressive.

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Sleep Deprived in the Restless City

So much to tell, so little time until I lapse into unconciousness. Let's get to it, shall we?

As you may have gathered from my previous post, I spent today in New York City (New York City?!). I arrived at about 7:30 am, having left SFO at 11 last night, on a largely sleepless red-eye flight that definitely lived up to the name. (I can't blame Virgin America for the basic discomfort of sitting for so long, or the guy in my row with the major sinus problems, but I can blame them for the bright video screens at every seat that wouldn't turn off and the total lack of even the minimal amenities provided by Jet Blue. For all its flashiness, VA is basically Southwest with trendier lighting.) And after disembarking, gathering my luggage, and discovering I would not be calling Lisa to tell her I was on my way, I caught the world's slowest subway train into Manhattan. Seriously, it took over an hour. (The conductor came on the intercom several times to explain that we were stuck behind another train which was, apparently, being pulled by snails.) But I did eventually make it to Grand Central, only overshooting my connection by one station, and when I got there I was able to get on the internet and both tell Lisa I was on my way and retrieve her address from my email, then walk the four blocks to her smallish but charming apartment with an Actual View of the Actual Empire State Building, I Am Not Kidding.

I was, of course, delighted to see Lisa, who is one of a disturbingly large and growing trend of people who are foolish enough to leave California for places that are not California, which I do not understand. (There appears to be some sort of fiance involved, but still.) We went out for breakfast at a local diner, and I had delicious homemade blinis, which went a long way towards restoring my faith in the world. Afterwards, Lisa had to go to work (which she can do from the comfort of her aforementioned nice apartment) so I headed off to see the MoMa. Which is closed on Tuesdays, so I just saw the museum store instead, which I figure is pretty ,uch the same thing. Then I poked around a bit in the Fifth Avenue shops, pretending I was fabulous enough to belong there, and had a severely overpriced late lunch/snack at the cafe at Bergdorf Goodman's (though, frankly, if you manage to get out of that store and the only thing you have overpaid for is hummus, then I think you have done pretty well).

By the time I had had my snack the weather (which had been gray and intermittently rainy) had cleared up, but I was fading fast. Which is why it was so nice to have a friend to stay with, because I could come back to the apartment and conk out on her bed while she finished up her workday, and then we could hang out for a while before going out to dinner at a very New York-cool Japanese/Peruvian/Brazilian fusion restaurant for dinner.

So, all in all, a very fine day.

I'm going to sleep now.

New York Calling (Or Not)

(I'm on vacation on the east coast for the next week and a bit, in case you didn't know.)

So this morning I staggered off my flight from California to New York (on Virgin America: Putting the "red" in red-eye) and got myself ready to go to my friend Lisa's apartment, because she is kindly putting me up for the duration. It occured to me that I knew generally where she lived, but not exactly, because I had neglected to write down the address. That's okay, I thought, I'll just call... Oh.

You know what you need for calling people? A phone. Like, for example, my phone, which is in my purse. Which is on my bed. Which is in San Mateo.


Fortunately, as a modern girl of the twenty-first century, I did bring my wi-fi enabled iPod, and even in New York it is still possible to find an unprotected connection, so disaster has been, for the moment, averted. Stay tuned.

Monday, April 28, 2008

I'm Just A Puppet On A String. . .

Well, I'm not, but one of my stories will be.

Perhaps I should explain. Several years ago, after a weekend in which I watched two episodes of "Relic Hunter" and a late-night showing of "Goonies," I wrote a very silly story about a contractor who specializes in building elaborate traps to protect ancient relics (of course, they aren't ancient yet, but they will be by the time the intrepid adventurers come for them). Much to my delight, the story was purchased by a website and produced as a podcast, which I figured was just about the best thing that would ever happen to it. At least until last week, when I received an email requesting permission to adapt it to a marionette show. (I'll just give you a minute to let that sink in.)

Still with me? Good. So, the idea, as I understand it, is to perform the play next May at Penguicon 7.0 in Romulus, Michigan, in cooperation with the Dreamland Theater of Ypsilanti, Michigan. Details (and, I sincerely hope, video) to follow presently.

Thursday, April 24, 2008

Moibus Tempura

Maru Maru
213 2nd St.
San Mateo

I thought I was almost done. I had three more restaurants to try and then I was going to tie this little project up with a bow and call it a day. That was manageable. I could do that. And then, while I was looking for parking near one of them tonight, I found two more. And another one across the street. And one of them had opened within the last month. I can see my future stretching out before me, and it is deep-fried and shrimpy.

As it happened, I found a spot in front of the new restaurant, so I went there. It was definitely on the fancier side of the places I have been, very new and modern, with a lot of dark wood and brushed steel. Like most of the places I've been to lately, it was uncrowded (with four Japanese restaurants within a block, how could it be otherwise?) and an overabundance of staff stood at the ready. It got to the point that I felt bad to drink my tea, because as soon as it was about a third of the way down, the waitress would appear to refill my cup.

Food: For once, I am not going to grade primarily on tempura. Why? Because, that's why. I had a very good dinner with excellent service, and if one of the three dishes I had was only average, then I can live with that. Edamame, still warm, came out as soon as I sat down, which is always a good start. (Fun fact! At one point I thought I hated edamame. Then I tried some and realized I didn't. Apparently, it was something else I hated. Not sure what.) My combo dinner options were little different this time, with two items from column A (I chose the tempura with a beef with onions dish, the name of which escapes me (not pictured)) and one from column B (sashimi, of course). It was a little pricier than other places I've been to, but the reason for that became clear once the food started to come out. Rather than the small portions of a bento, each component was a complete dish, resulting in an amount of food that was approximately dinner for three. What's more, while I was hopelessly plowing my way through this mountain of food, who should appear but the waitress, bearing a special little dish prepared by the sushi chefs, a "new thing they were trying out." This turned out to be a jalepeno, hollowed out and filled with salmon, then baked with a creamy mustard sauce on top and sliced into sushi-sized pieces. My wimpdom when it comes to spicy food is well-documented, but taking out the innards seemed to have defused the power of the pepper, and I found the dish not only eatable, but delicious. And the sashimi was distinctly above average, and the beef dish, whatever it was, was still very good when I heated it up for lunch on Friday, and even the orange slices were extra-good. So if maybe the tempura was a little plain, and the vegetable selection somewhat starchy and uninspired then, well, maybe that isn't the be-all and end-all of restaurant judging. This time, at least.

Tempura Grade: 7/10
Overall Grade: 9/10

Tuesday, April 22, 2008


Said by "Sir" Andrew Lloyd Webber to David Cook during their rehearsal segment on tonight's American Idol:

"Look at me like I'm the most beautiful seventeen-year-old girl in the world. Look into my eyes and sing to me."


Monday, April 21, 2008

The Googlebet

I now present to you the alphabet, as generated by the "most searched terms" dropdown from the Google box in my browser:

A is for Amazon
B is for Bebo, apparently
C is for Craigslist
D is for Dictionary
E is for Ebay
F is for Facebook
G is for Gmail
H is for Hotmail
I is for Imdb
J is for John Lewis, who seems to be very famous for someone I have never heard of.*
K is for Kelly Blue Book
L is for Limewire
M is for Myspace
N is for Next**
O is for Orkut
P is for Photobucket
Q is for QVC
R is for Runescape***
S is for Sears
T is for Target
U is for Utube, even though it isn't
V is for Verizon
W is for Wikipedia
X is for Xbox 360
Y is for YouTube
Z is for Zip Codes

*Does this make me old?
**Another reference I'm not familiar with? Or a sign of people who don't know how to navigate through the results pages?
***Okay, now it's just messing with me.

Friday, April 18, 2008

The Edgars Project

New blog project! (Blogect? Prog?) For my next trick, I will be reading all the books that have won the Edgar Award for best novel in the history of the award. I got the idea from a suggestion for starting a book group to read every Pulitzer winner, which sounded educational but not like a lot of fun. Therefore, The Edgars. And now, for my first trick:

Title: Beat Not The Bones
Author: Charlotte Jay.
Award Year: 1954
Publication Status: Out of Print.

Coming into this, I honestly didn't know what to expect. My knowledge of literary trends of the fifties is limited (by which I mean "nonexistent"), and about this particular book and author I knew nothing at all. According to wikipedia she was a prominant suspense writer, though she only published nine books, most of which were set in Austrailia and Asia. This one is set in Papua New Guinea under the Australian colonial rule. A member of the colonial government shoots himself after returning from a trip into the jungle to investigate claims of gold discovery, his suicide attributed to the gambling debts. But his young widow, arriving from Australia, is convinced there is more to it and is determined to investigate. In the course of the book she manages to transition from a young woman happy to be led passively through life by the people around her (her father, her husband) to an active force in her own right, without any you-go-girl historonics or moments of blinding revelation.

It sounds like a mystery novel, but I'm not sure if I had read it unlabeled, if that's where I would have put it in the bookstore. The plot actually takes up a fairly minor portion of the book, both in terms of words and psychological space, the focus being instead more on the characters and the atmosphere of the setting. A lot of attention is also given to the problems of "modern" colonialism, of bringing "primitive" peoples into the modern world while preserving their rights and treating them with some measure of respect.

I may be making this sound like some sort of ultra-literary polemic, which it isn't. Though I wouldn't say there may not have been some literary liberal guilt motivating this particular award-giving, it's a very well-written book and an interesting one. Also, I read it in a single afternoon, which is as useful a measure of a good book as I know of.

Thursday, April 17, 2008

On The Twelfth Day of Tempura

Fuji Sukiyaki
428 E. 3rd Ave.
San Mateo, CA

I was nearly done with my dinner-- a definitely above-average offering at a mostly-empty place across the Caltrain tracks from the main part of the downtown-- when I started to get the feeling I had forgotten something. But what? I had my tempura and my sashimi. I had finished my miso soup and my somewhat kimchi-like dish of spicy pickled cabbage. So what could I have been missing? Oh, right:

So you're just going to have to take my word for it that my meal arrived as a nicely-presented plate, with three kinds of sashimi (not pictured), a salad (seen above) and a selection of tempura (mostly not pictured, except the broccoli and part of a shrimp). Also not pictured is the staff, who were very friendly and chatty, due to the fact that there weren't a whole lot of people there and they didn't have a lot to do. My dinner arrived before I had even started on my miso soup.

Food: Generally, when I go to a restaurant with a specific food item in its name, I try to try that item (in this case, sukiyaki). But, given my mission, and the lack of an appropriate combo meal, that was not an option. The mission, above all things!

Um, anyway, definitely above-average, if not mind-blowing, tempura here. As I mentioned, there were three kinds of sashimi (all, as far as I could tell, all varieties of tuna, but still), which I appreciated. The tempura batter was crisp and not too heavy, though as usual the sogginess did set in as the temperature dropped.

Somewhere out there, I just know it, somewhere there is tempura that is every bit as tasty at the end of dinner as it was when it was still burning your tongue. A girl can dream, right?

Tempura Grade: 6/10
Overall: 6/10

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

A General Request

If I ever show any inclination to do something like this:

Please shoot me with a tranquilizer dart, shave my head, give me fifteen tatoos and drop me off at the Sturges motorcycle rally. I'll thank you later.

Monday, April 14, 2008

Key Lyme Thigh

So, I probably don't have Lyme disease, which is nice. True, there are a lot of diseases I don't have, almost all of them, in fact, but for most of this weekend I thought Lyme disease was one I did, and I'm just as happy to be wrong about that.

It started out with what I thought was a mosquito bite on the back of my right leg, just above the knee, on Friday morning. Damn mosquitoes, I thought, as I scratched it while I got dressed. Then, later that afternoon, after I had finished my run and was changing back into my street clothes, I noticed that it didn't look like a mosquito bite anymore, being as it was the size of a silver dollar and kind of painful. Spider bite? I thought. Better go home and wash my sheets. Which I did, finding no spiders in the process. And the next morning (Saturday) I woke up to find that it had expanded again, having added a ring of lighter pink around the outside. Huh, I thought, That's gross.

As it happened, I was going home that day, so while I was there I asked Mom, who knows more than I do about what it looks like when people get bitten by things, what she thought of it. She didn't know, so we looked it up on the internet and came up with pictures of Lyme disease-indicating tick bites that bore a remarkable resemblance to the thing on my leg. Damn, I thought, That's annoying. Then I read the article and spent the rest of the day developing symptoms.

You have about a month to get treatment for the early stage of Lyme disease (according to the internet) and since it's a major pain to try and see a doctor on the weekend I put it off until Monday. Which is why, when I woke up on Sunday and found that the interior region of the bite was now dark purple, fading to a ring of lighter purple which gave way to one of an almost fluorescent pink, there wasn't much I could do but think, Hope my leg doesn't fall off, and get on with my day.

Of course, this morning I actually did get around to going to the doctor, and if you've read this far I bet you can guess what had happened by then. That's right: my leg fell off.

Okay, no, not really. Actually, my formerly impressive disease indicator had faded to a shadow of its former self, to the point that it looked like nothing more than a faint pinkish bruise and I was left to explain to the doctor (and the student trainee who was trailing along and poking my leg with him) why I had thought it was important for me to seek medical attention for this apparent non-event. (I said I had "heard" that if you have a bite that looks like a bulls-eye you should get it checked out for Lyme disease. I didn't mention that I read it on the internet, because doctors hate it when you look things up on the internet.) He didn't bother doing any blood tests, because it was too early for antibodies to have developed, but he did write a prescription for a single dose of antibiotics, as a kind of general preventive measure. So it was all kind of anticlimactic, but the way I see it, if a part of your body has randomly turned purple, you should seek medical attention, regardless of the potential for embarrassment.

Though I do think weighing me was completely uncalled for. After I had eaten breakfast! With my shoes on! I mean, honestly.

Sunday, April 13, 2008

Taxes Are Done!

Dance Party!

Oh, yeah.

If I jump I can hit my head on the floor!

Friday, April 11, 2008

Temp(ura) Work

Tenka Japanese Restaurant
246 S. B St
San Mateo, CA

I think, at this point, I may have fallen victim to the malaise that seems to strike almost every reviewer after continual exposure to the thing they are reviewing. I still like tempura, I think, and anyway I have come far enough in this misguided project that I feel the need to see it through to the greasy, deep-fried end. It's just that I find the way I approach the food has changed; I can eat something that someone else might consider a perfectly adequate meal and see only the flaws, complaining about predictability and demanding possibly unreasonably high standards of excellence. It's the same thing I have been noticing lately in certain movie critics (*coughcough* Entertainment Weekly *cough*), and I wonder if this sort of thinking is simply an occupational hazard of the reviewing game. On the other hand, I always have been a judgmental bitch.

All of which is to say that I was, again, underwhelmed by the tempura at my latest stop. It wasn't appalling; as usual, when it was hot it was much better, though the fact that the first bite I took of the shrimp netted me only batter. And, as usual, as the food cooled it gradually transitioned from "tasty" to "kinda heavy" to "urgh." As far as the vegetables went, I appreciated the sweet potato and zucchini, but not the green pepper and broccoli. The sashimi wasn't bad, definitely higher quality than some I've had, but not fantastic either. Since this place had as their option for the combo meal a choice of three items from the list, I again added the gyoza, which this time came with an insidiously spicy dipping sauce.
Interestingly, this was the second week in a row that I ate at a Japanese restaurant run by Chinese people. The last one was more upfront about it, with shu mai on the menu and the very un-Japanese names of the sushi chefs on their business cards displayed on the bar. This time I only had the evidence of the TV being tuned to the local Mandarin-language station, but I consider that to be proof enough.

Tempura: 5/10
Overall: 5/10

Thursday, April 10, 2008

Marjorie James, Proud Employee of "Biotech Co."

There are a number of ways a person can change employers. You can quit, staple your letter of resignation to your boss's forehead and ride off to a life of glamor and ease and excellent cafeteria food. You can be fired, for threatening to staple things to your boss's forehead, and eventually get work as a part-time Walmart greeter and learn new ways to prepare ramen noodles. You can even be hit by a car as you are hurrying to tell your friends that you found a producer for your Broadway show, lose your memory and find a new career in advertising until your girlfriend punches you back to your senses. Or, apparently, your employer can decide that what they really want to do is keep the parts of the company that make money, and spin off everything else (that is, the people who actually do things like research) into a new company to be named later.

Never a dull #^@&ing moment.

Friday, April 04, 2008

TempuraWish X10: Hunger is the Best (Tempura Dipping) Sauce

Ni-Mo Japanese Cuisine
73 E. 3rd Ave.
San Mateo

Like any good researcher, I try to be as objective consistent as possible in my collection of data. But sometimes external factors do interfere. Like yesterday, for example. At lunchtime I went down to the cafeteria for my diet-compatible cup of soup, only to find that they were nearly out of the tomato-basil, the most edible option. There was almost, but not quite, enough to make a small serving, which I complemented with some Sun Chips from the vending machine, but it was still a somewhat light lunch. Then I went to the gym in the afternoon and ran four miles on the treadmill, which was all very good for me, but it did mean that by the time I took my seat at the sushi bar in my tenth Japanese restaurant so far, I was absolutely famished. Which I realize may have an influence on my response to the

Food: They got off to a good start by bringing out a dish of edamame, which is never a bad thing. The combo options were a little different here; with the closest to my usual including gyoza and california roll along with the tempura and sashimi. I didn't mind that, though the crab in the cali roll was blatantly fake. Like I said, I was very hungry. Which is why the evaluation of the rest of the meal gets a little tricky. So, yes, I did eat all of the tempura, aside from the broccoli and the last bit of the shrimp, and I did appreciate the vegetable variety (particularly the eggplant and yam). But on the other hand, the last couple of bites (when I was no longer hungry and the tempura was no longer hot) were nearly inedible and I left the restaurant with a feeling like I had consumed a large, deep-fried rock. Also, the sashimi was some of the lowest-quality I have had so far. So, while it looks like the grades I'm giving here are pretty straightforward, some complicated figuring has gone into them (points on for edamame and gyoza, points off for bad sashimi, points on for me eating the whole thing, off for maybe it wasn't really that good, etc.).

Tempura Grade: 5/10
Overall Grade: 5/10

Cincinatti: Soon to Be Safe Driving Capital of the World?

Because if there are no major accidents on a Friday morning...


Thanks to Popwatch for this one.

Wednesday, April 02, 2008

Not That I Would Ever Do This

But there's a site where people send email they get from their moms:
Postcards From Yo Mama

Some of the best:
I suffer. Please be in touch.

Whoa, the tree on your blog sight reminds me of the tree I pictured my acorn people living in!

Who is jessica alba?
Sent from my BlackBerry

You received a letter from the FBI……

If you have some time today, please research whether the Lippizaner stallions appeared in the movie, Sound of Music. Dad swears he remembers them escaping from the Germans, or signing Do-Re-Mi, or something. Please let me know.

This was pretty much your worst fear when I started blogging, wasn't it, Mom?