Mmm.... frites

On Chuck's recommendation, I hit a Belgian frite place in the East Village, Pommes Frites. They were spectacularly yummy (thanks, Jess!). Their smoked eggplant mayo is damn tasty, too. But I feel kinda ill now, having finished most of a 'regular' by myself (for a late lunch).

They fried them in regular (vegetable, I'm assuming) liquid shortening. I have heard frite lore about the superior nature of horse fat... I'll need to see if I can find them made with horse lard someday.

They definitely get points for offering poutine (French-Canadian dish made from a combination of French fries, chicken gravy, and curd cheddar cheese)--it is the pinnacle of "I'm drunk, I'm hungry, and it's 2 AM" food.

If anyone is looking for a local frite place, I stumbled across www.belgianfries.com--unfortunately, the closest one to the Bay Area is up in Seattle.


A Night at the Symphony

Another story about my sister: mom & dad gave us their New York Philharmonic tickets for the evening (Weber, Tchaikovsky, and Sibelius). As we were leaving, we were discussing the importance of musical education; of course, we both agreed on its importance. My sister started to tell me (with shock and amazement in her voice) about her "coworker who did not know who Anton Dvorak was." She continued, "and she is a well educated lawyer—-it's not like she grew up in the inner city or anything like that."

Um. Wow. And that's coming from the person who didn't realize Harley Davidson made motorcycles until she read a legal brief about the company in law school. Once again, I view her as a cautionary tale of how I might have ended up, had I been more poorly socialized.

Incidentally, if any of my readers are not familiar with Anton 'New World Symphony' Dvorak, I am more than willing to accept that fact. Unlike my sister, I realize that growing up in a household with a 15 foot long collection of classical LPs was probably a bit outside of the norm.

Bats Driving the Bus

Caption: "Mommy, I get to drive the bus this time!!"

Spent the afternoon at the New York Transit Museum. Took this shot on self-timer. Yeah, I'm a goofball.

Incidentally, it's a pretty neat museum: it's an abandoned subway stop that is now all exhibits. The lower floor is still the subway platform: they have collected subway cars from the 1900's through the 1960's, and you can tour around inside them. The upper floor has a pretty large selection of exhibits, from subways to buses (as evidenced above) to the elevated rail lines. The entrance is, well, just another subway entrance, except with "New York Transit Museum" instead of "59 St Columbus Circle A C E 1 9."

If any of you are visiting New York and have children or nephews/nieces, it's a pretty fun and kid-friendly museum. At least it seemed that way--a whole bunch of kids were running around there. Then again, I probably act like a great big kid in there too ("Oooh neat! Cut-and-cover tunnels! Look look!")

A Walk from the Battery

In case you were wondering, I've been meaning to write an entry for this photo for the past day or so. Basically, Thursday was another fun day wandering around the city in warm and rainy weather.

  • Headed down to Battery Park (south tip of Manhattan) and took in The View: the Statue of Liberty, Ellis Island, and Governor's Island. Very touristy, but it was quite nice in the fog.

  • Walked up to Wall Street, to see the House of Morgan (J.P. Morgan Inc.); the reason I went to see it was the story of the 1920 anarchist bombing of the building: a wagon filled with explosives and sash weights was detonated right on Wall Street, killing 33. Morgan Inc. made a conscious decision not to repair the damage, and you can see the pockmarks to this day (photos if you follow the link). I noticed that of the hordes of tourists on Wall Street, I was the only one taking snapshots of the damage.

    Another interesting story is that when the building went up, there were skyscrapers going up on Wall Street all around the site. Morgan decided to build four stories tall, just to show their power (i.e., "we don't need to maximize our real estate value that way"). However, they did design the foundation and building so they could put a 40-story skyscraper on top of it, if they ever wanted to.

    Incidentally, it was a bit odd to see the security level on Wall Street: there was an NYPD ESU (Emergency Services Unit) truck there (i.e., NYPD's SWAT team): a few cops there with balaclavas, helmets, black body armor and M-16s/AR-15s. It was a bit jarring, but I think it is not necessarily an irrational response, given the vulnerability of holiday crowds.

  • Walked up along the East River, next to FDR Drive: it was really neat to put together my mental map of Manhattan together by doing this. I walked under the three downtown bridges (Brooklyn, Manhattan, and Williamsburg; photo above is the Manhattan Bridge). Also passed by South Street Seaport and Fulton Fish Market (which has, alas, been shut down permanently, in favor of a newer, shinier location).

  • I started feeling increasingly nervous during the walk: it was getting darker, I had no idea what type of neighborhoods I was heading into, and I think the apartments I was walking next to might have been projects. I was feeling awfully white at that moment; the streets were creepily deserted. However, I ended up finding Houston Street, and ended up in nice safe Soho. But there's a reason why I do this urban wandering on my own: it's only my own ass on the line.

  • Met up with Doug (aka Air Force Guy) and his wife 'Stina; had a lovely evening out, and felt really guilty about their holiday generosity (Lord of the Rings II and III Extended Editions DVDs! Wow! Who wants to have a great-big-geek-out party at my place sometime?!).


New Yawk…whadda town, eh?

I've been managing to keep myself occupied with my visit back to New York pretty well so far, despite being limited to dialup access. Spent a day hanging out with Dan and Daniel on Long Island. Burned another day building cat toys for mom's kitten. I went into the city yesterday around noon, to see a few other folks and, well, just because the city is a hell of a lot more interesting than Long Island. Some highlights included:
  • Had an excellent turkey schwarma sandwich at Alibaba, a Yemeni-Israeli place on the Upper West Side. I felt painfully goyische stepping into the place: "Yes, it's obvious that I'm not among the chosen... can I still order food here? Please?". Ate lunch sitting in Central Park, because it is ridiculously warm right now (i.e., the temperature I keep my Canadian apartment at in the winter).

    Hmm... MS Word spellcheck doesn't recognize 'goyische.' Oy.

  • The local hardware store has the 'Plumber's Menorah' in the shop window. How cool is that?

  • On the subway, I had another case of somebody coming up to me and thinking that I spoke Spanish (a mother-daughter pair; the daughter spoke enough English for me to convince her I had crap for directions to 145th Street). I should really pick up the 'Teach Yourself Spanish' audiobooks sometime.

  • Wandered around Williamsburg for the afternoon: my understanding is that it's the hipster part of town that is getting gentrified (and property values are going up). The part that I wandered through (Grand Street) definitely felt non-yuppified—-heavy Hispanic population; a bit run down—comparable to East Boston or East Cambridge streetscapes. A strong sign that gentrification is slow: saw only one Thai restaurant, two espresso bars, and no Starbucks.

    Anyway, here's a photo I kinda liked, from beneath an overpass for the Williamsburg Bridge. For some reason, there's a chair sitting on the bridge abutment. Sorry... couldn't tell you why.

  • In Williamsburg, hung out at Gimme Coffee, the awesome Ithaca-based coffee roasters that Jofish introduced me to. I confirmed yet again that I am not man enough for espresso. It's one of those things I try once in a while to test myself, but ugh... I can't manage that concentrated thick bitterness and acidity, even if you get to show off your coffee manliness with tiny cups. Wuss-ass Americanos for me, sorry.

  • Met up with Probe and Becca and some of their friends for a very nice dinner in Park Slope (near Prospect Park). I think it was the first time I tried osso bucco (braised veal shanks), over a bed of saffron risotto. It was all really good; the marrow was like butter: "yummy but you know it's really bad for you."

    The Park Slope area feels like a pretty quiet and possibly more family-friendly part of the city; it's also much cheaper than, say, the West Side. But it didn't feel completely devoid of life… the street feel was similar to the quieter neighborhoods in Manhattan, I think.

And that's just day one. That's one reason I love this town: you can pack that much cool stuff into half a day.


Bats is Not a Playa (Shocking News, Eh?)

I have been meaning to reply to this comment on an earlier blog post, from my dear friend AJFBS, for a while now. I'm trying to keep myself occupied at my parents' place in suburban Long Island, so here goes. First, the comment:

<evil nasty comment>

To quote one Bats Blogger a bit ago:

"...more importantly, whenever an attractive woman that I don't know approaches and starts talking to me, part of my brain immediately responds, "Yes, yes, you're pretty. Thanks... and good for you. Now, what are you trying to get out of me?" I guess it is that I know that I'm not a player in whatever game they're playing, and don't want to be bothered/suckered with it..."

1) Would this still be true if she had just fixed something with the Leatherman she pulled out of her pocket? And/or had a southern accent? Tool belt?

2) Maybe her "game" is more along the lines of "I'm sick of these pretty boys, and I just overheard this guy say something funny; I think I'll say 'hi'."

3) ...and where would my current roomie be if he had that attitude 2+ (yikes!) years ago?

Just wondering if you'd interact with these intelligent & attractive women if you'd met them at a party instead...

</evil nasty comment >

I guess that what I wrote is a vast oversimplification—-my behavior is not as absolute as I presented it above. My response is a gradation—-it varies depending on the type of attractive woman I am talking to. At one extreme, my warning bells go off strongest and fastest for stereotypical "I'm hot and I know it" women, who are stylish and fashion conscious in a very mainstream manner. On the other hand, I would be much more likely to talk to funky/intellectual/offbeat/Leatherman wielding women—-I'd tend to believe that they are "within my tribe." But often, unfortunately, I typically harbor some degree of background suspicion: "You're cute, and you're talking to me. Why?"

A reason why my defenses are up were described in a New York Times article ("Gimme an Rx! Cheerleaders Pep Up Drug Sales") that prompted me to write this post.

According to the article, many cheerleaders end up with careers in pharmaceutical sales: "Anyone who has seen the parade of sales representatives through a doctor's waiting room has probably noticed that they are frequently female and invariably good looking. Less recognized is the fact that a good many are recruited from the cheerleading ranks. Known for their athleticism, postage-stamp skirts and persuasive enthusiasm, cheerleaders have many qualities the drug industry looks for in its sales force."

The techniques they use are exactly what bother me--I realize that I am probably vulnerable to this exploitation:

... women have an advantage with male doctors, according to Jamie Reidy, a drug representative who was fired by Eli Lilly this year after writing a book lampooning the industry, "Hard Sell: The Evolution of a Viagra Salesman."

In an interview, Mr. Reidy remembered a sales call with the "all-time most attractive, coolest woman in the history of drug repdom." At first, he said, the doctor "gave ten reasons not to use one of our drugs." But, Mr. Reidy added: "She gave a little hair toss and a tug on his sleeve and said, 'Come on, doctor, I need the scrips.' He said, 'O.K., how do I dose that thing?' I could never reach out and touch a female physician that way."

This is not meant to say that the gender roles are not sometimes reversed—-it's obvious that is the case sometimes. My point is, rather, that I have realized I am "not a player in whatever game they're playing," as I've stated before. And as a result, any "playing along" I do is equivalent to "being a sucker."

So yes: to some degree, I have my defenses up constantly. I'm not saying that this is a good thing; it is an evolved survival pathology. Negative and self-defeating? Yes. Quite rational given my history? Yes, again. Also, it doesn't help that my two very close friends both had disastrous first marriages to women who were basically looking for financial stability, and then proceeded to betray my two friends.

I have developed a litmus test that I constantly use to vet my own behavior: would I do the same thing for a male friend/coworker/fellow passenger/etc.? I will immediately help a grandmotherly lady put her roller bag in the overhead compartment, while I would question my motives for helping an attractive twenty or thirtysomething woman (typical scenario: see her struggling with monster roller bag, roll my eyes, mentally kick myself, and help her anyway).

My closest female friends have typically been girlfriends of my fraternity brothers (yes, exceptions for AJFBS and JMD). I think that I have a certain level of ease with lovely, smart women who are unavailable: I'm not burning up mental clock cycles running defenses and behavior filters on what I'm doing.

So A—does this answer your questions?

Holiday Greetings, and Entertaining Family Stories

Holiday cards are out, presents have been presented, and travel is mostly done: as of Christmas, my holiday season is now pretty relaxed. I will inflict one of those "holiday letter" year-end summaries sometime in January, after this year is done. If I suck and failed to send a card to any of my dear readers... well, crap... sorry and happy holidays!

I've only been home for 24 hours, and I already have some stories. At dinner last night, my mom confirmed that my earlier suspicions on being set up were well-founded. She was wondering if I wanted to come to one of her Long Island Japan Society events, to "meet some Japanese girls," because the other mothers said that they would love to introduce me around. Something about mom's delivery made me put the 'spam spin' on it (i.e., "HAWT HAWT JAPANESE GIRRLLLZZ 4 U!!!!"). Yes, I just used the blink tag here... it seemed like a rare appropriate use.

Anyway, my mother kindly didn't press me on this front, and commented that she thinks that group events are a lot more reasonable than one-on-one blind dates, which I am in complete agreement with.

Then my sister immediately responded with, "And you should be careful, because New York State does not look kindly on men fathering children out of wedlock: child support payments can reach up to 17% of income up to $80,000, and up to 25% on higher incomes. I just recently read a case in which the man is on the hook for child support payments after having sex with the woman just once..."


Yes, I realize that protection and birth control is a valid concern. However, that was one of the most jarring and left-field interjections she's given in a while. I really need to get my sister out and about a bit more: I figure that if she starts making these "comments from space" around my friends, the incredulous stares and laughter might provide some negative feedback for her behavior.

Anyway, my parents adopted a kitten who is currently scampering around the house. I think they are accepting the way my sister and I turned out, and have taken the kitten as a surrogate grandchild. It's very fun to see my mom and dad cradling the kitten and cooing at it in Japanese—guess that's one way to get the pitter-patter of little feet.


Visited U.S. States

Yes, another NetMeme that's floating around.

Click this link if you're also interested in wasting time with this NetMeme.

It seems that I've managed to miss the 'large northern boxy flyover' states so far in my years of travel. Yes, I could do a road trip to hit all the states I've missed. Yep, I'll get right on that. Incidentally, of those states I've missed, Montana, Wyoming, North Dakota, and South Dakota have populations under 1 million each.. Nebraska is at 1.7 million. To put that in perspective, Wyoming has a population smaller than Staten Island--yes, the 'quaint backwater' borough of New York City.

The high state count is a function of a few things: primarily, way too much business travel. Second, I've done a series of road trips (including a Boston-Texas round trip with JMD and U5), which got me places like Tennesee (Graceland!), Louisiana, Alabama, and Mississippi. Third, my family typically took driving vacations while we were growing up (e.g., up to Canada, via Maine). Incidentally, I'm counting Utah, which I have only been to on a flight connection at SLC.

There is also a similar web page that generates maps of countries you have visited. I didn't bother, just because my world travel is woefully lacking--a few trips to Japan, a whirlwind England-France-Switzerland-Germany trip, and New Zealand.


Hang in there, baby!

As a bit of background, I crashed at JMD's place up in Arlington for the beginning of my trip. Earlier this winter, she told me this dead squirrel story:

i came home at 1 a.m. from work to find a dead squirrel stuck to my bird feeder. yeah go ahead and laugh. i'm traumatized. forever. and yucko, i had to untangle it. it almost seems like someone tied it to the feeder.

Yeah... yuck. But I had to imagine a few squirrel editors out there somewhere, writing up their 'Darwin Awards' for their species, saying, "Wow, okay, we got a new one here!"

Anyway, we had coffee and bagel hour at her place today. Excellent fun, and many thanks to everyone who came. But during the morning, I took a look out the window, burst into laughter, and had to say, "Um, J., do you know if you just collect really stupid squirrels in your neighborhood, or what?"

It appears the squirrel has his teeth buried in the wire, and a paw wrapped around it. We wondered whether or not it was dead... after five minutes of intent observation, we figured it was--at the very least--pining for the fjords. We had an entire room of engineers speculating how Mr. Squirrel managed to get himself killed--the wire appears to be high voltage (ceramic insulators), but we couldn't figure out how he grounded and shocked himself (bridged to another wire?). We wondered just when it would 'splut' onto the sidewalk (i.e., will rigor mortis end, unclenching the jaw?), and whether or not somebody would be walking underneath at the time.

In case you're wondering about the title, it's meant to inappropriately evoke the very cute kitten posters.

I am now crashing up at Bird & Jen's place in New Hampshire, with them and the four kitties--yes, Tux has returned! Yay! He'll be sleeping on my bed tonight.


Rail and trucks

In case any of my readers are not accessing my blog primarily from LiveJournal, there is a discussion on freight transport by rail and trucks that I am probably monopolizing.


A Day Around Town

A delightful day of wandering Cambridge taking care of some errands (Christmas shopping, cards). I guess I'd describe my day's experiences as the wonderful exoticism of the mundane--i.e., these are all things that would be run of the mill if I still lived here, but coming in from out of town, I reveled in the feeling of being home again.

First, JMD's house is in a great location--five minute walk to the 77 bus, and 10-15 minutes to Porter Square. Merely taking the bus was enjoyable--I'm that close to both Porter Square and Harvard Square--i.e, the Brattle, Bartley's, the Harvard Bookstore, and Burdick's. Entirely by chance, ran into Wasabi at the post office, and he showed off his sexy folding bike.

I love these chance encounters around Cambridge and Somerville--amusingly enough, they happened on previous visits too. Finished up my Porter errands, and had a burrito at Anna's Taqueria.

Then walked to the Cambridge Public Library--in case this is useful news to anyone, they moved the main branch from the Harvard Square location to close to Inman. According to the librarian, it will be about three years before they move back. Coffee at 1369, and hoofed it over to NerdWorld (MicroCenter) to kill some time.

Incidentally, compared to Waterloo, Boston weather is positively balmy right now--and that's spending the day walking around without long underwear! Check it out--it almost went above freezing!.

A lovely dinner in Harvard Square with AJFBS, followed by wandering through the local stores (Parchment, Cardullo's, Black Ink, Harvard Bookstore). At Cardullo's, I took the opportunity to buy a new jar of Vegemite--I have just about used up the astronaut-style squeeze tube I brought back from New Zealand in 2003. I am vastly entertained by eating salted yeast by-products of the beer brewing process. Hey--at least when I'm crossing the Canadian border, when they ask me if I'm bringing food, "no" is a reasonable credible answer.


Perversions of technology

This is the kluge setup I use to listen to my iPod while driving. First of all, I have a really neat car stereo that has an audio in jack (and plays burned MP3 CD-Rs). So I built a short 1/8" stereo male-male cable to connect the two.

I inherited this piece-of-crap car power inverter with a broken fuse holder. Unfortunately, nobody sold the broken piece as a replacement, resulting in the Radio Shack special dangling inline fuse holder. iPod charger is plugged into that, which in turn plugs into the iPod.

It does seem like a perversion of technology to make AC (car's generator... I think...), turn it to DC (native car's 12 V), run it into the inverter box, change to AC, and then have the iPod brick turn it back to DC. Oy.

I have to admit that I feel rather unsafe scrolling through songs while driving. Yes, I am very cautious when I'm doing that. I will hopefully delay my next car purchase long enough that heads-up displays for the MP22.11b system will be integrated.

Grab your things, I’ve come to take you home

The term is now officially done. I took my final exam in concrete class this morning; it went all right. I think I wrote down something reasonably intelligent for most of the questions. It is odd to think that this morning, I probably knew more about concrete than I ever will at any other time in my life.

I'm not quite as elated as I'd have guessed: more tired than anything else--I had a case of 3 AM "I'm out of here tomorrow" insomnia the night before the exam. But it definitely feels nice to be done. But another part of me figures I could have been working harder this term, getting more done on research and thesis (i.e., at the end of the semester, the stress wasn't close to fetal position bad). Oh well. As somebody kindly put it to me, "You shouldn't beat yourself up for doing a reasonable job of advance planning."

Incidentally, I checked my professor's ratings on ratemyprofessors.com. One of the more entertaining quotes was the belief that he is "Possibly an advanced teaching robot sent back from the future." Considering that he managed to get all of our course projects graded and back to us in two weeks, that may be true. I am happy to report that I 0wnz0red the term paper and presentation.

Hit the road at 3 PM, and made it to Ithaca by around 8. Had dinner with Jofish and the lovely Miss Janet.

I am currently sitting on Jofish's couch drinking a beer. We also pulled apart the guts of his piano to do some repairs. A very fine evening, indeed.

"Yeah, lady, it looks like we're going to have to replace the pads and grind the hammers. We'll get it up on the lift by this afternoon..."

An added plus is that he keeps his heat warmer than 55 F/13 C, so I don't have to wear long underwear indoors. I believe that I will sleep well tonight.


Travel Plans (Holiday schedule)

Yes, I should be tooling for my final on Tuesday. But I just got back from a Christmas party at a friend's house involving a fair amount of beer, wine, and port, so I know I'm not getting anything else useful done tonight.

So I'm heading down to Boston! I'll probably be in town starting the evening of the 14th or so. I am booked up on the 16th and 17th, for my former company's Christmas party. Other than that, I'll probably be heading down to New York to spend the holidays with my folks around December 22nd or 23rd.

Anybody interested in a coffee hour on the 18th? (Sunday). I desperately miss real bagels. Incidentally, I will have my laptop with all my photos on it. If people want copies of various weddings or events, I'd be glad to share--bring a USB key. And if people have prints, I will have my scanner as well.

Of course, a Power Dinner should be scheduled in there somewhere. My priorities for the Boston trip are holiday cards, Christmas shopping, and catching up with local folks.

Also, anyone want to play hookey and go skating on the Frog Pond? I'm bringing my skates.

Step one, however, is to brush the snow off of my car.

Incidentally, if you want to contact me, email is probably the best--I will be paying out-of-country roaming charges for calls to my mobile number.

I am still in the process of putting together my New York and New Year's plans. As I described seeing my parents this summer:

It was good to see them, but it was depressing to realize that by hanging out with them, they can even make a place as interesting and vibrant as New York City dull. But there we were, in my sister’s apartment, watching The Matrix on TBS.

I realize that to make the holidays in New York survivable, I need to make my own plans for keeping myself entertained. Last year it was sitting in my room watching DVDs on my laptop and reading, but I'm hoping to venture out a bit more this year. Anybody interested in seeing whether tickets are still available for the new production of Sweeney Todd? A jaunt I'm planning is to see Gimme Coffee's Williamsburg location--i.e., the Ithaca coffee roasters that Jofish turned me on to. Plus, I've never hung around Billyburg hipster-land--maybe I'll run into Dorothy G.


One down, one to go

Did my class presentation this morning; I think it turned out pretty well. Now, I just have to prepare for a final exam in concrete class, in a week. Lots to cover, and judging from the midterm, the exam will be painfully detailed.

One thing I noticed on the last day was the demographics of the class. In this class of 21 people, only 2 of the students (9.5%) fall under the category of "white males." A fair number of women in the class, but heavy representation from East Asians (mostly Chinese, as far as I can tell), Middle Easterners, and South Asians. Of the Asian students (for instance), some of them are definitely from overseas, but other are as 'twinkie' as I am (yellow on the outside, white on the inside--a.k.a. 'banana'). Interesting to note that mix.

Group Christmas party tomorrow night; should be fun.

The photo below shows the problem with conditioning only a few rooms of the house. I have sealed off the living room door with the piece of foam in the background; without the radiator on, it runs about 45 F.

However, my VCR is in that room. And unfortunately, Spalding Gray's Monster in a Box was only available on VHS (not DVD) at the video store, so that's how I dressed to watch it. Don't knock it--a nice hot cup of tea, a space heater, and a toque (Canadian for wool hat) go a long way.

Hey--you can see why I usually just go to the local art house theater instead: it's a shorter walk than the video store, and they turn up the heat a bit higher [grin].



Yesterday was a very fun food-centric day. Dan and Daniel came over for dinner, so a good chunk of the day was shopping and preparation.

My first priority was to get some real (i.e., not supermarket) tortillas; Dan gave me recommendations for two different Latino food stores down in Kitchener. I walked to both of them; definitely a fun experience. Good finds (besides the tortillas)included a big bag of dried chili peppers, and a jar of concentrated mole sauce (need to try that out--I love mole, but never bothered making it). I was amused by the fact that the cashier rang me up talking to me in Spanish, before asking me if I spoke the language ("Um, no I don't..."). I guess I might be able to pass for somebody of Central or South American extraction, especially if I have a tan. Would be useful around Southwestern and Texan jobsites, especially if I learned Spanish--"Yo vato! Como estas?"

Kitchener has a large immigrant population, so there is a wide selection of restaurants downtown. I decided to try out a pho place on the way back. This article from the East Bay Express has recommendations for a few Bay Area pho places, and describes the whole pho experience pretty nicely.

The pho was very tasty, and just what was needed on a cold snowy day after a long walk. But it reminded me of one thing: it is definitely not good 'first date' food, unless you know off the bat that she is into hearing her lunch mate slurp noodles and getting accidentally splattered with broth.

Continuing my quest for odd foods, I decided to try pho with rare beef and tendon. I've often seen it on the menu, and wanted to give it a shot. Quoting the article above, "tendon is the most voluptuous, silky part of the cow -- strips of translucent collagen with little taste but the most marvelous texture."

Yeah, well, first of all, it looks like something left over from knee replacement surgery. I bit into it, expecting some exceptional and unique flavor that makes it a delicacy. Instead, it was kinda boring, and the texture was a take-it-or-leave-it affair. I think that the collagen was adequately cooked to gelatanize it, but it was not my thing.

Anyway, next time, I'll try pho with beef and tripe. Worth a shot.

On to dinner. First, Dan and Daniel are wonderful dinner company--it's nice being back with people (among other traits) that you can just throw out the phrase "Bummer of a birthmark, Hal," and of course they get it. Also, they brought over a six pack of Unibroue Blanche de Chambly. Second, it was an excuse to raise my kitchen's temperature to a nice toasty 65 F (i.e., I don't want to inflict 55 F indoors on anyone besides myself). Finally, I love cooking--red rice, black beans, sauteed zucchini, and Bobby Flay's fish taco recipe. Turned out pretty well. I also got to try out my broiler tray in the piece-of-crap electric oven--worked ok.

We adjourned to have dessert at place just around the corner from my house--another spot I've walked by a dozen times but never went to. I ordered a cake called the 'chocolate bomb,' which quickly devolved into a discussion of "Somebody set us up the bomb," and its Wikipedia entry--surprisingly informative (including a more accurate translation of the original Japanese).

A very fun evening. Now back to tooling.