Wedding Post Part I: Not the Wedding

I have loads of blogging catch-up to do--sorry about the hiatus (over two weeks!). But this past week was a spectacular trip to California, for Jofish and Erin's wedding and associated festivities. I was out in California Tuesday through Sunday--when booking a frequent flyer ticket on United, I was in blackout territory unless I went early... oh no, taking vacation days in the Bay Area... not that ;).

Anyway, I did so much on this trip that I decided to split the blog post into two parts: the solo portion, puttering around the Bay Area, and then the wedding itself--where I was joined by my sweetie! Bringing a date to a wedding... that's a new one for me (and for Sarah as well!)

The flight out was uneventful... I took my usual window seat. However, one interesting item--a group of white sticks pointing out of the ground, with a ring road leading to each one...

Oh yeah... wind turbines! Cool. I back-calculated our rough location, and I guessed that we might have been over western Nebraska.

I landed at SFO, and BART delivered me just in the nick of time to join a walking tour of the historic buildings of San Francisco's Financial District. The guide is a historian who is writing a book on the city, and shares his great stories. For instance, the city requires that developers include privately-owned public spaces (POPOs)--little parks that the public can access. One of them is on the roof of a bank building--they sold off the air rights (the right to build in the space above the building) to an adjacent building that wanted to go higher. The guide said, "I've met bankers who have been working here in the financial district for twenty years, and they've never wandered into this space"--the way to enter these spaces was worth the price of the tour alone.

There were also neat architectural oddities, such as the "narrow building" (130 Bush): 20 feet wide, 80 feet deep, 10 stories tall--originally built as a garment manufacturing building.

And this one: they were building a skyscraper, but the existing building owner steadfastly refused to sell. So they agreed to let the building stay in place--building the skyscraper over it. Also, the small-building owner has the air rights to all the apartments above him--so he gets rent from the square footage above his building!

Plenty of other historically interesting and beautifully detailed buildings. Unfortunately, some of the locations were security-conscious and don't allow photography. But that just means you'll need to go on the tour yourself sometime! A strong recommendation to all of my Bay Area (or visiting) friends--it's a great way to spend a few hours in SF.

Afterwards, I thought, "Huh... am I near the Instructables office?" As a matter of fact, I was just a few blocks away. I wandered in unannounced, and walked up the stairs... "BATS?!!!?!!!" "Hi there Christy!!"

My coincidental timing was excellent--it was U-Boat's birthday, and he was celebrating with ice cream cake! Yum, cake. Also, Quinzee was there semi-randomly as well... excellent on seeing more people.

And the placard on the Instructables bathroom made me laugh:

That evening, I headed down to South Bay, to join Jofish and his crew for a bachelor party... well, if you can call a "hang out at a bar with the groom, bride, both their parents, and a whole bunch of friends" a bachelor party. A nice time, but I was coming up on 24 hours awake, so I left the party early.

The next day, I headed up to East Bay. First on the list was to hit a restaurant recommended to me by Judy (my former landlady): Bakesale Betty, a sandwich and pastry place in North Oakland's Temescal District, run by an Australian transplant who cooked at Chez Panisse Cafe for 3 years. They do one sandwich exclusively: fried chicken and cole slaw... it's seriously tasty. But it was huge... and I was far too filled up to try their pastries, alas. My advice: split the sandwich with a friend, along with a bag of baby carrots, and then you'll have room for dessert. Patron seating is outside, at ironing boards and stools on the sidewalk... pretty fun.

Then I killed some time walking along University Avenue in Berkeley, to meet up with some architects that we have worked with out there. Got a little bit of work time in--it was also great to see them and catch up on their current projects.

The photo below was just a condo building along my walk (The New Californian)--I was trying to figure out if it was a renovated existing building, or a new building made to look old. I'm guessing the latter, but some of the molded masonry/terra cotta panels make me say, "What, people are still making decorative elements like that?" Aha... apparently the latter: The building was designed by Oakland architect Kirk Peterson, who favors historically influenced design and who has designed several other Berkeley buildings, including the Bachenheimer and Gaia projects, Southside Square, and 1717 Fourth Street.

I originally made plans to have dinner with the lovely and brilliant Dr. O (a.k.a. Paramecium Woman); however, she had to cancel out on me at the last moment (don't worry... not due to another bike crash). However, she let me know in the morning, so I started sending out text messages, to see if I could catch folks I would miss otherwise.

Result: a nice Indian dinner with Spackle over near the Rockridge BART station! Having friends with flexible plans just rocks. Man... Rockridge is a hip/gentrified neighborhood... I think that in the future, if I'm at a loss on where to have dinner, I'll just take the train out there and walk down the street, picking a restaurant at random (we had fun cocktails and pretty decent Indian at Khana Peena).

It was great to catch up with him... his sweetie M. is currently teaching up in Eugene, OR; Spackle is planning on making the move up there sooner or later, when he can find work. They are considering buying in Portland (110 miles/2 hours away), and Michael can shuttle back and forth given a more-flexible academic schedule, while Spackle will have an easier time finding work in town.

The next day was picking up my sweetie at the airport, and heading up to California wine country for the wedding... which will be continued in Part II...


Meet the Parents...

Soooo... last weekend (Memorial Day) was when my sweetie, Sarah, got to meet my family (both parents, and my sister). It actually went incredibly well, and we all had a nice time.

We drove down on Friday night, and my dad spent Saturday morning with us, giving us the Long Island quick tour: malls, suburbs, and seashore. We stopped by Oyster Bay--very nice out that day:

Then a quick 24-hour jaunt into New York City... first a stop at the new roof lawn at Lincoln Center (as described in this New York Times article):

A new two-story structure, which will eventually house new facilities for the Film Society and a high-end restaurant, rises from ground level just to the west of the stair; its roof, covered by a vast, tilting lawn, overlooks the plaza. The project’s most dazzling space, the lawn warps up on two sides, so that climbing it can make you feel as if you were about to float off into the air on a carpet of green.

Pretty neat. But apparently, five days after they were there, they had to close the lawn, due to damage. Bummer.

Next up--dinner at Momofuku Noodle Bar... it turns out that I'd talked it up so much, that Sarah really wanted to go. No objections here! Just as a sign of how popular it is: we got there at 5:40 (it opens at 5:30 PM), and there was already a 20 minute wait. However, we happily passed the time with tasty soju (Korean rice vodka) slushies.

Dinner rocked... the signature pork buns, baby bok choi, chilled spicy noodles (Sichuan spiced sausage, spinach, cashews), and roasted foie gras (celery root & miso pureee, brown butter, pineapple).

Next up... jazz (Ahmad Jamal) at the Blue Note. A great set... piano, bass, drummer, and percussionist. The percussionist had a huge array of chimes, gongs, blocks, talking drums... he was almost like the sound effects guy on an old radio show.

And after that... I'd talked up Dessert Truck in the past:

On the night before Halloween 2007, like a figment of some calorie-deprived dieter’s fevered imagination, came DessertTruck, quite possibly the first haute confectionery on wheels. The vehicle, parked strategically outside an NYU dorm, dispenses the sort of lavish concoctions you’d have to go to cooking school to learn how to make—as did co-owner Jerome Chang, a French Culinary Institute graduate who left a cushy berth in Le Cirque’s pastry kitchen to sell $5 cups of crème brûlée out of a retrofitted postal truck.

It turns out that they no longer run the truck... but they have opened a storefront (Dessert Truck Works). on the lower East side/alphabet city area.

Warm molten chocolate cake (with olive oil ganache center + vanilla ice cream), and warm chocolate bread pudding (with bacon custard sauce). Serious nom. And providing an object lesson to me: bacon and chocolate does work. Hot damn.

Sunday was a morning at MoMA: for those of you who don't know, Sarah is an awesome avid photographer, so we headed to the Henri Cartier-Bresson exhibit. He did a huge range of subjects--from Ghandi's funeral, to portraiture, to the Great Leap Forward in Communist China, to trips to Mongolia and Indonesia. It seems like his photographs were a strong presence in Life Magazine through the 1950's and 1960's. My understanding, from the exhibit, is that he is one of the primary reasons why photography is now regarded as a serious art form.

Next was lunch with my sister and her boyfriend, and then a train home. Sarah and I had a wonderful geek-bonding moment: my dad was complaining trying to extract video from the the cable company-supplied DVR--he could record it onto the VCR, but not in HD. S. and I quickly fired up internet research... figuring out that the entertainment industry works really hard to keep you from extracting HDMI output into any useful form. We looked through a variety of options, and concluded that an external eSATA hard drive was probably the way to go... which I quickly ordered off of newegg.com.

But my dad commented, "I really think that you two were talking some alien language that has nothing to do with what the rest of us humans speak." Yessss.

Then... then... we have to delve into my sordid, nerdy past. Back in high school, I was the captain of our quiz show team, which was recorded on the local PBS station ("Brainstormers"). So my parents had carefully recorded all four episodes (we made it to finals--Long Island second place!), in their VHS glory, and have been plotting for the past 22 years to humiliate me by showing it to a visiting girlfriend. There I was, in my ultra-serious, question-answering, hornrim glasses, sweater-vest and bow tie glory. Oh cripes.

Okay, we all got a good laugh out of it. If I can get a screen capture next time I'm down there, I'll post it for sure.

Mom made a very tasty dinner--the whole family was there--followed by lunch the next day, out on the back porch:

Yep... think the family likes her all right. All good.

A blissfully traffic-free road trip back up to Boston on Monday... and then back to a four-day workweek.


PSA #2: Ten Year Old Bailey's

Here's my second public service announcement: it involved an evening of trying to fix a drink for my girlfriend, and unfortunate discoveries at the back of my liquor cabinet...

Sarah was over on Friday night, and I suggested that I prepare some drinks. However, no limes in the fridge... so no margaritas, daquaris, or gin & tonics. No sour mix... no whiskey sours. No mint... so no mint juleps, or mojitos. Grr. We went online to go recipe hunting.

"How about Bailey's Irish Cream?"

"Sure... I should have a bottle in my cabinet somewhere..."

[online searching]

"Looks like an Irish Cream Special should work--milk, Bailey's, and ice" (why yes, when I speak, I do include hypertext links, actually).


However, when I dug out the Bailey's, I realized... huh... 2000, eh?

Hrm... seemed like there was a bit of a plug in the neck of the bottle.

[shake shake shake]


The sad thing was that it still smelled yummy. But I wasn't planning on pouring... erm... smearing it over ice.

Yeah, it turns out that Bailey's isn't something that you want to cellar. Thought y'all ought to know that.

PSA #1: Low Mileage Discount for Car Insurance

A couple of public service announcements this evening--one was that fact that I recently updated my car insurance to reflect my driving habits--as mentioned previously, typically under 5000 miles per year, compared to the US average of 12,000 miles/year. For a graphic representation see below: the brown is my old Boston-to-495 commute (bleah!), black/yellow were my shiftless years in grad school, and blue is my current commute (2010 is YTD):

Partially, I was prompted by Dave and Katie's blog post ("Thoughts (and data!) on car ownership costs")--for those of you who don't overlap, they are lovely friends of Jofish's, who are currently living in Portland, OR car free, biking everywhere--woot! And that's with a 6-month old kid. Rock on, guys, I salute you. Anyway, they did the math on car ownership... if you add up everything, that government rate for mileage reimbursement (50 cents/mile), really is not a huge bargain. Also, they pointed out one of the unfortunate effects of owning a car:

To me, this drove home the point that if you're going to own a car anyway and you carpool driving can be cheaper than an annual transit pass costing around $1000 per year per person. This is one of the financial traps of car ownership: the incremental cost of any extra usage is small enough that if you own a car it's hard to financially justify not using it. It's a pair of thrifty handcuffs, making the owners feel good about driving more. I consider this throwing good money after bad.

Alas (speaking as a car owner). Perhaps my costs are lower... I'm not sure if my car has depreciated quite to zero, but it's getting close. But the least I could do was contact my insurance company, to see what their low mileage discount was. They told me that there were two tiers: at 7500 miles/year, and 5000 miles/year. It turns out that they verify low mileage based on the reported miles at your annual state inspection--pretty smaht, eh? Anyway, given my history, I'm pretty comfortable that I can hit 5000 regularly.

I got a revised bill, dropping my rates from $664/year to $572/year. Not terrific, but hey, getting $92/year for something that I already do ain't a bad thing. And for reference, those numbers are for a 18 year old car, garaged in Arlington, MA; 39 year old driver.


im in ur NAS

Sarah and I spent Memorial Day weekend in New York, both seeing New York City, as well as introducing her to my family. Yeah, ulp! It actually went very well--she liked them a lot, and I think my family liked her too!

But that's not what this post is about (I'll post on the weekend later).

I normally like to make sure that people have the photos I took of an event--so one of my to-do items was to upload the folder to S.'s NAS. However, she was out that evening, at camera club.

But wait... hrm... can I get wireless signal on her porch?

Apparently, yes! So she got an email message, with the attached image and caption:

im in ur NAS uploadin weekend pikchurs

I have to say one of the more amusing "im in ur base" riffs was this classical one.