Tuesday, May 30, 2006

Kick the Can

I tend to mentally map the people I know into distinct groups. There's "The Family," "The Whole Sick Crew" (formerly "The Wheaton Gang"), "The Wash U Crowd", and more. This past weekend I was visited by David Nevel, a member in good standing of "The Minnesota Friends." My geographical domination continues to expand as more and more people are drawn into my net.

This was David's first-ever trip to the West Coast, so I wanted to make it a good one. We did some pre-trip planning that nailed down a couple of possibilities. David's an introvert like me, which just makes it the more critical that we work things out ahead of time; otherwise the risk is too great that the trip will be filled with conversations like the following:
"What do you want to do?"
"I don't know, what do you want to do?"
(Repeat as necessary.)

His flight got in Friday afternoon. By now I'm an old hand at navigating the airport, and after a smooth operation he was retrieved and deposited at my apartment. I scurried back to work for an all-hands meeting, then came back to find him dominating The Simpsons Hit & Run (certainly the finest Simpsons game I have ever played, and one of the better GTA clones).

That night we geeked out and attended X3, after first having some tasty Pizza My Heart pizza. It was a fun movie - it's been a while since I saw the first two, both of which I also saw in the theater, but I think this was up there in quality with the other two. The crowd was a good one, very quiet throughout the flick but very appreciative afterwards. We stayed behind for the critical shot after the credits.

We continued the nerd march at home with Final Fantasy VII: Advent Children. The game, which came out shortly after I moved to Illinois, is one of our favorites, and amazingly enough neither of us had seen it yet. So that was fun. It felt incredibly nostalgic to see all of the old party re-appearing from the game. Cloud sort of looked like a weenie, but his motorcycle's sword rack was awesome. The night wrapped up with some conversation and David's introduction to the distilled joy that is Guitar Hero.

If I could describe one common thread in all of my Minnesota-era celebrations, it would be "staying up late." Granted, "late" in those days had a different meaning than it would in college, but still... whether I was hanging out with friends from church or school, our nights had a tendency to end up the same way, with us ingesting enough caffeine to keep our eyes open through the marathon binges of Monty Python or MST3K as we slipped in and our of consciousness until everyone had collapsed in a stupor. I've noticed that we still tend to slip into this mode when we get back together. I didn't get to bed before 2AM a single night, which, while not nearly as late as I regularly reached at Wash U, is several hours past my customary bedtime these days.

Saturday, I still woke up relatively early, but forced myself back to sleep a few times before eventually rousing. David managed to snooze until noon, after which we decided to brunch at the inimitable Southern Kitchen, and he saw firsthand how large their breakfast sausages are. This was paired with a mini-tour of Los Gatos, culminating in the now-traditional swing by my office.

One specific activity which David was interested in was the Winchester Mystery House, the sprawling and bizarre mansion built by the Winchester widow over most of her life. I'd come here with my family during our trip to California a decade ago, and looked forward to returning. It was pretty busy, probably due to the Memorial Day weekend, but rather than shove a lot of people together they were keeping groups fairly small, which did mean a bit of a wait until our tour started. We used the time well, though, looking through a few museums on the grounds and touring the extensive and very attractive gardens.

Our actual tour went well. I remembered many of the comments from my previous visit, but this guide seemed quite a bit better than the one my family got, and she generally sounded interested in the house. Besides the neat stories, it's just a lot of fun to go tramping through such an odd house. Everyone else we went with seemed to enjoy it as well.

After the main tour, we stayed around for the "Behind the Scenes" tour. This one, which I hadn't been on before, was less fantastical but in some ways more interesting; it included visits to the various outbuildings and comments on the house's agricultural role, as well as an excursion to the basement and discussions of the house's gas system, the foundation which allowed it to survive both the 1906 and 1989 earthquakes, the boiler and a bunch of other things. It was pretty cool to hear about the engineering behind such an edifice.

It was nearly six when we were all finished, but we still had a few hours of daylight left, so we headed east. One of David's quests for this trip was to taste West Coast fast food, which one of his friends (not me!) had greatly praised. I never pass up an excuse to visit In 'n Out, which is sadly far from home but happened to be on the route to the Diablo range. We grabbed some burgers and shakes and I regaled him with my In 'n Out trivia while we chowed down. We then continued east, driving up Mount Hamilton road for an impressive view of the valley. Well, valleys: Santa Clara on the way up, and the impressively green interior past the range. We paused for some photos in both places, then chased the sun westward to get back home.

That night... hm. I'm drawing a blank here so it must've been good. We hit up Homestar Runner, I remember that... probably more talking and movies besides.

Sunday was the designated San Francisco day. We got a slightly earlier start to the day, doing my traditional Sunday doughnuts before piling into the car. I'd decided to do the 101/Millbrae/BART route into SF, for reasons I addressed in an earlier post: it's faster, gets us right into downtown, and has less delay on the return trip. Traffic was pretty decent on the road; I'm guessing people had already done their Memorial Day travelling. BART was also light until we got to 16th street, when Carnaval revelers piled on.

Our first destination, at David's suggestion, was Twin Peaks. Unlike my previous trip, it was a sunny day; David had wanted to see the ocean, and figured this was a good way to get a look without spending an hour round trip going to Ocean Beach. We ducked out of BART at Civic Center, took the N back south to Castro, then caught the old 37 bus. After a very steep ascent and then a brief but equally steep hike, we were standing on top of the southern peak.

It felt incredibly good to be standing up there under the warm sun, with clear views all around. In one respect, it was just like my previous trip: it was still extremely windy. We struck dramatic poses and I pointed out some of the landmarks. We then headed over to the north peak for better views of downtown and the bridges. This one appeared to be more popular; we met a few other groups of people and exchanged camera shots. Finally, triumphantly, we descended back to the 37 and took our positions.

The next stop was Fisherman's Wharf, an area decried by the natives as being overly touristy but one that can be nice for visitors, as long as you stay close to the water and away from "Ripley's Believe It Or Not," the wax museum and other tourist trap pits. The only real way to get there was on the F line, a nice line of historic trolley cars that runs from Market Street up the Embarcadero to the Wharf. We took the Muni up to the last Market Street stop, crossed over to the ferry building, and waited.

And waited.

Then waited some more.

We'd counted four cars going in the opposite direction without a single trolley coming to our stop. Others nearby were getting restless, speculating out loud about damaged tracks or broken trolleys. We waited quite a while before deciding it had been long enough and just walking there, secretly convinced that it would pull up as soon as we left.

As it turns out, we made it all the way to the Wharf before the first trolley came, so that was nice. The walk was pleasant though long - if you have access to a San Francisco map, check out how far it is from the Ferry Building to Pier 39 and you'll have a good idea what a trek it was. Anyways, what I like about that walk is that there's only water to your right, which means no through streets, which means no waiting to cross intersections. As always the streets were filled with other people, so it felt very relaxing and fun. I kept playing tour guide, pointing out Coit Tower and summarizing Bill O'Reilly's desire that Al Quaeda blow it up.

We eventually made it. Pier 39 was pretty crowded, but other than a fire-eater I didn't see any of the promised Memorial Day Weekend activities. We may have come too late, it was after five by now. We got to the far end of the pier and checked out the seals, who were pretty lazy. We continued to walk along the waterfront, taking in the bay, before eventually stopping at the same restaurant I had previously visited with Mom and Dad. Their dinner was a bit pricier than the lunch had been, but the food tasted even better, and we greatly enjoyed the clam chowder (sadly absent sourdough bread bowls), bruschetta, and an excellent salmon pasta dish. A talented jazz trio provided wonderful atmosphere, and we soaked up plenty of sun in our window seats.

Of course, after walking all that way, why WOULDN'T we want to go to Ghirardelli's? We walked through a park and went the few blocks to the wonderful confectioners' place, but were brought up short by the sight of the enormous line that stretched out the door and wound almost the entire length of Ghirardelli Square. As usual, though, the chocolate store portion had a much shorter line, so we went in and got our free samples. I'm always torn with indecision in there. The first time I went, with Pat's friends, I didn't get anything; when I went with my parents I got some Easter-themed miniature chocolate bunnies; this time, I picked up a tin with an assortment of dark chocolates. I'm always tempted by the large variety bags, but for some reason it's mentally difficult for me to spend $20 on a bag of chocolate, though I don't have similar qualms at spending slightly smaller amounts to get less chocolate. David was a good son and picked up some mint chocolate for his parents, as well as a milk chocolate bar and some fudge for himself. We decided that this would be sufficient dessert and started the long journey home.

I figured that by now they would have fixed whatever was wrong with the F line. I was right, mainly. We were able to get on a functioning trolley that would take us back, but the psychotic driver insisted on squeezing in more passengers than were physically capable of occupying the space. After several tortured minutes, I thought I saw the outline of the Ferry Building ahead, and asked David if he was ready to get off. He said yes, and we did; it was only then that I realized I had mistaken the Pier 33 building for our destination. That was slightly disappointing, but it was still much more pleasant walking than riding, so we returned on foot. We did the last jog in the Muni, then reclaimed BART for the way back.

One safely home, I fired up a miniature comedy festival, introducing David to Stella and Mitch Hedberg, and revisiting "A Very Venture Christmas." Around 11:30 we patronized the 24-hour "Jack in the Box" near my home, the first time I had ever been to one - they have a few in Illinois and around St. Louis, but are mainly a western chain. I got the Sourdough Jack, which is a bacon cheeseburger on a sourdough bun... it was no In 'n Out, but was certainly tasty. David kept the faith with the Original Jack. The evening ended with a roadhouse tour through the wonderful world of San Andreas, which had occupied a surprisingly large portion of our conversation over the weekend. (Every time I return to San Francisco, I grow even more in awe at their depiction of San Fierro.) We spun around San Fierro for a while, tricked out some hidden cars, did a series of two-player rampages, getting up to five stars each time before biting it. David showed me where the jumbo jet is, as well as the attack helicopter and some other fun aircraft. I spent about ten minutes shooting down police helicopters and army planes while somehow never rising above three wanted stars; David did a ground assault and got all the way up to five in under a minute.

Monday was our earliest morning yet, since we figured the plane would probably not wait for David. There was enough time, though, to squeeze in a quick round of DDR. I've been playing it intermittently for two and a half years while David has just recently gotten into it, though he has already unlocked more content in DDR Extreme than I have. We had a short set of three dances: we were very closely matched on the first two songs, but I pulled ahead on the third for the win. Our adreneline was now sufficiently advanced for the trip to the airport, and so the weekend drew to a close.

As always, it was fun having someone else to share my space with. Every person who comes has slightly different interests, so I rarely feel like I'm repeating myself. It almost feels like I get to take vacations year-round now, and I derive as much pleasure playing host as I hope my guests get. Anyways, fun round, and it's nice to put another notch in my belt as Northern California Ambassador.

For photos of the trip, check out the incandescent sprinkles.

UPDATE 6/4/06: Also, David has posted his photos. They're better than mine.

Friday, May 26, 2006

No way, myte, too much blood to be just a vein. No way, izzy. If it were an artery, he’d still be bleeding. Actually, he'd be dead.

The season finale of "House" was AWESOME. I've blogged about this before, but I really dig the show. It has transformed from being something I watched only for Hugh Laurie and Massive Attack, into a very well-written, sharply funny, and clever show that's willing to take on some pretty meaty issues.

I've read a couple of interviews with the stars and creators that discuss the fact that House is the marriage of a procedural and a soap opera, two genres that have absolutely no interest for me. And I don't think the combination sounds that great on paper. When you have a lot of talent behind a project, though, even tired tools can be put to good use, and I feel like they've been successful at mining the possibilities of the genre. The procedural is an excellent framework for the show, both providing the raw material for them to talk about and engaging the viewer to join in the problem-solving. Not on a medical level, since we haven't even heard of many of these conditions, but over the course of two seasons we've been well-trained in the important questions. Were the tests right? What was the patient hiding? Do we trust the family's statements? It's this detective work that engages our minds.

Every once in a while, though, the writers let themselves slip from the procedural a little. Every time, the result is a masterpiece. Both last season's "Three Stories" and this finale do keep elements of the procedural in place - there's a lot of discussion about diagnosing a condition - but the script takes a step up and starts looking at the process of diagnosing, what it means to be looking for the truth. If they did this every week it would probably lose its potency, but as it is, the result is an episode that can define an entire season.


I loved, loved, loved this episode. It's very hard to displease me when you start plumbing the depths of sanity, and the hallucinatory whirl that House is caught up in utterly delighted me. After he first skipped from the rails a little, everything was fair game, and I immediately began to wonder if anything that was happening was real. At the same time, though, the story told within the hallucinations is compelling in its own right, so there was plenty to do besides ponder.

One of my favorite scenes was when House was walking down the stairs with his team, then asked "How did I get here?" We, the viewers, saw the beginning of the conversation in his room, and the continuation in the stairs, but as regular watchers we are accustomed to seeing changes in scenery. In the real world, though, you can't move from Scene A to Scene B without crossing the space between them. Anyways, I loved that because it forces the viewer to examine their own relationship with the show; we're projecting our own reality on it, and House's question really shakes that foundation.

One thing I did NOT enjoy was the main case. I'm a bit of a wuss, and often will close my eyes or turn my head during a particularly gruesome scene. So, yeah, the exploding eyeball... not the highlight of my day. It was interesting, but also sickening.

As Pat points out, the scene at the Mexican place where House impersonates his team was wonderful. I need to watch it again. And what's really funny, of course, is that he's ALREADY impersonating them - throughout the entire episode, everything they say is coming from him. Just brilliant.

The very end of the episode was fantastic. I'm reminded of Waking Life, one of my all-time favorite movies; one of the characters talks about how you can have fantastic dreams that seem to go on for hours, even though you've only been asleep for a minute or two, and speculates that a single second of dreaming prior to death could occupy your entire lifetime. This episode felt like a treatment of that idea. As a rule, I detest "Oh, it was all just a dream!" endings, but they absolutely earned it. The whole episode is about thought, and reality, and the relationship between the two, so the ending was absolutely a part of the episode, rather than a cheap way to get an ending.

I keep saying "ending," even though clearly it's a cliffhanger. What do you think will happen? I don't know... the tongue guy is probably a much simpler case than House predicted, the shooter was probably arrested without being injured, and for House... maybe now he'll have two limps? I'm guessing the premiere will be his recovery, and maybe he'll have some additional long-term pain. We'll see. I'm already looking forward to the fall!

Thursday, May 25, 2006

Do You Smell That? It Smells Like Freedom... And Ripe Cheese


This morning I went to visit my orthopedist, filled with self-doubt and worry. Wearing a cast, while far from the worst thing that could happen to me, has been an annoying experience, and I desperately hoped to be done with it.

My hopes were met. The fracture isn't wholly healed, but it's so close that Dr. Huffer felt it was safe to take the cast off. I need to be easy on my wrist for the next few weeks, no fistfights or anything, but that's about it.

It feels really weird to have my hand back again. After Nurse Lupe took off my cast, I unthinkingly re-enacted a crucial scene from Kill Bill: "Move... your thumb..." By now, a few hours later, I can move my thumb and wrist in all directions, though I still don't have a great range of motion and it's a little painful when I extend something too far.

Ahh.... typing. Typing feels glorious. It feels a little like I'm getting used to it again - I just typed "littke" instead of "little" in this sentence - but after the last four weeks I finally feel like I'm being, you know.... productive? Yeah, that.

For those of you who haven't seen my at a keyboard in May, it was a fairly disgusting sight. Basically, my left hand did what it has always done. My right hand, in a short-arm cast with a thumb spike, was permanently rotated 90 degrees from the standard position. I operated it like a claw, striking out at keys I wished to hit. It would be a little like typing using only your index finger on one hand. I was surprised by how fast I got towards the end, but still, even in its dessicated state a full right hand is both easier and far more potent.

Enough about me. On to business: throughout the month I've been jotting down some things I want to blog about. Most of these topics could easily fill an entire post on their end, but I'm behind in enough things in life already without working through a month-long backlog of blog posts. Therefore I will spurt out a ton of bullet points and half-baked thoughts here. I reserve the right to return to some of these topics in a more in-depth manner later, but realistically I'll probably have plenty else to keep me busy.

Onwards and upward with the arts:

  • Books, books, books! I started the month with Murakami's "Kafka on the Shore." I haven't read anything by the author before, but the reviews I read for this book intrigued me. It was amazing, with pretty much everything I love in a novel: weird symbolism, ambiguous plot, possibly supernatural forces, inscrutable motives. It also felt profoundly Japanese in a way that made me feel like I wasn't getting everything. Some references to incest were kind of disturbing, as they were probably intended to be.
  • Kafka was followed up with another intentionally surreal book, Thomas Pynchon's "V". His shorter novel "The Crying of Lot 49" is on my all-time top five list, again because it is such a wonderfully weird and compelling book, and I had high hopes for "V." They were disappointed. It's not a bad book by any means, but I don't hesitate in prounouncing it inferior to "Crying." A lot of the familiar Pynchon elements are present - themes of alienation and estrangement, cryptic situations with a slight supernatural tinge, engagement of science as a metaphor for life - but what's missing is the fun. "V" takes itself too seriously much of the time, and the moments when Pynchon lets himself unwind and just have fun with the novel illuminate how much better it could have been. After reading this, I have decided that from now on I will refer to the Wheaton North gang as "The Whole Sick Crew." I haven't given up on Pynchon - I still enjoyed the book - and next hope to tackle Gravity's Rainbow, after a breather of a year or so.
  • I made a trifecta by finally getting a hold of "The Third Policeman" after waiting for over six months on SJPL's waiting list, learning the book had been stolen, and then hunting it down through interlibrary loan. What, me pay for a book that I want to read? This is America! Anyways, this is the book that was briefly glimpsed on an episode of "Lost". I didn't have high hopes for its literary value, and was reading it more out of curiosity, but ended up being surprised by its quality. Once again I was reading a strange book filled with cryptic pronouncements, unsettling visual images, possibly insane characters, and a generalized feeling of unease and malaise. Success! The book starts off reading very much like an Edgar Allen Poe story, but at a specific point a chapter or two in, the book the plot turns about 90 degrees, and suddenly feels a lot like Borges. It stays in this weirdly altered state for the bulk of the book before returning to an almost horror theme. I don't know that I would recommend this book in general, but for those whose tastes align with mine, it gets the nod of approval.
  • What's next? I'm a few chapters into "At the Mountains of Madness," my first-ever H. P. Lovecraft novel. I've been vaguely aware of him and the Cthulhu mythos since junior high, but this is my first venture into that territory. It's... pretty good, I guess. I'm not into horror, and the overwrought narrative style is occasionally more amusing than frightening ("I trembled at the horrible thought of the great sweeping evil that lurked malignantly beyond the darkest shadowy pits of hell"), but surprisingly atmospheric. He bears an obvious debt to Poe, and his words help me remember how much I have enjoyed Poe's work in the past.
  • I did Japanese festivals constantly! First up was the Cherry Blossom Bestival in San Francisco. This was AMAZING. Tons of exhibits, displays, musical performances, food booths, martial arts, and more. The highlight, though, was the parade. I got to within a few feet of Gavin Newsom (I don't think people outside the Bay Area really understand how strongly he is admired here - he gets a rock star's reception everywhere he goes, and has gone from being grudgingly tolerated to almost universally admired), had my mind blown by an amazing Taiko performance, and watched in awe as a host of people carried a shrine down Sutter road, shaking it back and forth while others bounced up and down on top of it. The very next week I was in Japantown San Jose for their annual Nihonmachi celebration. This wasn't quite as massive as the San Francisco extravaganza, but was still a lot of fun and I ended up staying for pretty much the whole duration, from 10AM to after 4PM. They had a bigger emphasis on performance (dance, music and martial arts) than San Francisco, with less emphasis on spectable. I may do both again next year, I'll almost certainly do the SF one.
  • A primary election will be held here on June 6th. This will be the second time I've voted and I'm still not totally plugged into the political environment yet, so I'll be heavily leaning on the recommendations of the San Francisco Chronicle and the San Jose Mercury News to make my decisions. I'm currently leaning towards supporting Steve Westley for Governor and David Pandori for mayor. On other issues, I'm enthusiastically supporting Measure A, a half-cent sales tax that will bring BART to San Jose and fund social services; supporting a state bond measure for public libraries and another one for infrastructure (while shaking my first and cursing the legislature for delaying the one for high-speed transit. I want my bullet train to LA, darn it!); voting AGAINST Rob Reiner's initiative to tax the very wealthy to fund universal preschool (a laudable goal, but it needs to happen through the regular budget process). For everything else, I'll probably just do what the papers tell me to do.
  • Spring in the Bay! It actually got up to 80 a few weeks ago, which is the hottest it's ever been since I moved here. More recently it's been in the low 70s. I love this weather. The days are long and getting longer; sunshine is everywhere; I can spend hours outside without getting sweaty or chilly. Mmmmmm.
  • I've watched a good number of movies. "On the Waterfront" was the rare classic that actually stood up to my expectations. All the classic lines reverberate when they are uttered, but mostly I was entranced by Brando's performance, and captivated by a wonderful moral sensibility that this country seems to have lost in the past fifty years. The image of a preacher suffering abuse to rail against the greed and corruption of a union that fails to stand up for working people... it's so pure in this movie, and feels so unthinkable today. What else... "Lost in Translation" was good, pretty much just what I expected but that's OK. Also saw the Family Guy Stewie Griffin story thing, which made me laugh many times. And of course am keeping up on my shows. The Office and Earl are done for the season, I think House and Lost wrap up this week or next.
  • I was at the Southern Kitchen by myself one day and decided to try something different than my typical Eggs Benedict. So I was scanning the menu and read the entry for "Pigs in a Blanket," a term I have heard before but never actually encountered. I read, "Three sausages wrapped in pancakes." I'm thinking, "Just three sausages? That doesn't seem like very much, but I'm also not very hungry. I will order these 'Pigs in a Blanket' and then eat them." They bring out the plate, and I stare at my death. See, when I hear the word "sausage" in the context of breakfast, I immediately think of breakfast sausages, like sausage links. Nope. By sausage, they mean sausage, like bratwurst. I have rarely seen that many calories gathered in one place. I survived that day, beaten but wiser.
  • Now I know that I work for a dot-com. When the Sharks were in the running for the playoffs, Young brought a hocket net and some sticks into the office. It wasn't unusual for some engineers to take up sticks in the middle of the afternoon for an impromptu game in the hall, getting off slap shots between cubicles. I love Silicon Valley.
  • I am very dumb. I signed up for the "Classes Without Quizzes" with the Wash U alumni club. I really enjoyed the one in KC and was looking forward to the one here. I felt oddly self-conscious about my cast, but was resolved to attend anyways since I had already paid and I liked the idea of using Shelley's Frankenstein to discuss modern ethical dilemmas. I planned out the BART schedule, enjoyed a stroll down Market Street, and then walked into the Four Seasons Hotel to find... that it was scheduled for Saturday night, not Sunday night. It was even on the sheet of paper I'd brought with me. Tarnation. I'll get you next time, alumni club! All was not lost, though; no trip to San Francisco is ever a true waste. I did the north end of Market Street, which I hadn't seen before; got a closer look at the Transamerica pyramid; and crossed Embarcadero to explore the Ferry Building. Most shops were closed on Sunday night, but it was still nice to check yet another thing off my list.
  • Speaking of which, Caltrain has been my preferred method of getting into SF, but I'm starting to experiment with BART. The problem is that it requires a decent amount of driving to get to a BART station; the advantages, though, are threefold. First, the total trip time is slightly less than Caltrain's weekend time of 90 minutes. Second, if you miss your return train (as I inevitably do), it's just another 20 minutes for the next BART car as opposed to an hour (or, sometimes, two) for the next Caltrain train. Thirdly, BART drops you off in happenin' Market Street, while Caltrain deposits you in the depths of SOMA... convenient for some bus connections, but not a very pleasant area to explore. Anyways, I have two main BART options; in the past I've done Millbrae, which requires a longer drive up the Penninsula and then a short ride to the city; I'm also intrigued by the Fremont station, which is a shorter drive and a longer ride. In principle I'd rather have a long ride where I can read, but the one time I tried this traffic was so bad on 880 that I was scared off. Obviously, the long-term solution is to bring BART down to San Jose; assuming Measure A passes, we're looking at about a decade for that.
  • I attended and enjoyed the Cinco de Mayo parade in downtown San Jose. I'm a huge political nerd, and was not disappointed: almost the entire city council participated, as well as the consul general of Mexico, but mayor Ron Gonzales, who is reeling from an ethics charge, was not in attendence. There was a ton of music, and it was nice to see that most of it was live... there was the occasional cheap boombox thing, but far more produced and amplified from the floats. One of the coolest parts was at the very beginning, with a whole troupe of Aztec-style dancers who were led by several people on huge drums. Everyone had enormous headdresses and way more energy than anyone should. The rest of the parade was also good, with a nice mix of musical and community groups. One interesting difference between this parade and other ones: there seemed to be a lot more waving and a lot less clapping than I'm used to. Coming very soon after the immigration demonstrations, you could feel a great deal of energy and pride in hispanic heritage. That was cool. Afterwards I wanted to go to a cinco de mayo festival down in Woz Park, but it was a dollar to get in. Darned it I'm going to pay money to attend a festival! This is America! So instead I went to Muchos and enjoyed a chimichanga. That's good eating!
  • KQED, the local NPR affiliate, finally wrapped up an interminable two-week pledge drive. They do this twice a year. It's annoying as heck, but apparently they're the most-listened-to NPR station in the country, so I guess others are willing to put up with it. What's funny is that there's also a much smaller NPR station that's also based in San Francisco, that carries much of the same programming (All Things Considered, Fresh Aire, etc.), but also reports on what the day's school lunches are, and for some reason has a 5pm program that's entirely about Canada. I listened to them a lot the last two weeks.
  • I went home again two weekends ago. It served three purposes: I got to see James and Karen get married (beautiful wedding, tons of people, fun dinner conversation); celebrated Andrew's 20th birthday (Happy Birthday!); and had an all-too-brief Mother's Day celebration (Mom got to wake up at 4:30AM Sunday morning to drive me to the airport). My next trip home will be late July for Jeff's wedding, but I'll see the family twice before then: once in Minnesota for Joel's wedding, and then in North Carolina for the enormous King Family Reunion.
  • We have a ton of new hires at work, which is awesome. It takes a while to bring people up to speed, but once they're all on board, it will hopefully be a big help to our workload. They seem to be bright, friendly people. One, Paul Zhang, is my new officemate, and is a very open, intelligent person. It'll be interesting to see how Rocket Mobile's culture and feel continues to change as the company grows and evolves.
  • I rarely watch South Park, but I caught three episodes this year (long after they aired): the season opener where Chef gets "killed" and the two-part Family Guy / censorship episode. They were all pretty funny, but I'm not that tempted to start following the show regularly. South Park has always been one of those things that I can only handle in small doses; beyond that, its profanity (in all senses of the word) seeks being shocking and amusing and just feels tired. For the record, Family Guy's nonsequitor-heavy style is what I like most about it. It's like Monty Python in the way it illogically strings together events. That said, South Park's criticism felt genuine and I respect it.
  • I finally got a new camera. It's hard because I can't shake the nagging suspicion that I still have a perfectly serviceable camera buried in one of my boxes somewhere that has resisted repeated attempts to locate it. Still, even if it exists, I have not seen it for over a year, and... if a camera is in the woods and nobody sees it, does it really exist? I'm sticking with Sony and picked up a DSC T-5, which I'm loving. It's one of those ultra-compact models and fits easily in my front pocket; has 5 megapixels, which is more than I need but I'll take it, and supports video and some other neat features. I also picked up a 2GB memory stick that was on sale, and feel confident that I will never run out of picture space.
  • One downside to having a new camera is figuring out what to do with my pictures. My current approach, which I'm not very happy with for reasons I may explore in a future post, is to start a new blog that will only contain my photos; you can find it at http://seberin-pix.blogspot.com. I'll occasionally include pictures here but only if they directly relate to a post.
  • I had a funky dream over the weekend. I've been having more than normal this past month; I'm guessing it's related to how hard it was to sleep with a cast on and the way I jumped in and out of consciousness more quickly. In this dream, I was hanging around a guy who was basically Rick Warren, except that he was pale, introverted, and about 19 years old. (For those of you keeping score at home, that means he was nothing at all like Rick Warren.) I couldn't decide whether I really supported him or not, but wanted to help him out while I made up my mind; since he was so introverted, I was forced into occasionally being a pseudo-spokesman. At one point we were in a high school auditorium type of thing, and one of his nemeses was giving a speech. The crowd was definitely antagonistic towards us, and I got a bad feeling as they cheered the speaker and started eyeing us. Some people started to throw cups of water and other objects at us. I felt like I should do something, but I knew any action of mine would be distorted by the media, so I just sat there while everyone laughed and threw stuff. Later in the dream, pseudo-Rick and I were doing a team-building exercise that was whitewater rafting through a series of caves. However, our enemies were also there, and tried to take over the boats. I shoved a few overboard, then was horrified to learn that they had drowned and I was now wanted as a murderer. Then I woke up.
  • What did the dream mean? I don't know. The funny thing is, Rick Warren is probably the least interesting evangelical figure to me. I don't hate him, and I don't really like him that much (though I really respect his work on poverty). Still, perhaps it has something to do with my sense of religious isolation in California, where people tend to automatically equate Christians with far-right Falwell-style fundamentalism. The part in the auditorium is just good old-fashioned fear of confrontation and being disliked. The last bit puzzles me, and makes me wonder if there's some guilt that I may be subconsciously burying.
Aaaaaaaaaaaaand that's it for now. It's good being back! Hope all is well with your lives. Peace out.