Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Bullmastiff Recue Crisis

The American Bullmastiff Association Rescue Service's  (ABARS) mission is to find homes for unwanted Bullmastiffs that come from shelters or are owner surrenders from people whose lifestyle or financial situation has changed.   Occasionally ABARS will get Bullmastiffs that have been abandoned at a local veterinarian's office or from a good citizen that has found the dog and exhausted all means to locate the dog's owner. 

My Bullmastiff, Roxy, who passed away earlier this year was adopted from ABARS, ( Click here to read about Roxy ) ABARS typically handles about 70 rescues per year across the National network of Voulenteer Rescue Coordinators and Volunteer Foster Homes. The last few years though have been especially taxing for the organization. Economic conditions have caused an increase in owner surrenders and abandonment and the organization has been pushed to it's limit. The organization historically maintained an operating budget, amassed through donations that has been completely depleted by virtue of a near doubling of the number of dogs in the system. The organization was struggling but is now in serious crisis. 

Friday, December 16, 2011

Narcissistic Philanthropy…Or “For The Troops” when someone is looking.

I’ve resisted the urge to write about this for well over a year but I was encouraged to do so by a couple of friends so here goes.

My wife's father spent the last 5 years of his life at the Palo Alto VA hospital. The malady isn't important, but what is important is the "Armchair Patriots" in his life that abandoned him and his family in his dying years. Because of that, my wife, her circle of friends and myself like to put on a Christmas party for some of the patients at the Palo Alto Veterans Hospital. Nothing big, we aren't changing the world up there by any means but it means a lot to the guys who are up there who don't have support systems. 

Palo Alto Veterans Hospital
We put on a Christmas party each year for the 4 different mental health wards. These guys are truly "the forgotten". When Channel 7 News wants to do a Veterans Day story on combat Veterans they go to the prosthetic labs where they can get great images of some poor kid with a limb or two that has been blown off. Makes for better television than a guy who watched a buddy get something blown off and now, due to PTSD can't cope with society. Or a guy who's brain is no longer functioning normally due to exposure to chemical-warfare agents, least of all, the guys with chemical dependence problems due to being addicted to pain medications, or other "self-medicating" agents when their pain meds were denied.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

The Annoying Co-Worker Chronicles - Ep5, Employment Prevention

Looking for a job is tough under good economic conditions. I'm told that these days it’s downright brutal out there. In this installment of “The Annoying Co-Worker Chronicles” we’ll examine three ways to assure that you never wind up the subject of one of these sorts of tomes. Unique strategies that are nearly assured to grenade any chance one might have at landing a position from which to annoy prospective co-workers.

Expressing yourself to the point of demonstrating bad judgment.

There is nothing inherently wrong with body art and modification. I have tattoos and once wore a stainless bead ring in each ear. The thing is that the tattoos are easily covered by anything even remotely considered “professional attire” and the rings pop out in seconds.

A few years ago I interviewed a young man for a customer facing position that showed up with a pair of stretched ear-lobes similar to the below along with a pierced lower lip and eyebrow.

His education and resume more than qualified him for the position or he wouldn’t have been called in for the interview, but the prospect of placing him in front of the variety of clients he’d be exposed to was just silly. The thing is that one has but a single chance to make a first impression and his was to walk in the door and effectively say, “I don’t give a rip about what you think nor do I care about your corporate culture. You need to accept ME!” Wrong POV kiddo.

The organization I was with at the time did business with companies that were far less formal than ourselves, and we also did business with the biggest of the big Fortune 500 suit/tie type corporations and government organizations as well. No matter how "open-minded" a company is, at some point they are going to attempt to do business with another company that isn't. At the end of the day, regardless of your role in a professional capacity you are being hired to in some way represent the company you are working for.

It just screams “bad judgment”. If I'm interviewing someone I expect that they’ve done their due diligence to learn about the standard of dress/appearance for the organization, if they consciously present themselves in a manner contrary to that I am led to believe that they don't care what the organization thinks or values. 

By extension, it's not a real stretch to imagine that they mightn't care what our clients think or value either.

The next two gems are too humorous not to share.

Many years ago the group that I worked in found ourselves in need of a new admin. The previous admin had left when she became pregnant and decided to be a stay at home mom. She left some big shoes to fill and we sought recommendations and placed an open req on the companies “careers” website.

We’d interviewed a number of applicants whose qualifications and work history demonstrated a good fit and had one left, we’ll call her “Kim”. Kim had an appointment for a series of 30min interviews with the people she’d be supporting starting at 10am. Since the interviews would spread across lunch we’d sent out for catering for the meetings to ensure everyone would be able to attend to their normal duties, conduct interviews and not have to miss lunch.

10am came and went and Kim was nowhere to be found. At 10:30am with no sign of Kim we called her number and got her home voicemail. At 11am we gave up. At noon, a full two hours after the interview was scheduled to begin Kim traipsed into our lobby and asked the receptionist to announce her arrival. My boss got wind of this and decided to have a little fun and perhaps pass on to Kim a valuable life lesson.

He went to the lobby and met her. She offered no explanation for being late until asked. I guess she thought it wasn’t a big deal, and when she was in the midst of explaining how she used public transportation and had missed a couple of connections her cellphone rang...her cellphone rang.

My boss told her that we’d have to move some things around and that he’d send for her when we were ready…and 30min passed, then an hour, then after two hours I went to the lobby. Kim was noticeably upset. I explained to her that we’d be unable to interview her today as we couldn’t rearrange our schedules. She asked, “Couldn’t you have told me that an hour ago instead of letting me sit here and wait?” To which I replied, “Sure I could have. But I decided to show you the same regard for your time that you showed for ours. Goodbye and good luck with your job search.”

The Modulus Of Elasticity Of An Apron String.

Same company as above but this time we were hiring for an entry level engineering position. The majority of applicants were new college grads so the interviews were based far more on personality and fit than on qualifications though some applicants did have Senior Projects that offered compelling insight into their abilities. One particular applicant among them did have an impressive list of previous internships and had worked on a Senior Project that was right in the wheelhouse for the position. On the day of the interview I strolled up to the lobby to bring him back and as one would expect I found a fresh faced young man in a slightly ill-fitting suit that was eager to get started. What I didn’t expect was his mother.

…(no, really, this actually happened!)…

He brought his MOTHER to the interview. Not to give him a ride mind you, they both expected to have her sit in on the interview. It was all I could do to resist an uncontrollable fit of laughter at the suggestion but I buckled down and did so. Biting my lip I managed get out a simple, “Why?”

I'd insert a hilarious Joan Crawford pic here but how many would get the gag?

His mother answered, “I want to make sure that he covers the important points of his education, ensure you don’t ask any unfair questions and see to it that the job offer is fair.” Again I struggled to not laugh out loud and nodded in reply to her and turned to the young “man” and explained to him. “Since you have no working experience in the field, a job interview such as this exists to determine how well you might fit in with the team, how you solve problems and how you respond to challenging inquiry. For future reference, having your Mother along on the interview precludes that process and doesn’t impress upon a potential employer that you are an independent thinker and self starter and frankly, calls into question your level of personal accountability.”

I told him that he had an impressive educational history and said that if HE’D like I would be happy to interview HIM for the position. His response was to look at his mother and SHE was incredulous in her reply, “I don’t think WE want to do it that way.” I felt a little bit bad for the kid and felt really bad when I finally lost it and laughed and told them that would not be possible and to have a nice day.

If you've got any good stories about blown interviews feel free to share..change names to protect the innocent of course...

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Tigelleria Organic Restaurant – Campbell, CA

A Tigelle (above) is a small round flat bread that is, at it’s core, a vehicle for transporting antipasti from the platter to the mouth. Tigelle are common meal accompaniment in Mantua, the home of Tigelleria owners Mirco Caramoni and Elisabetta Benetollo. For geographic reference, Mantua is the Lombardy region on the Northern plain, about 70km North of Modena. The “bread basket” of Italy.

Monday, November 21, 2011

Man Can Cook #15 - A Rustic, Wintery Duck Ragout

My summer garden is gone. It’s currently chopped up and breaking down in the compost bin and the only thing I’m doing out there now is keeping the weeds at bay and waiting for Kathy’s winter lettuce crop to sprout. The heater in the house is running most of the time now that the weather is getting cold and damp. Now is when I start thinking about hearty, rustic dishes that seem much more appropriate this time of year than in the heat of summer. Rich, dark earthy dishes that stick to your ribs and warm the soul rule the day and dominate the kitchen.

Duck Ragout is among my favorite dishes of this type. By definition a “Ragu” is simply meat added to a sofrito, puréed tomatoes or tomato paste and cooked for a good while via a low simmer. There are a number of different styles, the most common being a Bolognese sauce followed by a Napoletana (bigger chunks of meat rather than ground or shredded) and Barase which is usually made with horse meat…not an option. The majority of Duck Ragout recipe’s call for the use of skinned leg/thigh meat. I prefer to use duck breasts as it allows me to render off the delicious duck fat for use in other dishes. Follow along:

Friday, November 18, 2011

Old Iron At The Autocross

Autocross is the most accessible and inclusive form of motorsport. You can participate in it using literally any street legal vehicle imaginable. Do you own a brand new Porsche GT2? You’re just as welcome as a guy with a 15 year old Toyota. The best part is that the classing is such that you’ll be “racing” against cars of similar capability. In comparison to other motorsports it’s ridiculously safe as well. You aren’t likely to damage the car other than wearing out your tires a little quicker and the odds of crashing into anything other than an orange traffic cone are really low.

I happen to have an affinity for older cars and there are a couple of local autocross organizations who’ve made specific accommodations to encourage older cars participation. In some cases they are vintage autocross specific cars that were built ages ago and have been retained and maintained in period correct trim. In other cases, folks have taken older cars and modernized them with high tech drivetrains, suspensions, brakes and tire/wheel packages. Below are a few examples of each. If you know the owners or histories of some of these cars please comment at the bottom of this post.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

The "Occupy" Movement - Deficio Ut Intellectum

Deficio Ut Intellectum: Latin - A failure to understand.

I'm no fan of New York City's Mayor Bloomberg but last night he justifiably sent the NYPD into Zuccotti Park to address the growing public health & safety issues that have arisen in the now nearly two month old "Occupy Wall Street" protest. The official communication from the NYPD was as follows:

“The city has determined that the continued occupation of Zuccotti Park poses an increasing health and fire safety hazard to those camped in the park, the city’s first responders, and to the surrounding community. You are required to immediately remove all property, including tents, sleeping bags and tarps.”

As one might expect the protestors pitched a fit over it; Claiming often on twitter, multiple web streams, on various blogs and to any reporter that would listen that their 1st Amendment rights to free speech and public assembly were being violated and that the police were shutting down a “peaceful protest”.

Monday, November 14, 2011

The 49ers - A Mid Season Checkup....

Who are these guys and what have they done with the 49ers? After nearly a decade of institutional ineptitude and on-field impotence the 49ers have finally, if grudgingly gotten the attention of Bay Area fans and the national sports media.

Earlier this year I posted a piece to this blog ( HERE ) wherein I criticized the 49ers organization for the process it employed in attempting to turn the tide of organizational buffoonery. In that piece I made the following points:

Friday, November 11, 2011

Every Day Is Veterans Day

Trench Warfare - WWI
B-17 Bomber Crew - WWII

In 1919 President Woodrow Wilson proclaimed November 11th "Armistice Day" to mark the first Anniversary of the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month in 1918 when the 1st World War came to an end and our troops began to return home. In 1953 the name of the holiday was changed to "Veterans Day" as a means of  including in the celebration all United States War Veterans. This is in contrast to Memorial Day (observed the last Monday in May) which is intended to honor America's War Dead.

Thursday, November 3, 2011

On The Ethics Of Hunting...

After writing my previous post I realized that I was due for a little introspective analysis of my hunting values and ethics before I head back to the field. As stated, it’s been quite some time since I’ve engaged in a hunt. I’m a different guy now in many respects and the world is certainly different as well. Hence my ethics as a hunter necessarily bear thoughtful examination prior to re-entry into the act of hunting.

There are a lot of very articulate and thoughtful examinations of broader issues with regard to hunting and how it’s regarded by hunters and non-hunters alike. One of the most compelling issues is that of how we answer the ambiguous question of “why?” The analysis of calling the practice “sport hunting” vs “meat hunting” is far better articulated by these two fine blogs than I ever could:

Both are very compelling reading and if you are interested at all in the topic I strongly recommend you give them a read. I agree whole-heartedly with their take and as such I shant examine the topic further here. In short; “What they said.”

With that out of the way, I’ll go through what works for me and why.

A Hunter Returns To The Field

It’s been years since I’ve hunted. As a young man my family and I were avid bird hunters. I occasionally hunted duck and goose but back then I didn’t particularly care for waterfoul hunting. Sitting still for that long in a damp blind just wasn’t super fun for an energetic & athletic teenage boy. But I used to love, LOVE, LOVE hunting dove & pheasant every year. I was pretty darned good at it as well.

When I joined the Coast Guard my first duty station was Astoria, Oregon which was and still is one of the best places in the country for Elk hunting. The Roosevelt Elk in the area were plentiful but due to their wariness, rough terrain and prevailing miserable weather hunting them was challenging and downright hard work. Getting a large bull out of a deep wet canyon is a tough day’s work or nights work if you take your shot in the evening. But the meat was sublime. I was successful in taking an elk each year of my stay in Oregon. The deer hunting in the area was good as well.

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

A Hero In Tears

As a kid, my maternal Grandparents had a huge role in my life. Joe & Eleanor Turretto, Sicilian & Portuguese respectively did as much to raise me and shape who I am today as my parents. When my folks were in tough financial times they were there to help. I learned many of the lessons that made me the man I am from them. From Grandma I learned the value of frugality and repugnance toward debt. From Grandpa the importance of putting others needs ahead of my own. My Grandmother used to tell a story about Gramps about a day, early in their marriage in which Gramps bought a candy bar before getting on the bus to ride home to Santa Clara from work in downtown San Jose. After opening it he became wracked with guilt over the indulgence, closed the wrapper and tucked it into his bag to bring home to share with Grandma and my Mother before he had any of it. That’s just the way he is.

Saturday, October 29, 2011

World Series Wrapup

If the Giants aren't in the World Series I have only two criteria for determining enjoyment of The Fall Classic.

a) The Dodgers don't win.  - Check

b) The games are close and entertaining.  - Check

Congratulations to the Cardinals fans and to the Rangers fans, condolences. You have a great team and I think you'll be playing ball in October again very soon. So with that, baseball ends one cycle and in 107 days Pitchers & Catchers report to spring training to begin another.

Friday, October 28, 2011

Why This World Series Doesn't Matter....

I'm being facetious of course, you're damn right it matters! It matters to Rangers fans who have never tasted the glory of having their team win it all. It matters to Cardinals fans, arguably some of the best fans in baseball who again, have seen their team gain an improbable entry to the Fall Classic and sit at the precipice of their 11th Championship.

But if you listen to ESPN it's not supposed to matter. In the days prior to the World Series all they talked about was that the ratings were going to be poor. Now, I'm definitely not an expert on navigating the Baseball Reference or Fangraphs websites but I don't recall ever seeing television ratings listed there. Perhaps it's because they aren't a determinant of a compelling and entertaining World Series? If it were up to ESPN there'd be no point in even broadcasting this thing since the series lacks the participation of the Red Sox, Yankees & Phillies who are as you know, the only teams that matter....facetious again.

So here we sit just hours before the first World Series Game-7 since...and it pains me just to type this...2002 when the Giants lost to The Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim-Santa Ana-Disneyland-Area Code 714-Fighting Rally Monkeys and holy smokes has this been a great series.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Can't Stop The Zombies

According to IMDB stats the "Twilight" series is insanely popular with girls aged 18-29, "Harry Potter" is hugely popular with almost equal percentages of men & women 18-34 and "Moneyball" is popular with dudes with bad skin. All of that sorta fleshes out the way you'd think but this Zombie thing has me baffled.

The other day AMC renewed it's "The Walking Dead" show for it's third season. I can't figure out who the demographic here is but man, you can't swing a dead cat without hitting a zombie these days. Every automotive or outdoor sports message board I'm a member of has at least one thread discussing "Zombie Apocalypse" preparedness and any hunting or firearm related forum will no doubt have multiple versions on the theme....satirical of course.

A few minutes of trolling "The Google" yields some fascinating results:

Monday, October 24, 2011

Men & Machines

As a society we've somehow lost our reverence for craftsmanship. Perhaps it's because we've become too accustomed to inexpensive stuff imported from overseas? Or perhaps because we've raised a couple of consecutive generations of Americans to believe you are a loser if you work with your hands? Whatever the reason, it is a poverty to have done so.

So in one itsy-bitsy effort to boost our aggregate appreciation for the result of one mans practiced skill, innate talent and hard work I present this video which came to me today:

MACHINE from matt machine on Vimeo.

Director - Mat Harrington
Editor - Ceinwen Berry
DOP - David Rusanow & Paul Mason
Music - Surya Bajracharya & Karuna Bajracharya
Post - Defintion Films - David Gross
VFX - Bryn Farrelly
Colourist - Trish Cahill
Sound - by Huzzah - Andrew Plain
Additional Music - Cameron Bruce
Graphics - WeBuyYourKids - wbyk.com.au/​blog/​

Monday, October 17, 2011

Morocco's of Mountain View & The Issue of Gratuity

Last week the Contra Costa Times ran a small piece ( here ) stating that San Francisco restaurants were pushing for a mandatory 25% gratuity that got all sorts of attention on radio & TV and in various publications around the bay. The piece was even picked up by “The Drudge Report” furthering the “land of fruits & nuts” meme that San Francisco has in some ways rightly earned over the years. The problem is that the piece, penned by Ed Arnow, had no sources, listed no San Francisco governmental champion nor quoted a single San Francisco restaurant or restaurant worker. Much ado about nothing in my opinion and little more than an intentionally inflammatory jab at San Francisco.

So why do I make mention of it in a review of a restaurant that is not in San Francisco but in Mountain View? We’ll get to that in a bit. First the review.

Friday, October 14, 2011

Vintage Racecars

No cutting insight here, just a few of my favorite photos of Vintage Racecars from Monterey Historics at Laguna Seca and the Wine Country Classic at Sears Point.

News Flash: Life Ain't Fair

Recently I have been reading “The Secret Knowledge” by the esteemed playwright, David Mamet. Mamet is a self described “reformed liberal” who over the last few years has turned to conservatism. By explanation an excerpt from the book jacket:

"My interest in politics began when I noticed that I acted differently than I spoke, that I had seen 'the government' commit sixty years of fairly unrelieved and catastrophic error nationally and internationally, that I not only hated every wasted hard-earned cent I spent in taxes, but the trauma and misery they produced..."

The problems facing us, faced by all mankind engaged in Democracy, may seem complex, or indeed insolvable, and we, in despair, may revert to a state of wish fulfillment-a state of "belief" in the power of the various experts presenting themselves as a cure for our indecision. But this is a sort of Stockholm Syndrome. Here, the captives, unable to bear the anxiety occasioned by their powerlessness, suppress it by identifying with their captors.

This is the essence of Leftist thought. It is a devolution from reason to "belief," in an effort to stave off a feeling of powerlessness. And if government is Good, it is a logical elaboration that more government power is Better. But the opposite is apparent both to anyone who has ever had to deal with Government and, I think, to any dispassionate observer.

It is in sympathy with the first and in the hope of enlarging the second group that I have written this book.
One of the strongest themes in Mamet’s tome is that of the failure of liberal and liberal arts education. The chapters on these topics, penned in 2010 bear prescient insight into the sources of frustration fueling the “Occupy Wall Street” protests and their progeny spreading to larger cities across the nation. Among the largest of the recurring complaints of the protesters is wage “inequality” in their chosen profession compared to others at similar levels of education. In listening to their complaints and reading their “I am the 99%” mini-manifestos you see that frequently the complainers are in fact very highly educated but often in highly esoteric fields.

Friday, October 7, 2011

Another thought on the passing of Steve Jobs

I own an iPod and an iPhone but I wouldn't consider myself an "Apple Guy" or by any means a habitue of the brand. I mean, it's just stuff. It's good, well designed and aesthetically pleasing stuff but I won't think for a second about buying something else that works as well or better at an equivalent price.

I recognize the brilliance of Jobs but consistently get a laugh out of his acolytes. Especially those who somehow consider Apple to be a more "morally or ethically righteous" company than others. Jobs was an absolute mercenary, a brutal negotiator, a ruthless competitor and the Chuck Norris of Identity Marketing.

Your iPhone was manufactured in Shenzhen, China.  Outsourcing baby! 

The iPhone sells at a retail price that gets Apple a 60% gross profit margin per unit and iPod's sell at nearly 90% profit margin. Greed is good my friends, greed is good!

That profit insulated Apple's stock value against the occasional shaky product launch or less than wonderful quarter. It funded the development of subsequent iPhone/iPod versions, funded the development of iPad and funds the salaries of countless neighbors & friends and may God bless Steve Jobs for it. Jobs created jobs and wealth and opportunity in a way no Government program, "Stimulus" or shady Solyndra Loan ever could.

He was the Henry Ford of the silicon age and I fear he is the last capitalist that people don't hate for his success.

Morimoto – Napa

A bit behind on blog postings of late due to overwhelming personal commitments but I wanted to get this review up before the memories escaped me. Last month Kathy treated me to a weekend in Napa to celebrate my 42nd birthday. The celebratory mood was slightly tarnished by the anniversary of the September 11th attacks (my personal thoughts here: 9/11 )   but despite that we had a wonderful weekend kicking around Napa Valley. We visited one of our favorite wineries in Napa, Grgich Cellars, took in the fantastic cellar tour at Schramsburgh (more on that in another post), and to thank Kathy for the weekend I bought her a couple of very nice one of a kind dresses from a local fashion designer.

On to the dinner at Morimoto; Masuharu Morimoto is among the best known of the Food Network’s “Celebrity Chefs". His extensive resume led him to stardom on the original Japanese “Iron Chef” TV show before the Food Network version. The most interesting element of his resume, to me, is that he spent some time as a professional baseball player in Japan as a catcher. Apparently a shoulder injury ended his athletic career, but as a baseball fan and foodie I found the information interesting.

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

R.I.P. Steve Jobs

'1984' The Original Apple Macintosh Commercial 


Steve Jobs was a man of incredible vision and leadership, a transformative figure in business and technology. A brilliant entrepreneur, CEO and capitalist. He will surely be missed.

God speed.   

Monday, October 3, 2011

Are You Ready For Some......Stupidity?

Ahh, Hank Williams Jr. The party-hardy black sheep of Nashville. The rowdiest of the rowdy friends. The son of the far more talented.

And.....The recently "sacked" from the intro to ESPN's "Monday Night Football".

'Ol Bocephus shot his mouth off this morning on Fox News' "Fox & Friends" show drawing a parallel between the golf summit between Obama and Boehner and a hypothetical meeting between Der Fuhrer & Benjamin Netanyahu. Here's the video:

...and the following is ESPN's comment:
“While Hank Williams, Jr. is not an ESPN employee, we recognize that he is closely linked to our company through the open to Monday Night Football. We are extremely disappointed with his comments, and as a result we have decided to pull the open from tonight’s telecast.”

Friday, September 30, 2011

Man Can Cook #14 - Molasses Glazed Roasted Salmon & Tomato Salad

Quickie post to end the month on a tasty note. No backstory on this one, just a nice easy recipe.


Thursday, September 22, 2011

The San Jose Mercury News - You Suck!

My Grandmother, Eleanor Marie Turretto, passed away last month. If you've been reading this blog, that's two Grandmothers and a dog in less than a year. I've not yet begun to process this and the impact on my life and my Grandfathers so I won't touch on that here. The point of this post is to vent a little on the San Jose Mercury News and it's owner, the Bay Area News Group.

Anyone that has put together a funeral & burial knows it isn't cheap but one particular expense involved seemed to me particularly egregious. The Obituary. Have a look below, this ran for three days in the Mercury and it's posted on their website. Care to guess what it cost?

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Man Can Cook #13 - Simple Staples; Chicken Cacciatore

Ok fella’s (and ladies if you are reading this) here is a very simple and quick dish that you can keep in your pocket for one of those nights when you are fending for yourself and want to stay away from the take-out junk food. I’ll include a couple of ways to elevate it as well if you want to make it for guests. A lot of Cacciatore recipe's call for mushrooms and when I use them I prefer the Crimini variety. But to me, the mushrooms make it more of a "wintery" dish. This recipe is brighter, fresher, less earthy and I think more appropriate to the season.

Where have all the kids gone?

This past weekend my little neighborhood in Mountain View had it's annual block party. Cheesy suburban tradition perhaps...but I happen to like cheesy suburban traditions. So there! It's a nice opportunity to meet that new couple that moved in down near the corner and share some food from the multitude of different ethnicities in the neighborhood. 

What strikes me every year though is the sheer number of kids on our block that I NEVER see other than at this annual party. I occasionally will see them piling in or out of the back of a car, and there are a couple of Middle-School aged kids that I see in the mornings riding their bikes to school but that's it. I'm about 1/2 inclined to put up a flyer stating that I have a ball and glove in case some kids wants to play catch or leave a cinder block and hunk of plywood in the street just to see if there is a kid left that knows what to do with it (you build a jump for your bike).

My street, 4pm on Saturday.

Monday, September 19, 2011

Genius; Fried Chicken, Waffles & The Brown Sugar Kitchen

Genius (n): 1) An exceptional natural capacity of intellect, especially as shown in creative and original work in science, art, music, etc. 2) A distinctive character or spirit as of a nation, period, or language.
“Talent hits a target no one else can hit; Genius hits a target no one else can see.” ~Arthur Schopenhauer
In the sphere of food there are innumerable individual dishes that alone are spectacular; the effective creation of any of them is by definition a demonstration of talent. To take one or more of them and combine them in such a way that neither is diminished yet the whole is greater than the sum of it’s parts is to, as Schopenhauer said, “hit a target no one else can see.” In short, a demonstration of genius.

Fried chicken and waffles is such a combination. Rarely have two such apparently discordant, yet individually awesome delicacies been combined to such mind-bending success. I recently experienced my first plate of this wonder of culinary aggregation at the Brown Sugar Kitchen in Oakland, CA.

Saturday, September 17, 2011

Man Can Cook #12 - Zucchini Surplus Part Deux

Just a brief entry here to share a recipe that I fondly remembered from my childhood. I grew up mostly in Morgan Hill, California. When we moved there in 1976 Morgan Hill was mostly agricultural. There was vineyards, mushroom growers, orchards and precious little else. The apricot and grape growers would pay kids a nickel a bird for us to shoot starlings in their fields to keep them off the fruit. We didn't actually hit very many of them, but we made a lot of noise with the shotguns and chased off a lot of birds. I can't imagine what the reaction would be today to a trio of kids riding along a road on Schwinn Stingrays carrying 12ga shotguns but in those days, nobody batted an eye.

My mother worked as a bookkeeper for Emilio Guglielmo Winery. They make a spectacular collection of Italian style wines which in general, I happen to prefer to the German / French influence on most of the Napa / Sonoma wines. My family remains friends with the Guglielmo's to this day. The matriarch of the family is a beautiful 1st Generation Italian woman named Madeline and she is a spectacular cook. The old world sensibility of not letting anything go to waste inspired this recipe that my mother used to cook for us when there was a surplus of zucchini from either Madeline's garden or ours. I hadn't had it in over 30 years and on a recent visit I implored my mother to get the recipe from Madeline.

It's super simple and quick to make and it's just as I remembered it, delicious either warm or cold. I encourage you to give it a try and I hope you enjoy it. 

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

The Annoying Co-Worker Chronicles - Ep4

Doctor Crappyhands and Chief Stalltalker

The weekly conference call drags on and on…very little of substance is accomplished yet we continue the interminable routine none the less. Meanwhile, deep within my abdomen the first and second cups of morning coffee are being processed by two innocuous masses of tissue and today, my kidneys are working overtime. The filtration of my blood to extract excess water, electrolytes and other stuff has been going on at a furious pace while I listen to the banal blathering of an aspiring middle-manager attempting to impress.

Brevity, son, is the soul of wit…it’s also fucking mandatory on a conference call…especially when I have to wee.

Finally it ends. I bound from my chair and naturally forget to remove my headset. The plug unseats from the phone and recoils back at me threatening to garrote me as it ensnares my neck. I curse and toss the infernal device on my desk and march toward the restroom with the purpose that can only be found in a man who’s bladder has expanded to roughly the size of Rhode Island.

That’s when things got weird.

Monday, September 12, 2011

The Guy In The Gray Suit...Were You There On 9/11?

If you know me, you no doubt have heard me tell of the 15 friends and acquaintances that I lost on 9/11. There are enough remembrances floating around on TV, Radio and the web and I don’t know that another serves any real purpose.  But something occurred to me this weekend that I'd previously not considered. I don't know why I never thought about it, how something like this could have slipped my mind but in the ten years since 9/11 the realization never crept into my consciousness. Saturday it did and the thought has consumed me since.

26 February 1993 didn’t start differently than any number of days for me. I woke, drove from my condo in Brooklyn, NY to United States Coast Guard Airstation Brooklyn at Floyd Bennett Field. A cup of coffee with the boys and off onto the hangar deck to work on one of the five HH-65A Helicopters that we maintained and flew. I remember that we had Howard Stern on the Radio in the morning as usual…everything was as usual. I wrapped up what I was doing around noon and was in the shop washing up before heading to lunch when the radio broke in with a news update. At 12:17pm an explosion had rocked the North Tower at the World Trade Center. It was reported that smoke was billowing out of the underground parking structure and was working its way up the tower, emanating from various ventilation ports on the tower.

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Man Can and Should Cook, Here’s Why.

If your initial response to the title of this post is something akin to, “Pfft, cooking is for chicks and pussies.” you should leave. Seriously, go read something else.....and stop living in your mother’s basement.

That aside, here are a few of my thoughts on why it’s important for a man to not only know how to cook, but why he should endeavor to do it well.

1 – It’s a basic life skill. Are you going to tell me that you aren’t man enough to get the better of a 5lb dead chicken? You can handle a manual transmission, you can back up a trailer, you can change a flat tire, you can jump-start your car, you can drive a nail, you can fix a faucet….can’t you? Shouldn’t you be able to feed yourself, your spouse and your kids without resorting to fried cheese sticks at the local pub or the KFC drive-through?

Among my male friends that are accomplished cooks are Executives, Cops, Race Car Drivers, Airline Pilots, Construction Foremen, Oil Well Engineers and two professional Chefs. Cooking is in fact, quite a manly art. Get rid of the “woman’s work” meme, its bullshit. Look at Food Network, peruse the latest Michelin Star Ratings. Most of the world’s top chef’s are men.

There’s fire, there’s dangerous hot grease, there’s sharp knives, there’s power tools. C’mon, if that doesn’t get your inner caveman going what does?

Man Can Cook #11 - Dabbling In The Middle East

Those of you who maintain your own vegetable garden know the drill. You work your tail off in the spring getting things ready, you fuss and worry about your plants hoping that one last frost doesn’t come. Then you meticulously tend to the plants through the summer, watering, fertilizing and keeping things generally healthy and then the reward comes…beautiful, fresh, home grown veggies and if you did a good job of things, lots of ‘em. By this point in the summer you’ve got tomatoes coming out your ears, so much basil that you are sweating pesto, enough green beans to sink the Bismark and zucchini…my god what’ll we do with all of this zucchini?

So, like me, I’m sure you are looking for new ways to use some of this stuff lest you have to schlep the surplus into the office to give it away or…gasp…let it go bad before you can use it all. My biggest surplus is tomatoes and zucchini and short of making my annual 2 gallon batch of tomato sauce I’ve pretty nearly exhausted my catalog of ways to use them. A few weeks ago however a friend of ours was over for dinner and inspired me to something I’ve never tried before. Lillian is her name and she’s a dear old friend of my wife Kathy’s family. Lillian is a 1st generation American, born to Lebanese immigrants and she told me about a dish called Kousa Mahshi which is zucchini stuffed with ground lamb and cooked in tomatoes. BINGO! But….she’d lost the recipe. Other than cous-cous, I’d never fiddled around with middle-eastern cuisine and the fact that I didn’t have a recipe to start from presented no small challenge as well.

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Man Can Cook #10 - A Fish Worth It's Salt

This is a process I’ve used a number of times with great success but for some reason has slipped my mind as far as writing about. We're gonna cook a whole fish inside a massive pile of kosher salt. The process is fun, super effective for creating a moist and perfectly cooked whole fish and is assured to freak out any dinner guests you might have. Win-Win.

You are probably already thinking, “Holy Moses, that is going to be too salty!”. Well stop that right now. Believe me, it won’t. The salt simply creates a sealed environment in which to steam the fish in its own moisture. The salt sorta creates an oven inside an oven that allows a gentle application of heat to the fish, insulates it from the drying effect of the oven and keeps the aromatic ingredients from drying out as well. Again, don’t freak out. This is not going to turn a beautiful whole fish into a salt lick. This isn’t tough to do at all. If you’ve ever seen this done in a restaurant you know that it makes for an impressive presentation as the fish is exposed from its salt coffin. Upon opening you and your guest will find an incredibly moist, fragrant and perfectly cooked whole fish.  

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

The Folly Of "Green Jobs" Spending

In March of 2009 Spanish economist Gabriel Calzada released a study that showed that  every “Green Job” created by the Spanish Government consumed enough resources to create 2.2 jobs in the private sector. Calzada concluded, 
"Green jobs were economic losers, destroyers of wealth and productivity.” 
Beyond that, he found that better than 70% percent were short-lived installation positions, rather than the long-term jobs that the Government promised. Currently, as much as 11% of Spain’s GDP is being “invested” (spent/wasted) on subsidies for renewable energy technologies. With Spain's unemployment in excess of 20% and rising and it’s economic health in serious question one cannot help but conclude that at best, the program isn’t working and given Calzada’s study it’s not a stretch to think it may be making things worse.

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

A reality check for San Francisco Giants fans…..

At some point we, as Giants fans, need to realize that there is an element of truth to the criticisms of Phillies fans regarding the San Francisco Giants storybook 2010 season. It was, as they say, “Lightning in a Bottle” and the 2010 Giants really weren’t all that good. Heck, deep into August and even into September of last year people were calling for Brian Sabean’s head based on his fifteen years in service with a mere four playoff appearances. Admit it, you didn’t see 2010 coming and neither did I.

If you look at the career numbers of any major league player there are down years and up years. For whatever reason you might espouse to, this is normal and the simple truth is that in 2010 you had the better part of 25 guys playing well beyond the stats on the back of their baseball cards. I mean seriously, if the Giants played 98 more games against Roy Halladay there is not a chance in hell that Cody Ross repeats his NLCS performance. It just won’t happen, he’s not that good. For Pete’s sake, Pablo Sandoval was benched for a significant portion of the stretch run and playoffs and he was hitting .268. If he had his 2010 numbers right now he’d have the 4th best batting average on the current 25-man roster….and the best OPS on the team.

Conversely, in 2011 we are seeing the better part of 25 guys playing at or below the stats on the back of their cards. It happens. Yes, we’ve lost Posey & Sanchez and that sucks, but the performance of the rest of the team is within the range of the players career averages or slightly below. Normal deviations and not the fault of Bruce Bochy or Hensley Mulens. Neither of those men can take a career .260 hitter (Ross) and make him into a .290 hitter. If a guy like Ross is struggling at the plate, a coach can look at the film and tell him that he’s opening his front shoulder too much…but he cannot make him correct it.

2010 was a confluence of a bunch of great performances by a bunch of average players combined with great pitching and a healthy dose of luck. 2011 isn’t. Let’s be realistic here. It’s not as if the Giants of the last 20 years are the Atlanta Braves of the same period. The team hasn’t been a perennial contender prior to this year. Heck, they hadn’t finished better than 3rd in the NL west since 2004 and only finished in 2nd or better 10 out of the last 20 years.

IF….and that’s a big if, the Giants turn things around over the next few weeks and drag themselves back into the playoffs it’ll be because the average players on the team are able to cobble together a few weeks of above average performance. I seriously doubt this will happen and so should you. They aren’t good enough. Brandon Belt is not going to turn into Buster Posey in the next couple of weeks…and even if he did, there will only be one of him and that won’t be enough. Further, it’s a fools errand to believe that September call-ups are going to turn things around. Gary Brown is not going to hop in his car and drive from San Jose to San Francisco and carry this team to the promised land…..Brett Pill won’t either.

The 2011 Giants aren’t THAT different from the 2010 Giants. You have great pitching and hodge-podge of 2nd and 3rd tier position players with one or two 1st tier players. In most seasons, for most teams, that combination is not enough to win consistently. Last year was an aberration, this year isn’t.

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

New York State Of Mind - Tuthilltown Distillery at Scratch Restaurant, Mountain View, CA

The blog has been a little dark lately which is reflective of how things have been going. In dire need of a distraction a group of close friends and I hooked up at my favorite local eatery for another whiskey tasting meal last week. The folks at Scratch are really beginning to endear themselves to Mountain View. I’m in there usually once a week at least and I’ve noticed that the bar is consistently very active and the dinning room is as well.

This whiskey tasting was hosted by Tuthilltown Spirits of Gardiner, NY. This small, Hudson Valley distillery produces the first distilled spirits made in NY State since the ratification of the 21st Amendment. They produce a variety of small batch, “artisan” aged and un-aged whiskeys and two different apple based Vodka’s. They operate out of a 220 year old Gristmill and now as in the past the material brought to the mill is local. All of the grains used in Tuthilltown’s whiskeys are sourced from farms within a 10mi radius of the mill/distillery which contributes a terroir to the whiskey that is exclusive to their offerings. It’s worthy of note to state that the “heirloom” grain varieties that they use have roughly 30% of the yield of modern, genetically engineered “McGrain’s” that some distillers use. It would be more cost effective for them to use commercial seed from Monsanto or similar, but the contribution to flavor would be diminished and the practice would be far less sustainable as these commercial grains tend to strip nutrient from the soil at a higher rate requiring more chemical soil enhancement. Not something I’d like to have in my whiskey.

Just like the previous tasting (chronicled here) Sean Eastwood, Scratch’s Executive Chef, paired each of the whiskeys with an original creation not found on their daily menu.

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Saying Goodbye

In the spring of 2003 I had to put down Dutch, my 14yr old English Pointer due to Lymphoma. By the fall I felt that I’d significantly recovered from that enough to consider getting another dog. Over the previous few years I’d developed an affinity for Mastiff breeds and after doing some exhaustive research, attending a number of dog shows to speak with owners I decided that I would look for a Bullmastiff. The Bullmastiff is a relatively new breed of dog, first appearing in England in the mid-1800’s. The breed was created to serve the needs of estate gamekeepers who needed a quiet, agile, powerful and fearless guard dog for the purpose of guarding game on private estates against poachers. They were trained to track an intruder, use their formidable strength and weight to bring an offender to ground until the gamekeeper caught up to place the offender into custody.

In contrast to the fearsome working function of the dogs they are also very docile around their families, intelligent, intuitive and accepting of strangers who are welcomed by owners. It’s argued by many that they were the first guard breed designed to work exclusively with a handler in the same fashion that the Belgian Malinois and German Shepard are used as police and military dogs with a single “partner”.

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Public vs. Private Funding For Sports Stadiums

I had a somewhat bizarre exchange last night on Twitter between myself, Keith Law and Jeff Fletcher. Both of whom are well respected sports journalists. Keith is a member of the Baseball Writers Association of America, a former front-office guy for the Toronto Blue Jays, used to write for Baseball Prospectus and is currently a senior writer at ESPN. Jeff Fletcher has covered the A’s & Giants for the Santa Rosa Press Democrat, spent a few years at AOL Fanhouse, has a Baseball Hall of Fame vote and currently writes for both the A’s & Giants official magazines.

The topic of the discussion was public funding of professional sports stadiums. Mr. Law and I both oppose the premise on the grounds that there is no proof of economic benefit to the area’s in which publicly funded stadiums are built (except to the owners of the teams). Further, I object to the practice on the grounds that the Government should not tax the public where the beneficiary of said tax is a private entity.

Jeff Fletcher disagrees and made the following points to support his point of view:

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

The end of a life well lived.

I spent eleven years as a Helicopter Air-Crewman in the United States Coast Guard. I've personally saved no less than 27 lives. I've seen a far greater number of lives lost. Commercial fishermen, pleasure boaters, drug smugglers, airline crash victims, victims of natural disasters, human traffickers, victims of Asian slave trade, refugees from Cuba & Haiti and worst of all, fellow Coast Guardsmen lost in the line of duty who gave their lives "That Others Might Live".

I've seen some grisly stuff. But I was always able to process it somehow. Either via professional detachment in the case of the innocent, or contempt for members of society's dark underbelly I was able to work through what I saw, compartmentalize it and move on. Not that I wasn't deeply impacted, but I was able to deal with it.

This year I experienced something new. For the first time in my 41 years I lost a family member. I'd been blessed until now to have never lost a parent or grandparent. My folks are in good health and my maternal grandparents are as well. But over the last 7-10 years my paternal grandmother fell victim to Alzheimer's Disease.

Friday, June 17, 2011

The Tyranny of the Stupid - Sunnyvale California Edition

On Wednesday June 29th the Sunnyvale City Council will hold a meeting to discuss the “issue” of public complaints surrounding the existence of “US Firearms”. US Firearms is a business that sells firearms, offers gunsmith services and offers numerous courses of training in the safe and legal use and storage of sporting (hunting) and defensive firearms. Further, they offer training and guide services to novice hunters.

The row over the presence of this establishment began shortly after its opening in October of 2010. An article appearing on The Peninsula Press website and re-posted on SFGate listed a number of opposing viewpoints related to the shops existence. One particular quote jumped out at me from Sunnyvale Elementary School teacher Gina Lermont,  

“I feel as if having [a gun store] in close proximity to many schools is a danger,”  
 “I’m not sure if I want to educate my second graders on something like gun safety.”

Think of the CHILDREN!!!!! 

Excuse me but, within 100yds of US Firearms there are numerous fast food restaurants. Is Ms. Lermont charged as a result to educate her students on the health impacts of eating lousy food?

Within 100yds of US Firearms there is a liquor store that also sells tobacco and pornographic magazines. Is Ms. Lermont charged as a result to educate her students on Alcohol, Tobacco and Inter-Racial Porn Consumption Safety?

Within 500yds of US Firearms there is a strip joint. Is Ms. Lermont charged as a result to educate her students on Pole Dancing Safety?

Tuesday, May 31, 2011

The Annoying Co-Worker Chronicles - Ep3

The morning routine....

The badge passes through the scanner 1’s & 0’s fly through the system confirming identity and CLICK as a microswitch releases the lock. Enter the building and sense that the schizophrenic HVAC system has today decided that the interior weather will be something akin to Tuscaloosa in August, it was Green Bay in November yesterday. Swing by the desk; Ctrl-Alt-Delete and tap out 3rd Grade Teachers name and the aged laptop whirs to life, Outlook collecting the morning litany of action items. To the break room - a filter, a cup of grounds and start the brew.

Emails – delete, delete, delete the silly forwarded jokes…not at work please folks, those I’ll handle later, don’t ask me to do your job, list reduced by ½….coffeenow. Back to the desk. People filtering in. Mike the engineer gets his coffee, yells at the BMW service department on the phone. That guy with no apparent purpose other than socializing fills his gas-can sized mug and begins his rounds. It’s almost time…

Thursday, May 26, 2011

A Central Coast Sojourn - Paso Robles, Cambria & Cayucos

This last weekend Kathy and I celebrated our 5th wedding anniversary. Nothing could make me happier. When we got married 5 years ago in Italy we rented a villa in Tuscany and invited 30 of our friends to join us. We’d toyed with the idea of repeating that for our 5th but neither of us could spare the two weeks off and the exchange rate is horrible right now anyway. Besides, we’d just gone to Barcelona in March to celebrate Kathy’s birthday. Hence a little more low-key, but no less treasured celebration was called for.

We decided a quiet weekend within a day’s drive was better in terms of direct cost, opportunity cost at work and the reduced stress of not having to deal with airports and long flights was just a bonus. After looking around a bit we chose the wine region surrounding Paso Robles for our daytime knocking around with overnights in Cambria and Cayucos.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Do you really want the "next guy" in charge of your healthcare?

The year is 1993 and the then First Lady of the United States, Hillary Rodham Clinton sat before Congress testifying in support of Universal Healthcare Legislation. Many elements of the bill were different  from current healthcare legislation but the core of it bore more similarities than differences:

The Clinton health plan required each US citizen and permanent resident alien to become enrolled in a qualified health plan and forbade their disenrollment until covered by another plan. It listed minimum coverage’s and maximum annual out-of-pocket expenses for each plan. It proposed the establishment of corporate "regional alliances" of health providers to be subject to a fee-for-service schedule. People below a certain set income level were to pay nothing. The act listed funding to be sent to the states for the administration of this plan, beginning at $13.5 billion in 1993 and reaching $38.3 billion in 2003.

...it was less expensive though...

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Man Can Cook #9 - Gumbo du Fontenot

If you’ve been reading this blog for any length of time you know that I am an inveterate San Francisco Giants fan. If you didn’t know it, now you do. Of late, a diminutive utility infielder named Mike Fontenot has been performing mightily for the Giants. Hitting in the 3-hole and playing out of position at short stop and doing a better than average job of it. When you hear an interview with Fontenot you can’t miss the unmistakable patois of the Bayou. Fontenot is from Louisiana and hearing him speak got me all sorts of nostalgic for New Orleans and drove me to the kitchen to whip up a batch of Gumbo in his honor.

Thursday, May 5, 2011

The Annoying Co-Worker Chronicles - Ep2

So I'm wearing a new pair of shoes today and they squeak. Sort of a lot.

I had to walk through finance 3-4 times this morning and in doing so I passed by a guest cube that is used by auditors or short term contract number-crunchers. This contract  number-cruncher lady who is not well liked pipes up on my last trip by about the squeak. Curious, I stopped and asked, "Excuse me?" and she replied, "Your shoes. They're reeeeally loud and annoying and it's distracting...and rude...um...I'm trying to woooork."

I looked her in the eye for a second to try and determine if she was serious or just kidding whilst pondering my reply. A number of possible retorts went through my mind but I settled on the following; "I'm sorry. I don't really like to bring it up but I have a prosthetic lower leg. The covering on the prosthesis tends to squeak. I mean, it's not skin, it's silicone right? So I apologize if it bothers you, but if it's any consolation, I can assure you that missing a leg is something of an annoyance to me as well."

Enjoy your workday!

(no...I don't have a prosthetic leg)

Monday, May 2, 2011

Osama Bin Laden is dead. So why am I not happy?

On 01 May, 2011 a US SpecOps team flew into Abbotabad, Pakistan then hunted down and killed Osama Bin Laden. Good news right? So why do I not share the unabashed joy seen in people celebrating the event last night in front of the White House, in Times Square and elsewhere?

A poignant sentiment mis-attributed to Dr. Martin Luther King; "I mourn the loss of thousands of precious lives, but I will not rejoice in the death of one, not even an enemy."  

Similarly, Mark Twain once said;  "I have never wished a man dead, but I have read some obituaries with great pleasure" 

Dr. King didn't say it but whomever did might be a better man than I. I'm leaning more toward Mark Twain on this. Osama Bin Laden is directly responsible for the death of thousands of Americans and Citizens of other Nations around the world....

List of attacks perpetrated by al-Qaeda

...I knew 15 of those people. But still, I don't feel like celebrating for a number of reasons.

The main reason is that I know this doesn't change anything. Osama Bin Laden was a sub-human. But his was not a unique character. There are scores of equally vile bastards around the world. Any number of whom have similar, if not greater evil in their hearts. Any number of them ready to continue what Bin Laden started. As you read this it is highly likely that somewhere in the world someone is plotting to avenge the death of Bin Laden. That son of a bitch is going to have to die too. Where and how does it end? 

I think though that the primary reason for my lack of celebration is that I am appalled at the people scrambling to claim "credit" for this success for whichever political affiliation they espouse. Listen jerkoffs, this isn't about Bush or Obama, Democrats or Republicans, it certainly isn't about scoring "Political Points" and I'm nauseated by you if you think otherwise. This is about us. All of us. We all shared the losses incurred from each of al-Qaeda's attacks against us and our allies. We all shared a desire and commitment to bring Bin Laden to justice. That desire and commitment has been satisfied and if there is any credit to be granted it is to the brave Soldiers, Sailors, Airmen, Marines, Coast Guardsmen, Civilians and in particular to the SpecOps Operators who carried out the end-game to over 10 years of efforts to rid this planet of Osama Bin Laden.

Osama Bin Laden's last moment was spent hiding behind a woman while looking an American in the eye. A cowardly killer extinguished by honorable men ensuring justice has been served.

There's no cause for celebration here. We should be pleased at the news, but sobered by the fact that all of this is due to events that ended the lives of thousands of innocent people and that their loss will not be our last.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Scratch Restaurant - Mountain View, CA

As a Mountain View resident I was pleased to see something going in on Castro other than another lousy Thai joint or another low-end Chinese joint or another lousy Asian fusion joint. Scratch has taken over a space that has been something of a Bermuda Triangle for Mountain View eateries. Nothing has done well in this space. But then, the previous occupant, U-Wink was probably the worst restaurant concept I've ever seen. It had to have been someone's tax shelter, it was doomed before they finished painting the sign.

We've had dinner at Scratch four times since their soft opening on New Years and meet friends at the bar for drinks and appetizers on a semi-regular basis. On our first visit I was shocked to see that they had not one, but four bartenders behind the well-stocked bar. I didn't understand why at first but soon realized that all their cocktails are mixed "from scratch" (get it?) without mixer guns and pre-made jugs of cocktail "bases".

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Photo Essay – The Magnum Opus of Antoni Gaudi, La Sagrada di Familia

By most accounts La Sagrada Familia (Basilica and Expiatory Church of the Holy Family) stands as the finest work of one of the great icons of modern architecture, Antoni Gaudi. The inspiration for the project came from a prominent Catalan bookseller, Josep Maria Bocabella. A devout Catholic, Bocabella was inspired by an 1872 trip to the Vatican to champion the construction of an iconic Cathedral as a means to encourage greater church attendance in Barcellona. 

(the above photo is borrowed from bearcave.com because the pic I took from this angle had an ugly bus in the foreground. the rest are mine)

Monday, April 11, 2011

Outdoor Gear Review; Wenonah Adirondack 16' Canoe

Length: 16' (487.68 cm)
Gunwale Width: 35" (88.9 cm)
Maximum Width: 36" (91.44 cm)
Waterline Width: 34.75" (88.265 cm)
Bow Depth: 19.5" (49.53 cm)
Center Depth: 13.5" (34.29 cm)
Stern Depth: 16.5" (41.91 cm)
Rocker: Minimal

This is our first Canoe. We acquired it from California Canoe & Kayak at Jack London Sq. in Oakland. Keith Miller - the owner of California Canoe and Kayak is a great guy and was trying to offload this one and a couple of others that were previously sold to the Save The Bay Foundation. Essentially he rented it to us for a pittance and said if I like it I can keep it for $300. Since it was in pretty good condition we took him up on it.

The Adirondack is designed as a medium volume "performance tripping" boat. The boat is light on initial stability particularly unladen which lends to its efficiency and glide. Secondary stability is quite good though and very confidence inspiring. The boat tracks well and glides easily yet it remains relatively agile with two paddlers. I had no trouble handling the boat myself on my first solo experience and first river experience on my 7day Green river trip. The boat will turn well from the middle, and ferrys easily as well. However, with it's minimal rocker and unflared stems it is by no means a whitewater boat. In class I or flat moving water though it is very capable.

The boat will easily swallow a long weekends worth of gear for two for somewhat luxurious camping. If one were to pack lighter than we usually do it would be fine for at least a week long trip. Loaded as such it is very stable and still maintains generous freeboard and rides dry in up to 2' following wind swell.

As a solo-boat it's tricky. I weigh 220lbs and with the boat unloaded it is just a sail in any kind of wind. You go 2' sideways for every 1' forward. In contrast, when loaded for my 1 week trip on the Green River in Utah I had no trouble in the considerable afternoon desert winds. Though the boat did ship a little water in a 1-2" head-on wind chop. I found the boat manageable, but unpleasant in those conditions and was able to brace the boat when encountering the occasional broach wave refracted off the canyon walls.

Ours is the Tuff-Weave Flex Core layup which weighs in at 54lbs. I have no trouble tossing it up on my shoulders to carry it or getting onto the roof of the car.

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Photo Essay - Mercat de La Boqueria de Barcelona

Kathy and I recently spent a little over a week in Barcelona in celebration of her birthday. We were looking for a city in Europe that neither of us had visited that was large enough to keep us busy for an entire week. We were more than satisfied with our selection.

One of the highlights of the trip was a visit to Mercat de La Boqueria de Barcelona, or simply La Boqueria. It’s an absolutely enormous public market just off La Rambla in the old part of town. It dates back to 1217 when tables were set up outside the old Gothic city gates for local ranchers to sell meat to the citizens of the city. Today La Boqueria resides under a massive open sided roof structure covering an area roughly equal to 3 American Football fields and I’ve been told that it’s the largest open air market in Europe. It makes Seattle's "Pikes Place Market" look like your local grocery store.

La Boqueria offers a cross-sectional view of the best of Mediterranean ingredients. Seasonal, mostly local, fresh and astonishing in variety. 

The widest variety of goods is found in the market’s fish sellers. The Mediterranean sea is, to this day one of the most vibrant commercial fisheries on the planet. It’s bounty is placed on display in mind-numbing fashion

Thursday, March 31, 2011

Happy Baseball Season!

Today is a holiday and it lasts until early November. Today is the first day of baseball season.

A good friend, and one of the biggest Giants fans I know sent the following to me this morning and I wanted to share it.

So, at the risk of seeming schmaltzy, sentimental, and overly romantic--which I am--I thought I'd share this with you all before 5 p.m. tonight comes.

Friday, March 11, 2011

Environmentalism – Sanctimony Is Thy Name

Before I get into this I should say that I do care about the environment. A lot. As a fisherman, hunter, canoeist, surfer and cyclist I am “in” the environment quite a bit. I want it to be clean. I want lots of healthy fish and animals available to me to humanely dispatch and put on my plate. I want the rivers and lakes to be clean and enjoyable. However, there is something that bugs me about many “environmentalists”. A disconnect between that which they say and do and the actual impact of those words and actions.

A few years ago during a period of exceptionally high oil prices the cry arose across the land; “Drill Here, Drill Now!” The acclamation was met with the specious argument that if we were to begin drilling now the impact on our domestic oil supply would not be felt for years…so we didn’t. We didn’t open up new permits for millions of square miles of near-shore & deepwater drilling opportunities on the East, Gulf and West Coast, we didn’t tap into ANWR, we didn’t go after the Colorado oil sands and we didn’t tap into the Bakken formation in the Dakotas. Well, it’s been quite a few years and here we are again. Oil is at or around $100 a barrel and batshit crazy lunatics in the Middle East threaten to drive the price even higher. What position might we be in had we decided to “open the taps” as it were on the massive domestic oil resources contained within our borders?

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Beyond The French Laundry - Sous-Vide for the home cook

I'm a member of a small message board dedicated to motorsports enthusiasts. The topics of discussion generally pertain to racing and race cars, but there is the occasional discussion of food, particularly wherein there is room for tinkering with process or solving complex problems with home engineering. Any guy who enjoys working on a car is probably just as likely to enjoy trying to figure out how to soup up his smoker or duplicate a complex cooking process using common kitchen supplies. That's what this posting is all about. 

This is a bit exciting as it's the first (and hopefully not the last) guest submission to this blog. Sean Correia and his lovely bride Sandra have sussed out a home engineered process for Sous-Vide cooking and at my request have provided the following submission for your enjoyment:

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Man Can Cook #8 - Pan Seared Duck Breast & Cherry Balsamic Sauce

Duck is usually something that gets my attention on a menu but I don't make it very often at home. I should though. It's not particularly difficult, but I think some folks are leery of the idea of cooking a bird to a level of anything short of "well done". Relax, it's duck, not chicken. There is no where near the risk of illness with under-cooking duck as there is with chicken. 

This is a pretty darned easy preparation, and tasty too if I do say so, that is sure to impress.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Turning Japanese - Sumika Kushiyaki Grill & Sake, Los Altos CA

To most Americans the term “Japanese Food” conjures up an image of a Teppanyaki type of joint like Benihana wherein a caricature of Japanese cookery is put on display for millions of open gobbed rubes annually. There are Teppanyaki joints that are quite authentic to tradition….but Benihana isn’t one of them. My disdain of places like this is the same as the disdain I hold for the lion’s share of chain restaurants. Benihana is to Japanese food as Chili’s is to Mexican and Olive Garden is to Italian. There is no amount of kitschy décor that can make lousy food created to appease the masses seem even remotely authentic.

To a much smaller subset of Americans however “Japanese Food” equals Sushi with a smattering of Bento style cooked presentations and for the very bold, perhaps an Udon or a Don bowl. Sadly this is all most of us have access to. But there is more….and dear friends if you, like me, enjoy the flavor profiles of Japanese cooking but crave a more carnivorously centric palate from which to make your selections there is an answer….and a very authentically Japanese one at that.

Monday, January 31, 2011

Seven People That Are Screwing Up This Country

This is a topic that’s been idling around in my scotch soaked brain for quite a few months though recent events have turned it up to eleven. We’ve got problems here folks, and there is a roadblock to solving them. If we don’t address that roadblock we won’t solve a freakin thing.

As the title suggests, there are 7 people who are doing serious damage to our nation as a whole. In reality, the list is far longer than 7, but specific to the topic of political discourse these folks are among the most visible offenders. They are not fostering real critical political debate they are preventing it and by doing so, they are in part responsible for preventing us from solving many of the problems that currently plague us.

So who are these people….

Gigante - Andres Torres and ADHD

San Francisco Giants center-fielder, Andrés Torres, came from humble means, found rejection, mockery, and disappointment, and struggled 10 years in the minors before becoming a major league baseball player.

Andrés has developed strategies and support systems that helped him to become a key player in the San Francisco Giants' 2010 World Series win. His story inspires hope and motivates others to embrace their own challenges and never give up on their dreams.

Directed by Sundance award-winning director, Chusy Haney-Jardine.

DVD release July 2011

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Man Can Cook # 7 - Entry Level Offal v2.0 - Turn The Other Cheek

Kathy dreads it when I come along to the Farmers Market because when I see all the goodies, the wheels in my head start turning and before you can say “Certified Organic Horseshit” I’ve planned out and purchased the next 3-4 night’s meals…usually with little regard to the cost. So yeah…I’m not a cheap date, but at least I’m easy. 

This post is something of a follow-up to my piece on New Orleans from December. Therein I described a meal that Kathy and I enjoyed at Cochon. One of the highlights of the meal was a “Paneed Pork Cheeks with Boston Baked Peanuts” that would flat knock your hat in the creek. “Good” doesn’t even begin to describe it.