Archive for October, 2008

MTV playing MUSIC VIDEOS!?!?!?!

Wednesday, October 29th, 2008

I actually watched when MTV went live. I remember the first video played way back in 1981. Barely.

This it. The Buggles’ performing Video Killed the Radio Star. Great album.

And then MTV became a fairly regular waste of time. I would leave it on in the background and enjoy some tunage while hacking my Apple II or some random electronic bits. Or sit and stare.

After quite a few years of mostly music videos and music events, MTV added some interesting non-video content. Some animated clip shows that were cutting edge and entertaining.

But then they lost their way. Took the “music” out of the TV and filled it with utter crap instead.

However, MTV is back. Only it isn’t on your TV. MTV launched “MTV Music” which appears to be their attempt to build a community based web site. I’ll forgive the redundance in the name, as the site actually focuse on music videos.

And it has an API (well, a bunch of things you can embed, anyway).

Seems a bit passive, actually. Doesn’t really seem to be a “keep streaming videos at me” option.

Roger & Western Fence Lizard (Sceloporus Occidentalis)

Sunday, October 19th, 2008
Roger & Shedding Western Fence Lizard (Sceloporus occidentalis) On Shoulder

Roger has a way with bugs. We have often called him a “bug whisperer” because of his ability to capture butterflies and their subsequent willingness to simply hang out on his hands, shirt, head, whatever as if it were a perfectly normal thing for a bug to do.

As he has gotten older, his fascination has expanded to include frogs, lizards, and turtles.

Roger captured this fine lizard around the house in Seaside, CA (near Monterey) that we stayed in over the weekend. Wonderful house.

Dessert climate, but across the street from the Frog Pond Wetland Preserve. More on that in a moment.

Shedding Western Fence Lizard (Sceloporus occidentalis)

As best as we can tell, this lizard is an example of a Western Fence Lizard (Sceloporus Occidentalis) or one of its subspecies.

Blue Belly of Shedding Western Fence Lizard (Sceloporus occidentalis)

The distinctive blue belly gives strong indication of both the species and that it is likely a male.

This particular lizard was in the midst of shedding.

The western fence lizard is common throughout the sub-6,000 feet of elevation areas of the west and northwest.

These lizards are commonly fed upon by ticks. However, they are not a transmission vector for Lyme disease. Instead, the lizards carry some kind of natural anti-bacterial agent that kills the lime disease in the ticks!

Areas with western fence lizards, and subspecies, have a notable reduction in the number of lyme infected ticks.

A very good lizard to have around!

“Structural Plywood” & “Structural Siding”

Saturday, October 18th, 2008
Kitchen to Living Room with Structural Plywood Installed

Normally, when you are redoing an interior room, you would typically hang drywall once the wall is insulated and all interior infrastructure is installed.

Not so in an Eichler!

At least not in earthquake country.

An Eichler is a textbook example of post and beam construction.

The house sits on a slab and there are numerous vertical posts that then support large (typically redwood) beams on top of which the roof is built. The framing and walls are typically run between posts, but non-structural interior walls are often used, too.

Kitchen Walls with Insulation (and Wire Protectors)

While Eichler houses typically fare very well in earth quakes, with no shear walls to cause the house to shift off the foundation (a common failure mode).

However, the whole house can be subject to shear forces that can cause catastrophic failure.

Thus, since the original construction, building codes now require that a certain amount of shear strength be maintained.

In particular, any exterior siding work must use siding the runs the full height of the house and must be nailed to the house with #8 nails spaced at certain intervals.

For interior walls, any wall that does not have internal cross bracing, must be finished with plywood that is attached with a certain gauge of nail at a certain spacing.

So, we end up with structural plywood and structural siding.

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No leaks!

Saturday, October 18th, 2008
Roof Sealed and Freshly Rained Upon

A couple of weeks ago, our roof was mighty torn up.

Cutting through the multiple layers of roofing and creating Conduit Canals over the top, obviously the integrity of roof was basically naught.

And, of course, the first rain of the season was to be about 5 days after those torn up photos were taken!

The day before the rains came, the roofing guys came out and filled the channels with foam and then put sealant on top of the foam.

Roof Sealed and Freshly Rained Upon (Flat Part)

One day later?

It rained.

No leaks. Not a one.


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Ghost Glassplosion

Saturday, October 18th, 2008
Spontaneously Exploding Glass

My wife and I are both just a bit bonkers when it comes to glassware.

For general purpose drinking glasses, we want heavy glassware that is dishwasher safe, has a bit of texture, and can contain at least 12 ounces, preferably 16, of the beverage of our choice.

We had found that the ” Mexican glass” style of drinking glasses work really well. It is a heavy, typically bubbled, glass that is well balanced.

Unfortunately, it has a tendency to spontaneously break for no apparent reason.

This is an example. I was sitting in the other room and I heard *pop* *tink ca-tink*. “What the hell was that?”

Investigating, I found that this purple glass had broken rather forcefully, shooting a very large chunk of glass into a bowl near it (and several smaller chunks of glass quite a bit further away).

This wasn’t a case of massive thermal shock. The glass had been washed the day before and left on the towel to dry for nearly 24 hours.

And this isn’t the first glass of this style — and not even of this batch — that we have lost to similar catastrophic surprise failure.

So… if anyone has a suggestion for durable, heavy, dishwasher safe, glasses of a similar magnitude that don’t spontaneously fail, I’d love a pointer!

Random Sampling of Apple Centric San Jose / Cupertino Area Eateries

Tuesday, October 14th, 2008

A rather random Twitter conversation (WO ObjC is only real WO, No it isn’t, Ruby on Rails, Not Really, Pulled Pork, MMM… Food, Where to eat in SJ?) led to the question of “Anyone have suggestions on places to eat in Cupertino/SJ area?

Well, I do. Herein lies a list of random eateries that I — and many people I know — enjoy. It is centric to Cupertino and West San Jose simply because that is where I work [Apple] and live. Thus, you won’t find much from Mountain View (even though there are some awesome spots there).

In no particular order and of no particular focus (and very likely with obvious omissions). And, yeah, I have a thing about pizza. It has a thin crust. It should be crispy. It should not be a fracking cake. I love Chicago-style meat-and-sauce cakes, but they ain’t pizza. There are three kinds of pizza in North America; NYC style, Chicago style, and Shakespeare’s. Deal with it.

Sushi: Furu-Sato
Sit at the bar. Say hello to Young, Kevin or Brian for me. Consistently some of the best quality fish I have been served in a very friendly and well designed atmosphere. Straight forward sashimi, sushi, and rolls, though they also have an interesting menu, too. I live by Omakase here. Recently, they have often had excellent quality fresh mango which goes tremendously well with tuna or hamachi.
Ethiopian: Zeni Ethiopian Restaurant
As long as you don’t mind eating with your hands and can take a rather relaxed approach to dinner (a couple of hours, typically), Zeni offers one awesome dining opportunity. Zeni serves ethiopian food, beer, and a delicious ethiopian honey wine. The best bet is to get a vegetarian sampler platter and order a couple of meat dishes to go with it. The whole thing will be served on a gigantic platter covered in injera. Don’t forget an order of spiced home made cheese to go with your meal. Delicious.
Japanese Tapas: Tanto Japanese Restaurant
The chef and staff of Tanto has served the best Japanese meals I have ever had. Like Furu-Sato, Omakase works very very well at Tanto. Tanto’s menu is extensive, filled with many small dishes and you cannot go wrong ordering off of it. They also have an excellent Soju menu.

Seriously. I have had, now, three meals here that were better than Nobu in New York City.

Note: Tanto is now called Dan. Mostly the same staff and same chefs. Every bit as awesome, maybe even better, than ever.

Mexican: Los Dos Compadres II
Total hole in the wall mexican spot that serves extremely tasty food cheap. Has real Coca-Cola — made with actual sugar and not corn syrup. Awesome seafood this and that. When they say “spicy”, believe it. I usually eat tacos because they are as close to the ones I had on the streets of Arandas, Jalisco, Mexico.
Pizza: A Slice of New York
Having lived in New York city, I was utterly and completely dismayed by what passed for “pizza” on the West Coast. Thin crust that was thick and chewy? Fail. While there are a couple of good pizza shops around the bay area (see below), nothing compared to a really good slice of NYC style “walking pizza”.

Fortunately, an ex-NYC’er who had moved out to join Cisco felt the same, gave up his high tech job, and opened a classic NYC pizza joint.

The key is to get slices. Why? Because truly good, thin, crisp, crust, can only be had by cooking twice. It is just the way it is. In NYC, we would often order whole pies of reheated slices.

Beyond a kick-ass pizza, A Slice of New York also makes an incredible meatball parmesan and they import all the parts to put together a genuine Long Island cannoli.
Halal Middle Eastern: Gulzaar Halaal Restaurant & Bakery
This little — and I do mean little — restaurant serves some of the best non-falafel oriented middle eastern food I have had in the bay area. Cheap. Fast. And utterly delicious. The beef kebab and vegetable samosas are delicious, served with a wonderful array of sauces. Everything is fresh and the focus is on the food, not presentation or atmosphere. They have two kinds of fresh baklava– pistachio and almond — both quite delicious. Very nice staff, too. This is likely to become a regular lunch spot.
Pizza: Pizza My Heart
A west coast pizzeria that actually does it right without just being a copy of an NYC joint. Quality pies with some delicious toppings. Good as slices and good delivered (ask for well done). Better yet, Chuck — the owner of Pizza My Heart and an iPhone — mentioned that a new location will be opening at De Anza & Stevens Creek with delivery to Apple! Never again will Dev Tech have a five hour brainstorming meeting with mediocre to awful pizza!
Pizza: Amici’s
Best NYC rip-off pizza in the bay area. Thin, crispy crust, with tasty toppings. Nice salads and sides, too. Small, but excellent, draft beer selection.
Gourmet: Sent Sovi
Our favorite gourmet meal kind of place. I wrote up a chef’s tasting experience a while ago. It was simply awesome. Unlike some “cutting edge” dining establishments, Sent Sovi maintains an awesome balance between culinary gastronomy and comfort food. A sort of culinary adventure with your world-class-chef mom, if you will… Has many special events throughout the year, centered around a particular local wine maker’s products or a specific theme ingredient. We have attended the King of Mushrooms and King of Duck dinners and they were, flat out, some of the most amazing meals we have had. Sign up for the mailing list, if interested. Meals not to be missed!
Gourmet: Manresa
Cutting edge high cuisine that challenges your palette. Christine and I had a phenomenal dinner at Manresa, but it was far from comforting. It was truly a culinary adventure and one that I’ll always remember fondly. Delicious and amazing creations often involving as much hardcore science as kitchen wizardry.
Location is everything: BJ’s Restaurant
I likely never would have visited BJ’s a second time if it weren’t for the fact that it is in the parking lot of Apple’s main campus. As a result, I eat lunch at BJ’s once a week and often have a beer or appetizer after work. They have some good beer (oatmeal stout, nutty, blonde, red, seasonals) and some bad (stout, porter, and occasionally bad kegs of anything else). Food is Pub Food. But there are some gems on the menu; sliders, appetizer pizzas (not the deep dish atrocities), and some of the sandwiches. You have to sort of zen with the service staff to enjoy the place; all things in good time. Even location cannot overcome such consistently crappy service and general food quality that leaves you feeling bloated and nasty after every meal. The healthy sub-menu has a handful of items that are pretty tasty, but the mis-management of this restaurant is to the point where it is no longer even comical. As well, their guest taps have stagnated and their beer service maintenance is lacking such that they’ve managed to serve skunked pitchers occasionally. BJ’s is also the only “bar” I’ve been to that has managed to screw up a gin and soda multiple times.
Cafeteria: Caffé Macs
The main Apple employee lunch cafeteria. It has undergone a major upgradte in the past year [2008]. From being one of the best company cafeteria’s around, Caffé Macs is now a gourmand’s paradise. Beyond an awesome salad bar, wood fired pizza, sandwiches, and the like, Caffé Macs features daily and weekly specials that are out of this world. Every day is an adventure. I have had duck confit, roast quail, Peruvian and Brazilian national dishes, quail & bacon risotto, stone fruit composed salads, herb seared scallops, and much much more. All reasonably price — cheap, really.
Mexican: Tommy’s Mexican Restaurant
Yeah, like such a list as this would not include Tommy’s. Excellent yucatan style mexican food and the world’s best tequila bar (no, really). I generally stick with the specials, if available; molé, whole fried snapper, anything pork, anything beef. Awesome tamales. And, of course, great margaritas. Say hello to Julio for me.
Sammich: Amato’s Cheeseteaks & Hoagies
Awesomely delicious cheesesteak and chicken sandwiches. HUGE. Plan on 2 people being full after splitting a small. Good fries, too. This place pretty much does nothing but hoagie style sandwiches and they have been doing ’em for a long time. Nice folks, too. Be kind, they’ll serve you well. Be an ass, they’ll throw you out. As it should be.

I’ll add more as I remember ’em. Sadly, I’m at a complete loss to recommend a good dim sum spot in the area. Any recommendations?

Another Summer Ends

Sunday, October 5th, 2008

Another summer ends, apparently. The leaves are changing colors (yes, we really do have a fall in California). We have had our first rain. The nights and mornings are cool and moist, wet even.

And the last sunflower has bloomed and faded.

This sunflower was still in all of its glory just a week ago (this picture is from a few days before that).

Now? Petals nearly all gone and the head is losing the pollen bearing fuzz to reveal the seeds underneath.

This particular sunflower is growing in a sunny patch at the front of our house right by the curb. The original seed was planted about 3 years ago by our neighbor’s five year old son, now Roger’s best friend, Paul.

The seeds didn’t sprout until late july and the plant didn’t bloom until September. And just about the same time the flower faded, fall started.

When the seeds matured, Paul and Roger spread seeds in the same little flower bed and — sure enough — a half dozen sunflower plants popped up the following summer.

And again this year.

And hopefully next.

Because this grand plant, so far, has been a better predictor of exactly when the weather is going to change than any weather forecast or almanac.

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Major Apple TV Update (2.2)

Friday, October 3rd, 2008

An Apple TV software update hit the wire tonight and it is a doozy!

Full release notes are here, including how to use some of the new features.

Some highlights:

– HD TV Shows

Standby mode (so the Apple TV doesn’t eat about 16 watts of power all the time) Standby menu item. Works the same as it always has; turns off video out, shuts down the hard drive, but the unit is still consuming power at “on” levels.

– Genius and on-the-go playlists (Genius also works from the Remote app on the iPhone/iPod Touch)

– Movie descriptions, alternate audio, subtitle display selectable during playback.

– Browse movies by actor or directory

The real news, though, is that the UI has grown a major new feature. The interaction during playback features are accessible by holding down the play/pause button for a few seconds, at which point a little menu pops up on screen that contains pertinent options.

This particular interaction model opens the door for all kinds of additional UI while maintaining the simplicity of the 5 button remote. Just add a menu item…

Update: Speaking of TV Shows, my favorite show — the IT Crowd — appears to now be available in the iTunes Store. At least, the first episode of Season 1 is available, along with a season pass! Totally brilliant show.

Eichler: No Walls, On A Slab…. Run The Wires (and Water) On The Roof!

Wednesday, October 1st, 2008

Update: It is raining pretty hard today (Saturday after these photos were taken) and, in fact, the inside of the house is dry. No drips or leaks anywhere (yet — gotta keep an eye on this). Awesome.

What An Eichler Foam Roof Should Look Like

This is what the roof of an Eichler should look like. Or, at least, an Eichler with a foam roof that is a couple of years away from needing recoating.

Aside: Eichler’s, by the way, were a mid century modern design by Joseph Eichler. Mostly post and beam (though not all) with an emphasis on an open floor pan facing the outside with an open to the air atrium in the middle. Sort of Levitt-with-style for the west coast. Eichler owners get Eichler specific spam and there is an entire network of web sites devoted to Eichlers.

Fairly smooth, unbroken, sea of off-whiteness. Reflective. Waterproof. A solid roof over our heads to keep us dry, out of the sun, and warm in the winter (sort of).

Of course, being an Eichler, the roof is much more than just a shelter over the house. Since there are no unbroken walls — just windows — between the walls, almost all electrical and any re-routed plumbing ends up on the roof.

Or, more specifically, in the roof.

Skylights, Vents, Electrical Canals, Oh My!

Thus, as of yesterday morning, my roof looked a lot like the picture at the right.

Big-ass Holes cut everywhere. Electrical conduit canals all over the place.

And wouldn’t you know it! Rain is in the forecast for as soon as tomorrow and most likely on Saturday! Awesome!

Since the original wiring wasn’t really any great shakes, any kind of a remodel — especially a kitchen remodel that involves new appliances — requires moving or replacing much of the wiring.

Which requires cutting through the roof and dropping new conduit into the walls.

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