Archive for November, 2008

Covering the Atrium

Saturday, November 29th, 2008
Atrium Cover & Lights

We do get weather in California. Beyond the 9 months of sun, we have 3 months of sun and rain. And, believe it or not, cold weather. It actually freezes quite a few times over the winter.

And when you live in a glass house with a gigantic hole in the middle, this can make for a few wet and chilly days.

To compound the issue, we are in the midst of a remodel and, thus, our kitchen is actually in our atrium. We cook, eat, and refrigerate in this open space.

In past years, I have tied a tarp over the hole. It worked, but was ugly and leaky.

Clearly, a better solution was in order.

Many of the Eichler’s in our neighborhood have covers, but most are permanent — intentional or otherwise due to the inconvenience of dealing with it.

When I searched for “eichler atrium cover“, the first non “network” hit was this beauty. Well engineered and stylish, but unintentionally permanent. Coincidentally, that cover was built by Robert Bowdidge, a rather smart fellow that I used to work with at Apple.

So, we took a wander about Home Depot to peruse all of the materials that might be suitable.

Off the bat, I chose Suntuf corrugated lexan panels as the actual covering material. It is lightweight, very strong, and reasonably priced. Suntuf blocks almost all UV radiation.

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Paranoid Praying Mantis

Sunday, November 16th, 2008
Wary Praying Mantis

For whatever reason, the praying mantis have been out in force in the last week. We found three yesterday without really looking.

At this time of the year, the mantis are near the end of their life and, thus, are of maximum size.

They also tend to be completely unafraid of anything and will often be seen walking out in the open.

This mantis was found on the windshield of a car. We moved it to the bamboo and I took the opportunity to get some photos.

The mantis didn’t care much, but it certainly did keep one eye pointed directly at the lens of my camera the entire time.

Praying Mantis Preening a Leg

After a while, it decided to preen itself.

Only the one side and always with that rather deadly [to bugs, anyway] front claw/leg held in a provocative fashion.

Funny, too, because it only cleaned the the legs on the side facing me. Given that both eyes move independently and over quite a wide range, I have no doubt that it could have cleaned the other side without taking an eye off me.

Of course, it would have had a much more difficult time showing me that claw thing.


Thursday, November 13th, 2008

Maybe it is fallout from my years as a consultant, but I’m a firm believer that one should defer to — and learn from — the expert at hand, whatever the subject.

And this extends to food. As I said to one of the chefs in the Mexican station at Caffe Macs, “I wouldn’t ask you to write code. Seems silly of you to ask me how your food should be served! Please make a plate the way you would want it.” Deliciousness resulted.

I like to do the same at restaurants. Build up a relationship of trust such that the chefs and staff know that when I say “serve me whatever you want”, they know that I mean it and that I appreciate creativity.

I’m not alone in this. Several friends and I make a habit of this style of eating and we had an absolutely stunning Japanese meal the other night. Done in the omakase — “it’s up to you” — style.

Course 1: Oyster & Avocado/Tuna Roll

We have been eating at the Tanto Japanese Restaurant every now and then for the past year. It is an excellent little hole in the wall that specializes in serving small japanese plates of grilled, fried, boiled, baked, and raw yumminess.

After several visits where the chef took grand care of us, he asked that we give him a few days heads up prior to our next visit as he had some ideas and needed some lead time to obtain some ingredients from Japan (from the Tsukiji fish market, specifically).

This is the meal that resulted.

The first course was composed of a slightly warmed fresh oyster, very large, with a subtly sweet and fruity house sauce and accompanied by a fresh lemon.

Included was a lightly battered, deep fried, roll composed of avocado, tuna, and false crab (IIRC). Amazingly, the tight seaweed wrap keeps the rolls from being at all greasy!

The oyster was one of the most flavorful I have had. And it had two distinct textures; the typical slightly ooky oyster texture and bits that had distinct muscle texture.

Awesome dishes and a great opener.

Course 2: Lobster Claw, Seared Scallops w/Uni, Lobster on Mango with Caviar

It was the second dish, however, that confirmed that we were on a grand culinary adventure.

The chef put together a plate with three kinds of shell fish accompanied by a slightly tangy-sweet sauce.

On the right is the whole meat of a lobster claw. I’m not sure what kind or if it was the preparation, but it was considerably more tender than a typical Maine lobster.

On the left was lightly seared fresh (as in, live minutes before the dish was prepared) scallops with a chunk of some of the best uni (sea urchin) I have ever had on top. The scallops had just a bit of a bbq sear flavor, but was pure essence of ocean on the inside.

The centerpiece had a surprise! That is a thin slice of cucumber wrapped around a pile of fresh lobster meat with a dollop of black caviar on top. The surprise, though, was that the lobster was on top of a bed of diced mango! An amazing flavor combination.

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AutoZone: The Objective-C Garbage Collector

Tuesday, November 11th, 2008

The source code for AutoZone, the Objective-C Garbage Collector found in Mac OS X Leopard, is now available. It has been released under the Apache v2 license.

This is the same collector that is found in Mac OS X Leopard 10.5.3 (the collector was not updated as a part of 10.5.4 or 10.5.5).

The garbage collector is not limited to Objective-C. It is actually a fairly generic scanning, conservative, generational, multi-threaded, language agnostic, collector. The implementation has certainly been tested and optimized with Mac OS X based applications.

Notably, MacRuby uses AutoZone to offer a common GC implementation across object graphs that span Ruby and Objective-C.

The Mutant Plants of Northern CA

Friday, November 7th, 2008
Giant Lemon with Lemon Trees Inside

Before Silicon Valley was silicon valley, the valley was full of orchards from bay to mountains. Even amongst the high technology, there are still pockets of trees and crops.

There is even a small Apple orchard on Apple’s property!

Things grow here. Generally, you just have to add a bit of water and a plant/tree will simply explode with growth! Just about every house older than a decade has one or two citrus trees and a variety of flowering bushes, trees, or plants.

Out of this spawns the occasional mutant. Or just surprisingly large examples of typically small plants.

On the left is a meyer’s lemon that Roger and his friends found on the street. When we sliced it open, some of the seeds had actually sprouted to yield little tiny lemon trees inside the gigantic lemon!

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Halloween 2008

Saturday, November 1st, 2008
Chef & Squid

The Holt’s throw an awesome annual Halloween party.

It has two phases; an early phase that is kid friendly and a later phase that is more adult oriented.

Lots of folks bring incredibly tasty food. Things like Scotch Eggs made with quail eggs that were deep fried in duck fat. Or home made spanakopita.

And folks generally go all out for costumes. At left is George with his Awesome Spawn. Sushi anyone?

Mad Scientist!

Ben Holt — host — put together a killer mad scientist costume, including steampunk styled goggles.

He even had a small beaker full of goo with a flashlight that would make it glow.

Not only did Ben not violate the ever important rule of not wearing a custom that blocks your drink hole, but his costume had a built in beer stein!

Family Mario

Christine, Roger, and I did our first Family Theme Costume in the form of the Mario Brothers with Princess Peach!

For me, the only downside was a costume with a gigantic L on my forehead.

Funny, while trick-or-treating this evening, it was about 50/50 between folks that totally got that we were Mario Folk and the rest thinking we might be Joe The Plumber.