May 302005

(All photos for this are posted here)

Anna and I took a mini vacation two weeks ago to the central coast. We rented a convertible for the trip and couldn’t have picked a better time to do it – the weather was fantastic. Temps were in the 80’s with Sunday going up to the mid 90s, even on the beach! Not exactly common. The park reservation system was not yet up and running and we arrived on Thursday, so we were able to get a site at Pismo State Beach. Twenty five bucks a night gets you a great site just a few minutes walk to the beach. We went to the great San Louis Obispo farmers’ market on Thursday night and loaded up on fruit and veggies for the weekend event.

Cutty and Sarah met us down there to go to the 23rd Annual Paso Robles Wine Festival on Saturday. We went to the fest two years ago. It was well attended, but I was curious to see if Sideways (which takes place in the area) would have any effect on the popularity of the festival. All signs point to yes. It was packed this year. It was a beautiful day and everyone was in good spirits. The tasting was great as usual. Our favorites were still our favorites: Eberle, EOS, Wild Horse, Justin, and Tobin James.

Of course, we aren’t really in the market to buy most of their wines ($25 and up) for regular consumption. For that we turn to the sommelier at the Paso Robles Albertsons. I can hear the gears turning… Sommelier? At Albertsons? Well, I guess sommelier isn’t the proper title, but she is the wine purchaser for Albertsons and makes great recommendations. As for Albertsons, they stock a lot of great Paso Robles wine at great prices. We really stocked up this trip – a case and a half of different kinds.

After that we bummed around Avila Beach and had a great meal at The Customs House (our favorite seafood place in the area). Then it was campfire time and bed.

The next morning we headed out to Oso Flaco Lake & the Oceano Dunes for a walk. There is a boardwalk stretching from the skimpy visitor center across the lake, through the dunes, and to the beach. It is really great walk with lots of wildlife and native plants. The only downside to the park is that it is south of some Oceano dunes where 4x, buggies, and dirt bikes are allowed – they make a lot of racket if the wind is blowing right. But this is a pretty minor thing, the park is great.

May 292005

(All photos for this are posted here)

Friday, May 13th. Anna and I went to see John Prine at Spreckels Theatre. I wasn’t very familiar with his music, but Anna convinced me I would like him. She wasn’t wrong. John Prine has a Dylan-esque voice. In other words, not the best in the world. But it perfectly fits his great story-style of song writing. I really enjoyed the concert.

I also really enjoyed the venue. Spreckels is an amazing location. The old offices wrap around a very grand old theatre. The offices themselves are quite cool. Glass doors, tiny hexagon tile hallways, original bathrooms, and huge windows that actually open. The offices could easily pass the set test for a film noir/detective movie. Curiously, a lot of these great offices seem to be vacant. I wonder why there was so much prime office space left unused. My only guess is that they are less desirable since the building has no central air. But with a almost steady breeze from the bay, I think it would be just fine to work here. I wish I could get away from the AC in my office. Makes one tempted to set up shop, the building and location are quite amazing.

The theatre is definitely the star of the building. The decor is very extravagant and has some great plaster work. The paintings aren’t fantastic, but their scope and setting set them apart. I am very impressed this has survived in downtown San Diego, where everything seems to be torn down to make way for condos. If you ever get a chance to see a show here, do not pass it up.

Lots of links here for info on J Spreckels. A brief bio from here:

In the first six years of the new century, San Diego would recover the population it lost in the crash of 1889. John D. Spreckels, the sugar heir who had invested heavily in San Diego, would remain a San Francisco resident during those years, and pour millions of the Spreckels family money into a city he would dominate, sometimes in absentia, for the next two decades. Spreckels owned the streetcar system, two of the town’s three newspapers (The San Diego Union and the Evening Tribune), most of Coronado and North Island and the landmark Hotel del Coronado, which had been built at a cost of more than $1 million in 1888 and which Spreckels had taken over when its builder had been unable to repay a loan of $100,000.

Interesting how boom and bust San Diego has been and continues to be.

May 252005

I’ve been messing with WordPress to see if I can transfer most of my site (html pages, blogger generated, and gallery) into it. One of the things to check on was the WP import for blogger. It works fine, but there are issues when you don’t have titles in your posts. Blogger doesn’t force you to use them, and I liked the look of mine without them.

Anyway… as you can see, at some point I decided to start putting titles into my blogger posts to make the import easier. I’m sure the import will be fine.. but my existing permalinks are all bad as the title changes them. So any post I, or someone else has linked to is pretty much broken. Arg!

SLO was great, I will have to post on it when I get the pictures up and running.

May 182005

Anna and I are taking a long weekend and going to head up the coast in a convertible to SLO. The coast is fun by itself, but we will also be going to check out the Pasa Robles Wine Fest. We went in 2003 and enjoyed it a lot.

PayPal is pushing further into the banking/credit arena. The potential was there years ago, I wonder why they are just starting this now? I’m all about big bank competition, but PP will have to get a lot better at customer service for me to trust them further than simple transactions.

Showing the US how it is done – Brazil pushing ethanol and biodiesel

Interesting stuff: Qatar is using cobalt to turn natural gas into a powerful, clean-burning diesel fuel. While this is going to be great as an additive, I don’t think it is going to be a full replacement for fuels. Last time I checked we didn’t have a lot of extra natural gas to cover that.

Would you believe me without a link? A handful of clay, yesterday?s coffee grounds and some cow manure: the ingredients that could bring clean, safe drinking water to much of the third world.

Banksy strikes again, this time on his side of the pond: The British Museum gains “Early Man Goes to Market

And in Banksy style, the secret wall. Synopsis – Rent a hotel room. Remove art or mirror. Slap down some art. Replace art or mirror.

This is an interesting photo project from the La Guardia and Wagner Archives: Public Housing – New York Transformed 1939-1967. It is amazing to go through the photos of old neighborhoods and buildings.

May 132005

Burning Man Prep

Last year we used a shade structure from form and reform. It held up well, and it was nice to use extra tarps off the main structure. The disadvantage is that you have 4 supports around 5 foot, and 2 around 7 foot. That makes it a real pain in the ass to get in most cars. We are toying with the idea of flying to Reno this year, so this would definitely be out of the question.

Enter the next option. The noah tarp and a couple of extended poles look like they will perform fairly well in the wind, pack down to 2 foot, and will cover around the same area. The disadvantages are cost and flexibility. While you can put it up a number of different ways, the catenary shape would not fare well if you tried to use multiple tarps of the end points. Some loose burlap hanging off the sides might work though…

1 month update on my Dell 2405FPW

– I notice less eye strain. I didn’t expect that I would, since my old monitor had a high refresh and a very good DPI.
– I have yet to notice LCD ghosting – the screen refresh is more than enough for games/dvds/vidfiles.
– I love the widescreen aspect. Perfect for dvds of course, but more and more TV shows are moving towards the format (I just hope that people continue to encode them in WS). It is also much more immersive for gaming. Of course, even some modern games do not support widescreen resolutions, but that is changing. I bought this monitor expecting that and accepted the fact that I had to be forward looking. Playing games or vid files with the black bars isn’t horrible, I just miss the widescreen glory.
– A DVI connection to the monitor is a must. When I used the monitor with analog, it looked like crap. Banding, cross hatching and color bleeding. DVI made everything crystal clear. I couldn’t believe the difference.
– Blacks are not true black, they are more like a very dark indigo. This is just something you have to deal with until LCDs do not need a backlight (OLEDs?). On that note, there is a slight backlight problem with the lower right corner of the screen – blacks are slightly more indigo than the rest of the screen. I’m just being picky though, you have to look really hard to notice it.
– 24 bit color range (a limitation of current LCD technology as I understand it) has shown slight banding in rare cases (color gradients that go across the screen in web pages). It does very well on everything else though.
– After setting my gamma to 1.8, I found the monitor was just as respectable as my old sun monitor for doing photo work.
– The USB2 hub and card reader built into the monitor work great. Coping files off my camera and hard drive enclosure (both USB2) is just as fast as using the primary USB2 ports on the motherboard. It is very nice to deal with cables going just to the monitor, instead of all the way down to the tower.

In short, no buyers regret.

Photo roundup

rion has some good shots of the famous Tsukiji fish market in Japan. Interestingly it was the geoquiz question yesterday on theworld. Sadly, it seems there are plans to close the historic market and move it to the suburbs – it rests on some of the most expensive real-estate in the world. I am certainly no expert, but for some reason this seems to indicate that there might be some changes happening in Japanese food culture. I mean, Japan is the land of $82 square watermelons. To hear of them cutting costs with food (especially something related to the culture of premium sushi) seems very strange. Or, maybe they just really like malls.

thenarrative has some good shots, but I like this one a lot. I miss the clouds and the big sky living here.

daily dose of imagery has this great shot. At first glance it looks like someone has removed the upper structure from the picture with photoshop.

May 112005

I love the internet. I wrote a post back in Feb about my astonishment at the popularity surge of moleskine notebooks. The meandering post was me being harsh on the mythical/fashionable status that the books were given. There was (maybe still?) a sort of emo clique identified with the product – sales were driven more by identification than function. Hardly anything new, I know.

Looking through my logs I saw a blip in traffic last month on this post. I went back and read the comments, then found out what the traffic was about. The a link to my page was posted on, a moleskine fan site. The fact that I got some intelligent replies seems to reflect well on moleskine fans. I mean, if I was to rip on starwars or something, I would be deleting comments from my blog for the next 3 months.

It is all very fascinating to me. The web of connections I mean, not the notebook. I certainly never would have posted the comment directly to a fan site as I am not much of a troll. But months later, someone did just that for me. I don’t expect to be writing for anyone other than family and friends, so the experience slams home the fact that everything is exposed. I don’t mean that in a bad way though. The exposure makes partnership of everyone’s data possible, and everyone (eventually) wins.

Anna and I saw Kung Fu Hustle last weekend at gaslamp. We both loved it. Stylized, surreal, and entertaining. We also watched The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy. It was decent, but I didn’t enjoy it nearly as much as KFH. Probably a result of me not reading the books. I know, not much of a geek, am I?

This quote from a house seller in the UT seems to confirm exactly what I have been thinking for a while about San Diego:

“People don’t make enough money to buy them,” he said of his and other similarly priced homes. “Your buyer pool is like a pyramid – the higher the prices, the smaller the pool of qualified buyers. We’ve got to get somebody moving up from another house or condo or town house that might be able to buy these houses.”

The whole thing is built on the expectation that you own property, and you made a killing on it. There is no possible way to get into the market otherwise. Former apartments that probably didn’t rent for more than 1k are being sold at 500k. It seems the housing market is incestuous. It is the same people selling, buying up, and repeating. With no fresh buyers, one has to wonder how this will play out.

Homestar Runner and the gang get some attention from NPR

The freakonomics guy has a sassy tale of food and economics.

Digging up WWII Kiev

May 042005

I finally got around to exploring the site that had the moss graffiti information, It is a really fascinating bit of work. The Ideas Factory contains some projects to have people reinterpret their surroundings. The Secret Worlds and Nature Reserve projects also force a shift in perspective. But they do it in a very magical, almost child-like way. I really enjoyed her work.

Along the same lines, I followed the link from Boing Boing to the twisted films of PES. Great stop-motion work. The KaBoom! short is fantastic.

I’ve been following the smart car’s move into the US and Canada with some curiosity. I like the concept, and think it is they way we should be moving – a small, light car for the majority of your use (single or double commuting) rather than the “wow look at the cargo room” extreme most of this market leans towards. However this Wired article seems to have some pretty bad news for the cars after import. It is rated to 60mpg in EU, but after being modified by G&K Automotive Conversions to meet the tougher U.S. emissions standards, the car received an initial Environmental Protection Agency rating of just 37 mpg. They are wanting a retest (obviously) since they think they should be up around 50. Still, it doesn’t look good when compared to the hybrid civic (45mpg), prius (60mpg), or insight (70mpg)

How about getting better mileage on your same car when you switch tires? Apparently you can get up to a 6% increase in fuel efficiency just by buying tires that have low rolling resistance. Makes sense, wonder why this isn’t a major selling point?

I listened to this in the car coming back from my eye appointment: Bus Showdown: New York vs. Los Angeles. LA has managed to speed up some buses by making them express (fewer stops) and giving them more time to catch lights. This has made trips up to 30% quicker for some routes. About time. I think there is a lot more we can learn from Curitiba, Brazil.

Ah yes, more bad stuff in crap we use every day: Chemicals in Food Containers Linked to Prostate Problems in Developing Mice

Lastly, some good news for Stephen Colbert – he is getting his own show. He will have a half hour spot after The Daily Show to do interviews and whatnot. The guy is hilarious, I hope it works out.

May 032005

(Photos from this entry can be found here: Chicano Park 35 years, Tijuana Bullfight.)

First things first. Two weeks ago Anna and I went to the shindig for 35 years of Chicano Park. It was as we expected; lowriders, music, and street fair vendors. In other words, a good time.

While there we ran into some guys we recognized from other events. They make and sell t-shirts of their art and photos, including those from the bullfights in TJ. We started talking and they told us about the season opener on May 1st that featured ‘El Juli’. Supposedly one of the best matadors in the world. Their enthusiasm planted a seed that eventually sprouted with us hopping on the trolley for TJ on Sunday.

It was fairly easy to get there – we walked across and grabbed a cab to the bull ring. TJ has two rings, one downtown, and another right by the border and the sea. La Playa – you can see a picture of it here (love this photo), courtesy of the California Coastal Records Project. Coming back from the fight was a bit tougher. You could take the MexiCoach for 5 bucks, or try for a cab. The cabs were scarce (police were leaning on them for some reason) but we managed to split a cab with a Portuguese couple who told us about some interesting american-portuguese bull fights.

This was my first time to a bull fight. Though I had read up on it, it was still nice to have some guys next to us that could explain the little bits. The rough idea is that there is 3 matadors with 2 helpers each and 6 bulls. The bull comes out, and 3 guys dance with it for a little bit. Then the picadores (guys on blinded, padded horses with spears) come out and stab the bull in the neck to get it to drop its head. After that, one guy uses six brightly colored spears to weaken the neck some more. And finally the matador comes out with a red cape and sword. They tire the bull, then pull some risky moves before finishing the bull with a curved sword.

Nothing goes exactly to plan, and this day was no different. The bull took one of the picadores down, but everything seemed to be ok once they got the horse back up. The first fighter lost his cape a couple times (bad thing to loose your composure), but did a clean kill. The second fighter was El Juli. Again one of the picadores went down. He seemed to be slacking, and did not make a clean kill. The crowd ripped him a new one. The third fighter was a gutsy kid, he did some moves and got to run a victory lap.

With the next round of bulls, the first fighter did better but didn’t have a clean kill. El Juli had something to prove, so he did some amazing moves and had a clean kill. The crowd loved it and he got two ears and a victory lap. The 3rd guy came out for the last bull. The bull was too unpredictable and the crowd threw seat cushions to mark their disapproval. The judge ordered a new bull for him. After that he pulled some daring stunts and had the crowd going, unfortunately he did not make a clean stab with the sword. After the match everyone threw seat cushions. Hah.

It was an interesting experience, but I doubt I’m going to be buying season tickets. If I ever want to throw seat cushions, I know where to go. The part that was the strangest to me was the picadores – I didn’t expect to see the bulls take them & the horse down 3 times. I think the horses have the worst job ever: “Hey horse, we are going to blindfold you, then stab a bull so it rams you a bunch. Sound good?”