Back From NYC

Rochelle and I just few back from NYC, and boy are our arms tired.

Rochelle and I just returned (on Sunday) from New York City. I went for an Important Company Meeting, and Rochelle came along to torture me and rant at my co-workers. At the end of one evening, on of them said slyly to me, “Note to self: never introduce wife to co-workers…”

The most fun thing we did was go to Les Halles for dinner on Friday night, without a reservation. When we got there it was pretty crowded, but the hostess estimated it would be 35 minutes for a table for two, and suggested we wait in the bar area.

We headed for the bar, where there was one stool available. Rochelle sat down, and then I leaned into her and whispered into her ear, “It’s him.”

“Him” was Anthony Bourdain, the executive chef, and author of Kitchen Confidential, a book Rochelle and I literally fought over while we were reading it, allowing the other to take a turn reading it only with the greatest reluctance. He was sitting on the bar stool to Rochelle’s left.

After a few moments he turned and noticed us, and then offered his seat to me. I protested, not wanting to kick the chef out of his seat, but he insisted: “It’s OK, I work here.”

When Is $3.50 a Lot?

When is a $3.50 ATM surcharge not very much?

An observation from a friend while in Las Vegas this weekend. He’s getting more cash at an ATM in the casino, where the surcharge is $3.50, and he’s pissed for being gouged.

Then he realized that the $300 he was withdrawing was for the blackjack tables.

At least he got a couple of free drinks while losing it…

I Love College Basketball

This is the best time of year to be a sports fan — March Madness! And I am headed to Vegas for the tournament opening!

Every year since we’ve been together, Rochelle is baffled by my sudden disinterest in virtually everything except watching basketball on TV. She’s weaned me almost entirely off football, and just can’t figure out what it will take to do the same for college basketball.

There’s no cure for March Madness, baby!

In the run-up to Championship Week I’m watching games a couple days a week (including one during lunch this last week where I told my co-workers to leave without me, I’ll walk back when the game is over), and then during the actual conference tournaments I’m watching games just about every day.

But the capper is the actual NCAA tournament. Most years I take vacation days so I can watch the first two rounds of the tournament. I usually just watch at home, except when an important game (to my bracket) isn’t being aired on CBS, then I have to go to a sports bar to catch that one.

This year I’m headed to the ultimate sports bar — Las Vegas — to watch the first two rounds of the tournament. I’m meeting up with a bunch of folks from my last job. Should be a blast.

Oops, gotta run, the ACC Tournament Final game is about to start!

Neuhaus Chocolates

We’ve tried a lot of others, and Neuhaus chocolates are the world’s best.

One of the great tragedies of my business trip to Europe was that I was in and out of Brussels so fast that I didn’t have time to buy chocolate. Rochelle and I have tried a lot of really good chocolates, and the best — by far — have been Neuhaus. Brought direct from Belgium.

Our tenant introduced us to them, when he brought them back from visiting his parents over Xmas one year. He picked us up a $5 box of chocolates in the airport as a gift. Sort of like Sees candy in SFO, except way, way better.

We tried buying some here in the US, but you can’t get the fresh cream chocolates that way, only if you buy them in Belgium. So we thought that I’d pick up about a dozen boxes while Euro-hopping, except I never got the chance.

Fortunately for me (Rochelle made me open my suitcases at the airport to see what I’d brought her, and decide whether I got a ride home or not), I managed to pick up a kilo of Neuhaus at Harrod’s in London, right before getting on the plane to come home. But they were 3 times as expensive there, so only one box for us, which is nearly exhausted now.

Jury Duty Today

I have to report for jury duty today. It was kind of a surprise.

Over the weekend I finally got around to opening all the mail that accumulated for me while I was in Europe. Among them was a jury summons. Starting the next day.

Oops.

Fortunately, I wasn’t required to report in on Monday, just phone in. And then the same for Tuesday. But my number came due last night, and I have to report in this afternoon.

I’m actually interested in serving on a jury. It’s a civic duty, and beyond that, if a “jury of peers” is to have any meaning, all citizens need to participate, not just those with nothing better to do.

God knows I have “better” things to do, with a product launch in two weeks. If only I had read my mail sooner, I could have requested a deferral…until the next horrible time to have jury duty.

I think it’s like a bandaid, you need to just do it, suffer a bit, and then get on track again.

Burke and Wells

Friends of ours, with a great journal of their journey to France.

Some new friends of ours have a great web site chronicling their lives. As a couple they go by their last names, Burke & Wells, and that’s how we think of them. To be honest, I don’t think I could come up with their first names at all!

They’ve done an especially good job on a chronology of their visit to France last year. In particular, their description of their dinner at Guy Savoy sent us into a fit of envy and lust.

Rochelle and I will be heading to Paris in September, to experience it for ourselves.

Cities in Europe

On my two week tour of duty, I saw four of Europe’s great cities. I have some thoughts.

While in Europe for two weeks for Persistence, I visited London, Brussels, Paris, and Stockholm. Sounds great, right?

Well, in Brussels I saw the airport, the hotel, the inside of a cab, and the train station (in that order). In Paris I saw the train station, the inside of a cab, a customer site, another cab, and the airport. I ate two meals, breakfast in the hotel in Brussels (horrible), and dinner at the airport in Paris (pretty good, if you can believe it). So I don’t think you could say I had any quality time in those cities.

I did get to spend quite a bit of time in London, and two days in Stockholm. Of course, I was working, not site seeing, so my view of things was limited, but there were things I liked, disliked, or just noticed.

London’s old buildings are dirty, grimy. When Rochelle and I were in Rome they were cleaning the whole city for Jubilee 2000, and so the buildings were all in scaffolding. Which sucked at the time, but I wish London had been doing the same thing, so the place would be sparkly clean today.

In contrast, Stockholm was truly beautiful. Very, very cold, but bright, clean, and wonderful. The old buildings in the city center, in particular, were breathtaking. I would go back to Stockholm, for pleasure.

I will say this about London, the Underground is by far the best public transportation system I’ve ever used. It goes everywhere you want (unlike Muni in SF), it runs well, it’s clean and safe enough. It’s rationally designed, the routes are straightforward and understandable. And all the instructions are in English (I am an ugly, uneducated American, after all).

I ate very good food in both London and Stockholm. It helped in Stockholm that we were taking customers out to dinner so, uh, we had to go somewhere nice. ;-)

Well, that’s all for my morning update. Not much insight, but what do you expect when I’m only half awake?

Where’s Michael?

Why there haven’t been any posts in more than two weeks.

So, I haven’t been posting because I’ve been bouncing around Europe on a business trip, and I never got around to setting up remote posting on this weblog.

A two-week all expenses paid trip to Europe sounds like a lot of fun, but it wasn’t. “Grueling” is a much more appropriate word. I hope I never take another trip that long. I don’t like being away from my wife, cats, and house at all.

Anyway, I’m back, and mostly recovered from the brainburn, so I expect I’ll be posting regularly once again.

Looking Back at 2001

God knows we’re glad 2001 is over but, in retrospect, it wasn’t all bad.

Rochelle and I are both glad that 2001 is over with. It’s not as though a calendar can mark the boundaries of luck or experience, but as much as the date shouldn’t matter, you can’t help summing a year up into a theme. And 2001 sucked for lots of people.

But it wasn’t all bad. Rochelle and I were fortunate to be able to spend almost two months together, 24/7, and come out on the other side having more fun with each other than ever. It’s good to be married to a good partner.

Both Rochelle and I experienced job changes we hadn’t intended, mine because my company died, and Rochelle because her boss wasn’t right for her. Now we’re both in jobs we like better than what we started with last year, and which are overall more financially rewarding to boot.

We replaced the nasty carpets in much of our house with wonderful hardwood floors. The floors bring joy to us every day, and may go down as the best investment we made in 2001 (not that the others were hard to beat).

Inspired by the success of the floors, we got serious about lighting, and replaced five existing lights with 4 “new” (to us) period fixtures (this was the source of my Fun With Electricity postings). The one that gives me the greatest pleasure is in the office, which replaced a ceiling light and a 500-watt halogen lamp, lighting the office about 20% better using half as much electricity.

We also started in on our water closet renovation, but have stalled on that, because we decided that getting all of the excess crap out of our parlor and office was more important. Both of these jobs will be with us through most of 2002, I predict.

We threw or attended some really good parties, the best of which was Rochelle’s birthday, and the most impressive was David’s birthday. (One of these days we’ll get the food photos from that up on our site.)

We took some nice trips, including Mexico, Texas, and LA. We ate a whole lot of good food on those trips, most of which we photographed, and most of which we’re behind on publishing. A resolution for 2002, surely.

I bought a new Mac and transitioned entirely to Mac OS X. This is something which gives me pleasure daily, for a whole lot of reasons, one of which is that it enabled me to start this weblog.

I said goodbye to Tex, whom I miss dearly, but who is certainly living a better, happier life in her new household, where she’s the top kitten, with cat companions she likes, neither of which was true in our house.

Rochelle and I both made tremendous progress on our crap reduction and abatement programs, though we clearly have more to accomplish in 2002 (another resolution).

I’m sure we accomplished many other things we’re happy with in 2001, and my feeble mind can’t remember them. That’s why one of my resolutions for this year is to regularly update this weblog. I’m a little behind at this point…

NYE2001: The End – 3

So we got home from the after dinner party fairly early, about 2am, because Rochelle has having some digestive problems, probably from all the rich food we’d been eating. And we pretty much went straight to sleep, only to be woken up around 6am by the rest of our traveling circus returning from the same party.

Rochelle — a morning person — got up and joined the group, still highly-energetic and talky. I never really woke up, and slept a few more hours before being ready to face the day.

With so little time left before Dave and Joyce’s party, no one wanted to go to bed, except Damon, who’d not only been partying with the best of them, but had been cooking for 100 while the rest of us were part of the 100, sitting, drinking, and eating.

Then we went to Dave and Joyce’s, and you know the rest.

NYE 2001: The End – 2

A terrific sushi party hosted by a retired sushi chef, a family tradition for New Year’s Day.

Edith and Damon’s neighbors, Dave and Joyce, are a retired Japanese couple who host an annual New Year’s Day party with their friends and relatives. Dave is a former sushi chef, and wonderful Japanese food is the cuisine (we will put the photos up soon, promise).

We managed to make it across the street around 1pm, with the goal of hanging out before we headed to get the airport to fly home. But the real tradition for this party is for Dave to push sake on the guests. “Kampi!” means “to the bottom,” and is the traditional toast. We heard it a lot at this party, so our plans to be mellow were for naught.

Even more fun, the hosts delighted in giving the women larger Japanese tea cups, while the men got the traditional smaller sake cups — all of which were continuously kept filled. So by the end, in spite of eating a large amount of sashimi and other delights, we were both, uh, very happy, but Rochelle was waaaaay more drunk than I was.

Somehow Damon managed to drive us to the airport (did I mention that Damon is superhuman?), where we were on to our next adventure.

NYE2001: Part 3

Damon, one of our hosts in LA, is superhuman. He cooks us brunch.

Damon, one of our hosts in LA, is superhuman.

After partying until 4:30am, having slept only four hours, he and Edith pick us up at the airport at 9:00am in the morning. We are headed to brunch!

Except, unlike a normal person who would simply be unable to do more than find the nearest Sunday buffet, he drives us to his restaurant, Cinnabar, and he cooks us brunch.

Not any old quick bacon-and-eggs thing, either. A poached egg, on top of seared filets, on top of crostini, with a lobster hollendaise sauce. Two of them. Each. Bacon and really fabulous breakfast potatos on the side.

This was one of the two meals where Rochelle and I simply lost our heads and forgot to take pictures. Which is a tragedy, because these were beautiful plates of food.

Rochelle and Damon cleaned their plates. I ate all of mine, and the rest of Edith’s. I’m a pig.