Champagne!

Champagne is a favorite drink for special occasions. Our favorite special occasion is that there’s a cold bottle of Champagne in our refrigerator.

In my first year with Rochelle I drank more Champagne than I had had in my entire life prior to meeting her. Champagne was for special occasions, but Rochelle enlightened me, and now a special occasion is whenever there’s a cold bottle in the refrigerator.

We go to Champagne tastings as often as we can find them, and there are many during the holidays. This past week we took part in a single-grower tasting, put on by Amphora Wine Merchants at their sister restaurant, Absinthe.

Going into the tasting, we didn’t understand the “single grower” description. What this means is that all the grapes were grown by a single grower, which limits production, and ensures that the wines will remain “little,” at least in terms of market penetration.

The wines were spectacular, and markedly different from the very good, very consistent Champagnes we’re fond of, such as Veuve Clicquot, Bollinger, Taittinger, etc., which are blends made from the grapes of many, many growers.

The experience set us with the firm conviction that our next vacation will be to France, and specifically to the Champagne region, for as much tasting as our livers can handle. We’ve already come up with the official slogan of our trip: “Champagne, It’s What’s For Dinner!”

Croissants, Bread, Desserts!

Boulangerie Bay Bread makes what are probably the best croissants in the Bay Area; many people claim they are just as good as in Paris.

Boulangerie Bay Bread is the best bakery in San Francisco, with the award to prove it. Rochelle and I cannot get out without spending $20, not because it’s expensive (it’s not), but because we are pigs, and there’s just too much good stuff.

Their croissants are heavenly, and customers (including many with French accents) regularly exclaim that you cannot get better without traveling to Paris. Their goodness comes from tradition, technique, and lots of butter. Yum!

They have a wide variety of wonderful breads, of which the walnut baguette is probably our favorite, especially to eat with cheese (Artisan Cheese is right around the corner). And they have some wonderful desserts, including fruit and chocolate tarts, and my favorites, their custard-based desserts (Ooh la la!).

Their main bakery is at 2325 Pine Street, just below Fillmore, but have two other locations with different names, one in Cole Valley and one at 2310 Polk Street. They also have a few restaurants, including Chez Nous and Galette, both on Fillmore Street, a couple of blocks away from the bakery.

Seltzer!

Old-fashioned seltzer is extremely refreshing, and is probably the best way to rehydrate after drinking heavily. In the Bay Area, call the Seltzer Sisters to get the best in sparkling water.

On our first date, Rochelle offered me seltzer, real seltzer out of one of those old-fashioned bottles you usually see in Marx brothers movies. I knew right then that she was a groovy chick.

Rochelle has been getting seltzer delivered almost since she arrived in San Francisco, more than a decade ago. We are now both totally addicted to having refreshing, bubbly seltzer delivered a couple times a month. It is the world’s best thing to have in your refrigerator when you’re looking to rehydrate from an evening of drinking.

We get ours delivered to our house by Seltzer Sisters, a local company based in Redwood City. They take Hetch Hetchy water (the best in California), filter and treat it, and then add just the right amount of carbonization. Mr. Lucky Recommends Them Too

They also have a variety of flavored syrups, from brands which are much better than the ubiquitous Torani, and other seltzer-related items. If you’re a fan of the Italian-style sodas made with Torani syrups, you need to give these a try. Personally, I like my seltzer straight, or mixed with fruit juice, 50/50.

Seltzer Sisters will deliver pretty much anywhere in the Bay Area. Give ’em a call, at (800) 928-3755, to get set up with the best way to drink bottled water.

And tell them that Michael and Rochelle say hello!

Horrible End, Part Two

The story continues, literally while I typed the first…

OK, it’s worse. Rochelle and I were in fact recounting last night’s incident, laughing hysterically, when he committed his second felony in two days. Literally while I was working on the first cat shit story, Cecil went to the front of the house and took another enormous dump.

Once again, Rochelle dropped a paper towel in place and ran, and once again I got to “be the man” and handle the really foul stuff.

I think this means that Rochelle is on catbox duty for a few weeks.

“A Horrible End to a Beautiful Meal”

That was Rochelle’s way of describing what happened when she cleaned up a recent cat…mess.

OK, this one is gross. Don’t read if you don’t want to read something gross.

You’ve been warned.

Last night Rochelle and I went to EOS, a local restaurant and wine bar, for one of their weekly wine flights (in December all of the flights are Champagne). Along with our wine we had some wonderful food. EOS is truly one of the outstanding restaurants in SF.

We got home about 8:00pm, and after puttering around the house and the computer for a while, we were both in bed by 9:15pm. After I dropped my book to nodding off for the third time, we decided it was an early night, around 9:45pm, and switched off our lights.

About a half-hour later, Rochelle decided she needed some water and an Advil, and got up. “Oh no.” was quickly followed by “Oh my god!!” and then “You won’t believe what Cecil did.”

Knowing better than to get up, I stayed in bed. The scent found me anyway.

At first it was the usual cat poop smell, which you get used to after you’ve cleaned a litterbox a few times. Then it got a bit worse, and I decided to hold the blanket in front of my face until Rochelle cleaned it up (it was, after all, her cat that committed the crime). Then it was so bad I needed to seek fresh air.

I got out of bed to find Rochelle headed for the front door, gagging, in the hopes of getting fresh air. The odor in the hallway was overpowering, and when I snapped on the light in the dressing room and stepped in to see the magnitude of the incident, I started gagging too.

Let’s just say the Cecil is an old cat, and his digestive system is doing unnatural things to his food. The amount of cat shit, in two distinct, solid piles, was more than a human puts out in a normal day. Unbelievable.

Rochelle had managed to throw a paper towel on top of each pile before being completely overcome. I handled the rest of the clean-up, and barely managed to not throw up.

Rochelle was not so lucky. She threw up three times, at either end of the house, when the fresh air wasn’t enough to overcome the smell. The first time she had to run the length of the house, hand over her mouth, to get to the toilet. The others went into the kitchen sink.

Hence the title of our little story today. Aren’t you glad you read it?

Fun With Electricity, Part Three

At least OTHER people do stupid things with electricity, too.

As mentioned in the previous FwE, our house heater was broken for a while. We had our neighborhood appliance repairman come by to fix it, and I was the person who got to stay home to meet him.

It was fascinating to see someone who really knows what they’re doing with home wiring (even the low-voltage stuff). He quickly tested our thermostat, found it wasn’t the problem, and headed for the basement. A quick twist of some wire, and the heater came right on, proving the heater itself worked fine.

So the problem was between the thermostat and the heater, i.e., in the wiring. At first this seemed like it would be a hard thing to track down, but after checking the integrity of the wire in the basement, we headed back into the house, where the problem became obvious.

We had hardwood floors put in about half the house over the summer, and as part of that, the installers needed to even up our baseboard. They use a special saw that cuts along the wall exactly the thickness of the wood they’re going to install. Can you see where this is going?

Yes, exactly, as they trimmed the baseboard under the thermostat, they also “trimmed” the thermostat wiring, which was mounted on the wall. In this case, “trimmed” = “cut”, and “cut” = “our house is friggin’ cold!”

Fortunately fixing it was about 15 minutes of work for Mr. Pearson, of Pearson’s Appliance Service, who we highly recommend if you have appliance problems or restoration jobs, and you don’t want to get ripped off.

Fun With Electricity, Part Two

Wherein I continue to do stupid things with live wires.

So, yes, there’s a part two, and yes, it involves more stupid behavior with electricity.

Three days ago I came home to find Rochelle and Dante drinking, and drunk, and cold, because our house heater was broken. Being sober, and a problem-solver, I went to collect our little space heater from the front room.

When I got there I tried to unplug it from the extension cord it was attached to, and discovered that Cecil had peed on it, and the two had apparently fused together. The plug would come a little ways out, but then wedged.

It seemed less stupid than it actually was to try to pry the two apart with a screwdriver — without unplugging the extension cord. I guess I got lucky, but the short circuit definitely knocked out power to that room, and melted two notches into the screwdriver.

Rochelle made me buy a book about ’lectricity. Think I’ll read it.

On to the Next Thing…

I finished the project at work that I was procrastinating on by working on this site. So you’ll probably never hear from me again.

Yesterday afternoon, the marketing analysis I have been working on for the last four weeks stopped being a pile of shit, so I sent it to the people who need to review it.

I have to present / defend it on Monday, so I’m sure I’ll be working over the weekend…and procrastinating on that by writing here. Depending on how the presentation goes there may be more work to do on my MRD, but it won’t be so urgent, or monumental — there’s nothing so intimidating as the blank page.

But I’ve been posting to this thing for the last month, so maybe it’s become a habit. If not, I probably won’t post again until I have another big project I’m avoiding.

Then again, I may end up hacking away on the code that runs this site, so I can add pictures more easily, and things like that. Which would give me another excuse to write.

We’ll see.

Fun With Electricity, Part One

I apparently avoid electrocuting myself, doing a stupid thing.

Two weekends ago, Rochelle and I were installing the first of four new (to us) period lamps that we bought off eBay, in the kitchen.

I climbed up the ladder and started unhooking the old light, without first turning off the circuit breaker, because there was a fair amount I could do without touching any wires. Then I just got involved in untangling things and forgot the lines were still hot.

When the inevitable spark shower occurred, Rochelle could only laugh. I told her I thought it was time she went down and turned off the breaker.

Her comeuppance came later, when she decided to do the hall lamp herself while I was taking my afternoon nap. It’s a lot slower to do things safely when you do them yourself, because our breaker box is outside and all the way around the house. Apparently for the last step, putting the glass globe onto the fixture, Rochelle didn’t feel the need to do the round trip. From all the way down the hall I saw her react to touching something. I asked if that was a shock she’d just gotten, and yes, it was. This time we both had to laugh.

Glad we have life insurance.

Been There, Done That — It’s Better the Second Time

Once upon a time, I worked for Be, of BeOS (semi-) fame. I miss BeOS, but have found an acceptable substitute: Mac OS X.

Once upon a time, I worked for Be Incorporated, of BeOS (semi-) fame. For those who used it, BeOS (an operating system for desktop computers) was unique, and special. But Be is officially no more, and BeOS has been dead for a while.

What made BeOS so useful was a wonderful, responsive graphical interface on top of a powerful, Unix-like environment. The marriage of the two was unique at the time, and the work of some engineers who truly had magic powers.

For a lot of reasons Be didn’t make it, and BeOS died when the company did. It would remain a curiosity of computing history, and a tragedy for those of us who cared, except that some of the ideas live on.

I write this posting on a new Macintosh G4, in a Web browser that is the most beautiful, graceful browser I’ve ever used, OmniWeb. When I click the Save button, the information I’ve typed into a lovely GUI application gets transfered to the web server running a PHP application, which saves the text to a database (MySQL), so that you can read it later.

This relates to BeOS in that all of the software used to run my Weblog application is running on the same machine, running Mac OS X. It’s a lovely graphical interface on top of a true Unix-like environment, which allows the use of both a beautiful Web browser and the Unix-based Web server, PHP, database, and the other Open Source software upon which this site depends.

So, BeOS has died, but some of the most important ideas live on. Mac OS X isn’t for everyone, but for those who give it a whirl and can harness its powers, it’s truly magic.

Chicken Fried Steak

It’s hard to find a good chicken fried steak anywhere in California — but not so hard in Texas.

My original experiences with chicken fried steak — school cafeterias and TV dinners — were so bad I never wanted to eat it again. Then Rochelle introduced me to good chicken fried steak, and I’ve been gobbling them ever since.

In the Bay Area it’s hard to find. We know of only one place to get a really good chicken fried steak, the Bluebird Cafe in Hopland, at least an hour’s drive once you cross the Golden Gate Bridge.

In Texas, where we just went for the Thanksgiving holiday, it’s a little easier. I ate four of ’em in five days, and all of them were at least pretty good.

The best was Hoover’s in Austin, with a fine piece of meat in a delicious coating that stayed crispy the whole meal, and excellent gravy. Rochelle had a fabulous grilled pork chop with mushroom gravy that was out of this world. About four bites into our meal, we decided that Hoover’s would be one of our regular places whenever we’re in Austin.

A close second was Heitmiller’s, in Waco, where the meat was a little better (Heitmiller’s is a steak house), the rest a little less. I only had a half-order, which was more than enough. I can only imagine what my arteries would think of a full order.