20 April 2006

Best song lyrics

I read a brief article in the paper yesterday about a poll conducted by VH1 in the UK where they asked people to rank their favorite (favourite) song lyrics from a list of 100. Coming in at #1 was the line from "One" by U2: "One life, with each other: sisters, brothers." If you want to check out the top 20, you can go here. What really caught my eye was the lyric that came in second place. It was from "How Soon is Now" by the Smiths (feel free to sing along if you know it): "So you go and you stand on your own / and you leave on your own / and you go home, and you cry, and you want to die." I'll leave it up to you to decide what it says about the British national character that this one came in second. Although I think that line is great, it's actually only my second-favorite Smiths lyric. Number one for me comes from the song "Stop Me if You Think You've Heard This One Before" : "And so I drank one / it became four / and when I fell on the floor I drank more." I love the way Morrissey makes "more" into a two-syllable word. Pure genius.

18 April 2006

Happy Anniversary!

Tomorrow (Tuesday) marks the 100th anniversary of the Great Earthquake of 1906. It's been interesting seeing all of the excitement around town commemorating the event. There've been museum exhibits (including a cool collection of period photos in the Berkeley library), and the Chronicle has had a lot of historical coverage of the events of the earthquake and fire and their consequences for the development of the Bay Area. (You can check out their coverage at sfgate.com.) So have yourself a big helping of crab Louie and rhubarb pie to celebrate the centenary of the Quake!

Ice skating

I've only been ice skating once before, and that was when I was eight. I seem to remember that two girls were abducted at the ice rink in Reno when I was a kid, so my parents were reluctant to let me go, fearing I too would be abducted. Thus my overprotective parents thwarted my chances of playing in the NHL. Anyway, Anne and I have been talking about going for a while, and even tried to go to the outdoor rink in Reno the last time we were there, but were stymied because it closes during the middle of the day. We finally got around to it yesterday when we went to the rink in Oakland. It was a blast! Although I thought it might be fun, I had no idea how much I would enjoy it. It helped that a friend of ours who plays in an amateur hockey league went with us. She showed us how to swizzle (which sounds kinda gangsta, but just means moving forward by making a figure eight pattern with your skates) and gave us some pointers for staying upright. Both Anne and I managed to skate for a couple hours without falling down, which exceeded my expectations. I was no Steve Yzerman (or even Radic Bonk), but I was starting to feel more comfortable on the skates by the time we left. We might even go again next weekend....

12 April 2006

Bush is in deep ...

Last night I was talking to my dad on the phone, and our conversation veered to politics. What makes this noteworthy is that it marks probably the first time that he and I have ever agreed on a political topic. Anne thinks it's a sign of the End Times, so I hope you all have been living upright lives.

The conversation started off inauspiciously with my dad grumbling about the "Mexican march" in Reno yesterday. I was able to get him to concede that making felons out of undocumented workers was a bit punitive, and from there the conversation veered into an unexpected place. He started saying how disappointed he is with Bush and what a terrible job he's doing, specifically criticizing our involvement in Iraq. He then brought up how ridiculous he thought the administration's recently-outed plans to bomb Iran were. For those of you who've met my dad, you realize what a revelation this is. He's the man who thinks that Reagan was the greatest president we've ever had, with whom I would continuously argue with over dinner (to my sisters' dismay) when I was in high school, and who suggested we should turn the whole Middle East "to glass" shortly after 9/11. But my dad is a product of his generation, and he sees echoes of Vietnam in the mess in Iraq. The poll figures are showing Bush's plummeting popularity, but if he's even lost guys like my dad, it's worse for him than I'd realized.

11 April 2006

Fun with la suegra

Anne's mom was in town this past weekend, and we had a nice visit. She lives in a small town in Eastern Washington, so one of the biggest treats for her when she visits is going out to eat, which is of course always a treat for us, too. Saturday night we went to a newish restaurant in Temescal (a recently trendy part of Oakland not far from our place) called Pizzaiolo. As you may guess, their signature food is pizza, with a somewhat California-y slant. We started with a beet, fennel, and avocado salad which was delicious. Then we split an order of gnocchi and a pizza with artichoke hearts and speck (which is like prosciutto for people who call arugula "rocket"). Their wine list is bewildering because all the wines are from Italy and I'd never heard of any of them. We just ordered a bottle of the cheapest red, which was really good (which is good because "cheapest" was relative). Everything was delicious and more than made up for the long wait.

The other dining highlight came on Sunday morning when we persuaded Bonnie to try dim sum. One of the things that always impresses me about Anne's mom is how game she is to try new things. As long as we were the ones picking the items from the carts, she was happy to try them. She even made a go at the seaweed. Sadly, though, neither Bonnie nor Anne would acquiesce to an order of chicken feet -- which I didn't think I could finish by myself -- so I had to go without. This is the place where we usually go for dim sum, and it was probably the earliest we'd ever arrived. We learned that getting there by 10:30 means 1) you'll get a table right away and 2) the cart ladies aren't nearly as surly when it's not as crowded.

A non-food highlight was going to Golden Gate Park to see the new deYoung museum, which reopened after a major overhaul. The exterior is now covered in sheets of perforated copper that make it look like a big cheese grater, which is a bit out of place in the park's music concourse. But I think it's an interesting look, and I really liked the architecture of interior. There's also an observation deck where you can get great views of the western half of the city. The museum has a very eclectic collection, but the thing for which it's probably best known is its large assemblage of artifacts from New Guinea. This is a part of the world I know next to nothing about, and even though I couldn't help but feel a certain colonizer's guilt looking at it all, it was definitely interesting and like nothing I'd ever seen before. There were even some items made with human skulls. Ewww.

06 April 2006

Embracing my inner nerd

I'm generally a sucker for a good online personality test, so when I read about the Nerd, Geek, or Dork test on Beau's blog, I was pretty excited. It turns out that according to the test, I'm a "modern, cool nerd." However, it's hard to take much consolation from being deemed "cool" by the makers of the test because my raw scores were:

98% nerd
72% geek
28% dork

I can at least take some solace in that my dork score was relatively low, but I was a little surprised at how off-the-chart my nerd score was. I also think I scored particularly high in geek because I admitted to owning a season of a television show on DVD. Not coincidentally, one of the quizzes they recommended I take after finishing this one was the Buffy the Vampire Slayer quiz. Of course I'd already taken that one ages ago. I don't trust its results, though. It said I most closely resemble Glory, and Anne was most similar to Spike. Why couldn't I be Willow or Giles? But I digress ....

If you're interested in taking the test for yourself, you can find it here. And to any of you who want to hassle me about being so nerdy, I just have to say "Back off man, I'm a scientist." (Although technically quoting from "Ghostbusters" is probably more of a geeky thing to do.)

05 April 2006

Fun in the snow

Although my friends in Seattle probably aren't too sympathetic, I'm a little burned out on all this rain we've been getting. We just set a record for number of days in March with rain (26), and it doesn't look like it's going to let up for at least two more weeks. The one upside to all of this rain, though, is that it's turned into lots of snow in the mountains. Last weekend we were happy to head up to the mountains and enjoy some of that snow.

We spent a couple nights in Truckee and went snowshoeing near Lake Tahoe Saturday and Sunday. It was nice to get away for the weekend and spend some time in the outdoors. And one of the nice things about snowshoeing is that even though Tahoe is overcrowded this time of year, we hardly saw anyone, especially the first day when we tried to get to the top of Martis Peak. We didn't quite get all the way to the top, but we had a nice day in gorgeous, fresh powder. Except for a couple on a snowmobile and a pair of ski tracks we kept intersecting, we felt like we had the whole mountain to ourselves. The second day we went to a regional park in Kings Beach where we saw more people, but very few of them ventured more than a couple hundred yards beyond the parking lot and onto the cross-country ski trails.

The main reason we chose Truckee over our usual trip to Mount Shasta was because we wanted to try going snowshoeing for the weekend entirely on public transportation. Since we got rid of my Jeep, we don't have a reliable car for driving in the winter, which would mean renting a 4WD if we want to go play in the mountains. When we learned that there was a system of shuttles and public buses connecting Truckee to various points around Lake Tahoe, we thought we'd give it a try. Although the system had its quirks, it worked out reasonably well. Unfortunately, the shuttles are mainly designed to get people to and from the ski resorts, so you have to rely on the charitability of your driver to drop you off at a trailhead on the way (and more importantly, to pick you up on the way back). Nevertheless, we didn't have any problems. The only serious inconvenience is being beholden to the bus schedule, which is part of why we didn't make it all the way to the top of Martis Peak.

The only near-mishap we had was on Sunday afternoon once we'd gotten back to Truckee and were preparing to leave. We went into the train depot to see if there was a place we could store our bags for the hour and a half before our bus left. The depot wasn't staffed, so the surly woman in the adjacent chamber of commerce office tried to help us. But when she said "I'm confused why you want to leave your bags here when your bus is leaving in 20 minutes," we began to get a little nervous. At this point, she and a helpful stranger informed us that Sunday was daylight savings time, and we'd forgotten to spring forward. Luckily we had just enough time to run across the street to the deli to get some food for the trip home before our bus (the last of the day) arrived. We were relieved when we got onto the bus, but a little shaken over how closely we'd come to being stranded in Truckee overnight. Of course, if that had been the only public transit mishap from the trip, it would have been our own damn faults (and yours, too, Benjamin Franklin). So I'm happy to report that we had a lovely weekend away, made the lovelier by not having to drive.