Wednesday, November 22, 2006

ask me ask me ask me

some questions...

why does mccarran airport have free wifi (from whence i post, on a 2+ hour layover en route from sfo to the fla gulf coast on a red eye) yet sfo does not? sfo, which is after all the gateway airport (all due respect to san jose) to america's tech heartland? why is t-mobile's pay to play service all that's available?

why does mccarran not have more of the attractions of vegas? would it kill them to have a real casino here? (i wouldn't mind an hour of blackjack to kill some time) a strip club? (not that i'd necessarily go, just asking rhetorically). why do the slots not take coins, but tickets which you have to get from an attendant?

taken together, i guess what i'm asking is, shouldn't a city's airport more or less reflect the city, highlight its virtues (or vices)?

(update...6:45am eastern time, thanksgiving day) and guess which airport also has free wifi? tampa-st.pete. gavin....mayor to someone at sfo. let's get with the times.

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

ashes of american flags

i heard about this yesterday on npr's (well, american public media's) marketplace...seems that mothers against drunk driving are advocating for ingition interlock devices aimed at reducing the incidence of drunk driving. though madd's stance is for devices to be mandatory on cars owned by convicted drunk drivers, a reresentative from the insurance institute for highway safety (iihs) actually said that sobriety-check devices should be in all cars.

two things about this are unsettling -- first, to mandate devices on convicted drunk drivers sends the signal that the convicted are thus no longer entitled to the presumption of innocence. this is much like the laws enacted in many cities and towns that convicted sex offenders must register and announce their presence in a neighborhood, and/or that they cannot live within some proscribed distance from schools or playgrounds.

i know that convicted drunk drivers tend to be recidivst. however, there is some evidence that expedited treatment results in lower rates of recidivism. there are similar findings for sex offenders. in other words, treatment, not stigmatization and scarlet letters, are what a free society should demand of convicted criminals.

relatedly, i was troubled by an assertion made in the marketplace story by susan ferguson of iihs that all cars should have sobriety check devices. is it just me or does this violate a fundamental tenet of american society, that of presumed innocence? the country was founded on such priniciples specifically as a reaction to the encroaching police state of 18th century british colonial rule, principles which date back 5 centuries from that time to the magna carta.

ultimately this all comes back to (for me, anyway) the erosion of civil liberties we've seen with the enactment of the military commissions act and the proposed legislation to legalize the warrantless (and thus illegal) domestic wiretapping currently being conducted by the nsa with the full approval of the president. proof of how pervasive (and silly) domestic spying activities by the government have become is illustrated in a series of reports foia'd by the aclu documenting how legal, first amendment-protected activities have been entered into a pentagon database designed to track terrorist threats.

how are sobriety-check devices and sexual predator residence laws in the same league as habeas corpus and wiretapping? simple -- they are all symptoms of the same mindset that allows freedom to be curtailed in the name of security.

freedom entails certain risk. the fact is, no matter how hard we try, we will never eliminate the threat of a drunk driver on the road. we will never fully prevent sexual predators from acting out. we will never fully protect the country from terrorism. that's not to say we shouldn't try and reduce the risks -- no, we should demand that risks are reduced while freedom is protected. treatment for those types of crimes where there's some evidence that treatment works. legal forms of surveillance, monitored by an impartial court and subject to detailed review by congress. that's not to mention the plethora of port security and air cargo screening that the current congress and administration have inexplicably refused to ensure are in place, this despite it being a centerpiece of the 9/11 commission's findings.

freedom and security are not mutually exclusive. and eroding freedom for the sake of security makes us both less secure and more importantly less free.

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

no reason, just seems so pleasing

it's not often you get an opportunity to eat at a michelin guide 3-star restaurant on a day's notice, but that's what i did tuesday night, joining jp for an amazing dinner at the french laundry in yountville (napa). jp had reservations with a friend (for whom she did a huge favor...nice payback), but friend was unable to go. given that tables are hard to come by there, even more so after it was rated 3-stars in the michelin san francisco guide, i jumped at the chance. what kind of man would i be, not to want to join the girlfriend at a romantic and sumptuous meal in what's considered one of the best restuarants in the country.

from downtown sf it's a good 65-mile trek. our table was for 9:15, so not much rush-hour traffic to battle. got there in just over an hour, with time to spare and relax before being seated. our table was in a small room off the main first floor dining room, a table of 2 next to us and a table of 4 a few feet away. both were well into their meals.

after ordering wine and selecting from the choices in the evening's menu, we were given small appetizers, snacks almost. notable was a salmon tartar in a tiny cone filled with creme freche.

the first course was oysters and pearls, oytsers newburgh and caviar on a cream sauce bed. next up was a confit of squash and asian pears in a very light viniagrette -- light, tart, and (the pears) crispy, a good counterpoint to the richness of the oysters. next up was a return to richness, sea urchin formed to look like a tongue, served over an earthy base given nice texture by small chunks of celery root. it was very much a yin/yang dish, the urchin served cold over a warm base, the urchin soft while the base had a chunky texture.

the main seafood course was 4 small bits of lobster, poached in sweet butter and served atop a curried basmati rice. the lobster was melt-in-your-mouth light, and the curried rice provided a nice balance of spiciness and weight. the next course was another choice, and the only choice where jp and i went different ways -- she had the quail..white and dark meat served in a light sauce with pearl onions and cranberries. i had the tete de cochon (head of the pig). the pork was served in a doughy shell, atop a spinach puree and topped by a quial egg, joined on the plate by a spicy carmelized onion.

next up was the beef, a cap of ribeye atop both a matsuzaki mushroom cream sauce and a veal stock sauce laced with ginger and served with tangerine slices. great balance of sweet, tangy, and spicy. the beef, like the lobster, just about melted on the tongue.

the dessert section started with the cheese course, a lord of the hundreds ewe's milk cheese, hard and tangy, sliced at the table atop small rounds of potato with a tomato marmalade. this was followed by a feijoa (pineapple guava) sorbet served with banana bread. the sorbet was very pungent and had a perfume-like aroma.

chocolate and hazelnut was the main dessert attraction -- a chocolate box was layered bottom-up with a white-chocolate brownie, chocolate mousse torte and hazelnut foam. that wasn't the end of the sweets, though. our captain surprised us with two extra treats from the chef -- in front of jp was placed a small vanilla creme brulee, and i got an eggless custard with meyer lemon. both were incredible, especially the custard. i need to try and make that. a plate of homemade chocolates was offered at the end. needless to say we indulged, despite being just about full.

for wine, jp went with selections from the sommelier -- he started her off with champagne for the oysters and confit, and a white wine that carried the lobster and urchin. a spicy barolo (i think) accompanied the quail and beef. since it was late and i was driving, i went with one glass (though i did sample jp's selections), a very nice pinot noir that was light enough to work with the seafoods and had enough finish for the beef.

all in all, a great dinner. it's hard to believe that such small portions will fill you up, but the richness and that there are 9 courses leaves you quite sated. the service was impeccable -- the wine steward made great choices, and the servers provded clear explanations of each dish as it was placed on the table. it is an expensive indulgence but well worth it. i'm not a serious, serious foodie, but i appreciate good food enough to know that this was not just a great meal but an amazing dining experience.

Friday, November 10, 2006

the devil will find work for idle hands to do

aren't three-day weekends the best? especially when the days are sunny. of course i have some work to catch up on, but i can do it from the comfort of a cafe (revolution? dolores park cafe?) and not cooped up in my office.

last night we went to books inc in the castro for a reading featuring stephen elliott, daphne gottblieb and mark pritchard. pritchard led off with an hilarious story about a guy who takes a job as an assistant in a women's self defense class. excellent stuff. gottlieb and elliott read challenging and moving selections from their latest books.

(update) -- mak pritchard writes about the night on sfmetroblog.

wednesday, we unexpectedly (thanks to free tix from one of jp's coworkers) saw the new york dolls. like when i saw mission of burma, they're one of those bands who i didn't get to see in their original days (maybe because i was a wee lad). it wasn't the original line-up (which would be hard to do given that, sadly, johnny thunders died a while back) but they did alright. david johansen looks a bit old. like OLD. but he sounded great. sylvain sylvain played a mean guitar and a good foil to johansen's glam theatrics. not the same as seeing them at cb's in their heyday, but still a good set.

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

this is what you want, this is what you get

hooray, a democratic takeover not only of the house but likely the senate as well! this almost makes up for the pain of the 2004 election. at the very least, even if legislation gets vetoed by bush, there'll be hearings and oversight. it also rids capitol hill of idiots and louts like santorum (PA-SEN), hostettler (IN-08), sweeney (NY--20), weldon (PA-07), chocola (IN-02) and pombo (CA-11).

in ballot initiative good news the south dakota abortion bill was defeated. in ballot initiative bad news the michigan anti-affirmative action proposal won, and won big.

(update) and oh yeah, the stem cell initiative passed in MO, as did a minimum wage increase.

and i did my (small) part for democracy, by getting jp to vote in a non-presidential election. now i have to hold up my end of the bargain and re-apply for citizenship. it may be that i'll be eligible to vote in 2008. i have a feeling that'll be a big deal election.

Thursday, November 02, 2006


i've got some creativity in me, but for whatever reason it doesn't extend to good costume ideas. so halloween for me is not so much about the getting dressed up. still, there's still fun to be had, like carving pumpkins. even if the pumpkin gets a bad case of mold and disintegrates in a matter of days....

then there are parties like halloween in the castro. a great idea, in theory...a civic thing where people get together, show off, gawk...and apparently, shoot each other. so sad. another account at sf metroblog and sfist has a list of accounts and discussion here.

jp and i got there early, like 7:30pm early, before the crowds kicked in. maybe some of the freakier costumes hadn't turned out yet, but i still got some good shots.

we stopped into some place for a drink, and in that meantime the crowds swelled. leaving was a chore as there were some fenced off areas where you could neither enter nor exit. so off we went into the choked-off area of mass entry around 16th & market. it was totally like swimming upstream against a strong current. we missed the shooting by about 30-45 minutes. i'd be shocked if there's another attempt at doing the event, which is a shame. mass gatherings shouldn't have to mean mass mayhem. most of the people there were just having a good time and an asshole few had to leave a bad taste.