Tuesday, August 31, 2004

Adios, Mario

The guy who used to cut my hair (who made a cameo appearance in this weblog 4 years ago) was apparently murdered last week. That's disturbing.

I found out earlier this year that he no longer worked at Bananas. I realized the only reason I continued to get my hair cut there was, in a sense, inertia -- it's annoying to work through several people who do a crappy job of cutting my hair to find someone who knows what they're doing. Mario, as goofy as he was, did a good job, but it was weird since I had no idea what he was saying half the time, and the other time he was ranting about the Cowboys or politics or something.

Anyway, I learned stuff from the obituary that I hadn't known -- he had retired, not just moved to another place. And he was 66 -- I would have guessed he was in his 50s, at most.

Some details were in the article only, I suspect, because it was written by a college student, who has yet to learn about not speaking ill of the recently departed...

"No one really liked him, but everyone knew who he was," Pruskowski said.

People have egged his home more than once, Miller said, and pumpkins were smashed in front of his house on Halloween.

"He got on people's nerves ... but he never had any serious altercations," she said.

Neighbors said they often saw Alonso walking his dog and telling people where they should park in the complex's parking lot. He had residents' cars towed, Miller said, and frequently pestered residents to keep their lawns clean.

Well, heck, that was Mario. He'd often wander away from cutting my hair to tell someone else how to live their life. It may be better to have an un-sanitized remembrance printed. It shows some of his character, and he certainly was a character.

Rest in peace, Mario.

Wednesday, August 25, 2004

Born in the USA

I've been enjoying watching the Olympics on TV this year, but I have to question the playing of the song "Born in the USA" after various American triumphs. US reputation abroad isn't too great these days; I don't think it's improved by playing a song with lyrics like,

So they put a rifle in my hand
Sent me off to a foreign land
To go and kill the yellow man

I'm going to assume that Greeks, and not the USOC, are behind this.

Sunday, August 22, 2004

Santa Barbara Pictures

Well, I'm back, and I've downloaded the pictures from the digital camera. Not a lot of excitement. You can also reminisce with pictures from 2000 and 2003.

Here is a picture from my winery visits...

Here's a shot from the rump session...

Here's a picture I seem to take each year...the beach barbeque...

My hotel had a bunch of drinks named after defense contractors and other entities. It was interesting, but perhaps more interesting if I had the resolution to get the drinks corresponding to each contractor...

Wednesday, August 18, 2004

No Tri-Tip This Time

Last year I visited the Old Town Tavern to play NTN at lunchtime during this conference. I headed back there again today. I sat down and asked for a Coke and a menu. (Happily, I didn't even have to ask for an NTN board, as they were set up along the bar.) The bartender obliged with the Coke, but said that their cook had quit, so they didn't have any food.

Hmm. This looked like it was going to put a crimp in my NTN plans, but the bartender suggested that I could get take-out from the Chinese restaurant across the street and eat it at the bar. A little bit weird, but at least I got my NTN fix in.


I've enabled a feature to add comments to this weblog. I think it would be nice if this site were more interactive, but I will probably end up turning off this feature if I get no comments, or annoying comments from random people. (Annoying comments from people I know are expected, however.)

Tuesday, August 17, 2004

Wine Tastings

Today was our free afternoon for the conference, so I decided to head to a winery. What better way to get a souvenir, I thought, than to taste some wine at a winery, and then bring a bottle of my favorite back home?

I selected the Fess Parker Winery on the basis that it was relatively close to my hotel, and I had heard of it. Granted, I had heard of it mostly through the Fess Parker Doubletree Resort, which I couldn't afford to stay in, but I had definitely heard of it. I try to avoid "celebrity" wines, but I gave this one pass on the basis that I was a little bit unsure who Fess Parker was. (It turns out he's most famous for playing Davy Crockett.)

I tasted the wines, and they were OK. In particular, the Sauvingon Blanc managed to overcome my usual distaste for whites. But I figured I should do better than OK, so I left with my only souvenir as a glass with a coonskin cap logo on it. It was tempting to get an actual coonskin cap to replace the one I had as a boy, but I restrained myself.

Still in search of my California wine to bring home, I headed down the road to Firestone Vineyard. Again, the wine was OK, and I left with another souvenir glass. I also left with an admonition to try the wine at Curtis Winery. My souvenir Firestone winery would get me a free tasting at Curtis. I tried the reds there (to avoid getting too wine-d up to drive, I poured out a lot of the stuff I didn't like), but was unimpressed.

There was a recurring taste that put me off, and I wish I could name it, so I could find out how to avoid it in the future. Maybe it's a component of Santa Barbara county wines inherent in the soil? I don't know whether to call it licorice, plastic, chemical or what. I taste it in a number of wines at Corridor Wine, our local wine mega-store, where I go to weekly tastings.

Well, at least I have my two glasses.

Monday, August 16, 2004

Really Not In Santa Barbara...

Last year when I came out here for a conference, I was staying over half an hour away from the university as part of my quest to make 50 nights with Marriott, and the associated gold status. Well, I made the 50 nights, I have the gold status, but I couldn't get a room there to enjoy the status.

No matter. Gold status with Marriott was last year's goal. Hilton is this year's goal. Hilton requires 14 fewer nights, allows me to count 13 nights that Christina stayed, and counts free stays (2 nights so far this year). That puts me 29 nights closer without really trying. 21 to go -- of which I've had 11 already this year. So I'm staying at an Embassy Suites. Ironically, I pass the Marriott and drive 20 miles past to get to the Embassy Suites in Lompoc.

It's a nice enough drive, unless Avis has upgraded you with an Isuzu Rodeo without great shocks and you've generally overindulged the previous 24 hours (brats while tailgating before the football game the previous night, 4 hours of sleep, too much creamy pasta and free booze on the upgrade to first class from BWI to LAX, all-you-can-eat shrimp and salmon at the conference's opening reception... Not a pretty sight.

The hotel itself was nice, but as there are evening receptions for the conference each day, I don't plan to see too much of it. It's set up like a compound of villas around a pool and a garden. The "suite" is really spacious and comfortable. The cook-to-order breakfast was nice this morning. I'm booked into an Embassy Suites in New Jersey in October; it should be nice if I end up going to the associated conference.

Wednesday, August 11, 2004

Herb Scrambled Eggs

I noticed we had some eggs that are due to expire in a few days, so I decided to have scrambled eggs for dinner. I am a very recipe-dependent cook, so I turned to the Ultimate Southern Living Cookbook that Christina recently recommended. The very straightforward recipe has several variations; I chose the "cheese" and "herb" options (and cut the recipe in half). I changed two things -- one, I used olive oil, instead of butter (which I lacked). Two, I used American cheese. Why? Because Oma made it that way.

Oh, and as previously mentioned, I halved the recipe.

It turned out pretty well. Since I still have two days left on these eggs, I may make it again. I think I'd cut back on the oregano, or possibly use another spice, though -- it was a bit over-herbed.

The Black Cauldron

With Christina at Bread Loaf, I'm catching up on my TV watching.

I wanted to watch this movie when it first came out (1985). I had read the book on which it was based and really enjoyed it. Now, I don't remember too much of the book, except I'm pretty sure it was better than the movie. (I'm guessing in the book, the bad guy doesn't yell "Curse you!" to nobody in particular when being foiled.)

I gather that this was an attempt by Disney to do more serious cartoons. It's certainly somewhat darker than most of their fare from the time, but I guess a serious Disney cartoon is still pretty silly compared to, say, a good young adult fantasy novel.

2.5 stars.

Wednesday, August 04, 2004

Another Wine Update

I've heard another person expressing concern with the quantity of wine updates. All I can say is that I hope the non-wine related content (some of it contained within this very post!) is interesting enough.

2002 Monte Xanic Calixa Cabernet Sauvingon

We picked this bottle up in duty-free on our way back from our recent trip to Mexico. I was in favor of using some of our "leftover" pesos to pick up whatever good wine was available, regardless of country, but Christina successfully lobbied for a Mexican wine. I was fairly skeptical -- who has ever heard of Mexican wine? As it turned out, Calixa is Monte Xanic's "affordable" line -- most of their wine is much higher-end than we'd consider buying at this point.

All in all, it was a very enjoyable Cab.

2001 Hardys Nottage Hill Shiraz

I got this wine because of how much we enjoyed their other Shiraz (which I think is technically their "Stamp of Australia" label). This was $2 more (although it ended up being the same because of a coupon that probably shouldn't have applied), so I thought it might be even better. It was very enjoyable paired with some Chinese food, but I can't say it was better. Speaking of Chinese food, does anybody know any way in advance of knowing whether a dish is going to have broccoli in it? I lost about 1/2 the mass of my food to broccoli that I had to pick out.

2001 Pietro Barbera

We had avoided this bottle for a while -- we felt that since we had bought it we had learned more about wine, and wouldn't have bought such a "cheap" bottle of wine. We were pleasantly surprised. It was definitely a lot lighter than we were used to -- which is good, since we've tended to buy heavier wines that are better paired with heavier foods. Since we're trying to eat lighter, it seems like a good idea to find some lighter wines. It's harder because we don't really like whites, and whites go better with lighter food.

We kept this lesson in mind last Sunday night when we went out to Galileo for Christina's birthday. It was Restaurant Week, where they offered a three-course menu for a reduced price. I figured we could splurge on some wine. (Well, not totally splurge -- they had four-figure prices on some of the wines.) I ordered a Barbera-Merlot-something else blend, which looked interesting. They brought a different bottle of Barbera; they said they were out of what we ordered. They said this was a good wine at the same price, and the winemaker's son was working at the restaurant for a couple weeks, so we could give him a piece of our mind if we disagreed. It was a nice wine, but the whole experience was kind of odd -- I'd expect a nice restaurant to come back, apologize and ask us to make another selection, but maybe service slips during Restaurant Week. It was definitely a heavier Barbera than the "cheap" one we had had at home.

1998 Le Lodole "Super Tuscan"

I mentioned this bottle in an earlier post. It's the most expensive bottle we've tried in our wine drinking at home. It wasn't necessarily better than all of the less expensive bottles we've had, but I feel like we took less of a chance of getting a "clunker" by spending a little more (and choosing carefully).

2001 Don Sebastiani & Sons Smoking Loon Syrah

This wine featured in an incident we around the Grantham house refer to as "The Great Fire of London Broil". I was assisting Christina in making London Broil. One trick we've learned is to use the wine you're serving in the recipe to tie the food to the wine. Unfortunately, we didn't have the requisite time to marinate the steak, so instead of draining the marinade, we left it on the steak while cooking. Also unfortunately, our top rack lies a little closer to the heating element than is probably the case in more modern ovens. More alcohol on the food + closer to the heat = steak on fire. Fortunately, Christina was able to put out the fire with no real damage to the food.

The steak was delicious, and paired well with the Syrah. Christina enjoyed the Syrah perhaps a bit more than the Hardys Shiraz (Shiraz is Australian for "Syrah"); I probably prefered the Hardys. I'd say the Hardys was "fruitier" and the Smoking Loon was "earthier", and I prefer wines in the former category.

We have been discussing whether there's wines we'd like to keep on hand, or whether we want to keep getting new ones each time. I think we're going to stock a bottle or two of this along with a bottle or two of the Columbia Crest Semillon (since we have a hard time finding whites we'll drink) soon.