Thursday, June 30, 2005


Ohhhh, if I were king of the forest...

What a bent operation. This was the fog of war, friends. There are so many people milling around, that the tail of the snake cannot tell what the head of the snake is doing. And what the head of the snake is doing is waiting! Waiting! We were in a long winding line that snaked through what appeared to be a military grade parking garage, with maybe four football field length queues filing back and forth across the hard concrete. At the end, we went up the escalator, to another room, with more lines.

Eventually we got close to the actual machinery of registration. Ranks of computers manned by reasonably cheerful volunteer clerks. The young woman I was directed to took my printout, that I'd done a week before online, and entered my information into the computer, where it already resided, I'm sure. Then she told me to go wait at the printer area.

This area was the cause of all delays. I can't believe they had things so very badly messed up. They had maybe six printers spitting out the product of the fifteen or twenty registration clerks. Registrants were pooling in front of these printers, and eight or twelve volunteers were grabbing tags as they came out of the printers and shouting the names into the noisy throng. If they didn't get an immediate response from this mosh pit, they handed the tag down the line and shouted another name. I heard my name from the back of the crowd, but had no way to get to the front to grab it.

Using my height to my advantage, I squirmed to the right hand edge of the printer phalanx and waited for my tag to work its way over there. When I saw it lying on the table in a pile of other tags, I shouted, "that's me, Phin" and shoved my paperwork at the harried printer clerk. He handed me my tag, and I waded back through the mosh pit to get away from it all.

As a result, people were waiting in a huge backlog at the head of the snake, and the tail often experienced these long delays for which they had no explanation. Now it's time for my armchair general speech. Guys, you've got Don Wakefield standing in front of your computer, and you just typed his name in. It took about ten seconds to print out his tag. Have him wait at the computer, where you know he is, and bring the tag to him. Then send him on his merry way. Waiting at the mosh pit took ten minutes, not ten seconds! I hope someone who actually has the power to change things saw what was going on last night and makes this simple change for registration this morning, or the poor saps are really going to suffer. We were in line three hours last night! THREE HOURS. It didn't have to be this way!!!

But now we get to take our showers and then head down to try to get our tickets for the Maaya Sakamoto concert. I'm sure that'll be much better.

Day Zero

We're here, at the Anaheim Marriott, complete with high-speed internet. Don't mean I'll be posting much, as I'm being distracted by these annoying fanboys behind me...

Wednesday, June 29, 2005

Zippy the Pinhead

Last weekend, Alan took a picture of me using his 17mm Sigma, which if you didn't know, is a very wide angle lens. He was right next to me, man! Hence the pinhead distortion. Okay, yes, I have a prominent sagittal crest, but it's not that pointy!

Anyway, you can see how excited I am to be going to Expo this year!

Tuesday, June 28, 2005

One More Day

Wednesday I work, Thursday I fly.

My bag is fully packed, and my carry-on is growing gradually heavier. If I get hooked up at Expo, I'll try to do a post or two, but otherwise look for me again around July 6th or 7th.

I look forward to trudging through airports...

Sunday, June 19, 2005

I'm A Member

Of Anime Expo 2005, that is. I'd been concerned that I'd not received my membership papers in the mail, even though I'd sent my check on May 11th. Tom pointed out that I could see if they cashed my check. So I just checked it out. The suckers cashed it on May 19th! So they've had a month to send me my membership papers, and still haven't gotten around to it.

The nice part is that my bank includes an online image of the cancelled check, so I can print it out and take it with me if I don't get the paperwork. Gotta love that electronic age!


Funny. Now, Tuesday, June 21, 7:20 am, I got an email from Anime Expo Registration confirming my membership. So the power of weblogging is confirmed!!!

Four-legged Present

Monday is Kelly's birthday. She'll be ten years old. So what to get her? In addition to the usual pile of wrapped gifts, we decided to get her something wrapped in fur.

So Saturday we piled into the car and drove to C.A.T., or 'the Cat Adoption Team'. It's normally a short drive, under ten minutes. But of course this day, there was an accident blocking our route, and we ended up taking a detour that ran us over ninety minutes. Finally we arrived. The C.A.T. building filled with the aroma of cats. They house around 200 cats at any one time, and my allergies began kicking up almost immediately. We visited with three cats, and took our time getting a feeling for one that would fit in at home. In all, we were there around three hours. We took home a black, one-year old female cat named Taylor.

She's been isolated in the laundry room for twenty-four hours (with frequent visits from Kelly). Tonight we allowed her to roam the house, and Kelly just put her back in the laundry room. Tomorrow she'll get still more time out in the house. Eventually she'll get the run of the place. For now she's visiting on a trial basis. We're watching for two weeks to see if Kelly really takes care of her.

So I am once again a cat owner. Sneeze!

Wednesday, June 15, 2005

Say Cheese

Photoshop CS and Adobe Camera Raw 2.4 are now installed on my iBook. All software updates to date have been installed, and I did a repair disk, repair permissions and mirror backup of the disk. One more piece of preparation for this year's Anime Expo!

Tuesday, June 14, 2005

The Knife

It's Summer Rerun Season on television, and I've fled to Reality Television for respite. However, I'm not sliding completely into the pit. Instead, I'm watching cooking competitions. Three shows demonstrate how each of their respective home networks approach the concept of an elimination contest.

Cooking Under Fire is the first show I began watching. This runs on PBS. The concept is that twelve cooks of varying levels of experience and from several walks of life compete under the watchful eye of three professional chefs. One chef, Todd English, will grant the final winner a position as chef at one of his New York Restaurants. The concept is simple and is replicated in all three shows.

Each week the contestants are given a task (a recipe, a kitchen activity, a theme) and we watch while they perform. At the end of the show, the judges share their criticism, then hand the loser for that week a skillet emblazoned with a large '86ed' logo. I thought Todd English was pretty harsh, being bluntly critical of his prospective chefs. But this show is a cakewalk...

Hell's Kitchen stars Gordon Ramsay, who is apparently one of the most popular chefs in England. He is also, at least in the context of this show, a foul-mouthed tyrant. Cursing, spitting out food and berating his chefs with sometimes physical insults. This show is on Fox, and I guess it shows...

The Next Food Network Star is so whitebread. I'm enjoying it, but I can't help but put it on a continuum with the other two shows. This show is the 'nicest', then the PBS show, then Fox is the nastiest.

I've generally been kinda picky about what cooking shows I watch. I like America's Test Kitchen for their practical, lab-like approach to cooking, and their personable cooks. I enjoyed Iron Chef for it's over the top entertainment value and racing the clock theme. In fact I plan to watch season two of the American version (I missed season one). But it took the 'dead season' doldrums to get me to watch cooking shows more frequently, and reality shows still have to work very hard to get under my radar (good examples being the 'House' shows on PBS, i.e. Colonial House).

All this cooking on the brain! Remember my knife diatribe? I cooked my curry recipe today, and I used that Chef's Knife. Okay, maybe I'm selling myself based on all I've read, but what a difference. It is partly because this knife is so danged sharp -- I have to be very conscious of what I'm doing with this knife. But also, that offset blade makes cutting and dicing much smoother. I wish I'd known about 'the proper blade' sooner.

Guess I'll have to read up on knives in The Professional Chef. I grabbed this one from the library, because I wanted to follow along with the cooking shows a little better. It has a chapter on equipment, and sections on each of the major meal 'groups'. Poultry, meat, breads, desserts. And in each section they lead with mise en place, which I first heard about on Cooking Under Fire! Cool!

The Pieces Fall Into Place...

Anime Expo, here I come! I got one more stumbling block out of the way today, when I called my insurance agent and made sure that my camera and gear, laptop and various gadgets that I plan to take are covered against theft, loss and damage. So now I can drag my toys down with me and not have to worry about the unplanned.

Next on my list, besides making sure I have all my luggage planned out, is to get a two-day park hopper pass for Disneyland/California Adventure. Tom, Alan, Dan, John and I (and possible unknown others) are going to go to the parks on the afternoon of the final day of the con, and the whole next day. I'm gonna try to set up a dinner at Ariel's Grotto, though I don't know if that'll be possible. Cross your fingers!

Sunday, June 12, 2005

Chuck E. Cheese's

Kelly will be 10 on June 20th. But by then, all her friends will be on their Summer vacations. So we decided to throw a birthday party for her this weekend, to give her friends a chance to see her one more time. We invited 13 kids, and seven showed up, which I think is pretty good given the usual track record around here. The party was at Chuck E. Cheese's, and was the usual chaotic mess. There are no neat anecdotes to relate, so I'll just point you to the Flickr photo set of the party.

Pinning Ceremony Snaps

Well, it took me a couple of days, but I finally put up the snapshots of Jean's Nursing School pinning cerremony. As you can see, there are in fact quite a few people there.

Like all commencement ceremonies, there were many speeches, and some folks felt they had more to say than others. Kelly was about as patient as you could expect. She asked me a few times how long we'd been there, and I finally just started showing her my watch. Since it's stuck on 'military' time, she had to do some subtraction in her head to get the 'real' time. She was peeved at that.

You'll see a picture of a woman at the podium who was reading the personal statements of each nurse as she was pinned. I'm very thankful that she encouraged us to come up and take photographs up close, or I would not have gotten the nicer pictures toward the end of this set.

Once the ceremony was over, we drove home. Jean ordered a pizza, which I picked up, and we settled in for a party. We went downstairs and ate pizza and German Forest cake, while playing Burnout Takedown, a crash and burn car racing game. Kelly is nuts for this game, especially the part where you actually try to score points for causing a mulitcar wreck in an intersection. At the end of the collisions, you get a flyby of the damage, complete with floating dollar-damage signs.

Around 7:30, things were winding down, and Jean, ever the sweetheart, asked me if I wanted to go catch the last of this NOVA meeting. Of course I took her up on it. I got to see Ghost in the Shell: Standalone Complex (my favorite anime) and work out more plans for my trip to Anime Expo this year. So all in all, Saturday was a busy day.

Tuesday, June 7, 2005

Nurse Jean

Three cheers for Jean! She got her results from today's exam, and she got an A! So now she is officially a graduate. Next step is the NCLEX, but she's covered a tremendous amount of ground, and I'm massively proud of her. And awed. Thanks for all the immense effort, Jean.

Saturday will see her 'pinned'. This is the official ceremony ushering her across the threshhold into a new career. Afterwards we'll be celebrating, Jean, Kelly and I. I think I heard the word 'cake' in there somewhere.

Looking Good

I had my first eye exam since Fall of 2003 today. Right now my vision is sort of fuzzy due to dilating drops. Driving home was sort of fun. So I'll be working from home for the next few hours, and I thought I would take a moment to write up the exam.

My eyesight has indeed changed with age. I now have 20/20 vision uncorrected. Dr. Lindquist says that while I could benefit from reading glasses in the late evening, they don't make them weak enough for me (0.75)! So good vision. He looked really carefully at my retinas, and says I have healthy neural distribution and rich strong arterial development. His verdict, "don't worry about your eyes for at least the next few years." So it's nice to put that aside for another couple years.

Monday, June 6, 2005

Honest Tea

I promised in yesterday's post that I'd talk a bit more about Honest Tea. This is not in the way of a testimonial, but an anchor article for an experiment of mine. By way of background, I have to confess that while I eat healthy foods, I still indulge a few bad junk food habits. I'm currently abusing corn chips, Peanut M&M's and diet fruit colas. I'd like to at least cut back on all of these, but one thing at a time.

Recently I read a pair of articles, Kicking Sugar to the Curb and How to Give Up Coffee. Now I do not drink coffee. I consider it a foul beverage and an inferior caffeine delivery mechanism. But the two articles spurred me to try an experiment directed at gradual withdrawal from caffeine. The sugar article extolled the praises of Honest Tea, so I checked to see if they stock it at Wild Oats. They do, and so I bought seven bottles, each a different flavor. Two were caffeine free herbal concoctions, while the rest were variations on green tea. Since green tea has less caffeine than some caffeinated pops, I figured that this would let me start the gradual withdrawal plan, finally substituting the herbal varieties to complete the process. An added bonus is that the teas are low in sodium and don't have any of the Phosphoric Acid or Potassium found in pops.

So the rest of this post will contain my impressions of the various flavors of tea, since I may want to buy more, and will want to eliminate the truly hideous flavors from my choice list.

First Nation Peppermint

I drank about half of this early Sunday, and wasn't impressed. It tasted bland and a bit weak. Off to the refrigerator with it. Later, I was preparing my Chicken Enchilada recipe, listening to WFMU on iTunes Radio (they played Steve Harley!!!) and I grabbed the remainder to quench my kitchen induced thirst. It tasted much better. I don't know if the thirst was responsible, or if the flavor grows on you, but I'm willing to try this again in the endgame of the experiment.

Community Green

This green tea is a bit too bitter for my tastes. They flavor it with Maltese Orange, which might be the culprit. In any case, I'll be wanting to try out all the other flavors before I rate this one. First impression is not too favorable.

An unfortunate factoid: Diet Wild Cherry Pepsi has 24 mg. of caffeine per 8 oz. serving, while this tea has 26 mg. Since I drink the entire 12 oz. can of pop, and the entire 16 oz. bottle of tea, I end up consuming more caffeine (52 mg. versus 36 mg.). So in order to actually use this tea to cut back, I'd have to actually adhere to the '8 oz. per serving' labelling. In any case, I am getting the benefit of avoiding the Phosphoric acid.

Moroccan Mint Green

I'm halfway through this bottle, so I'll withhold judgement until I finish it. Plus note: I poured half the bottle into a cup and drank it. Eight ounces might be enough to sate my desire for a 'special' beverage after lunch...

Okay, I finished it with lunch, and it works to sate my need for a sweet, slightly caffeinated beverage. Like the First Nation Peppermint, it seems to grow on me with exposure, but this one's caffeinated.

Assam Black

This is one of the teas that, I must not kid myself, will do nothing to reduce my dependence on caffeine. 67 mg. in 8 ounces! Yikes. They calmly assure me that this is "1/2 the caffeine of coffee", but I don't drink coffee. I drink a can of pop that doses me with around 36 mg., so one serving of this baby is nearly twice that. Imagine if I drank the whole darn bottle!

That said, it has a pleasant, fruity appeal. I definitely know I'm drinking a black tea here, but I liked it quite a bit. Despite the higher caffeine content, I'm going to add it to the rotation, at least until I've phased out caffeinated pop entirely. Then I'll start concentrating on eliminating the big offenders like this one (fingers crossed!).

Kashmiri Chai

I definitely like the taste of this tea. It's very mild, with a cinnamon and flowers aroma. Not quite the caffeine offender as Assam Black, but still a bit high. I'll keep telling myself that at least I'm not getting all that sodium, excessive phosphates and artificial sweeteners of soda pop...

Black Forest Berry

I realized that I'd forgotten to mention this no-caffeine herbal tea. I had half the bottle with the first batch we bought. It's a very pleasant fruit tea, and I'd buy it again.

Decaf Ceylon

Another good tea, and with no caffeine! I had actually had my post-lunch tea (Assam Black) when I felt a further craving, so I finished off this bottle. Definitely buy again.

Green Dragon

It's hard to describe this tea. Most green teas have a pretty distinctive taste, and my only experience with teas with 'dragon' in the name is that they are pretty strong. No doubt that is just marketing rather than a long accepted cultural tradition.

Green Dragon tea is neither strong nor distinctively green. It's quite mild. However, I find it very satisfying, and it definitely makes the grade for future purchases (until I transition to all herbal teas to eliminate the caffeine)...

Peach Oo-la-long

One of the heftier caffeine doses, so I'll try to avoid this one, it is nevertheless reasonably tasty.

Here are the '8 oz.' caffeine quantities of their teas (herbal teas have no caffeine):

Assam Black, 67 mg
Community Green, 26 mg
Green Dragon Tea, 26 mg
Heavenly Honey Green, 27 mg
Kashmiri Chai, 58 mg
Lori's Lemon Tea, 67 mg
Mango White Tea, 14 mg
Moroccan Mint Green, 27 mg
Peach Oo-la-long, 62 mg
Pearfect White Tea, 14 mg
Vanilla Mint White Tea, 14 mg

So it looks as if the Assam, Chai, Lemon and Oolong teas can only be used to wean me off the carbonated, artificially sweetened aspects of my pop addiction, as an 8 oz. serving of each is going to exceed what I get from a 12 oz. can of pop. The Green, Dragon, Honey and Mint Green teas are mostly only a gain if I limit myself to 8 oz. servings. Mango White, Pearfect White and Vanilla Mint White are clear wins. We'll see how well this all works out, but I'm skeptical right now...

NOTE: I have some flavors waiting in the wings, but here are flavors I've as yet been unable to locate:

Sunday, June 5, 2005

Weekend Update

Saturday was the 'grand opening' of a new Apple Store in Bridgeport Village, which itself has been doing a staged 'grand opening' for the last few weeks. Since I've needed to haul one of our machines to the Apple Store at the mall on two separate occasions in the last couple of months, this is a good thing. Bridgeport Village is maybe five minutes away, versus fifteen to twenty to the mall, depending on traffic. For their grand opening, the Apple Store was giving away T-shirts to the first 1000 visitors.

So I tooled over to Bridgeport Village, and got into the queue around 9:45am. It took around half an hour to actually reach the door! But I got my T-shirt, and wore it today. They had the good grace to make the hand-out an Xtra Large, so no pain. More amusing was the pep rally atmosphere they cultivated. A few minutes before they opened their doors, the entire crew of employees went running past shouting and clapping and shaking hands. Whenever a new batch of people were allowed to enter the store, you could hear cheering from within. I muttered "oh please" on more than one occasion, but I got my T-shirt!

Once done there I moved my car from one end of 'the village' to the other, so I could enter the new Wild Oats organic grocery store. They have cleverly been mailing out coupons for free goods staged to be available every week. One week it was for free vitamin C. This week it was for four pounds of free strawberries. So I went over to claim my 'prize'. While there, I invested in a few bottles of Honest Tea, about which I'll write more later.

On the whole, standing in line or driving around the complex, this feels a lot like Downtown Disney. This is, I suspect, no accident. The last two times I was in Anaheim, once for a Kelly birthday, and once for Anime Expo, I've spent a fair amount of time there. It's homogenized, but convenient and reasonably stress free for a high-traffic pedestrian plaza, and I think the builders of Bridgeport Plaza are making a very deliberate effort to emulate the layout and atmosphere of the place. I'm sure I'll go there again, if only to use the new movie theatre that will be opening there soon.

Sunday I made Chicken Enchiladas for the second time, and they turned out even better than last time. One change I made was to dice the pickled jalapenos finer than they came in the can, which distributed their spiciness more thoroughly. I'd been reading some cooking websites, and I've concluded that I need a new knife. Dicing went fairly fast, but I kept bumping my knuckles on the cutting board, which was not painful, but slowed me down. So I'm gonna go looking for a Santoku, though hoping I can find one for less than the J. A. Henckels model linked to. I guess a Chef's knife would fill the bill as well. Curiously, the J. A. Henckels knives we got as a present do not include one with an offset handle like a santoku or chef's knife. I wonder why.

[update: One santoku recommended by America's Test Kitchen: MAC Knives Superior Series SK-65 - Superior Santoku - 6 1/2 inch ($60, ouch!); one chef's knife by same: RH Forschner / Victorinox Black Fibrox 8" Chef's Knife
($20-$30, more like it)]

[Double update: I *do* have a chef's knife, I just don't have a brain. The J. A. Henckel set has a chef's knife but it was up by the knife sharpener and I didn't notice it. So while I am still interested in a santoku, I doubt I'll be getting one anytime soon...]

Finally, in the afternoon I took Kelly with me for a walk. We walked for 45 minutes, and I heard nothing but complaints. "My feet hurt... My hip hurts... Can we rest for a few minutes?" Frankly, I lost patience with her. "Kelly, I'm nearly five times older than you, and I have a rotten ankle that often hurts, but I can do this walk without complaint."

Awhile ago, she was taking swimming lessons, but she's completed the entire curriculum. Then she was studying Irish dance, but recently dropped out because she felt that the class was weighted toward serious dancers who ignored her, and she felt embarrassed whenever she had to do the steps. Jean agreed that she could drop out if she found other forms of exercise. Kelly agreed to take up running, but this lasted about two days before the "my feet hurt" complaints began.

So I told Jean about the incident, and we've agreed that Kelly has to go for walks with me every evening until she finds some other activity that has suitable levels of exercise for her age. I'm fine with her pursuing interests such as crochet so long as she doesn't let her body atrophy. Cross your fingers. I know how well a kid can wear down my resolve.