Wednesday, February 27, 2008

snow: lots

There was a lot of snow in January and February.
big iciclesThis is a second floor window, those icicles are over 5 meters long!
dog in snowTall snow banks, they got even taller.

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Tuesday, February 26, 2008

house: interior feel

I don't have pictures of the inside of our house great enough to do it justice, but people keep asking and something is better than nothing. (You can read all my posts labeled "house" to read this together with other pictures.)

To get your bearings, once again here's the picture of the front of the house from my general post about the remodel. new house facade
The front window on the right is the office area (here's a close-up of the office). Note how the roof is hipped rather than an upright gable.

From the inside, here's a picture looking from the kitchen past our (messy) kitchen island towards that office window. kitchen looking through to office Ignore the bulthaup system 25 kitchen details for now and focus on the space above. Our old house had a double-height living space with a barrel vault ceiling over it, and we told Markoff-Fullerton Architects we liked it. So they and our structural engineer Mike Kaszpurenko of Structural Engineers Collaborative blew up most of the attic, removing all the rafters and beams, and under the roof created a rhythm of folded panels. You can see 2 ½ panels in that picture, the one closest to the window is lower to fit under the hipped roof. There's something about "space above" that is immensely satisfying, this house would be less with just 9-foot ceilings throughout. Initially I wasn't sure about Markoff-Fullerton's relatively complex handling of the ceiling, but without it the second floor would feel like a white barn (not that there's anything wrong with that); this design is substantially richer.

When you remove the roof beams, your house falls down, so that black steel beam in the picture is just part of the elaborate engineering to brace the house. (The silvery thing that seems to meet it is simply a fluorescent light hanging over the kitchen.) The office window has an up-down Hunter-Douglas Duette shade, in the picture its top is lowered to let light in while preserving privacy.

Here's a view the other way, from the office through to the kitchen, with the dining area and then the living room visible beyond.
looking through kitchen L
As you can see, this side of the house is a a straight uninterrupted shot from front to back: office-kitchen-dining area-living room, with no interior walls (requiring more structural engineering effort). The second-floor flooring is bamboo ply throughout. As always happens, the absence of walls makes spaces feel smaller than they really are.

The kitchen cabinets form a backwards 'L' shape around the kitchen island, and the part of the 'L' in the foreground forms a "pass-through" from the office to the kitchen. Its sides are two bulthaup appliance hutches with rolltop covers. Steve and Kai from bulthaup-SF at Limn did a great job working with M-F to design the kitchen, they spent two hours just finessing the problem of the corner where the casings meet in the 'L'. As the kitchen grew (the island is 10 feet long!) it shrank the office but it's the literal and figurative center of the house.

My post love handles has a close-up of the black stained oak of the kitchen and its immaculate handles. The gorgeous nordic blue kitchen counter material here and on the island is laminate. We read up extensively on the pros and cons of marble, granite, tile, sandstone, concrete, aggregate, terrazo, stainless, unobtainium, ... and laminate is definitely our favorite and most practical material. (That decision led to major "you can't be serious" attitude from superficial jerks at deluxe kitchen showrooms whose tiny minds can't disentangle wealth from marble counter tops.)

Unfortunately you can't see any of the folded ceiling panels in this picture. After the four variable-height folded ceiling panels over the office and kitchen you can see the ceiling drops down to a flat ceiling over the small dining area, punctuated by exposed bulbs and an access hatch to attic space above it. (All five segments are the same width—Markoff-Fullerton get details right) This is the lowest ceiling on the second floor and makes the dining area feel cozy despite being surrounded by space.

Here's a picture of that dining area. little dining area
It's a simple orderly space within the progression. The print on the wall is by Mark Stock, the tiny encaustic of the four spoons on the left is by Kelly Luscombe. Since this picture we switched back to a glass tabletop.

I've already shown pictures of the living room in stereo on and great media storage.

This is only one side of the second floor. The other side (bedroom-bathroom-stairs) is different and equally stimulating. It's hard to do the design justice in pictures, and they can't capture the changes as the sun moves and we adjust the shades and lighting.

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Tuesday, February 12, 2008

music: pirating early Joanna Newsom albums

Joanna Newsom's bio on Drag City lists "Walnut Whales" (2002) and "Yarn and Glue" (2003) both self-released CDs. These home-made albums are no longer sold.

Bizarrely, stupidly, and short-sightedly, these songs aren't purchaseable as MP3 downloads from Amazon, even though this is exactly the sort of long-tail, low cost, make-fans-happy monetary transaction that the Internet should enable. I'll gladly pay for these songs, but can't. Probably her record company contract forbids her to release her own records.

Anyway, where legit business fails to meet a demand, the pirates step in.
  • Google for "Joanna Newsom" "Walnut City"
  • One of the results hits is for Mininova's tracker of a BitTorrent file. BitTorrent is a protocol for sharing files piece by piece among computers. A fan has digitized the tracks from both early CDs, and taken pictures of the covers, and included an excellent early interview.
  • What should happen next:
    • Click to download the .torrent file, it opens in the BitTorrent client which downloads the file from peers, and a few minutes later I play the songs in my music player
What actually happened:
  • click to download the .torrent file, BitTorrent client starts, nothing happens. After contacting the tracker, zero download activity, 0.0 kilobits per second.
  • kill all the other inactive BitTorrent downloads, quit BitTorrent and restart, still nothing.
  • download and install latest BitTorrent client. It reopens the torrent, shows its contents, finds 5 other members of "the swarm" but no download, no activity
  • suddenly I can't access the internet at all (a coincidence?), so power off cable modem and router.
  • tinker with the Firewall settings for BitTorrent in my P.O.S. Norton 360. It has a rule to allow some incoming and all outgoing. Just replace that with Allow all.
  • new BitTorrent client displays a neat warning icon in its status line: "No incoming connections... could be your network". Double-clicking that leads to a dialog with a neat [Test if port is forwarded properly] button, which takes me to a neat web page that tests and says "Error! Port 6881 does not appear to be open" with a link that takes me to a neat port configuration guide.
  • Indeed, my port forwarding settings are out-of-date since my Vista laptop slog, so I update my router to forward to new IP addresses
  • the web page test now works, the warning icon goes away, but still no download activity
  • disable Norton 360 Firewall altogether
  • then a computer in Sweden starts handing me pieces of the file. Estimated time to download: 31 hours.
  • the warning icon comes back, the web page test fails, yet the little-computer-that-could in Sweden is still slowly passing me pieces of the file
  • 20 minutes into this two other computers join in, one handing me pieces at a rapid clip.
  • After another 24 minutes I have the entire download on my computer
  • The anonymous uploader had converted the CD tracks to Free Lossless Audio Codec format. The key is "lossless", these are shrunken files to save disk space and time but they don't use audio compression like MP3 or AAC files.
    FLAC stands out as the fastest and most widely supported lossless audio codec, and the only one that at once is non-proprietary, is unencumbered by patents, has an open-source reference implementation, has a well documented format and API, and has several other independent implementations.
  • But Apple with their monopolistic bullshit not-invented-here "We'll only work with open source when there's a business case to do so" attitude doesn't support .flac files, so I can't play them in iTunes.
  • bitch yet again about this on Apple's feedback form
  • try to find the obscure music player I used last time to play flac files. Nope, not Media Player Classic, it's VideoLAN VLC music player with some Xiph codec bundle.
  • play Joanna Newsom's tracks.
I feel I deserve a merit badge for getting it to work, but it is wrong. It's definitely not stealing, but it is piracy as in "copyright infringer." Alas, the Fairtunes site built by two Canadians in a dorm room that let you voluntarily donate money to artists when you rip them off went defunct years ago. Even during the Napster boom when millions of people were downloading billions of songs, they only received a few tens of thousands of dollars.

Joanna Newsom, I owe you $7.80 (13 songs at .60 cents). What's your PayPal account?

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Monday, February 4, 2008

food: vegetables arranged to have IQ of 142

Back to Millennium Restaurant. Interesting to compare and contrast with an earlier visit. No single standout ingredient like the mushrooms to end all mushrooms.

Start simple
Roasted Beets
Then move to
Cauliflower & Cipollini Onion Pakora
spicy coconut & cilantro chutney, cardamom scented pear-curry leaf relish
yummy, creamy, delicious fusion food but you could imagine other restaurants like Tangerine getting lucky and delivering this.

Now main course, read very very carefully
Smoked Cherry Chard & French Lentil Roulade
crisp olive oil crust, black chanterelle & merlot reduction, Meyer lemon & rosemary roasted artichoke & potato gratin, fried capers, grilled endive & blood orange
Any good restaurant would be overjoyed just to come up with the artichoke and potato gratin. Greens Restaurant, fine though they are, would have put the chard and roulade (a slice of a roll) together with the fried capers and been well satisfied. But Eric Tucker's kitchen is taking your mouth places you didn't know existed. The endive is so tart and bitter it's close to a wincing bite of grapefruit. It makes you return to the other elements to experience them anew. The blood orange is another taste juxtaposed with the rest.

My date had a similar tongue overdrive.
Seared Emerald Rice Cake
sauté of jerked seitan, crisp plantains, brassicas, baby erbette chard, ginger scented coconut & winter squash puree, Seville orange & habanero coulis
The moist chewy rice sits in repose at the center of a solar system of tastes and ingredients, and all the planets align. Anyone else would have focused on the habanero, but here it's just a slight harmonic. I re-read the menu over and over to make sense of all the ingredients.

It was so stimulating that I circled back for another starter
Grilled Maitake Mushroom Flatbread
seared baby onions, fava greens, pine nuts, cashew garlic cream, bitter green salad
Unlike the main courses this dish wasn't smarter than its eater, it was almost a pizza. But the bitter, peppery green salad brought each mouthful to life, and the touch of cashew garlic cream was soft, warm, unbelievable.
You're a vegetable, you're a vegetable
Still they hate you, you're a vegetable
You're just a buffet, you're a vegetable
They eat off of you, you're a vegetable
-- Wanna Be Startin' Somethin' Michael Jackson off Thriller (25 years old)

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art: Decotora! Decotora! Decotora!

From the “Decotora” photo book. © Masaru Tatsuki

From the “Decotora” photo book. © Masaru Tatsuki

== "Decorated trucks" Makes me homesick for Japan, a place I've only been for 14 days. The obsessive impulse of the "Proud and lonely".

I'd love to see those hurtling over California's I-80 at night through the snow.

Read PingMag's interview with the author of the “Decotora” photo book, Masaru Tatsuki.

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