Archive for July 2008

Fairy Coffee

July 31, 2008

My second favorite local coffee review blog, “Man Seeking Coffee” recently reviewed a cafe that I had tried to visit a couple of months ago during Noe and Siobhan’s joint birthday celebration. Sadly, for reasons I never found out, Peter’s Big Pumpkin Espresso at Oakland’s Children’s Fairyland was closed that day and I had to enjoy the Pinocchio (which rhymes with finocchio, btw) puppet show without any coffee. I kind of figured at the time, “no big loss.” I mean, how good could Big Pumpkin espresso be? Well, apparently, I had no idea.

The spare simplicity of this place is really to be admired. They don’t even serve brewed coffee, just Americanos. … The barista pulled a very nice shot which was sweet, a little smoky and very smooth. It even had decent, albeit a little thin, golden brown crema. This was not a knock-your-socks-off espresso, but it was far better than amusement park coffee ought to be, and better than the majority of coffee in downtown Oakland. This is especially true given their mind-blowing, contrary-to-amusement-park-prices of just $1.25 for a single. Perhaps their secret is that the baristas are multi-talented. Besides pulling shots, mine pulled Pinnochio’s strings in the marionette show we had seen a half hour before. I kid you not. My nose is not growing. … On a genuinely more critical note, but also understandable given their location, is that they don’t serve their shots in ceramic. Everything is paper.

Since access to Fairyland is strictly guarded (adults are only admitted if they are accompanied by a kid), it may be a long time before I get a chance to taste the work of this pumpkin brewster (ok– that was his pun, not mine).


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Is your State capital in the right place?

July 31, 2008

A fun book I’ve read recently is called How the States Got Their Shapes, by Mark Stein. He explains the “why” of every last border. (In case you’re wondering, Michigan’s Upper Peninsula is a consolation prize given to the Wolverine State for losing the “Toledo War.” I kid you not. Both Ohio and Michigan REALLY wanted the home of the Mud Hens.)

Stein’s book got me thinking about a distinctive characteristic of America’s political geography: the fact that most State capitals are located in what seems to be the center of the State. Stein argues that Congress intentionally tried to create States that were as equal (geographically) as possible. The corollary to that policy (at the State level) was to give everyone equal access to the levers of power. But a capital in the geographic center of a State may not mean much, if the population is distributed in such a way that most people have to travel far to get there.

So I found a list of the co-ordinates of the population centers of each State, as of the 2000 Census (helpfully provided by the Census Bureau), and plotted them on Google Earth. The population center, of course, is defined as the spot where the State would balance if it were flat, and each person was standing where they live. I measured the distance from that spot to the State capitol building (as the crow flies). And amazingly, almost every State has their capital in roughly the “right” spot.

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Live blogging my breakfast

July 25, 2008

This is probably the self-involved post you were dreading– Troy blogging from a coffeeshop. Well, I finally got the iPhone and had to do it once. Especially since I don’t have a laptop.

Dan’s asleep and I’m across the street at Apollo’s with my Americano and crossword. Manaf is working this am. I haven’t seen him in a while– maybe he has gone through another assistant.

Gee, that was pretty boring so far. I wonder what everyone else blogs about during coffee. Let’s see… After several days of checking availability online, I finally found an iPhone at the marina store. I waited an hr in line, then another hour plus setting everything up and it was mine. Pretty much the rest of yesterday was an indulgence.. fixing all the settings, synching, and playing with the apps. WordPress just came out with this one so that I can (thank god) finally blog on the go.

If you have read this far, I congratulate u. I’m going back to the crossword now.

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Movie Review: Tell No One (Ne le dis à personne)

July 22, 2008

When you are reading the Kabuki movie listings and trying to decide what movie to see on your day off, although you want to see Batman and that ABBA movie, your plans can quickly change when you read that there is a well-reviewed French movie showing– a thriller which features a pediatrician who suddenly becomes a prime suspect in the 8-year old murder of his wife. How can you pass that by? Heath will have to wait.

So, Dan took a pass and I enjoyed the movie with several senior citizens. Overall, it was OK, though it really needed more pediatric scenes.

Pros: Pediatrician starring in an action movie with a thrilling chase scene

Nice french setting. City and country.

Pediatrician is so beloved by his families, that when he is on the run from the police who want to arrest him for murder, he can call on a patient’s father to go underground. This dad will also help him nose around the wrong part of town as his guide/bodyguard to figure out what is really going on.

Cons: Not enough pediatrics. A few scenes of the protagonist telling some presumably overly-protective parents that their little girl needs more ice cream, Barbies and TV– but that’s about it. Oh– and a scene establishing the fact that despite this bad-boy pediatrician air he exudes, he is very well respected, b/c one dad (see above) really *owes* him for diagnosing his kid with hemophilia and getting the police off his back (they think he had been hitting his kid). That can come in handy when you are on the lam, falsely accused of murder (or is it falsely?).

Pediatrician, although handsome, is obviously about 20 years older than his wife. Not a problem, except for the flashback scenes when they are girlfriend and boyfriend and BOTH 10 years old..

Difficult to swallow resolution which is a bit too convenient. The ending is not very French, but is very Hollywood. Can no one do anything bad without having to justify it to the extreme with the most extraordinary of circumstances?

Tell No One’s Metacritic page

Run, pediatrician, run!

Seattle Mariners greats, Pt. 2

July 22, 2008

I’ve gone to much more trouble to pick the current team. (Something the M’s front office can’t say, based on the results of the last few years). After reading up on the state of sabermetrics, I’ve become convinced that Base Runs is the cream of the crop when it comes to estimating runs from a data-set of traditional statistics. In short: it models the run-scoring process in baseball correctly. The formula can be boiled down to: runs equal baserunners multiplied by the rate at which they score, plus home runs. Unlike every other run estimator, including Runs Created or linear weights, Base Runs predicts one run will result from a solo home run.

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Seattle Mariners greats, Pt. 1

July 22, 2008

Isaac and I used to keep track of things like this, back in High School. At that point, the M’s didn’t have as much talent as they’ve since picked up (and mostly traded away, or lost). His Houston Astros All-Time Greats team used to whip my M’s picks, when we put them head-to-head on some ancient computer game.

But then came Randy Johnson, and Ken Griffey, Jr. And eventually, Ichirô and the 2001 season. And the rest, as they say, is history. In the spirit of “good times,” I present here my up-dated and wholly revised Mariners All-Time Greats team, in two parts: The Kingdome Era (1977-1999) and the “Insurance” Field Era (1999– ).

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Turk St. farewell dinner

July 15, 2008

Dan made a yummy Miso-Miso Chicken for dinner tonite for everyone to celebrate the last night on Turk St. for the Ethan/Cathleen/Noe/Siobhan clan. Noe helped Dan pick out the chocolate cake for dinner, and of course no dinner would be complete without a game of “coins”– getting out all the pennies and rolling them. We’ll miss you guys! :(

Update: Yes, as Dan infers in the comments, this is the first time I’ve used our digital camera in like 2 years. Look for more once I have the iPhone.

Update 2 [Dan]: Noe actually liked my Miso-Miso Chicken. She ate “all” of her portion, and told me again today (Wednesday) how much she liked it. Memo to self: make it for her again.