July 2003


We have a place to live. Thank goodness. But now I have to learn how to garden properly so we can grow tasty herbs, fruits and vegetables.

I went to Pettingell Book Bindery in Berkeley today and bought some blank books. It would be cool to make paper. Something fun to learn for a month, and maybe I can make something nifty in the process.

I imagine that somewhere Norbert Wiener is laughing at me, surrounded by his cohorts of evil elves in pointy hats. Laugh it up, Norbert. We shall have a reckoning at the proper time.

decimation – early 15c., from L.L. decimationem, from L. decimare “the removal or destruction of one-tenth,” from decem “ten.” Killing one in ten, chosen by lots, from a rebellious city or a mutinous army was a common punishment in classical times.

Signal processing is full of decimation. But it’s usually by 2. I guess it should be “bimation” or something. I should learn Latin. But first, I should learn signal processing, no?

Christy and I hiked a short trail in Marin yesterday, and then I managed to fail to drive to wine country. After coming back, we watched Swingers at the Pyramid Brewery. It resonates with me much more now that I’ve moved from the East Coast to California. Now I just have to learn how to swing dance. And get a booking agent.

Something odd about Berkeley: there are no carwashes, it seems. I mean, no drive-through carwashes, like the kind I loved to go through as a child. Instead, you pay $10-$30 and have a horde of people descend on your car and wash it by hand while you sit inside.

I went to Radio Bar (in Oakland) with Dave and Dan tonight. Props to Dave for choosing the bar. The first mojito I had was pretty good, the second kind of weak. But the Manhattan I had before that was pretty good, and they gave me the extra that didn’t fit in the glass, which was pretty cool. On the way to BART we met Erin (who lives above Dan and Dave), and met up with her friend Anthony, and his friend Suzanna, and then Kofi, Walter, and Cheveda showed up, so it was a real party. Totally awesome. This is what life should be like when I go to a bar.

Apartment hunt starts tomorrow. Huzzah.

On Chestnut at Divisadero. This is a tasty but expensive Greek restaurant that is way out of the way in San Francisco. To go here, you would have to go out of your way. But if you crave Greek food and price is no object, this place isn’t a bad idea. We got a huge meal, with wine and dessert, which made it even pricier. The service was good, though, and they are real Greek people from Greece, so if authenticity worries you, have no fears.

The plates are small to medium-sized, but they are meant to be shared. Unfortunately (for Jordan) they had no ouzo to go with the meal, but perhaps that was for the best. We had chickpea keftedes (patties), saganaki (fried cheese), “summery” calamari (stuffed with tomatoes and peppers), meatballs in tomato sauce, and shrimp in another tomato sauce. For dessert, the galactobourikos (custard wrapped in phyllo), and a lemon cake dipped in honey. All in all, very very filling, and very good. I also had a Kouros chardonnay, which claimed to be dry. Maybe if you had it with dessert it would be dry. Ann had a tasty gewurtztraminer, and Jordan had a different chardonnay.

I would go again, but my wallet won’t let me for a while. The listed price is without wine and dessert.

On Dwight, just east of Telegraph. Completely vegetarian South Indian food that is good and cheap. I mean, where else can you get a masala dosa for $3? It was pretty good, and the staff is friendly. Go earlier for dinner ( before 8 ) to avoid them running out of your favorite dish. As an added bonus, for a more authentic Indian experience, get a Thums Up/Fanta/Limca. Or don’t. Your call.

UPDATE : This place has since closed and was replaced by “The Patio.”)

By Zadie Smith. This is one of the best books I’ve read in the last few months, for sure. Every character has a compelling thread of story, woven together in the complex and brilliant tapestry that makes up this novel. It ranks up there with Midnight’s Children as a Great Novel, in my opinion. I loved the exaggeration of the characters, who, while larger-than-life, were eminently believable and human. But it was that distillation of them, what Smith chose to write about, that makes the whole experience so much fun.

I read this book in two binges of weekend reading — I couldn’t bring myself to read just a chapter a day over the course of time. I needed more, which is another tribute to the readability of this book. It takes a slice of a life in a place I know about only through movies and books (England), and made it more real in a way that I had not experienced before. Probably because the characters were Indian, and the time was when I, too, was growing up (unlike, say, Hanif Kureishi). I really connected with these characters, even though they were in another country.

The most interesting aspect of the book, thematically, was how it came back on itself at the end, that there’s this notion of historical necessity that many of the characters carry around with them the whole time. Hortense, who knows that the Rapture is nigh, Millat, who is obeying a destiny, Marcus, who has his mouse, and others too, I bet. If I had to write a paper on the novel, that is certainly something to think of. Everyone has a destiny to follow. And in writing, that is certainly true — the author has written an ending. The joy is in figuring out how the individual destinies intersect and work out in the end.

I went to the Takara Sake factory (in Berkeley!) yesterday, and looked at their museum (actually a single room) of 19th century sake-making equipment, and did the free tasting of their different brews. Much like in wine tasting, being able to try sips of 8 different sakes one after the other highlights the differences between them so that now I might be able to order intelligently the next time I go for sushi. They also had some plum wines, two mixed with chardonnay, and one with sake, and all pretty tasty, albeit sickeningly sweet. Definitely a dessert kind of drink.

Then I went to play ultimate, where I learned the meaning of pain from lack of endurance.

I saw a post earlier this week on MetaFilter about Bob Dylan having lifted some of his lyrics from a Japanese gangster novel, and then the same story appears in the NY times today, although the latter is more of an apologia for Dylan. Interestingly enough, Harvard rescinded its acceptance offer to Blair Hornstein, the girl who sued her school to be the only valedictorian, over her plagiarism in a journalism contest. Perhaps “plagiarize” should be the word of the week.

On Solano, a block or so west of the Alameda Way (MLK). This is the only place I know of in the Bay Area which serves Chicago-style deep dish pizza. Thank god it exists, and Uno’s be dammed. Zachary’s is tasty, perhaps not as cheesy as you might want it, but a welcome change from brick-oven and New York style pizza. A large pie (8 big pieces) will run you around $18-25, depending on how many toppings you want. There are usually three specials a day, all of which are pretty good. There’s generally a line for tables, and the pizza takes 35 minutes to cook, so don’t go here if you are really hungry or need to eat in a timely fashion. If you can take the time, however, it’s well worth the wait.

Shattuck between Delaware and Francisco. This is a hole-in-the-wall place that serves all kinds of Asian food. It’s pretty fast and cheap, but the staff is really friendly. They’re actually Vietnamese, so I would recommend getting the Vietnamese dishes (conveniently pictures on the wall). Dave got the pho, which he said was pretty good, especially compared to Pho House. I got the banh xeo, which is an eggy crepe filled with mushrooms, chicken, shrip, and bean sprouts. You’re supposed to pour fish sauce over it and then chow down. It was tasty, if a bit greasy. I probably wouldn’t go out of my way to go here, but if you’re right there, it’s worth a visit.

by Andrew Robinson. This slim volume is a biography of one of the stranger linguists of the 20th century, Michael Ventris. An architecht by training, he was obsessed for most of his life by the problem of deciphering Linear B, a script used in ancient Crete (and, as it turns out, elsewhere in the Aegean). This book is simultaneously a biography and description of how Ventris came upon his astonishing discovery — namely, that Linear B was used to write an archaic form of Greek (now known as Mycenean Greek). It’s written for a general audience, although some familiarity with how languages work (declension and conjugation) helps. All in all, a fascinating little book, one of the most interesting biographies I’ve read.

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