Saturday, March 29, 2008

Browse Instantly

Paige and I have been using Netflix's Watch Instantly feature a lot lately. When it first launched, I was maxing out my 10 hours of "credit" within a weekend plus a day, for episodes of Dr. Who, obscure movies I didn't care enough to see in theaters, and classics (Day the Earth Stood Still, etc). That is to say, I was already a fan when they revised the policy to grant unlimited hours to Netflix customers. I hope the trend continues and more movies get added to the instant feature. I love it!

Sunday, March 23, 2008

An easterless Easter

I woke up at 6 with anxiety around some of my work projects. I don't normally have anxiety, but because I'll be moving soon and I'm trying to maintain the highest possible standard for delivering results that nobody else can deliver, simultaneously, I'm experiencing it now. I have some stuff due tomorrow that needs to be good. Well, it needs to be done -- on the platform proscribed by our organization which means it won't necessarily be good, just correct. These days, more and more, correct passes for good in my organization. (It's one reason why, IMHO, the American corporation is on the decline.)

I took a shower, made coffee and went back upstairs to read in bed until Paige woke up. She was stirring already, so we just relaxed for a few minutes. I realized then that I hadn't done anything Eastery, at all. Didn't color eggs, no church (obviously), we don't eat ham or pork or other traditionally Easterish dishes... And I was a little sad. It's hot today. Hot. High 80s here, low 90s inland.

I worked from 8am until 9am, then I did yoga (missed your call M&T, during that time). I'm leaving the house in a few minutes to teach my only class of the day, at 11. I think Paige will do my class today and then we'll see what sort of lunch we feel like -- probably a big salad comprised of veggies from the farmer's market that we got yesterday, and croquettes.

About 2 p.m. we'll take our regular Sunday nap. I'll then come back to the computer. Paige may continue watching Season 2 of The Office on Netflix On Demand. I'll listen. We'll take a walk -- maybe in the neighborhood across Beach -- and talk about moving, Southern California, yoga, Durham, school, people we know, dreams we've had the last few nights, and books we're reading. Then we'll come home, find something to munch on, and go to bed.

It's a nice Sunday, but not Eastery. Perhaps there's still time to change that.

Monday, March 17, 2008

Decison '08

Davis was great. We loved it. The folks were very enjoyable. The farmer's market was amazing -- packed with people, superior food and produce. Downtown was adorable, with houses, businesses, restaurants and cafes all lovely, inviting and totally livable. Even the train from Oakland to Davis was a breeze. All the seats have power outlets and there's free wifi if you need it. I can hardly believe what a simple move that would be. The largest store in Davis is ACE Hardware, for goodness sake!

All that said, the program Paige would be a part of is struggling for funding and the general atmosphere isn't one of "we got your back." It's more like: "We got your side, mostly, but you have to get your own front and back, and your other side. Also, I tend to slip every now and then and may leave you open to a flanking." It's not like you're exposed, its just that the resources really aren't there in the same way that they are at, say, Duke. It's a UC -- what can one expect? Wonderful academic scholarship comes from the faculty at Davis, and Paige fully intends to stay in touch with people there. But when it comes to giving her access to what she wants to be successful throughout her doctorate and beyond... Well, maybe Davis can hire her when she's done and we can go be a part of that community then.

Now, it comes to me. Will my employer support my going virtual? I think Davis would have been a slam dunk, but Durham is a slightly different story. My job doesn't require me to be collocated with any particular site, and I've made more strides for the library and our organization in terms of reputation and innovation in the past two years than it has experienced in five. I believe that. But that alone will not make going virtual a sure thing. Too much that I can't control affects that and all I do is say, "At least in my case, past performance is absolutely indicative of future returns. Believe it."

Paige and I begin planning for Durham this week. We could move as soon as June.

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

On creativity and the importance of crafting perception

A really wonderful article from Andy Rutledge (out of Plano... ha!) on A List Apart today discusses creativity, the role that we as designers (if you're on A List Apart it's related to design on the web but we all know that creatives ply their trade across media) play in shaping the perception of creativity in the minds of their clients and employers. Gems include these lines:
Creativity is an inborn capacity for thinking differently than most, seeing differently, and making connections and perceiving relationships others miss. But most importantly, it is the ability to then extrapolate contextually useful ways of employing that data: to create something that meets a specific challenge.
... as well as a host of others that contribute to an excellent thought piece, with potential for application to your life.

Sunday, March 09, 2008

Hawaii, Day by day

More for my own remembering than for your particular (or collective) enjoyment, here's what Paige and I did on Maui, in a day by day fashion. Oddly enough, it's almost more of a food journal than an activity report. We really tried to eat local the whole time which meant that because Hawaii's growing seasons are like ours and are not truly "tropical" (meaning that yes, they have a winter season during which things like tomatoes won't grow), that we ended up eating quite similarly to how we'd eat at home. Anyway, on to the day by day.

We arrived in Maui in the mid afternoon -- Paige had downloaded a "Showtime Original Drama" called Californication starring David Duchovney that she described as "completely despicable," though, she watched all of the first season on the plane. (She later lamented the fact that the show stuck in her head for about a week or two and wouldn't leave.) On arrival, my yoga mat didn't make our flight and they claimed that it would arrive that night. It didn't arrive for two days, by which time I'd purchased a new mat. It was time anyway, but I was glad to have my rug and bag back.

From the airport, we drove the Kahakuloa highway to the hotel (much to Frank's dismay) and stopped for banana bread and coconut in Honokohau bay.

When we got to the Ritz at Kapalua, the valet was absolutely insane. Using in-ear radio communication, the first valet to make contact with us relayed names to everyone and without even announcing who we were, people started addressing us by name -- well, Mr. Welch, Ms. Welch and while I was Mr. Walters occasionally, throughout the trip I was Mr. Welch because that was the name on the room and it was just easier. At least it wasn't something like "Tanaka" -- that would have really thrown people off. ;)

As we checked in the concierge greeted us with leis (orchid for Paige and that local black nut for Frank and I), cubes of fresh pineapple and fruit infused water. Classy. Check in was very slow -- that's one process they could improve.

That night, we had dinner in The Terrace restaurant; Frank had Shrimp Cocktail for an appetizer, and some sort of fruity drink. Paige and I shared some Maui Onion Rings and I had a "Lahaina Lemonade." For dinner, Paige had a pasta/couscous dish and I had a sampling of side dishes -- Truffle potatoes, Mushroom Risoto and a layered Potato dish that was like au gratin. Frank had steak or something. Needless to say, The Terrace doesn't specialize in vegetarian. Actually, Hawaii in general was quite lousy for vegetarian. If you do fish you're golden, but if you don't -- they don't know what to do.

Up at 4 a.m. because the time change really threw us off. Paige and I went out to the lava peninsula near the hotel and saw Sea Turtles at D.T. Fleming Beach Park (the beach area by the Ritz). That was amazing and we were mesmerized by them.

Monday was our "get to know the area" day, and so we took the car (Frank would golf every day until he left on Thursday so we only saw him in the evenings). In Lahaina we walked around and saw the famous banyan tree, beaches and historical plantation houses.

We had brunch at Lahaina Coolers, a little bar off the main drag, that was open for breakfast and had a nice big patio near a few art galleries. Paige had a Veg Surfer's Special (a vegetarian breakfast burrito) and I had Veg Loco Moco - stir fried veggies and eggs with gravy over rice, with macaroni salad on the side. Had it been regular loco moco, it would have been a hamburger patty rather than the veggies. Actually, I missed the hamburger patty. (Again, Hawaiian restaurants don't seem to know what to do with veg.)

After driving almost all the way back around to the airport just so see where the highway went because we still didn't have a good map, we stopped again right near the hotel to rent snorkel equipment for the week. We also stopped at a roadside stand for avocado, oranges, a pineapple and a coconut which was a total mess. We'd been looking for the farmers market, which the Internet had told us was in Lahaina -- little did we know that officially, Lahaina extended all the way up to just south of Kapalua, including Kanapali, which we thought was something different -- it's still Lahaina -- and that the little parking lot we'd seen that morning that had 6 vendors and about 40 people there, was the farmers market.

We learned this fact by hitting the market (the "store" portion only, because the parking lot activities had ended at noon) at around 1 p.m. -- remember we were up at 4 -- and found that it was just like a little Mother's market, island style. That became our grocery store although, it was grand larceny shopping there.

Upon arriving back in the palace -- I mean, our room -- we put away all the groceries in our fridge, closed the drapes (leaving the patio doors open) and napped. When we woke up, around 2:30, we wandered down to the beach and swam for a good 90 minutes, before returning to our room to clean up and make a salad to eat with our fruit.

We went out to watch the sunset on the rocks from which we'd seen turtles that morning -- looking off at Molokai -- and then walked back to the room to await Frank's call, and find out where he wanted to eat. We ended up at a Chinese place called China Boat in Lahaina that Paige and I'd seen earlier that day. For all the fun and relaxation we'd had during the day, Frank was pretty down in the mouth (despite being about $600 up on his golf betting) and the mood was sort of sour. But it ended soon enough and we were back in the amazing hotel ready to sleep and greet another day.

We started the day at a more respectable 5 a.m., with yoga on the patios followed by a breakfast of banana bread, coffee, oatmeal and fruit. We were eager to get out of the hotel and on the road to get to the hike we'd planned for the morning.

On the drive to Waihee, we kept seeing splashes out in the water and when we stopped McGregor Point Lighthouse -- a not-so-safe turnout that is known for car break-ins -- we watched whales for at least 30 minutes, right off the beach! It was amazing. They were everywhere, and became a theme of our trip, at least as much as the turtles had been.

Back on the road, I made Paige stop (well, I was driving) for a quick coffee and pastry at a Cafe in Wailuku, that looked cute. And it was, and the people in there were the first non-overweight, non-sunburned, non-retirement aged folks we (or at least I) had seen since arriving. I felt rejuvenated by being with "our people" again for a few minutes and it was a great way (IMHO) to start what would be a very fun, if gentle, 6 mile hike up Waihee Ridge, looking off at more whales, scenery and beaches. We even saw a few of the West Maui Mountain water falls from the scenic vistas.

After the hike -- again, around noon because we started each day so early, we had lunch back in Wailuku at a good sandwich stop. I had a really tasty Carrot Cashew wrap with "up country greens" and Paige had some bites of the wrap, and a smoothie. We wandered around that little "down town" for an hour or so, peeking into a quaint little yoga studio (it was closed) and a few antique stores -- one in particular where the proprietor talked our ears off about Czech dishes, urban legends on the island, and god-knows-what-all. It was a kick.

Again back in the hotel for a nap, a swim and a walk on the rocks to see the sunset off of the outcropping between D.T. Fleming Beach Park and Oneloa Bay. Frank called late and Paige and I resolved to just bring back pizza and a salad from Dolly's Pub & Cafe in Lahaina -- which was very, very good. One of the more satisfying meals we had while there. (I know, you people are thinking, 'Well, if they'd just eat the fish...' and you may be right, but that's not where we're at right now so whatever.)

A similar morning -- sunrise on the rocks, banana bread and coffee, coconut... We left the hotel around 8 a.m. to go to O'o Farm, a great little farm owned by a few restaurant owners to grow all their own greens and whatever other vegetables come up. They've been successful with quite a number of crops including the different lettuces and greens like arugula and cilantro, and root vegetables like daikon and beets. They're also starting coffee (they've had one crop so far -- small yet to them, successful) and some greenhouse plants like tomato. They have success with stone fruit trees, avocado and then some other, more tropical fruits the names of which I forget. Lunch was cooked by the head chef at I.O. and consisted of our best "restaurant" meal while on Maui -- La Brea Bakery bread, pan seared Daikon and seared herb crusted tofu, stir fried candy stripe beets with beet greens, fresh salad, raw veggies, and a dessert of early season strawberries with chocolate. It was very pleasant.

Around 1 we left there and drove back to the Waihee river area, in search of the hike up the river bottom we saw from the ridge the day before. It turned into a funny little gentle hike about 2.5 miles up alongside the river (which was dry at the bottom) and the century old irrigation channel (which was FULL), that brought fresh water from the Maui rain forest down to the crops of farmers in the drier valleys. It was a hot, humid hike that ended in a little watter plunge (not really a fall) that was the result of one of those century-old aqueduct's deteriorating. I climbed up on top and jumped in about 15 - 20 feet to the pool below. It was cold. Paige thought I was silly for doing it and couldn't be convinced. I'm glad I did it. (We have no pictures of this hike because, well, we just aren't very good at taking the camera places.)

On the way back around the island we stopped again at the Farmers Market in Lahaina, where I picked up some stuff for my own dinner because Paige was going to the Pipeliners "President's" dinner. Paige's dinner report included: spinach salad, scoup of mango sorbet, vegetables in marinara sauce with crusted tofu slab, pineapple creme brule w/piece of pineapple biscotti, tea, champagne. She said it was fair, not great.

I had a salad with ingredients from the farmers market, and a few Red Stripes. Bed came early because I was exhausted from the two days' hikes. Paige got back around 10:30. I'd already been asleep for a few hours.


We started Thursday at The Terrace restaurant again, this time for their reportedly "wonderful" breakfast buffet. It wasn't fabulous, but it wasn't disappointing either. Paige ordered the Macadamia nut pancakes with coconut syrup and I got the buffet which included omelette bar, waffle bar, some hot dishes (sausage and stuff like that), granola, lots of fresh fruit and etc. We split all that and felt much-engorged due to the mass consumption of ~3000 calorie breakfasts. :)

After breakfast, we sat around the pool until about 10, then went down to the beach around 11 where we snorkeled until around 1:30, at which time we had to get back to the room and clean up so that we could take Frank to the airport. On the way around the island, Frank said he wanted to stop for a sandwich so as we drove through Kahului, I spotted what looked like a "hippie" grocery store, a la Whole Foods, and wheeled in. My radar was spot on and it happened to be the one, official "Organic Foods" market in Kahului, Down to Earth Market and Cafe. They had a great little deli and prepared food counter where I had a nice sesame tofu wrap, Paige got a quesadilla, and Frank -- totally weirded out by the fact that this place didn't sell anything with meat -- had a black bean chilie with a tortilla (we didn't even begin to broach the "spelt flour" that was used in the tortilla, and what "gluten free" entailed.)

After dropping Frank at the airport, we headed back to the market for a few more groceries and around the mountain back to the hotel. Paige did yoga, I swam in the pool and hot tubbed. After cleaning up, we walked back out on the golf course to watch the sunset, and were early to bed.

Our last full day, we had breakfast in the room of fruits, breads, oatmeal and coffee, then we sauntered out to the pool for reading and swimming until mid-morning. We'd wanted to hit the real, outdoor farmer's market in Lahaina so we got there around 10:30 and bought -- of all things -- bagels and Maui onion mustard. Oh, and some "housemade" frozen yogurt. We watched some locals spear fish a little bay, children playing in the park, and other local life. When we got back to the room we made sandwiches with all the fresh veggies and bagels we had, and then went back out to the pool.

When the sun got too warm we retired to the shade of our room where Paige took a nap and I read. The afternoon progressed along slowly and I ultimately switched from my book to Pokemon Pearl on the DS (which, though I've left it out of this post, I put about 13 hours into when counting time on the plane).

Around 4 we went down to the beach for a bit more swimming and snorkeling until about 5:30, and then went back up to the room to clean up for dinner at the Banyan Tree, the Ritz' "flagship" dinner spot that overlooked the beach.

Dinner started with an amuse buche of Quinois. We followed that with Eggplant pate (they called it caviar but was a pate), Surfing Goat Goat Cheese and Strawberries, Sesame bread with olive oil and Middle Eastern crumbs. All that was so-so. The goat cheeze was good, but not $18 good. Paige had a Winter Vegetable Curry "Hot Pot" with coconut jasmine rice, and I had Vegetable Stir Fry with Tofu and tapioca. Neither was fantastic, but the tapioca in the stirfry instead of rice was actually a really light alternative, and it kept the "freshness" of the dinner intact (whereas rice sometimes comes off as too heavy in a "spa dinner." For dessert we had a chocolate sampler with four different little chocolate yummies, and a small plate of Beignets with dulce du leche ice cream. Dessert was the high point, but none of it was spectacular. They brought the bill out with some house-made candy. It was a nice touch but didn't make up for the "all flash / little substance" experience.

After dinner, we took a walk around the pool area and stuck our feet in the hot tub, before going back inside and melting into bed.

Our last day in Maui -- we hit The Terrace one more time, this time with Paige getting the full buffet, and me going just for the "continental" with fruit and "cold foods" like cereals, granolas and whatnot.

We cleaned up, packed, made this list of notes (though with less annotation) and loaded pictures on the computer. We verified that the iPods and computer were charged, that our reading material was handy and that any snack food we'd need for the plane was packed. I washed the snorkel gear and made a few final passes through the room, and around noon, we left the hotel -- Paige went to check out while I retrieved the car from the back-40. We stopped to drop off our snorkel equipment and continued around the horn. We lunched one more time at the market in Kahului, fueled up the car and got the airport 2 hrs. early, and it was a good thing because the lines were insane. It took about 90 minutes for us to get through the lines in checking bags and then security. I grabbed some coconut Mochi for Julie and then we went off to the gate.

The plane home was full. Paige finished the shows on her iPod and then watched some Arrested Development on the computer. I read Ursula Le Guin's "The Disposessed" and when I finished, I moved back to Pokemon Pearl. We landed in LAX around 10:30 and while Paige waited for baggage, I took the shuttle to get the car. It timed just right and she waited on the curb no more than three minutes for me in the car.

I don't know that we'll ever go back but if we do, we recommend "Up Country Bed and Breakfast" which is upcountry on Haleakala, on the way to O'o Farm. The view is spectacular and they charge only $150 per night (compared with the $600 per night where we stayed). Also, they're closer to the hikes we enjoyed, though they are about 30 minutes from the beach. It's just a different experience.

Ultimately, we had a wonderful time and the whole experience will stay with us for years to come.

Thursday, March 06, 2008

When the forces of mediocrity unite against us...

In the massively bureaucratic environment that is my sandbox, I'm constantly pressing against the forces of "status quo" and "safe." Luckily, I have wonderful mentors and colleagues who, while many of them do not wield influence in the same way I'm capable/blessed, they prop me up behind the scenes and make me feel better about the resistance I face.

Seth Godin has a great post about persevering in the face of mediocrity. Read it. Enjoy.

Tuesday, March 04, 2008

Amazing, funny BSG recap video shows first three seasons of BSG in 8 minutes

An amazing video posted on shows the first three seasons of BSG in a little over 8 minutes. All the tension, heart, political undertones and drama isn't in there, but it's a really accurate portrayal of the main thread. There is lots of name dropping and no back story gets anything more than lipservice (0bviously, how could it when distilling roughly 50 hours of television down to 8 minutes), but it's worth a watch as we build up to season four, beginning in April.

(Oh, and there's a really funny version of "The Last Supper" portrayed with BSG cast in the background of the page. That's good too.)

If this works, it's the greatest thing since the blender...

Apartment Therapy: Kitchen blogged this week about a potential kitchen gadget "hack/mod" using your blender pitcher's blade collar on a standard mason jar, to turn your blender into a really, really useful kitchen tool.

In my mind, this potentiality would mean I'd no longer have to use my coffee grinder on small jobs, but I could instead blend and store ground nuts, cream, soups, hummus and all sorts of other stuff, without the hassle of using the whole blender pitcher.

Check this out at Simply Recipes. They seem to have an old-style Oster blender whose jar has a fancy metal collar. I hope my blender jar doesn't have a glass bottom with just a post ant the blade at the bottom, but I sort of think it does. Bottom line -- I'm remembering this for next time I'm out blender shopping or garage sale poaching.