fighting the lack of good ideas

burma allowing help… finally

I read in the Wall Street Journal this morning that, 5 weeks after the cyclone that devastated their country, the Burmese (“Myanmarish”) government is finally allowing UN relief helicopters to bring food to the needy.It’s truly sad. The government sent the US Navy, who wanted to help, away. And they’ve disallowed UN relief efforts for over a month.A government that can’t be bothered to allow people to help it when it’s in trouble is going to kill its citizenry. 


I love paella. Whoever it was that thought to harvest crocus pollen for flavor was a genius.

Last night after arriving in Sunnyvale CA for a training class, I started Googling for tapas places nearby. I had been looking forward to going to a restaurant in San Francisco, but driving an hour for dinner, when the folks I had originally planned to eat with were at work, wasn’t worth it to me.

I found one close-by in Mountain View. Cascal is located at 400 Castro St. They have extensive outdoor seating, as well as dozens of tables indoors.

One of my co-workers and I headed over to Cascal at about 8:15p, and when we sat down and perused the menu, I had the enjoyable, but somewhat unusual, task of getting to explain large chunks of the menu (thanks to both a food & culture class, and a Spanish culture class I took at Elon). We both ordered paella, which is roughly a Spanish saffron rice casserole. I ordered the Paella Rustica, which had chicken and rabbit, and he ordered the Paella Cascal, the house special which included sausage, and interesting vegetables. Our meals were about $25 each.

The small size orders, which we had, came out in pans about 10″ across. I was afraid to ask how big the “large” orders were, but they were about twice the cost. They must be meals for two or three. As it was, I wasn’t even able to make it through the whole small order, and I can pack food away.

Our waiter was attentive enough to make sure we had everything we needed, but didn’t hover. Overall, it was a pleasant meal with quick service, and I would recommend Cascal to anyone visiting or living in Silicon Valley.

fire from the sky

While flying to Sunnyvale yesterday, I had the “privilege” to see a small wildfire from the air. It was very small, on the order of a couple acres, and somewhere nearish to Monterey, and close to the coast.

The orange smoke was quite striking from the air. Hopefully, firefighters have been able to get it contained by now, but it was definitely interesting to see from 30,000 feet.

boot camp

I’m off to Sunnyvale CA for a week for some intensive, advanced product training for the software I install and handle on-site support for. Should be a long, tiring, fun week.

cash cab

I’m a huge fan of the Discovery Channel series, Cash Cab. While in New York this week, I kept looking for the elusive 1-in-13000 cabs that Ben Bailey drives, hoping for the opportunity to hop in and play the game.

Well, I didn’t have a chance to get in, but I saw the cab Tuesday night: a minivan complete with flashing ceiling, and Ben driving with his ear piece in place.

It’s obviously not as cool as being on the show, but still pretty exciting.

bridge cafe

From 273 W 38th St to 279 Water St in Manhattan is a bit of a hike. The way I walked was about 5.4 miles. Yes, I walked. If I’d known better how to get there, I could have done it in 4.2 miles. But I didn’t, so I walked the long way.

The only reason I wanted to go to the Bridge Cafe was because I had seen it on a Food Network special a couple weeks back, where they had highlighted the fact that it has been in continual operation as a business since 1794, making it (most likely) the oldest bar/restaurant in New York City.

When I got there, though, I saw a sign on the door indicating that food was unavailable because of a kitchen fire. “Great,” I thought, “I walked all this way and can’t even have a sandwich.” Well, I had walked all that way, and figured I should at least go in, since I was there. I walked in just as a couple other folks were leaving the bar, and asked the bar tender for a drink: after a walk that long, I needed one.

The bar tender drew me a Sam Adams Summer, and I sat down to enjoy a little break before heading out to find “real” food. That was at about 8pm. At the end of the bar, a couple seats down from myself, there was a woman sitting who asked how I’d gotten there because she hadn’t heard a cab door close. I told her I had walked. From 38th & 8th. From midtown – all the way down to below the Brooklyn Bridge. On foot. Just then, the bar tender wandered back over, since there were no other customers, and he and Lisa were in shock over how far I walked. Then he asked me why I had come, because, after all, it was one heck of a hike: and I told him I’d seen the place showcased on the Food Network, and wanted to give it a shot.

New York, especially Manhattan, is an eminently walkable city – it’s just that “normal” people take the subway, bus, or a cab if they have to go more than 8 or 10 blocks, apparently. Guess I’m not normal.

Adam, the bar tender, who also turned out to be the owner, started chatting with myself and Lisa, who had arrived only a few minutes before I had (but by bus and a short walk). Turns out that Lisa is a pharmaceutical editor who lives mere blocks from where I ate Monday, Virage. Don’t quite know what that means, but that’s what she does. Lisa’s also a hobbyist filmmaker. Adam’s an eclectic music aficionado. For five and a half hours I sat at the bar chatting with Adam and Lisa, and the couple other folks who wandered in later.

I mentioned, in passing, that I nearly stopped at a place on 2d, but the waitress whom I’d had Monday wasn’t there, so I kept walking. When pressed for details on the name of the place, I told them it was Virage, and Lisa then launched into a lengthy discourse on all the food places within a couple blocks of where I had been Monday, down to a place that only serves macaroni and cheese, called S’Mac.

Topics ranged from funky music (including Tom Waits) to film festivals. Discussions of Scotch, cake, bourbon, beer, Korean chefs, and the list goes on and on. As a side note, it turns out I know more about whiskeys, scotches, and beer than any of Adam’s bar tenders – he even told me (half-jokingly, I think, but maybe not) I should come work there if I have free time when I’m in New York.

Having been told about S’Mac, my grand plan was to finish my drink, get a cab or bus back uptown a ways, and go try some of this off-the-wall mac & cheese. That plan gradually faded through the evening. At 00:24 I checked my cell phone for the time, and realized I had long since missed the opportunity to get food. At least, to get food and still get back to the hotel for at least a solid nap before my last day at my customer’s site.

Fortunately, though, when I sat down I sat at the Scotch end of the bar. I am a huge fan of Scotch, and I think I went into some form of intermittent nirvana when looking-over the choices. I had a Laphroaig 15. I’ve had the 10 before, but the 15 was so much smoother I was amazed – I hadn’t yet met a Scotch that outdid my favorite Laphroaig 10, and now I have. A little later, Adam poured a pony of Bruichladdich Infinity to try. The smoky depth was palate-sparking.

Having enjoyed the Laphroaig, and sampled the Bruichladdich, I slid back to something less heavy, and tried the Six Points Ale on tap. Six Points is in Brooklyn, and smacks the pants of Brooklyn Brewery any day of the week.

At 1:24 I finally had to call it a night so that I could get a couple hours’ sleep before work today. As I was standing to leave, though, Lisa announced that she needed to find an ATM so she could get a ride home. Her apartment is literally a half block out of the way for the ride I was going to need, so we did a very un-New Yorker thing to do, and split the ride back uptown.

I don’t quite know when I finally hit the sack this morning, but I know it was after 2. The next time I’m in Manhattan for more than a few hours, I’m definitely going back to the Bridge Cafe, and see what kind of food they do have.

Thanks, Adam (and Lisa) for an entertaining, enjoyable, enlightening evening. It was the best night I’ve had out “by myself” in years.

we interrupt this regularly-scheduled lunch…

…to bring you this update:

I just saw a guy climbing the side of the New York Times building here in Manhattan. Not sure if it’s the same guy who climbed the Eiffel Tower, but it was interesting.

Definitely not something you see every day.