21 November 2014

Peak Genesis

The original live version of "Tonight, Tonight, Tonight" was the peak of Genesis, in my opinion. I am a fan of all the many eras of Genesis, but my first favorite era was the mid-'80s.

This song and it's arrangement is powerful, ethereal, atmospheric, and even a bit gratuitous, sort of emblematic of the 1980's and its MTV driven consumerism and ambition. Phil's voice was still fully intact, allowing for the original aggressive delivery of the lyrics, and the song to retain its original key, as well as Tony Banks's mysterious sounding synth keyboard bridge, none of which would ever be repeated in subsequent live tours.


25 October 2014

CVS Takes One Step Towards Extinction

Twitter is lighting up with Apple Pay fans upset at CVS and RiteAid for pulling the plug on their NFC payment devices to prevent iPhone 6 users from paying with Apple Pay (as well as Google Wallet users), in anticipation of the 2015 launch of ConnectC, an insecure, customer data gathering, virtual coupon cluttering, QR code image scanning scheme, that a number of major retailers are hoping will work to beat out the banks as well as Apple and Google.
CVS in particular is getting singled out - many are threatening to boycott CVS until they restore the ability to pay by Apple Pay.
Walgreens accepts Apple Pay. I already shop there anyways.

28 September 2014

Favorite Quotes

I've previously shared these on my Facebook profile, which is not publicly accessible.

  1. "America, our moment is now... In this moment, let us reach for what we know is possible: a nation healed, a world repaired, an America that believes again." -Senator Barack Obama, campaigning in Iowa, November 2007

    "I've failed over and over and over again in my life. And that is why I succeed." -Michael Jordan, Nike commercial "Failure"

    “Nobody in life gets exactly what they thought they were going to get. But if you work really hard, and you’re kind, amazing things will happen." --Conan O’Brien, "The Tonight Show" final episode as host

    "Evolution is a fact, not a theory. It really did happen." -Carl Sagan, "Cosmos", ep 2, "One Voice in the Cosmic Fugue"

    “It makes good sense to revere the sun and the stars, because we are their children.” -Carl Sagan, "Cosmos", ep 9, “The Lives of The Stars”

    "The scientific world view is so much more exciting, more poetic, more filled with sheer wonder, than anything in the poverty stricken arsenals of the religious imagination." - Oxford professor Richard Dawkins, February 2002

    "Nothing is too wonderful to be true, if it be consistent with the laws of nature" - Michael Faraday

    "Science always wins over bullshit." -Dick Rutkowski

    "God is right here. God lives between the skin and bones... of a [roast] pig." - Anthony Bourdain, "No Reservations", Romania episode

    "Tastes like it died screaming." - Anthony Bourdain, "No Reservations", San Francisco episode, while chomping on a Red's Java House hamburger, lambasting Alice Waters and anyone's concern for how the cow lived before becoming a beef patty.

    "Just eat. The rule and law here [in Singapore] is: Bring the food to your mouth as fast as you can, without irritating your neighbors." - KF Seetoh, "No Reservations", Singapore episode

    "The more relaxed you are, the better you are at everything: the better you are with your loved ones, the better you are with your enemies, the better you are at your job, the better you are with yourself." - Bill Murray, fall 2012, speaking to members of the Screen Actors Guild, with a NY Times interviewer

    "So there's no such thing as work-life balance. There's work, and there's life, and there's no balance." - Sheryl Sandberg, Facebook COO

    “I have three messages: One is we should never, ever give up. Two is you never are too old to chase your dreams. Three is it looks like a solitary sport but it takes a team.” - Diana Nyad, 64, upon swimming Cuba to Key West without a shark cage, for 110 miles in 53 hours, on her 5th attempt in 35 years

    "I believe that what is wrong with our schools in this nation is that they have become unionized in the worst possible way. This unionization and lifetime employment of K-12 teachers is off-the-charts crazy." - Steve Jobs, February 2007

    "Your time is limited, so don't waste it living someone else's life. Don't be trapped by dogma — which is living with the results of other people's thinking. Don't let the noise of others' opinions drown out your own inner voice. And most important, have the courage to follow your heart and intuition... Stay Hungry. Stay Foolish." -Steve Jobs, commencement speech at Stanford, June 12, 2005

27 May 2014

Why Elon Musk is No Steve Jobs

Recently there was an online article proclaiming Elon Musk as the current day version of Steve Jobs, with a quote from a former colleague of Musk going as far as saying Musk far exceeds Jobs's capabilities. There's also a popular Quora discussion on the topic.

I admire Elon Musk. He has achieved great things in admirable, go-for-broke situations while leading very cool companies: PayPal, SpaceX, SolarCity and Tesla. On his own, he deserves respect and attention. And given his age, he will likely innovate and impress for decades to come.

But Elon Musk is no Steve Jobs.

1. No product demo aura. Steve Jobs mastered the product demo announcement event format like no other. No one cares that it sounded scripted and rehearsed and was always full of hyperbole. It amazed and stunned audiences just often enough to make fanboys want more. Musk is obviously not known for his product demo skills.

2. No legion of bitter, discarded former colleagues. Steve Jobs was known for being a total dick with many colleagues, including some very talented people. Regardless of whether it was justified, we all know and secretly admire that Jobs often got his way by mercilessly disparaging and firing people.

3. No hero's journey monomyth life story of acid induced visions, early victories, temptation, downfall, banishment in the desert, atonement and triumphant second coming. Along the same lines, Steve Jobs even lived a buddy story with The Woz. Musk's life story is instead punctuated with two divorces, betting the farm on his companies, and taking big government loans.

4. No affiliation with adored products used by generations of children who are now grown adults. Musk has no parallel with the exposure and impact that the Apple IIe and original Mac had on kids and schools.

5. No iconic clothing. The black turtleneck and jeans were quirky, but a necessary ingredient in the recipe of the Steve Jobs legend.

6. No impact on the creative class. Artists, musicians, photographers, videographers, and so many others have had their crafts deeply affected by Apple technology over the decades. Perhaps there will be a day when many of us will drive Tesla cars or fly into orbit on SpaceX rockets, but as of today, despite the retro-Sci-Fi cool these companies represent, they have not yet revolutionized something as fundamental as the arts.

Only because others have already compared Elon Musk to Steve Jobs that it is fair to then measure him as such.

And it is clearly no comparison.

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06 March 2014

Opening Theme to Cosmos

“The Cosmos is all that is, or ever was, or ever will be… 

"The Cosmos is full beyond measure, of elegant truths, of exquisite interrelationships, of the awesome machinery of nature… 

"Some part of our being knows, this is where we came from. We long to return. And we can, because the Cosmos is also within us. We are made of star stuff. We are a way for the Cosmos to know itself.”  -Carl Sagan

One of my favorites aspects of the original Cosmos on PBS was the beautiful opening theme music by Vangelis, titled “Heaven and Hell,” paired with some gorgeous animated paintings of distant stars and galaxies.

The music and Sagan's monologue still gives me tingles down my spine.

24 February 2014

Gluttony 8 Years Ago

I've always loved food, but 8 years ago, before getting married and having kids, gluttony was a frequent experience. A lengthy entry on my old blog on tribe.net captured one such period of overindulgence.

Originally posted Monday, January 16, 2006

The past few days have been another period of gluttony!!

Part of the reason was because for just over a day, my gf had a friend from out of town visiting, so we did a little food exploration around the city.

But mostly, I just went out and ate a lot!

Let's see, starting last Thursday night, I worked very late at the office, so I ended up at Ozone Thai on Polk at Sutter. I've read elsewhere that they serve authentic Bangkok style Thai food, so I gave it a try. The rice porridge with a side of Chinese broccoli and slow roasted pork was quite tasty. I was surprised how well they had decorated and expanded the space, since the previous tenant of the location, also a Thai place, was quite drab.

Friday morning, before work, I stopped by Mexico au Parc at South Park for a breakfast burrito, the mushroom and egg variety. It ended up being a rather large burrito, since they stuff it with rice and refried beans by default. With their spice salsa, it was quite a start to the day.

Friday lunch, with little time for a lunch break, but also with a previously scheduled lunch with a friend, we ended up at Mexico au Parc for my second consecutive meal there. The grilled chicken burrito with avocado (not guacamole) was pretty good.

Friday happy hour, I grabbed a few beers with a former colleague and also some buffalo wings (ordered extra extra crispy) and a plate of fried calamari over at Nova bar on 2nd Street at De Boom St.

Later that night, my gf and her friend picked me up to go to a late dinner, as we had reservations at Isa on Steiner at Chestnut in the Marina. The food was quite good - we had the dungeness crab salad, then the endive and escarole salad with blue cheese, then the grilled calamari, then the seared foie gras with huckleberries and a port sauce, the risotto with wild mushrooms, and finally the roasted rack of lamb. Service was friendly but not exactly attentive. The place was packed and quite loud. It's worth a visit for a semi-special dinner, but I'm not sure I'll be itching to go back, given the availability of similar quality food elsewhere in a more comfortable atmosphere.

Saturday morning started with a trip to the Ferry Building Farmer's Market, despite the light rain. Unfortunately, about 1/3 of the booths normally present decided to not show up, including one of the dried fruit purveyors that we hoped to see. Within minutes of arriving, we had a multitude of baked goods in our hands and mouths (sugary bread stick, peanut butter cookie sandwich, croissant), and then a spicy Aidell's sausage in a bun (three of us shared one). A quick taste of the durian flavored smoothie from the hippie smoothie guy did not turn into a sale (I usually buy one vegan sushi roll from him, but not today). We spied the mushroom sellers as well as the Cowgirl Creamery for all the cheeses on display. I sampled some olive oils and vinegars with sample pieces of bread. In the front, we shopped for some fruits and vegetables, while sampling some blood oranges and regular oranges. I picked up a bottle of fresh squeezed, unpasteurized orange juice - quite good. We also picked up some unpasteurized apple juice and some broccoli and organic fuji apples. There was surprisingly few people around, especially for a Saturday morning, but I guess the rain kept a lot of people away. Closer to 11 am, we picked up a roast chicken from the Roli Roti truck and munched away while watching the crowd get a little bit bigger. We saw Martin Yan and a video camera person and a show producer walk by - he as wearing a bright blue shirt and just looking around. One passerby stopped him to shake his hand. We wandered back out through the booths but the rain had started back up, so we ended up leaving, to find a hefty parking ticket on the car at the 30 minute meter! Ooops!! The ticket was issued almost 90 minutes after we had parked, guess they really were checking!!

While heading towards Golden Gate Park, we stopped by the KK Cafe on Divisidero Street at Haight to say hi to Jack and Margaret who serve up a product they invented, called Signs & Wonders peanut milk. We enjoyed a peanut milk smoothie (include blended apple and banana), a peanut milk coffee, and a bottle of fresh peanut milk. It was nice to see how busy the small place was with local regulars, coming by to enjoy lunch or just a coffee.

After an enjoyable but lengthy visit to the newly opened de Young art museum, we drove through the outer Richmond and made a quick, entirely unplanned stop at Shanghai Dumpling Shop on Balboa and 34th to pick up some freshly made xiao lung bao (steamed pork dumplings) to go. Since it was so cold and breezy, the steamed dumplings were a hit as we munched them in the car.

We then attempted to get Vietnamese banh mi sandwiches from Le Cafe on Clement and 31st but they were closed, apparently still shut for the holidays.

So instead, we headed to the commercial area of Clement Street, first to pick up three live dungeness crabs from the New May Wah Asian supermarket, and then to grab a few pieces of dim sum from Good Luck Dim Sum on Clement at 9th. At this point, our friend from out of town thought we were quite nuts going all around town for so much food.

Still, we made a stop at Trader Joe's to pick up some snack foods and other items.

We drove back to my gf's place where we proceeded to cook up a hearty meal of Singaporean Chili Crab (using two of the live crabs), simple steamed crab using the one remaining crab, plus some steamed broccoli and brown rice, and some easy to drink chardonnay (Indian Wells). OK, even though this meal was relatively light compared to much of the other food already consumed, we were thoroughly stuffed. We dropped off our friend at the airport and retired for the night totally exhausted.

Sunday, we thought would be a bit of a break from all the consumption, but after attempting to locate a Vietnamese noodle shop in "downtown" Redwood City and instead finding a ghost town on a Sunday morning, we stumbled upon Naranjos Taqueria on Broadway near El Camino Real. It was the only place that was packed at lunch time on Sunday, where every place else, including a more modern and spacious place called Mexquite that was nearly empty. There were almost all local Mexicans packed into this narrow taqueria, mostly eating soft tacos. My gf and I felt we had discovered a place we would have never heard of on our own. We ordered up soft tacos with carne asada, al pastor, and lengua, as well as a burrito with lengua. The food was excellent, flavorful, sizeable, and the pastor was spicy and greasy-good. OK, it was another heavy meal, but after strolling through a ghost town trying to find a non-existent noodle restaurant, a tasty taqueria is just fine in my book!

Later, we shopped for a few special food items from Draeger's and Suruki Japanese Foods.

Finally, for a late Sunday dinner, we ate a light meal, putting together a salad with mixed field greens tossed in a Japanese soy and sesame sauce, with home toasted sesame seeds, some unsalted roasted cashew nuts, some Trade Joe's pomegranate seeds, some TJ's blue cheese, thinly sliced fresh organic fuji apples, and some dry roasted sunflower seed kernels. We also ate some spicy bean curd skin which came from the soy stand at the farmer's market the day before.

Wow! What a weekend of gluttony!! I'll try to take it easy this week...

29 January 2014

How Star Trek: Titan Could Be Made Today

So, never mind that Paramount has already rebooted Star Trek with two hit films by J.J. Abrams and a writing/producing team that might get tapped to bring Trek back to TV someday, presumably in the rebooted timeline.

Hard core Trek fans would much rather see more done with the previous casts and characters, such as DS9, TNG, and Enterprise. But the challenge is so many years have elapsed that the actors have aged significantly and the residual audiences are likely too small to sustain a new TV series based on the past series.

I have an idea that could conceivably address all these concerns.

First, I would choose to pick up the TNG storyline from the end of Star Trek Nemesis of Will Riker, leaving the Enteprise-E, now promoted to Captain of the starship Titan, with his wife Deanna Troi on his crew. Thus, the series title would be Star Trek Titan.  There already are Star Trek novels which pursued this storyline, which I must admit I have yet to read. So, there is already a basis for new characters and plotlines readily available for revision into episodic television.

Here's where my idea gets potentially interesting.

To win back all the hard core trek fans, Star Trek Titan would star the original TNG actors Jonathan Frakes and Marina Sirtis. Both are still active in their respective careers. Of course, they have each physically aged beyond what their characters would have looked like during the Titan years. To account for this, I suggest the new show takes on two special formats:

1. Each episode opens and closes with The Rikers already in early retirement, perhaps on the planet Betazed or back on Earth on a ranch in Alaska, depicting them many years after the starship Titan adventures. They have young children (or perhaps just the neighbors kids regularly visiting), who pester The Rikers to tell stories of their adventures in outerspace. Reluctantly, The Rikers begin telling the kids about the time when...

2. Then the show transitions to a highly stylized, computer animated format, with the voices of Frakes and Sirtis giving life to age appropriate Will Riker and Deanna Troi characters on the Titan, with their mutli-species crew, encountering fantastic, and perhaps embellished stories of discovery, adventure, conflict, survival, and the like. Animation not only allows Riker and Troi to be depicted, but any of the TNG and DS9 (and oh alright VOY too) characters to make cameos, voiced by their original actors, without concern of their current day appearance.  As each episode's story wraps up, the animation transitions back to the live action depiction of The Rikers, finishing their story telling to the children.

Perhaps some of the original actors and their aged characters could even visit The Rikers.

Imagine the unusual and even psychedelic worlds the Titan would visit. And finally, a Star Trek series that was not dependent on the weekly parade of humanoid aliens.

The animation would also be how the series could garner a large youth audience who may not know about TNG, but would enjoy the Star Trek universe essentially as a cartoon, albeit a well produced, computer animated series.

And no time travel.  Please.

I think it could work.

Maybe on Netflix.

Or a web/YouTube thing.

05 January 2014

The Slow Motion Lynching of President Obama

Times like these are why I am glad to not affiliate myself with any political party, while also continuing my support for President Obama. America is great, but the way our president has been treated is a clear sign, to me, that America is not an exceptional country. We should do better. For ourselves today, for our kids tomorrow, and our nation's values forever. I don't expect everyone to agree with me or this linked opinion piece by Frank Schaeffer, but dammit it's time to say something about how America still has a long way to go for there to be justice for all.