22 Apr

For our third anniversary, Kristina wanted to go to the Wine Spectator Restaurant at Greystone, on the west coast campus of the Culinary Institute of America. It’s in St. Helena, just up the road from Napa.

The setting is beautiful – in a restored 19th-century stone monastery built into the hillside of the Napa Valley.

The food is great, too. CIA has degree programs in Culinary Arts and Science, and the students who cooked and served our meals were just finishing their associate’s degrees. In addition to the great food and beautiful setting, the prices are surprisingly manageable – we figured out that our whole meal cost as much as a single course at the famous restaurant down the road.

After dinner we probably should have headed home – we could have been tucked into bed by 10:30pm. As it was, I had booked us at what I thought was a rustic bed and breakfast up the mountain in Calistoga. Mountain Home Ranch turned out to be a bit more of a rustic mountain retreat than a bed and breakfast. Our cabin was creaky and had a bathroom that was clearly tacked on after the fact. All this would have been fine – the setting was beautiful, and Maddie got to run around – but we hadn’t fully prepared for the rustic stay. The place reminded me of Montreat – fun, but maybe not ideal for getting up and going to work.

Splendid China

8 Dec

Mom and Dad took me here years ago. It was great.

Election 2012

9 Nov

Since Tuesday, I’ve heard three different theories on the most important result of the 2012 elections:

Of these three, Obama and gay marriage seem less momentous. Electing an African-American president for the first time, especially coming on the heels of the Bush administration, was a big deal. Re-electing the same guy is fine, but I don’t think his defeat would have been a huge setback for race relations. We’re at a point now where electing black politicians is perfectly reasonable, and not electing them is reasonable, as well. And I remain unconvinced of a substantial difference between Romney and Obama. They’re both smart guys who went to Harvard for professional degrees.

Gay marriage is great and I’m glad it went through, but these are neither the first states to enact gay marriage, nor the last. That the voters approved this by referendum is great, but not particularly relevant. This is just a great step on the march to progress.

Of the three, the Puerto Rico vote might be the most significant. Adding a 51st state to the union would change our political dynamics, and I’m not sure what would change as a result of adding our first Spanish-speaking state. Of course, there’s a strong possibility that it won’t be significant at all – Congress has the ultimate say over who gets to be a state, and they might just ignore the Puerto Rican referendum. It was a very narrow victory for statehood, to boot.

If Congress does ignore Puerto Rico, I expect 2012 will be a lot like 1956 – does it much matter to history that Eisenhower got re-elected?

Disaster Assistance

31 Oct

In the couple of days since Hurricane Sandy, I’ve seen a few people point out that in-kind donations – food, clothing, and the like – is not as helpful as cash.

Red Cross says best way to help NOT food/clothes etc which impede relief efforts – financial donations most important.

Of course this makes sense – the cost of food and clothing is low for a large organization and the amount of wasted donations would need to be pretty low for in-kind donations to beat cash equivalents. I’ve heard that Good Will throws out something like 90% of the in-kind donations it receives.

What I’ve seen no coverage of, is whether disaster victims would rather receive cash than food. Victims don’t have the economies of scale that relief agencies have, but of course they don’t have the overhead costs, either, and they know even better than relief agencies what they most need.

I’d be interested to read an analysis of how relief organizations could best distribute cash to victims, and whether that cash would be more helpful than in-kind relief.


15 Oct

My running email list is chattering about an article from the New York Times on a semi-pro distance runner who has been outed as an EPO doper.

I don’t know the man in question, Christian Hesch, but some of my running friends do and have run against him. They were puzzled and disappointed by the revelation.

The article claims he won $40k over two years by winning California road races. That number surprises me – I would have guessed $10-15k, which is really not enough to eek by, but I guess there’s a little bit of money out there.

To me, this raises the question of why we ban blood doping. The article does highlight a near-death experience, but it has nothing to do with drugs – Hesch was out on a bike for cross-training one day and got hit by a car. Nobody’s talking about banning biking, though.

What Hesch did was against the rules and gave him an unfair advantage over other runners, especially other runner who were trying to scratch out a living as semi-pro runners. So he should be punished – no question about it.

But that doesn’t resolve the question of whether doping should be against the rules. We sanction all sorts of medical interventions – surgery, tendon replacement, allergy and asthma medicine. Since doping seems no more dangerous than cross-training on a bike, and no more invasive than surgery, I’m becoming more open to the idea that we should let it go.

Dad and Maddie and Mammoth Mountain

15 Oct

Dad and Ethan are in town this weekend and we’re having lots of fun. On Friday, we had a kind of nasty buffett in Chinatown. The buffet was lukewarm and included chicken feet. Maybe too authentic.

While Ethan went with Catie to Napa for the weekend, Dad and Maddie and I drove through Yosemite, across the Sierras, to Mammoth Lakes, California. It’s a beautiful place that is hard to get to. But the ski area is huge, so maybe I will get there somehow this winter.

Blue Angels

15 Oct

Last weekend my old roommate Colin invited us to a rooftop party at his apartment building in San Francisco. While I enjoy roofs in general, this was a particularly good rooftop party because the Navy was in town for Fleet Week, and there was a big airshow, culminating with the Blue Angels.

This Week’s Tweets

5 Oct

Winter’s Bone

29 Sep

Kristina and I watched Winter’s Bone last night on Amazon Instant Video (this one was free with Amazon Prime – thanks Mom!) It’s a great movie about life in the Missouri Ozarks. In particular, it tells a great story about how drugs and the criminalization of narcotics effect the lives of the families involved.

Jennifer Lawrence plays Ree Dolly, a 17 year-old who’s the de facto head of household for her two little siblings and mentally ill mother. Ree’s father has disappeared after his most recent bust for methamphetamine production. The central plot in the story is that Ree’s father put up the family homestead as part of his bond after the arrest, so Ree and her wards will be moved off the land unless they can get Dad to appear in court.

The plotline about the missing father is really secondary to the subtle and not-so-subtle scenes the movies paints about live in the Ozarks. 66% of Missourians are overweight or obese, and the actors inWinter’s Bone fit that description. With Ree taking handouts from neighbors and relatives in one scene and spitting on them in the next scene, it’s apparent that family ties are both a crucial support network and a source of contempt.

Most of all, this is a movie about The End of Men. All of the responsible agents in the movie are women – the men are drug-addled screw-ups at best and criminal thugs at worst. I’ve been skeptical in the past about whether this portrayal of rural America is accurate, but the movie does a great job of showing how it might be so.


29 Sep

Here’s a great photo from when Janine and her family were in Virginia last week: