Towse: views from the hill

December 29, 2009

I am doing my best to keep my boat steady and my sails full.

Filed under: photographs,quotation,weather — Tags: , , — Towse @ 12:35 am


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I am sailing into the wind and the dark. But I am doing my best to keep my boat steady and my sails full.
– Arthur Ashe

A lone sailboat on the Bay yesterday afternoon. …

[click to biggify]

December 21, 2009

Why I plan to become affiliated again. …

Filed under: politics — Tags: , — Towse @ 7:36 pm

Soon … some time after the holidays, I’m planning to temporarily abandon my “decline to state” status and signup as a Republican before the primaries. The CA Republican Party does not allow decline-to-state voters to vote in their primaries and I want to throw my vote to Tom Campbell for the Republican nominee for CA governor.

Sure, sure. I don’t always agree with Tom’s positions — he and I don’t see eye-to-eye on the health care reform debate, f’rex — but he is a bright guy. Sharp as a tack. He thinks things through. He’s amenable to changing his mind when different factors are brought to his attention. (And back when he was my Congress critter, he answered my e-mails at 3A Washington, DC, time when I dropped him notes after midnight California time.)

He listens.

Why would I change my unaffiliated to Republican-affiliated? Because Meg Whitman is the front-runner in current polls and I do =not= want Meg Whitman as the Republican nominee. And Whitman as Governor? Oh, noes! Sure, I could vote in the Democratic Party primary as an unaffiliated voter, but voting there will probably not make a huge difference in which candidate (Jerry Brown, anyone?) is chosen to run.

Tom Campbell is a =much= better choice than Whitman, but knowing the state party, he probably won’t make the cut unless Meg really blows it between now and then or enough decline-to-states join (or re-join) the Republican party and vote for Campbell.

Update: For the June 2010 primary, it turns out, decline-to-states CAN vote in the Republican primary =if= you request a Republican ballot, either at your polling place on Election Day, or in advance by contacting your county elections office. Which is what I now plan to do. (Although the push this year to implement the bar failed, the push is still on within the party to bar decline-to-states from voting in future primaries, so be aware.)

December 18, 2009

Last night I cooked kohlrabi for the first time.

Filed under: recipes — Tags: — Towse @ 1:31 am

Last night I cooked kohlrabi for the first time. (Gee. That reminds me of the first line of REBECCA: Last night I dreamt I went to Manderley again.)

ChefRussell had served it onstuponatime, iirc, and CarolP served it up at a bookgroup meeting but me? Never. Know kohlrabi?

Bought some in Chinatown. Leaves not included. Last night I searched through cookbooks for directions. None to be found. So I turned to the Web and found the utterly delightful Farmgirl Fare blog and her paean to kohlrabi. … Although I didn’t use her recipe or any other I found on the Web, she gave me permission to cook it any ol’ which-way I’d like when she wrote

Sweet and mildly flavored, kohlrabi can be braised, boiled, stuffed, sliced, scalloped, steamed, julienned, roasted, and sautéed. You can grate it into slaw, toss it into salads, slip it into soups and stews, snack on it raw with dip, and stir-fry it. You can even wrap it in foil and grill it. I’ve seen recipes where kohlrabi was covered in cream, sautéed with anchovies, stuffed into empanadas, fried into cakes, served with hollandaise sauce, and turned into a cinnamon brunch bake. This vegetable is versatile.

Sal’s Kohlrabi:
Peel two kohlrabi. Chop into thinnish chunks, about the size of the upper joint of a thumb. Throw into a Dutch oven and sauté with some bacon fat to slightly brown the veg. Add water to barely cover and top with lid. Cook until softened and most of the water is gone. Mash with residual water. (I could’ve pureed in the Cuisinart but wanted a more chunky mash.) Add a generous dollop of sour cream and seasonings and a chopped green onion. Stir.

Yum. (Served two as vegetable side dish. …)

(I also snacked on a piece or two of raw kohlrabi while I was cooking and liked it. Good addition to a veggie-and-dip platter. Kohlrabi has a texture like jicama but a more green taste. )

December 15, 2009

Truffle-palooza last Saturday night

Filed under: life,restaurants — Tags: — Towse @ 1:19 am

Last Saturday was the last but one dinner for the Dissident Chef. He’s putting his pirate ship into drydock so he can focus on the new restaurant that’s a-building at Pier 5.

The Theme was truffles … the fungi not the chocolate. Saturday night’s menu was the long-form (we got home waaay after midnight) while Sunday’s (the final final final dinner for at least a year) was a shortened version to allow folks to get to work on Monday.

Eight courses, followed by three desserts. Every course, including the desserts, had truffles either in or on or over.

(White truffle ice cream …. mmmmmm)

Photos (and menu) from Saturday’s Truffle-palooza

SubCulture Dining Finally Waves Goodbye

December 11, 2009

RIP Gene Barry.

Filed under: people — Tags: , — Towse @ 6:11 am

RIP Gene Barry. His three TV series were among my favorites growing up.

AP article by Bob Thomas

LOS ANGELES — Gene Barry, who played the well-dressed man of action in the television series “Bat Masterson,” “Burke’s Law” and “The Name of the Game,” has died at age 90 of unknown causes, his son said Thursday.

Fredric James Barry said the actor died Wednesday at a rest home in the Los Angeles neighborhood of Woodland Hills.

Gene Barry essentially played the same character in all three series, which spanned the 1950s to the 1970s. Always fashionably dressed, the tall, handsome actor with the commanding voice dominated his scenes as he bested the bad guys in each show.


Thomas Hoving, 78, dies of cancer.

Filed under: people — Tags: , , , — Towse @ 6:07 am

Thomas Hoving, 78, dies of cancer. Globe and Mail article by Verna Dobnik.

Thomas Hoving’s charismatic but controversial leadership of New York’s Metropolitan Museum of Art is summed up in his autobiography Making the Mummies Dance.

Dr. Hoving died yesterday of lung cancer at his Manhattan home, his family said.

As the director of the Metropolitan Museum of Art from 1967 to 1977, he turned an institution he said was “dying” into a happening museum with blockbuster exhibits. The treasures from Egyptian King Tutankhamun’s tomb was the most popular exhibit in the museum’s history, drawing more than one million visitors in New York, plus another 5.6 million at five other American museums.

But Dr. Hoving also raised dust in other ways, paying $5.5-million for a Velazquez masterpiece while selling works by Van Gogh and others to help pay for it. And he had no qualms about letting people sit and snack on the museum’s front staircase, which he had enlarged.

Dr. Hoving’s philosophy was: anything to make people notice great art.


December 8, 2009

After the storm

Filed under: photographs,weather — Tags: , , — Towse @ 8:32 am

Cold. Wet. Yes, please. Could we have some precipitation?

A friend up the hill reported snow falling. His nibs said hail was causing havoc — and slips — on the Steps as he came home from his stint at the Academy of Sciences.

I was (relatively) snug and warm inside today. Thick sweater. Warm wrap. Fuzzy slippers. (Thermostat set at 65dF as is our wont. …)

And then the storm cleared and I took pictures …

Here’s one:


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December 3, 2009

Let us now praise Canon Customer Support

Filed under: life — Tags: — Towse @ 9:50 pm

Nearing the end of October, an annoying spot appeared on photos taken with my Canon SX110 IS. The spot was too big to edit out of most photos. I tried cleaning the lens. That wasn’t the problem.

At first the spot was up near the top of the photo and I could work around it with judicious planning and cropping. The spot drifted down over the days toward the lower middle of the frame. Cropping and editing EACH AND EVERY photo was not a plan.

I’d had a similar problem with my previous Canon, ending up with multiple spots to deal with, and eventually bought this one not that long ago. Trading in a 4x for a 10x made the upgrade easier to justify. But now this camera had a spot as well … so I went looking for a solution.

The online help at Canon did not deal with dark spots on photos. No solutions given. White spots, yes. Dark spots and blurs, no. So I searched online and found some who claimed the problem was with dust specks inside the camera. The one solution I found for do-it-yourself dust removal seemed hair-raisingly difficult.

I sent a note to Canon support:

Every photo I’ve taken for the last several weeks has a spot in the lower middle of the frame. The spot is large enough that retouching is difficult although I can crop the spot out of some photos. The problem appears to be a dust speck (or specks) within the camera body. What can I do to clean the dust out of the camera?

First back from them within three minutes was an auto-response: we got your msg

The following day:

Thank you for contacting Canon product support. We are sincerely sorry
to hear you are experiencing an issue with dust in your PowerShot SX110
IS. Please accept our apologies regarding this matter. We value you as
a Canon customer and appreciate the opportunity to assist you.

Please mail your digital camera to the Factory Service Center shown
below. When shipping your camera, please be sure to remove the memory
card and batteries. You are not required to send any accessories or
manuals when shipping the camera. Be sure to include your name, street
address (no P.O. boxes, please), telephone number, and a letter
describing the issue with the product. Since it has been less than one
year since the camera was purchased, we ask that you also include proof
of warranty in the form of a copy of your sales receipt.


OK. Fine. So I packaged up the camera, made a copy of the receipt, mailed it off (as suggested) via USPS priority mail. They had suggested that or some other method that tracks packages.

I sat back to wait.

In the mean time, I received two requests from Canon to fill out a survey to see how they were doing. I decided to wait until I saw whether they fixed the camera. …

30 November: a note from Canon that my camera had arrived there and yes, indeed, it looked like a problem they could fix. However, ” Please note that in the unlikely event that any additional internal damage is found due to liquid/water, sand, corrosion, battery leakage or impact (such as dropping the unit), a revised estimate will be sent for your authorization, since these conditions are specifically excluded from warranty coverage.”

02 December: a note from Canon saying they’d shipped my camera back to me.

03 December: I signed for it at the door and took a couple of test shots.


I went back to take the Canon survey that they’d sent earlier and the survey window had expired. [sad face here]

So, instead, I am writing this paean to Canon service. Thank you for fixing my camera so promptly. I felt naked without it with me as I walked around. I appreciate your efforts.

p.s. I wish you’d make some note on your site that black specks in photos could be caused by dust inside the camera that you will fix under warranty. If I’d known that, I would’ve sent my previous camera back to you for service, but now it’s too late and the camera, which I bought a little over two years ago, is out of warranty. Alas. [sad face here] Cost to have a camera repairman take the dust out is probably more than the value of the camera. Instead his nibs will use his fine motorskills to see what he can do — the worst he can do is make the camera unusable, which it already is.

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