whommp!!

•July 20, 2009 • Leave a Comment

Good friend Coleman just left town, after visiting with Michelle and I for a couple of weeks. While he was here we dragged him all over San Francisco to farmer’s markets, restaurants, parks, hills, bars, etc. And a couple of clubs.

I’m just starting to get a handle on the rich electronic music scene in the Bay Area, picking up names and good sounds on the occasional jaunt out to a club (I’m not really into club culture at all, but if that’s where some of these folks play, it’s where I’ll be some of the time).

One justly-hyped act is Lazer Sword (composed of two guys, Low Limit and Lando Kal) who throw together a glitchy, wobbly mix of electronic and hip hop (indie & top 40). I can’t write music descriptions worth a damn, so do yourself a favor and check their Myspace page, which has links to a few of their mixes (Sweatpants Money being the latest).

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Anyway, Michelle and I had heard Lando Kal play at an upscale lounge club a while ago, and the Cole-man tracked down an underground party on July 4th that we checked out. It was at a private loft in SOMA, devoid of club bullshit, full of sweaty kids having a blast. All the DJs really threw it down that night, most especially Ana Sia, and I was amazed at how intense the bass was. I love it! Lazer Sword did a great job, but most of my dancing energy was expended by the time they got on, as I had been going for 2 hrs straight at least.

And then, on Coleman’s last night in town, he and I went to the Elbo Room in the Mission to check these guys out. It was so foggy out, like a Florida summer downpour with the volume turned down to 1: we were being rained upon, but ever so gently. The venue was nice and clean (perhaps too nice? I felt out of place, as if I should have had more disposable income). Good thing we went, tho, because it turned out that Lando Kal is moving to NYC (sometime this week/end?), and so this was to be Lazer Sword’s last Bay Area show for some time.

I won’t say too much about the opening act, Savoy, except that they were some kind of live band/laptop DJ hybrid, that seemed to successfully muddle the best possibilities of either way of making music. Eh.

But Lazer Sword got on, and played for as long as they could before the club kicked everyone out (little over an hour), and we all got down. Such fun, such great exercise. Gonna miss these guys, will have to keep an ear out for more talent, I know it’s out here!

on my shelf

•July 20, 2009 • Leave a Comment

Books, books, books. During my nearly two-hour bus commute to an on-call librarian job, I have my nose in one. While at work, all these children come to me to find their favorite books for them, be they Rainbow Magic Fairy, Secrets of Droon, Geronimo Stilton, Twilight, Magic Schoolbus, Diary of a Wimpy Kid, or any number of other titles I haven’t read (but really need to, for the job).

I enjoy getting reader’s advisory requests, that is, when a patron wants me to recommend something like a mystery or a fantasy, with any number of qualifiers (“nothing negative!” “not too long!” “something with technology, like watch-making?”). I enjoy the unpredictability of their reactions to my suggestions– some folks are thrilled, some look at the book like it’s growing mold, some take it kindly and then leave it on a table later.

Lately I’ve been spending some time building a Library Thing account, which lets me make lists of different books by age group, subject category, specific issues represented, etc. Makes it easier to recommend stuff on the fly, and keep a handle on all the good books I see in the library but can’t possibly keep straight in my head.

And I really want to delve into some of this children’s fiction and get familiarized, but currently I have no less than six books that I am actively reading.

One is a goofy children’s nonfiction parody titled Giraffes? Giraffes!, published by McSweeney’s.

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Four are food-related: Cookwise by Shirley Corriher, which explores the science of cooking processes and ingredients (think Alton Brown without the corny humor).

Beyond Bok Choy by Ross, which I’m reading to familiarize myself with the various types of Chinese veggies I now have at my disposal in San Francisco.

James Peterson’s Sauces, lent to me by a friend, so that I can improve my sauce-making technique.

Best Food Writing 2008 (ed. Holly Hughes), which is chock full of mouth-watering articles. Read a good one on Szechuan Dan Dan noodles, which I have enjoyed at our favorite nearby restaurant: Spices II: Szechuan Trenz (yes, this restaurant is so badass it needed a subtitle).

But all of these are really just occasional reading, they take a backseat to the 900-page historical novel that has been kicking my eyes’ ass for the past month or so: Neal Stephenson’s Quicksilver, book one of the Baroque Cycle. I had previously only read Stephenson’s Snowcrash, which deftly managed to communicate BIG and interesting ideas while throwing down an action-packed story of mobsters, teenage skaters, thermonuclear terrorists, and katana-wielding computer hackers. So a good friend gave me Quicksilver, which is a definite shifting of gears for the writer.

I’m almost done with the book, and so far find it to be a pretty absorbing epic tale, spanning the late 1600s and early 1700s and various major shifts going on at the time, such as the Scientific Revolution (birth of scientific method of inquiry?) and Glorious Revolution (death of Catholic-ruled Absolute monarchy in England?). The tale is told through the eyes of three different characters, a Natural Philosopher (scientist), a rowdy vagabond (going mad from syphilis), and a financially precocious woman (ex-harem slave) who becomes a spy and tool used by the nobility of several nations.

The book (just the first of three) contains too much for me to really try and summarize. While it’s engrossing and thought-provoking in the extreme, it’s also frustrating at times, because of Stephenson’s frequent stylistic inconsistencies and flourishes. Now and then I read scenes that seem completely irrelevant and boring, but I never know if they will bear importance somewhere 1500 pages on in the Cycle. But at least I know I’m in the hands of a truly creative author. My gifting friend has instructed me to read Stephenson’s Cryptonomicon next (which apparently ties into descendant characters and themes in the 20th century), and then to move on to the next two books in the Baroque Cycle. As a librarian, it’s fun to hand the reigns over to someone else who will tell me what to read next.

food lately

•June 17, 2009 • Leave a Comment

This here is a tea egg– apparently a typical Chinese street snack, made by first soft-boiling the egg in water, then cracking the shell a bit, then boiling it longer in tea and soy sauce. There’s an ice cream & crepes shop near my apartment that sells them for 75 cents apiece. This one wasn’t bad, and didn’t have as strong a taste as I might have thought. Cool-looking, huh?

This week I tried adding about a tablespoon of plain yogurt to two scrambled eggs just as they were done, and mixing it all in (I also add plenty of ground pepper and a bit of turmeric to my eggs). Makes for a creamy & tart breakfast, spread on toast. The yogurt we’ve been buying at a nearby Russian market is called “Suzme,” and is incredibly creamy and real tasting.

Lately I have been pureeing vegetables for sauces and soups, then straining them for a smooth consistency. Last week I made a soup this way with a sweet potato, roasted red bell & Anaheim peppers, carrots, onions, scallions, garlic, and some spicy peppers. It was hecka spicy! (sidenote: apparently “hecka” is a regional substitute for “hella” used by polite young’uns in the Bay Area… hilarious, yes?)

So, the soup was spicy and delicious, but not the most exciting thing to eat without some textural solids. So the next day for lunch, I made some gemelli pasta and mixed the soup into that. Made for a great pasta sauce, and I think I may prepare this cold sometime for a picnic pasta salad.

mid-June

•June 14, 2009 • 1 Comment

I miss the lizards from Florida. No lizards here, at least not until you head further south of the city where it’s warmer. In the Florida summertime, a stroll down the sidewalk becomes a frantic effort not to step on any of the dozens of tiny reptiles running across your path. The dried leaves in the backyard are full of the sound of lizard fights. Oh well, at least I feel more like a lizard in San Francisco, constantly seeking out the sun to raise my core temperature. I do not miss anything else about the Florida summer. That humidity is disgusting.

The other night, we went downtown to a club, and the bus rides to and fro were filled with loud drunken French people, how mystifying. On the ride home, some local lame-o decides to act as cultural ambassador for the city, emphatically insisting that the French students check out Haight Street (“you guys gotta check out Haight… it’s the REAL San Francisco!”).

Now, I will admit that Haight Street is very lively and definitely a part of real San Francisco, but it can get damn sketchy at times (it’s also way commercial). The closer you get to Golden Gate Park on Haight, the more you are inundated with people pushing drugs. Just the other day, some young white kid offered me some “high endorphin hydro,” holding out a pile of loose green in his hand towards me. Come on! Kid, don’t you know how easy it would be for someone to beat the shit outta you and steal your green? Be careful and sensible, people.

Nice cream

•June 1, 2009 • Leave a Comment

It’s been really overcast and/or foggy lately, so yesterday Michelle and I headed west and south to the Mission District in an attempt to find some sunlight (our neighborhood and the western half of San Francisco in general can be foggy when it’s sunny elsewhere). It didn’t work, turned out nobody got to see much of the sun here this weekend.

But we did fit in some thrift-store shopping (found a couple of puppets for cheap) and checked out this ice cream joint, Humphrey Slocumbe. They’ve got a variety of interesting flavors (check their list), and I tried the prosciutto and a Thai-chili-lime sorbet before deciding on a scoop of Balsamic Caramel (which was good and weird) and one of Secret Breakfast (bourbon with cornflakes).

Mmmmm. Real sweet and smooth bourbon flavor, and crunchy cornflakes (I wanted more flakes). It reminded us of our friend Marj’s “special dessert,” which usually consists of ice cream with rum and Kahlua poured on top.

We proceeded to check out a couple of bars, settling at Zeitgeist, where the outdoor area wasn’t too crowded yet. Shared a pitcher of Death & Taxes (I love that beer!) and chatted with a friendly guy at our table.

Pretty exhausted by the time we got home last night. Enjoying a nice at-home Sunday today.

Many friends are coming to visit us in June, I can’t wait!

things have been good…

•May 20, 2009 • Leave a Comment

…but busy. Both Michelle and I have been getting plenty of extra substitute librarian hours at work, and with lengthy commute times, this makes for some tired folks. I swear, lately I get home, eat, and just about fall asleep on the couch immediately afterward.

But this is good. Work = Money, and more importantly (maybe?) Experience and Confidence in your Profession. I’ve particularly been enjoying working in the youth department, helping marble-mouthed kids find the next book in their favorite series or making reader’s advisory recommendations for parents and tutors. While sorting carts of picture books in alphabetical order, I take the time to read a few. I feel like I’m just at the beginning of a process that ends in me being an effective youth librarian, with a good knowledge of authors and works to recommend off the top of my head.

I’ve been riding my bicycle a bit more lately, more than I ever did in Florida (I went years without riding). The key thing for me is the climate difference. In Florida, I would be pouring sweat after 10 minutes. Here, I can bike 45 minutes downtown to pick up a bus that takes me to work, and I am sweating a bit, but it’s so chilly out that my body temp stays within limits that don’t leave me panting and redfaced. It feels great, but some of these San Francisco hills are tough, and I need to work on figuring out bypass routes.

This city is crazy full of great public events, and we’ve been trying to check out as much as we can. Two weekends ago was the How Weird Street Faire, wherein a few downtown blocks are secured, and people party in costumes, dancing to electronic music at any one of 10 stages. Our friend Ashley accompanied us, and we made a nice furry trio:

Sure, there were some sketchy freaks there, including folks who were desperately trying to:

A) get drugs from you,

B) sell you their drugs, or

C) obtain your social validation/sexual participation by dancing practically naked (except for a coating of gold paint) right in your face.

Knowing that San Francisco attracts a lot of New College alums, I have to also remember that some portion of them must be the classic New College Sketchy Alums, as some of the people I saw evoked.

Anyway, it was an awesome event, and dancing on a cool sunny day with a backdrop of tall buildings beats the hell out of dancing in a dark, sweaty club. We should all do this much more often.

This past weekend, our friend Katie visited, and we toured the Haight and the Mission, with obligatory stops at Dolores Park and Zeitgeist’s incredibly crowded “beer garden” (I use this term loosely, having visited real, exponentially more awesome beer gardens in Munich).

Saturday there was an Asian Cultural Festival downtown (Michelle & Katie went, I had to work). Sunday, the annual Bay to Breakers event, a big damn race across the city. While there are still some dedicated people who actually race (or at least travel the full distance- less than 7 miles), for many folks this is another huge street party, and I hear there is some major drunkenness to go along with the floats and costumes. There was a big to-do this year because the police and many residents didn’t want people doing keg stands on floats or pissing in people’s front yards (the bastards!). Ultimately, people still got to do what they wanted (though more Port-a-potties were provided), but I hear the tone was a bit less crazy than recent years. Again, I had to work.

Next weekend there’s a Carnaval parade in the Mission, and Michelle and I get a few days off together (which hasn’t happened in a few weeks).

I hope you are all doing well~

Someone get this lion a tissue…

•May 20, 2009 • Leave a Comment

…before he sneezes and begets a Lion Flu pandemic!