Friday, June 4, 2010

2010.015 - Vicenza e Oltre

Day 0-1:
The line to check in was almost as long as the pop-up shower delay (an hour and a half) on the runway, but we finally got clearance and started the flight to Italy. Lufthansa was a pretty good airline; the flight attendants were efficient in German style, but I stole a few smiles with a "danke" and "tschuss." I got a window seat on the way there, but there was not much to see other than clouds and sunset. I watched a couple movies and a special on the World Cup before finally falling asleep. Edge of Darkness was actually a fairly enticing thriller, but the acting could have been better. Planet 51, which despite it's overly numerous reference to other sci-fi films finished relatively strong for it's simplistic and predictable story.

We landed in Frankfurt and passed through the passport window - my first stamp in my new book! I was going to keep my "silverware" from the flight, but it is a good thing I ditched it as we passed through another security gate. That could have been bad. The wurst kiosk was very compelling, but I was short on Euros, so I kept on, hungry again to the next gate. On the way down from our second leg, I managed to catch a glimpse of the city. I had no idea how far out away from the mainland Venice is. It looked pretty cool from a distance, but that's about all I'll see of it. I was a little disappointed that we did not need to stamp our passports in Italy as we had already entered Europe.

Back on the road we stopped at a rest stop; they sure are quite a bit more than a gas station - more like a gas station, rest stop, deli, and convenience store combined. I wish I had had my camera at the moment.... right inside was this shrine-like pile of merchandise of Hello Kitty.

We drove the rest of the way to the Hotel Villa Michelangelo, which is actually in the village Arcugnano in the mountains above Vicenza. The view from there is quite amazing - Villages below in the valley, villas up on the hillside. At the hotel we got our rooms and I took a tiny nap, then another in the lounge. Other engineers are at the same hotel, so we had some drinks with them before dinner. Our server was a young lady from England, but she had a noticable Irish touch to her accent. She claimed to never have lived there but said that I was not the only one to inquire about it. Our dinner was at La Vera Birreria, a local pizza and beer house. The pizza was not as good as Antico, but good; we're not in Naples yet anyway.

Day 2:
I fell right asleep when we returned to the hotel, and felt very rested. Breakfast was continental, but much better than most "free" breakfast at American hotel chains. Prosciutto and cheese, croissants and several flavors of jam. And of course, the coffee was actually good. Despite such a good start, jet lag drug me down for the rest of the day. During meetings, I took notes more to help stay awake as most of the discussion was between others. I hoped one more evening of sleep would snap me awake.

Before I could rest we had another round of drinks and then a big Italian dinner. My first course was a garlic risotto which was fabulous and lots of it; I could not even finish. My second course was goat spine... or at least I think it was. It was pretty tasty; although, a couple of my pieces were far too fatty. But all of that and quite a few glasses of wine were a superb meal, only to be topped off by an espresso and then a questionable choice, grappe. Grappa (or at least this one) is like turpentine made from raisins, but hey, I tried it. I fell asleep even more quickly, waking some time around 2am still in my clothes. Oops.

Day 3:
Having been exhausted the night before and having ignored my phones repeated calls for me to wake, I was in a frantic panic to pack. This didn't give me much time to enjoy breakfast which is a pity which it really deserved. I did sneak a pear for later, which proved to be a wise decision. And I noted however that the morning server had a strong resemblence to Audrey Toutou.

Back to work, but today was much more enjoyable. I had some drafting to do, and the lag was essentially gone. I made use of that pear shortly before we hit the road to Verona where we caught a short flight to Napoli (Naples). Fortunately I was exhausted and slept most of the way, because the person behind me was having a deep conversation with hand motions... motions into the back of my seat. I felt it better not to cause a scene in a foreign country... on an airplane... so I just dealt with it. We took an unregulated "taxi" to our hotel. The guy tried to bleed us for money at the end of our deathride. I tried not to think too much more about it, checked in and hit the bar for a glass of wine. I had risotto again, but the lemon in it was far too strong. Risotto does not have a strong flavor, so less is more, folks. Less is more.

So here, I am, finally, typing away at the Hotel Paradiso. (Is there any relation to the film? I've not seen it. Probably not, I think it is set in Paris.) As I understand, there will not be much free time to site-see in the next week. But maybe I will be able to stretch my legs in Naples a bit in the next few days. Ciao!

Friday, May 7, 2010

2010.015 - A Week of TV, Food, and ...

I'm surprised at how hard it is to find something decent to watch on cable, so I am glad that I am not paying for it. The best thing I could find right now is The Unborn. I'll admit, it is pretty creepy, but some of the early scares were a little cheap. Still, probably not the best movie for me to watch right now. I did watch Fringe earlier; I think tonight's episode was one of the best. Martha Plimpton did a great job.

I've been watching quite a bit of TV this week while I've been taking care of my sister. I finally saw an episode of Minute to Win It which was a tad entertaining, but I don't see it going the long run. Cash Cab and Man vs. Food are always worth the occassional half hour as are The Daily Show and The Colbert Report. But I enjoyed a few matches of Premier League. Man City was a fun team to watch.

And then I brought a couple DVDs with me. I had not watched Memento in quite some time, so I popped that in for another viewing. It was awesome as always; although, I make a point not to watch it too often. I feel like I learn something new each time, but I'm still not quite convinced of the Truth of the film. Supposedly there is a "correct" understanding of the characters and events, but I am not convinced that it can be conclusively drawn from the film. Another bright spot from Netflix was Battlestar Galactica. A little slicker than Firefly, I think it is a pretty good series, but I have only seen the pilot movie so far.

Well, that about sums up my acitivites this week, other than driving my sister around and making dinner; although, I'm pretty sure my panko encrusted chicken and stone soup were awesome. The stir fry was not half bad either. But the best part will be tomorrow when I get to see my Honeybunny again. And then there's one other thing... but, I suppose I'll get around to that in a week or two.

Monday, March 22, 2010

2010.014 - Alice in (w)Underland

To the point, I personally did not think much of Tim Burton's Alice in Wonderland. Despite it being in 3D (a feature I rarely feel adds to a film) the whole thing felt ironically flat.

The acting was not very good; although, I did like Helena's Red Queen. On the flip side of the royalty, they tried intentionally to make the White Queen this rigidly paper-thin doll of a good queen, but even that was screwed up somehow. "Here, Anne - wear this, hold your arms up so, say your lines and then you can leave." The Cheshire Cat was also well done; the claw-sharpening reflex on the hat was a nice touch.

The story seemed very linear, predictable and ordinary; there was little if any sense of suspense. The bookend part of story was very contrived; of course she wasn't going to marry him! Heck, I would have been more impressed if she had come to the conclusion to marry the poor sod.

Other than the entire pinching-to-awake trick that failed, niether the story nor the setting gave any real feeling that it was a dream, which it was in the books. I suppose they do try to portray Underland as a "real" place instead of a dream, but I would think the sense of confusion should still be there. Artistically, the settings also seemed empty; likely they were going for a very desolate appearance due to the storyline, but instead of feeling desolate, to me it felt underdone - a bit contrary to Burton's Charlie and the Chocolate Factory which was overly artistic (I didn't like that one either). But when in doubt... less is more, so it's hard to fault them too much there.

Then there was the annoying. Example #1 was the oft-repeated "Why is a raven like a writing desk?" I suppose it would not be as annoying if I were engaged in the film, but I thought it was said once, twice, maybe thrice too often. And example #2 was The Hatter's dance. I was hoping for something bizarre, but instead we're subjected to a very fake-looking attempt to make Depp "popping."

Was it attrocious? Hardly. Was i blown away? Hardly. I normally like Burton, well, up through Big Fish at least, but I've not really been impressed by his latest attempts.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

2010.013 - Beesball 2010

Beesball (Tech Baseball) has been picked to do fairly well this season, ranked #6 and #10 (by Baseball News / Rivals) with a number of well-ranked teams already on our schedule.

#12/21 mia (home)
#13/20 unc (away)
#16/14 clem (home)
#31/23 uga (h/a/n)

And if that weren't enough, the Jackets are bound to face #2/#2 uva and #7/#7 fsu in the conference tournament. The ACC has a lot to prove this season; hopefully, the teams won't beat each other up too much.

The season starts tomorrow Fri. Feb. 19th, against the Missouri State Bears. The Jackets will take the field at 4PM, taking advantage of the afternoon on an early spring-like day The series continues Saturday at 2PM and Sunday at 1PM.

Come out to Russ Chandler and enjoy some warm(er) weather and Beesball!

Monday, February 15, 2010

2010.012 - San Fran Recap 3-4

Day 3 (Fri Feb 5)

With a warning that we must not be late, we reunited with some friends at our first dim sum outing at Hong Kong Saigon Seafood Harbor Restaurant; the name is quite a mouthful, but so is the food. At the time of opening the restaurant was essentially empty but that changed in only minuntes. The meal and company was wonderful (my favorite of the three dim sum) and as we left, not only was the place packed, but a line was out the door.

Next was the Computer History museum. Overall, I found the exhibits to be a bit disappointing, but there were a few interesting displays such as a Cray computer and even more so, Charles Babbage's Difference Engine No. 2, (series 2). Such a combination of mechanics and mathematics was flat out amazing. I find it humorous that some (current or former?) eccentric bigwig from MicroSoft paid to have it built to have in his home, but for now at least, it's on indefinite loan to the museum, which is commendable.

A quick wardrobe change and we headed into the city for the rehearsal dinner at R&G Lounge, recently featured on the show, "No Reservations." After another good meal, the whole party moved to Fenton's Creamery, recently cameoed in the movie Up; watch closely at the end. It was packed but I believe someone had connections for a quick seating; eating ice cream and chatting with extended family made for good times.

Day 4 (Sat Feb 6)

Dim Sum "2 of 3" was at Dynasty Chinese Seafood Restaurant, more good dim sum. Is there too much of a good thing? Perhaps, stay tuned. Taking our time to dine, it's time to go back again to San Fran. I did a lot of driving, but that's okay, I enjoy it.

We parked a few blocks from the church and happened to cross paths with the wedding party. The camerman had the "elite eight" dodging cars (well, not really) to get a shot in the middle of a street in Chinatown before the wedding. The church sanctuary was very lovely and intimate as was the service. We sat with a view of the bride who had the most wonderful smile during the vows.

The drive to the reception was the only thing that seemed to go wrong. TomTom took us through one of the busiest parts around Berkeley, but there are much worse things to happen at a wedding than a a slow drive down College Av and checking out all the local shops. Plus, we still arrived before the bride and groom, so really it was probably for the best.

The reception was at the Bancroft Hotel. It was a classy space, top notch. Paella was the main course (by now, non-asian was welcome) and who can complain about dessert when there are 5 different, yummy cakes. A neat idea was a "photo booth" where people could use a remote to take their own pictures, and the slide show and trivia game were fun. Another great evening.

2010.011 - New and Renew

We started yesterday off right with dim sum. As usual, we ate at Royal China, but the last two times I've eaten there, I felt that the quality has dropped again so I need to find a new place; however, after dining in San Fran, I imagine anything here might seem less impressive. After a couple hours in a food coma, wifey and I went to work (I put in a couple hours for a deadline, nothing long-term). I then finished the day with a simple dinner with my honeybunny at Figo for ravoli noms and Tiramisu, which was lighter than I last recall and still very tasty.

Oh yeah, I suppose that I should mention that Saturday, I received my re-admission letter for GSU! So unless I decide to be masochistic and do the super short, May-mester, it's back to school in 4 months!

Saturday, February 13, 2010

2010.010 - San Fran Recap 1-2

Recap San Fran Day 1 (wed, feb 3)

Today is my first experience with a significantly delayed flight, nothing major, just a couple announcements and then BUMP! off the plane we go. Another hour or two and we're on our way, on a plane that won't suddenly fall out of the sky. Then once in Salt Lake we race to the next flight and get on only to discover we're actually booked for the following one, but my bags are already on so am I going to tell anyone? Nope.

We arrive and check out Oakland's Chinatown for a bit before picking up the 'rents-I-L. A good noodle joint serves us more than we can handle and then some for less than 12 smackers; what a deal! We grab the 'rents and head down to San Hwahsay (San Jose for those who don't speak TomTom) to stay with more family and eat more food... so good but already so full.

Recap San Fran Day 2 (thu, feb 4)

We visit Intel's little museum, dodging some kids on a field trip. It is still amazing to see how people build such powerful companies from essentially nothing.

After a photo-op, we split up, and wife and I pick up bonus sister and friend to head into town for vegetarian Chinese at Golden Era - very tasty! Later my aunt suggested one reason that vegetarian can taste so good is that they still use things like chicken broth, but we're pretty sure this restaurant is strictly veggie since they forbid bringing any non-veggie food inside. It doesn't bother me too much, but let that be a warning to you veggers out there.

We want to top off our meal with a fruity drink or ice cream, but after a fruitless search (*cough*) in the cold drizzle something warmer is wanted. We duck indoors at the SF Centre on Market, and I try Peet's Mocha, which was okay, but nothing spectacular. It has that same "dusty" texture that Starbucks has, as if they don't bother to thoroughly mix the cocoa powder to make the syrup, but at least the taste was good.

After dropping off bonus sister, we took the long way home. It was a nice drive through some smaller towns (e.g., Hayward, Union City, Fremont) with the large foothills not too far on our left. We headed home for some pizza to cap another good day... let the dim sum begin!

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

2010.009 - Snow and Games

There is always something nice about coming home after vacation - a rebirth of sorts. But dang, it is cold! But the snow makes the temperature slightly bearable, and definitely better than sleet. I tried to take some pictures in the dark of night since there are plenty of lights on our street.

It's not quite that bright (long exposure) but it's much brighter than I expected at first; I suppose the reflection from the snow helps.

With the crazies on the road, we decided to stay in and miss watching the opening ceremony. But after a couple months without the station, I managed to tune in 11Alive with minutes to spare! I thought the sets and the videos were wonderful, artistic and powerful, but the scale seemed off during the performances; maybe that is why over-sized puppets are often used or maybe the camera direction could have been better. The first song could have been a lot better, and the speeches,... thank the athletes, thank the volunteers, thank the sponsors... Just say the essentials, add a unique Vancouver flavor and you are done. And unless I blinked for a really long time, am I the only one who thought a performance (no matter how brief) by Cirque du Soleil was missing? Still, the visuals were very unique and well done. Northern neighbors, you did a pretty good job, eh?

Now for the vacation recaps...

Friday, January 15, 2010

2010.008 - House Husband

Wednesday was a big day; I got a lot of stuff done: oil change (the car, no V for me), played soccer (i am so sore), bought RAM and loaded it (success!), cut my hair, drove DW around, chased the cat, and more. I still feel exhausted.

And to you door to door salesmen, when the cat runs out and the owner looks frantic, drop the sales speech and ask to talk later. Or even better, offer to help get the cat.

Anyway, I plan to have more days like that... hopefully without the salesman.

Sunday, January 10, 2010

2010.007 - Persepolis

I feel asleep during Persepolis (2007), which is very unfortunate as it is not indicative of the film's quality... more likely my irregular sleeping as of late. Watching a film in multiple sittings breaks the movie experience, and I always recommend against it, especially for films of higher calibre. I can see why it won several awards, including the Jury Prize at the Cannes Festival, and nominated for several more.

The film is based on the younger life of Marjane Satrapi while she grew up in Iran and Europe. It shows her struggles of becoming an adult that we all face, as well as the revolutions and wars and the resulting regimes that came after them. It helps "unveil" (if only a little bit) to us in the west the people that live under the government's rule, that they (or at least some of them) are not so different than us, that we want to be free. No doubt this is why the Iranian government protested a number of screenings at early film festivals.

Originally, the story was told in the form of a graphic novel - an extended comic book of sorts. The novel's artwork was very simple and in black and white; black was used heavily, bringing increased attention to the faces expressions but also indicating the depression that sometimes haunted her as well as the repressive goverment. The film mimics the same artwork brilliantly while adding intriguing fades and zooms that enhance the experience. Yet it all remains simple to allow the dramatic story to unfold and relate to us that despite our differences, we are very much alike.

Dramatic animated films are a rarity; filmmakers that attempt them should be respected and based on the outcome they are to be applauded. Another notch in the excellent films category.

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

2010.006 - Not Productive

I was not feeling well today, but I did get out of the house for dinner. Great meal by the way, B & C; it was all great, but the pork and rum cake were the highlights. I actually felt better around others; maybe this means I need to get out more. I have a list for tomorrow, so let's knock it out.

2010.005 - At a Loss for Words

Loss being the keyword.

Monday, January 4, 2010

2010.004 - My Favorite Zeros

This list is more of an approximation than a definitive opinion, each entry could easily be up or down 10 (or more) slots depending on my mood. Still, I figured I would make an attempt at my top favorite 25 films of the naughties... er, the 00's! I tried to consider both my current feelings toward the film as well as how much I enjoyed it upon leaving the theater (or seeing it on TV) among other factors too numerous to consider. That or I just looked at two movie titles and thought, "I think I like that one better."

25. The Hangover (2009)
24. Lars and the Real Girl (2007)
23. Brick (2006)
22. O Brother, Where Art Thou? (2000)
21. Little Miss Sunshine (2006)
20. Iron Man (2008)
19. Sideways (2004)
18. Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind (2004)
17. The Incredibles (2004)
16. The Departed (2006)
15. "The Bourne Trilogy" (2002, 2004, 2007)
14. Lost In Translation (2003)
13. Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl (2003)
12. Donnie Darko (2001)
11. Mulholland Drive (2001)
10. Punch Drunk Love (2002)
9. Thank You For Smoking (2005)
8. The Dark Knight (2008)
7. Children of Men (2006)
6. "The Lord of the Rings" trilogy (2001, 2002, 2003)
5. Spirited Away (2001)
4. Memento (2000)
3. Snatch (2000)
2. Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon (2000)
1. Amélie (2001)

Other Honorable Mentions (in nearly random order): Billy Elliot, Ratatouille, Once, Juno, Up, The Illusionist, Superbad, 28 Days Later, In Bruges, X2, Finding Nemo, Bridget Jones's Diary, Sexy Beast, About a Boy, Love Actually, Ray, Bubba Ho-tep, The Ring, My Big Fat Greek Wedding, Minority Report, Up in the Air, Batman Begins, Pan’s Labyrinth, Slumdog Millionaire, Big Fish, (500) Days of Summer, The Prestige, Coraline, District 9, Whip It, Shaun of the Dead, Role Models, 3:10 to Yuma, Casino Royale, and probably more. Hmm... maybe I should reorder some of those to the list.

Yeah, I've missed some and overlooked others, but some flicks just didn't do it for me. I know that I still need to see such gems as City of God, Cache, Avatar, Inglorious Basterds, Hotel Rwanda, Oldboy, The Wrestler, Precious, and Ponyo. Do you have any suggestions that might have slipped by me?

Sunday, January 3, 2010

2010.003 - Reset, Review

I am back from the holidays; it is time to make a game plan... only I've been sidetracked. It's the end of the "naughties" so I thought I might join the crowd and rate my favorite flicks. I am doing top 25 and the last five are tough - ordering will be even tougher.

Saturday, January 2, 2010

2010.002 - Chillin in Charlotte

We're just hanging out in Charlotte - not doing much other than maybe a Tech BB game later tonight. The food has been pretty good. Thx SF.

Friday, January 1, 2010

2010.001 - Resolutions

Let me tell it like it is... I could use some butt kickin'. Dad and FIL have helped drive it home, but I had already convinced myself of the same thing... I want/need to go back to school. Resolution #2. Figure out what classes to take. Resolution #3. Figure out how to get back in school. Resolution #4. Finish transferring bushes. Resolution #5. Start AND finish the basement. Resolution #6. There is NO... resolution 6. Resolution #7. Don't worry so much about the other resolutions until I'm done with numbers one through five.

Note to self: Motivation

Grats Sis!