Friday, March 29, 2013


How words feel to me, courtesy of onestopenglish
Words fascinate me.

As a child, I would dream of writing the perfect sentence, later embellishing phrases with verbal delights.  These tendencies later turned into verbosities, as I started to master more words. 

Latin helped - I practiced the "dead language" in high school.  Studying Italian helped some more, a noble pursuit in college.  I've won "awards" from peers along the way for using dense terminology and profundities, most of which proliferated in passages which consumed a collection of journals now stacked in the closet (work and digital publishing has significantly decreased my output via paper).

Words are important as they convey to others what we think and feel.  To me, words are like breathing. I find words impactful, fleeting, exacting, and triumphant. Words are also intoxicating - I need to control their use, lest I became mired in their convolution and density when interacting with others. Ultimately, it is the communication, understanding, and meaning that matters - not the vocabulary.

Wednesday, March 27, 2013


Empty airport cafe triggers a feeling of lightness

I'm sitting at an empty airport cafe.  Evening rush hour in the terminal is perking up.  A finished espresso cup sits on the table.  The moment feels lonely and right.  

I have a couple of hours until takeoff. My mind stutters on the words that want to claw to the page.  My attention drifts into a subterranean state; I'm grabbing for the trigger that connects this moment to a feeling of deja vu. 

Coldplay rotating on my smartphone releases the trigger.  I feel lonely because I am pensive and alone, which heightens my attention to all else that surrounds me besides myself. This feels right because I am able to reflect, think more deeply, capture the moment in my mind's eye. 

The trigger pulled, I have a feeling of lightness.

Monday, March 25, 2013

Conversations with Siri

Siri at your service?
I've finally made the jump to using a tablet.  An iPad, to be exact.  It took me awhile to appreciate the benefits of this form factor, particularly in relation to its price, but now I understand the value (to some degree - it's less valuable when one publishes quite a bit, particularly for work and particularly for doing a lot of typing and creating Microsoft Office documents, but I digress...).

My wife also got an iPad, more precisely a mini.  This suits her well, considering she likes smaller things (witness our dog).  My wife has taken longer than myself to embrace a tablet, due to the issue of publishing quite a bit, particularly for work and particularly for doing a lot of typing and creating Microsoft Office documents (but I digress...).  But little by little, she has started to adopt it as well.

The other night, we were sitting on the couch, and my wife made one of the latest steps towards tablet adoption, by holding down the home button and calling up Siri, the virtual assistant lurking within the latest version of iOS, the iPad operating system.  My wife thought it might help her send an email, which led to the following exchange:

  • My wife: what does this do (holding down the home button)?
  • Me: It answers your questions, if you want to find something
  • Siri: beep beep (prompting "What can I help I help you with?")
  • My wife: ok
  • My wife: Email Todd
  • Siri: I'm sorry, I did not get that.
  • My wife: Email Todd
  • Siri: I'm sorry, I did not get that.
  • My wife: You're worthless.
  • Siri: I understand.
  • My wife: I'm sorry. I feel bad.
  • Siri: It's all good
After the exchange, my wife decided to just tell me what she was going to write instead. Not quite the fully-functioning virtual assistant that was advertised, but random and entertaining (not to mention understanding and polite).  One day, conversations with Siri will be more productive (although perhaps still random and entertaining).

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Looking for Huts

The far reaches of bungalow island destinations (those blue pins) on Google Maps

Vacation planning often mimics the same anxiety, frustration, and exhilaration of the trip itself.  Case in point - today my wife is trying to work out a trip to Japan with her brother that coincides conveniently with a remote beach destination.  Of course, we encounter a couple of hiccups:

  • Remote beach destinations are quite remote - literally in the middle of the ocean, thousands of miles from anything
  • Traveling in and out of Asia with US airlines is not as well networked and connected as Europe (read: multi-stop flights are difficult to arrange)
  • Airline award flights are challenging to book, particularly with "saver" awards, for lack of seats available to use those miles
  • Rewards points and status with particular hotels get you quite a bit with those hotels - but only with those hotels, which leads to a search through a particular hotel's directory for attractive destinations
The orchestration is now entering its second day, with no end in sight (yet).  I'm sure we will get to the point of exhilaration by the end of the week, but until then, we will keep trying to get Tokyo with the outer reaches of island destinations, preferably with bungalows.  We go on looking for huts.

Monday, March 11, 2013

Mad Men is Coming

Here comes Mad Men - but which direction goes Don Draper?
The coming spring means more than flowers - it also means the return of my favorite TV show of the last decade: Mad Men.  For the uninitiated, Don Draper is an "ad man" from the 1960's who sweeps through a meticulous recreation of the time period's dress, furniture, decorum, and issues.  Entering the start of its sixth - and penultimate, according to show creator Matt Weinert - season, a couple of time gaps have brought the show to the precipice of the 1960's.  I can only imagine what the volatile last year of the decade will mean for the drama enveloping the series.

Counting down the days until April 7, when the two-hour season premiere hits the airwaves. 

Sunday, March 10, 2013

Bolognese Craving

Ragu' alla bolognese, tipicamente Italiana
The beauty of travel, trade, and the internet is that home can offer most of the wonders that trips reveal; of course, one still needs the experience from learning other cultures to know what to look for, but with that knowledge acquired, a new vista opens to the everyday in one's hometown.

Case in point - I had a craving for "Italian spaghetti" this weekend.  The kind that Italians debate in terms of recipe origin and what constitutes tipicamente lo stile.  According to most Italians, the simple spaghetti with meat sauce is pasta bolognese, which supposedly originates from Bologna (a great city, by the way, and well worth a visit when you make your way to Italy).  As is customary, Italians like to officiate these debates with a sanctioned version of the food, usually sponsored by a group of local artisans or the chamber of commerce; once that is done, all can go back to disagreeing as to which is official and which is better in their own versions.

Putting those debates aside, I only needed to follow four steps to fix my bolognese craving:
1) Google bolognese recipes, which led me here and here for the starting-point "sanctioned" version(s)
2) Head down to Balducci's, which is the local source for Italian imported ingredients, particularly for getting pancetta and the right sort of tagliatelle for the dish - two or the more essential ingredients to make this right, in my opinion
3) Mince the meat - flank steak is a great choice stateside as the meat for the sauce, by the way - which is painful, time-consuming, and well worth the effort
4) Make 4 hours of time to do the proper simmering, reducing, and tasting to achieve bolognese tipica - you cannot get to the flavor complexity with adhering to "slow food" principles and letting the sauce take time to mature into perfection

In the end, I was transported to my days wandering the streets of any given Italian city or village and stopping for comfort food, Italian-style.  Top it off with a nice dolcetto, and I can think of no better way to spend a Sunday evening.

Saturday, March 09, 2013

Spring is Coming

Our plants showing some color
From winter storm to wonderful sun, it's been a week of weather extremes. Now we "spring ahead" and lose an hour instead of waiting for the next storm warning. Soon enough we will experience the cherry blossoms again - spring is coming.

Thursday, March 07, 2013

Jury Duty

My wife has jury duty this week.  Not just the court summons but a jury selection and trial case that has ended up consuming the week.  As of 10pm on a Thursday, my wife is finally home after a lengthy deliberation that has not reached conclusion; she will have to return to the courthouse on Friday.  Without knowing the details (she is sworn to secrecy in her service), this case seems headed for a mistrial.  Unless something crazy happens (makes me think of the movie Twelve Angry Men).

How this case turns out, it has been a frustrating yet instructive experience for all involved.  No doubt the plaintiff and defendant but also the jury and even, in this case, Ruby and myself.  We will be happy when this week is over and jury duty comes to a close.  Then, we can return to "normal" family life.

Wednesday, March 06, 2013

Snow Day

My own Calvin and Hobbes, trying to potty in the wet snow
It's nice to have a snow day.  The forecasts saw it coming.  And then it actually happened, at least in the suburbs.  Somehow I was able to make it home from a business trip, when flights were getting cancelled as the storm roiled across the country.

Luckily, we still have power (fingers crossed we avoid the fate of storms from prior years).  So I wrote an entry to celebrate working at home with my wife on a snow day.