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Month: October 2007

The brits and the ritz

The brits and the ritz

Tuesday night I braved the 101 yet again – but this time was stuck on the freeway for almost two hours. I passed three different rear-end accidents – but I suspect they were caused by the traffic and not the progenitors of.

Beverly had invited me to a meet and greet with 300 of Britain’s elite from the music industry. When I finally arrived at my destination I saw the Suits entering the (what must be in the range of) $15 million Beverly Hills mansion owned by the British Consulate (consular?) General and took a big gulp. It had taken me 15 minutes to figure out how to tie a tie earlier and I couldn’t find a pair of pants that my waist (bigger than last year – smaller than two years ago) could fit into.

I found a video editor friend of Beverly’s and we both chatted each other up about how we didn’t know anyone and weren’t used to dressing this way or talking to these sorts of people. After an hour or so Beverly appeared and we started moving in and out of the social circles at the event. Our conversations consisted mostly of Beverly chatting up these millionaires for the chance to spring her business card – and me watching in awe at her proficiency therein.

It was one of those things where there is a live jazz band, everyone stands on the grass (yes, grass, in an LA backyard), and waiters come around with catering and drinks every five seconds. I neglected to try the skewered shrimp with peanut sauce, but the beef and mint was good as were the small lamb shanks.

water boarding

water boarding

Monday night I braved the rush-hour 101 for roughly an hour in order to meet a group of business associates to eat at Manna Korean BBQ. The interesting thing here is that I got the same swollen lips that had happened on October 19th and 22nd. Now, mind you, I’ve eaten Korean BBQ many times – and never had swollen lips and a prickly throat. I was able to soothe it without making a fuss by drinking massive quantities of water (a whole pitcher by myself).

Of course – on the hour-long drive to get home I had the worst bladder bursting feeling of my entire life and eventually took a random exit on the 101 and stopped at the nearest fast food restaurant.

Have I suddenly become allergic to spicy food?

Curry pinback

Curry pinback

On Sunday Beverly woke up wanting Curry Chicken. So – a few hours later, some veggie chopping by me, and slaving over a hot stove by her – we had Curry Chicken and some other dishes. The Curry chicken was great and I even got to take some home for dinner later this week.

After dinner we played a few matches of tennis (after telling some court-bullies to stuff it) before going to see Pinback play at the Wiltern. Beverly got dressed in jeans and I told her it would be warm so she switched to a sleeveless shirt and skirt.

It was cold. Very cold up on the balcony.

And Pinback isn’t that good live. So – I was 0-2 for the night.

I didn’t know how Pinback would turn out. They are a two-man group that does almost everything in the studio with multi tracking and heavy production. For the live show they brought a second guitar player, drummer, and keyboard player. Neither of the boys can sing that well live – and all the songs lose the atmospheric funk so evident on the albums. We did get to see however that Armistead Burwell Smith IV is quite a bassist – and his bass playing style is what makes up the majority of the melody for all Pinback tunes.

Slashing through happy valley

Slashing through happy valley

On Saturday I stayed home and watched the Ohio State game while Beverly had an invitation only ticket to the release launch of Guitar Hero III. The release featured a lot of typical marketing stuff – including a Poison concert and appearance by Slash.

A man who loves his beard

A man who loves his beard

On Friday I sped home from work and spruced myself up a bit before zipping down to Beverly’s. Our goal was to get to the Angeleno hotel to pick up UCLA parking tickets and get some food before attending King Lear at Royce Hall (UCLA). (If you click the link – the reception was actually right there beside the pool – weird environment as you can hear the traffic from the adjacent 405 freeway) Beverly had been given the tickets at work earlier in the week and now all we had to do was get to the Angelino. It wouldn’t be that easy. Wilshire boulevard was completely gridlocked so I maneuvered around on surface streets desperately trying to find an open northward route. Eventually we found ourselves cruising up some strange UCLA off-campus street. We were at the point of getting lost – unwrapping the city maps in my glovebox – when I looked up and saw the Morril-toweresque silhouette of the Angeleno Hotel. We arrived with time to spare – but most of the food had been consumed. We grabbed some grapes and returned to the valet almost before he had finished parking my car in the first place. The trip to UCLA was full of empty streets and we arrived on campus within minutes. It would take us longer (and some help from students) to find Royce Hall.

We waltzed in and found our seats – about eight rows back from the stage on the left of center. The lights quickly dimmed and I was enjoying the spectacle of my first play. The crowd eagerly anticipated this show as it featured in the lead Sir Ian Mckellen (you may know him as Gandalf or Magneto) And then it kept going. and going. and going. And then suddenly there it was – Sir Ian’s senior citizen testicles. I had read a sign on the wall upon entering noting that “tonight’s performance may contain nudity” – but none of us thought it would mean seeing a spotlight of the king’s jewels. I guess I should have done my research as this has already been covered in numerous reviews including this one. Once the crowd regained consciousness Beverly and I (and her coworkers) exchanged yawns and fidgeted in our seats until at about 9:45 (the play started at 7:30) when we got a reprieve (intermission).

As we walked up the isle Beverly nudged me and said “what is that guy’s name?” John Lithgow was coming up just a bit behind us (and yes, he is even taller in person). I headed off to the bathroom. While in line I noticed that a few heads in front of me was …someone.. who was that? I just couldn’t think of where I’d seen the guy. Upon exiting and finding Beverly again I nudged her to see if she knew. She instantly recognized Dr. Octopus – Alfred Molina (you may also know him as Diego Rivera from Frida). I saw a few more actors in the crowded hallway that I just couldn’t name (and neither could Beverly). When we sat back down I glanced across the aisle – about five seats to our right was none other than Elaine Benis – Julia Louis Dreyfus. We also spotted Alfred Molina again and noted that his seat was about seven rows behind ours.

After another few hours with much blood and thunder the show was over. The play was acted well – but there is only so much unintelligible dialog from a nondescript time period I can take (did they REALLY have pistols in the time of King Lear??).

This was not the end of our night, however, as we had tickets that not even Elaine Benis could get (although John Lithgow did make a brief appearance) – backstage reception with the cast! As we munched on (really really good) catering we waited for Sir Ian to wander out. After about an hour (and the rest of the cast becoming thoroughly integrated with the crowd) Sir Ian wandered out. Beverly wanted to say hello – but we were rebuffed on our first few tries as (understandably) he is a popular guy. Eventually I dragged her to within twenty feet of him and tried to edge her on. She didn’t want to interrupt the conversation he was having while sitting in the corner munching. It was then that we saw someone else come up and shake his hand. This broke down Beverly’s embarrassment and she (and I) raced over to shake the Wizard’s hand. With that done it was time to leave. Beverly had only had three hours of sleep the night before – and I didn’t fare much better. By the time we got to test Magneto’s iron grip it was already past 1 AM.

We were too timid to ask for a photograph with Sir Ian, but we had a bit of fun chasing a monstrous bunny rabbit around the UCLA parking garage.

trippy

trippy

Saturday morning I arrived at Bob Hope Airport at 7:15 thanks to a very pretty (and very sleepy) chauffeur.

After skipping through security I headed to the last gate at the end of terminal A. The flight would depart in about an hour. I spent the hour trying to figure out how to turn off my phone. My phone has the amazing ability to restart itself as soon as you try to turn it off. I called around to east coasters (this was 7:30 on a Saturday morning pacific time) to see if they could look up a solution online – but nobody was home (or awake) so I ended up taking the battery out of the phone just to get it to stay turned off. My phone also has the amazing feature of … no airplane mode… so you can’t use it as an mp3 player in flight. Those of you who know how big of a music lover I am must know how much I loved this little design quirk.

The Skybus experience I found to be much more pleasant than my previous travel to Ohio. The flight out was only 3 hours and 40 minutes because of “prevailing tail-winds” that pushed us forward. The plane was new, relatively clean, and the crew was happy (they make commissions on merchandise sales on board).

Once on the ground I waited for my brother to pick me up. He hit traffic (what this means in Ohio at this point I have no idea) on the way so I walked out of the airport and up the road until the end of the sidewalk. We ate lunch stuffing ourselves full of rice and sugar and Mark Pi’s Express – who has added yet another dish to the menu that puts Panda Express to shame.

When we finally arrived at my brother’s friends place to watch the game it was the third quarter. We came in at exactly the right moment to watch three fumbles and no touchdowns (for OSU). As we sat there it became harder and harder for me to breathe. By the time we left I was wheezing hard. It was then that my brother’s girlfriend remembered that a cat had been living at the apartment until the day before.

We arrived at my parent’s house around 10:15. After a lengthy debate about whether to surprise my mother tomorrow morning or that night I was convinced that it would have to be that night. You can hear a mouse trip on a worm a mile away at night in my old neighborhood. So, after we finally nailed down a plan on how to surprise my mother (with my presence) we waited. My cousin Ben had been married earlier in the day and my mother was returning from the reception. She was expected around 11. At 11 it dawned on me to video record this surprise. After several problems with full memory cards and other ones that wouldn’t format properly I finally got a clean card in the camera just as she literally walked through the front door. I placed the camera – and got into my hiding place behind the door to my old bedroom (which is now dad’s computer room).

As planned my father mentioned to my mother that there was “a large package for you from California” in my old room. This didn’t phase my mother. After five minutes of fumbling for another excuse to get her into the room my father said he wanted to see her photos of the wedding (on his computer).

I jumped out to surprise her. -right into the camera view. So, I have a great video of my back.

On Sunday my parents proceeded with things as they normally would:

napping (this is a dad-only exercise)

gardening

laundering

At one point we went into town and I saw something I had to photograph. In the Hollywood Hills there are many (million dollar+) homes that are (precariously) supported by long poles extending deep into the canyon. I couldn’t help but chuckle as we passed by the Ohio Valley version of this – a trailer home on cinder block stilts.

Later mom cooked a feast (yes that is a giant bowl of BBQ ribs) with several courses. Less than an hour later everyone wanted to eat birthday cake and ice cream. I marvelled at their bottomless stomachs – and managed to dig deep and rediscover some of my own dormant intestinal fortitude and enjoy some of the cake my father had baked.

The next day mom drove me to Columbus along the winding back-roads that never seem to change from year to year.

On the flight back we passed over:

the Grand Canyon

the infamous Magic Mountain fires

and my office.

atsa spicy…chicken?

atsa spicy…chicken?

On Friday night Beverly joined me in the valley for dinner. We went to California Pizza Kitchen. We split a salad and a pizza (as is our custom). After I ate the pizza (the “Curry Chicken”) my lips swelled up. They swelled up so bad that when we returned to my place she insisted on making an ice pack for me.

By the time she dropped me off at Bob Hope Airport the next morning my lips were back to normal.

PS – no, I’m not allergic to curry – I actually keep and regularly use curry spice in my kitchen.

DisneyRock

DisneyRock

On Sunday ATG had a company “fun day” at Disneyland Theme Park. I took Beverly with me. It worked out well as she was at her mother’s house in Irvine because of a conference in San Diego she was attending the next day.

I picked her up around 9:30 and we were shortly on our way.

We quickly figured out that with the accelerating crowd growth (it was almost like people were giving birth inside the park) that it would be smartest to ride Pirates of the Caribbean (the only ride we really HAD to see) – which didn’t have FastPass, and then pick up a fastpass for an attraction to ride after lunch. We decided to pick up FastPass for the log ride loosely based on Brer Rabbit (sic). Beverly informed me of Song of the South and the rides link to Disney’s racial fumbling (“tar baby,” anyone?).

Pirates had been closed when I was at Disneyland a year earlier. They had added elements from the film series. The experience was a bit confusing for me – as my knowledge of the Pirates genre stemmed solely from the second feature film (which was confusing as all hell without watching the first). “Captain Jack” had been awkwardly implanted into the ride hiding in barrels and behind rosebushes. Towards the end he had a whole room where he stretched back in his chair and spoke of the plunder places all around him. The vast breach between the old animatronic technology and new was startling and a bit uncomfortable. The new “Sparrow” figures had many more points of articulation, lifelike latex skin, etc. that in the dark come together for a robot that is almost too real. Except for the fact that we know Johnny Depp wouldn’t lower himself to performing 20 times an hour inside a pirate costume for tourists. -although he did destroy Willy Wonka – so anything is possible.

One very surprising thing about Pirates is that they added a fog projector display – just like the one I bitched about seeing at the NextFest (check the September blog). Except, unlike at NextFest, we actually passed through it.

At lunch we ate monstrous portions of meat and mingled (although only slightly) with the regular crew (of mine).

After lunch we rode It’s a Small World (Beverly insisted since I’d never been). It is one of the oldest rides and also the most child-oriented. I kept thinking we were in a giant shopping mall Christmas display. The fact that we could clearly see the tiled ceiling, black drapes on the walls, churning gears, etc. didn’t help disillusion me. The cartoonish rain forest display was well done though.

On our way to Splash Mountain we decided to ride the Tea Cups. And yes she was made all kinds of dizzy by my expert spinning (I failed to mention to her that we had had our own “teacup” rip-off ride at every county fair as a child).

Splash Mountain was a bit odd. The wide berth for the boat resulted in a lot of hard bumps to correct our “canoe” as we were guided through the “desert” mountain en route to the “big” drop. Yes, we got wet.

An hour later we were somewhere in the vicinity of Newport Beach. We sat on rocks jutting out of the beach 30 feet high and admired the precarious architecture built into the cliffs behind us.


look – de plane! (or a pelican)


quick – who was sitting on the smooth rock – and who was sitting on the rough rock?….

Another hour later and we were eating Chinese with Beverly’s mother and before you knew it it was almost 10pm and time for me to start my long journey northward on the oft congested (and recently deadly) golden state freeway.

FTP’oed

FTP’oed

On Thursday the day had come to get the server and storage put together. After eating a hearty Mexican (“salad”) meal Victor and I proceeded to my condo to begin the installation. After assembling all the parts Victor remembered there was one last piece he forgot to have me buy – the power cable converter for the SATA drives.

So – it was off to Frys. On the way there we discussed possibly buying a new (cheapo) PC instead of trying to run the server off my old computer. We looked at the PCs and also tried to compute the cost of building one. We finally zeroed in on buying one. First, however, we (or I should say Victor) had some technical questions for the salesman – Richard Cheeseman. Yes, “the cheese” as his peers called him, would take us on a long journey. Once we decided on what PC (a crappy Presario) to get he had to hunt for it “in the back” and then hunt for it some more… and then get some help to try to find it because “it says there are 5 in stock back there.”

Eventually a big cardboard box was heaved into my cart. Then I noticed it had two “open box – reduced price” stickers on it for different amounts. Once four employees were used – and a trip to customer service taken – the Cheeseman produced a sticker for the wrong amount. It was time to go back over to the PC section (again) and then back over to the customer service section (again) to get the right amount.

Two hours after we walked in – I walked out with a crappy PC and a “free” printer.

twenty minutes later we we opened up the PC to find – it was the model with a celeron processor (i.e. was deemed TOO crappy) and 500MB of RAM (again – a little TOO crappy) that we didn’t want. Victor was convinced it wouldn’t really matter that much anyway and wasn’t worth returning. However, we realized we’d be returning anyway as we forgot to get the power converter we had gone to Frys to pick up in the first place.

Time was backing up. When we returned from Frys the second time Victor quickly installed all the hardware and started formatting the two 500GB SATA drives. It was clear it was going to take a very long time so we decided to finish Friday.

On Friday Victor came over around 8pm. He decided it would be smart to remove all the preloaded ad-ware on the Presario. Because Compaq doesn’t want you to remove its advertising – each program took a while to uninstall. We even went and got coffee during one particularly long and painful uninstall.

Several hours and several problems solved (all by Victor) later (1:30AM)- I had a server with 500GB of RAID (i.e. backed up) storage. Although, I’m having trouble setting up accounts now – so that is why I haven’t given anyone out there their login yet – because I can’t create them! Victor has promised to come over again (round 3) to fix the glitches and make administering the whole thing easier.

I also don’t have any of my music back at home yet because we discovered Monday that my PC at work has outgoing FTP transfers blocked for some reason (most likely a company intranet security measure). The ban should get lifted for me – but this is (understandably) not very high on the list of IT department priorities.

prune and juice

prune and juice

On Monday I hurried down to West Los Angeles with a growling stomach after work. Beverly works for a British organization, and I work for a company birthed in the San Fernando Valley, yet she had Columbus Day off (and I didn’t). To ease my pain she decided to cook me dinner.

She cooked a dish that she’d never made before and just thought up on Sunday. It used prunes and was inspired by the dishes at Shamshiri – which we’d eaten one week earlier. For those who’ve never had the pleasure – the most popular dish at Shamshiri (after the requisite kabob/shwarma variations) is Abollo Pollo – a dish with meat and a giant plate of cherry flavored (and filled) rice. Beverly thought it would be a good idea to make a prune sauce mixed with various spices and soy sauce (I was chopping watermelon – so I didn’t catch all the ingredients) and served with a spiced rice with a dark “hickory” flavor (no idea what the rice was called). The sauce was cooked up with chicken thighs and topped in caramelized onions. She also made a side of pork with cabbage – but the emphasis was clearly on this new creation that was worthy of a spot on Shamshiri’s menu – and certainly put my cooking of the past weekend to shame.


The proud cook and her work (notice I couldn’t help myself and already started eating before the photo was snapped).

After dinner we ate watermelon while leafing through Scientific American before taking a walk around the block that ended when we were being followed by a very angry old hairy homeless man. We noted that at least he had the courtesy to make his presence well known to give us a running (or in this case briskly walking) start.