IFES Crab Fest

A few months ago, I had a crab craving. I looked for a good crab restaurant in the area and found a few candidates like Boiling Crab in San Jose and Banana Leaf in Milpitas. However, there was one interesting entry: this once a month all you can eat crab event right in Mountain View at the IFES Cultural Center. We finally got to experience it last night. I think that crab itch has been scratched for the rest of the year or so.
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Mutant flu of death

I am on the road to recovery after being laid out with the flu / sinus infection / lingering cough for the past 2 weeks. I don’t think I’ve ever been so sick and for such a protracted period in my life. It really took a huge chunk out of my winter break from work. As such, I figured I’d document what I’ve learned about being sick so that I can avoid falling into the same rut next time.

  1. Get a flu shot

    I can’t believe that every year, I wave off the flu shot. I usually say, “Oh it’ll make me feel sick for a few days, and I don’t usually get sick.” Both of these things are true, but the real reason is that I’m a total wimp about needles and I can’t see volunteering to get stuck.

  2. Have healthy respect for other people who are sick

    I should have known I was in trouble when I got back to Chicago and my wife was ill. Her immune system grew up with much more practice than mine at fighting off germs. Therefore, anything that could possibly take her out for a few days should make me run for cover: I should start taking zinc supplements, start sleeping more, etc.

  3. Don’t tempt fate

    When we got back from Milwaukee to Chicago, my wife was already on the mend, but still coughing. I woke up with a scratchy throat, but it slowly went away. I decided to go out for drinks with a friend that night. I figured that if I was going to get sick, it was a done deal, and I might as well make the most of my last day of health. I figured I’d be out for a few days and I’d be better by New Year’s.

  4. Watch out on the home remedies

    I was pretty wrecked by the time I got back from dinner that night. I had a fever and I alternately was burning up / chilled. I was definitely regretting the beer and mussels I’d put down at the Hopleaf. I took ginger + honey tea (Lola had been ingesting tons of that to fight off her flu) and went to bed. I didn’t realize until my mom told me later that ginger actually can make the fever worse. Whoops. The other home remedy I really screwed up was gargling with salt water. I think I ended up just spreading the germs around and I think I picked up my sinus infection then. In hindsight, I should have gone on antibiotics right away. I’m not sure why I didn’t: I think I had something in my head saying that this was probably a virus and it wouldn’t do anything when in fact it would have staved off my secondary infections. It’s not like it would have been hard to get a prescription either given the number of medical professionals in the family.

  5. Wait until fully recovered before venturing out

    I felt pretty under the gun to get better before New Year’s. The night before, I was feeling better so we went out to dinner with Adam and Jeannette. I managed to last about 2 hours before I had to run back to the condo to sleep, and then I ended up losing my voice. We still went out on New Year’s but I had to sleep most of the day to store up enough energy to make it out.

I came back to California this past Monday and I still sound horrible. I still cough a bunch. I’m really sad that I was so ill that I couldn’t make the most of my last week long trip to Chicago to try out restaurants, etc. However, I got to spend a whole week holed up in the condo with Lola, playing Lost Cities and Monopoly Deal, catching up on Leverage and Mad Men, etc. And that’s the final lesson: only get sick when you have someone around to take care of you. Next year, I’ll make sure to do this right.

Batman: Under the Red Hood

I just watched Batman: Under the Red Hood on Netflix tonight. I’d been debating that or Ip Man, but in the end, I decided to go with an animated feature. I really enjoyed the film: it started out right in the middle of the “A Death in the Family” storyline where Joker is beating the crap out of Robin and then cuts to present day. The animation throughout was thoroughly impressive, like a more detailed version of the original animated series. However, during flashbacks, the lines seemed to get smoother (especially on boy Robin) making it look more like later iterations of the series.

Speaking of the original series, Under the Red Hood has much of the same world: GCPD has airships floating around, the Batmobiles look similar, etc. However, the voices were all different, which was a little jarring. Mark Hamill is still the best Joker voice, although perhaps he would have been a bit cartoony for this. I loved all the scenes that featured the Joker, especially towards the climax of the film. This might be sacrilege, but I enjoyed this even more than the Darwin Cooke New Frontier film.

The movie is interesting in that it starts out with one of the most famous examples of “stuff happens” in the Batman mythos: the death of Jason Todd. They did a good job of showing how Batman has been changed by that experience and how he became even more of a loner, not even wanting help from Original Robin Dick Grayson (voiced by NPH, which while cool, was a little distracting… I kept expecting him to say “Legendary”). And yet, near the end of this film, instead of something else happening permanently, things go back to the status quo. “This changes nothing,” Batman says.

I haven’t been an avid Batman reader for a while, but I do keep up on the storylines from time to time, especially when things go wonky like in R.I.P., the return of Bruce Wayne and now the current Batman, Inc. And yet, in my mind, I don’t think these current events will get caught up in the canon of Batman the way the death of Jason Todd has. They’re just too complicated to follow.

When I was a teen, I didn’t bother collecting all the Batman single issues that were out around the time of the Knightfall story arc. Instead, I picked up the novelization. It was actually pretty comprehensive: it went through the Bane stuff, Bane breaking Batman, Archangel coming in, not wanting to give up the cape, Tim Drake getting pissed, and then Bruce regaining his skills and taking things back. I have a feeling that’s what’ll happen to this Batman, Inc. thing. Because in the end… “this changes nothing.”

Chicago eating report

I had a great time in Chicago last week: so much that I had to recover a bit this week before putting my trip report together. The reason is because I pigged out the entire time I was there at some of the fine establishments that opened since I moved. I put on the Google 15 within a year of moving to California, that’s nothing compared to the Chicago 5 – in one week.

So here goes: my week in fine (and not so fine) dining.
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The Old Apartment

I’m… home?

I’m back in the old apartment in Evanston for the week. Lola’s been staying here when not traveling and visiting home in the Bay Area since her new job is technically based out of Chicago. But now her travel has died down for the rest of the year, so I’ll be coming out here for one week a month for a little while.

It’s a little weird to be “home.”
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Camping

Lola and I went camping for the first time this past weekend. Well, I don’t know if you can really call it camping: we drove all they way to the campsite, we stayed in a pavilion type structure (with a bed!) instead of a real tent, and most importantly, our friends John and Myra took care of all the cooking / fire building / bear precautions. And yet, it feels like we camped: we were cold (slept with several blankets), we hiked on a trail, and we ate a sack lunch.

It was great going with John and Myra, since they took care of bringing all the food and cooking it. If Lola and I had been in charge, we’d probably would have had bears all over the place in the night, after suffering hypothermia. Instead, we had a huge roaring fire and lots of good wine and company (a bunch of other friends from college). It did get pretty cold at night, and I wish I’d taken John’s advice to wear a hat while I slept.

The next day, we drove to the Magnolia Grove and hiked around. We didn’t make it all the way up to the museum or to the Fallen Tunnel tree, but we got to see a bunch of the most interesting trees: the Grizzly Giant, the Faithful Couple, and the Clothespin. Lola and I had to cut the day short because we had to get back to the South Bay since Lola’s flight left the next morning. Everyone else stayed to hike Half Dome the next day.

On our way back, we stopped at Five Guys. Verdict: awesome fries, but the burger just didn’t come together the way In ‘n Out burgers do, even with the extra toppings. If only you could take the best parts of all fast food restaurants and tie them up into one cholesterol bomb of a meal. Ah well. A man can dream.

As a kid, we never went camping, ever. My dad was very outdoorsy, but my mother couldn’t really fathom a vacation without a shower. My best friend and I tried sleeping outside one night when we were kids: we took sleeping bags out to the playset in my yard. I think we made it up until about 9 or 10 PM until we went inside, where my mom was waiting with ice cream for us. This was the same playset my brother tried to camp in years earlier: the sprinkler system turned on in the middle of the night and he had to go sleep with our dogs in the garage for the rest of the night since everyone in the house was already asleep and the alarm system was activated.

Would we go again? Sure, but we’re still not ready for a big solo outing or anything. Still, I think my dad would be a little proud of the baby step.

Lego

So sad: I purchased a Halo Scorpion Mega Bloks set (note not Lego) today to bring to the office on Monday (we’re sprucing up the place a bit). I cleaned off the coffee table and got out the camera: ready to document the building.

I noticed that the flap was only stuck on with a piece of tape. Then I pulled out the instruction manual and some loose pieces came flying out. “Mega Bloks sure doesn’t have the same build quality as Lego,” I thought. I tipped the box and large pieces of tank came out. That’s when I realized that this was not a virgin set of building blocks. Some of the decals had even been put on! Now, it’s really hot out currently and I’m really lazy, so I thought about just keeping it and putting the rest together, but then visions of completing the set and finding 1 or 2 pieces missing flashed in my head and I decided it would be a good excuse to spend more time in some air conditioning rather than in the apartment.

So, back to Target. They accepted the return with no questions, but unfortunately, they had no other Scorpion sets and truth be told, I wasn’t too impressed by the build quality of the pieces I took out of the box. The whole experience got me thinking about how long I’ve been playing with Lego.
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Walking Dead / Invincible

I’m finally caught up to date on The Walking Dead and Invincible, 2 comic series by Robert Kirkman. I love comic books, but I’m way too lazy to go to the comic store every week to pick up single issues, so until I got my iPad, I would have to wait for the books to be bundled into trade paperbacks. I read most of my comics this way, in graphic novel form: 100 Bullets, Sandman, Y, etc. I would preorder them months in advance on Amazon and then they would arrive almost randomly. However, with the Comics app on the iPad, it’s really easy to stay current and so I obsessively check each week for either of these 2 series. Then when they arrive, I queue up the downloads and then anxiously slurp them down as fast as possible. I don’t think this would have worked well for many of the aforementioned series, but for these 2, I can’t wait: they’re that good.
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My life in Halo, part 2

Part 1 of this post is here.

We continued to play Halo 2, basically until Halo 3 came out. In fact, even after the Xbox 360 launched and we waited in line overnight for it, the game that spent the most time in the console was still Halo 2. We joked that the backwards compatibility team at Microsoft had just 1 title on their list: all the others were just bonus. And that game was Barbie Horse Adventures, of course. Sure other games came and went, but it was always nice to get back to a little stabbing action on Midship. However, the community was definitely getting smaller and smaller.

Halo 3 kicked off with the public beta attached to Crackdown. Surprisingly, Crackdown itself turned out to be a pretty awesome multiplayer game that killed many hours while waiting for the beta to open. The day of the beta was marred by some download issues leading to much online gnashing of teeth, and Adam and I were happy that we hadn’t taken a day off work to play. Clearly, we were learning about priorities.
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My life in Halo, part 1

Tuesday’s impending launch of Halo Reach is occupying most of the idle cycles of my brain. I’ve been watching gameplay videos, reading the recently unembargoed reviews, and in general, looking forward to not getting much else done this week. Much has been written about how this is Bungie’s last Halo outing and therefore, may be that last good Halo game (who knows what Microsoft is going to do to it). I enjoyed the public beta quite a bit, even though it was over so quickly. Every new video has gotten me more and more excited to play through campaign one more time, and then to join the multiplayer fray. I must admit, I was a little skeptical when Reach was announced and then turned out to be more of the same (and not the MMOFPS I was hoping for). But here I am, ready for one more installment of a game I’ve been watching for over 10 years.
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