July 31, 2003
Perhaps I eat out too much.

My buddy invited me to dinner at his restauraunt on Monday night. No he doesn't own the place, he's a prep chef there, which is practically the bottom rung of the kitchen staff. But it's a quite nice restauraunt. Essentially he's in charge of making the pasta and other small tasks, such as hucking beans, and a particularly nefarious task peeling the skin off of chick peas. Monday being a pretty slow night for restauraunts, especially for nice ones he gave us a tour of the main kitchen, which was small, functional, and a surprising contrast to the dining room. In addition we went downstairs to where my buddy spends his days, saw his pasta machine, and the counter where he works. I think if I redo my kitchen I'm just going to go with a completely functional industrial look and put 18/8 stainless countertops throughout.

We sat there and ate, the staff noted to my buddy "Doesn't food taste better in the dining room, rather than downstairs next to the kegs and storage."

The food was good. The restauraunt serves a contemporary Italian menu. We sampled a lot of different things. Simple and light cheese gnocci served with a simple marinara. Fettucini with osso buco veal ragu. Garganelli with chantrell mushrooms. mmm....

And of course my buddy was raving about the tender non-gamey lamb, served with carmelized eggplant. I ordered tuna, which it seems, the popular yuppie way of prepare it, is currently to serve it rare... very rare... pretty much sashimi rare. It was a new recipe for the kitchen, they update the menu every month and a half or so to keep it fresh. It was good, although a bit different. I've had tuna like that served so many ways, they did cook it right, but served on a bed of tomatoes, with fried chilis and mint leaves, definatley wasn't very Italian, but it wasn't unconventional either. Maybe they could serve a filet or a tenderloin the same way.

They served us desert and coffee, I had a wonderful Ceretto Moscato d'Asti.

I told my buddy to send our thanks and regards to the staff when he went to work the next day.

Posted by justin at 10:40 AM
July 30, 2003
Another day on the water...

This past Saturday, I headed out to the boathouse as the wind was picking up and was planning on taking my buddy Steve sailing. They were having a regatta with the 420's and the only one left was a cannibalized boat with no forestay. Thus there was no sleek Jr racer for me today. I shrug, look in my wallet and still can't find my card. So I try and remember my number, to no avail and resign myself to getting a replacement card.

I see that there's two sonars availible on the mooring, so I request to take one out. The launch captain tells me to get my crew and lifejackets. So I grab a pair of pfd's and got to the launch and start to get in. Steve follows. The people at the boathouse frown at Steve for not having any shoes, but the launch captain shrugs, "next time" he says. Steve gets in the boat.

We ride out to the mooring, an instructor who just landed is partially taking down the sails. I ask him what the weather is like, he says "WINDY", and reccomends that I depower the rigging and proceeds to quickly start giving me advice on backstay tension, outhaul trim, and how to use the traveler, in these conditions. Huh, I'm rather overwhelmed, so I look kind of perpelexed, and ask him for a lesson. He says he needs to go back to the dock to get some water. The launch captain asks if I have a full keelboat rating, I say no, he shakes his head. The instructor finishes getting off the boat and onto the launch. Switching places, Steve and I scramble from the launch boat to the boat on the mooring.

I raise the main and take their advice not to hoist the jib. I pull it down, furl it, and tie it to to the deck, and then pull the the main back up. I slowly explain to Steve what to do and have him cast the bowline off the mooring. The boat, sans-jib, hesitates a bit, then catches the wind. The boat feels funny without a headsail. I barely avoid a windsurfer heading out the inlet.

Steve and I head across the water, the wind is blowing quite well, but we're still not moving too well. I tell Steve to hoist the jib. He pulls on the sheets, the ties on the deck quickly release the sail from it's furling. I'm impressed that steve didn'th have to climb onto the deck to untie the knots. Without too much fanfare pulls up the halyard. I quickly explain how to use the winches and how to set the jib. He picks it up quickly. Because of the wind the sail is difficult to pull in. I show him a few tricks to using the winches and the cleats.

As always I get a phone call on the water, it's James, wondering what I'm up to. I tell him I'm out sailing, and that he is free to come down. He agrees. I point the boat towards the dock. I can see him on the dock, I yell to him to grab a life jacket. I sail up, he heads one way up the dock. I yell at the dock staff what to do, they're unresponsive. I yell again, if I can pick up passengers on the dock, knowing that they've started to frown on such practices. Someone says okay. So I turn around and head for the far end of the Longfellow end of the dock. James is on the other side of the club. Doh, he's heading the wrong way. I pull the boat on the dock, one of the staff comes and helps me with the bowline. I can't see James. He's on the other side getting a life jacket. I ask the dock staff what they want me to do, he just motions to push me off. I signal James to hurry up. At least he's got shoes on.

Only after James has gotten on the boat and the sun has moved closer to the horizon do I see that there's a hole right below the waterline of the bow. I can see light shining into the front hold. That's not good. I wonder how that's happened. I know I haven't hit anything, so it must have been there when I checked the boat out. Shoot.... Thank goodness I've got the damage waiver. Perhaps next year I should buy a lifetime membership to compensate for all the damage I've done to the boats. Seriously I didn't cause that hole!

The race is right outside the main dock, for easy viewing pleasure, unfortunately it also happened to be right in the path I needed to get away from the dock. I head out and get entangled in the 420 race, the leader waves his fist at me. The follower motions to keep going. What am I doing headed towards the race? I tack away from them, they tack towards me... What??? I can't turn away from them so simply pull in the sail, and we maintain our distance, and head out.

Safely past them, I hear one of the 420 helmsman commanding to gybe. Then I hear a whip, followed by a "CRACK!", someone screams "ouch!" I look back and see the helmsan of the boat that's turned away from me rubbing his head. I yell out "are you okay?" He sheepishly looks away from me. He's still sailing. So I keep going.

The wind was good, James seems to enjoy himself, the same skippers I always seem to see, are out on the water. They know more about sail trim than I do, as always Irene passes me, I look bad, they look smug. We head back, and leave the boat on the dock for the next party. I report the damage. The staff shrugs, hands me the damage report, and starts to tell me various other stories, about the holes in the racers. I sigh, it's been a pretty good day out, and the bottle of sunscreen I'd bought at the beginning of the season is almost empty.

Posted by justin at 11:17 AM
July 29, 2003
A better meal?


In the words of my favorite movie. It used to be a better meal, now it's a better life.

Posted by justin at 10:51 PM
July 22, 2003
Do you cheat?

I seem to be getting a lot of comments about cheating. And how to cheat on the SAT, the MCAT, or the CBEST. My short take "No." It has to do less with weather you're going to get away with it and more about your own personal integrity.

I'll repeat, my friends were caught for mucking with the CTBS, not the CBEST or the SAT. They weren't doing it for long term personal gain. They did it because they were lazy, and the wanted to play cards instead of taking the same test for the third year. The consequences were that show that they will not expose the incompetence of LAUSD standardized testing procedures.

That reminds me of the other group of kids who thought it was injustice to be made to take a test that didn't count for anything exept for school prestige, and thus the local realators would take the results, and then property values in the neighborhood would rise and fall based on how well the kids did on this test. Since the kids thought it was wrong, a group of maybe 15 or 20 of the brightest kids figured out that since their names weren't on the test, they would miss every question on the test. Well they did it and the school had a drastic drop in scores, which was befuddling the the administration and the LAUSD, how could their one of their best schools, be doing so poorly?

The administators found out, and realized that since it was a humanities magnet, and that they had been teaching the kids to be free thinkers. Then they in a sense were doing their job. And the kids had thought through the system and come to a valid conclusion.

Does anyone believe in the MCAS

Yes there were people who cheated on the SAT's. They had someone else take the test for them. And yes they were caught. I am infuriated that ETS did not more severely punish the perpetrators. But the more I think about it, it was somthing that should have been dealt with at the local school level.

So my answer to Peter and what the consequences of cheating are, is that yes the system will forgive you. The consequences are not forever.

Should you do it anyways. Will it come back to haunt you later in life... Maybe. People have enough identity issues in their lives as it is, if you want to add this to the mix how are you ever supposted to stand as a man of inegrity, if you aren't even reconciled with the actions of your past.

There are cases where people have cheated on the SAT and probably gotten away with it, and even gotten caught with minimal penalties. And you could do the same for any standardized test, cheat on the MCAT? sure. It's an imperfect system designed to be good enough. You can either trust that the system works, or rebel against it.

I do believe that there is justice in the world, and that your actions will be paid for, if not in this life, in some life whether in the past or the present.

Grace exists, because we are imperfect people, without it we'd live our lives in vain trying to make up for our failures.

Posted by justin at 10:37 AM
July 15, 2003
The Wingman....

If you're going boating, what would make you leave your buddy sitting on the dock?

On my typical usual weekend afternoon, I decide to go sailing. I arrive at the dock at 10AM and there's very little wind, but it promises to pick up. Not doing all that much I decide to go in and get a lesson on "Costal Navigation in Boston Harbor." Also known as:
#1 How to use a Marine Radio, appropriate ettiquette for channel 16.
#2 How to read Nautical charts for Boston harbor.
#3 What to look for in the harbor (nuns and cans)
and other stuff...

It was kind of cool. Do I think I can skipper a boat out in the harbor by myself now. Of course not... But the point of the class was to show you how much more there is to learn.

In any case the class was interesting, but the wind did pick up and was blowing about 20mph by the time I really decided to go out. It looked quite exciting, there were a bunch of wet people standing around the dock, after capsizing the mercuries, and being fished out of the water by the launch.

Knowing that I'm expecting some friends, but they're not going to be there till 3PM, I decided to go out for a few hours. Not wanting anything too slow, but not wanting to go through the ignomamity of capsizing a Merc and having to be rescued, I end up taking a R-19, perhaps the most stable boat in the fleet.

I take a young kid with me, who's reasonably competent. Unfortunatley we bring a mainsail and a stormsail, but no jib. So we put up the sails and buzz the dock, asking them to bring out a jib for us. "Negative Mavrick, the pattern is full." The dock staff is annoyed. They're trying to give helmsman tests and we're freaking out the beginners, in fact I see a couple people run aground. The dock staff brings us our jib, we put it up. My phone rings repeatedly while I'm out on the water. We sail for a bit then head back.

I put my card back in the line, not knowing what to do, as my friends still haven't shown up. I figure I'll sail a sonar. One of the yahoos on the dock is trying to get an advanced rating, and is being annoying to me (I don't really care anymore, I just want to sail, but then again two years ago I was probably that yahoo) Irene has taken out one of the sonars. Irene is the resident dock bum, and the person who originally tested me for the keelboat rating. However I always am in need of some more practice. I patienty wait my turn. There's a time limit to how long people can keep the boats out, people are overdue in bringing them back. My buddy Steve finally arives. I'm waiting for another of my sailing partners to arrive as well. She's stuck in the lab running a gel, I fear she's going to be a no-show. However, she pulls through, and shows up.

I go to the dock staff to find out where my boat is. They look frazzled. Another soaking wet person gets off the launch, rescued after a capsize. I'm trying to be polite and not annoy them too much they're working hard. The dock staff bring a sonar back in for us, it's already rigged from previous people, so we don't have to struggle getting the sails up. We hop in, cast the bowline off the mooring and head out.

The wind is good, although the boat is showing it's age, it's good to be on the water. Irene is still out sailing and heading right towards me. Wait I'm on the starboard tack, she should know better, I'm going to make her yield. She passes behind the stern but immediatley tacks, now she's making fun of my sailing skills. Although we're in the same type of boat, with the same amount of sail area, she's definatley sailing better than me. I yell out, "Go Away." She get's closer. I should have my buddy moon the other boat. I tack, she tacks. I gybe, she gybes. We're intimidating the smaller boats on the river. A tech dinghy capsizes. I head back towards the dockhouse, and put in a protest. The dockstaff says "She's been out there for over an hour, she should come back in."

Standing on the dock I talk it over with my crew. My buddy Steve is still up for sailing. My female friend also wants to sail as well, she aludes to the sleek two seat racers on the high performance end of the dock. So... I've got a choice now; I can go out in one of the smaller slow boats with the three of us. Or I can take out one of the racers and leave one person on the dock.

In any case I left my buddy on the dock, and went sailing in the racer with my friend. She's a competent but not excellent sailor. I let her take the helm for a bit. The boat starts to swamp with water. She gives me the helm back, before we capsize. We start to bail. My feet are wet.

I pull the main back in, she tighens the jib, and the sails catch the wind. The boat heels, we lean out over the gunnel and the boat accelerates. It feels almost as if the boat is flying. For a moment life is good....

I felt bad about leaving Steve on the dock. I explained to my housemate, which he explained that in that instance, it was a totally apropriate decision. In fact it's the code of the Wingman...

Posted by justin at 06:54 PM
July 07, 2003
I'm too old for this.


This Friday was a holiday, so I decided to hang out with some co-workers down in Rhode Island, so I drove to Westwood, Mass, then got there met up with a co-worker, drove to Pawtucket RI, to meet my co-worker Dan, then went to another co-worker's house in North Smithfield RI, hung out by his pool, bbq'd, drank beer, etc... We drive to Newport RI. Wow, it was crowded downtown. We keep driving and find a place sat on the lawn at the park to watch the fireworks. The lawn wasn't anywhere near as crowded as I would have thought. We guess that everyones is on the other side of the harbor, downtown celebrating. Usually watching the fireworks in Boston can get really claustrophobic. Traffic leaving Newport was horrible, there were crowds of people out celebrating, but my buddy wouldn't let me stick my head out the sunroof and join in the festivities.

So we got back to my buddies house in RI, then went out to breakfast at 1AM, at a place called the "Coffee and Cream" which is owned by a wife who got half the restauraunt during their divorce. This strangely there are two restauraunts there now, and the husband owns the restaurant next door, called the Beef Barn. I guess because they didn't want to see each other, so as a condition of the divorce they agreed that their restaurants wouldn't be open at the same time. Thus the Beef Barn is open in the afternoons and the evenings, and the Coffee and Cream is open late in the night, and in the mornings. It was kind of strange, bizzare, small town, New England stuff of lore.

So we finished breakfast, about 2:30. We drove back to Westwood to get my car. I got my car about 3:15, then went to the gas station to get gas, realized I'd left my wallet in the back of my buddy's car, then drove back to his house, woke him up, got my wallet, went back to the gas station, put gas in my car and went home.

I got home at about 4:15. Realizing that I had a wedding to be at in Syracuse that started at 11am, and that the minister had called me at 9PM (right before the fireworks had started) the previous night to say he forgot his robe. I got home, grabbed the robe, started throwing my suit together for the trip, took a shower and could see the sun starting to rise. At 5AM I started calling friends who I was going to ride with. At 5:30 I left the house, picked up Steve and Jan, and we were on the road.

I let Steve drive, since Jan couldn't drive a manual transmission, and went into one of those strange surreal half sleep states. I think I woke up hearing Jan and Steve in a fervent discussion about The Fountainhead only to compare it to the current leadership situation at my church. "There's a struggle betwen of individual dreams and talents, against the pressures of the community. Can community ultimatley be stifling to genius?" I doze off.

So in any case Mike calls halfway through the trip, I guess he's kind of lost trying to find the church. Steve reassures him, and besides, they won't start without us, "We've got the minister's robe."

So the wedding starts at 11AM. We pull into the church parking lot at 11:10... The bridesmaids are already walking down the aisle, and I can see the bride standing in the vestibule. Oh shoot! I park the car, grab the robe, and run to the church. Only to see the minister already standing beside the altar. Plus there's another minister in full ecumenical haberdashery standing in front of him. He gives me a "Oh well, you tried, it's too late now" look and I hand the robe to Jan, and go back to the car to get my suit on. I realize the shirt I've brought may have fit me two years ago, now cuts off the ciruculation to my brain. Darn.

The wedding goes fine, we go out to the reception. The gastroenterologist is prowling the h'orderves hunting for the bacon wrapped scallops. We sit down to eat, the happy couple looks dreamy. There's a lot of the bride's relatives standing around. Wait is that Nutmeg dancing with someone's great aunt? Nutmeg could be "Mr. Party" I'll bet he could get a bunch of stiff-awkward random 13 year olds, with no rhythm, to dance at a bar-mitzvah. And have fun at it too. Anyhow, I dance with two of my friends that afternoon. The second is clearly better than the first. They were both beginners, and claimed to not really have danced before, but it just seemed like one of them could follow me even though I seemed to be missing beats after each transition, step, step, spin, slide, dip... I commented on it afterwards on the ride to Ithaca, my friend said "duh, of course, all black women are born to know how to dance." I didn't know whether to slap her, or just laugh at the absurdity of that statement.

So we drove to Ithaca NY, which is really in the middle of nowhere, for goodness sake at least Syracuse is along a major highway. We arrive and drive around look at the waterfall over the old gun factory, where there's people swimming even though it's clearly posted that there's lead shot, and lead dust in the water. Ithaca indeed is a beautiful place. Although I'd hesitate to think I can live there. We eat dinner, it's very greasy, even before before you dipping your potatoes or onion rings in ranch dressing and melted butter. We go back to his house, We sit in front of the tv. He offers me a beer. I fall asleep before I can even open the can. I can faintly hear the sound of friends watching The Godfather. "You have dishonored the family...."

I sleep like a log, we wake up in the morning and start to drive home. We run into the minister, his wife, and their brood at one of the rest stops. I apologize about the robe. He shrugs it off, we laugh. I get a strawberry shortcake ice cream bar. We see the traffic on the turnpike back up. Everyone is going home after the long weekend.

I arrive home, it's hot in Boston. I'm about to fall asleep again.

Road tripping is fun, as long as you've got car-mates that you can stand. Besides my weekend was a bit too much driving. Finally, I'm getting a bit too old to be watching the sun rise after staying up all night.

Posted by justin at 04:46 PM
July 02, 2003
Another reason to look to Asia as the future

Chip industry showing its age.

I guess I should use this time to comment on the state of the industry, the state of the economy, and just the overall future which is happening. And why it's happening, there's a convergence going on in my life. I might yet see my dreams of going to China.

Here's the official policy about semiconductor tarrifs in China (from the SIA website). And what
VAT Rebate Policy
China applies a nominal VAT of 17% on sales of imported and domestically-produced semiconductors. In June of 2000, in State Circular Number 18, China's State Council announced that all integrated circuits manufactured in China would receive a rebate of the VAT in excess of 6%. The policy was amended in September 2001, with an announcement that integrated circuits both designed and built in China would be eligible for rebate of the VAT in excess of 3%. GATT Article III on National Treatment prohibits a WTO member country from engaging in activity that treats domestic producers and products more favorably than imported products. China should reduce or eliminate the VAT on all semiconductors, regardless of origin. Reduction or elimination of the VAT would not only help U.S. chipmakers, it would further stimulate the development of China's high technology industries.

Anyhow two questions of the week for those people who read this.
#1. Should you be able to depreciate a computer over 3 years, as opposed to the standard accounting rules which says 5? Everyone knows that the useful life of a computer is only about three years.

#2 Synthetic materials - It's been shown that we can make synthetic sapphire. In fact you can grind optics, and manufacture semiconductors from it. I'm a big believer in synthetic gemstones. In fact natural rubies, sapphires, or emeralds, or any precious or as the quacks will say semi-precious stones should be inferior to synthetic ones.

Including the personal peeve of mine - diamonds. Besides diamonds are the spawn of evi, they're controlled by a multinational monopoly more paranoid than Microsoft, they prop up dictatorships in Africa, killing people, funding genocide, the explotation of children, and the perpetuating all sorts of injustice. Does anyone remember apartheid?

The only reason guys buy them is because some broad sang about them in Gentlemen Prefer Blondes jeez.... Idiots, I say we all are.

Posted by justin at 05:31 PM