Wednesday, March 9, 2011


Last week I went with my co-workers to the restaurant opened by the former Google chef for whom the "Charlie's Cafe" there is currently named after. His restaurant is in Palo Alto and is called Calafia. My co-worker loves it because they have a vast selection of vegetarian items- as well as some meat ones as well. I was curious to try one of their menu items which is macaroni and cheese with golden beets. I have never heard of that combo and would never have thought of to make that a pairing so I had to try it. The presentation was great with the little Le Cruset pot but I have to say that it was the most BLAND mac and cheese I have ever had- Kraft has more flavor. And my friend Ashley didn't like it either. The beets were ok but really didn't add any depth of flavor. I am happy to report that the curried butternut squash soup was good (not something to crave) but the dish that completely sold me that he is a good chef was, not to surprising, a dessert. This has to be the BEST banana split that I have EVER had. You wouldn't think to order it, but this one has one unique touch to it. The bananas are sliced in half, sugared, and bruleed. The crunchy caramelized top is GENIUS providing the best texture to creamy, high quality vanilla ice cream. I am a convert and very happily, our waiter told us that while some desserts are seasonal, this one is NOT- they can always make it. I think that I will definitely need to go back at least for that sundae. Good thing that William doesn't like bananas as it will be all mine :-)

All Tchaikovsky: SF Ballet

This ballet featured all music by Tchaikovsky- there were 3 pieces. I absolutely LOVED the first one which was called "Themes and Variations" choreographed by the great Ballanchine. Apparently, the SF ballet does this piece every year because it is so fast paced and technically challenging. It was beautiful- I actually liked being so far back so that I could appreciate the precision of the ballet dancers in maintaining the intricate formations. I could have just saw this piece and it would have been worth it.

The 2nd piece was SO BORING. it was called "Winter's Song" and it was based upon Anton Chekov's "Three Sisters" but it went on for nearly an hour of just pairs coming out and doing the same dances with the couples splitting apart and running away and then coming back together. As we were leaving the theater, a couple in front of us were also complaining about it so it was good to hear that we weren't alone in our assessment.

The third piece was a new work done by the resident choreographer Helgi Tomasson and I have to say that it was definitely better than the 2nd piece but no where near as good as the first one. I actually really liked the music as it was a piece of Tchaikovsky that I had not heard before. It was much more modern and had an organic quality to it but it just wasn't up to that same standard of choreography from that first number.

One more ballet left for the season for us- Coppelia. Definitely looking forward to this one.

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Bali: Art, Ritual, and Performance

Before the San Francisco ballet last Thursday night, my sister Sarah indulged me into going to the new exhibit at the Asian Museum of Art entitled "Bali: Art, Ritual, and Performance". I have a very limited knowledge of Bali- the only things I know about it are the song "Bali High" and the section in the book Eat, Pray, Love. The exhibit is only $10 and it was well worth it to see the BEAUTIFUL objects. I was impressed by the dolls made out of coins threaded together and the elaborate carvings surrounding their temples and shrines.The most fascinating part was learning about their cremation ceremonies- we watched a video of this ritual where they take the body and parade it through the streets- literally housed inside of a pagoda-eque temple and then is placed inside of a giant animal casket that is then lit on fire. This is so important that people spend thousands of dollars on this ceremony. I saw several photos of Bali and it looks so beautiful- my sister said that the terraced rice paddies were similar to the ones she saw in rural China. Yet, another place to add onto the ever growing list of places that I want to travel to . . .

Empathy and Computers

I know that my blog post title seems odd but it relates to two DIFFERENT lectures that I saw within the past week at Stanford on very different, but fascinating, topics. Last Tuesday, I went and hear Frans de Wall speak about Empathy in Animals. I loved his book- The Age of Empathy- and the talk was even better because he showed actual video clips of the reactions to the animals. It was incredible to see a monkey get upset because another monkey got a grape when he only got a cucumber. It was also touching to see a herd of elephants rally together to help free a baby who was trapped in the mud. As he said in his question and answer that the findings from these studies only apply to primates and other mammals but I think that you can reasonably extrapolate that we have more in common with other living organisms. The lecture is sponsored by the parents of a former Stanford undergrad who loved human biology and taught science to inner city youth but tragically passed on prematurely. I thought that this was a great tribute to her, as there was a large group of high school students that also attended the lecture. This trip reminded me just how much I LOVE

Last night, since William was out of town, I went to another lecture at Stanford by Kevin Poulsen about his book Kingpin: How One Hacker Took Over the Billion Dollar Cyber Crime Underground. It turns out that Kevin Poulsen is a "rehabilitated" hacker who in the 1980s managed to hack into the telephone systems so that he would be the first caller for radio giveaways. He went to prison for several years and for the past decade has been a journalist. To me, it was fascinating to hear about how this one guy managed to hack into the "Ebay" of credit card fraud and how he was ultimately caught by the FBI. I haven't read the book yet but it sounds fascinating and at the same time, slightly frightening about how technology dramatically improves our lives yet still leaves potentially vulnerable victims of crime. I am trying to fit in all of the lectures and night time activities that I can in the next few weeks because I am sure that I probably won't have much time to do that after my class starts on March 29th.