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[icon] Michael C. Berch
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Subject:Presidential candidate quiz
Time:04:42 pm
Current Mood:frustratedfrustrated
I was highly annoyed by the questions, some of which were particularly idiotic, and either presented cartoonish extreme positions, or simply omitted some of the positions which I know a number of the candidates hold. And I don't really trust their mapping of answers to candidates, since nothing I can find confirms Bill Richardson's strong commitment to free trade, for example, and I'm surprised to see Rudy "9/11" Giuliani so high, since he is atrocious on civil liberties. On the other hand, it's not completely off-base, since the right-wing religious nuts are properly at the bottom.

67% Bill Richardson
63% Chris Dodd
62% Mike Gravel
58% Barack Obama
57% Rudy Giuliani
57% Ron Paul
57% Dennis Kucinich
56% Hillary Clinton
54% John Edwards
49% John McCain
49% Joe Biden
46% Mitt Romney
45% Mike Huckabee
42% Tom Tancredo
40% Fred Thompson

2008 Presidential Candidate Matching Quiz
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Subject:Finally, Berch on Food reports on London
Time:10:53 pm
Current Mood:fullfull
(Something went wrong with the markup in the syndication of berchonfood, so I'll reproduce the whole thing here. I posted a quick summary in October, but here's the whle scoop, starting with London.)

Well, Berch on Food is back from this fall's set of travels, and I have a full sheaf of notes and several gigabytes of photos to show for it. This trip I was unburdened by work obligations, leaving the days and evenings free for touring and eating. Given a transatlantic flight, where should we head? I nominated London and Paris, and Maggie nominated Berlin and Stockholm, and somehow we managed to fit all four cities into three weeks. I headed to Nebraska to meet Maggie beforehand, and consequently ended up doing a lot of flying. (My final itinerary, in airport codes, was SFO-DEN-LNK-ORD-LHR(-)ORY-SXF-ARN-LHR-ORD-LNK-DEN-SFO, all by air except London-Paris which was on the Eurostar train. Lots of seat belt announcements and upright seat backs, believe me. (Maggie was spared the SFO-DEN-LNK parts on either end.) 3J on a 777, Chicago to London

After arriving in Lincoln, Maggie met me at the airport and we headed not for the Haymarket, but for the new second location of The Oven, at 70th and Pioneers, in the same center as Venue. It's a nice room with high ceilings, modern decor, and halogen track lighting. I ordered my favorite herb-crusted lamb shank with vindaloo cream, which was delicious, and we drank a 2004 Seghesio "Old Vines" zinfandel. (The Oven East is still building its wine list, and didn't have our favorite Stag's Leap petite sirah, but the Seghesio zin was very nice with the lamb and Maggie's chicken tikka korma.) And before leaving Lincoln we managed to get to BBQ4U, which has turned into Lincoln's consistently best barbecue.

I managed to score us first class award seats from Chicago to London and back on United, which entitled us to the very nicely stocked International First Class lounge at O'Hare, with a decent bar, good beverage selection, and some tasty food, including a cold pate en croute with pistachios, a ham and cheese roll-up, various nuts and cheeses, and good coffee.

We boarded on time and were escorted to our "suites" on the Boeing 777. There are only 10 seats in F on United 777s, and each is a mini-suite that converts to a lie-flat bed, and has plenty of storage space, an IFE screen, laptop power outlet, satphone, and comfy pillows and a blanket. The seats are angled and we each had 3 windows to look out of. Service was very gracious and the seats were very comfortable.

Dinner service began with a cucumber salad and a combo of short rib won tons with thai barbecue sauce and sauteed shrimp, probably the best starter I've had on an aircraft. I ordered the filet mignon for a main course, but alas, it arrived burnt due to an oven problem in the galley; profuse apologies ensued and it was replaced with a fillet of salmon with spinach, which was fine. I was nearly full by the time the cheese course came by, but managed to enjoy some gorgonzola, parmesan, and a bit of chevre, with Sandeman's Reserve port.

Living Room
After a fitful night (I still can't sleep on airplanes, even in a mini-bed) we were greeted with a breakfast of an omelette, tomato, ham, and assorted fruit. After landing at Heathrow and clearing immigration we repaired to the United's Arrivals suite for showers, coffee, and wi-fi, and then faced the trip into town.

I'd originally planned to stay in familiar territory -- the West End, South Kensington, maybe Camden or Islington, but after consulting several holiday flat rental sites and going down a couple of blind alleys, the best choice available turned out to be a new development called Maltings Place, on Tower Bridge Rd., SE1, in Bermondsey. It's a conversion of a former brewery, along with some new construction. Our apartment was in the old brewery, and the main room looked out on a small lane with mews houses, while the bedrooms overlooked a second-floor glass walkway to a set of offices. I admired the concept of the place, but the execution was somewhat odd -- in the en-suite bath off the first bedroom, it was almost impossible to stand at the sink without brushing one's shoulders against the shower and wall, and it was literally impossible to turn around in the shower.

Côte de boeuf for two
The location, though, was exceptional -- all of Bermondsey seemed to be in the process of renovation and gentrification, and what had been run-down riverfront warehouses and abandoned buildings only a few years ago were smart offices and blocks of flats, along with a good measure of pubs and restaurants. And since the arrival of the Jubilee Line extension -- no doubt a prime mover in the district's recovery -- it was a quick trip into the heart of London.

But -- on to the food. One of Bermondsey's best points is its proximity to the fabulous Borough Market, London's largest and most famous wholesale and retail food market. While we weren't able to visit the market this trip, we were able to enjoy one of its major local effects, which is a wealth of restaurants orbiting its perimeter on Stoney St., Southwark St., and Rochester Walk. One that we had in mind was Roast, to which we had been directed by Maggie's mother, who found a review of it on the NPR web site. Alas, they were fully booked, but immediately next door was a very stylish and informal steak house, Black and Blue, in a space neatly carved into an arch-roofed former warehouse under an railroad overpass, and full to overflowing with smart young Londoners. Black and Blue is part of Britain's post-BSE beef revival and is known for its huge cuts of
sustainably-farmed beef, cooked rare. After a stint in the bar waiting for a table and appetizing on paté and tortilla chips with guacamole, we shared an enormous côte de boeuf (bone-in rib steak), and didn't finish it!

Roast After a pleasant day touring the Southwark waterfront the next day, the highlight of which was a tour of the World War II cruiser HMS Belfast, Maggie suggested we try Roast again, and this time we were successful. It's a beautiful room, one story above the street (in fact, it overlooks Black and Blue). We started with the pressed rabbit with scrumpy apple chutney, and scallops with garlic and cobb nuts, accompanied by Audoin champagne, and we both opted for the roast leg of lamb with slow-cooked shoulder, greens, jus, and garlic creme as a main course. Both the leg and shoulder were amazingly tender and flavorful and the greens gave the dish a little bit of bitter contrast to the velvety meat juices. With the lamb we had a Trinity Hill 2002 Hawkes Bay "Trinity" red blend from New Zealand.

Unlike the starters and mains, which were exceptional, something was a bit off with the cheese course. Roast features a set of artisanal British cheeses, including Montgomery's Cheddar from Somerset, Isle of Wight Blue, and Flower Marie, a sheep's milk cheese from East Sussex. The cheddar was delighful, but something had happened to the Flower Marie, giving it an unpalatable barnyard taste (really, you don't want to know) which carried over to the Blue, either due to contact in the kitchen or storage, or perhaps via the serving knife. As all three cheeses are still on Roast's menu, it must have been a one-time incident. (I dearly love strong-flavored ripe cheeses, but something had clearly gone wrong here.)

On the way to the West End the next day, we lunched at The Bridge Lounge, a delightful pub on Tooley St., just west of the south end of the Tower Bridge. In an upmarket spin on bangers and mash, I had pork and leek sausages with onion, mashed potatoes, and a wine reduction sauce. Pork and leek sausages, onion, mashed potatoes, wine reduction sauceThen we headed to the V&A and the London Eye, and from there to dinner at an old favorite, Porter's English Restaurant in Covent Garden. Porter's serves the traditional classics of English cooking -- shepherd's pie, bubble and squeak, steak and kidney pudding, spotted dick -- all the things that every American kid thinks that Londoners eat every day. We started with dressed Norfolk crab (a spicy crab salad) and we both had excellent fish and chips -- beer-battered cod with malt vinegar.

Our last full day in London was spent mostly at the British Museum, then back home to our neighborhood to a lovely dinner at a Bermondsey gastro-pub, The Garrison Public House. We started with mussels in white wine and cream sauce, and for mains we both had roast organic pork belly with new potatoes, bacon, and thyme jus, a nice filling meal for a chilly autumn night. We drank a 2004 Spanish crianza from Castillo de Chiva.

And with that our London visit came to a close -- the next day there was just time for coffee and a shortbread cookie before packing up and heading to Waterloo Station and the Eurostar... next stop, Paris!
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Subject:Eating in Pleasanton
Time:01:43 pm
Current Mood:accomplishedaccomplished
So, I've started a new blog, mostly to play with the Wordpress platform on Wordpress.com before installing it on my own server.

Eating in Pleasanton

There are all sorts of quirks in Wordpress but it looks easier to use than anything else, so far.
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Subject:Bad clothing choice
Time:09:57 pm
Never go to an Apple Store on a Friday at 6 PM wearing a black Macworld shirt.

It was actually easier to just answer the questions than to try to convince people that I didn't work there. (Yes, the iPod Touch has wi-fi and Safari. No, Leopard will not be out until the 26th. External hard disks are over there -- see? And no, the iPhone does not work on Sprint.)

What I was there to do was get a DVI to S-video adapter for my MacBook Pro, since unlike my PowerBook G4 the MBP does not have S-video out, and that's how I watch downloaded TV shows on my big (but old) TV. Unfortunately, when I got home and plugged it in, instead of getting a picture, I got out of sync wavy stuff on the TV screen. I went to the Displays preferences, and it wants me to choose a resolution and scan frequency for what it called the external "VGA Display" (VGA? Buh?) Unfortunately, none of the ones offered cleared the picture up. There's like 40 choices, from 640x480 at 60 Hz, to 2536x1920 at 120 Hz. Each of them produces a slightly different image of digital noise. The lowest res and scan rate almost produce an actual display, but not really. WTF?!?! This adapter has two jacks and does both S-video and NTSC composite -- I thought both of those were fixed analog signals, so I am puzzled by being asked about resolution and frequency. The port on the PB G4 just worked without any questions. Grrr.
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Subject:Extremely compressed trip summary
Time:04:51 pm
Current Mood:tiredtired
OK, we're back (to Lincoln, anyway; I'll be returning to California tomorrow).

Outbound flight: F on United was very nice, actually, and the Arrivals Suite and priority immigration queue at Heathrow was a big win.

London: Interesting but bizarre rental flat, in a converted brewery (Maltings Place) in a part of town I've never spent much time in (Bermondsey); good food (in & around Borough Market); the Tube was amazingly crowded every day at all hours; first time on the London Eye. Alas, no time to see friends but I'm sure I'll be back reasonably soon. Ate at Black & Blue, The Bridge Lounge, Roast, Porter's, and The Garrison.

Eurostar: Comfortable and quick, although the check-in and security at Waterloo made it (unfortunately) more airline-like. Food (in business class) was pretty good but not exceptional.

Paris: We had a surpassingly awesome apartment on Ave. de la République near Oberkampf, in the 11th, which was a very, very cool neighborhood. (I'd walked around there before & eaten at Cafe Charbon but never stayed there.) Otherwise, well... it was Paris. What can you say? Ate at Le Barometre, Brasserie Lutetia, Au Pied de Cochon, Pinxo, and L'Ebauchoir.

EasyJet: We decided to ditch the road-trip part of the trip and just stay in Paris an extra 4 days (alas, we had to give up the apartment after 5 days since it was previously booked, and ended up in the Paris Marriott Rive Gauche for 3 nights) and fly to Berlin. At short notice the only reasonable flight available was from Orly to Berlin Schoenefeld on EasyJet. After some initial problems (their web site crashed with ASP errors in the middle of my credit card transaction.. TWICE) it turned out just fine, a nice shiny new A319 and shiny happy cabin crew.

Berlin: We were met at the airport (Schoenefeld is the old East Berlin airport, way out in the sticks) by Ed Ward, and went into town and checked into the rental flat, which was on Schönhauser Allee between Mitte and Prenzlauer Berg, in an old building mostly modernized since the DDR era. Ed took us on an amazing four-hour walking tour of the history of Berlin, from the 18th & 19th centuries to WWII and the divided city and the Wall. Ate at 1900, Lutter & Wegner, Trattoria Paparazzi, and Gugelhof.

Air Berlin: Long lines for check-in at Berlin Tegel, but I found a self-service kiosk and that saved us at least half an hour. This flight featured another shiny new Airbus (this one an A320) and happy cabin crew, and, believe it or not, free food and drink (a ham & cheese sandwich) -- virtually unknown on European LCCs.

Stockholm: Chilly fall weather had just arrived. Our apartment deal did not come through (long story, but there was a possibility that it was an illegal rental or sublet, and the guy wanted payment in cash up front, and so we cancelled and booked into the Sheraton). The Sheraton was lovely, and our room had a panoramic view of the water, some of the Old City, and the Stadshuset (City Hall), which hosts the annual Nobel Prize banquet. Toured the Stadshuset, the Old City, and some of modern Stockholm. Ate at Backfickan (at the Opera House), Mälardrottningen (the luxury yacht turned hotel-restaurant), Prinsen, and Stadshuskällaren, the restaurant in the Stadshuset.

London redux: Just for a night. Stayed at the Marriott Heathrow, met our friends Matthew and Laura at a nearby pub-restaurant (The Pheasant, West End Rd. at New Rd., Harlington, Hayes, just off the Bath Rd. Heathrow hotel strip.)

Return flight: Hung out at United's International F lounge in T3, which was nice (although not having free wi-fi is sort of lame) and had all sorts of free food and drink, though, and we had an excellent 7.5 hour return flight. Maggie tipped off the cabin crew that it was my birthday (I got 6 extra hours of birthday this year, due to the magic of jet travel and time zones!) and they made me a present of a nice bottle of Bordeaux.
(Tip: if you're ever in international F on a UA 777, try to get seat 3J -- it's the last row of F, with a bulkhead behind you, and it's a quiet little corner that's almost like your own compartment. The only unfortunate part of the trip was that the flight gets to Chicago too late to catch the last flight to Lincoln (or else it was booked on the day of our return), so thus another airport hotel stay (Marriott Suites O'Hare, very nice) and a morning flight to Lincoln on United Express, and they managed to lose my luggage. (It's been 7 hours since we landed and they still have no idea where it is, and I am supposed to return to Calif. tomorrow.) Not to mention that in sharp contrast to absolutely everyone else we met or dealt with in London, Paris, Berlin, or Stockholm, the staff (United, TSA, etc.) at O'Hare were cranky and surly.
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Subject:sfo2lhr going sfo2lhr
Time:08:30 pm
Current Mood:anticipatory
I'm in Lincoln, spending the weekend with Maggie & family before the two of us set off for Europe on Tuesday. I was trying to figure out a novel way to get from Heathrow to where we're staying (Maltings Place, a new development in Tower Bridge Rd. SE1 built around a converted brewery), and using the Transport for London Journey Planner I came across this somewhat amusing screen, which I managed to capture:



Apparently TfL are having a massage today, or something. (I came back later and got a more typical set of destinations.)

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Subject:Meme of the week: Career Cruising
Time:01:16 am
Current Mood:tiredtired
Pretty much everything here in the top 20 is plausible, some things more than others. Careers 21-40 had a few whoppers, like Musician, Medical Illustrator, or Health Care Administrator, though. Sadly, unlike almost everyone else I know, Taxidermist did not come up.

1. Management Consultant
2. Director (Film or Theatre)
3. Lobbyist
4. Venture Capitalist
5. Politician
6. Actor
7. Judge
8. Corporate/Commercial Lawyer
9. Website Designer
10. Director of Photography
11. Curator
12. Public Policy Analyst
13. Comedian
14. Critic
15. Civil Litigator
16. Writer
17. Criminologist
18. Composer
19. Translator
20. Market Research Analyst

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Subject:Services for Andy Purshottam
Time:10:24 pm
Friends of Andy Purshottam are invited to attend the cremation and memorial:

Cremation is scheduled for 2.00 PM on Tuesday, August 28, 2007, at
Sunset View Mortuary
101 Colusa Avenue, El Cerrito CA 94530
Tel: 510-525-5111

There will be a brief memorial prayer to be given by Jon Anderson of
the Sathya Sai Baba Center of Grass Valley before the cremation takes
place. So it is best to plan to be at the Mortuary by 1.30 PM.

Directions to get to Sunset Mortuary:

- from Sacramento, take 80W toward San
Francisco, take Central Avenue exit, go up Central
Avenue, make a right on Ashbury Avenue, turn left on
to Fairmount Avenue, go straight up until you reach
Colusa. The mortuary is right at the top of Fairmount
where it intersects Colusa.

-from San Francisco, take 80E, take Central Avenue exit
and follow the same directions to the mortuary.

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Subject:Andy Purshottam
Time:09:52 pm
I am very sorry to have to relay the news that Andy Purshottam passed away last week at his home in Kensington. I knew him mostly from the Kabuki-West dinners/parties/events, and I think a number of people on my friends list knew him from that, or from UC Berkeley or one of the companies he was associated with. According to the email forwarded last night, he had had a number of health problems recently, and died at his home sometime between Monday and Saturday of last week. I don't have any other details.

I'll remember Andy as a colorful, garrulous character with an opinion on everything, especially food, travel, politics, and technical topics. If I learn anything about memorial plans, etc., I'll post them here.
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Subject:Nebraska roundup, part 3
Time:04:02 pm
Current Mood:hothot
Berch on Food discusses some good eating in Nebraska. (And Kansas, too.)

[icon] Michael C. Berch
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