Aug 11, 2007

One Night at McPerkins

Saori and I both spent the night with family: Saori slept at her sister's host family's house, and I over at my parent's scottsdale condo (triple secured!). After working an extra two hours to get some more design stuff hashed out, I drove to Scottsdale and met mom and dad at Best Buy. We picked up Tay from his driving lesson (completely virtual) where the instructor told us that Tay needs to work on slowing down earlier for stop signs and lights, and that he needs to scan ahead more.

Of course, the simulator that he's working on, instead of a computer tracking where your eyes are looking, you have to push a button to indicate that you've done something. This is completely stupid and actually harmful. When tay actually starts driving, instead of using his eyes to scan, he's going to be feeling around the dashboard. There is no reason at all, other than the company's refusal to shell out the money, that the experiance of driving cannot be very closely simulated with high resolution, accellerated graphics, motion feedback systems to approximate the reaction of the car, and tracking cameras to look at where the eyes are pointing. All the tech exists, and has existed for at least the past 10 years.

Anyway, we played a family game when we got back to the apartment, an electronic game called catchphrase where you play in teams of two and have to get your partner to guess a word or phase without using that word or part of the word. Theres a timer that goes faster and faster on the unit, and the idea is that once your partner gets the word, you pass it off, like hot potato, and the guy with the thing when time runs out, the other team gets a point. It's fun, and pretty quick.

Mom and I went to pick up Havana Cafe takeout for dinner. Good stuff, lots of leftovers. After mom and dad had gone to bed, Tay and drove out to Blockbuster where I picked up Pan's Labyrinth and Casino Royale. We stayed up late watching Pan's Labyrinth.

Aug 9, 2007

Gliding Along the Root Canal

Stressful day at work today. We keep coming up with problems we haven't really solved yet, and that should have been solved before this point. It's stressful and challeging, but I think we're eventually going to get everything as it should be, just because we don't have any other options. At any rate, I was half-happy to get away and on to my root canal.

The procedure itself was actually not as bad as I thought it was going to be. They numbed me up first with a gel, then gave me about 3-4 shots which I didn't even feel, which pretty much knocked out the entire area. They put a thin latex shield with a hole just for the tooth and stretched it out to catch debris from falling into my mouth. The drilling wasn't bad and apart from a few pinches and cold and hot sensations, it was pain-free. They set me up with a cap and a temporary filling for now, until I go back in next week. I was in and out in about two hours, including all the waiting time.

I took the rest of the day off of work, as it was already four when I got out of there. After Saori got off work, we walked to the Coco's by my apartment for a light dinner and some coffee. Afterwards, I drove to the airport to go to her sister's wedding up near Washington DC. I don't envy her red-eye flight, but I do miss her already.

Last night, we were going to try to hunt down an Indian food place, but wound up at Cherryblossom Noodle Cafe, a Japanese restaurant. I've actually only been to a few Japanese restaurants which serve other foods than sushi. This place has really good Udon noodle and tempura, and, always a good sign, there's always many Japanese people eating there. Actually, Saori has run into at least two of her friends every time she's gone.

Aug 6, 2007

Surreal Life

Over the past few nights, Saori and I have been enjoying her birthday present, the collected short films of Jan Svankmajer. Jan is a animator from Prague, and his films, which usually involve clay or other household objects, are highly surreal, with strong political, historic, and social themes.



Work has been rolling along, I've found myself a nice little niche as the designer for this project, coming up with the little design solutions for the various exterior aspects. Last friday was an open house, with a good turn out. Saori and I met my friend Joe and his wife Nicole there and we went to dinner afterwards at Switch. It makes me pause for a moment and reflect how normal it seems to go to a company function and then out to dinner with a married couple. It's one of those strange moments when you realize that you're getting older, like when I started seeing my friends working at the stores where I shopped.

Suki is looking better these days. She's lost some fur where mom trimmed the heaviest mats out, and she looks leaner too.

Aug 5, 2007

The Dining Issue: Uptown Central Phoenix

Cafe Lux
Expresso bar of the designers and designer wanabees alike. Good coffee, great cupcakes with coffee icing, a little pricy. It's a very comfortable space with big tables and couches festooned with design magazines like Metropolis and Architectural Record. A good place to be seen with a sketchbook and Bruce Mau book.

Pane Bianco
Only the first ten feet of this bakery are acessable to the public. You come in, give your order, and wait for your food. It's still one of the best sandwiches in town. All the sandwiches they make are extremely basic with few simple, but high quality ingrediants, on thier handmade wood fired bread. They also sell rustic bagettues. My favorite is the simple tomato, basil, and mozarella ciabatta. They wrap it all in paper, and throw it in a bag with a delicous chocolate covered caramel for dessert. You have to eat outside though, in the shade of the canopies on split log slab picnic tables. It's literally next door to Cafe Lux if you want an after meal coffee.

Coronado Cafe
Saori and I stumbled on this place walking around our neighborhood. We crossed 7th steet from my street, and there it was. At first sight, i assumed it was a cheap eats kind of place that offered a decent greasy breakfast and burgers in the afternoon. It is an old house, partially obscured by trees, with a big old yellow sign with "Coronado Cafe", and a covered porch with more tables. Nothing could be further from the the cheap greasy eats cafe. This is actually a fine resaturant which specializes in neuvo italian and american food. Nice linins on the table, polite wait staff, photos on the wall. I ordered a glass of Chardonnay with my delicious pasta. We split a soup, which was a tomato and mushroom reduction. It was all delicious. The bill was not bad either for what you were getting.

Arcadia Farms at the Heard Musuem
If you are ever at the Phoenix Art Musuem and feeling hungry, don't stop in at the pretenious, overcrowded, and expensive cafe there. Up the block, about a half mile, is the Heard Museum, where its easy to park and find your way to the small restaurant off of the main courtyard. The decour and wait staff are pleasant, and the food is excellent. They serve an eclectic mix of dishes, from huge salads to homemade tamales, although it skews towards mexican. The Posole and Tamales were both really good. Good iced tea too. One time, I just wanted to have coffee outside on their patio tables, and they happily accomodated me with coffee service, whereas at the Pheonix Art Museum cafe, they nearly chased us from the tables because we weren't ordering from table menu. Arcadia farms is not cheap, but it is less less pricy than the Phoenix Art Museum's cafe.

Switch
Located right near where I work, I've gone here a few times. Good food, but its a restaurant in search of what it wants to be, whether lounge, cafe, or restraurant. Sometimes when i've ordered, I order and pay at the front, then the wait staff find me where I'm sitting amongst the couches and tables. Other times, it's a regular restaurant. My biggest complaint is that thier music is too loud. If they want to be an upscale bar, fine, but its almost too much for dining. Had a really good soup the other day, and the pesto beef panini is my top recommendation.

Chino Bandito
A bit farther north than uptown, this little restaurant has a cult following in Phoenix, and for good reason. The mexican-chinese fusion works brilliantly. Cheap, good food, folding tables and chairs in the main dining area, and the best snickerdoodles in Phoenix. Look for the Panda in the sombrero with bandoliers. I've been going to this restaurant for about 3/4 of my life.

Saori's No Good, Very Bad, Horrible Week.

First, a bit of good news, Saori got a job two weeks ago at a small but influential architecture firm in the valley. They do very modern design and they are currently working on large scale academic projects in the valley and in California. The office actually only has about five people including Saori, and every day has been really fun for her at the office so far.

Two weeks ago, she was driving home in the post-monsoon rain, when she got into an accident. It was the other driver's fault. Saori was not injured, nor was the other driver, and Saori's car miraculously suffered only some minor scrapes on the front corner and a busted front light.

That night, when she went home to Tempe, she found her fridge had mysteriously defrosted in her absence and she had to throw away half of the rotting food. Since then, its been running fine. The next day she went in to her insurance office to discover that the other party had already filed a claim AGAINST her, including towing fees (the other car was fine enough to be driven away before the police arrived), and medical treatment (also completely bogus since the person who claimed to be getting treatment was not even IN the car at the time).

Friday, she had a near miss when she and her coworkers went out to lunch directly across the street from where the two news helicopters crashed. They were close enough to smell the smoke and see the flames.

The early weekend was fine, we had breakfast at mom and Taylor's apartment and then went driving a bit afterwards ( yes, Taylor is driving! I'm teaching him behind the wheel, which should terrify many of my friends), and then that afternoon we went ice skating. But sunday, Saori fell ill with a painful bladder infection.

Her week picked up from there, though. Thursday was her birthday, so she is now officially two years older than I am (for a month). I met her for lunch at Pane Bianco, and then after she came back from work, we went to Malee's on Main for dinner. After dinner, I made her a banana bread loaf "cake."

Aug 3, 2007

Root Canals and the Theory of the Scottsdale Leisure Class

So I have to get a root canal on an abscessed tooth.
For various reasons, none of them good, I have not seen a dentist in over two years. Lately, it's because I've been out of my parent's insurance, having graduated from college, and waiting to get all my paperwork and cards done for the company insurance provider. I picked a dentist last week, my former dentists NOT on the approved list, and went in yesterday for my first visit. I picked them because they were relatively close to me, and because it was owned and managed by the same dental care company I used in Scottsdale, and because I figured the dental work I'd need to have done was going to be a bit costly.

Anyway, 2 PM appointment = workday effectively ends at lunch, so that was not too terrible.
Office is pretty standard dentist office, clean, quiet. I filled out my forms and they took x-rays of my teeth, although they had to retake the full panoramic one. The dentist who saw me was ancient, probably extremely experienced, straightforward, and friendly. I went in expecting him to recoil in horror at the state of my mouth, including my gaping cracked tooth, but he calmly gave me two options: yank it, or root canal. I decided to keep the tooth. He also found a series of cavities on the front of some teeth, totaling four against Tay's 18.

The dental hygienist grabbed me on the way out and asked me if I wanted to get my teeth cleaned while I was there and she had an opening. Sure, I said, just get it over with. She was the most relentlessly cheerful dental hygienist I've ever seen. Surprisingly, my teeth were in pretty good shape, with very little tartar build-up, and most of the staining from decalcification hard, and not soft spots. Cleaning went pretty quickly.

Before I left, an assistant went over my course of treatment with me. Root canal, crown replacement, various fillings and surfaces, and then a $60 (my part) charge for an "occ. guard." I asked the assistant what it was. She said "Oh, its a plastic guard you wear at night." After a few more questions it emerged that it was to prevent me from grinding my teeth at night. Hmm. News to me. Funny the doc never mentioned it when he was talking me through my treatment. I asked to see where in his notes he mentioned it, and she dutifully flipped the folder to the handwritten notes page, where he had written "Occ." I grabbed the dentist on my way towards the front desk. He looked over the bill /treatment plan and furrowed his eyebrows. Apparently the desk manager had misinterpreted his occ, which turned out to be another filling treatment I needed. The $30 delta wasn't worth nearly as much to me as the wearing a plastic guard at night. "Good catch," he told me on my way out.

All the dental work amounts to nearly $500. Ouch! That's WITH insurance covering the other $800 of it.

I can't believe its been a month since my last post. I think this is the longest I've gone without posting. Time flies by frighteningly fast with work.

Mom and Tay have come and gone from town, off to visit my aunt and uncle in Findlay, Ohio. They're living in a luxury apartment complex in Scottsdale. This apartment complex disgusts me in so many ways and on so many levels, I feel nauseated and filled with loathing every time I visit it. The only good thing about it is that represents and champions high density living.

Imagine, if you will, a gated "community" in North Scottsdale, something blandly "luxurious," like a "Premium" Denny's Omlette, but with less taste. Compress this entire gated community into multistoried clumps of wood frame construction, slathered over with stucco and beige paint, add a few token trees and some pools, and you get this apartment community. If you can imagine a cast resin Victorian cherub holding a Chinese manufactured AA run clock, and the whole thing painted to look like dark wood, then you get the feel. At least it doesn't sprawl, like a rotting carcass, across the desert.

Also highly disturbing to me is the level of "Security" that these apartments present. On the surface, one would assume that this neighborhood of North Scottsdale has completely been run over by organized crime and rampant theft. There is a six digit code for the gate at the entrance. Then, there is another four digit code to get in the building. Once inside, there is even a code for the FLOOR in the elevator. Each floor is silent and windowless corridors which twist around awkardly, blank walled, and unbroken except for a large door with a tiny plastic knocker and a plastic apartment number. I got the bizzare feeling that I was actually in a government test facility where they plugged in "luxury" human habitats to study upper middle class suburubanites. It also smelled like an attic.

These apartments are in fact, as about as secure as a box of cereal to someone who has more than a mild interest in entering, and in fact, Saori and I made our way, without codes or keys, all the way to my mother's doorstep. It only prevents people from ordering out or getting newspapers delivered, as a general aggravator for everyone else. Do people really think that this is protecting them? Do they see it as a kind of Thorstien Veblen stick, a visible sign of their prosperity? "My possessions are so valuable, I need multiple security systems" kind of arrangement?

Medium is the message

I moved the blog again. I deleted the Tumblr account and moved everything to Medium.com, a more writing-centric website. medium.com/@wende...