Feb 28, 2013

tay welcomes me to his apartment

the road to Bloomington

tablet gadgets

So I finally spent my birthday money in an Amazon gift card back from September. I picked up a light flip case for my tablet, and a small bluetooth keyboard to use with the tablet. I’m really enjoying the keyboard- I like to write a lot, so this is a lot less frustrating than trying to swipe my fingers everywhere. The keyboard also came with a stand, so I can just stand up my tablet and type on the keyboard and it shows up on the screen, even several feet away. (although the text becomes very difficult to see at this distance.)

Feb 27, 2013

packing list for the Prius

Stuff I’m taking with me to Mexico
  1. large suitcase containing clothes for working in Mexico.
  2. medium duffle bag containing clothes I’ve been wearing around, plus shoes, toiletries, netbook, chargers, climbing shoes.
  3. large messenger bag containing, you know, messages. Also, pens.
Stuff I’m leaving somewhere temporarily
  1. Dell computer tower. This is kind of a large, fragile item. Given its size, I’m wondering if I should even be dragging it along partway. I wanted it basically to practice my Rhino skills before I make a fool of myself at the office, where I’m assuming, they use Rhino. Something to check on.
  2. 23” flat panel monitor for the tower.
Stuff I’m giving away
  1. box of legos - for a old classmates’ child
  2. a very large valuable watercolor of a Beijing hutong
  3. a not so large or valuable framed Chinese embroidery
Stuff related to Suki which I am leaving with Tay
  1. Suki the cat
  2. suki’s litter box
  3. bag of brushes and bowls
  4. giant bag of food
  5. giant box of kitty litter
  6. The giant hardshell kitty carrier
  7. The smaller soft kitty carrier
I’m pretty sure it will all fit.

Housecleaning and beer

It’s basically taken me three days to finish the cleaning after Saori left. But then, I could have finished everything in a day with Saori’s help- its just one of those things where I’m basically killing time until I go to Tay’s place.
On the flip side, the apartment looks phenomenal, apart from the broken linolineum tiles in the kitchen. I cleaned out the fridge, cleaned the walls, cleaned the baseboards, pulled all the fur and crap out of the hallway runner, swept everything.
I took the final load of stuff to the storage facility, which was the hardest thing to do because it meant losing the wifi. But, had to be done. Fed Suki, sold the IKEA wine rack we got for free from the dumpster, (for $20, now partially converted to beer and goodwill among friends)
Today I ate another two donuts for breakfast, washed down with a small bottle of whole milk. Another bag of salad for lunch. For dinner, I stopped by Schnucks and bought a huge bag of Suki food and more kitty litter, and also picked up two drumsticks of fried chicken and some chips for dinner. Cheap cheap cheap. As long as I buy food from grocery stores, I’m going to save a lot of money.
I met up with Chuck and Adam and Jess and Dave O at 4 Hands Brewery tonight for a farewell drink. It was a place I’ve always wanted to go, but never have. Really good beer. Bar is more of a tasting room. Very industrial, not really cozy, more of the place if you’re really into beers and you want to try some local brews you can’t get in a bottle anywhere. I have to say I will really miss the beer culture here.
The apartment is effectively empty. I still need to get someone to buy the dining room chairs so I don’t have to donate them to Goodwill, and then there’s all the stuff I’m taking with me.

Eating Old Laptops

I bought a customized laptop from Dell for about $1300 about four years ago. Graphics card got really unstable and I bought a tower last year. I listed the laptop for $150 on craigslist to no takers for at least two weeks, and finally sold it Sunday for $100.
Sunday night, I joined Dew, Chuck and Freda for dinner at Charlie Gitto’s in The Hill neighborhood. Ostensibly Italian food, although they invented the toasted ravioli. Menu was classic Americana- six layer lasagna, linguini with clams, pizza. At least they make their own noodles. The lasagna was actually great and huge. I’m happy, actually that I got to eat at one of the Italian restaurants on the hill, although it’s a seriously poor second to Boston’s north end.
Also, surprisingly expensive. It’s just kind of a snobby, stuffy restaurant. Of the $100 I got from the laptop, $60 went to this one meal. I can’t tell if that’s great or if its really horrible.

apartment cleaning

I love our bathroom without anything in it: no soap, no toothbrushes hanging out, no obnoxious products on the sink, no decoration. It’s always kind of sad the cleanest our bathroom gets is when we leave

Feb 25, 2013

the first bed after my own

 After I dissassembled my bed, I slept on the mattress on the floor. After Chuck came over and helped me pitch my mattress, I moved over to his apartment, into the room recently vacated by Dew.

Feb 20, 2013

Aw, Schnucks

Everyone knows that grocery store chains have different stores depending on the neighborhood. I'm kind of fascinated with how far Schnucks has taken it. A rundown of the Schnucks I frequent:

Olive and Midland
This is basically your lower rent Schnucks, especially since its the closest grocery store to the food desert of the balkanized, poor municipalities north of U city, namely Pagedale and Normandy.
Huge racial diversity here. Some students, mostly from the university housing north of Delmar, a few local Asians, lots of black people, more than any other Schnucks I've seen.
Next door: a dollar store, and a clothing store for plus sized black women.
Not much produce here, ( I have heard a theory that grocery stores in areas considered to be higher risk of shoplifting will carry less fresh fruits and veggies, which have a very low profit margin, and generally mark up the price to compensate for a higher loss rate ) very poor beer and wine selection, no coffee stand. They don't sell the premium orange juice they squeeze themselves, and they don't sell gelato either.
However, they do have the most amazing selection of smoked meats of any of the Schnucks I've seen. There's an entire section of the store devoted to it, actually. And its great stuff too, most of it from local smokehouses and sausage makers.
The store is more spartan, dingier. They started selling products in giant cardboard bins with giant sale signs in the middle of the aisle. It seems clear to me they are trying to attract the Wal-Mart shopper.

A little over a mile south and you get to the grocery store that serves the university community and the relatively wealthy neighborhoods to the south and west. It's nice without feeling opulent. In-store coffee shop, sometimes with live music.
Next door: bikram yoga, UPS, frozen yogurt.
They sell the amazing orange juice and the expensive gelato. The smoked selection is not bad either.
Also pretty diverse. Seems to cover a wide range of shoppers. Great produce section, good wine selection, amazing beer section. Best beer selection of any Schnucks. Bustling and busy pretty much anytime. Open 24 hours. Lots of college kids.

A little over a mile away is a world of difference in the Schnucks. If the Olive store caters to lower income blacks, this store caters to wealth and Jews. It's a logical step, given its location at the edge of one of the richest neighborhoods in St. Louis, and its proximity to the heart of the Jewish enclave. Walking in, I can always tell we're approaching a high holy day by the featured products on immediate display.
This is what my family calls "the nice Schnucks". It's actually part of a stylized shopping center which has a Barnes&Noble and a Gap. It's a vaguely Virginian style with red brick, chandeliers in the vestibule, and whitewashed wood. It's too pretentious. It looks like an upscale grocery store, although it doesn't have the smugness of nearby Straub's which is an upscale grocery store.
The produce and fruit section here is great- fresh, good looking, and lots of it. They sell the "life changing" Culinaria fresh orange juice. Huge selection of wines and other liquor, great selection of beer, including craft breweries. Coffee and gelato stands in the store. Really weak smoked meat selection.

Schnucks on the Plaza
The single bottle of beer I bought here was placed first in a paper bottle bag, and then in a larger, white paper grocery bag emblazoned with the store name in dignified serif typeface: this is not Schnucks-this is Schnucks on the Plaza.
Since the only large open spaces nearby are asphalt parking lots, I can only surmise that the plaza is a reference to the nearby mini-mall, with only luxury department stores. A friend characterized the area as "disgusting"and I have to agree with him. The architecture style of the area is Virginian plantation. Where the Ladue Schnucks simply borrows some materials and language, these buildings really try to look like plantation buildings. The Schnucks front facade is covered with whitewashed wood slats. It has a steeple. It looks like a cross between a church and a barn.
Next door: Sak's Fifth Avenue, Starbucks, financial advisors.
This is the Schnucks of the wealthiest area of St Louis. Big old houses, golf courses. This Schnucks feels more old money than the Ladue. No crystal chandeliers here, just a straight cold high end grocery. Good produce and veggies, wide variety of gourmet foods, the largest selection of wines of any of the other stores, and in sharp contrast; poor selection of beer, almost as bad as the Olive store. The weak craft beer section says to me that this is a store for old rich people.

Feb 18, 2013

Moving frenzy: it begins

Saori and I went to our last university house party last Saturday. The theme was mythical creatures, which was widely interpreted. Some Chinese students came dresses in heels and traditional cheongsam dress. Others just came in 1920's attire. There were not a few unicorns. Brian wore a massive cardboard mythic bird mask/helmet and construction paper wings pinned to his shirt.

Saori and I both came as high school unicorns. I was the super preppie nerdicorn and Saori was the punk unicorn with her golden horn hanging on a string around her neck. We made our costumes with $15 of supplies from the dollar store. The horns we made from Styrofoam cones and gold wrapping paper. I studded mine with brass thumbtacks and added a single LED at the tip, which was really dramatic in the dimly lit party.

I enjoyed myself, only slightly self-conscious about being a graduate in a school party. Adam came too, as a kind of twentysomething werewolf with paper sideburns. I will miss those crowded parties, with the dancing abandon in empty, small living rooms, the do-it-yourself grooveshark DJs, the crowded apartment, running into friends in costume in close spaces and small kitchens.

The apartment sorting and cleaning has begun. Regardless of where I am in two weeks, it will not be here. So, I've started the great sell off on Facebook and craigslist. I sold my TV, my bicycle, a bunch of stuff. And we've sent a lot of stuff to Goodwill as well.

Saori and Dew are taking off Sunday, so time is flying by. I still need to reserve a storage unit in town.

Feb 17, 2013

if we were a band, this would be in the liner notes

one of the last things we did at the st. Louis apartment as a small group was to take a bunch of silly pictures with props and these awesome florescent strip lights. This was the night before Vivian left in mid-February.

Feb 13, 2013

Photos from Mardi Gras


I dragged everyone out of bed at 815 am for breakfast. I made a big breakfast of eggs and biscuits and gravy, something to cushion the blow of a day of drinking. I funneled out the jack daniels into everyone's flasks, and essentially shepherded everyone out the door by 940. The mardigras parade leaves Busch stadium at 11am, so we wanted to make sure we had good spots. This is the second largest mardigras in the country, after all.

We parked at school and took the metrolink in, stopping to buy special shuttle passes ($5) good for metro shuttles back and forth to Soulard from the metrolink station. The metro people have been doing this for awhile- they basically doubled their capacity, running trains every seven minutes, and they had probably a dozen busses on full cycle to handle all the partygoers. There was still a huge line of people to get onto the bus. Lots of colorful costumes, lots of people already wearing beads. 

It was kind of chilly when the bus let us off at the drop point. Actually, I really liked the setup. Soulard is separated from the rest of St. Louis by a freeway, and the busses dropped people on the opposite site. There were beer tents already set up, and a huge bank of port-a-potties, and to get to Soulard, you had to cross through light security, checking for coolers, and then cross a pedestrian bridge. It was kind of like, once you crossed the bridge, you were in Mardigras land. As soon as we crossed, we all pulled out our flasks and took the first swig of the day. It was a little after ten AM. 

I thought mardigras, especially in the early, cold morning, a little pathetic and a lot forced. Sad penis necklaces. The crowd not yet feeling the effects of booze, but forcing a bit of joviality in the face of watered down hurricanes and a dearth of coffee. We found a good spot for watching the parade and stuck to it. After awhile we were able to move closer and closer to the point where we were right behind the people up against the barrier. 

The parade was long with a lot of hit and miss with floats. Not one, but two Teenage Ninja Mutant Turtle themed parades. The best was apparently a repeat- a group on bicycles representing Finding Nemo. There were a lot of beads tossed, and everyone around us was pretty civil about bead grabbing. Nobody, apparently, really cared about having beads as much as they cared about catching beads. We ended up with a ton, we all caught about thirty beads, and by the end, we looked like we belonged there. And after all that jack, we were a little drunk too. 

There was a really obnoxious woman behind Saori in her late middle ages who kept shouting "BEADS!!!!! WE WANT BEEEEEEEEEEEAAAADS!!!!!!!" over. and over. and over.  She was also wasted and nearly fell on Saori a few times trying to catch beads. After getting her eye poked for the trouble, she was more careful. 

When the parade ended, we bought some really good chicken shish kabobs and a plate of fries, which a random woman tried to steal "just one!!!! just one!!!!" and I had to fight off her grubby hands. We wandered around Soulard for awhile, marveling at the crowds, and enjoying the scene. Tay and I left Saori behind to scope out a bar (1860) which turned out to be packed with a $5 cover. When we got back to where we had left Saori maybe fifteen minutes before, she was gone. We called a few times, and finally she popped out of nowhere.

"Do you guys want to come up on the roof or you want to walk around some more?"

Apparently, she had been waiting on the steps of one of the old houses in Soulard, and the owner had invited her up to see the roof in his house party. Saori had already made a few friends and pulled us up. We said hello to the owner, and followed Saori up the stairs to the roof, where two young girls were dancing for the growing crowd of guys down below. We sat at the roof edge and enjoyed the view: the empty lot below was the corner of a major intersection, and we had an incredible view of the crowds, the old brick neighborhood of Soulard, and the city in the background. It was an incredible thing, and we all felt like VIPs looking down at the crowds below. 

Of course, things got out of hand, with random people who kept on coming, and then we were on our way out the door when the owner realized that a growing crowd of random drunks on his roof, some of whom were throwing things, was probably not a good thing, so he decided to throw everyone out. We left immediately.

I was getting pretty tired of dealing with the crowds and I wasn't really into hanging around until dark or trying to fight our way into some crappy overpriced bars, so I proposed we get out of Soulard and hit up a bar on the way back home. This was met with general approval, so we headed back out of Soulard, crossed the bridge back to the shuttle busses, and quickly found ourselves back downtown. We walked the few blocks to Bridge tap house, and found a table in the relatively empty bar.

What a contrast to the scene we had just left! Quiet, dark, luxurious, with great beer, (note to self- Ommegang Rare Vos) and good beer snacks (cheese crisps with thin apple slices and spicy mustard, fresh baked pretzel balls with french onion dip). It was good for another few drinks until Saori started nodding off, which was the sign for us to head home.

We were only at home for an hour before taking off to Freda, Helena, and Laura's house. These are three Chinese-area friends of ours who invited us to their Chinese New Year hotpot party. Lots of people I knew, a few I didn't. Three hot pots set up, all spicy, with tons of vegetables, beef, fish balls, enoki mushrooms, tripe, etc, and everything washed down with beer.

We actually started the party off with everyone taking a sake bomb, which was highly amusing considering only half of the party had ever even heard of one, so there was a short description and demonstration of the methodology. And there was a lot of spillage and early droppers as people attempted to balance their dixie cups of sake over the cups of beer.

It was a lot of fun, Tay and I ate way too much, but we had some great conversations and Tay seemed to enjoy himself. He later confided to me that I had a lot of really nice, outgoing friends. I'm just lucky that way, I guess. Anyway, we finally headed home and when we got there, we were both wiped out. As Tay pointed out, we'd basically been drinking from 10am until 10pm.

The next day was not nearly as much fun, but at least, by spacing the drinking out through the entire day and taking lots of water, I wasn't nearly as bad off as say, after the farm party.

Feb 10, 2013

Getting to Mardi Gras

Tay came to town Thursday night to spend the weekend with us. Over dinner, I asked him, "how much studying materials did you bring with you?"
He said, "Absolutely none."

For dinner, I brought up the idea of going to get chop suey, since St. Paul sandwhiches are a local speciality available nowhere else in the world. And there's a good reason for that, it turns out. So Tay and I both dived into our devices to determine which is the best place to get St. Paul, cheerfully aruging over what makes the "best" sandwich. Is it the shadiest location? The best tasting? The highest rated restaurant? In the end, we went to a place a lot of people recommneded that was actually pretty close by, and got our food to go. It was pretty nice for a St. Louis shop suey takeout shop, actually. All the lights were on, it looked relatively clean, the food was totally forgetable, pretty mediocre even for American Chinese take out. The St. Paul sandwich also pretty forgettable. 

The St. Paul sandwich was invented in St. Louis in the 1940s or earlier by Chinese immigrants trying to lure Americans into the flavors of China via a hybrid dish- it is basically an egg foo young patty sandwiched with mayo between two slices of white bread. Actually, it takes better than it sounds. Slightly. 

Actually, most of St. Louis's culinary specialties seem to be hybrid dishes: 
  • toasted ravioli = Italian pasta+American breading and frying
  • St. Louis style pizza= New York pizza + plastic
  • gooey butter cake = butter, sugar, flour, eggs + Heaven
  • Budweiser beer = Czech pilsner + extra water
Friday, after a big breakfast, we drove to Cherokee street to stroll along and take in the neighborhood, and ate tacos for lunch at La Villanessa. Good service, and amazing, huge creamy horchatas which had been blended almost like a milkshake. 

Coffee at Mud House afterwards, and we slowly cruised by some of the ancient mansions at the edge of Soulard. Afterwards, we went on to the liquor shop.

I had been advised that the best way to do Mardi Gras in Soulard is to bring your own flask, thereby not freezing your hands off holding watered down $9 hurricanes and Budwieser beer, which was the only beer sold on the street (a travesty considering the amount of fantastic breweries in St. Louis). 

Those of you who know us will not be surprised to hear that we did not own flasks, so it was a high priority Friday to secure both flasks for everyone, but also something to put in the flasks. Our local liquor store was happy to outfit us. We picked up the standard stainless steel flask, nothing fancy, and a bottle of Jack Daniels since it was the drink we all agreed we could take neat.

After our shopping excursion, we took Tay down to UpperLimits to give him a taste of bouldering. He did really well actually- he has a lot of upper body strength and an athleticism which lends itself to the sport. We all climbed there for about two hours, and finally went home. Ate a smorgasboard of leftovers for dinner.

Feb 3, 2013

Superbo...we interrupt this blog title to bring you...a blackout

Just came back from a superbowl party.

I'll let that sink in.

Actually, I went to the trouble to look up who was playing a few days ago, and when I talked to my dad yesterday, I mentioned the fact. He said "ok, who's playing?"
"Well, it's the San Franciso.... 49ers......"
"Aaaaaant. Try again."

I gave up. I knew it wasn't the cardinals or the rams since they were both home teams. This goes to show the extents of my knowledge of NFL teams.

Anyway, we went over to a friend's house and watched the game. The halftime show was uninspiring although there was a really funny moment when one member of Destiny's child who was shot up in the air to land perfectly on the stage, actually looked terrified as if she had just been, in fact, shot up in the air.

After the performance, the power failed. I mean, totally failed. They said they lost power to half the stadium. I think they were being generous- the lights which remained on were probably safety lights, tied to the emergency generators which would be located on site just for these emergencies. At any rate, the commentators, desperate to fill airtime which was now totally null, made a bunch of stupid pointless comments for the half-hour it took to restore power, interrupted by more commercials.

"At this point, it looks like there was a problem with the power coming into the building"
Astounding. I thought the Astrodome produced its own power.

"As you can see, the lights in the stadium are still off, and we are waiting for official league response."

I don't think the power outage was an aberration. From what I know about New Orleans and the amount of infrastructural difficulties the city is suffering, I was surprised that there weren't two blackouts.

The commercials were surprisingly bad. Long, poor graphics. I used to be astounded by the quality of the computer animations used. This was really hack work. I was also surprised by the melodramatic depths to which car commercials in particular would dive. Dodge's commercial about a mythical America of farmers, Jeep attempting to wear a camouflage jacket as a supporter (get it?) of the US armed forces. Lest we forget, Dodge and Jeep are both brands of cars owned by a multinational corporation divided between Italy and the US.

And let's please forget as quickly as possible the simpering ad about the Budweiser (wholly owned by InBev, a Belgian company) Clydesdale and the cowboy.

I was kind of irritated at the cheetah commercial for Sketchers too. I would not put money on the cheetahs surviving to Superbowl 2023.

Feb 2, 2013

calls, climbing, and cooking

Thursday night, I met Dew at Upper Limits for some more bouldering. My arms and hands were so cold, it took me awhile to be able to use them well enough to climb. Afterwards, I picked up Saori and we went over for a big plate of curry. The Japanese curry is somewhat similar to Indian, but is much more mild, sweet, and savory. It's more like a spicy beef stew. We ate it in the best way to be served- over a big plate of rice, and topped with bacon and a fried egg.  Oishikata.

Yesterday was a busy day. Saori has set up a workstation in the living room and consequently draws a lot of power, especially for the space heater. When Vivian uses the hair dryer in the bathroom, it blows the fuse, and everything shuts down. So that took some time to straighten out.

I had a phone interview in the early afternoon, and then immediately afterwards dashed over to teach a revit workshop for an architecture studio. The professor of the studio, Cruse, taught me in my first studio at Wash U, and I'd when I heard that the entire class would be working in Revit, and that everyone involved had little to no experience with it, I offered to lend my services. Besides, what the hell else am I doing of use?

Anyway, the studio is very unique- the project is to take two identical vacant apartments buildings, both built in the early 20th century, and refinish one in the typical manner of the developer who owns the area, and the other in a more sustainable way. The two buildings would then be compared as to energy usage, water usage, etc.

The studio itself is held in the top floor of one of these apartment buildings. It's cool to be working inside the building you're investigating and going to change, but it sucks to be so far from your other classes, classmates, plotters, etc. Alex and Luke have done admirably with Revit so far, and I was happy to help them out since I know how frustrating Revit can be. I presented to the studio the basics of navigating revit and making some changes, and hopefully people got a better sense of how it might be used or at least, navigated.

After a few hours of instruction, I biked back home and then Saori and I went out to the Asian markets to get supplies for making okonomiyaki for dinner. Then we drove downtown, and had nearly hit a car on the freeway which had stopped suddenly for a lane closure. The ABS kicked in, and we came within a foot or two of the car in front of us. The car behind us was thankfully far enough back to avoid the same kind of brake-slamming I'd employed.

Anyway, we made it to Climb So Ill alive, and met up with Reid and Kirsten, a very intelligent couple who have led very interesting lives and who are both experienced climbers. We were shortly joined by Dew and Chuck and Alex and Jenn. I much prefer climbing at SoIll to Upper Limits. The gym is huge, the bouldering is a lot more fun, and you climb a lot higher. If not for the membership fees, I'd be there all the time.

I finished a few v1s, and one v2 that was really bothering me. I attempted a few v3s but could barely get started on them. Towards the end of the night, my hands were incredibly raw and finally, losing my footing, and slipping off the hand holds, I ripped one of my callouses open, leaving a flapping bloody wound which ended my climbing for the night. Some of my other fingernails were already bleeding at the cuticles. It stung like something fierce and the chalk getting in there didn't make anything better.

Anyway, we invited everyone over for okonomiyaki afterwards and we feasted again. Okonomiyaki is basically a savory pancake, mixed from a batter with egg, chives, and tons of chopped cabbage. The batter is fried into a large pancake and then served covered with dried bonito or salmon flakes, ribbons of tonkatsu sauce and the spicier Japanese mayonnaise.

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