essentialsaltes: (eye)
 For Valentine's, Dr. Pookie gifted me (upon some future day) a trip to Mt. Wilson and lunch. Today was the day.

Driving up there is a lovely experience. Twisty mountain roads with great vistas. It was a bit hazy and wildfire-smoky today, but still lovely. I'm not sure it's as nice to be a passenger who does not like twisty mountain roads all alike, but so be it.

I was sorry that I did not see this sign at the Observatory. Maybe I should have asked a docent, but I expect it's long gone. I saw a number of stumps around the visitor area, and the Carnegie Institution no longer runs things...

That's Mom and Dad's Uncle Harold (Herrill?) sometime probably before me.

The astronomical museum was not all that big (Bah-DUM-bump-TISH). There's not a whole lot to do... the solar observatory was sadly closed. But it's still neat to see the 100 inch scope.

And the CHARA array is pretty cool. Light from 6 telescopes is funneled through vacuum filled pipes to be reintegrated in an interferometer. Its resolving power is such that it captured the first image of a star's surface (other than the Sun, ninny).

I'm pretty sure we got a special treat. While we were there, some sort of VIPs must have been in attendance, because they opened the observatory and rotated it a bit. (We overheard some astronomers later kvetching about it - whatever it was done for, they didn't think it was justified.)

Back down off the mountain, and we stopped off at Din Tai Fung for some excellent dumplings (soupy xiaolongbao) noodles, broccoli, and a much needed strawberry mango slushy (though the chili dog at the Observatory wasn't half bad).

All the photos. Including a video of the big observatory in motion.


Aug. 8th, 2016 09:56 pm
essentialsaltes: (shoot)
[ profile] ian_tiberius contributed to the Paranoia Kickstarter, and got some early access to the new ruleset.

Other players: [ profile] dark_of_night, [ profile] karteblanche, [ profile] zorker, and [ profile] bridared, which last personage may never have had an LJ, but who cares since none of these other people update theirs, either.

Now to justify the nostalgia tag, we have to send the Wayback machine to Origins 86, which I went to the summer after I graduated high school. Paranoia had won the Origins award the previous year, and I had a great talk with somebody at the West End booth, and bought (with my measly high school ducats) a shitload of Paranoia. And never regretted it. It's on my shelf today, and somewhere packed in there is some correspondence between me and West End in which my SASE is addressed to GAR-Y-SVN.

To amplify the nostalgia tag, [ profile] ian_tiberius [ profile] popepat & [Bad username or site: 'joemafi' @] almost ran a Paranoia larp sometime in the early 90s. And so naturally, for this present incarnation, I wore the t-shirt that was generated for the almost game.

Anyway, the general milieu is pretty familiar, with a few changes. The rules have been jiggered with more forcibly, but don't really get in the way of the fun, and possibly add to it. There are cards that can be played in combat (or elsewhere) with special effects -- not sure the mix is quite right, but for a one-off, it was satisfying to pull them out as needed.

It was a rare successful troubleshooter mission, with just a few total party kills, but not enough to go too deep into the clone stack.

And through the luck of the draw, and patient conservation, I was able to do some Once-Upon-A-Time-style strategizing. I placed myself in the vicinity of a broken gurney in a battle-chem induced frenzy, and then invented an impromptu weapon -- the broken gurney. And concluded with the discovery of a cake. As usual, you had to have been there.

A good time with good friends. Thanks to Ian for putting it together, and everyone else for contributing to a great time.
essentialsaltes: (essentialsaltes)
So it looks like the Rams are coming back to LA (and thence to Inglewood).

A neuron popped, and before it dies forever, I'm spilling out its contents.

Former Ram running back Tommy Mason lived in the same development I did in Brea back in the early 1980s. He had two sons that were younger than me, but they had a sweet videogame setup, so I spent a few lazy hours there every once in a while. Mr. Mason was a nice guy, but kinda sad... no doubt partially due to the recent break-up of his marriage to Cathy Rigby, who I met a couple times as the kids were shuttled back and forth. Yes, all the kids in the neighborhood made maxipad jokes (not in their hearing).

Looks like Mason passed away about a year ago.
essentialsaltes: (quantum Mechanic)
I always associated the New Math (not the new new Math of today) with oddball things like matrices, different bases, and an emphasis on abstract relations like commutativity. But apparently another new-ish thing of the New Math was 'borrowing' in subtraction. Although the idea of borrowing is centuries old, apparently many older Americans were taught an algorism to follow that involved 'carrying the one' onto the lower number. Obviously the result is the same. And they were abjured from additional tick marks, or actually adding tens (i.e. borrowing) so that (rather illogically) they were taught "3 from 2 is 9" rather than "3 from 12 is 9".

I only learn this news by careful watching/listening to Tom Lehrer's "New Math", in which it looks like there were two different methods, not that it makes much difference.

The horrors of the New Math was that it wasn't just a mechanical process, but we were supposed to learn that one ten is the same as ten ones. And this is good. It adds some sense to the algorism, since the older version is somewhat more arcane (to me anyway).

The new new math, as I understand it, continues this process of making it clearer what the association is. You start from the lower number, and basically count up to the larger number. This establishes what the difference is between them.

Probably one could determine which is the most efficient, or which produces the fewest errors, or which is the most 'true' to the underlying mathematics. None of these mean much in the end, so stick to what you love.
essentialsaltes: (wingedlionbook)
I got the latest Heritage book auction catalog yesterday, and was a bit sad to see that Krown & Spellman will be liquidating their collections over the next few book auctions. There's a nice encomium of the store and its owners, but apparently health reasons are driving the decision. Founded by UCLA grads, the store was originally in Westwood in the 70s. I remember their location at the 3rd Street Promenade, although just about everything they had was out of my range (and still mostly is!). Lovely old moldy books in Latin and Greek, but maybe even something in English, like Shakespeare's Julius Caesar, or Reginald Scot's skeptical look at the witchcraft craze: The Discoverie of Witchcraft. Oh sure, that's only a Third Edition from 1665, but still.

The catalog also noted, tantalizingly for me anyway, that Franklin Spellman has amassed a huge Lord Dunsany collection, which will appear in a later sale.
essentialsaltes: (Dead)
This is what 45 looks like.


[For reference, this is what 40 looks like.]

The comment there about 'Sunday was lazy football watching and pizza making' remains fairly apposite, as here is dinner:


Prosciutto, broccolini, onion, olives, jalapeño, capers...

Yes, it was very, very good.

But I do not taunt you aimlessly, (maybe).

As I alluded before, a year from today will mark the completion of my 46th year. Twice 23. 23 years (arguably 92) since the events of 23 Skidoo occurred.

So I officially announce 23 Skidoo Times Two. September 13th, 2015 -- hopefully some of you will survive into September 14th.

This live game is not literally a sequel to 23 Skidoo -- especially since only a handful of people 'survived' -- but I'm certainly open to continuing lines.

My basic ideas...

The setting
Date: 1946
Place: Vienna, Austria
Venue: An auction of rare items and curiosae, much of it no doubt liberated by the vicissitudes of WWII.
Characters: to be written by players, and then adapted as needed by moi.
Primary filmic reference: The Third Man. Not that the game will necessarily be anything like this, but you must watch this peerless film, and thank me later.
Theme: Lovecraftian references will no doubt be present, and possibly of primary importance, but not necessarily overpowering. Postwar malaise. Black Market. Greed. Lust. Wrath. Other Deadly Sins.

The game: theater-style live game. In many ways an ode to the Enigma games of yore, but informed by the past few decades.

The players: I hope and trust, a great many of my friends, old and new, from Enigma, Wyrd Con, and beyond.

The details: In general.... TBA.

And so I ask... who's in? Contact me publicly or privately with your ideas, suggestions, concerns, etc.

In some months a more official announcement will appear, but for now this serves as an announcement of intent.

"Appendix D of The Lord of the Rings says that our New Year's Day (January 1) corresponds "more or less" to the Shire's "January 9", and in standard years our September 14 and the Shire's "September 22" [i.e. Bilbo's and Frodo's birthday] both fall 256 days after that date."
essentialsaltes: (sad)
Very sad to hear the news that Victor Stenger passed away. I came to know Vic from Taner Edis' Skeptic email list way back when, so though not a close friend, he was certainly an e-friend, and with his background in physics and skepticism, we had a lot in common.
essentialsaltes: (Wogga Zazula!)
You may think me mad for keeping all of them, but when civilization collapses and we are forced to use SCSI interfaces and Jaz drives, I will be ready.

essentialsaltes: (essentialsaltes)
My grandmother passed away a couple days ago, some six months or so after grandpa, her husband of 70+ years, preceded her.

She was a warm, kind person, who nevertheless got her way most of the time.

I've got a lifetime of memories, and it would take forever to go through it all. Two that stand out from when I was much younger are

#1) her teaching me the song "Billy Boy" during a road trip somewhere.
#2) me pestering her with facts about the moon (because surely everyone is as interested in astronomy as six-year-old Mike is) and her pestering me back with facts about contract bridge.

essentialsaltes: (Agent)
@jackiekashian mentioned the Evil Knievel stunt cycle

which I had as a kid. And then I remembered the Smash Up Derby cars, which I loved almost as much.

And then I thought about the little plastic snowflaky-linky things that we'd make 'cars' out of and smash into each other until one of them had been reduced to its component atoms.

These seem to be contemporary Chinese knockoffs, but they get the idea across.

But my GIS ["plastic snowflake link together 1970s lego toy"] also brought me this.
essentialsaltes: (Dead)
For the past few days, I've been living about 2.5 lives, and not had time to catch up on it. Until now (?) We'll see how far I get.

click at your own risk )
essentialsaltes: (Jimi)
On May 19, 1969, The Supreme Court concurred with Leary in Leary v. United States, declared the Marihuana Tax Act unconstitutional and overturned his 1965 conviction. On that same day, Leary announced his candidacy for Governor of California against the Republican incumbent, Ronald Reagan. His campaign slogan was "Come together, join the party." On June 1, 1969, Leary joined John Lennon and Yoko Ono at their Montreal Bed-In, and Lennon subsequently wrote Leary a campaign song called "Come Together".

That compresses the truth a little, but...

"The thing was created in the studio. It’s gobbledygook; Come Together was an expression that Leary had come up with for his attempt at being president or whatever he wanted to be, and he asked me to write a campaign song. I tried and tried, but I couldn’t come up with one. But I came up with this, Come Together, which would’ve been no good to him – you couldn’t have a campaign song like that, right?" -- John Lennon
essentialsaltes: (news)
Remember Barry Minkow?

ZZZZ Best Carpet Cleaning?

Wunderkind and child millionaire?

Convicted on 57 counts of fraud and sentenced to 25 years in prison?

Apparently, he had a religious conversion in prison and became a pastor when he got out.

Well... he's just plead guilty to embezzling $3 million from his church.

(And he was already serving 5 years for securities fraud.)
essentialsaltes: (Cocktail)
I travelled out to Florida for the ceremonies. LAX to Nashville to Orlando. I think I spent more time waiting in line for my rental car than for the flight from Nashville. The wait was exacerbated Planes, Trains, and Automobiles-style. First someone comes back to complain about the bill. One of the three clerks disappears. Another person jumps the line to say that they left their jacket in the rental. The line went from slow moving to glacial. But I persevered, and then spent another 10 minutes figuring out how to turn on the headlights. Stupid American cars.

Zipped up the Turnpike and got installed in the hotel.

Next morning, our caravan got a police escort to take us to the Florida National Cemetery. I rode along with Danny and his girlfriend, Meghan. Their car was the analogue of the little kids' table. We were all held to a rigid schedule, but everything was done smartly with military precision. Many thanks to the Marine honor guard who conducted the ceremony. I teared up a little as they folded up and presented the flag to Grandma. It was a little curious that, as others fired the salute volleys, the Marine with the flag displayed and then inserted shell casings into the flag. For some reason I wondered if they were actually spent casings or not. Flag in her lap, Grandma said her last goodbyes.


I scored a ride in the limo on the way back to where Grandma and Grandpa lived. There was a little lunch, and then the celebration of his life. Rick was the first of the family to speak, and he noted that from a document they found in the safe, Grandpa had been planning this event since 1962. He didn't want to be lying in a casket. He didn't want mourners in black. He wanted nothing more than a single spray of flowers and a photograph. And the people he loved. Last and most important, it shouldn't cost more than $250. We may have fudged that last part. But prices have changed since 1962.

Dad spoke as well. Barb didn't feel up to it. I didn't really feel up to it either, but I rose to speak. I wanted to honor Grandpa's peculiar sense of humor. He had a particular brand of grandpa humor. Deadpan, so you might not notice it. If you were lucky, he would wink to let you know he was pulling your leg. To be honest, he often would needle you with his humor. A little sarcastic, a little acerbic, a little caustic. Maybe more than a little. I had to explain to Veratrine, that he teased her not because he didn't like her, but because he did.

That was as far as I got before I got choked up. I wish I'd been able to continue to say, "After all, when I was just knee high to a grasshopper, this is the man who ordered frogs' legs and told me that he was eating Kermit. Who does that to a child? Well, Grandpa did. And I'll miss his humor, and I'll miss him."

I'm grateful to Uncle Rick, who whispered 'Good job' or something of the sort to me as I returned to my seat.

After the formal part, there was much talking and reminiscing. Here's Grandma with Paul Fate, who went to high school with Grandma and Grandpa.

Grandma & Paul Fate

Afterwards, we visited with Grandma for a while. At one point, I was bidden to examine some of Grandpa's jewelry and to take a few pieces. I found a pair of cufflinks that were just handsome. I also picked a pin commemorating Grandpa's status as a Life Member of the NRA. I may not be a huge fan of the organization as it is now, but the NRA of 2013 is different from the NRA of 19-- when Grandpa joined it. Grandpa was a coach of a high school shooting team -- back in the days when high school students could take their rifles to school with them. And finally, recognizing that I probably don't have the time left to achieve this myself, I also picked out a pin honoring Grandpa's 65 years as a Mason.

In the evening, the family went to dinner at an Italian place. Dad raised a toast to Grandpa and the family, and the meal was great. I had a very good 'goodbye' with Grandma at the end. Although I could have rushed over in the morning to see her the next day, I think that was the right way to leave things. I saw some of the other family at breakfast, and then drove back to Orlando for my, ultimately successful, ordeal to get back home.
essentialsaltes: (essentialsaltes)
My grandfather passed away, quietly, earlier today. I find myself with too much and too little to say.

He lived a full life, a long life, and one filled with family and friends and experiences all over the world.

Somehow I feel certain this is how he would like to be remembered (even if the California Raisin costume showed off his legs better).


Sep. 7th, 2013 09:09 pm
essentialsaltes: (Cocktail)
Dr. Pookie took me to Cut at the Beverly Wilshire for my birthday (a week early, since Wyrdcon coincides with the actual day).

It was pretty splendid. Because they are punks, Michelin hasn't given stars in LA for a few years, but once upon a time, Cut was a one-star restaurant. For better or worse, visiting Luce in San Francisco has only reinforced Dr. Pookie's desire to visit Michelin restaurants as and when appropriate.

I will start with the negatives. The plates had a raised lip that made it impossible to rest your steak knife on it, without the knife slipping down into the plate. Ok, all done. Oh wait. The wine list is for Rockefellers. Dr. Pookie's injunction to keep it under $100 made my selection much easier. $1,000 would have still narrowed your choices a bit. Choosing Sonoma rather than Napa made the $100 limit easier to handle, and we weren't disappointed.

The service was great. An army of different individuals from sommelier to mustard dude attended to our every desire.

For all the high-powered cuisine on display, Cut is a somewhat casual place, and the classic/alternative rock mix was much appreciated.

But the food, you ask. The food.

We started with the American wagyu sashimi. I have to agree with Dr. Pookie: although it was fine and nicely dressed with a vinaigrette, greens, and sliced radish, the beef itself had, it seemed, very little taste of its own. I think it's a testament to how much the Maillard reaction adds to what you think is the taste of meat.

Dr. Pookie had tipped them off that it was a birthday meal, and maybe also since it was our first time, 'the chef' was kind enough to send a tuna tartare our way. It reminded me a bit of Withnail & I, where it is said that some things are 'unattainable for those who can't afford it, but for those that can afford it, it's free.' They shoved a free $25 appetizer at us.

My aversion to fish and seafood is not quite as extreme as HPL's, and tuna is hardly the fishiest of fish, so even I could appreciate it, along with the avocado, and waffer-thin toasts and wasabi aioli. The tuna had more taste to it than the beef sashimi, but not unpleasant to my landlubber's palate.

I liked also the little cheesy poofs they brought, and the parmesan breadsticks.

But soon it was time for the main event.

Dr. Pookie opted for a Cornhusker NY strip, while I opted for the same cut of American wagyu from Idaho.

Sides of fingerling potatoes with bacon and onions, and several different forms of haricot vert with tomato. Both pretty tremendous.

Becca's cornfed cow was a magnificent hearty steak, but the quasi-wagyu was pretty amazing in every bite. Crispy moo-bacon edges, and lovely pink innards.

Here I should also mention that, as a sprightly jest, I said, some weeks ago, I wonder if, at Cut, they honor birthday celebrations by sticking a candle in a filet mignon. Dr. Pookie, perhaps remembering the 3 years I took off her life at a surprise birthday party in her honor, made this a reality. They brought me my steak with a lit candle in it. I doff my theoretical hat to Cut; they did not blink or shirk. The received a request from a customer and fulfilled it. Yes, singing would be beyond the pale, but they did all we required.

As I say, the steak was magnificent. It compared with the steak in Mexico City, the steak in Las Vegas, and that random well-marbled steak I grilled up myself. Very likely the best of them all, but nostalgia adds value to past steaks.

For afters, I had a lovely Tariquet armagnac. The little cookies and petit-fours they brought us as incidentals were more than enough dessert for us.

essentialsaltes: (Cocktail)
Wyrd Con 4 is next month.

It finally fully registered that I'll be running "Exodus 22:18" on my birfday.

So I guess it'll be more like Exodus 40:4, if you know what I mean.

And thou shalt bring in the table, and set in order the things that are to be set in order upon it; and thou shalt bring in the candlestick, and light the lamps thereof.

Yeah, more or less sounds like set-up for a live game.
essentialsaltes: (essentialsaltes)
Holly had warned us that we shoulda looked into Alcatraz tours some time ago, but we were trying to do a mostly unplanned vacation. Next morning, we made our way to the Alcatraz ferry and found out that tickets were sold out for the next three weeks. But that put us on the Embarcadero and we wandered about through the shops and nauticality. We toured the USS Pampanito, a WWII-era submarine. It was very cool to crawl around inside her, and Wikipedia has answered a remaining question: "Why is there a broom lashed to the conning tower?" To celebrate the sub's clean sweep patrol.
continued, with more photos this time )
essentialsaltes: (essentialsaltes)
Let's see how brief I can make this...
not very, as it turns out )
essentialsaltes: (Internet Disease)
Dr. Pookie and I took a whirlwind tour, hitting up San Jose (where we had a great time with relatives), San Francisco, a train to Reno, and then back to LA.

You can see the whole smorgasbord of photos (about 250 photos and a few little videos) here.

My bestof selection is here, apparently in a random order.

The relatives portion of the trip may not be of importance to non-relatives, but I will force you to at least check out this:

Me & my cousins Jim and Tom
Three Cousins

Compare to this, from my college graduation back in cough-cough:
UCLA Graduation


essentialsaltes: (Default)

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