March 31, 2004

The Royal Institutuion

The Royal Institution I attended the British Learning Association's annual conference today at the Royal Institution, as you may guess from the title, an establishment in central London with a venerable scientific history. It is the venue for the Christmas Lectures.

Among other things, I learned that Michel Freedman of Microsoft Research in Redmond and physicist Alexei Kitaev of the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena have teamed up and are working on a Topological Quantum nonAbelian Anyon Compter. Woah, Dude. This is a computer that can make rational decisions and process at the speed of the human brain.

One of the presenters used a great quote from Steve Jobbs, "computers are bicycles for the mind".

March 30, 2004

St. Ives

A place in England with palm trees and sandy beaches? Get out!

It does exist, and you've heard of it. It's St. Ives. You know, that place where that narrator was going when he met a man with seven wives carrying seven sacks containing seven cats each having seven kits.

It's in the southwest corner of England, the area known as Cornwall. Penzance, which you've also heard of due to the pirates, is nearby. St. Ives reminds me of a hilly La Conner; a quaint artist community on the water. It's also a surfing destination, or so I hear. It wasn't surfing (nor sunning) season while I was there.

A and I took the bus from London to St. Ives because the bus fare was only 9 pounds for an 8 hours bus journey; great value per mile. A knew of a restaurant right on the beach that she'd been to last year. She wasn't sure of the name, but we searched on the Internet, found the place and made reservations for Friday night dinner. Upon arrival, we checked into our B&B (the Monterey) then went strolling for a couple hours. We could see the restaurant from anywhere up on the hill as it was a lone building on the beach. After working up an appetite, we headed toward the restaurant with great expectations. When we were about half a mile away, we grew suspicious as we could see no light coming from the place and no people entering or exiting. On close inspection, we found it closed for evening meals until May. Then where were our reservations? I hadn't bothered to bring the name of the restaurant since A knew the exact location. Oops.

A being the ever-efficient traveler had the name in her notes; Al Fresco. We looked at each other in horror. Our stroll had taken us past the deserted establishment several times and A had commented on the lack of customers. Because it was a Michelin recommended spot, we decided to give it a try. It was a bit of a fiasco. Both of us ordered a ceasar salad ' to start. When they arrived our eyes grew wide. The 'ceasar' salad consisted of iceberg lettuce ringed with mayonnaise and snow peas garnished with chives and thin slices of crispy sweet potato. Ceasar who?! And that was the best part of the meal. Strike Al Fresco from the Michelin Guide.

March 19, 2004

Basement Jaxx at the Brixton Academy

Basement Jaxx
Claudia and I went to hear Simon Ratcliffe and Felix Buxton (collectively known as Basement Jaxx) tonight. Where's Your Head At was the highlight of the evening, for myself and everyone else in the place. My other favorites were two tunes of music and beats only, no vocals. Dissappointments:
1. The sharp cuts that make 'Romeo' a superb studio song are lost in the live performance
2. It wasn't Siouxsie Sioux who came out in black leather and a whip to sing 'Kish Kash'
3. They didn't play 'Rendezvous'

This tour is promoting the new album Kish Kash and the show was at their home base in Brixton. The stage show included a killer high-res LED super widescreen display.

March 15, 2004
Meathead was yelling on the phone last night for two hours. I did my best to block it out and not overhear, but these walls are far too thin for his crass vocalizations. I think he was talking to a phone service provider. Initially I thought he was yelling at his wife, what with the usual "f*$@ you" and the "shut up" and words about money.

Meathead is the loser that lives next door and verbally abuses his wife and two small children. I imagine he physically abuses them as well. This partucular shouting episode was occurring after the midnight hour. I was still up making muscle flash cards in preparation for my first anatomy and physiology test.

On a much different note, three nice things have happened to me today and it's not even noon yet.
1) Bright sunshine and chirping birds awoke me at 6:10. I was astounded that the sun was up so early. The long dark days of winter are fading fast.

2) I nipped out to Kim, the dodgy corner store, to get some milk so I could offer the washing machine repair guy a proper cupppa, if he actually turned up. I shoved a tenner in my pocket rather than taking my entire wallet. Inside the store, I found, to my disbelief, tortillas! There was only one pack. I felt them and they were still soft. Gotta have those!! Oh yes, and some honey and OJ. And there's that limescale remover I've been searching for. And TP and washing up liquid. That'll do it. As Mr. Kim was ringing it all up, I suddenly realized I only had the tenner in my pocket. Might not be enough.

Mr. Kim was chattering into his mobile in short, blunt bursts. Holding up the ten pound note, I gave him a grin and tried in my best Korean body language to communicate, "Leave out the OJ if it's more than ten cause this is all I've got". He calculated the total, moved the phone away from his mouth and said, "27". Surely it couldn't be that much...did I mishear him...what sounds similar to 27. I looked at him uncertainly and he said again, "27. 27 short but OK."

"Oh," I smiled. "I'll bring the difference right away." And I did.

3) When I made the appointment with Wshing Machine Repair Man Friday, he said he'd be at the flat between 11 and 1 on Monday. Having been through this routine with other London repair men, I was skeptical to put it mildly. He rang the bell at 11:15, was friendly, professional, explained the mechanics to me rather than assuming it would all be too technical, deftly finished the job in 30 minutes, tested his work several times and asked me for a mop so he could clean up. I was flabberghasted. This was so unlike the methods of the unreliable, dishonest, slobby repairmen (and I'm being nice here) that Sharma has referred in the past. This service man was a gem in a dung heap. I thanked him several times for being reliable and punctual. I told him how rare that was. Whilst I meant it as a compliment, I think he found it slightly offensive. In defense of his fellow tradesmen, as he was leaving he said cheerfully, "If it's any consolation, I have about 2 jobs a day where people aren't home or the keys don't fit." Guess it works both ways.

March 14, 2004
Nina and Shuli came over to play. They taught me a few new programming tricks. Left click, right click, drag, resize now print!

On my 2hr 10min run yesterday through Regents and Hyde Park I finished listening to The Golden Compass by Philip Pullman. According to the literary expert at Wilder Elementary, better writing than the Harry Potter books. I can't compare as I've not read anything past the first couple chapters in the first Harry Potter book, but I will say that Pullman's style is engaging, clever and the fantasy aspects are plausible. The book was well narrated; first one I've listened to with more than one voice. And Pullman himself was the main narrator.

I did a very short run today, down to Runner's Need in Camden to get new shoes. Some cushy Asics. I just love the people in that store. They do customer service right. Take note, rest of London.

March 07, 2004

Meeting Shifra

Today I met Shifra for the first time. Abigail looks fabulous and the whole clan are pleased as punch to have Shifra among them.

Brian, Leo, Sarah and I ran the Silverstone half marathon. Sarah drove and we arrived 2 hours before the start. Sarah likes to leave time for any unexpected delays. At the same race last year, hers was the second vehicle car in the car park, next to some bloke who spent the night there in his sleeping bag. On our way up, it started raining. By the time we reached the Silverstone race track it was snowing. I wasn't prepared, mentally or clothing-wise, for a soggy, cold run. I was searching my brain for a viable excuse to sit this one out. But standing along the race course for four hours in the freezing weather sounded even less attractive than running in it. Fortunately, the weather cleared before we had to line up and the rain held off until we were across the finish line and on the road back to London.

March 06, 2004

Soba, Sushi and Blue

Tonight we ate soba and sushi. Primo from Big Night would have shook his head in disdain, "You can't have a starch and a starch!" We were carbo loading for a running race. Did Primo race? Thought not. After eating, we watched Kieslowski's Blue.

March 03, 2004

Naked logo

Old Starbucks shop sign in Seattle This is the original Starbucks mermaid, bare breasts and all. She's hanging outside a Starbucks shop in the Pike Place Market. The photo is from a trip Masa took to Seattle to visit my dad in March 2003. Here is a gallery of more Masa photos from that trip. The highlights include a shot of Seattle bicycle cop bikes lined up in Westlake Center, the Hammering Man in front of SAM and the UW quad abloom with cherry blossoms.

March 02, 2004

The car I want

Here's the perfect little transport vehicle for my current London life. I'd equip it with surround sound speakers and an mp3 deck loaded with my favorite KJET tunes.

March 01, 2004

We'll make great pets

These are the people in your neighborhood,
In your neighborhood,
In your neigh-bor-hood.

These are the people in your neighborhood.
They're the people that you meet
When you're walking down the street.
They're the people that you meet
Each day!