by butazabuta
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Palo Alto Baylands Nature Trail

I brought my trusty Nikon 8700 to work the other day, and was out on a photo-walk during lunch in the Palo Alto
Baylands Nature Trail just off E. Bayshore near San Antonio. The weather was overcast and not much interesting to shoot in the way of wildlife. Usually there are tons of pelicans and herons, but they weren't very social that day.
So I was kinda disappointed on my way back, but then came came across this tiny gopher snake that was hanging out in the middle of the bike trail. He (she?) couldn't have been more than 7 or 8 inches long, but apparently they get large enough to eat Gophers, and an adult can get up to 8 feet long.
d0034270_1524193.jpg Well, that's no Burmese Python (ala the problem they're having in the Everglades), but not something i'd want to come across on a 'nature walk'... Anyhow, to get this shot, I had to set the camera body right down on the pavement, and move the lens about an inch from the snake's head. If you look closely, you can see a self-portrait in the eye~ :-)
# by butazabuta | 2005-11-11 15:30 | Travel (旅行)
Japanese coverage of Topix.net's blog launch ~


 カテゴリー別,地域別に細分化したニュースサイトとして評価の高いTopixも,ブログをニュース記事として位置づけたのだ。最近になって,幾つかのニュースサイトがニュース記事とその記事を引用したブログを同時掲載したり,Yahoo! Newsのように検索結果で関連ブログを同時掲載している。米国のニュースサイトが外部ブログの取り込みに大きく動き出したことは見逃せない。課題は,質の高いブログをいかにフィルタリングするかだ。


How did we judge which blogs to add? We started by crawling about 1M blogs, and then began automatically filtering and ranking these using our NewsRank algorithms -- which consider a variety of factors, such as blog posting frequency, writing style, type of reference, popularity, and so forth. We ended up adding the top 15,000 sources that passed these tests.



 Topix.netはGoogle Newsのようなニュースアグリゲーターであるが,特徴はカテゴリー別,地域別のホットなニュ-スを提供していること。またカテゴリー別や検索結果のニュース更新を,RSSで配信してくれている。今春,Tribune Group , Gannett , Knight-Ridder の3大手新聞社グループに,事実上買収されたことでも話題になった。

# by butazabuta | 2005-11-09 02:49 | Random (きまぐれ)

Props to JatBar.com for once again turning me on to another decent retaurant I would never have found otherwise.

First, they recommended Tres Potrillos in Sunnyvale off Fair Oaks. My god, it's walking distance from our house and I had never even seen it. Killer Carnitas and the biggest fresh orange juice I've ever seen.

Second, they mentioned the Rose & Crown pub for Fisn n' chips, which I must have walked by a hundred times. Very good fish if you're up for a pub atmosphere.

Third times a charm, I figured, so we headed over to Layang Layang on S. De Anza, between 85 and Prospect for some Malaysian food.

We ordered:
1) Roti
2) Hainanese Chicken
3) Seafood Layang (or something)
4) Chicken Rice
5) Young coconut pudding dessert

1) The Roti is stellar - perfectly chewy AND crunchy. I don't know what their secret is, but I'm going to find out somehow.

2) Hainanese chicken was so-so: it was a bit under-cooked, and we're spoiled from the one they serve at "Noodles" restaurant at the Bellagio in Vegas, which is really hard to beat.

3) Seafood in taro basket: If you like deep-fried Taro, you will love this - otherwise, I'd get something else. I happen to love taro in all forms, so this was pretty good.

4) Chicken rice... was rice made with chicken broth. Nice solid complement to the Hainanese rice.

4) Coconut pudding: Fantastic, but more like coconut jell-o than pudding. Still, this would be killer on a hot day, and the thing is pretty huge, as R and I split one order between us.

All in all, I'm interested in going back to Layang Layang again, simply because of the Roti, and the potential for other dishes. Their dessert menu is great, if you're into S.E. Asian desserts (and I am :-)

Layang Layang

1480 South De Anza Blvd
San Jose, CA 95129
(ok I lied, it's not Cupertino, but it sure felt like it...)
# by butazabuta | 2005-11-03 14:37 | Food (食物)
Happy Halloween, all - -

Here are some killer jack-o'-lanterns I found on Worth1000.com

Granted, these were generated in ye olde Photo Shoppe -- I learned a great punkin carvin' technique from fellow co-worker and crime-fighter K (check out his "Re-animator live" post ~ spooky). It is as follows:

1. Git yer punkin'...
2. Git yer power-drill set out...
3. Start carvin'!

I've been too busy with "the little one" to try this technique, but it's got to work... I suspect you need to wrap some kind of plastic wrap around the drill, or you're going to have an ugly(ier) clean-up session. Napoleon Dynamite's portrait might be a bit aggressive for a first pass, but I'm sure you could do some pretty cool stuff. Now's a perfect chance to head down to the old Sunnyvale OSH and buy me one o' them new fangled diamond-tipped titanium drill bits...
# by butazabuta | 2005-10-29 03:12 | Random (きまぐれ)
d0034270_1329433.jpg Alas, poor Robert Pirsig -- Urban legend has it that the author of Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance submitted his novel to no fewer than 40+ publishers before one finally decided to pick him up. But through perserverance, he prevailed in the end, adding a fine piece of literature to the canon of 20th century American Lit that will be enjoyed for generations to come. And how did society thank him? Why, by shamelessly ripping him off, of course:

A quick scan of Amazon leads to 172 returns, including these fine titles:

Zen and the art of dishwashing

Zen and the Art of Funk Capitalism: A General Theory of Fallibility

Zen and the art of genetic algorithms

and my favorite...

Zen and the Art of Anything

ENOUGH with the Zen Art already -- Don't authors have some unwritten code of honor that punishes this type of behavior? There's a reason we don't hear stand-up comedians tell jokes about airline food anymore -- yes it's as bad as ever, but it just isn't funny anymore.

The same thing is true for Seven Steps of Highly Effective Booger-Pickers, and Chicken Soup for those Damned to the 4th ring of Dante's Inferno. The worst offender is possibly the Idiot's/Dummies series...

Who wants to help create the Frankenstein's Monster of book titles? Who's with me now?

The Idiot's Seven-Step Guide to Zen and the Art of Everything I needed to Know I learned from Chicken Soup

Beat that... please~
# by butazabuta | 2005-10-27 13:34 | Rant! (文句)

Cherry picking in Brentwood, CA

R has been anticipating the U-pick season for months now, and --contrary to my previous post -- there was some consternation that the rain this year would destroy the crop. So I promised her we'd go as soon as possible -- and that day was the Saturday before last.
We left Sunnyvale around 9am, and took a 237 to 880 to Mission Blvd. to 680 to 580 route east to Vasco Road in Livermore, and then another 20 minutes or so past the wind turbines in Altamont to arrive in Brentwood. A very rural locale -- makes Tracy seem urban-- but what better place for an orchard?

Anyhow, Vasco road -- which incidentally is a beautiful drive -- becomes Walnut road, and then you hook a left at Marsh Creek road, drive another mile, and you arrive at D.C.'s U-pick Cherries. There's no entrance fee or minimum quantity. You just park, grab a bucket, and start picking (and eating). They charge $2 a pound, so of course we had to pick 17 pounds to bring back, which is about a full bucket.

This year's crop of Bings was pretty good, but the more exotic varieties suffered a lot of splitting from the late rains, so the "Utah Giant" and "Star Krimson"s were not in very good shape. We were able to pick a full bucket pretty quickly, since the trees are quite short, and there are still plenty of cherries left since it's early in the season.

Some tips, if you want to go:

1) Arrive early, both to avoid crowds and the oppressive heat. They open at 8 on weekends (we got there at 9:30, which was still ok, but getting full and hot).

2) It's tempting to wander around and just pick from tree to tree - but the best method we found is to taste-test until you find a good batch, and then park yourself there and just pick the tree clean.

3) I wore a thick leather belt, and then looped the bucket handle through so that it hung at my waist -- much more efficient than putting the bucket on the ground and dropping them in, plus avoids bruising.

4) For some reason, they've put the, er... facilities (porta-potties) in the middle of an open field. I guess this keeps the smell away from the orchards, but they get really, really warm. [use your imagination here]. So, if you have an aversion to such spots, there is a cool, clean Target at the 1st street exit in Livermore, just before the Vasco exit on your way out (and they have a Starbucks, too)

5) R was clever in bringing some wet paper towels in ziplock bags to use as wet wipes. You'll need something to wipe the cherry juice of your hands, mouth, etc.

Hurt so good bring a tear to your eye, sweet cherry pie

(you know you luv it)
# by butazabuta | 2005-06-01 11:29 | Travel (旅行)

Sunnyvale, CA -> God's Country


For those of you that missed the memo, it's officially time to STOP bitching about the rainy weather. After all, Sunnyvale is "God's Country" and this is all part of the master plan. That's right - it's not Shallow Alto or Mountain Spew (although they receive some divine run-off from the promised land). If you've ever driven south down Central Expressway, noticed Del Monte's giant fruit can tower, and NOT realized that it's the epicenter of the known universe... well then we all pray for you.

What? You need further guidance? Well then just lend me your ear, brother, and allow me to enumerate just a paltry list:

1. Does your town have a haunted Toy's R Us and a documented Alien abduction?

2. How about a hookah bar?

3. Alright, so your schlub-burg has got some decent Indian grub. Big voop. But what about a cricket club ? (heh, knew it.)

4. Kneel before our Fry's! Our Fry's kicks your fry's ASS!

5. Even the Czech Republic has plans to invade us.

You need more? Don't take my word for it - check out what Bathsheba has to say. Better yet, let me just paraphrase:

Sunnyvale rUwEleZ.

The ultimate proof?

I'm already getting tired of trying to convince you people...

# by butazabuta | 2005-05-06 13:19 | Random (きまぐれ)

Who's up for some Korean?

What's that? Did I hear you say you've got a hankering for some quality Korean dining in the South Bay area? Well, you're in luck, as there are several to choose from. Here's a short-list of some favorites:

Myung Dong Tofu Cabin
1484 Halford Ave
Santa Clara, CA 95051

Don't let the name fool you - this is not some swanky, hifalutin joint where you've got to grease someone's palm to get a good table. No sir, the only grease we're talking about is the drippings off their succulent kalbi ribs -- probably the best I've had in the U.S. Their name obviously speaks to their pride in the tofu hot-pots they serve, which are also quite good. I'm also a huge fan of their pa-jun, which is kind of like a savory, egg pancake, loaded with meat, seafood, and vegetables. Yum. Finally, their Dol-sot-Bi-bim-bap (pictured here) is quite tasty if you have a craving for some very flavorful rice. Their freebie, pre-meal kimchee selection that is served prior to the meal is reasonably good, but can't hold a candle to my #2 choice.

Korea House
2340 El Camino Real
Santa Clara, CA 95050

Korea House burned down in the late 90's, only to rise like a glorious garlic-laden phoenix in its original address on ECR. KH is all about quantity with out sacrificing quality. I challenge anyone to order more than 3 dishes here -- you'll have enough left-overs to eat for a week. That is, if your body can stand the salt intake. KH has good bulgogi -- a sauteed beef concoction kind of like sukiyaki (loaded with soy sauce and sugar) as well a killer shrimp pajun. Also, if you're in a double-dog-dare kinda mood, try the yukke (basically steak tartar with some raw egg mixed in, served on a bed of apples and pine nuts). May sound horrific, but it is in fact fantastic if you can handle the the raw-beef aspect. Finally, KH wins major points for the perky, lilliputian owner that can recite "see you tomorrow" in 15 different languages. Even though I've been going there for several years, she always insists on teaching me how to wrap my bulgogi in the lettuce cups.

Palace BBQ
1092 E El Camino Real
Sunnyvale, CA 94087

Come to papa! Care for some meat? How about some meat to go with that meat? and a side of meat... PBBQ is a 'que-it-yourself place that definitely has a good selection of... meat... and some other non-meat items such as, er... seafood and chicken? In all seriousness, it's become a bit more buffet-ish over the last few years, and progressively pricier (I think dinner is over $20 bucks p/person now) I'd opt for the first two choices unless you want a more fondue-like atmosphere where everyone is throwing their meat on the grill, and you're up for a complete meat-fest in the all-you-can-eat category. It's meat-tastic~
# by butazabuta | 2005-05-04 14:20 | Food (食物)

Beelzegrub - The Luther Burger

"What rough beast, its hour come round at last, slouches towards Suburbia to be born?"

With all the recent revival jibber-jabber about apocalyptic revelations and second-comings, it was with great anticipation that some brave co-workers (K and B) and I decided to partake in what must be the apogee of unholy gastronomic food smut: The Luther Burger.
What's that? You've never heard of the Luther Burger? Well allow me to introduce you to the most diabolical, artery-clogging, heart-attack-on-a-plate this side of the hamdog. Simply put, the LB is a piping-hot, protein-style cheeseburger from In-and-Out (IO), sandwiched between two glorious glazed-original donuts from Krispy Kreme (KK).

We set out at 10:30am on Friday morning -- before the morning coffee could induce a level of cognizance that might make us rethink the decision. The logistics were perfect... the IO a mere 100 yards from the KK. Needless to say we used the drive-through at IO so that we could seamlessly glide into the parking lot of KK in less than 18 seconds. God bless America!

Within minutes, K and B were chowin' down on some might fine beelzegrub (R) while I was getting trigger-happy with my Canon. Finally it was time to put down the camera and get down to business myself. At first blush, the Lucifer, er... Luther Burger looks downright disgusting. But after one bite, I was an immediate convert. There's something profanely twisted about this sandwich -- The holy culinary trinity of fat, sugar, and salt twisted to new lows... or highs, depending on your perspective. (from the gutter, everything looks up). It's so wrong, yet so right. Our hands were practically trembling after finishing, and I have to admit I caught what was some kind of food buzz -- not quite a sugar rush, but hard to explain.

Will I ever dare to eat one again? Most definitely. But this is one "sandwich" that falls into your "last meal" category of indulgences (up there with the "deep-fried butter sticks").
# by butazabuta | 2005-05-01 12:16 | Food (食物)

Cover up

d0034270_17214192.jpg I heard Billy Idol's rendition of The Door's classic L.A. Woman the other day on the radio, and it got me a thinkin' about covers.

If it pleases the court, this is not an argument as to whether or not Billy Idol is a talented singer. I, for one, will admit sheepishly to more than one episode of crooning along with Billy to Eyes Without a Face, blaring from the tape-deck of my Subaru GL Wagon back in 1986. Nor is this a question of whether L.A. Woman is a good song (because, in fact, it's a *great* song). No - we are asking whether the marriage of Billy Idol's voice and Jim Morrison's music is a benign or malignant union.

We've decided it's not a good thing. After careful consideration and the screening of several covers of classics, we arrived at the following set of steps to determine whether a cover is good or bad:

Step 1: Does the cover improve or re-interpret the original version in any meaningful way?

Er... That's pretty much it. If the answer is "no", then why the hell did the musician record it? I'm guessing the answer rhymes with "mots of loney", since there's clearly no artistry involved. I mean, we're not talking about cover or tribute bands here. We're talking about the hot chick from No Doubt taking a 2nd-rate song from the 80s (Talk-Talk's It's My Life) and making it 3rd-rate.

Even "good" covers, such as the Talking Head's Take Me to the River only marginally improves on the Al Green original (assuming he was the original). The same goes for the Lemon Heads version of Mrs. Robinson. These are good songs, but so what?

It took me a while to come up with a cover that I thought was really a good song - and I have to say I think it's genius: U2's Night and Day. What? You've never heard this song? That's because it 's an obscure tune, buried in a Cole Porter tribute album that came out in the early 90's for an AIDS benefit. But what a masterpiece -- Try comparing a classic take by Ella Fitzgerald vs. the U2 version and see what Bono and company have done with it. They've changed it from a kind of wistful, somewhat catchy show-tune arrangement, to a brooding and melancholy opus that foreshadows the larger-than-life reincarnation they had as a band with Achtung Baby album. This, folks, is a great cover, because they make it their own.

That's not to say that one can't go overboard in this direction, however. If you've never heard William Shatner belt out his version of Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds... consider yourself fortunate. ( and whatever you do, don't click this link)

"...the GIRL... with Ka-lie-de-scope-ey-eez.... Denny Crane...
# by butazabuta | 2005-04-27 17:23 | Rant! (文句)