nyc: mostly just ate

Our little mini-trip to NYC was a blast. We got a hotel in midtown for $100/night on priceline and spent our two days wandering around, seeing sites, visiting clare, and (most of all) eating. A few highlights:

Momofuku Noodle Bar. Shitake buns, hanger steak with polenta, and the best ramen I’ve ever had.

shitake buns

hanger steak


And Peter Luger Steakhouse in Brooklyn. Slice of bacon = $3, and wow. Was probably 1/2 inch thick before they threw it on the grill. Hamburger = $9, best I’ve ever eaten. Steak for one = $40, definitely in my top 5 ever. (They only serve porterhouse, which is great, but I’m more of a ribeye guy if I’ve got the choice).



in bethesda, with thunderstorms

Les and I left this morning for a mini work trip/vacationlet to DC and NYC. I can’t actually remember the last time I was in DC, but it might have been on that first road trip I took with Leslie in 2002. Anyway, I’m ecstatic to get a few days out of the office. We were greeted on landing by some nice rain, thunder, and lightning that I miss so much in the bay area. Tomorrow we’re striking out into the heart of DC for some quick museuming, then I’ll be taking myself on a (potentially damp) walking tour of all the major monuments and memorials while Leslie does the work that prompted this trip. Then on Monday we leave for NYC… can’t wait!


I’m currently sitting in my parents’ condo in Tabernash, Colorado. We got here via train–crazy, right? Yesterday we were on the slopes in Winter Park, and today we’re busy researching the best way to construct snow sculptures. My life has been a haze of relaxed euphoria since I filed my dissertation. It turns out just working a full-time job is much easier than being a grad student–and they send me paychecks every now and then.

Anyway, Leslie just got done posting pictures of our holiday adventures so far. You can find them in the usual place:

winter park


Let’s discuss a number of awesome things, some sarcastically and some earnestly. In an awesome meeting this week with my advisors, we decided that my schedule for finishing my dissertation was too aggressive to get all the necessary results in and text reviewed, so my graduation slipped by a month! Awesome! Leslie put together an awesome invitation to this year’s camping trip to Utica reservoir:

utica invitation

How could you not go? Looks too awesome to miss. Also assuredly awesome is our upcoming road trip out to Colorado with the pup. You would not believe how many motels will let you bring your dog right in the room with you.

You’re probably thinking that there are too many awesome things in the world for you to keep track of all of them in your head, and you’re right. That’s why God created Awesome Overload as an authoritative source on awesomeness. Don’t miss it… they need submissions!

austin: still cool

We just returned yesterday from a five-day mini-vacation to Austin. Leslie had to be there for work shortly after a trip to Boston, so instead of flying all the way back, she arrived a few days early and I joined her. We got in on a Thursday, rendezvoused with the Hall clan at Lisa and Eric’s place (Leslie’s parents were kind enough to drive down for a couple of nights), then crashed at my parents’ place.

Friday we kicked off with a shopping trip to Central Market for dinner supplies. That place stands up to any grocery store the Bay Area has to offer. The choices are broad, the atmosphere is pleasant, and it’s uncrowded (so take that, Berkeley Bowl!). I guess Austin probably couldn’t beat a Berkeley or SF farmer’s market for freshness, but there was plenty of trucked in Cali produce that I’d be happy to settle for. After stopping back at the house to make the guacamole and start the chicken brining, we embarked on a fantasy house-shopping tour of neighborhoods in Austin.

It was a blast–there are lots of areas near central Austin I’d just never visited before, and the parts I had have changed quite a bit. We’re pretty convinced that if we move back, we’d like a place in the “core” of the city, which to us means roughly in the box drawn by Mopac on the West, 45th on the North, I35 on the East, and Oltorf on the South. Of course, we also explored east of 35, which is developing fast. I don’t have the Austin geography chops to name all the neighborhoods we looked at, but we liked a lot of what we saw. There are plenty of houses all over this area in the 2-bedroom-cottage style we’d probably be looking at, though in parts there is an additional 3-story house tacked on the back of them.  It will be a deep rabbit hole to explore when the time comes.

Friday night we cooked dinner for my parents and Leslie’s parents, which was fun. Saturday we went out to explore the Hill Country, stopping by Pedernales Falls, a winery (not great), and then we met up with my parents in Johnson City for the “wildflower festival,” the highlight of which was the Kettle corn and $2.50 pints of Fireman’s #4, an excellent local beer. That night we ate at a great Japanese place, Uchi. We saw the chef on Iron Chef America and couldn’t resist making a reservation. I hit a party later that night at an old friend’s house with a bunch of old HS friends… it was quite a trip.

Leslie’s job responsibilities kicked in on Sunday afternoon, so we struck out in the morning after a great brunch with my parents at East Side Cafe. We took a stroll around campus (the Master Plan of covering all of central Austin with red-tile roofs continues apace), and then we explored downtown near the river, which is awash in new development. The skyline has changed substantially in the last 3 years, and I think there are several more sky-scrapers going up now. The new city hall looks cool, and Palmer Auditorium has been knocked down and tastefully redone.

Monday I amused myself, grabbing a Don Juan breakfast taco from Juan in a Million for a late breakfast, then mooched the AC at various bookstores. Here’s the taco, for those who don’t know of its glory (it took three supplementary tortillas for me to finish):

don juan taco

Finally, I returned to Yoga Yoga for an Ashtanga class with my old teacher, who, bless her soul, still remembers me. Exhausted, I bought a classy dinner of 32 oz fresh squeezed OJ, a smoked turkey leg, and a spinach salad from the nearby second location of Central Market and retired with Leslie. Overall, the trip kicked ass. I don’t see any real competitors to Austin at this point for our Adult Landing Pad. The timing of our return? Well, who knows.  But first, I do need to finish at Berkeley, so BACK TO WORK.

yee haw

I’ve just arrived in San Antonio, the second stop on this last trip of the fall. We had a kick-ass time in Ann Arbor. We kicked things off on Friday with a comprehensive walking tour of campus, done in two parts. First, we did central campus, dropped Karen off (sadly, she had to labor feverishly all day to finish a post-doc application), then hit one of Ann Arbor’s 14,000 small markets to pick up some pasture-raised Amish chicken to go with the locally grown vegetables that Ali and Karen had recently bought from “their” farmer. We dropped by the house to give the chicken a luxurious brine bath and hit north campus, where they sequester the engineers.

Ali’s department has a new building, which is made almost entirely of glass and 70″ plasma televisions. Outside, we terrorized passing students with Ali’s $12 remote-controlled airplane, then drove to a mall and bought a matching set of iPhones.

What? Hell yes, we did. Like global warming melting our arctic north, the allure of the glistening Jesus phone has been gently but irreversibly eroding my resistance, which finally collapsed after Leslie played with and was mildly amused by Ali’s iPhone. We marched dutifully into two years shackled to the “new AT&T,” a moniker which to me is an almost too honest acknowledgment of their past and present hegemonies.  But, in truth, the phone does more or less represent the second coming, as evidenced by the sparkle in Leslie’s eyes the first time she checked email in the car and the religious epiphany that accompanies checking in for your flight while drinking hot mulled cider next to an idyllic stream littered with autumn’s gilded leaves. So yeah, they are fun.

That evening, we roasted the chicken, some summer squash, and pan fried a metric ton of Brussels sprouts. Michael Pollan would have be proud. We chased that with beers at the nearby Arbor Brewing Company, then hit the sack.

The next day I slept into the double digits for the first time in years, then hit the climbing gym with Ali whilst the ladies toured Kerrytown. In the afternoon we visited a cider mill, then ate another obscenely delicious meal at Pacific Rim (Karen got the scallops, which I thought were the standout in a crowd of excellent entrees). At home we played some silly card games, watched Ratatouille finally (for me, the movie was a bit of a let down except for this one part where there was a crepe being flipped–the physical accuracy of it was astounding!), then turned in. We awoke this morning and rushed to have breakfast before arriving at the airport an hour early, despite our explicit knowledge that daylight savings was ending.

And now I’m in San Antonio at the historic Menger Hotel, looking “forward” to a week of conferencing the hell out of geometric design.

fall’s last journey

Leslie and I are headed out today to Ann Arbor to visit Ali and Karen–we’ve got all sorts of fun activities planned, which no doubt will yield a nice crop of pictures. This caps off what hopefully will be my busiest TA week as well; I have been trying to get everyone ready to finish their last project and spent a whole night grading midterms. But there are no more projects for them/me to do, and no more tests until the final.

I’ll be heading straight from Ann Arbor to San Antonio for another conference. This one is more math-oriented, but it looks like a good crowd and at least this time I’ll have Jonathan to introduce me to people. I can’t remember the last time I was in SA. I’ll have to find some good BBQ and Mexican.

And, it’s November all of a sudden. Wow. We’ll be staying put this year for Thanksgiving, cooking for ourselves and hopefully for a few friends too. We’re going to try brining the turkey, which if the roast chicken we’ve been making is any indicator should be delish.

last post from berlin

It’s 6:11am here, and Leslie’s in the shower. The place is spotless, the better to recover the full security deposit. The last thing to get packed, of course, is the wireless router, but the time has come to snip our internet umbilical. Just 22 hours of travel stand between us and sweet, sweet home. What a summer it’s been. We’ll see you all soon.