Wednesday, February 25, 2009

A Room Full of Dummies

Last night I attended a CPR/First Aid training at my work. I thought this was an amusing sight, all these dummies on the floor. What did I learn? Compressions have to be fast, after 2 minutes of compressions I was quite tired. And what I have been preaching for some time was re-enforced, it is always better to have a land line at home and if you are calling 911, try to call from a landline. Why? If you dial 911 from your cell phone you are reaching the California Highway Patrol (or the highway patrol in your state). If you are not on the highway then they must transfer you to the local 911 call center. This takes time. Also, there is no address automatically associated with cell phones, all that information must be communicated to the dispatcher. If you call from a landline or even a pay phone, the address is automatically populated for the dispatcher. If you are choking or cannot speak, this could save your life.

Sunday, February 22, 2009

Letting Go

I'm sure most of you know by now that over the past 5 months we've been looking to move. There are/were a number of reasons that I won't get into here but one of them was that prices on homes were dropping. We could now move somewhere where we never could have afforded before.

In preparation for that eventual move the purging began. I had changed jobs 10 months ago and had switched from working primarily out of the house and travelling all over the United States to now going into an office. When one works out of the house in a technical role, geek things accumulate, these things include computers, servers, circuit boards and literally tons of technical manuals. When one works out of the house and travels, other things accumulate, suitcases, frequent flier cards, airline statements, travel coupons, and the list goes on.

I've been trying to clear these things out with most of it going into the garbage. Today, I sit and stare at a stack of United 1K systemwide confirmed upgrades. For those of you uninformed, these practically guarantee you a first class upgrade no matter the flight length. One used these when flying to NY or Florida. They were like gold. It's hard to let them go. It took a lot of pain and suffering for both for me and my spouse to earn these. They are paper. Beautiful pieces of paper that used to sell on ebay for $ 100 but are now worth nothing. I'm sad.

But alas, better things have come. I'm tired of business travel and am thrilled not to be doing it anymore in this post 9-11 world but it is still hard to let go. Well, off to the shredder I go. They are after all only things and things are not memories.

Friday, February 20, 2009

Craft - Restaurant Review

I took Dena out for her birthday to Craft in Century City. Craft is one of the restaurants run by Tom Colicchio , the head judge on Top Chef. Dena and I are big Top Chef fans and we were looking forward to a real "foodie" experience. We were not disappointed. I'll run through the meal below, if you're not a foodie, this may be boring....

The meal started with a lovely champagne, a Michel Beauchamp Rose. Incredible finish on this champagne. What I like about Craft is that they do not cheap out on the wine pours. A lot of restaurants bring you exactly 3 oz. of wine or will only pour you half a glass of champagne. Look, I'm paying 18 bucks a glass, fill it up! At Craft they bring out the bottle of whatever wine by the glass you are having, you taste it, once you're happy they pour you a nice generous glass. I love it!

The meal started with an amuse bouche, a little goat cheese tart. It was lovely. I'm not into the amuse bouche's because I feel the restaurant just stacks them up and brings them out like MacDonald's burgers. I was not surprised, it was the same here. We had two starters, a lovely marinated Tasmanian sea trout served with avocado, pomegranate and dill. One of the things we've learned from all these food shows is to combine all the flavors served on the plate. This was especially true of this dish where it was completely different if you had a bite of the trout sans dill or with dill. The chef combines these flavors for a reason and you should enjoy each of those reasons....

The second first, (LOL) was a sweet onion tart served with local goat cheese and a dollop of tomato paste. Weird that the paste is just plopped there but it was delicious none the less. For our second course, we had one dish, the stinging nettle and ricotta ravioli. I just had to order it because it was a little out there. The edges of the ravioli were a little al dente for my taste, the dish was good, unique, but not special.

Our wine choices were both fantastic. We're into Chilean and Argentina wines lately and are never disappointed. Dena's a Malbec - Bodega fin del Mundo, 2006 Patagonia -and mine, a Tempranillo, Beronia Reserva 2001 Rioja - also yummy.

Our entrees were good but not fantastic. Dena had the prawns and I had the braised short ribs. When those appeared in their little cast iron pot they looked just scrumptious, but apparently looks are not everything. They were very tender but short on flavor. Excessive amounts of fat, a little dry and bland. I would have to tell the chef to "pack your knives and go" on that dish.

In true shwanky restaurant tradition, everything is separate, so we ordered to vegetable dishes, the kale and the mixed mushrooms. We wish we knew what the sauce was that the kale was steamed in because it was spectacular. As a pallet cleanser we were served a cute, wonderful little blood orange vanilla ice cream float. It was so delicious.

For dessert, I had two hand crafted dark chocolates. One a hazelnut/orange chocolate and the other a rhubarb chocolate. I thought if heaven existed then I was surely there. My eyes closed and my tongue danced around each flavor, happy and content. Dena had the banana cream pie, served with maple and banana ice cream and toasted cashews. She made yummy faces throughout that dish. After our dessert we received the little complimentary dessert, which we didn't know we would get. It was a nice surprise with two little red velvet cupcakes and two little butter cookies. As I popped the red velvet cupcake into my mouth, a smile widened across my face even as I opened the check.

All in all, a wonderful meal, very special. We were treated exceptionally well, the wait staff is highly trained, highly professional but yet very personable. In a restaurant such as this, everything matters. A snobby wait staff can ruin an otherwise exceptional meal. Craft fires on all 12 cyclinders like a finely tuned machine with only a couple small missteps. I don't fault them for those and wouldn't let them interfere with my return visit. I felt almost as if they knew me because I came in all the time I was treated so well. We'll be back....

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Let's Solve This Now

The purpose of the Stimulous Package is to stimulate the economy right? And how does that happen? You can't create jobs unless people are spending money. People that spend money create jobs because they create a demand for goods and services. But no one has any money because they are either freaked out that we're in a depression and they are hoarding their money or they have lost their job and are freaked out because they have no money. It seems like a vicous cycle doesn't it?

My first proposal is this - Give all the good, tax paying Americans with good credit ratings a 30 year fixed mortgage at 4% through Fannie Mae or Freddie Mac. This will jump start the entire process and here's why:
It will create jobs by stimulating demand for appraisers, title companies, and other paper pushers.
  1. It will create a larger tax base because people will be allowed to take cash out if they have x percentage of equity in their homes.
  2. It will give those people hoarding all their money some extra cash every month due to the interest savings to go by those things they want, not just need, like flat screen TVs, cars, boats, restaurants, movies, etc, this creates jobs.
  3. It will create jobs because some percentage of those homeowners who take chunks out will be remodelling, painting, upgrading, or expanding.
The government finances the whole thing and makes money while stimulating the economy and NOT penalizing those of us who didn't go for some flash in the pan mortgage we knew we couldn't afford when the rate adjusted.

More ideas tomorrow. Why can't those people in Washington get off their ass and move it. In the words of the Madagascar crew - You've got to move it, move it!

Friday, February 06, 2009

Sunrise over Downtown Los Angeles

What a spectacular morning yesterday was. It was just before the rains came to the Los Angeles basin hence the low, thin cloud cover. These shots were taken by myself from the 53rd floor of the LA Live building, the first at around 6am, the 2nd is a context picture with some of the buildings of downtown Los Angeles on the left hand side and the 3rd was taken 10 - 15 minutes later. This was the only good part of my day....

Tuesday, February 03, 2009

Amazon and Security

As some of you may know, I'm a bit of a security freak in the IT world. Not excessive like all the IT security professionals out there but aware and diligent I like to think. This link takes you to a blog post that I read today. It's concerning. I have many friends as well as myself that shop on Amazon. I wanted to take a moment to give you some pointers to shopping on line.

What is a dictionary attack?
A dictionary attack uses a brute-force technique of successively trying all the words in an exhaustive list (from a pre-arranged list of values). In contrast with a normal brute force attack, where a large proportion key space is searched systematically, a dictionary attack tries only those possibilities which are most likely to succeed, typically derived from a list of words in a dictionary. Generally, dictionary attacks succeed because many people have a tendency to choose passwords which are short (7 characters or fewer), single words found in dictionaries or simple, easily-predicted variations on words, such as appending a digit.

So, for example, your pet + the number 1 is not a good password (example: fido1). You kids name followed by their birth year is also not a good password. Come up with something more original. Mix it up a little bit. For example: my password for amazon could be Amm4z0n$$ where the a is a 4 and the o is a zero. I threw an extra m in there to make it not a regular word. Notice that one letter is capitalized. Now, true, capitalizing the first letter is pretty obvious but something is better than nothing. Passwords are case sensitive so adding a capital letter or 2 is always a good idea.

Here are some other fairly obvious online shopping best practices:

  1. Never give your password or login to anyone.
  2. Never cache or ask the website to remember your password and login.
  3. Try to never allow the website to save your credit card information.
  4. If you don't shop their frequently, use a guest account if offered instead of signing up.
  5. And the number one most important item: Make sure that the website is secure, that is, your URL in the browser address bar should say https://. The s is the important part s = secure. Also, there should be a little eyeball in the bottom bar of your Internet Explorer. An eyeball with a red circle and cross line in it means unsecure.

More in the next blog....