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I'm back! And I've eaten a lot of risotto.

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I'm back and I have lots of thoughts.

But the first one is: if you like risotto, you're going to LOVE Brazil. Risotto seems to be on EVERY menu there. Even little pizza places in the airport sell risotto!

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So that happened.

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Well, I didn't predict that I would be flat-on-my-back sick for two days upon return from SXSW. This is a problem because I leave for Brazil tomorrow night and haven't managed to do half the things I intended to get done before I left.

ARGH.
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I will have 24 hours in Lima and 24 hours in Sao Paulo in March. (Well, more in Sao Paulo but only 24 hours will be my own.) Lima is a Saturday; Sao Paulo is a Sunday. Any travel tips, from those who have been there?

The final book cull list!

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This is the final book cull list. I'm happy to mail books out to people - just please reimburse me for postage. Comment here if you want them! Also posting to Facebook.

Cookbooks:
- The Ultimate Vegetarian Cookbook (Roz Denny)
- The Essential Vegetarian Cookbook
- Indian Cooking for Pleasure (this dates back to the 60s and the recipes are very authentic)
- The Muffin Cookbook - Muffins for All Occasions

Fiction
- Never After by Rebecca Lickiss
- Spock's World by Diane Duane
- Wicked by Gregory Maguire

Nonfiction (of the Business Kind)
- Malcolm Gladwell: The Tipping Point
- Confessions of a Public Speaker by Scott Berkun (GREAT book for anyone who has to do public speaking)
- The Whuffie Factor by Tara Hunt

Nonfiction (less business-y)
- The Timetables of History by Bernard Grun

Art and Design
- America's Painted Ladies: The Ultimate Celebration Of Our Victorians by Elizabeth Pomada and Michael Larsen with tons of photographs (note, this is Victorian architecture, not Victorian porn!)
- A decade (at least) of Lurzer's International Archive Magazine, showcasing the best advertising from around the world

The Book Cull List (so far)

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We are culling books!

If you are LA-local, we can find a place to meet up to hand them off. Or heck, this is a great reason to have you over for a visit.

We can send these, but we will need you to reimburse us for shipping, etc. (Yes, your package may be only $2 to ship, but trust me, the cost of postage and padded envelopes and so forth adds up over 40 packages.)

Some of this has already been posted on Facebook, so my apologies in advance if it gets claimed before you holler!

Please feel free to point all your friends at this, ESPECIALLY if they're in LA. We'd love for these to go to a good home.

Please note: There will be additions over the next several days.

Cookbooks:
- Williams Sonoma boxed sets encompassing the following titles: Salads, Chicken, Muffins & Quick Breads, Pizza, Pies and Tarts, Hors d'Oeuvres and Apetizers, Stir-Fry, Grilling, Pasta Sauces, Vegetarian (would like to keep each box together because, y'know, box) - Williams Sonoma Complete Pasta Cookbook (by GOD is it ever complete)
- The Ultimate Vegetarian Cookbook (Roz Denny)
- The Essential Vegetarian Cookbook x 2 (one has no author, the other, by Diana Shaw, is large enough to be used as a weapon)
- The Essential Bartender's Guide by Robert Hess
- The Cocktail Bible by Linda Doesser
- The Simple Art of Marrying Food and Wine by Malcolm Gluck (this is a set of wine-paired recipes which is GREAT if you're a meat eater - we aren't)
- 2 years of Imbibe Magazine (the cocktail magazine)

Kids Books:
- Alexander and the Wind Up Mouse
- The Story of Babar the Little Elephant
- The Little Engine That Could
- Potatoes Potatoes by Anita Lobel
- Mike Mulligan and His Steam Shovel by Virginia Lee Burton
- Goggles! by Ezra Jack Keats
- If I Drove a Truck by Miriam Young
- The Story about Ping by Marjorie Flack
- Stevie by John Steptoe

Fiction
- Wolf Hall by Hilary Mantel
- What Ifs of American History (anthology)
- Wicked by Gregory Maguire
- Tanya Huff: Blood Lines, Blood Pact and a combo volume of Blood Price and Blood Trail
- Meljean Brook: The Iron Duke
- Philippa Gregory: The Virgin's Lover
- Robert Harris: Imperium
- Ayn Rand: Atlas Shrugged
- Grimm's Fairy Tales (big hardbound volume, lots of text and few illustrations)
- Star Trek Corps of Engineers: Aftermath (collection of Star Trek tie-in novels)

Regency Romances:
- Stephanie Laurens: A Rake's Vow
- Lisa Kleypas: Because You're Mine
- Gaelen Foley: Lord of Ice and One Night of Sin
- Loretta Chase: The Last Hellion and Not Quite a Lady

Nonfiction (of the Business Kind)
- Malcolm Gladwell: Blink and The Tipping Point
- Confessions of a Public Speaker by Scott Berkun
- The Whuffie Factor by Tara Hunt
- If: Questions for the Game of Life, Questions for the Game of Love and Questions for Parents (books designed to have a number of conversation-starting questions)
- The Little Black Book of Dating Ideas, Vol. 1 and 2

Nonfiction (less business-y)
- Stepping Through the Stargate (anthology of essays)
- Finding Serenity (anthology of essays)
- Snobbery: The American Version by Joseph Epstein
- The Timetables of History by Bernard Grun
- Jan Svanskmajer - Transformation of the Senses
- Behind the Seen - How Walter Murch edited Cold Mountain
- Lighting for Action
- The Wisdom of the Lotus Sutra - Daisaku Ikeda

Art and Design
- Striking Poses by Richard Schickel (high camp stills of movie stars from the 40s and 50s)
- Terran Trade Authority Handbook: Great Space Battles and Spacecraft 2000 to 2100 AD
- Constructed Realities: The Art of Staged Photography
- Dian Hanson's The History of Men's Magazines Volume 2
- Best of Black and White Erotic Photography
- America's Painted Ladies: The Ultimate Celebration Of Our Victorians by Elizabeth Pomada and Michael Larsen with tons of photographs (note, this is Victorian architecture, not Victorian porn!)
- A decade (at least) of Lurzer's International Archive Magazine, showcasing the best advertising from around the world

Technical Books
- XML in Easy Steps
- Sams Teach Yourself ASP.NET 3.5
- Leveraging Drupal
- Front-End Drupal
- Using Drupal
- Learning XML
- Web Programming with HTML, XHTML and CSS

Book cull!

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I'm culling books. Posting the list over on my Facebook as I go. If you want any, holler! I will send them to you if you will pay for postage.

That LAX shooting is close to home

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The shooting at LAX took place at the terminal I invariably travel through, because Virgin America is the airline I nearly always use. That's the security area I passed through Wednesday, the security area Mike was supposed to pass through tomorrow. His flight, naturally, is now in question.

Security at Terminal 3 is already problematic because it was built before 2001 and the area that security goes through was never meant to handle the new types of security lines. The lines wrap around a staircase, up and down a ramp. There's no alternative security line and I can't see them opening the terminal anytime soon.

I see a lot of passengers being shitty to TSA agents when I travel and I try to be friendly to them just so there's one less crappy person in their day. It's not a great job and I don't see any reason to make it worse for them. I remember the friendly guy who checked my ticket and ID who'd just had a real mean person in front of me; I wished him a good day and told him not to let them get him down and he made surprised eye contact with me and said, "THANK you!" There was an older man, late '40s or early '50s, directing foot traffic and being very helpful to people with kids. And there's a couple of other people who were there I'm thinking of. I hope none of them got hurt. But obviously, someone did. Someone died.

Portuguese: my brain is seizing up

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As my work self-improvement project for the year, I'm learning Brazilian Portuguese via Rosetta Stone. I had read that there are some linguists that argue that Portuguese could actually be considered a dialect of Spanish rather than its own language. I can't actually weigh in on that, but I CAN say that the similarity between Brazilian Portuguese and Spanish is giving me PROBLEMS.

I know a bit of Spanish, from junior high and high school Spanish as well as from living in SoCal. (You just sort of pick some up via osmosis, or at least I do.) About 60% of the Portuguese I'm learning right now is spelled the same but pronounced entirely differently. It's like Spanish with a really strange accent. Another 20% is pronounced as it is in Spanish but spelled entirely differently. And then you've got that last 20%, which is where it gets weird.

When I tried to learn functional Italian for my trip to Italy (you know, "may I have a cappuccino?" "where's the bathroom?" "more gelato, please," "don't touch me there!" "I'm positive that one-block taxi trip was not 50 euros," etcetera), the language was similar enough to Spanish that I could get the gist and figure out what direction I was supposed to head in, but sufficiently different that I didn't get too confused. This is more like...trying to re-learn Spanish, with an extremely thick Southern accent, while replacing every fifth word with one that has been handed down from Mars. And I do mean Mars, because you're happily traveling along with all Latin cognates and then you come right up against something that is all full of consonants and phlegm as if you were speaking Welsh.

I am NEVER going to get the hang of this. At least, that's how it feels right now, like I'm just going to fumble around with badly accented Spanish and be mocked if I ever go to Brazil. However, having worked at learning languages in the past I know this is just one stage of the process.

But! I did discover something very cool about the language today. If I say to a group, "Do you have money?" there's no word that distinguishes between, "Yes, as a group we have money," and "yes, each individual in this group has money." Portuguese has two different words for that, vocês and eles/elas. Although I'm still working on figuring out which applies to which situation. It's a point of distinction I wish the English language had.

Emmys dissonance

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It is just strange to see a ton of photos of celebrities walking a red carpet that's rolled over a sidewalk you walk down several times a week.

I have dubbed today the "Limopocalypse." Saw lines of them coming down the street as I went to the Metro. There were about five of them stacked up outside our building when I got home, just waiting to pick up the celebs.

The Emmys are tonight

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I would appreciate the Emmys a great deal more if they took place somewhere other than three blocks from my house. Between that and several TV shoots that are going on down here (I guess none of them are attending...) traffic in my neighborhood is all kinds of gerfukt.

This is why I can't have nice things

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WHEN DID THEY ADD SOY PROTEIN TO GRAPE-NUTS?

...damn it.

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I correctly answered 13 of 13 questions on the @pewresearch News IQ Quiz. Test yourself:
I correctly answered 13 of 13 questions on the @pewresearch News IQ Quiz. Test yourself by clicking here.

I have been on a serious news diet for months and I still beat 99% of Americans. Either I'm not very good at being on a news diet or most people are terribly ill-informed.

I've arrived!

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An article I wrote for the Black Rock Beacon was pretty much quoted in its entirety on NBC News Bay Area. Between this and my appearance in the New York Times earlier this year, I feel like I've arrived, somehow...

Home from Burning Man

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I am exhausted and dusty. Our loft smells like playa dust. As usual, learned a lot this year. More on that later. Bed now.

Heading to the playa in the morning

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Don't break anything while I'm gone!

Bad neighbors

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The gentleman who bought the unit below us has decided to use it as a full-time AirBnB unit while he lives elsewhere. (That goes against the condo code, but that's a whole separate conversation.) That hasn't really been a problem until the current guest arrived.

Sunday night, the current guest decided to start partying at just before midnight, with music loud enough to actually shake our bed. When I woke up, for a second I thought it was an earthquake. I put on my robe and slippers, went downstairs and asked him to turn it down. The friends he had there seemed very freaked out, possibly connected to the sweet-smelling smoke that came rolling out the door when they opened it a crack.

An hour later, once again he'd cranked the music to a vibratory volume. This time, emdiar went down and threatened to call the cops. That got him to keep the music down.

Monday morning I woke up after far too little sleep to discover that our bathroom was full of the same sweet-smelling smoke. See, the vents in the bathroom in our stack of apartments are all connected, so when it sucks air up it deposits some in the next unit above. I have no idea what they were smoking or how much of it they were smoking to fill our bathroom like that.

I actually found the unit on AirBnB and contacted the owner, who stopped by last night to apologize, saying he'd vetted the guy who'd said he was going to be using it as a crash pad on a work trip.

I'm glad he apologized, but unfortunately that night of short sleep took the last energy reserves I had. I have no time left to recoup them between now and Burning Man (unless I get a lot of sleep the night before we go). I'm very, very frustrated.

Ah, Burning Man prep.

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Today I discovered that we have 14 hats - 12 for shade and 2 for funkiness. Hm.

I went on a panicked last minute clothes-shopping mission only to discover that I actually have enough clothes (although I am missing my FAVORITE shirt, damn it). However, someone dropped off a bunch of fab clothes that are just my size at Goodwill - they're Gothy, stretchy and lightweight, which will make them perfect for Burning Man.

There is really nothing else we NEED for Burning Man. There's just a couple of things that would make it nicer.

I seriously have no clue how the heck we're going to fit all this stuff into Mike's car, though.

Chinatown

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Now I understand why people have been raving over Jack Nicholson for so many years. By the time I was of an age to see his current-at-the-time films he had descended into self-parody. In Chinatown he isn't leveraging any of the acting tics he developed over the years, and as a result I could see what all the fuss was about.

There's a couple of scenes in here that are frequently referenced/parodied. I was familiar with the references but never knew where they stemmed from. Much like seeing Casablanca for the first time, I now understand the root of several pieces of referential humor.

In the beginning of the film, a farmer enters the town hall herding sheep. I thought it was Ron Howard. It looked like Ron Howard and sounded like him, but the actor was much older than Howard was at the time. Turns out it was Rance Howard, Ron Howard's father. I didn't even know he acted!

Digital compositing has made it easier to make historical films. There are times in Chinatown where a building far too recent for the era is in frame and it threw me out of the film a bit. That and the fact that the characters are a seriously 1970s version of the 1930s rather than being authentically 30s. But that's almost always a problem I find with historical films.

Boy, that Roman Polanski sure hates women. I definitely had the sense at the end of the film that Polanski considers Noah Cross to be the true hero of the film, which is creepy in any number of ways.

Well, dang.

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We were planning to go for a bike ride this morning and tomorrow morning. As we were prepping for the ride, I spun my rear wheel to get the nozzle in position to check the air in the tires and noticed a big bulge, the kind you don't want on a tire.

Yep, time for that tire to get replaced. I've noticed that the breaks have been weird on the rear tire for about a week but I didn't know why. Now I know. The bulge doesn't really stand out unless you see it from a specific angle. I am a little relieved that I didn't bike to work this week - I'm usually a little bleary in the morning and I bet I wouldn't have noticed. What if I'd had a blow-out? Yikes.

Tomorrow: I get to learn which bike shops in DTLA are good!

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