December 31, 2010

El Ultimo Dia del Año 2010

Wake. Snooze. Snooze again. Drag self to the gym on the 31st floor of our apartment and enjoy the amazing views. Why haven't I come here before? Oh, right. Too busy vacationing.

Relax, read, shower. Wait for return of security deposit, which was clearly an exercise in formality. Pablo rings the doorbell and walks in to hand back an envelope full of the cash we handed him several days ago. The exact same bills (or amazing reproductions :-)). This time, unlike at check-in, he avoids even the pretense of purpose, no counting towels, glasses, etc. Instead, he explained how no one else had to work due to the holiday today and he was sorry he couldn't come tomorrow, but, it's a *real* holiday, even people in tourism get it off, if they can. He was also helpful in explaining that it may be somewhat impossible tomorrow AM to get a taxi to Aeroparque -- dia de ferria and all. Wish us luck!

Finally, around 1:15 PM, we entered the Subte and headed to the ridiculously huge bus station in the hopes of booking our overnight bus trip between Buenos Aires and Mendoza next week before the bus trip counters closed for the holiday. Success! But, like all good travel adventures, there was much confusion. You need to give documentation or ID to book a bus ticket, unless you book it on the internet, in which case you can email ID photocopies later, but the Internet convenience fees (not to mention wacky cuota requirements) make in person booking preferable. Eventually, just before leaving, we somehow mentioned that we had ID from the government of *CALIFORNIA* and, it turns out, you can use your driver's license as sufficient ID to book the bus ticket even if your passport is back in the safe. Phew. Also, the Omnibus terminal is after the train station if you are walking from the Subte. It's not right there, but just keep walking, eventually, it's impossible to miss -- it looks like hundreds of buses.

We walked a bit downtown before grabbing a taxi, coming back to the apartment to put our washed laundry on the drying rack, and heading out for a very late meal. 3 PM deliciously stereotypically Argentine lunch of empanadas, lomo, and salads. Of course, another Cafe Americano for me (mystery #1 -- Americano is cut with water, Cortado is cut with milk, when you ask for Americano, they understand that it should be cut with water, but often confirm with "cortado? si?").


Ice cream!!! Finally. It had been highly recommended by many who'd sent their travel recommendations, so I was thrilled to join the fun.

Buy agua con gas and 200g of spicy Fiambres to add to our light dinner plans for cheese, wine, bread and Cohetes.



Spanish TV footage of New Year's fireworks in Sydney, Taiwan, Tokyo, Hong Kong, Dubai, and Munich.

Simpsons in spanish. Oddly, an hour long presentation of multiple episodes cut together. E identified each splice with amusement (this episode doesn't have anything to do with the last story except there's a boat and police...)

Loud local intermittent fireworks enjoyed from the balcony with queso, fiambres y vino accompanied by the bounced voices of local high rises -- singing, yelling, cheering.

And now. we're off to the gym to enjoy the midnight fireworks from the 360 degree view from the top of the building.

Happy New Years!
A Relaxing Day on the River

(Pictures to come upon return home)

Yesterday, we walked to the nearest train station and took the train to Tigre.

We watched the world boat by and enjoyed the slow pace, and the amusing differences brought by life on a river without roads between islands and shores.

Lunch was a leisurely 3 course meal of caprese salad, roast vegetables and sorrentinos (stuffed circular pasta pockets). With wine, of course. Haven't had a bad glass here, and it's dirt cheap, often, a glass of house wine is the same price as bottled water or a soda. Always, it's less than beer.

Upon our return, after an hour of relaxation at the apartment, we took a taxi to Cabaña Las Lilas to enjoy E's birthday present from his folks. Delicious provoleta, salad, and Caribbean Kobe Rib Eye.

Oh, if you want to confuse the wait staff at an Argentinian Steak House, be sure to ask in mangled Spanish for them to pick a bottle of wine for you that is *NOT* from Mendoza. Apparently, this is not a common request. But, we're going to Mendoza, so I wanted to taste something from another region. Eventually, the somellier understood and we ended up with a lovely bottle of Malbec, called Malma. It's from the Neuquen region of Patagonia and it was worth the funny looks.

After dinner, we walked around Puerto Madero and across the Puente Mujer, enjoying the balmy weather, beautiful lights, and crowds of people out for an 11 PM stroll.

A harrowing cab ride, a walk in Palermo, a stop for a drink and we were in bed at the ridiculously early hour (by Porteño standards) of 1 AM.

December 29, 2010

40 Hours in Argentina

We arrived in Buenos Aires at 7:40 AM. The bonus of renting an apartment vs. staying in a hotel is that you can check in whenever you arrive, then take a nap, then a shower, and finally head out to sight see right around the time when you'd finally be checking in to your hotel.

The first meal: walk to build up an appetite and view local plazas. Finally sit down to 2 hours of sparkling water, wine, bread, pickled grilled eggplant, a huge grilled serving of skirt steak and a salad (you pick each ingredient and the size of your salad -- a brilliant approach) at Minga.

As an aside, I almost cried at the deliciousness of my Cafe Americano -- the best coffee I'd had in years. I've had 3 since we arrived: no sugar, no milk, just deliciousness. Anyways, big shock -- the meat was juicy, delicious, and flavorful, as promised. The chimichurri was different than anything I've ever had -- it seemed like a mixture of oil, dried oregano, vinegar and salt (delicious, but very different). The pace was slow, the servers were amazingly friendly, and overall, we decided we were in love with this Country within 8 hours of arrival. E even went so far as to compare it to Australia, "I'd love to move here if it wasn't so damn far from everything..."

We walked about 7 miles between the nap and sleep that first day, exploring Palermo, getting lost, grocery shopping, and getting our Argentinian Spanish bearings.

And, today, the next day, was a whirlwind tourist day typical of folks who are over-eager to make the most of their vacation. Upon arrival back at the apartment, we gmap'd it, and it looks like E did his first half marathon today!

After sleeping in and some brief work efforts on both our parts, we walked from our apartment to 5 banks (count 'em). Finally, we found an ATM with cash. I am now quite proficient at the Spanish necessary to figure out if someone who is leaving an ATM has actually received cash or is leaving in dejection -- oddly, this is a set of figurative phrases I'm not sure I could translate as I've never had the opportunity to experience this situation in English (much less 5 times!). E's theory was an early morning run on the banks before the Portenos woke up. Or, he pointed to their history of poor currency management. Me, I was just totally confused, most of all by the looks of understanding and expected failure by locals who realized there was no cash to be had at a particular bank (as in NONE of the ATMS had any left).

Thankfully, we found a bank with money and acquired enough for a noon stop at a cafe (mmm... Cafe Cortado, or whatever they say when I order my Americano, I thought Cortado had 1/3 milk, but ordering an Americano gets me what I expect even when they correct me). An hour later, after sipping our coffees and nibbling the pastries they served alongside, we marched on.

The Floris Generica.

Lots of plazas and gardens.

The Recoleta Cemetary and Evita's tomb.

An amazing lunch of empanaditos gratis, Provoleta a la Napoletana served over a piece of wood charcoal, brochette de lomo, bookended by 1-inch thick pieces of bacon, intermingled with red pepper slices and onions, and served over its own piece of wood charcoal, at the table, and, of course the salad you compose from the menu (did I mention tomatoes are in season here? YAY!). Amazingly, we eventually roused ourselves from the table (post-Americano for me), fueled for the remainder of our half-marathon.

The Teatro Colon (closed for holiday, but gorgeous from the outside).

The Plaza de la Republica.

The Widest Street in the World (three light cycles to cross).

The Casa Rosada.

Half the trip to San Telmo, and then a stop at a cafe for water, and then, defeat. Maybe we'll fit it in before we move on, but if not, we're still in love with BA. So, rather than press on to the historic district, we took our exhuasted selves in a cab to a square that's a mile from our rented apartment and we walked home from there.


Walk to dinner at Ceviche. Watch the electricity go out on the block where we are to eat. Enjoy a candelit dinner of amazing ceviche and sushi while patrons sing and play violin by candlelight (why did he bring a violin?). When it is time to leave, laugh with the server about needing to pay in dollars since the credit card machine won't work. Leave a generous tip since the majority of the reservations opted not to show up due to the dark restaurant.

Walk almost home. Get lost. Get un-lost.

Sigh in contentment to realize your apartment building is not without power, which means glorious air conditioning.

Yay Argentinian half marathon!

(Photos to come)

December 26, 2010

More Fun with the new camera

We made a friend:


And, throughout our stay, we are being stalked by the great hunter, Jasper.

Merry Christmas!

For the first time since 1882, Atlanta had a white Christmas.


Santa brought us an awesome new camera, so I spent much of Christmas dinner playing with it. On one setting I was able to capture snowflakes as they fell:


E's mom cooked for three days and prepared a very festive Christmas celebration for 14.


Mmmm... beef wellington, artichoke hearts and spinach casserole, slow roasted tomatoes, cheesy mashed potatoes, and an arugula, parmigiano, and pine nut salad. Delicious!


I hope your winter holidays were warm, social, and full of good cheer!

December 25, 2010

The South Beat Me

I pride myself on my stomach of steel.

I can eat just about anything without becoming ill.

Yesterday, however, I learned that I was no match for the Atlanta institution of The Varsity.

We've gone in the past (it's a tradition of E's extended family to lunch there on Christmas Eve) and I've enjoyed the entire experience.

But, apparently, on our other occasions I hadn't had a snack of bacon beforehand, and I definitely didn't munch my way through a cheeseburger, a serving of the world's greasiest onion wings, and half a serving of French Fries.

Just to let me know that I was out of line, my body revolted yesterday afternoon.

I was fine in time for Christmas Eve dinner (mmmm... leg of lamb, slow roasted on the Primo over indirect heat and bacon (of course) lentil salad.)

But next time at the Varsity, I'm going for the cole slaw dogs and will skip the sides.

Also, Merry Christmas, Happy Belated Solstice, and Happy almost New Year!

December 21, 2010

Tech Support

So, my (new, under warranty) laptop died last night. Continuous Blue Screen Of Death loop from 1 AM 'til 2 AM or so when I finally called it quits and hard-powered-down.

I'm on the East Coast with E's family for the Holidays, but I still need to work. Ideally, I need to be able to work so seamlessly that it doesn't occur to my clients that I have a physical location, much less one that's changed since the last time I was helping them.

Today, after confirming via phone emails that I only had a couple of hours of work that needed to be finished by COB PST, I bailed on my workout and tried to drop my laptop off at the only Lenovo Service Center in downtown Atlanta. The friendly folks at the glass store in its place informed me that it moved to the burbs 3 years ago. (Interestingly, once I gave up on physical repair and dedicated myself to the toll-free solution, I learned that the call center is just down the street from us in Atlanta (Dunwoody), but that I couldn't drop off my computer with them because repairs are done in Memphis.)

Frustrated with the lack of an immediate Lenovo solution (meaning I would be without-computer for at least 1 day, and likely many more) I cried uncle, returned to Nolan's folks for lunch involving bacon, and went for the solution of least conflict.

A Netbook. On sale for Christmas. The perfect back-up machine. Today, I got the last $250 Asus 1005HB that was in stock from the closest Best Buy.

And, I'm up and running. I've got a disaster recovery plan. Today's work is done and I'm blogging from it, even.

Prior to today, I'd backed up through last week on one of E's servers in the cloud, so I only had 1 week of potential loss which E was able to pull off via a SATA enclosure despite the slow clicking protests of my hard-drive.

In short, if all goes well, my Lenovo will be safely in the hands of tech support while they diagnose the problem, and I will be freely using my super-light, super-small netbook until they figure it out.

Between regular self-done back-ups and hosted email/calendaring/tasks/notes via a hosted Exchange provider, it took me all of 5 hours to research repairs on my existing machine, locate and buy a new computer, get it up and running with my current situation and voila -- back in business.

Next time I won't even have to go shopping.

It is indeed a brave new world.

Now, please, keep your fingers crossed for a useful response from the diagnostics -- this is the second time in 3 months that my Lenovo has BSOD'd repeatedly on me. Last time it just miraculously recovered with no explanation, which is, of course, absolutely no comfort. This time, since it clicked and slowed and struggled through the SATA drive recovery, we thought we'd figured it out.

Yet, here I am, running my second hard drive diagnostic (since the first one passed with flying colors) and wondering what other surprises the computer Gods might throw my way.

Here's to figuring out problems...

December 16, 2010

Holiday Stuffing

Last night, a client and his wife took E and me to The Plumed Horse.

The tasting menu was excellent as was the wine pairing. There was an amuse bouche with black truffles, AND a white truffle risotto. The truffle lover that I am was in heaven.

In the next couple of weeks, we've got 4 parties to attend, 2 nights with guests for dinner, dinner reservations at at least one more fancy restaurant and at least two food-filled days of holiday celebration with the family.

The holiday stuffing season has officially begun.

December 14, 2010

Facebook Map of the World

This map is very cool.

This visual representation of the connectedness of the world as viewed through a subset of Facebook friendships looks surprisingly like the international flight route maps found in in-flight magazines.

The great circle representation of the connections certainly contributes to this impression, but I'm guessing the strength of the signal for connections at air travel hubs is at least somehow related to the in-person connections that have been formed via air-travel.

His blog post explains his methodology.

December 11, 2010

The Halibut Chronicles

C sent us 8 HUGE filets of halibut from her fishing expedition in Homer, Alaska. It's the gift that keeps on giving -- every time we make a halibut recipe, she comes to visit and we make a meal and hang out.

On her first visit, we pan fried it and served it with tomato, caper, olive sauce. Mmmm....

The second dinner was poached over a spicy soba salad with a mustard cream sauce. Mmmm...

And this week, we went with Alton Brown's Chips and Fish Recipe.

You know, fry the chips once:


Fry 'em again at a hotter temperature for good measure and then spread them on a roasting pan and keep them warm in a 200F oven.


Dredge the fish in cornstarch:


Then coat with beer batter:


Put the oil to use, yet again for the third frying of the evening:


And enjoy a meal of nothing but brown (except for the homemade tartar sauce, thanks for the splash of color, C!).

Winter Food

You know what's one of the great things about Winter in California?

Brussel Sprouts!

You know what makes brussel sprouts even better?

Pork Chops!

You know what makes pork chops even better?



E, our two guests, and I were quite happy and full!

December 5, 2010

Happy Holidays

This weekend, E and I headed to San Francisco to attend the annual holiday party hosted by my first professional employer.

This employer, showing excellent judgment, refused to hire me at my first interview. I showed up at their offices in the Financial District dressed in head-to-toe spandex on rollerblades (I had come straight from diving practice). They had just moved to San Francisco from Boston, and, while they were looking for a Californian college student to do library research, they weren't quite prepared for my oh-so-Californian attire.

They hired a guy who showed up in a suit. He was terrible. They fired him. I re-faxed my resume a year later and showed up for my second interview in a suit. I got the job and worked through my last year of school and into my first full-time professional job. I loved working there -- they were excellent employers, and I tried to leave on very good terms to follow the dot-com boom.

I guess I succeeded because I was hired back as a consultant when I became inevitably unemployed as a result of the dot-com bust. Happily, I've been invited to every holiday party they've hosted since.

Over the years, we've been their guests at some of the city's best bars and steakhouses (and one year, they flew us to Vegas!). This year's party was during Santarchy, which added an extra festive note to our drinks at the Comstock Saloon and the delicious multi-course private room meal at 5A5. Bonus, I was able to give a toast thanking them for introducing me the beauty of small business ownership and for being one of the inspirations for starting my own law practice.

Every year, E and I look forward to this event for great conversation during a big night out on the town and a stay at a hotel. It's become one of our favorite holiday events. Last year we enjoyed Union Square in all of its holiday splendor with the lights, Christmas trees, Macy's wreaths, ice-skating rink, and more.

This year, we stayed at the the Hyatt Regency and enjoyed the spectacle of the approximately 1500 hanging columns of light (E counted). Sadly, we missed the falling snow effects of the lights, but we were joined with gleeful children on every elevator ride, so that they, too, could enjoy the spectacle of lights and the view of the decorated atrium below. The hotel clearly knows that the hundreds of children riding the glass elevators are not guests, but employees pointedly ignore the transgressions in the name of holiday fun.

Today, I looked at the list of events our hotel was hosting in addition to the immense effort they've put into decorations (Photo opportunities with Santa, holiday dinners and brunches, and more), and I was impressed. There's obviously a pride and a desire to contribute to the communal holiday festivities that many of the larger businesses, as well as the smaller businesses and individuals in San Francisco feel. It warms my heart to be part of it.

Happy Holidays.