Monthly Archives: January 2011

Happy 125th!

Wow.  It’s “auto overload” in the best of ways.  Today I stumbled across a website on which I could easily spend an entire evening.  If you too are not merely an auto enthusiast, but a true and dedicated admirer of all things Mercedes-Benz, then you too best visit this very fascinating and educational online destination.

Among numerous categories to explore, I highly recommend the virtual tour of the Mercedes-Benz Museum in Stuttgart, Germany, in case you aren’t nearby to see it in person.  While I knew the Pullman 600 remained in production until 1980, and that the 300 SD was the world’s first turbodiesel production car, I was unaware that Princess Diana drove her own 500 SL for several months in 1992.  Suffice to say, a vast amount of MBZ history is elegantly showcased online, and the ultimate compilation is nothing short of extraordinary.

Speaking of history, this happens to be the 125th anniversary of German engineer Carl Benz’ unveiling of his “vehicle powered by gas engine.”  As such, 2011 is a year of celebration for Daimler AG, with the remembrance just this past weekend of one hugely pivotal historical event.  Check out this other very special site as well, connected to the first, to get 125 years of automotive history in 95 seconds, among all else!  After all, Carl Benz is regarded as the inventor of not just what became Mercedes-Benz, but of the gasoline-powered automobile all around.

Happy 125th birthday, Automobile!  And to think, I remember when you were a mere 100.

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Posted by on January 31, 2011 in Cars, History, Mercedes-Benz


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25 Years Ago Today

Of the numerous indelible moments in relatively recent history, that which occurred 25 years ago today is of distinct recollection to me.  In the middle of my 6th grade math class, we were interrupted by our headmaster with news that the Space Shuttle Challenger had just exploded.

A quarter century seems to be a strong marking point of remembrance for most any major world tragedy.  The Challenger is certainly worth remembering today, for both the immediate human and the long-term scientific losses that were irrevocably suffered.

No doubt you have your personal memories of the day as well, if you’re at least 30 I suppose.  Suffice to say, in simplest terms:  January 28, 1986 shook the nation and the world, and space travel, sadly enough, never got back on the same track.

25 years later, the day is remembered, for so many reasons.

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Posted by on January 28, 2011 in History



Between the Lines

I could not have written it better myself!  Well now, really I could have, only I would have cited a slightly different list of examples throughout my prose.

You certainly get the point of this timely article in The Onion, I trust, as it shines brightly through the generous supply of dry humor and cynicism that makes for a fantastic satirical “news” article.  In any case, this has to be the most “unique” of all the varied assessments I’ve read of President Obama’s SOTU speech this week.

Isn’t satire a wonderful thing?  There’s always some truth between the lines, which makes it all the funnier.

And that’s my opinion, of course.

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Posted by on January 27, 2011 in And That's My Opinion, Humor, Politics


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Another Great Climb

My knowledge of the many challenging cycling routes of the Peninsula continues to expand.  Considering that Alto Velo seems rather lax in posting their ride routes ahead of time, the Saturday morning “B” ride definitely hands me a surprise as far as where we’re headed for the day.

Last weekend’s particular climb out of Cupertino was a first for me.  Stevens Canyon Road, Mt. Eden Road, Hwy 9 all the way up to Skyline Blvd:  Altogether this was a hell of a lot of uphill pedaling, but of course I survived it well intact!  I won’t complain, as this kind of extended physical exertion is exactly what I need these days.  In fact, this route is worth a repeat performance, if not several!

Talk about a cycling workout!

Needless to say, I’m happy to have been introduced to another great cycling climb in the Bay Area, especially on a day of such ideal weather conditions.  Perhaps you’ll join me next time.  As far as getting dropped by the main group, well… we’ll just let that go, for now.

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Posted by on January 26, 2011 in Cycling


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Dining “Trip”

My “trip” to the Folsom neighborhood restaurant Triptych might be worth a mention. 

I could tell you about the open, airy seating space surrounded by tall walls of attractive artwork, almost as if you were dining in a small, intimate gallery.  If I were to address the inviting wine and beer bar that offers a very unique selection of imported drafts, I’d say you could comfortably sip your selection while appreciating a peaceful atmosphere quite conducive to pleasant table conversation. 

Then, I could go on eliminate the bland, undercooked crabcake sandwich from my menu recommendations, while yawning at the rather pedestrian breaded pork loin.  I’d suggest instead you consider the hearty lamb chops with well-cooked bok choy, if not the heaping bowl of eye-turning paella.

But who am I to say, after all?  I’d just be writing up yet another restaurant review, and you’d simply be getting my own opinion, again.  Perhaps I should let you take your own dining trip to Triptych, where you can sip, taste and decide for yourself.

(I’m waiting.)

Oh, too late.  Maybe next time.

And that’s… what it always is.  🙂

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Posted by on January 25, 2011 in And That's My Opinion, Restaurants


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A Full Belly

My first dining visit to Starbelly came last night, after having heard about the popular Castro eating establishment more than once in recent weeks.  So of course this means a review is in order.

To get the major minuses out of the away:  The tables are quite small, and the seating not too comfortable.  If you don’t mind parking yourself on a wooden bench or metal chair, while inadvertently eavesdropping on the conversation next to (and very close to) you, then keep reading.

The food itself:  Interesting, adventurous and mostly satisfying.  The chicken liver pate, with onion marmalade and grain mustard accompanied by toasted sourdough:  Absolutely divine, easily earning its place as my favorite of the night.  The mussel dish:  Tasty as mussels go, though paired rather oddly with mexican chorizo, creating a flavor competition I would not have expected.  The spaghetti:  Ambitious, as surprisingly thick noodles lead a welcome scattering of sliced jalapenos, mixed with slices of thick bacon that seemed to excite my dining companion more than they did me.  The squash, goat cheese and black garlic pizza:  A clear winner, proving its strength through a refreshing combination of flavors that for some odd reason yielded me a slight taste of Hawaii.  All of this, washed down with a soothing Malbec, made for a unique, though not unparalleled, culinary experience.

Starbelly, despite heightened audibility, limited limb-waving space and unforgiving landings for your rear, is certainly worth a repeat visit.  After all, the thick rare burgers on the table next to me were loudly calling!

Taste it all for yourself, if you haven’t already.  Your belly, like mine, will be full.  The rest is not too much to stomach.

And that’s my (palate’s hunger-driven) opinion.

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Posted by on January 21, 2011 in And That's My Opinion, Restaurants


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Thank You?

Apparently the phrase has been around a while, while I’ve just now taken notice. Fortunately, an internet search indicates I’m not alone in finding the words downright laughable.  There they were on an overhead monitor as I was making my way through the TSA checkpoint at Dulles this week:  “Thank you for participating in security.”

Really?  For what exactly are we being thanked?  It seems akin to telling a Vietnam Veteran:  Thank you for participating in the draft!

And that’s… (you got it.)

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Posted by on January 20, 2011 in And That's My Opinion, Humor, Travel


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New? Not.

For a brief moment, I got excited.  Then upon closer inspection, I was underwhelmed.  Of course this is simply my first, instantaneous reaction based solely on outward appearance.  There could be a lot more going on that I do not yet see.

No, I’m not talking about a date or meeting someone new, though I suppose it could sound this way.  The matter at hand is the 2012 Audi A6, introduced to the U.S. last week at the Detroit Auto Show.

More and more cars look alike these days; styling has grown rather clone-like and uninspiring over the past decade especially.  When a popular manufacturer such as Audi unveils an “all-new” model, I do get excited to see something, well… new!  So in this case of the “new” A6, the headlights have been granted new shape.  Ok, fine.  Is this all?  Sure, the back end is different, and I will say better, than the outgoing A6.  Still, it looks just like the current A4, and not too far off from the recent “redux” of the A8.  All in all, and again, merely upon initial impression, I’m looking not at something “new,” but rather at a slightly tweaked punch of the same old cookie cutter.

Perhaps Audi could learn a lesson from Jaguar.  Now THERE is new!

And yep… that’s my opinion.

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Posted by on January 19, 2011 in And That's My Opinion, Cars, News


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Irish on Capitol Hill

All of my bar and restaurant reviews here thus far have been of establishments in the Bay Area, until now.

I highly recommend that the next time you’re in our nation’s capitol, you head on over for a few rounds, a hearty meal, and then of course a few more rounds at Kelly’s Irish Times.  As Irish Pubs are my favorite casual social drinking and eating environment, it’s pleasing to find a spot of such robust merriment and revelry nestled within a neighborhood of otherwise buttoned-up and typically quiet Capitol Hill culture.

The pieces of history on the walls, to which I’m attracted in any city, are unprecedented at Kelly’s.  In fact, the description is already written for me on their website:

“Known the world over, not only for being one of the most celebrated Irish Pub’s in America, but for Kelly’s famous wall. With over 100+ years of history gracing this facade, you see details such as 1930’s Dublin Police Patches; one-of-a-kind unopened beer bottles from the 1800s; antique galvanized ice buckets from Glascow; torn Redskins Superbowl tickets, Sonny Jurgensen autographs and a multitude of celebrity/politician what-nots.”

This, combined with live music, generous drinks and a mean fish sandwich, should more than make your evening.  Just steps from Union Station, you’ll easily get there from just about any part of town via Metro.  It’s just around the corner from the Capitol Hill Hyatt, if you happen to be staying there as I was. 

If you love Irish Pubs like I do, you’ll be glad you paid the Irish on Capitol Hill a visit.  I certainly am!

And that’s my opinion.

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Posted by on January 18, 2011 in And That's My Opinion, Restaurants, Travel


Day of Transition

My return visits to our nation’s capitol are always fantastic, and this past weekend has been perhaps my most enjoyable trip yet.  Having reunited with so many wonderful friends and acquaintances over the past four days, I return to San Francisco tonight on a pleasant and peaceful emotional high, feeling honored to have spent this special time among such a friendly, engaging and all-around high-quality group of men (and a few women, too!).  Through friendships old and new, lasting memories were made.  For all of them I’m most thankful.

My busy week back in the real world awaits, starting first thing tomorrow morning.  This holiday Monday, as I enjoy my final hours in the city in which I lived 14 years ago, comes as a welcome day of transition.  “See” you back on the Left Coast!

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Posted by on January 17, 2011 in Daily Activities, Travel


…When I See It.

There seems to be a lot of ’80s TV remake buzz going around these days.  As an addendum to my entry of January 5, here now is what appears to be the latest on the resurrection of J.R. Ewing.

Meanwhile, a friend just alerted me to this possible revival as well.  All I can say is… I’ll believe it when I see it!  Unfortunately, unlike Larry Hagman who’s very much alive, John Forsythe died last year at age 92.  As such, I’m initially unconvinced as to how successful any Carrington-themed movie might be.

In any case, I still prefer the originals to the remakes, especially where an inauthentic replacement cast is concerned.  We’ll just see if any of this really comes to fruition.

And that’s my opinion.

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Posted by on January 13, 2011 in And That's My Opinion, Dallas, Media


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The iPhone Answer?

After several reliable and issue-free years of Verizon mobile phone service, in late 2008 I made the compulsory switch to AT&T, purely because I chose to get an iPhone.  Despite the enjoyment and many advantages of the device itself, overall service quality has never been the same.  In fact, as a good number of iPhone users will agree, AT&T’s coverage and signal strength is far inferior to that of Verizon.

Finally, and perhaps not a moment too soon, the game is changing.  Verizon now says it will sell and support the iPhone.  With this announcement, the war between the two rival providers looks like it will stick around for a while, if not grow. 

No doubt this will be an interesting technical evolution for all of us concerned.  Over time, will Verizon’s iPhone service really prove the better?  Or will AT&T earn the “not-so-bad-after-all” title?

Considering my current AT&T calls are dropped on an almost daily basis, and/or I get no signal at all, especially in hilly parts of San Francisco where friends’ Verizon signals in the exact same spot remain strong, I’m tempted to sooner or later give Verizon iPhone service a try.  With the time remaining on my current contract, however, “later” may be my answer.  Verizon, meanwhile, will have plenty of time to prove its superiority in the iPhone world.

Will this be the iPhone answer for all of us?

And that’s my opinion… thus far.

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Posted by on January 11, 2011 in And That's My Opinion, News, Reviews


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At The Speed of Cold

36 and 188.  These are my mileage totals on two wheels this past weekend, for bicycle and motorcycle, respectively.  When I’ve said it really doesn’t feel all that cold here in the Bay Area, I amend this now to say it might not seem so when walking or standing still.  When moving at 30 mph on a bicycle, it’s another story.  Up this to 80 mph on a motorcycle, and, well, let’s just say the story turns downright frigid.

The Tiberon Loop: 36 miles total from The Presidio

The “Tiberon Loop” is a popular, somewhat challenging and not-too-far-away route for cyclists in need of a quick jaunt out of the city.  I’m happy to have rediscovered it on Saturday, after having ridden it several years ago.  For a total of 36 miles from The Presidio, it’s a decent workout of relatively short distance.

Mines Road, heading southwest from Livermore, spans far greater distance.  This is certainly an excursion for which, despite seeing one cyclist, I recommend throttle over pedal.  Yesterday was the first Homoto Motorcycle Club ride of 2011, and it was by far, for me, the coldest motorcycling I have done to date.  With gloves inside of more gloves, my hands seemed to remain painfully frozen.  And at highway speeds once we were out of the twisty canyons, moments came and went in which my entire body quivered.

Nevertheless, Sunday was clear and sunny, unlike the fogged-in grayness of Saturday.  It was terrific to finally get out once again for a long, scenic, albeit freezing motorcycle ride after such little throttle activity in the past month.  As I wrote after our December group ride to Dillon Beach, there’s such a wonderful variety of country roads to explore so close to San Francisco, providing the momentary feeling of being somewhere far away.  This time, amid cliffs and rolling green hills, I saw images of England, Scotland and France.  Perhaps the extremely narrow, winding, varyingly paved road we were on had something to do with it, in addition to the breathtaking scenery.

188 miles of motorcycling make for a satisfying day, no matter the temperature or terrain.  Thankfully, and unusually, I rode my motorcycle every day of last week, though just within the city.  Yesterday was “for real.”  And seeing as I’ve now logged a mere 500 motorcycle miles since November 1, rides like this one are obviously few and far between.  As such, they’re a welcome event when they happen.

By pedal and by throttle, winter temperatures drove the weekend.  I definitely know a little more today about traveling “at the speed of cold.”

A welcome yet frigid day on the motorcycle!

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Posted by on January 10, 2011 in Cycling, Motorcycle, Transportation


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The Culinary Jackpot

Don’t you just love it when you try out a certain restaurant for the first time, and the meal is not just good but truly epic?  Such was the case for me last night, with my virgin visit to Little Joe’s on 5th and Mission.

All too often we give a new place a go, and the experience is… meh.  So when we do actually hit the culinary jackpot, it’s definitely an occasion to be celebrated and remembered.  Little Joe’s deserves plenty of celebration, that’s for sure!

I was on a spontaneous quest for a good liver and onions, as I simply had the craving and had not yet enjoyed the dish here in San Francisco.  After asking around and doing an internet search, my dining destination was quickly set.

Little Joe’s is an Italian restaurant, and let me remind you:  The Italians know how to feed us!  The portions are more than generous, as they should be.  The perfectly cooked liver, topped with mouth-watering sautéed onions, consumed the plate.  As such, my heaping side of hot kidney bean salad sat on its own.  Along came bread as well, and with it the most divine chopped garlic spread… intensely, fantastically garlicky, let me tell you!  The Chianti washed it all down smoothly.

Best liver in town, so far!

Suffice to say, I wanted a GOOD meal, and I hit the bullseye!  Not only was it good, it was refreshingly old school, and an epic experience that made my entire night.  You simply must head on over to Little Joe’s right away, especially if you love liver!  If not, you’ll have plenty from which to choose off of the extensive and reasonably priced menu.  The space is hopping with energy, comfortably filled with lively patrons seated around a scattering of intriguing pictorial history on the walls.  My only suggestion to Little Joe’s is that they dim their bright ceiling lights a bit, as it would enhance the ambiance all the more.

Absolutely, divinely, beyond delicious.  I hit the culinary jackpot.  May my next dining discovery be this perfect!

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Posted by on January 7, 2011 in Food, Restaurants


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Textual Purity

When in one morning you come across same-issue editorial commentary in the left-leaning New York Times, the right-leaning Fox News, and the leaning-every-which-way Onion, then you know you have a matter worth pondering.

So, here you may ponder for yourself: 

A)  The New York Times  B)  C)  The Onion

All three sources appear to agree, pleasingly so to me, that such action is no doubt a bad move.  Call me, with respect to the NYT commentary, a “textual purist.”  After all, we cannot rewrite history to appease excessively delicate sensibilities of the present day.  Otherwise there would be no end to historical works deemed “offensive” and in need of “revision.”  (The Bible, anyone?) 

History is context, and history is education.  Classics must be presented and absorbed in their original form, with textual purity, from which any current commentary or disclaimer can be added and discussed, if need be.  Anything else is inauthentic and in itself offensive. 

And that’s my opinion.

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Posted by on January 6, 2011 in And That's My Opinion, Current Events, News


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Will J.R. Be Back?

“J.R. Ewing” will turn 80 this year!

2011 seemed like it might be the year for an all-new “Dallas” series, centered around the new generation of Ewings.  The ball appeared to be rolling on the project, as I enthusiastically reported here back in November.

In the past few weeks, however, the latest Ewing resurrection appears to have hit a serious snag, judging by this article as well as the following Facebook update that went out shortly before Christmas:

Dallas star Larry Hagman has admitted that he is uncertain as to his role in the forthcoming TNT reboot. It was previously reported that the actor, who originally played J.R. Ewing from 1978 to 1991, was “ambivalent” about the project. Responding to recent reports that he had pulled out of the new series, Hagman told TV Guide:  “That’s really interesting. We were talking about money, but I didn’t know it was going to come to a crashing halt like that.”

I do wonder why Larry Hagman would need to talk about money at all.  At his age, turning 80 this September, and with the millions he’s made, grown and cultivated from his heyday, he should be willing to reprise his famous role for nothing!  I would think he’d see it as pure enjoyment, and perhaps his final act.  Odds are, however, that ole J.R. sees it differently.

In any event, I hope it really happens this year, that J.R. will return once again!  And that’s my opinion.

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Posted by on January 5, 2011 in And That's My Opinion, Dallas, Media


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“Better Way” On The Way?

It seemed like all we were talking about back around Thanksgiving, but I haven’t heard much barking on the subject lately.  Then yesterday I came across this very encouraging article, reminding me the issue will indeed carry into 2011, and thankfully so!

This is the year that, with any luck via sensible working minds, we could finally see that “better way” start to come to fruition.  It’s certainly well past due, to say the least.  In the meantime, I’m happy for yet another reminder that I myself am far from alone in my viewpoints.

Just as I blogged here in November, common-sense must prevail.  Let’s hope a better way is on the way.  And that’s my opinion.

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Posted by on January 4, 2011 in And That's My Opinion, News, Politics


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New Year’s “Firsts”

2011 got off to a wet and cold start, at least here in the Bay Area.  Of course for San Francisco’s lack of icicles and snow piles, the term “cold” is relative.  Now as the third morning of this new year unfolds, an encouraging amount of sunshine and blue sky is attempting to overtake the mostly sedentary cloud cover.

After celebrating the arrival of 2011 at my lifelong friend Ashley’s fabulous home gathering in Menlo Park, and following a tranquil day of coffee sipping, Christmas light dismantling and continued neighborhood socializing, day two of 2011 brought me two firsts.  This is to say, yesterday ushered in my first bicycle AND my first motorcycle rides of the year, in the same day thankfully enough.  The rain, to my pleasant surprise, mostly held off.

And now, the “first” Monday is here.  The “season” truly is over.  It’s time now, to no surprise, for our first 2011 round of “work,” in whatever form this takes for each of us.  My resume has already gone out this morning to the first relevant job posting I’ve come across this year, and my first phone interview appointment is set for tomorrow.  I’m on my way now to my first gym workout of the year, before tackling my first list of tasks for the day.  Meanwhile today, Jerry Brown becomes governor of California.  This is perhaps the only thing, like it or not, that’s not a first.


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Posted by on January 3, 2011 in Current Events, Daily Activities