Andrew Gross

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Month: March, 2012

March 25th

We’ve been celebrating Shira’s birthday all weekend.  We got a hotel downtown and have been playing tourist in Seattle, something we’ve talked about doing for years but have never actually done.

Friday night we ate at the current “it” restaurant in Seattle, Altura.  It’s Shira’s new favorite restaurant.  The food was fantastic– there wasn’t a single misstep in either of our 3-course meals.  Not pretentious, either in atmosphere or menu.  Highly recommended.

Saturday night, sadly, was another story.  We ate at Tamara Murphy’s new place, Terra Plata, and it was horrible.  I don’t mean “horrible” in the “it’s Tamara Murphy and we expected so much more”, or the “this place has great reviews and everyone recommends it and we don’t see why” sense; I mean genuinely, objectively terrible, by any standards.  I’ve enjoyed eating at Denny’s more.

The restaurant is designed to share dishes, so we ordered four: fries, roasted grapes, cappalletti, and risotto.  I am absolutely not exaggerating for effect when I say that all four dishes appeared on our table within 5 minutes of one another, the first one appearing about 5 minutes after we ordered.  Each dish was brought by a separate person, none of whom showed any surprise or concern that we were in no way ready for more food to appear; as a result, a meal I had planned the night around taking 75 minutes or so took less than 40.  While we’re on the subject of staff, the waitress was in every way unprofessional; she continuously referred to us as “you guys”, had nothing intelligent or insightful to say about the menu, and was dressed more appropriately for a server at a night club.  From what we saw, it didn’t seem that other servers were likely any better, and there was nothing resembling a similarity in dress between them, which projected a slipshod image.

All of this, of course, would have been forgiven and maybe even forgotten if the food was good.  It wasn’t.  It wasn’t even average; it was simply bad.  The fries were, well, fries; they were fine, but not anything special.  The roasted grapes were served with an abundance of extremely salty olives, walnuts, a wedge of gorgonzola, and three (!) whole pieces of crostini, a number sufficient to accommodate maybe 1/5th the total amount of ingredients.  Not that we needed them, since we ate well less than half of the dish; it was simply an ill conceived recipe, with flavors that in no way complimented one another, and which tasted even worse as it inevitably cooled due to being served simultaneously with three other dishes.

The best that can be said about the cappalletti is that I was able to force myself to finish it to avoid going hungry.  It was covered in an inordinate amount of oil, which had the same flavor as the oil that was drizzled over the risotto.  The pasta was stuffed with a large glob of butternut squash paste, which was bland and had an unpleasantly mushy texture; if there had been half us much in each pasta, each bite might have contained enough other flavors to be okay, but as it was, it was like eating mush.  Bland mush.

Finally, the risotto was a disaster.  It was more like porridge than risotto, really.  It had what looked to be gorgeous mushrooms in it, but you couldn’t taste them.  It was basically a bowl of porridge with some fatty oil poured on top.  Bland and insipid.  I struggle to imagine how anyone could enjoy this preparation.

Now that I’ve vented, I feel better.

After dinner, we saw Don Friesen at the Comedy Underground.  This is the second time we’ve seen him, and he was even funnier than the first.  Shira was (literally) crying from laughing so hard.

Today, we’re going to take the trolley to South Lake Union and explore around there.  It’s sunny and beautiful out, so off we go.

March 16th

Bruce Springsteen’s Keynote address at SXSW.  A really fun watch.

March 14th

I migrated my page of Favorites Lists from honte.org to WordPress.  I added a new list: my 10 Favorite Albums.

March 11th

Today’s my 44st birthday.

Shira and I went with our friends Jarrett and Beth to The Book Bindery on Friday night, to celebrate both my birthday and Jarrett getting hired at Microsoft.  I took a bottle of ’90 and a bottle of ’96 Aldo Conterno Barolo.  The ’96 has already integrated its tannins, I think I need to start drinking through my stock of ’95 and ’96 ; Jarrett generously offered to help with that onerous task.  The meal was very good; my favorite dishes were the Risotto appetizer that Shira ordered and Mishima “Flavor Curve” that I got on Jarrett’s recommendation.

I recently bought a copy of Crazy Stone, a program for playing Go.  It plays at around the 5 Dan level, which is just incredible to me; it was only a few years ago that I could beat the best Go programs in the world, and now I’ve got a program on my PC that would be able to beat me even if I quit my job and devoted my life to learning and studying the game.  They’ve made incredibly rapid progress.  To my dissapointment, the techniques they’re using are not very different than those used to make Chess programs so strong (standard Monte Carlo algorithms).  I guess I shouldn’t be surprised, but I was hoping that making a strong Go opponent would require some sort of AI related breakthrough.

March 8th

I’ve been playing a lot of Star Wars: The Old Republic the past couple of months.  During the week, I play on my main character, and on Saturdays, I play on a different server with a couple of my oldest friends.  Lots of fun so far, though like all MMOs, I’m sure it will get boring in the not terribly distant future.

I’m also working on a game that I hope to have ready to publish sometime this year.  It’s a manual dexterity “flicking” game of space combat; the working title is Dark Galaxies.

In the current anime season, I’m watching Shakugan no Shana III, Mouretsu Pirates, and Nisemonogatari.  Nisemonogatari is a terrible dissapointment, nothing at all like the clever and genuinely touching Bakemonogatari which preceded it.

Work is going well.  My good friend Jarrett just got hired at Microsoft, so I’m excited about that– he starts in early April.

New Blog

Well, I realized that one reason I wasn’t updating my blog more frequently (read: ever) was that I was managing it through an html editor rather than dedicated blogging software, which is pretty cumbersome.  So I’m experimenting with using WordPress and just pointing to it from my website, rather than keeping the blog itself there.