Thursday, December 31, 2015

Dinner @ Kin Khao in San Francisco, CA

I recently went to Kin Khao, a recently minted Michelin Star Thai restaurant in San Francisco.  A Michelin Star for a Thai restaurant piqued my interest, because there aren't many of them (reading online, there's three of them in New York now).

Kin Khao has both an a la carte menu and prix fixe menu.  If you've read any of my other blog entries, I usually default to the prix fixe/tasting menu because I don't want to bother with picking items off the menu.  However, I made an exception this time.  The prix fixe menu is a collection of items off the a la carte menu.  There were 1-2 items on the a la carte menu that weren't on the price fixes that we really wanted to try, so we went with a la carte.  The price fixe is a pretty good deal ($55 per person) to try a number of items on the menu and we ended up paying a similar price for the 5 dishes we selected below.

Here's an overview of what we had.

1)  Som Tum Papaya Salad - Spicy chili+lime+fish sauce dressing, green beans, cherry tomatoes, dried shrimp, peanuts

First up was this papaya salad.  I've had similar salads at other restaurants before, but I don't recall them being as spicy as this one.  Overall, very tasty.  A good light start to the heavier stuff coming below.

2) Namprik Long Rua - Spicy, umami-bomb Kapi shrimp paste relish, served with caramelized pork jowl, crispy Passmore ranch catfish, seasonal vegetables

This is the dish that basically made us not get the prix fixe menu.  It seemed so different from anything else I'd ever seen at a Thai restaurant before.  In fact, the menu actually said something like "This is not for beginners" on it.  That made me want to try it even more.

The menu description isn't that clear about what this is though.  The shrimp paste, pork jowl, and catfish are all in the jar you see in the picture.  You mix it all up together to create a paste/sauce.  The waitress said you should put it over rice.  It also comes with a collection of vegetables and fruit to dip into it too.  It's hard to tell from the picture, but it includes cucumber, asian pear, raddichio, green mango, carrots, radish, Thai eggplant, what I assume is chicory lettuce, and one other vegetable that my date and I were unsure about (maybe daikon?).

Short answer, as the menu description says, it really is an umami-bomb.  It's absolutely delicious over rice.  I didn't actually like it too much with the vegetables, as I think it was hard to dip everything into it.  I ended up taking some of the vegetables out and sort of making a salad with it and putting some of the paste on.  After the spicy papaya salad above, it was good to get all of the veggies and fruit to balance the spiciness.

My one only weird criticism of this dish is it is very very savory.  After eating about 1/2 of it the dip, my date and I couldn't eat anymore.  I think it'd work out much better if there were 4 or more people to share it.

3) Caramelized Pork Belly - Sweet, savory, voluptuous pork belly cooked in a clay pot

Holy cow, this is one of the best pork belly dishes I've ever had.  It was super soft and gelatinous.  It reminded me of the pork belly from French Laundry.  Really really good.

4) Khun Yai's Rabbit Green Curry - Kiew Wan Curry Paste, Coconut, Milk, Rabbit Leg & Saddle, Rabbit Meatballs, Apple Eggplants, Thai Basil

We felt obligated to try a curry since we were here.  We eventually settled on this rabbit curry, because I don't think I've ever seen a rabbit curry at a Thai restaurant before.  The curry was a medium spicy, but not as spicy as the papaya salad above.  Over rice, it was really good, however the star of this dish was the meatballs.  They were delicious.  Much better than the rabbit meatballs from The Progress.

5) Black Rice Pudding - Served with burnt coconut sugar caramel, salty coconut cream, puffed rice+peanut+sesame praline

This was apparently the only dessert Kin Khao has (according to the waitress which we overheard at a table next to us).  We wanted to try this before coming here, so we didn't bother to look at a dessert menu if there was one.

The black rice putting comes with all the extras you see in the picture.  The waiter said you can use it to build a sundae-like dessert.  I think the black rice pudding was a tad bland by itself, but with everything else together it was really tasty.

Overall a good meal at Kin Khao.  I definitely want to go back as there were multiple other dishes I wanted to try.  The chili jam clams and spicy squid were the two dishes that caught my eye.  Pad kee mao is my favorite Thai noodle dish and unfortunately it was not on the menu during my visit this winter.

Tuesday, December 29, 2015

Tasty Stuff I Ate in 2015

As I did in 2014, the following are selections of random things I had in 2015 that were particular tasty or interesting that I didn't yet blog about.  I don't blog about every meal b/c I don't really feel like it, but these were particular good and interesting and worth noting.

1) mochi wrapped with bacon from Ippuku, Berkeley, CA

This was a very popular item at the restaurant, but I couldn't imagine it tasting good.  I just couldn't imagine the two items working out ... but it did.  And it was delicious.

2) Fried frogs legs en Aigre Doux garlic, lemon from Monsieur Benjamin, San Francisco, CA

These frogs legs were delicious, but what made them so memorable was the presentation.  They all had their "claws" on them still (I know it's not claws, it's bones, but it looks like claws).  I recall the waitress telling us that many customers get freaked out by them.  The table next to us had just ordered them but were looking at ours with regret.

3 & 4) Barbecue Abalone & Grilled Giant Ama Ebi at KCC Farmer's Market Honolulu, HI

While in Honolulu, I hit up a local farmers market.  While admittedly semi-touristy, I loved the fact this farmers market had a unique set of "fair food" that is just not what you normally see on the mainland.

5) Omakase Sashimi from Dash, San Mateo, CA

After my dinner at Kusakabe, my girlfriend and I wanted to find more great sushi but at a slightly lower price point.  Our favorite was Dash and this great sashimi plate.

Battling Dry Eyes and Eye Strain

On and off over the last year I've been dealing with some eye-strain, dry eyes, and eye allergies.  After some trial and error, I was eventually able to solve the problem(s). 

The problem was a little hard to isolate b/c there were a number of competing problems.  In addition, one issue can actually lead to the other.

I thought I'd share what I figured out, what I did, and some random tips/tricks in the hopes it helps people out there.  I know I'm not the only software engineer / office worker that has to deal with these problems. 

Of course a DISCLAIMER, I'm not a medical professional.

Part 1 - What I was doing Wrong

1) Not Blinking / Focusing Too Hard

As a software engineer, you unfortunately have to stare at a computer a good part of the day.  You probably also have to stare at your phone too.  If you're like me, some video games after work to relax or reading a book at night might be adding to the problem.

Apparently human beings, when concentrating, blink less than they normally do.  This is bad.  Blinking adds moisture and other teary goodness/oils to your eyes.  When you blink less, your eyes can dry out.  When you blink less, your eyes aren't clearing out dust/allergens like they normally are.

I'll let you Google for yourself about strategies to blink more, but it took some time to retrain myself to do this.

2) Not Taking Breaks

It goes without saying that when you're sitting at a desk all day, it can effect your eyes.  Your ocular muscles are no different than any other muscle in your body. When they get fatigued they begin to get sore.

Taking a break to look off into the distance and just relax your eyes from staring at a monitor is a great break.  Eye strain itself can lead to dry eyes too.

There is a general 20-20-20 rule that's stated on many websites.  Every twenty minutes, stare off in the distance of atleast 20 feet, for 20 seconds.

I didn't necessarily follow this, but the general rule of take a lot of breaks and stare off into the distance is a good idea.  I now force myself to get up and walk around the hall atleast every hour.  I also try to go for a longer walk every afternoon.  I used a timer on my phone to force this at one point, but I just know to do this now.

3) Not having good ergonomics

While my ergonomic setting wasn't terrible, it wasn't ideal and probably exacerbated a number of issues.  Luckily I have an ergonomic evaluator at work that found the following problems for me.
  • Keep your computer monitor below your eyes / Keep the top of the monitor at the top of your vision level.  If your monitor is above you vision line, you open up your eyes more, which can lead to your eyes drying out.
  • Your monitor should be about 20-28 inches in front of you.  Mine was 32 or more inches away, which can lead more eye strain.
  • Although I've been at my desk for many years, I have an air vent above my desk.  Likely not the biggest culprit, but it was likely a contributor to drying out my eyes.
4) Squinting

This goes without saying, get your eyes checked.  Squinting can increase eye strain & dry eyes too.

It ends up that my vision was actually fine.  I was actually squinting b/c of my dry eyes and seasonal allergies.  I didn't want to open my eyes as wide to avoid having them dry out.

5) Running a fan at night

When it's hot during the summer, I sometimes run a fan by my bed to keep me cool.  Bad idea as the air / wind can totally dry out your eyes.

6) AC + Allergies

These are the two factors that are sort of not in my control but probably exacerbated the problem for me.  If all of the above happened during the winter (minus the fan at the night), things might have been more tolerable.

Air conditioning can dry out the air and lower the humidity in your home and working environment.

Allergies are controllable through all the normal mechanisms, but there are circumstances you can't control b/c you have to be outside at some point.

Part 2 - What to do

1) Eye Drops

So you can buy various over the counter eye drops to help with dry eyes and/or allergies.  However, I would caution to buy anything w/ preservatives in them.  I unfortunately seemed to be sensitive / allergic to several of them, which made my problem worse for awhile.

My understanding is that you need to keep at it for awhile.  If your eyes have been really dried out, the tear film has been weakened.  Using eye drops for awhile can help moisturize your eyes making you feel better, but at the same time it gives your eyes more opportunity to heal.

2) Use warm / cold compresses

Using warm & cold compresses helped my eyes rest / heal.  You can use normal towels with water or ice, but you can actually buy compresses that are specific to your eyes.  They are far more convenient.

However, it is important differentiate when to use warm or cold compresses.  It was hard for me to figure out what was what and when to use what.  What I eventually figured out was:
  • eye strain - your eyes are sore, tired, or fatigued in some fashion.  Imagine you're sore after running, it's that kind of feeling with your eyes.  Just like with sore muscles, warm or cold compress are good to relax your muscles / lower inflammation in muscles.
  • allergies - your eyes may be dry, but the core differentiator is there is some itchiness or inflammation (which to me felt like my eyes were "big" or swelling).  Use a cold compress to reduce inflammation.  A warm compress here is bad.  If your eyes are redder after using a warm compress, I think that's an indicator it's allergies and not dry eyes.
  • dry eyes - your eyes feel sticky or not well, but it isn't itchy or have any feeling of inflammation, use a warm compress to create tears and oil.  I suppose cold compresses wouldn't hurt here, but they probably don't help.
Naturally, if you have both dry eyes and allergies, how do you do it?  I would use a cold compress to get the inflammation down, then wait awhile, and use a warm compress.

3) Massaging your eyes

I eventually realized that some muscle tension built up in the muscles around my eyes, likely contributing to the eye strain.

You can look up your own massage your eye videos on Youtube, but the core massages that helped were:
  • massage your temples
  • massage the muscles around your temple / connected to your temple
  • massage your eyebrows
  • massage your forehead area / muscles connected to our eye brows
  • massage around your eye socket
  • massage the pressure points around your eye & nose
  • massage the middle point between your eyebrows and above your nose
I had to keep at this for awhile to slowly but surely massage out all the tense muscles.

4) Rest

As much as we all have work to do, the best thing to do is just rest.  Stop looking at a computer whenever you can.

5) Turned off the lights

It ends up I did have some sensitivity to the fluorescent lights in my office.  I read online that it's a fairly common issue for people who have dry eyes.  After all, part of your tear film has been weakened, so it makes sense.  Luckily for me I work in my own office, so I could just turn off the lights and only suffer them in meeting rooms until things got better.

It's also possible my monitor was old and bright and/or flickering.  Turning down the brightness helped as well as looking at my laptop (which for some reason was better).

6) Humidifier

It sucks to add moisture to the air when its hot outside, but it's important to keep the air reasonably humid and not too dry.  I tried to just keep the humidity at about 40%.  More can lead to mold growth in your house, etc.

7) Eye Exercises

So I'm not 100% positive about this, but there are anecdotal stories that eye exercises can help strengthen your ocular muscles and make eye strain less of an issue.  My ophthalmologist suggested pencil push-ups which I did for awhile.  I'm not sure how much it helped or not.

However, after I started playing Fallout 4 (a first person shooter video game) my eye strain at work started to get a lot better.  The first night I played Fallout 4, I had a terrible headache the next day.  Then, as time went on the headaches didn't happen anymore and my eye strain began to get better (both at work and playing the game).

I'm no doctor, but I could see that first person shooters are an "intense" ocular workout as you have to move your eyes around a lot.  It makes sense that the ocular muscles could have been built up a bit.

8) Have patience

It can take a lot of time, likes many months.

Good luck to anyone out there who read this.

Monday, December 21, 2015

The So Far Forgotten San Antonio Spurs

The San Antonio Spurs are playing great.  It's almost been forgotten and certainly not covered much given the 24-0 start the Golden State Warriors had.

The Spurs are currently 23-5 and sit only 3.5 games out from first place in the Western Conference.  That 23-5 record translates to a 67 win season, which would match what the Warriors did in 2014-2015 and tie for one of the top ten most winning seasons in NBA history.

I can't help but wonder what the Warriors are thinking.  They are off to the best start in NBA history, and when they look at the standings they are only 3.5 games in front of the Spurs.  In contrast, they'd be about 8 games ahead of Cleveland in the Eastern Conference.

Tuesday, December 15, 2015

Perplexed over the Giants signing of Jeff Samardzija

After I heard that the Giants had signed Jeff Samardzija to a 6 year $90 million dollar deal, I was perplexed.

Right now, according to FanGraphs, teams are spending about $6 million per WAR on a player.  Although that calculation is a few years old and some say it is closer to $8 million per WAR nowadays, it's a reasonable number to use for judgement.

Jeff Samardzija has had the following WARs in his career since being converted to a starter:

2012 - 1.8
2013 - 1.0
2014 - 3.7
2015 - 0.2

Based on his $18 million a year salary, the Giants are effectively paying for 3.0 WAR a season.  Something he has only accomplished once in his career, and he wasn't particularly close in any other year.  He was ridiculously off in 2015.

In contrast, lets take a look at David Price's contract at 7 years and $217 million.  The Red Sox are paying for what they hope is about 5.1 WAR per year.  Since 2010, when he began a full time starter, David Price has WARs of:

2010 - 4.8
2011 - 2.8
2012 - 6.9
2013 - 2.8
2014 - 4.6
2015 - 5.9

That's not too bad.  He cracked a 5.1 WAR two times and was pretty close another two times.  Minimally he's averaging a WAR of 4.6 (~90% of desired) compared to the average of 1.67 for Samardzija (~55% of desired).

Lets look at Zack Greinke.  His 6 year $206 milllion dollar contract means the Diamondbacks are looking for 5.7 WAR per year.  Since 2008 when he began playing as a starter full time Greinke's WAR has been:

2008 - 5.4
2009 - 10.4
2010 - 3.4
2011 - 1.5
2012 - 2.6
2013 - 3.9
2014 - 4.3
2015 - 9.3

He's cracked 5.7 twice and was pretty close in 2008.  Again, his average is 5.1.  Not that far off (~89% of desired).

Lets look at Jordan Zimmerman to just round things out.  Zimmerman got a 5 year $110 million dollar deal, so that comes to a goal of 3.66 WAR per season.  What's his history?

2011 - 2.8
2012 - 4.7
2013 - 3.7
2014 - 4.9
2015 - 3.5

This deal seems to be a bit more on the mark.  Zimmerman is averaging a WAR of 3.9 over his career.  Based on this, it seems the Tigers got a pretty good deal on Zimmerman.

So while I'm perplexed about the Samardzija signing, a team that has won three World Series in the last 6 years should deserve some credit.  Perhaps they see something that others don't.  At the minimum, because Samardzija converted to a starter later in his career, he doesn't have as much mileage as other starters.

But the Giants are certainly banking on the fact that 2015 was a fluke and 2014 is a better indicator of his performance.  In 2015, Samardzija played for the most defensively poor team in baseball (see Fangraphs chart).  So a change of scenery to a very good defensive team (#2 according to Fangraphs for 2015) may do wonders for Samardzija.

Friday, December 11, 2015

What should the Cardinals do this 2015-2016 offseason after losing John Lackey and Jason Heyward

One year ago I wrote about the Shelby Miller for Jason Heyward trade.

In it, I posited that it was a huge cost to give up a young starter with 4 years of team control for just one year of Jason Heyward.  However, it was a risk the Cardinals took to make a run at a World Series title.  There were several reasons I felt they had to make that push:
  1. John Lackey was only under contract for 2015
  2. Matt Holliday, Jhonnny Peralta, and Yadier Molina were getting older
  3. There were no prospects with Oscar Taveras's ceiling in the minors
So 2015 might have been the small window the Cardinals had to try and win a World Series before a small rebuild would have to occur.

In the end, the trade perhaps worked out as well as you could have hoped with the exception of the early playoff exit.  The Cardinals won 100 games and Jason Heyward had a marvelous season where he ended up with a 6.5 WAR and was 15th in MVP voting.

However, a number of things I cited as issues in that post a year ago became true.
  • Matt Holliday played only 73 games and had a .804 OPS, both worsts in his career
  • Yadier Molina posted a .660 OPS, his worst since 2006
  • Jhonny Peralta posted a 1.8 WAR vs 5.7 in 2014

So the question is, do the Cardinals think they have more playoffs runs in them with this current staff?

On the one hand, their young players played really well.  Rookies such as Thommy Pham, Randal Grichuk, and Stephen Piscotty  all played very well (all with OPSes in the .824-.877 range).  Michael Wacha and Carlos Martinez also played well, with the latter getting an All Star nod.

On the other hand, the Cardinals lost Heyward, Lackey, and also Lance Lynn to Thommy John surgery.

So the Cardinals probably need a starting pitcher to round up the team for a playoff run and it would be nice to get a big bat.  However, the pickings are a little slim right now, with mostly "Plan B" type players left in the free agent market.  Players such as Mike Leake, Justin Upton, and Chris Davis probably highlight the remaining free agents.

However, I think the biggest thing the Cardinals need to consider in their offseason plans is contending with the Cubs in their division.

The Cubs were a 97 win team in 2015 and they only seemed to have gotten better with the addition of Ben Zobrist, John Lackey, Jason Heyward, and whatever other offseason moves they will make (they will likely trade Jorge Soler since Heyward now has his position).  Not to mention hopeful improvement from their rookies Addison Russell, Kris Bryant, and Kyle Schwarber.

Winning the NL central is going to be really hard.  So a Wild Card is probably the best bet for the Cardinals.

If a Wild Card is the goal, there's no reason for the Cardinals to go nuts in free agency.    It would take a lot to keep up with the Cubs.  The Cardinals could shore up their pitching staff with a someone like Mike Leake, who shouldn't be too expensive.  However, they should show restraint and not overpay for a Chris Davis or Justin Upton.  This team is good enough for a Wild Card run already.

Perhaps mid-season if a Wild Card looks out of the picture, the Cardinals could try and trade Matt Holliday and/or Peralta for prospects.  I'd even consider trading Molina if the right deal comes along.

For the longer term outlook, Matt Holliday's contract will be up after 2016 and Peralta & Molinda's will be up after 2017.  A new TV contract begins in 2018 for the Cardinals, which may be the time they can begin a new round of playoff pushes with a new crop of young players and money to spend on free agents.

In addition, by the time 2018 rolls around, the Cubs may also be weaker.  John Lackey's contract will be up.  A number of younger players will become arbitration eligible and no longer cost peanuts.  Jon Lester will also be entering his mid-30s.  Jake Arrieta will be a free agent.  That may be the time for the Cardinals to strike.

Update 12/22/15: 

Looks like the Cardinals did shore up the pitching staff w/ Mike Leake.


Wednesday, December 9, 2015

Arizona Diamondbacks Zack Greinke signing & Shelby Miller trade analysis

The Arizona Diamondbacks just made two huge moves by signing Zack Greinke and trading for Shelby Miller in the last week.

The Zack Greinke deal was a bit of a shocker, as most expected the 32 year old to get about a $150 million dollar contract.  Instead, he got a $206 million dollar contract.

The Shelby Miller trade has been widely panned as the Diamondbacks gave up:

Ender Inciarte, a player who posted a WAR of 3.7 & 5.3 in his first two major league seasons.

Aaron Blair, a prospect who was rated the #40 prospect in baseball before 2015.

Dansby Swanson, the #1 pick in the 2015 draft.

That seems like a huge haul for Miller, who was an All Star in 2015 and posted a 3.6 WAR.  He has a career war of 9.1 in a little over a three seasons of work.

However, much like the James Shield for Wil Myers trade a few years back, I think the there is a method to the Diamondbacks madness.  Time will tell if the move was a good move or not, but right now I don't think it's as bad as people make it out to be.

In 2015 the Diamondbacks were 79-83 with a +7 run differential.  So basically, they were about a .500 team.

They had the second best offense in the National League.   They had the best offense in the National League amongst teams that didn't play in Colorado.  Led by All Star & Gold Glovers Paul Goldschmidt and A.J. Pollock, the Arizona offense is really really good.

The pitching was a different story though.  Arizona's pitching was 9th in the National League, so sort of middle of the pack, a bit below National League average.  Rubby De La Rosa, Chase Anderson, and Jeremy Hellickson started 86 games for the Diamondbacks.  They all posted ERAs of atleast 4.30 and only Chase Anderson had a WAR that was above 0.0 and it was barely at that (0.8).

So this had to be improved.

Bringing in Zack Greinke and Shelby Miller for 60-70 starts should immediately make that situation better.  Add in rookie Robbie Ray for more than 23 starts and a hopefully healthy Patrick Corbin for more than 16 starts, and suddenly this pitching staff looks much deeper and much better.

It isn't hard to imagine that Zack Greinke and Shelby Miller single handedly change the run differential by about 50 runs by themselves.  Add in new depth in the pitching staff and a change of 60-70 or so runs in run differential isn't hard to imagine.  And when your run differential goes from +7 to lets say +70, you suddenly have a contender for the National League West Title (Dodgers were +72 last year, Giants were +69).

Of course, this assumes that Ender Inciarte's value can be replaced.  Which may not be a small feat.

Thursday, November 19, 2015

Baseball Players with the Greatest Collection of Awards

One of the things I found so interesting about Albert Pujols's career is the breadth of the awards he won in his career.  He's collected almost all of the major ones.

Rookie of the Year
MVP (3 times)
All Star (10 times)
Gold Glove (2 times)
Silver Slugger (6 times)
Hank Aaron Award
Robert Clemente Award

about the only random awards I can think he hasn't won (discounting pitching awards of course) are

World Series MVP
All Star MVP
Home Run Derby Champion

So it got me wondering, have there been any other players in MLB history that have collected such a diverse set of awards?  Here's the list of players I found that have won such a diverse list.  I began my search by looking at Rookie of the Year winners, because that's the hardest award to get (you only get one shot).  Then they had to win atleast two of an MVP, Cy Young award, or a Gold Glove for me to look into them further.  The players I list below must have won atleast one additional something beyond these for me to list below.

Willie Mays - ROY, MVP, Gold Glove, All Star MVP, Roberto Clemente

Frank Robinson - ROY, MVP, Gold Glove, All Star MVP

Pete Rose - ROY, MVP, Gold Glove, World Series MVP, Roberto Clemente

Johnny Bench - ROY, MVP, Gold Glove, World Series MVP

Fred Lynn - ROY, MVP, Gold Glove, All Star MVP, ALCS MVP

Andre Dawson - ROY, MVP, Gold Glove, Silver Slugger, Home Run Derby

Fernando Valenzuela - ROY, Cy Young, Gold Glove, Silver Slugger

Cal Ripken Jr. - ROY, MVP, Gold Glove, All Star MVP, Silver Slugger, Home Run Derby

Jeff Bagwell - ROY, MVP, Gold Glove, Silver Slugger

Albert Pujols - ROY, MVP, Gold Glove, NLCS MVP, Silver Slugger, Roberto Clemente, Hank Aaron

Ichiro Suzuki - ROY, MVP, Gold Glove, All Star MVP, Silver Slugger

Dustin Pedroia - ROY, MVP, Gold Glove, Silver Slugger

I'm a bit surprised how well Albert Pujols did on this list.  I had expected someone in baseball history to have accumulated far more awards, but Pujols is around the top of this list.  Cal Ripken Jr. appears to be his closest competitor. 

A few interesting players on this list are Fred Lynn and Ichiro Suzuki, who both got the ROY, MVP, and Gold Gloves in their rookie year.  Ichiro also checked off a Silver Slugger in his rookie year.  Fernando Valuenzela checked off his ROY, Cy Young, and Silver Slugger in his rookie year too, although he got the Gold Glove later on.

As for players we will mostly likely see on this list in the future?  Buster Posey is the most likely, as he's already got ROY, MVP, and Silver Sluger wrapped up.  As Yadier Molina gets older, it's perhaps inevitable for Posey to get a Gold Glove (and some other elite catcher doesn't come along the way).

Mike Trout is the other player that may make this list.  But his road may be a bit trickier.  There may be too many standout center fielders in his way to collect a Gold Glove.  Likewise with Bryce Harper.

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Teams nearly sweeping the MLB Awards

Today Jake Arrieta of the Cubs won the NL Cy Young Award.  With Joe Maddon winning the NL Manager of the Year Award and Kris Bryant the NL Rookie of the Year Award, the Cubs nearly cleaned house with the after season awards.  No Cub is a finalist for the NL MVP, so the clean sweep is out of the question.

However, it got me curious, has a team ever swept the major after season awards?  As far as I can tell, no team has ever swept the Rookie of the Year, Manager of the Year, Cy Young, and MVP awards.  I did find that the following teams did win the Manager of the Year, Cy Young, and MVP Awards in the same year.  It's worth noting that Manager of the Year awards began in 1983, so there isn't a lot of history for this to happen.

Year Team MVP Cy Young Manager
1984 Chicago Cubs Ryne Sandberg Rick Sutcliffe Jim Frey
1984 Detroit Tigers Willie Hernandez Willie Hernandez Sparky Anderson
1986 Boston Red Sox Roger Clemens Roger Clemens John McNamara
1988 Los Angeles Dodgers Kirk Gibson Orel Hershiser Tom Lasorda
1990 Pittsburgh Pirates Barry Bonds Doug Drabek Jim Leyland
1991 Atlanta Braves Terry Pendleton Tom Glavine Bobby Cox
1992 Oakland Athletics Dennis Eckersley Dennis Eckersley Tony LaRussa
1993 Chicago White Sox Frank Thomas Jack McDowell Gene Lamont

Interestingly enough, it occurred three times where the pitcher won both the Cy Young and MVP, which makes a sweep much easier.

I also find it interesting that this occurred four years in a row from 1990-1993, but hasn't happened since.

The most obvious change is the introduction of divisional play and a wild card into baseball in 1994.  The opportunities for other managers to win manager of the year is just higher.  Joe Maddon won NL Manager of the Year this year despite technically having his team place third in the NL Central (albeit with the third best record in baseball).

The attitudes of voters have changed over the years too.  Wins and win percentage of pitchers today matters far less.  You'd find it hard for Rick Sutcliffe's 1984 performance (16-1 and 3.9 WAR) and Jack McDowell's 1993 performance (22-10, 4.3 WAR) to lead to a Cy Young win today.  The relievers Willie Hernandez and Dennis Eckersley would also have a much tougher time today winning an MVP (4.8 WAR & 2.9 WAR in their MVP seasons respectively).

Monday, November 9, 2015

Dinner @ Commonwealth in San Francisco, CA

Commonwealth is a restaurant I've had on my "go to" list for quite some time.  It was ranked all the way at #75 on the best restaurants in the United States in Opionated About Dining.  It got a very good review from the San Francisco Chronicle.  It recently got awarded a Michelin star.

The restaurant offers an a la carte menu of various items or a small six-course tasting menu for $75.  The $75 tasting menu is ridiculously cheap for a Michelin starred restaurant in the San Francisco area.  In addition, the restaurant says they donate $10 of it to a local charity, which is pretty cool.

Because we didn't know what else to order, my date and I defaulted to the tasting menu.  Here's what we got.

1) house made chips w/ seaweed powder and malt foam dip

First some chips and dip instead of a bread course.  The seaweed powdered chips were delicious.  The malt dip was foam-like, not the typical chip-dip you think of.  I think it was neat but unnecessary.  I think the chips were delicious by themselves.

2) confit trout, cauliflower, broth of bones

Next we got this amuse bouche dish.  It was served cold-style, which I thought was interesting for fish and broth.  There was also (what I assume to be) a gelatin cube of cauliflower in the broth.

3) crispy okra, trout roe, corn pudding, crème fraîche, piment d’espelette, garden basils

The first official course from the tasting.  This was pretty tasty, although after tasting it, my date and I wondered why the okra was battered & fried for this dish.  Perhaps to just offer contrasting textures?  I think it would have been better with the okra fried without the batter or just pan fried.

4) poached oysters, potatoes cooked in clay, kombu, spinach, squid ink meringue - w/ sake gelée

Unfortunately it was dark in the restaurant so it may be hard to tell in the photo, but those egg-shell looking things are the potatoes cooked in the clay.  The cooking process gave the potato skins this shell-like exterior which was really interesting.  There's also a gelée of sake in the middle of the dish (it looks like a white grape).  Overall an ok dish.  I think the combination of potatoes, oysters, and spinach was certainly an interesting choice.

5) sesame and nori coated avocado, popcorn, charred romaine, togarashi, yuzu kosho milk

Again, it may be hard to tell in the picture but the black things with sesame seeds on it are the sesame and nori coated avocado.  The popcorn was really interesting in this dish, I don't think I've ever seen a restaurant use them in a dish.  An interesting dish overall.  I guess I'm so used to avocado as a side / sauce that it being the primary ingredient was really strange to me.  I guess I think of avocado as being such a light flavor that it's hard for it to be the main item of a dish.

6) sweetbreads poached in beeswax, asian pear, brussels sprouts, chestnut and celery root cream

For the uninitiated, sweetbreads is the thymus or pancreas of an animal (according to wikipedia).  The waitress said this was specifically thymus of veal.

From my recollection, I have tried sweetbreads only once before, and that was a tiny tiny byte from French Laundry.  My friend upgraded a dish to include it and he gave me a tiny byte to try.  That sweetbreed was very sweet and crazy delicious.

I didn't particularly like this dish, but like most new ingredients, it may take time to understand/appreciate.  It wasn't as sweet or savory as the tiny byte I had from French Laundry.  It had a texture consistency I am having trouble describing, softer than most "land protein" but more firm than most sashimi.

7) celery sorbet, verjus soda

I had to look up what verjus is, but it's "unriped grape", so it's going to be more sour than typical grapes.  I really liked this.  Although technically a palate cleanser, the scoop of sorbet is quite large (first comparison that came to mind was the sorbet palate cleanser at Blackbird).  Perhaps my favorite course of the night, but I'm very biased in this because I love sorbet and have perhaps a slight preference to sour things.

8) beer meringue, chocolate ganache, pretzel crumble, crème fraîche ice cream - w/ wafers

I really liked this dessert.  Tons of tasty flavors and textures together.  I really liked the pretzel chunks and the wafer-like additions.

9) mignardise - tea pate de fruit, corn puff?

And finally some mignardise. 

Overall, I was satisfied with the amount of food in the tasting and didn't leave hungry, but I didn't leave really feeling full.  Perhaps a bread course in the tasting would have left me satisfyingly full.  I'd say that the amount of food was less than the amount from Commis or Sons and Daughters.  However, keep in mind that this menu is cheaper and fewer courses, so adding on an extra a la carte course or two would probably equal things out both in price and fullness.  The entire meal took about 2 hours, which is pretty standard.

Amongst fancy restaurants here on my blog, there were a lot of misses on these courses.  Obviously, individual tastes will vary and you are at the whim of whatever the chef serves you that day.  Looking through other people's tasting menu pictures on Yelp, some more common fish and/or protein courses could have changed the entire tasting for me.

In the SFGate review I list above, the writer says something I found interesting
[The chef] continually creates combinations I haven’t seen anywhere else
Perhaps there in lies the rub for a more casual foodie like myself.  This meal at Commonwealth may have been for the more sophisticated eater, because there were many unique flavor combinations that the novice foodie in me couldn't quite appreciate or be prepared for.

Monday, November 2, 2015

Is Kris Bryant too strikeout prone?

I was looking at the season stats for Kris Bryant, the likely ROY winner for the National League this year, when I saw something startling ...  Bryant struck out 199 times this year.  It easily lead the National League and it's tied for eighth all time.  He's tied with such strikeout illuminaries as Chris Davis, Ryan Howard, and Adam Dunn.  If he had started the year in the majors, he would have easily crossed 200 strikeouts, joining strikeouts legends like Mark Reynolds in the 200+ club.

Needless to say, Bryant was a rookie, so perhaps I'm picking on his 199 strikeouts a bit too much.  However, looking up Kris Bryant's minor league record, he struck out an amazing 162 times in the minor leagues in 2014.  And that was against AA and AAA pitchers.

Now strikeouts have been going up across baseball, so they are perhaps nothing to be too concerned about.  Mike Trout had 184 strikeouts in his MVP 2014 season.  But then again, Trout admitted he was also learning to hit for more power in 2014.  That strikeout total came down to 158 in 2015.  He also never had over a 100 strikeouts in any minor league season.

In contrast, Paul Goldschmidt had 151 strikeouts this year and 145 strikeouts in his breakout 2013 season.  He also had 161 strikeouts during his full year of playing in A ball in 2010.

Still, strikeouts in the 150s range is still much lower than the 200ish that Bryant approached.  Looking at other great hitters from the past few years, the high strikeout rate for Bryant is a tad concerning.

The great Joey Votto struck out a career high of only 138 times in 2013 but has usually hovered in the low 100 range.

Miguel Cabrera struck out a career high 148 times in his rookie year but usually has hovered in the low 100s.  In his elite run from 2010-2013, he never had over 100 strikeouts.

Prince Fielder never struck out more than 138 times.  He struck out a very low 88 times in 2015.

Robinson Cano had a career high 107 strikeouts in 2015, but never crossed the 100 mark in any other year.

Jose Bautista has also hovered in the low 100 strikout land, with a career high of 116 in 2010.

I can't remember where I read it, but there was a saying that "The greatest way for a hitter to succeed to is to not make outs."  Not everyone is going to be an Albert Pujols (career high of 93 strikeouts in his rookie year, never higher than 76 in any other year) but the 199 strikeouts is a tad concerning.  If he can't get the strikeouts down, Bryant's ceiling may not be as high as everyone hoped.  This isn't to say he won't be a great player, but he may not be the second coming of Frank Thomas (career high 115 strikeouts in 2002 & 2003).

Sunday, November 1, 2015

Dinner @ Cotogna in San Francisco, CA - #2

I had the opportunity to dine at Cotogna about a year ago and enjoyed their Sunday Supper.  I didn't have Cotogna high on my "go again soon" list (there are just too many places to try), but a generous birthday gift certificate to Cotogna upped its priority immediately :-)

I'll leave the details of the restaurant to the prior post, but the basics are we went to Cotogna for their Sunday Supper.  It's the one day each week they offer a set four course menu compared to their normal a la carte menu.

Here's an overview of meal #2.

1) PASSATO DI PESCE, Tuscan fish soup

This soup was much more eye pleasing than the last soup I had at Cotogna.  The consistency was similar to a cream of tomato soup (and I assume the base of the soup was tomato).  Really tasty.

2) TAGLIOLINI CON CALAMARI, Tagliolini with squid & corno di tonno peppers

It may be hard to tell in this picture because it was so dark, but those are squid ink noodles in the picture.  Overall, a tasty dish.  The calimari wasn't chewy at all and the pasta was much better than the disgusting squid ink noodles my girlfriend and I recently picked up at William Sonoma.  Sorry, but that's the only recent squid ink noodle comparison I can think of.

3) PESCHE SPADA, Grilled swordfish with fennel & beets

This main course was served family style, so the swordfish above was for two.  I'm usually not a big fan of swordfish, as it and other meatier fishes can get really dry.  However, this swordfish was quite juicy in the middle.  The beets and fennel were delicious.  I honestly did not know that fennel was anything other than an herb.  You learn something new everyday.

4) BONET, Chocolate, hazelnut, amaretti

And finally this layered dessert of chocolate, cream, caramel, hazelnuts, and what I assume was crumbled ameretti (which online says is a macaroon/cookie).

Overall, a good meal and a good deal at $55 for four courses.  I would say it was better and more satisfying meal than the last one.  That's the luck of just eating whatever the restaurant is serving to you that day.

Tuesday, October 27, 2015

Dinner @ Sushi Sasabune in Honolulu, HI

I happened to be in Honolulu for a wedding and decided I had to check out atleast one nice restaurant in the area.  My girlfriend and I eventually decided we wanted to get some nice sushi in the area and eventually settled on Sushi Sasabune after seeing their great reviews online, their 28/30 rating on Zagat, and (AFAICT before going there) their apparent lack of a menu (i.e. they only serve an omakase meal).

The restaurant is a bit off from the touristy Waikiki but an easy enough drive/taxi over there.  My recollection was in a pretty nondescript strip mall, next to a yarn/fabric store and about a block away from a storage facility .  When the restaurant called to confirm the reservation, they wanted to make sure I understood that this restaurant was  a traditional Japanese sushi restaurant and no tempura or California rolls were available.  I guess they get a number of tourists that wander in not knowing what they're getting into.

The restaurant offers two different omakase menus, one that is "eastern" and one that is "western".  Apparently the latter concentrates only (or mostly) on fish while the former contains more shellfish in the tasting.  The example the waiter gave us was that uni would be in the "eastern" menu.  We ended up going for the "eastern" tasting.

Before going through the photos, its perhaps important to note that at any point you can just tell the server you're done eating.  Unlike most omakase/tasting menus I've had, it's more the sushi chef serving you whatever off of the a la carte sushi menu.  So if you're full, you can just say you're full and they'll stop bringing you food and the bill at the end will be a bit cheaper.  I don't know if this is the way "authentic" Japanese omakase tastings are, but this is what they do here.

Overall, the meal was quite large, 1 sashimi course, 1 cooked appetizer, 1 cooked seafood dish, 1 soup, 1 oyster, 1 hand roll, and 17/18 nigiri, and some ice cream at the end.

1) abalone - steamed, sashimi w/ salt & lemon, liver

The first course was a tasting of abalone.  This course was my favorite of the night, as I've never had abalone sashimi style and never had abalone liver.  The liver was particularly delicious.

2) norwegian mackerel w/ miso

The second course was fish in a miso sauce.  The dish was served cold.  This was an ok dish.

We noticed another table get a calamari dish instead of this.  Unsure if it was because they ordered the "western" menu instead.

3) fatty toro

The first nigiri course was two pieces of fatty toro, one with a sweet sauce and one that was smoked.  Both were delicious.  I completely forgot to take a photo of the first nigiri course.  Because it's not a preset tasting like many other places I've gone to, I concentrated on taking notes and just simply forgot to take the picture.  This picture on Yelp is a good example of the first nigiri course.

4) snapper w/ plum sauce, halibut

Next up was some red snapper and halibut.  The red snapper had (what my notes said) was a plum sauce on top and the halibut had a sauce I cannot recall.  I think this is a good example of the type of sushi you get a Sushi Sasabune.  There's a lot of sauces and interesting things on top of the nigiri.

I'm not gonna comment on every nigiri as we move on.  I think the pictures are sufficient.

5) skip jack, amber jack

6) scallop w/ yuzu jelly, salmon w/ trout caviar & cream

The yuzu gelatin on top of the scallop was a little strong in my opinion, hiding flavor of the scallop.  I found the cream a surprising addition to the salmon, but it tasted really good.

7) shrimp w/ shrimp paste, geoduck, oyster w/ oyster sorbet

The oyster w/ oyster sorbet was quite interesting.  Before downing the oyster I tasted the sorbet by itself, and sure enough, it is oyster flavored sorbet.  It added exactly what you'd expect, extra oyster flavor to the oyster.  The geoduck was particularly tasty.  The shrimp wasn't sweet shrimp, which surprised me because that's the only raw shrimp I've ever had prior to this.

8) saba, aji

9) crab w/ ???, squid w/ uni sauce

I found the addition of uni sauce on top of the squid quite interesting.

10) uni, ikura

11) baked Alaskan king crab

A table close to us that also got the "eastern" menu got lobster instead of king crab.  Unsure why, perhaps it was a request of theirs.

12) tamago, anago

The anago was quite interesting, not the normal barbecue drenched unagi eel you usually get.

13) negitoro roll

Negitoro is apparently one of this restaurant's signature dishes.  We probably should have asked them to only serve us 1 negitoro roll which we would split, but we didn't.  The roll was fine, but my judgement may be flawed because I was getting stuffed by this point.

14) miso soup w/ shrimp head

The miso soup contained a shrimp head, which I assume came from the shrimp nigiri earlier in the meal.  The flavor of the shrimp was clearly in the broth.  I really enjoyed this, as it was different from the normal miso soup you get at most Japanese restaurants.

15) green tea ice cream

Finally you get your choice of several flavors of ice cream at the end of the meal.  We chose to share one scoop of ice cream at the end as two scoops would have overdone it.

Online, I saw a review that called this restaurant "sushi fusion", which is maybe an accurate description.  I've never seen yuzu gelatin, oyster sorbet, uni sauce, cream, etc. on sushi before.

Unlike most other tasting menus I've had, the pacing of the food was quite quick.  The food came out one right after another, so there wasn't a lot of time to let previous courses digest a bit.  The first 10 courses were done within an hour and a half easily, maybe it was closer to 11-12 courses.  Only by eating slowly on the last few courses did we stretch this out closer to 2 hours (but still under 2 hours total).  I've been told that sushi in Japan can be very rapid pace.  I don't know if this is like what you'd get in Japan.

Overall a great experience.  The only other high end sushi place I have to compare to is Kusakabe in San Francisco, which was 1 Michelin Star at the time of my dining.  I think the individual nigiri was better at Kusakabe and I might lean to Kusakabe for the overall better balanced meal with different dish types and a slower pace.

Dinner @ The Pineapple Room in Honolulu, HI

While my girlfriend and I were in Honolulu we wanted to go on a fine dining trip somewhere.  We had originally thought of going to Alan Wong's, a generally highly regarded restaurant in Honolulu.  The reviews of Alan Wong's were mixed amongst friends that had been there.  Some said it was great, others said it was meh.   I'm sure some amount of it was based on personal tastes of Hawaiian flavors.  We ended up going with Sushi Sasabune after deciding we wanted a sushi fix instead. 

My girlfriend and I were looking to grab dinner near our hotel in Waikiki one evening but everything was packed and had long lines.  So I went to my good friend Opentable and the first restaurant listed was The Pineapple Room by Alan Wong, a more casual offshoot of the flagship Alan Wong restaurant.  So we figured ... why not.  Getting there in 15 minutes is better than waiting an hour for a table in Waikiki.

This restaurant is very casual and the most casual restaurant that I've reviewed on my blog.   The restaurant is inside the Macy's at the Ala Moana mall.  Yes, inside the Macy's.

I'm only writing about it because it happened to have a small four course tasting on the menu and there were enough ingredients I had to look up, I figured it'd be interesting to write up.

1) Ho farms tomato and watermelon salad w/ Hawaii island dairy goat cheese, ume dressing

First off, a light salad with a ume sauce.  I didn't know what ume was, but it's a plum.  The dressing was a bit sour, which is simply the flavor of ume (which once you're in Hawaii long enough, you'll see on a lot of menus and as snacks and flavoring for shaved ice).  Interesting, but not my particularly taste.

2) Sizzling "hapa" poke - w/ garlic aoili, bubu arare, chirashi musubi

So the name of this dish confused me.  I know "hapa" is a slang word used to describe a person of mixed ethnicity.  I guess the "hapa" here is the fact that the poke (tuna) is half cooked on this sizzling plate.

The chirashi musubi also confused me.  Definitions online say that "musubi" is a ball of rice with meat on top (which is what I was most familiar with, such as with "spam musubi") and "chirashi" is typically raw fish on rice.  I'm not sure what this means, because there's clearly no meat on top of the rice.  Perhaps it's mixed into the rice  ... I have no idea.

Anyways, I thought this was a good dish, everything was quite tasty.  My favorite of the four courses.

3) Hoisin sriracha glazed short ribs w/ Prawn, choi sum, tobanjan sauce, big island goat cheese

These ribs were really soft and there was a kick to the dish.  However, I felt that the all of the flavors together didn't really mix well though.  Hoisin, sriracha, and tobanjan ... not the mix I typically think of with ribs.  This also came with a bowl of rice (your choice of white or brown), which I didn't take a picture of.

4) Waiaula old fashioned chocolate pudding w/ David murdock's private estate 70% chocolate

The dessert of chocolate pudding was good, but I couldn't finish it.  It was quite rich.

Keeping in mind that this is the far more casual restaurant compared to Alan Wong's flagship, I'm sort of glad I chose Sushi Sasabune instead of going to Alan Wong's.  It's not necessarily a knock on the restaurant itself, but there were Hawaiian flavors that weren't flavors I was familiar with.  If it's an indication of what would be at Alan Wong's, I might have left Alan Wong's not too happy.  Those more familiar with Hawaiian flavors or tastes may not be caught off guard as much as I was.

I will say, the tasting menu is a pretty good deal for $49 before tax & tip.  A lot of the entrees were in the $30-$40 range already, so that's an extra three courses for not much more.

UPDATE: The Pineapple Room closed in July 2017.

Sunday, September 13, 2015

Dinner @ Ad Hoc in Yountville, CA

Ad Hoc is the far more casual restaurant from the people behind French Laundry.  Apparently the story is that the head chef of French Laundry wanted to create a burger restaurant in a new location they acquired.  Before they were ready to open their restaurant, they kept the location busy by offering casual family style dinners.  The concept was so popular they ended up just keeping the format and put the burger restaurant on the back burner.

Ad Hoc offers a daily four course set meal, an appetizer/salad, a main course, a cheese course, and a dessert.  Everything is served family style except for the dessert.  So keep in mind the portions are for two people in most of the pictures below.

Here's an overview of the meal.

1) Summer Melon Salad - valbreso feta, roasted corn, frisee arugula, scallions, basil lemon vinaigrette

First we had a melon salad, with watermelon, cantaloupe, and honeydew sprinkled in.  This was really tasty and refreshing.

My date and I actually spoke of how the melon was so good and you just can't get fruit this good from Safeway or your average supermarket. The table next to us asked the waiter how the melon tasted so good.  The waiter said that they used a sous vide technique to effectively infuse the melon with the juices from other melons.  So it ends up that not only can you not get fruit this good from a supermarket, you can't get it at all!  It can only be concocted in a kitchen.

2) Smoked Pork Racks - toasted farro, tfl tomatoes, romano beans, piquillo peppers, english cucumber, cilantro pistou

Next up up we some pork chops.  I'm usually not a fan of pork chops, as I always consider it to be too dry.  Ad hoc did a great job and it was quite juicy in the middle.  The vegetables, especially the romano beans and cucumbers, were especially delicious.  While the pork chop in the picture looks gigantic, it's not quite as big as you might imagine.  It's a very good/nice sized pork chop but not too much you can't finish it.

3) Cabot Clothbound Cheddar - cornichons, dijon mustard

Next up was a cheese course.  This cheese was really really rich and creamy, it was hard to eat all of it.  My date & I gave up with about 1/2 of a chunk left over from the two original chunks.  One table over from us, the couple ate only about half of one of the chunks and that was it.  I think one "cheese chunk" would have been good enough for the both of us.

4) Ice Cream Sundaes - vanilla ice cream, chocolate, butterscotch & strawberry sauces, roasted pecans, whipped chantilly

Finally a do it yourself ice cream sundae was served for dessert.  The various sauces appeared to be made in house and were delicious with what was likely house made ice cream.

Overall a delicious casual meal.  The portion sizes were overall good.  Not too much and not too little. 

As of this writing, the four course meal is $52 before tax & tip.  I think this is a great deal.  At other restaurants of this quality, it could easily be $70-$80 for the four courses.

Friday, August 28, 2015

Looking back at "The Anatomy of a Large-Scale Hypertextual Web Search Engine"

I recently read the famous paper "The Anatomy of a Large-Scale Hypertextual Web Search Engine".  It's a paper written by the Google co-founders Larry Page and Sergey Brin circa 1997/1998 about their web search engine research while they were students at Stanford.  The very first sentence of the paper summarizes its contents quite well, "In this paper, we present Google, a prototype of a large-scale search engine ...".

The paper is very interesting looking back on it 17-18 years after it was published.  I thought I'd comment on some of the fun things I read.

Improved Search Quality

November 1997, only one of the top four commercial search engines finds itself (returns its own search page in response to its name in the top ten results)
If the above is true, it is truly comical by today's standards of web search quality.

Major Data Structures

Throughout this section, Brin & Page continually do "bit stuffing" to save storage space.  Typically only done by those dealing with firmware, I find it a little ironic that they had to go to such lengths.  Given the amount of data they had to deal and the amount of hardware resources they had, it was obviously justified.  But it's sort of funny to think about it given today's data sizes and hardware resources that Google, Facebook, Yahoo, Bing, etc. have.

Servers to Crawl the Web

The original Google used a single URL server to serve lists to 3 web crawlers.  Insanely tiny by today's standards.  Of course, it was a much tinier web in the 1990s.

Social Consequences to Web Crawling

Perhaps the best part of the paper, Brin & Page talk of the social consequences of their crawler.  Most notably, some website owners were confused at what a web crawler was and why they were looking at their page.  Some would e-mail them asking questions ... some even called them.

Storage Requirements

Apparently the original Google had a compressed repository of just 53GB of data.  Insanely puny by today's standards.

System Performance

In addition, it took only 9 days to download all of the data on the web at the time.  It's not clear how many machines were at their disposal, but it did not appear to be more than maybe a dozen (as said above, they only used 3 for web crawling, and they note they used 4 for sorting the index).

"Advertising and Mixed Motives"

In this appendix section Brin & Page talk about the conflict of interest that search engines have when advertising is involved.  They specifically site the search of "cellular phone" as a keyword and say

It is clear that a search engine which was taking money for showing cellular phone ads would have difficulty justifying the page that our system returned to its paying advertisers. For this type of reason and historical experience with other media [Bagdikian 83], we expect that advertising funded search engines will be inherently biased towards the advertisers and away from the needs of the consumers.
It's ironic of course, b/c this is nearly the exact opposite of modern day Google.  A search for "cellular phone" on the site returned for me (in order)

  • An iPhone ad on
  • An ad for cell phones off a retailer site
  • An ad for Sprint
  • A Google Maps result for several retailers that sell cell phones
  • The Wikipedia article for "Mobile Phone"
This doesn't count all of the ads that are on the right hand column.

Sunday, August 23, 2015

Dinner @ La Folie in San Francisco, CA

I finally got the chance to hit up La Folie in San Francisco.  La Folie is one of San Francisco's most famous French restaurants, having been there since 1988.  It's been awarded a Michelin star since the first guide in San Francisco in 2007 and has a four star review from the San Francisco Chronicle.

La Folie offers either a tasting menu that's 5 courses (plus the amuse, petites, palette cleansers, etc.) or a "pick-n-choose" price fixe menu.  You can pick anywhere from 3 to 5 courses out of a list of about 20.  It includes appetizers, entrees, and desserts.  The only rule is you can't pick more than one entree item.

We elected to go with the pick-n-choose and we both decided to stay conservative and order just 3 courses, an appetizer, entree, and dessert.  That was a wise choice.  We would have been stuffed with more.  If you go with more than 3 courses, I'd recommended choosing dishes that are a bit more light and small (such as soup).  We did however, add a small course of a half of an ounce of caviar, just for fun.  So it was pushing 4 courses anyways.

So first we got some amuse dishes.

1) foie gras soup / cappucino

The waitress said this was one of the chef's specialties, a foie gras cappucino, although I think it I would liken it more as a foie gras soup.  The waitress even called it a foie gras soup to the table next to us.  I thought it was really tasty.  Admittedly, I haven't had enough foie gras in my life to discern the foie gras flavor, but it was a very tasty broth.

2) quail egg w/ corn soup

Next was another amuse dish, a small poached quail egg in a corn soup.  I thought it was an interesting dish overall.

3) russian osetra caviar w/ lobster potato blinis and creme fraiche

Next came our caviar tasting.  I was actually a bit surprised how much caviar there was, as I thought a half ounce was gonna be a lot smaller.  The picture perhaps doesn't do it justice.  I didn't know what lobster potato blinis was, but it apparently was just some lobster between two small potato-like pancakes.  It was an actual nice chunk of lobster claw, not just little lobster pieces which I thought it would be, so that was nice.  I thought the caviar was delicious. I probably would have enjoyed it more just by itself, although everything else was nice as well. 

4) day boat scallop, with uni, crème beurre noisette, braised young leeks - w/ corn

My date and I couldn't figure out what to have as an appetizer and we both really wanted the scallop, so we got the same one.  It was delicious.  The picture doesn't do this scallop justice as it was quite large and sizable.  Not the normal "entree" like scallops you normally see.  I had this feeling that corn was in season, as there were numerous corn dishes on the menu.

5A) Liberty Farm Duck Breast, Tokyo Turnips, Confit Cockscomb, Stone Fruit - Duck Jus - w/ Plums, Bok Coy, and Foie Gras

I got the duck breast as my entree.  It was cooked rarer than I think I've ever had duck before.  It was quite soft and far better than the duck I recall having a Cotogna.  There was a small bit of foie gras that was added (it's the small roll at the bottom of the photo) that was infused with some citrus flavors.  It and the grilled plums were particularly delicious.  I wasn't particularly enthused with the cockscomb, which had a bit of a muschroomy like texture to them (which I hate mushrooms).  I didn't even know what the ingredient was and had to ask the waiter at some point.

As an aside, I almost ordered the lamb as my entree.  I'm glad I didn't when we saw another couple order it at another table.  The rack was probably twice the size of the duck breast.

5B) Trio of Devil’s Gulch Ranch Rabbit, Chanterelle Mushrooms, Summer Vegetables, Natural Jus - w/ rabbit liver

My date got the trio of rabbit for her entree, which ended up with a bonus of an extra part of the rabbit.  Included were the rack of rabbit, a wrap of the rabbit loin, rabbit liver, and another part of the rabbit that I can't recall.  I thought the coolest part of the dish was the garden of vegetables lined up at the back of the dish. 

It was a lot more food than my duck breast.  The waiter actually told my date, "It's a lot of food, you don't have to try and finish it all".  I actually had to help her eat a nice chunk of this plate and we still couldn't finish.

6) summer berry soda

Then we got a light refreshing summer berry soda as a palette cleanser.

7A) Tasting of Melon, Watermelon Consommé, Cucumber Granite, Espelette - w/ Cantaloupe Sorbet

For my dessert, I specifically wanted something light.  Normally this dish comes with pineapple, but since I'm mildly allergic I asked them to remove it.  Overall, a nice refreshing sorbet with fruit.  It was a nice end to dinner.

7B) Mousse Au Chocolat, Smoked Chocolate Cremeux, Chicory Ice Cream, Cocoa paper

My date went and got something a bit heavier for dessert.  From what I tasted, also quite tasty.  The cocoa paper was particularly nice.

8) petite fours

And finally we got some petit fours.  The strawberry gelatin was particularly good.

The meal took about 2 hours total, which was perhaps a tad fast by most fancy restaurant standards.  It's perhaps part of the reason we were a tad stuffed after our entree course.   The heavier meat entree dishes definitely stuffed us.  The portions for every course at La Folie (with the exception of the dessert) were quite sizable, which was a surprise.  So for those looking to head over there, be careful of ordering more than 3 courses.