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We Tried to Obey

June 18, 2010 Leave a comment

Two Mondays ago, Steve Jobs opened the annual Apple Worldwide Developer’s Conference in San Francisco with his keynote address introducing iPhone 4. I followed it live through the efforts of live bloggers such as Engadget’s Joshua Topolsky. This was the subject of my short post Our Master Speaks, written as I followed along.

Later in the day, Apple’s website had news of the new iPhone. Pre-orders would be taken starting June 15, with delivery at home or pick-up at Apple Stores on June 24. I put it on my calendar.

Tuesday, like so many others, I went to the site to order my new phone. In fact, we were going to get new phones all around — for me, Gail, and Joel. We have the second generation iPhone and all were eligible to upgrade to the fourth generation at the base cost. (If you haven’t been under contract with AT&T long enough, you need to pay extra for the new phone.) I was thus among the hundreds of thousands (millions?) who experienced the meltdown of the AT&T servers. I tried repeatedly at first, then intermittently, then not until late that night, but could never complete an order. By the time I tried the next day, delivery wasn’t promised until mid July. Even then, after adding my phone to the cart, I met with a failed server when trying to add a second phone. I haven’t gone back to try since. Way too frustrating.

No doubt the next disaster will occur next week when the successful first-round orderers get their phones and try to get them working on the AT&T network. Maybe waiting isn’t such a bad idea.

I tried. Really.

Categories: Business, Computing

Wrongful Torture: No Problemo

June 18, 2010 Leave a comment

Maher Arar

On Monday, the Supreme Court declined to hear Maher Arar’s appeal of the federal appeals court decision last November that he couldn’t sue for damages for wrongful rendition to Syria and subsequent torture. (See, for instance, the NYT article here for an account of the November 2 decision.)

Arar, a Syrian-born Canadian citizen, was detained in September 2002 at JFK, where he was changing planes on his return to Canada from a vacation in Tunisia. He was held in New York for 13 days on the basis of having suspected ties to Al Qaeda, then sent to Syria, where he was held for a year and tortured before being released. The Canadian government investigated and cleared him of any links to terrorism, awarding him a settlement of over 10 million Canadian dollars. Yet, he is not allowed to sue the US government for his treatment. Putting aside the logic of the appeals court decision, and this week’s Supreme Court decision not to take up the case, what most startles me (or would if I weren’t used to this by now) is the Obama administration’s own decision to argue against Arar’s appeal.

Just after the Supreme Court’s decision was announced, emptywheel wrote, “we’ve officially become a country that finds protecting those who commit torture more important than justice for those who were tortured.” David Cole, one of Arar’s lawyers, wrote about the case at the New York Review’s blog:
Read more…

Categories: Law, Torture

Restaurant Roundup

June 18, 2010 Leave a comment

In blogging so little of late, I have failed to comment on three local restaurants we have enjoyed eating at recently. I’ll fill that gap here. First, some background.

I have written frequently about our meals at Rover’s, the well-known restaurant in the Madison Valley neighborhood of Seattle, just blocks away from our home. In addition to nightly dinners, it serves lunch on Friday, and I have described several of these lunches. Last summer, during one of these lunches, chef-owner Thierry Rautureau explained to us his plan to take over the then-empty former shipping store on the corner and turn it into a more casual French-style restaurant, to be named Luc, after his father. As a means of raising funds, Thierry would sell founding gift certificates — invest $1000, then get three annual $435 credits to be used at Luc or Rover’s. A few months later, when the deal was formally offered, we accepted.

Luc had its formal opening on the evenings of May 3 and 4, with free food for members only. Those just happened to be our last night in DC and the night we flew home from DC. We were unable to attend.

Finally, three weeks ago, we (Gail, Joel, and I) dropped by at Luc for an early dinner before heading downtown to see Fiddler on the Roof. Not early enough. It was packed. In desperation, we crossed the street and stopped by at La Côte Creperie. Gail had eaten there before, but I hadn’t. Let’s go in and learn more.

1. La Côte Crêperie. It’s a small place, but since we were early, it was mostly empty. We got a table by the window. In addition to our menus, there was a long chalkboard with specials. One could well imagine one was in a traditional French crêperie. Indeed, the menu was very much like the one the three of us studied last October, Halloween Eve, on our last evening with Joel in Grenoble before departing early the next morning for Venice.

I rarely drink cider. In August 1999, we visited my sister and her family in La Baule, on the Brittany coast, to celebrate a major birthday for her. At the time, they went to La Baule every August, and knew the region well. One morning, we went over to the nearby walled town of Guérande — well worth a visit if you’re in the area. Within its lies what by my sister’s testimony — and I believe her — one of the great crêperies in France. It was a family favorite, and we were in for a treat. I can’t remember what I ordered, but I remember that as a matter of course, bottles of cider were put out for us all. I don’t think I did much more than taste it. I learned, though, that when in a crêperie, drink cider. And thanks to my pal Russ, I have learned to enjoy cider more. So, of course, I started the meal with a glass of cider.

For the meal, I ordered a salad to start, and then, despite the long list of enticing crepes, I went off the crepe menu to order a croque-madame. But I returned to the crepe menu for dessert, selecting the very same crepe I ordered last fall in Grenoble, the poire belle Hélène: a crepe filled with pears, vanilla ice cream, and chocolate syrup.

Everything was delightful. I’m eager to return.

2. Lola. Two weeks ago last night, local painter (and old friend) Kate Altus had a new show open at the Lisa Harris Gallery down by Pike Place Market. We own two of her paintings and were hoping to attend, but couldn’t because of a conflict. Instead, we went down to have a look that Saturday afternoon. (The show runs through June 28. By all means have a look yourself if you’re downtown.) As we walked up the hill, we decided to have an early dinner. Tom Douglas beckoned. Which of his restaurants? We chose Lola, where we last ate two years ago for breakfast, when we stayed at the hotel that sits above it for our anniversary, having dined across the street at Douglas’s Dahlia Lounge the night before.

Our only dinner at Lola was four years ago, when our friend Marion was in from Boston, staying at our house, and took us there. I can’t believe we waited so long to return, given how much we enjoyed our meals there, and how much we enjoy all things Tom Douglas. Lola is his Middle Eastern or Mediterranean place. We decided to order five small dishes to share: the hummus with smoky paprika; the salad with shaved asparagus, fennel, radish, and preserved lemon; the lamb meatballs with green garlic relish and mint; and two of the kebabs: Washington chicken with yogurt and dill and Washington king salmon with tarragon and capers.

What can I say? Everything was great. Perhaps my favorite, only because I had no great expectations and it was perfect, was the salad. I could eat that salad every night.

For dessert, Gail wanted the famous Tom Douglas doughnuts, the only problem being that they aren’t on Lola’s menu. They used to be, or at least we think so. And they’re on the Dahlia Lounge menu. Anyway, our waitress wasn’t fazed. She knew what Gail wanted and was happy to oblige, after pointing out that we might just want to try instead the doughnuts that are on the menu: loukoumathes with cinnamon and honey walnuts. Ultimately we took her advice and ordered both, so we could compare. They’re different, but equally wonderful. The loukoumathes are bigger, maybe a little heavier. The doughnuts, as always, come in a bag that one shakes to get them properly coated in sugar, with fresh jam and mascarpone as accompaniments.

I don’t think we’ll wait four years to go back.

3. Luc. We finally made it in, this past Monday night. This time we made a reservation, though we hardly needed it. We arrived at 5:00 and were met by the hostess we know well from Rover’s. She sat us in the front corner nook, just around the bend from the door — her favorite location, she said. In attendance were Gail, Joel, me. Joel had a beer and Gail a glass of wine, but I decided to go for one of the alcohol-free mixed drinks, an orange presse. It was described as having orange juice, club soda, orange soda, and basil. The basil added a delightful touch.

The menu had so many attractive options. We will need to return often. I eventually chose, as Gail did, to start with the arugula salad with caramelized shallots, fleur de sel, and olive oil. For the entree, Gail chose the boeuf bourguignon stew with mushroom, carrots, and potato, while Joel had the grilled beef onglet steak with peppercorn sauce and fries. I was tempted to get the sandwich special, which was a halibut sandwich that night, partly so I could try the accompanying fries, but Joel let me have a few of his fries and I chose instead the pasta of the day, which was noodles in a cream sauce with salmon and bacon.

Yet another perfect meal. Those fries were so good. Next time I might just go with the burger (beef burger, caramelized onions, tomato jam, arugula, Luc’s aioli, fries).

Dessert: I had the butterscotch crème brulée and Joel the chocolate & caramel cake with whipped cream. Plus, we all shared an order of 3 fruit jellies, which were apricot. More perfection.

That’s it from the restaurant front.

Categories: Restaurants

Sports Roundup

June 18, 2010 Leave a comment

2010 Tour de France

I explained (here and here) yesterday why I’ve been AWOL for the better part of two weeks. In addition to the distractions described therein, there’s the further on-going distraction of keeping up with major sporting events. In my effort to clear my blog klog, I will briefly touch on these.

1. Lacrosse. I left off in my lacrosse series on Memorial Day, previewing the Duke-Notre Dame men’s college championship game just hours before it began. Their presence as finalists ensured that the first new school since 1992 would be declared champion, and the first to break the stranglehold on the title of the super seven — Syracuse, Hopkins, Princeton, Virginia, UNC, Cornell, Maryland. I won’t repeat what I wrote about at length already. I’ll just note that Duke had been knocking at the door for years. They were due after two runner-up finishes and two additional semi-final appearances in their last five years (the fifth being the year that the school suspended the season in mid-stream). Notre Dame hadn’t been far off from breaking into the elite either, entering last year’s tournament as the #2 seed before being upset in the first round. Duke was the obvious favorite between the two, having beaten favorites all tournament long, especially after its upset victory over #1 seed Virginia in the semi-finals. But ND was impressive too, thanks to its great goalie and strong defense, which had led to successive, low-scoring upsets of Princeton, Maryland, and Cornell earlier in the tournament.

The game was another defensive gem, as the two teams traded goals to repeatedly tie the game at 1-1, 2-2, 3-3, 4-4, and 5-5, forcing the inevitable sudden-death overtime. And then it was over in a snap. Duke’s Costabile took the overtime’s opening faceoff at midfield, ran straight down the middle toward the ND goal, squeezing between Duke defenders, took a shot, and beat ND goalie Scott Rodgers for the victory with only five seconds gone. Game over. Duke had won. A stunner.

2. Tennis. I can’t say I watched much of the French Open. I followed it on-line, but didn’t see much live action. I awakened two Saturdays ago too late to catch the women’s final, which after all didn’t last long. The next morning, as described elsewhere, I was absorbed in learning OmniFocus. When I remembered, I ran to the TV and turned it on, only to see Nadal celebrating his just-completed win over Soderling. Oh well.

3. Basketball. Speaking of not watching much, I have been allergic to watching basketball for years now. Not that I’m uninterested. I keep up with who’s who and what’s what. But I spent enough years devoted to the NBA. I have nothing left to give.

Championship seventh games aren’t that common. I figured I had to watch last night. But I didn’t turn it on until the start of the fourth quarter, and even then, it just didn’t interest me enough to stay with it. I came back with 3 minutes to go. The Celtics were once my life. No more. Still, I was rooting for them, to the extent that I cared. Disappointing result. Joel pointed out that I should be pleased that the Laker victory hinged on the performance of my namesake (Ron Artest). There’s that. I wondered how much satisfaction I should take in Reagan’s presidency.

4. Hockey. I noted in my preview post on the Stanley Cup finals that I would be rooting for the Blackhawks over the Flyers. I watched more of this series than the basketball championship series — a period here, a period there. Last week, the three of us gathered in front of the TV with takeout teriyaki dinner to watch the overtime period of the 6th game. Patrick Kane’s goal 4:10 into overtime ended the game and the series. Very satisfying. I kept watching for the usual festivities — each player skating around with the cup, the group photo. Excellent.

5. Soccer. It all started a week ago this morning. The World Cup, that is. Just two hours ago, we watched the end of the US-Slovenia tie. We still don’t understand why the referee disallowed the US winning goal. Even Joel is waking up daily for the 7:00 AM broadcast. Typically we miss the 4:30 AM game, but watch the 7:00 AM game and perhaps part of the 11:30 AM game. Yesterday, not by design, I was up for the 4:30 game. I don’t always watch with full attention, or continuously, but the morning routine of turning on the game first thing has been one of the reasons I’m not blogging much lately.

I have no special insights, as Joel has consistently pointed out. I will say no more.

6. Golf. The US Open started yesterday. We watched just a few minutes of coverage. That will change tomorrow. Sunday I will cash in my Father’s Day rights by watching it all day. Oh, maybe I need to watch soccer too. Sunday’s 11:30 AM game is Brazil versus Ivory Coast. That’s a must see, and the Open leaders may not have teed off yet. Could do both.

7. Coming up. July is always the peak sporting month of the year for me. There’s the weekend when Wimbledon ends and the Tour de France starts. Two weeks later comes the biggest sporting weekend of the year, as the British Open golf championships run in parallel with the second week of the Tour. Enough! But this year, thanks to the World Cup, with semi-finals and finals running during the first week of the Tour, [It’s two weeks later and I see that through an editing error, this sentence didn’t get completed. I hesitate to fill in the blank retroactively. Perhaps the intended point was clear enough.]

Though this post might give the impression that I follow sports full time, I will have other obligations those weeks. Indeed, I just realized that I managed to schedule a lecture and a doctor’s appointment on the Wednesday of the second World Cup semi-final. What was I thinking?

Perhaps I’ll have more to say in the coming weeks, if I have any time.

Categories: Sports