The Oceanaire Seafood Room, San Diego

I’ve just returned from a conference in San Diego. Overall, it was a pretty dismal experience, food-wise. Rubber convention center chicken burgers, a rat in the dining room of the not-very-good Indian restaurant we tried. The restaurants in the Gaslamp quarter are there for the tourists and they don’t bother with anything more than a pretense at quality (although they don’t worry about overcharging for their pitiful fare).

When we decided to arrange a large dinner, I let the most food-quality-conscious person involved pick the restaurant. When I found out that the choice was the Oceanaire, I was excited: we had been meaning to try their Seattle location and one of their chefs is a contestant on Top Chef, a tv show we enjoy. Also, by this point, I was getting tired of really bad food. The best meals I’d had in San Diego were catered meeting food and that is not a good thing.

The Oceanaire seems to be a bit more of the style-over-substance kind of place. From the decor to the food presentations: Our appetizer platters were delivered as 2 foot tall ice mountains with various pieces of seafood stuck to the side. These were fairly good. Of course, there was no cooking involved, but at least they seemed to have gotten quality seafood.

My main course was a disappointment. I had a piece of Alaskan Halibut that was overcooked and had very little flavor. The potato/asparagus mixture sitting underneath the fish was quite good, but I had a bit of a hard time finishing the fish. At the conclusion of the main course, I noticed that several of my companions had not finished their main courses.

Desert was another over-the-top affair. We ordered several of the deserts for our party and split them amongst ourselves.  Each of these deserts was huge, suitable for 2-3 people and each of them they had the subtlety of an atom bomb. It wasn’t chocolate cake, it was CHOCOLATE CAKE!!!!! Most the of the desserts were ok, not outstanding. The New Yorkers at the table felt that the New York Cheesecake had the right flavors, but the wrong consistency. The bread pudding (usually one of my favorite items) was basely edible. Everything else was ok.

This meal with wine came to around $100/person. For me, I have to compare it to Seattle restaurants. I think that the food quality is a bit above Salty’s, Cutter’s or Palisade, but not by that much. It is also that kind of place, more for the tourists.

Let me put it this way: if I have $100/person to spend and I want seafood, I’ll go somewhere better. If I want to celebrate a special event, I’d probably do it at one of the view places I mentioned above. However, if friends wanted to go there, I’d probably go again just to see if I got them on an off night. If I was served the same meal I got this week, I probably would never return.

More on investors bouying the Seattle Real Estate Market

The Seattle Bubble blog pointed me at this article from Forbes listing Seattle as the best place in the US to flip a house. Anyone shopping for a house within twice the median price in Seattle isn’t surprised by this at all. I’d say at least 40% of the houses we looked at were houses that had been purchased within 12 months and had their prices multiplied between 1.5 and 2 when being re-listed. All praise be to RedFin for making it ever easier to find the flippers by actually listing sales history on their pages.

I won’t buy flipper houses on principle. Even if you like the flippers’ aesthetic, you can’t trust their commitment to quality. If you aren’t ever going to live in a home, you are going to be more than willing to cut any corners that a prospective buyer won’t notice immediately. I really didn’t feel like paying insane premiums for a fresh coat of paint and a cheap kitchen remodel.

Seattle Bubble has also pointed me at ReMuddle which takes joy at pointing out lame flipper houses. What is scary is how many of them we’ve toured or driven past in our searches.

Another Bush Administration sell-out to corporate America

Third scandal today!

The Interior Department said Friday that it would review and probably overturn eight decisions on wildlife and land-use issues made by a senior political appointee who has been found to have improperly favored industry and landowners over agency scientists.

The appointee, Julie A. MacDonald, resigned on May 1 as a deputy assistant secretary for fish and wildlife and parks, after an internal review found that she had violated federal rules by giving government documents to lobbyists for industry. The agency’s inspector general also found several instances in which Ms. MacDonald browbeat department biologists and habitat specialists and overruled their recommendations to protect a variety of rare and threatened species.

full article: U.S. Agency May Reverse 8 Decisions on Wildlife – New York Times

FEMA Malfeasance

How much more incompetent can this administration get. Every time I think we’ve hit bottom with the Bush administration’s lack of respect for the American people, they manage to find another bottom.

More than 66,000 of the victims still live in FEMA’s trailers, unable to return home. In a sickening twist to their woeful tale of neglect, it appears that their trailers have been poisoning them. FEMA, which knew of the problem for more than a year, ignored warnings from its own staff and avoided addressing it because it was worried about being sued.

A Congressional investigation has discovered that in March 2006, FEMA was made aware that trailers housing hurricane evacuees contained levels of formaldehyde that were up to 75 times the recommended safety threshold. Exposure to formaldehyde, a preservative used in plywood or particleboard, has been linked to vision and respiratory problems, allergies in children and cancer.

full article: FEMA Runs for Cover – New York Times

George Bush hates children (poor children anyway)

The belief in his convictions, and the lack of an executive office successor is allowing George Bush to really show his true stripes as his administration collapses around his ankles. Because the S-Chip bill expands government coverage for children instead of forcing poor families into un-affordable private health care (those with children already sick would be denied for pre-existing conditions anyway), he is going to veto it. This will force families on the low end of the earning ladder to drop health care for their children or make some really tough choices. Those families with children who are already sick will be forced way below the poverty line to afford the expensive medicines and procedures keeping their children alive. Or their children will just die so that George Bush can hand more profit to the insurance companies.

President Bush is threatening to veto any substantial increase in spending for a highly successful children’s health program on the bizarre theory that expanding it would be the “beginning salvo” in establishing a government-run health care system. His shortsighted ideological opposition would leave millions of children without health insurance at a time when medical costs are soaring.

The president’s ire was provoked by a bipartisan bill approved by the Senate Finance Committee last week that would expand the so-called State Children’s Health Insurance Program, a joint federal-state effort that, over the last decade, has substantially reduced the number of uninsured children in the country. The program, known as S-chip, seeks to cover children whose family income is too high to qualify for Medicaid but too low to afford costly private coverage. It is due to expire on Sept. 30 unless Congress reauthorizes it.

full article: Vetoing Children’s Health – New York Times

had my first

new Harry Potter book sighting in the wild this morning. At 8am. Being carried (prominently) by an unpleasant-looking 40-something woman. Without children. Coming out of Macrena.

Her bookmark was a good 200+ pages in.

Microsoft Expands in Canada Amid U.S. Visa Crunch

Microsoft Expands in Canada Amid U.S. Visa Crunch

Microsoft Corp. said on Thursday it will open a software development center in Vancouver, giving it a place to employ skilled workers snagged by U.S. immigration quotas.

It may signal the start of a new hiring trend, with other U.S. high-tech firms following in Microsofts footsteps to Canada, where lawyers say it is easier for foreign nationals to obtain work credentials.

This is a smart move for the company on one hand. Since the beginning, MS has concentrated development in Redmond, continuously expanding as the company grew until it owns so much of the town that there is serious concern that there are not enough actual residents there. Satellite offices at MS might as well not exist at all as far as most of the Redmondites are concerned. Moving Research and Mobile to the other side of the 520 sent a pretty strong signal about their relative importance. Those folks might as well be on mars. Now imagine what it will be like in Vancouver. It is time for this company that has tens of thousands of workers to spread out a bit. I would imagine that they are also losing applicants because of the high cost of living in the Seattle area as well.

However, the one thing that MS is forgetting to state in all of this is that by opening offices in Canada, they are saving money. They could get all the qualified applicants they could ever want if they would pay them well relative to the rest of the industry. Since MS isn’t willing to be competitive with salaries, they have become dependent on the modern day equivalent of indentured workers, H1-B visa holders. Now that congress has been (wisely) closing that loophole, MS is taking their ball and going home. That will show those employees wanting more than a %2 raise from the most profitable software company in existence!

Second Life: on the decline

Virtual marketers have second thoughts about Second Life – Los Angeles Times

At — where the cost is $6 a month for premium citizenship — shopping, at least for real-world products, isn’t a main activity. Four years after Second Life debuted, some marketers are second-guessing the money and time they’ve put into it.

“There’s not a compelling reason to stay,” said Brian McGuinness, vice president of Aloft, a brand of Starwood Hotels & Resorts Worldwide Inc. that is closing its Second Life shop and donating its virtual land to the nonprofit social-networking group TakingITGlobal.

For some advertisers, the problem is that Second Life is a fantasyland, and the representations of the people who play in it don’t have human needs. Food and drink aren’t necessary, teleporting is the easiest way to get around and clothing is optional. In fact, the human form itself is optional.

Their interests seem to tend toward the risque. Ian Schafer, chief executive of online marketing firm Deep Focus, which advises clients about entering virtual worlds, said he recently toured Second Life. He started at the Aloft hotel and found it empty. He moved on to casinos, brothels and strip clubs, and they were packed. Schafer said he found in his research that “one of the most frequently purchased items in Second Life is genitalia.”

Another problem for some is that Second Life doesn’t have enough active residents.

On its website, Second Life says the number of total residents is more than 8 million. But that counts people who signed in once and never returned, as well as multiple avatars for individual residents. Even at peak times, only about 30,000 to 40,000 users are logged on, said Brian Haven, an analyst with Forrester Research.

Others just want to access a larger community than Second Life offers. Between May and June, the population of active avatars declined 2.5%, and the volume of U.S. money exchanged within the world fell from a high of $7.3 million in March to $6.8 million in June.


Apple: No BS iPhone Review – Gizmodo

Apple: No BS iPhone Review – Gizmodo
Gizmodo iPhone review

I think I’ve been a fairly restrained geek for pretty much ignoring it on my blog before now. No, I don’t own one. No, I don’t plan on buying one… yet. Like the gizmodo writer, there are some fundamental things missing for me: MMS being something I use a lot on a phone that cost me 1/4 the price of the iPhone, video capture being a second. The iPhone is missing both low-end obvious features that I use a lot, and also high-end features that I want in a phone that is so expensive. So, I’ll wait.