Shake, Rattle, and Roll

Today we had an earthquake. Sure, there are earthquakes just about every day. But I don’t feel most of them, so this one seemed noteworthy at 5.4 on whatever scale it is that they use these days. According to the geologist who participated in the post-earthquake online chat in the Washington Post, the Richter Scale is so 2007. Who knew?

I was on the 10th floor of our office building, which is built on some rollers–the better to withstand earthquakes. And the construction seems to have worked, because the building was definitely rolling. After some period of time (it seemed like a couple of minutes, but really I have no idea), the building creaked through its final adjustments as it settled back into place. Then we began the time-honored tradition of telling The Tales of Earthquakes Each Of Us Has Experienced in the Past. They’re basically all the same story. And now I have another version.

Happy Birthday to Me

It’s not my birthday. In fact, it’s nowhere near my birthday, which was in February. However, two of my friends gave me a gift card to Lawry’s. If you’re not familiar with Lawry’s, since the 1930s they’ve served prime rib with mashed potatoes, Yorkshire pudding, and the restaurant’s Famous Original Spinning Bowl Salad. My family loves Lawry’s so much that a homemade version has become our annual Christmas tradition, although we’ve never tried to make the salad.

The salad is made by spinning a bowl in a larger bowl of ice, and the dressing is poured on in a continuous stream. The recipe includes canned beets, which I thought sounded horrible, but actually turned out to be a nice addition to the mix.

The prime rib is carved tableside, in a large steel cart that is wheeled around the restaurant. And unlike the beef I’m generally able to buy for our traditional Christmas dinner, the prime rib is actually prime–more tender and flavorful than most steaks you’re likely to encounter. We also ordered sides of asparagus with hollandaise sauce, and creamed corn. Christmas dinner features creamed spinach in place of those, but based on tonight, I may want to introduce creamed corn to the tradition.

One of the things I like about Lawry’s is that many traditional restaurants have male servers, as though somehow men are inherently classier than women. At Lawry’s, the servers are women–although the carvers, at least the ones we saw, were men. The service, by the way, was excellent. At the end of the meal, our server brought me a complimentary serving of the restaurant’s trifle (what’s a traditional English dinner without trifle, after all?).

So in the end, what does it matter when my birthday really is? This would be a welcome gift at any time.

Gentlemen Prefer Fixer-Uppers…

…but men marry move-in ready. (Anita Loos, I’m not)

The original plan for today was for both of us to take a vacation day, so that we could meet with a financial planner. This was rescheduled from about three weeks ago, when the financial planner canceled on us. Naturally, the financial planner called today to cancel. We’re starting to wonder how badly he wants our business.

So instead, we ran a handful of errands (once again, I owed money to the public library) and drove by a few houses. Several seemed like they would be worth visiting with the realtors, but one stood out–not because it seems like our dream house, but because we like the idea of it.

The house is small, and in pretty rough condition. The lot, however, is enormous–1/2 acre in an L-shape. There are two other houses adjacent, and both of them appear to be empty as well. Our guess is that there was originally a much larger lot, and that two parcels were sold off, while the remaining one and land behind those parcels was retained.

There’s plenty of room to build something fantastic, if only we could afford to both buy and build. And even if you put a larger house on the site, you’d still have a lot of open ground. J said, “You’d have plenty of room to grow organic vegetables,” and I said, “I’d have to quit my job, hire workers, and sell everything at the farmer’s market.” And that’s just not going to happen.

But it does have a certain draw, particularly since the other houses and lots in the area are also a bit ranch-y. It’s a neighborhood that retains a touch of its historic flavor, and both of us find that appealing.

In the end, though, I think J summed it up nicely: “I want to fantasize about it, not marry it.”

Greening Our Home

Here are things we want to do to reduce the environmental impact of whatever house we wind up buying.

  • Add solar panels
  • Plant a vegetable garden and fruit trees
  • Insulate, insulate, insulate
  • Install weatherstripping
  • Recycle
  • Compost
  • Set up cisterns for water catchment
  • Put in an attic fan
  • Build a windmill (okay, a turbine) (J is Dutch) (half Dutch)
  • Set up some sort of gray-water system
  • Cover the windows with triple-cell honeycomb blinds
  • Buy a front-loading washer
  • Use a clothesline (we air-dry a lot now, but it takes up a lot of floor space inside)
  • Build a water-permeable driveway

Hmm. It seems like we have more goals than that. But it’s a start.

I’m Glad I Don’t Live in Gotham City

This morning I went to Target and Whole Foods (what demographic does that represent, I have to wonder?). At the latter, I found the gourmet chocolate display, which included several Vosges Haute Chocolat bars. Which did I pick? Why, Mo’s Bacon Bar, of course, described as “applewood smoked bacon, Alder wood smoked salt, deep milk chocolate.” I decided that it had to be either delectable or disgusting. It wound up being just okay–not gross (well, maybe a little gross) and kind of weird tasting, but definitely chocolate-y. However, that was not the defining activity of the day: next, we went to the movies.

The Dark Knight lives up to the hype. It’s dark and tense, and Heath Ledger’s performance as The Joker is simply amazing. What a loss that was.

At least this Gotham looked like a place that would actually have residents; in Batman Begins, I couldn’t understand why anyone at all would live in that ruined city. Even Katie Holmes’s wretched Rachel Dawes couldn’t plausibly have been that much of an idealist. Speaking of Rachel Dawes, neither J nor I cared at all about the character, even after Maggie Gyllenhaal took over the role. Rachel just isn’t a compelling character. Although as I said to J, “Are any of Batman’s girlfriends all that compelling? Did you care about Vicky Vale?” And it turns out the answer is no–Batman movies lack compelling female characters.

On the other hand, I didn’t want to see this movie for Rachel Dawes. I went to see it for Heath Ledger, Christian Bale, and a slew of Batgadgets. And they did not disappoint.

This movie was really nerve-wracking. Based on how they develop Harvey Dent’s storyline, I’m not sure I’ll be able to watch a third movie in this series.

So I guess that you could sum up my review thusly. The Dark Knight: Better than chocolate with bacon.

A Little Light Reading

Our realtors just called; apparently there has been a scheduling mix-up, and they had to cancel this Sunday’s outing. My first thought was “Oh! I can read magazines!”

I love magazines. Somehow they manage to present the perfect combination of information and fluff. If you suspect that I’m not talking about The Economist, you’re right. It’s informative, but wow, is it dense. (Although the photo captions are excellent.)

Over the years, I’ve had an astonishing number of subscriptions. Eventually, though, a magazine will run through its material, and it becomes far too obvious that the editors are trying to put a new spin on old news. After several years, for example, I wasn’t sure that Allure and Self had much more to tell me.

Sometimes the entire tone of a magazine changes. Once upon a time, Glamour used to present a cross-section of fashion, beauty, and women’s issues. Ironic? Sure. But there was a lot going on in that magazine, and I enjoyed it. At some point, though, it became a repository of reader-submitted anecdotes and Top 10 lists. And it turns out that Glamour readers have lives that I don’t really want to read about.

Over the past few years, I’ve moved toward a selection of health, home life, and cooking magazines. I like to read a magazine without interruption, which means that they generally stack up until J goes for a long bike ride.

While Women’s Health doesn’t seem to have shown up this month, and Gourmet is floating somewhere out there in the postal system, I do have Everyday Food, Prevention, and Real Simple to look forward to. Somewhere around here is this week’s copy of Time. And since tomorrow is Saturday, and Saturday means mail delivery, who knows what else may lie ahead?

Quincy’s BBQ

Quincy’s serves “the best BBQ under one woof,” which is a little cutesy. However, the pulled pork is quite good, and the chicken is really tender. After several trips up and down Ventura Boulevard–and a couple of meals at The Habit (excellent burgers, fries, and onion rings, BTW), we decided that Quincy’s was our next stop. Both food and service were good, and although it isn’t our favorite place in the Valley, it’s not half bad.

Oh, and we put an offer on a house. How’s that for burying the lede?

Netflix

When a DVD arrives from Netflix, J and I put it on top of the television. And there it sits, until we watch it. The problem is that while our queue is full of movies that we want to see, very few of them are, shall we say, lighter fare. As I mentioned in a previous post, There Will Be Blood sat on top of the TV for two months before we saw it. The Conversation also lasted about that long as well.

This week, however, we’ve made some progress. Last night we watched Alfred Hitchcock’s Foreign Correspondent, and it didn’t live up to a review that I read somewhere I can’t quite remember. Frankly, I can’t remember much about the movie, and it hasn’t even been 24 hours. George Sanders was, as usual, the standout. Whatever it was he did.

Tonight we watched The Illusionist. It’s not as complex a story as The Prestige, which we saw several months ago. However, it’s well-constructed and shot beautifully, and the performances are excellent. Of course, what else would you expect from Edward Norton and Paul Giamatti? J felt that Rufus Sewell’s Prince Leopold was too plainly a villain, but based on what little I know about the waning Hapsburgs, he would have fit right in.

So now I’m wondering what movie I should move to the top of the Netflix queue. Currently Pollock heads the list, and I have the feeling that it will hold a place of honor on top of the TV for longer than makes sense.