57 years ago today US Patent 2,612,994 was granted for the barcode.
There's fine french dining, and then there's Robuchon's extravagant replica Loire chateau in the heart of Tokyo. It is undeniably luxurious, elegant and beautiful, yes, but yet at the same time, flamboyantly over-the-top because it is in the middle of Tokyo! Maybe it's the Japanese and their meticulous building prowess or more likely it is because it is housing someone of Monsieur Robuchon's stature, the chateau didn't seem at all ridiculous or cheesy, which these types of replicas tend to be in Asia.
Inside, there's a bakery in the basement level, a less expensive restaurant on the first floor and two stories of his finest cooking on the second and third levels of the chateau. Dinner for two can cost as much as ¥10,000/US$1100 after drinks and service in the upstairs restaurant.
Amazingly, in the first floor restaurant, there is a ¥2950 per person set meal option during lunch. US$30 (give or take, depending on prevailing exchange rate) for a meal at this high temple of fine French dining? I'm there.
The Mac cognoscenti are all aflutter, rushing to heap praise on Apple for its daring "no features" Snow Leopard upgrade. There are many articles describing all the cool technical things going on in the background, from OpenCL to Grand Central Dispatch. It's groundbreaking. It's significant. If you only listened to the tech nerds, upgrading is a no-brainer. It's that good.
But I'm curious as to what the adoption rate will be after a few months. Judging from a sample of one, my girlfriend, a typical non-techy user, it won't be too good.
"So, your Macbook has new software (eschewing any technical terms like 'operating system,' or I would lose her right off the bat)."
"What's new about it?" she asked, very reasonably.
A pause as she looked at me like I'm wasting her time.
"Well, not nothing. There are a bunch of little tweaks here and there and it's supposed to be a little faster."
"Nah, I don't need it then," she pronounced. "It's working fine right now, why bother?"
True, by the way.
"Well, it's only US$30."
"Wha?!?? And this costs money? I definitely don't want it then."
"Well, it's good, trust me, let me install it." I insisted. I wanted to see all the hoopla myself (I don't use a Mac). She said fine, whatever, since I'm her one-man I.T. department. So a few days later, I installed it while she was at work.
She looked at it when she came home and said to me, "So? it looks the same."
I started pointing out the small differences here and there and she just shook her head and rolled her eyes at me like I'm a silly, silly boy.
I have updated Figure-Ground.com with two buildings from San Francisco:
These are the shows that I watch, ordered by preference:
- Lost (currently off the air and far and away my favorite, if I could only watch one show, this would be it)
- Curb Your Enthusiasm (currently off the air and, yes, Larry David is working on another season)
- The Office
- 30 Rock
- Weeds (currently off the air)
- Gossip Girl (yes, I admit it, I watch this and I love it)
- Ugly Betty
- The L Word (currently off the air)
- Desperate Housewives (there were a couple of crappy seasons in there, but this season's "reboot" has been good)
- Pushing Daisies (I love, love, love the set and costume designs of this series)
- Big Love (currently off the air)
- My Name Is Earl
- Smallville (I hate myself a little more every time I watch this shitty show)
- The New Adventures of Old Christine (mindless traditional sitcom, sometimes that hits the spot)
- Late Night with Conan O'Brien
- The Daily Show with Jon Stewart
- The Colbert Report
- PTI (I actually only listen to the podcasts instead of watching the show)
You add it up and I consume about 15 hours of television a week, give or take two hours, depending on what's on repeat. That's nearly one whole day (minus sleep) gone from my life due to TV. Scary. Good thing all commercials are zapped out, otherwise, I would be spending closer to 20 hours a week watching TV.
That's why I haven't started watching Battlestar Galactica, despite multiple recommendations (or Mad Men, or any other good show you might be wondering why I don't watch). I just can't add another show to my mix. Once I get invested in a show, it's nearly impossible for me to stop watching it, no matter how lame it becomes (see: Smallville... oh god please, let this be the last season... and I may have been one of ten viewers who watched every episode of Enterprise... that's about a hundred hours of my life I'll never get back). The only time in recent years that I have stopped watching a show has been Prison Break. I need to watch less TV, not more.
The first and only time I tried to make a reservation for el Bulli was in 2004 when I emailed them on January 7th for a table because I was told that they take reservations for the year starting in Jaunuary. Later, I found out that reservations for the following season are taken when the current season is completed, not at the beginning of the year as I erroneously thought. (Note: El Bulli is only open about six months per year in what they refer to as a "season," and each season starts and ends on different dates every year.) Of course they were unable to fill my reservation request.
I decided it's time to make a serious attempt at securing a reservation at el Bulli so I went to the reservation page on their website to determine when they will start accepting reservation requests for the following year.
I checked the reservation page out in mid-September and it said the 2009 season will start June 13th and ends December 20th and reservations will be accepted starting in mid-October of 2008, no exact dates given.
Not knowing what they mean by "mid-October," I sent an email (according to the reservation page, only email requests are accepted) to them on October 6th figuring that it's about a week into the month and maybe that's mid- enough for them. I asked for a dinner table for 4 for any available date for the 2009 season.
A day later I got my reply:
We do not take reservations for 2009 at this moment. You can send your request in mid October of 2008 to email@example.com as we never start the management until we have finished the season before.
October 14th-15-16th will be the first moment (there is not an exactly one to give the same option to the most possible of requests).
That sentence in parenthesis about not having an exact date was worrying but at least I have dates to work with now. So on the 14th at 2 p.m. (local time in Spain), I sent another reservation request. Again, I asked for a table for 4 for dinner for any available date.
There was no reply the next day like last time. I thought perhaps that's a good sign that they are working on fitting me into their reservation book. Because it would stand to reason that if it's full, they would just set some sort of auto-reply to all reservation requests coming in.
Two weeks later on the 28th I got my reply:
The demand that we have received at the first moment has again surpassed our limited possibilities for one season and we regret not to be able to full fill more reservation requests.
Son of a...
Their whole reservation process is so opaque that I can't even tell how I could improve my chances next year. You get one shot a year and it's very frustrating when you don't know exactly what you need to do in order to succeed.
Do I need to send my request at 00:01 on the first day of reservation? But when is that exactly? They gave me three dates and then said they can't tell me which one it is. So is it all a crapshoot? Should I have sent in a request at 00:01 on the 14th and then another on the 15th and another on the 16th? Then would I be in danger of annoying the reservationist and therefore getting my reservation canceled when three requests show up if they in fact started taking them on the first day? Send three requests on three different days from three different email accounts?
Do I get a better chance by requesting any dates or by requesting a specific date? Any date would seem more flexible and easier to accomodate but perhaps they don't want to deal with working with people who don't have firm dates?
Ah, just frustrating.
If you have a reservation, please tell me how you did it! Or better yet, let me join you! I'm crazy enough about food that I don't mind flying half-way across the world to eat with strangers! But seriously though, if anyone has a reservation that needs to be canceled, let me know, I'll happily take it.
I updated Figure-Ground.com with three buildings from Tokyo:
- Christian Dior Omotesando - SANAA
- Mikimoto Ginza 2 - Toyo Ito
- Tokyo International Forum - Rafael Viñoly
I still have about a half-dozen buildings that I have shot but have not had the chance to post.
As soon as I clicked "publish" on my previous entry complaining about excessive Mobile Safari crashing, I realized what I should have tried a long time ago: clear Mobile Safari's cache. And sure enough, after I cleared the cache and the cookies, I went nearly 2 hours of constant browsing before it finally crashed on me. Yes, it still crashed, but before clearing the cache, I couldn't even go 2 or 3 pages before it crashing.
My problem was that I kept thinking about the iPhone in terms of consumer electronics and phones and that it should "just work," thus I wasn't thinking in terms of troubleshooting the problem. It should just work, damit! Instead I should have been thinking about it in terms of what it really is—a tiny computer that makes phone calls. Computers crashing, that I have had plenty of experience with.
Now, if I could get the mail fetching to work again.
October 25, 2008 Update
Nope, not solved. It still crashes all over the place. With frequent purging of Mobile Safari cache, the frequency of crashes seems to be lower, but it still crashes way too often. I don't recall a single day without the browser crashing on me, and often it's multiple times.
The latest remedy I've tried is doing a hard reset (holding down the power and home buttons together for a few seconds) after the browser has crashed a few times in succession and that seems to make the crashing temporarily subside, but I'm not sure. The browser crashes so randomly that it's almost impossible to detect a pattern in order to identify a cause. It crashes on long pages, it crashes on short pages, it crashes on text heavy pages, it crashes on graphics heavy pages. It just crashes. Sometimes it can go for an hour without crashing. But then the crashes sometimes come in bunches. This is a typical scenario: Load page, finish loading, read, crash. Re-open Mobile Safari. Load a different page, during loading, crash. Open Mobile Safari again, load same page, finish loading. No crash. Yay! Load another page. Crash.
Maybe it just crashes whenever Mobile Safari runs out of memory which I assume is very easy to do since there's only 128mb of ram in the iPhone (what were they thinking?!). I think I read somewhere that Mobile Safari keeps running in the background until the OS needs the memory, so perhaps Mobile Safari just keeps crap in memory and grows and grows until it crashes.
I guess Mobile Safari is simply not ready to be used like I'm using it, which is usually at least an hour a day of browsing on it...
I haven't tried a complete restore from iTunes yet, but you know what? I don't want to spend days troubleshooting this damn thing!!! I give up. Forget about phones, even computers should not be this frustrating to use. It says something about the iPhone (its UI, its functionality, its packaging, and yes, its marketing... the Reality Distortion Field is strong with this one) that even with a major part of its functionality essentially broken (actually mail fetching is also broken, so that's two of its major functionalities), I can't even fathom giving it up and using another phone. I'm just going to have to suck it up and hope they fix it.
I have been using an iPhone 3G for just about a month and a half. It's been a decidedly up-and-down relationship with the device. On the one hand, it's the most amazing piece of consumer electronics I've ever used. On the other hand, it's the most frustrating one as well.
The bulk of my issues with the device (I hesitate to call it a "phone" because it is clearly much more than a phone) is that Mobile Safari is just too buggy. Firmware 2.1 did not improve on the stability, at least for me.
Sure, I browse the web on the iPhone when I'm out and about whenever I have some free time, but it turns out even more than a device to access the web when I'm not near a computer, the iPhone has become a go-to web access device even at home. It has taken the place of my laptop in bed right before I go to sleep, for example, and, yes, on the toilet if I'm having a... particularly big "download" queue.
But Mobile Safari crashes literally every few minutes for me. I haven't heard much of this issue being talked about online so I'm not sure if it's something with my particular iPhone. Bad memory perhaps? But nothing else on the phone appears to crash so it's limited to the Mobile Safari app (well, that and the NYTimes app, but I'm assuming that's using WebKit to render the pages so it's basically the same thing) which leads me to believe it's a software bug as opposed to a hardware one. It has crashed on basically every site I regularly visit (Google Reader, NY Times, Engadget, ESPN, to name a few). It crashes in the middle of doing nothing. For example, a page on NYTimes.com would finish loading and I would be in the middle of the article when Mobile Safari just quits to the home screen for no apparent reason.
Reading on a small screen in the palm of my hand turns out to be so satisfying for browsing the latest news that for the time being I'm putting up with the constant crashing, but it is extremely frustrating.
Phones and/or consumer electronics should not crash!
Putting aside the extreme bugginess (I've never used a web browser that crashed this much, literally every few minutes if I'm reading a lot of pages), Mobile Safari is s-l-o-w. The iPhone in general is no speed demon, but it really shows in Mobile Safari. I have a 10mbit connection at home, but you'd never know it if you judged it by the rendering speed on the iPhone.
But when it works, it's beautiful. It's like once you've used it, you can't go back to other phones, so you live with the slowness and crashiness just to experience the occasional high you get when it does work. It's like a bad drug.
It was a meal perfect in every way imaginable, except for one: it did not move me. In a way, the French Laundry starts off leaden with so much praise that it was impossible to match the hyperbole that has been heaped upon it. To its credit, it nearly did. Everything was executed to perfection, from the quaint and rustically luxurious (or is it luxuriously rustic?) setting to the attentive, yet non-intrusive service, to the food... oh the food was flawless. And I mean completely without any imperfections whatsoever. You could break down each dish any number of ways and examine it to the n-th degree of detail and you will not find the slightest mistake with it. Not the plating, not the texture, not the doneness, not the flavor, not even the spacing or the number of grains of salt crystals on the steak. The mastery and skill involved with each dish was evident—everything emphatically declared that you were experiencing the epitome of fine dining. Even the give-away chocolate truffles at the end were as good as any I've had from the best specialty shops.
All the wows, and it was a non-stop series of wows from beginning to end, were all in response to the quality of ingredients and the absolute precision in execution. No fireworks went off on the tongue. You could certainly argue that this is what fine dining is about, but for a restaurant widely considered one of the best in the world, I also expected to be challenged and surprised by taste, not just be bowled over by mastery of technique.