Work has been hectic so it’s been hard to update, so I apologize for the infrequency of my posts. Things are getting better so I hope to get more posts out in lesser intervals.

Anyways,

I was watching a show about cocktails on Hulu called Great Cocktails, getting ready for our cocktail party and they featured a bartender from SF, from a bar called Cantina. This reminded me of a new place in Oakland called Camino. From the website it seems like the restaurant is about local and fresh produce and not trying to have a huge menu, but just a few things, but done fresh and right. Similar to Bar Jules, one of my favorite new restaurants, I have high hopes for this place, although it seems to be getting some mixed reviews. Time will tell, and I must go check it out soon.

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Now that Halloween is just around the corner, one of the things that I miss is the large Castro Street Halloween party. It was a time to gather friends and go costume watching. Well the city put a stop to it so no more Castro. The bad thing about the Castro was the huge crowds and the aimless wandering without a purpose, so I came up with an idea to have a purpose by having a Halloween Scavenger Hunt that will work for any place with lots of people in costume.

The rules are simple. People are divided into teams and set out with a list of costumes that they then must seek out and take a picture of. They were limited to 1 hour and could not use the same costume for multiple answers. After an hour everyone reconvened and shared answers. It helped that we had friends who lived within walking distance so we could meet up there and share our answers.

Here are the items that I came up with for the first Halloween Scavenger Hunt that we did with the answers that my team found below.

1st Halloween Scavenger Hunt Clue Sheet 2002.

The Questions

Teams must find each of the following.

1. – Any character from the a Wes Anderson film
2. – Any Lord of the Rings character
3. – Any animated character
4. – Any Pixar character
5. – Any secondary Simpsons character (no one from the immediate Simpson’s family)
6. – Any notable musician (has to be specific).
7 .– Any literary character (has to be specific).
8. – Any Nobel Prize winner
9. – Anything with a Hitchcockian theme
10. – Any comic book villain
11. – Any corporate logo
12. – Any group coordinated costume
13. – Any costume based on a play on words (i.e. cereal killer)
14. – Any costume that requires batteries or is power driven.
15. – Any food related costume.
16. – Any famous athlete (must be specific, not just someone wearing a jersey)
17. – Any costume that incorporates the use of ones own genitalia.
18. – Any famous artist or work of art. (must be specific)
19. – Any ethnic themed costume.
20. – Any television personality (i.e. Donahue, the Crocodile hunter, Oprah)

The Answers:

Halloween Scavenger Hunt 2002

Starting from the top row then across.
1. we found 2 people dressed up from the Royal Tennebaums.
2. I assume they guy dressed up as Gandalf
3. Scooby Dooby Doo!
4. Sully (& Mike) from Monster’s Inc.
5. Duff man!
6. Slash from Guns N’ Roses
7. Pinocchio from the book, right?
8. We all guessed that he dress up as Yasser Arafat
9. Another team saw a person with birds on a wire chasing them ala Birds, but we didn’t see anyone.
10. Catwoman
11. Boy’s Big Boy
12. more that one = a group so Teletubbies count.
13. Dr. Pepper. (*groan*)
14. As you can see in the picture the guy was wearing some sort of fiber optic suit.
15. McD’s french fry super super super sized.
16. Dennis Rodman
17. No quite there own genitalia, but close enough.
18. Van Gough
19. An Indian (of the Land O’ Lakes tribe) and the St. Pauli girl.
20. In a stroke of luck we ran across Sally Jessie Rafael AND Geraldo Rivera AKA Gerry Rivers.

If you are interested, here were the clues for the 2nd and 3rd Halloween Scavenger Hunts.

2nd Halloween Scavenger Hunt Clue Sheet 2003.

Teams must find each of the following.

1. – Any Johnny Depp character
2. – Fighter Pilot Dubya
3. – Common household item
4. – A Nemo character
5. – Mexican wrester
6. – Any 2002 California Gubernatorial candidate
7. – Any Stephan King character.
8. – Anyone of the Forbes.com Billionaires
9. – Frank Chu
10. – Fast Food mascot
11. – Any dead famous musician that is not Elvis.
12. – Any group coordinated costume
13. – Any costume based on a play on words (i.e. cereal killer or bargain hunter)
14. – Any video game character
15. – Costume incorporating a pet.
16. – Any participant of the 2003 World Series, ALCS or NLCS.
17. – Any Non-American celebrity.
18. – Any famous work of art. (must be specific)
19. – Any Quentin Tarantino character.
20. – Any Internet icon or sponsor.

3rd Halloween Scavenger Hunt Clue Sheet 2004.

Teams must find each of the following.

1. – Tom Hanks character
2. – Vice-President or Vice-Presidential Candidate
3. – Charles Dickens character
4. – 2004 Olympic participant
5. – Reality TV icon
6. – 80’s music icon
7. – Michael Moore
8. – Non-Pixar CG animated character
9. – Historical Military Figure
10.– Any original trilogy Star Wars character (not Luke, Han, Leia, or Darth Vader, and must be specific. Will not accept generic soldiers)
11. – Costume thats incorporating a cape.
12. – Talk show host
13. – Costume based on a play on words (i.e. cereal killer or bargain hunter)
14. – Video game character
15. – Alien
16. – Red Sox player or fan.
17. – Non-American television or movie celebrity.
18. – Famous work of art. (must be specific)
19. – Food industry character that is not restaurant or fast food chain related.
20. – Anyone with a similar costume as a team member. (must take photo together)

Enjoy and Happy Halloween.

I’ve been struggling with my iTunes library for some time. I have about 500 GB of mp3s, all from various sources and it has gotten out of hand. For the most part I was fine with my sloppy, unorganized library, thinking that one day I would clean it up and it would be easy but it wasn’t needed right now. This really didn’t become apparent till I finally got an ipod controller for my car and while trying to go through my artists, it took forever just to scroll through the “B”‘s . The problem was the following:

for one artist I had multiple entries.

Example:

Ella Fitzgerald
Fitzgerald, Ella
Ella Fitzgerald & the Cotton Club Orchestra
Ella Fitzgerald & her Cotton Club Orchestra
Ella Fitzgerald and the Cotton Club Orchestra
etc. You get the point, not to mention all the misspellings.

After searching and searching for various programs my approach was a three fold fix. I was told that TuneUp was probably the program that I was looking for, but unfortunately it only works for a PC and not a Mac, though a Mac version is forthcoming. I’m a little reticent of the fact that it is a monthly fee based program rather than regular pay and play type one. Until I get to actually play around with it, I have to rely on what is currently available for me.

itunes-logo.jpg
iTunes

I first started in iTunes by going through all my artists and manually fixing all the multiple entries. I already decided that I would sacrifice accuracy for condensing some artist names. I also decided that I would have to move guests and featured artists to the song title instead of the artists field, also to consolidate the artists down. This is the most tedious part of the job.

MediaRageTitleText.jpg

For the second step I needed a little extra help. Some files had no tag information but had them inherent in the file names. I took a twofold approach. I decided to use Media Rage for this part. CDDB is a great resource IF you have the CD with you. Luckily there is FreeDB which is the CDDB equivalent but has a searchable field to look up albums under artist name and album title. With Media Rage, I was able to look some of these albums up then transfer the id3 tag information to the proper files. Media Rage is also smart in the fact that if I was missing some songs in the album I could pick and choose the right tag information to be transferred over. This worked for the most part, but some compilations had artist as “Various Artists” and had the artist information as part of the song name, i.e “Save A Prayer – Duran Duran” as the song name. For these albums I used an iTunes applescript called Track Parser to correctly move the proper information to where it should be. This is a great script that can also move track number, album year, and any other information granted that they start in a single field and can be parsed out to other ones. Media Rage was also a great way just to see groups of files easily and batch change certain fields. It is lacking a slick interface and can get a little clunky since it is more a collection of miniprograms than a collective whole, so it takes a little getting used to. It doesn’t load from your iTunes library file so you can load what ever files you want, though it if is a lot of files, it takes a while to process.

The final great part of Media Rage is it’s ability to move files to an organized structure of your choosing. I’m not a big fan of how iTunes organizes it’s library. I tend to think in terms of genres instead of one lump sum. I like to organize my music like a record store where it is first split up by genres, then artists, then albums. The only tricky part about this structure are albums that do not necessarily fit into one genre or the other and how specialized a genre you want to create. For my sake I just split it up into Rock (encompassing the bulk of my files), Hip Hop, Dance, Soundtracks, Jazz, International, Reggae. The other tricky genres I picked were Oldies, Vocals, Lounge, and R&B. Vocals tend to be like Frank Sinatra or Bing Crosby, where it is not necessarily Jazz but more Pop. Oldies are also a little on the fuzzy side, but for the most part they encompass non-Jazz, pre 1960’s music. Lounge is reserved for artists like Esquivel, or Moog music. R&B is the most fuzzy, but so far I choose my Funk, Soul, and Blues artist to go there. Media rage will copy, move, or create aliases based on tag information to an organized folder structure. Therefore if I have The Beatles’ Rubber Soul floating on a temporary folder, I could then automatically move them to the Rock>The Beatles> and newly created Rubber Soul subfolder.

Since I have done a proper pass on existing tag information and have added new tag information I now have to take another pass through the Artist field once more.

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My third step is to get album covers for the ones that were missing. I first noticed that a few album covers showed up for every song on the same album in Cover Flow view. This was due to a compilation album not being set as such in iTunes. So step one is to go through all compilations and making sure that they where tagged as such in iTunes. Unfortunately, while you can see if they have the proper tag information in Media Rage, there seems to be a bug where if you try and change it as a batch it actually does not stick change the files, so you need to manually go through each song one by one to mark it as a compilation. The faster way is to see which albums are missing this information then finding them back in iTunes to then changing them as a group there. Very frustrating! Now onto the album covers. After trying out a few programs, such as Amazon Cover widget, Fixtunes, Media Rage, and even iTunes itself, with each having it’s pros and cons, I went with Cover Scout. Media Rage did an okay job, but only looked at Amazon and it’s international sites to find album covers. Others worked only on the song that was currently playing in iTunes. In Cover Scout you can do batch runs to find the proper album covers AND choose to see if it is indeed the correct one or correct size before applying it. The other great thing is that you can also search using google images or any web page for that manner. You can also use your isight camera for a self made cover. One thing to note is that by adding covers to all of my files, my library has gotten bigger in size, though I do not know by how much.

All in all, with media storage being cheaper and cheaper and more people like me having large libraries, there needs to be an all encompassing program for these mundane tasks. TuneUp seems to be the forerunner in the field, and FixTunes also has promise (although buggy and not quite the interface I was looking for). For the time being I will continue to consolidate my library using this method unless anyone has a better way.

UPDATE: 3/17/09

Looks like TuneUp is available for the Mac finally. I’ve tried it out and it found some things, but didn’t find others. 3 annoying things about it is that is it a subscription service, so unless you constantly are getting new music and want to keep it organized, it is hard to justify the on going cost. The 2nd thing is that you must register for the program to work, not a huge gripe, but yet another place for a registration name and password. Finally, there is no launch options. Whenever you have iTunes up, TuneUp also automatically launches and creates a side bar next to your iTunes window. It is highly annoying and I wish that you had to option to turn off automatic launch.

Although I haven’t been aggressively attacking my iTunes library as before, I’m still using the same methods. Although I did hear of a friend using Shazaam on his iPhone to help find songs with absolutely no id tag information. YMMV.

b-boys in old oakland

Sorry I haven’t posted in a while. I have a backlog of posts that I’m trying to get through but while on vacation it was very hard to motivate to do anything.

I’m back from my vacation (posts to come soon), so here goes.

Old Oakland is buzzing. It’s slowly coming together and there is just something about it that I love. I love the atmosphere, the people, the fact that everyone I know that lives in Oakland is proud of it. It’s always hard to live in the shadow of the more well known city (like Baltimore and D.C.), but it’s that underdog attitude that attracts and binds. It is seldom you will hear any San Franciscan say that they are proud of The Mission, or The Haight, both similar neighborhoods to Old Oakland. It used to be that to have a cosmopolitan night out you had to venture across the Bay Bridge, but with great restaurants like Tamarindo, B, and Levende East, and great bars like The Trappist, you don’t have to venture far.

Just the other day there was an art opening for a show at FiveTen Gallery. They had blocked at street to celebrate with b-boys strutting their stuff on the side walk. With all the hype about the crime in Oakland, it’s great to see just people enjoying themselves out at night.

In memory of Don LaFontaine who passed away recently. This is my favorite bit which features 5 of the top voice over actors.

Nama

The Dimond district is changing slowly. First came the large Farmer Joe’s, then a Peet’s coffee, then La Farine, and now Nama, where an old diner used to be. It really shows a change in the neighborhood once a sushi place opens. There even is an Indian place opening up a few doors down as well.

Nama represents a change in the neighborhood. It just goes to show the wide spread acceptance of sushi as a cuisine in Oakland when it ventures outside of the Rockridge and Grand Lake areas.

The interior is nicely laid out with an open space feel. There was a buzz in the air as people stopped by to read the menu outside and a steady stream of people came inside. The menu looks like a typical sushi/Japanese restaurant, with a variety of rolls and a compliment of hot entrees such as donburi, udon, and soba, though the BBQ ribs on the menu tips off that the place is Korean run (you can order hwedupbap here, sometimes referred to as sashimi salad, but known here as spicy chirashi) The prices also seem on par with other places like Miyozen and Drunken Fish.

Nama

I didn’t get to eat in, but I did get takeout. I ordered the Chicken Nan Ban, which is a deep fried chicken with a tonkatsu-like taste. It wasn’t overly breaded and the plethora of vegetables was nice. It wasn’t overly sweet either. Nothing stellar, but nothing bad either.

Nama

The spicy chirashi (hwedupbap) was a little pricey at $19 but it came with plenty of sashimi, and all the fixings. It was nicely seasoned but Miyozen offers a better version of this Korean dish. The caterpillar roll was typical of all caterpillar rolls though it wasn’t over sauced, which was nice. I didn’t try any of the sushi besides the caterpillar roll.

Though nothing jumped out at me, the quality of the food was on par with your average neighborhood sushi joint. I will have to go back and have the full dining experience at the bar but I don’t have high hopes for the sushi, since I am very picky about my sushi. The hot dishes however seem to have potential for me coming back for more, especially for take out (since it is on my way home from work). Nama is a great addition to the area and they have my best wishes for its success.

King of Thai coming to Alameda

King of Thai Noodle House is coming to Alameda. That San Francisco fast food staple that is King of Thai, with it’s multiple locations, is making the trek over to the East Bay. First Burma Super Star, and now King of Thai. There is just something about the island city that is attracting the City by the Bay. I’m not sure when exactly it will be open but it is taking over the old Araujos location on Park St. and Pacific Ave.

Even though in Berkeley you could throw a stick and hit 2 Thai restaurants on the way, there is just something about King of Thai. If you haven’t been to the vary many locations of King of Thai, then you have been missing out on very simple, quick, and cheap eats. My favorites being the crab fried rice and the thai fried chicken over rice. Stay tuned for more info as I find out more.