Delights of the Cheese Board for pizza
Dinner tonight at a Berkeley institution, Cheese Board Pizza. Have walked past this place for several weeks, enthralled by its popularity. Each day this co-op makes one kind of pizza, and people queue around the block to buy it. Tonight’s offering was zuchini, fetta, herbs and garlic oil on a thin, crispy crust. Three slices at $2.50 a slice had me in heaven. I sat on the street as a jazz quartet crooned my taste buds, watching the world walk by and admiring the starry night sky. A couple sat near me, the woman feeding pizza to a silky white pup in her handbag. Liked the fact you could buy relatively cheap beer ($2.50 a bottle) and wine ($4 a glass). Little wonder this place is so popular.
Quest, the future of public media
Visited KQED, one of America’s biggest NPR stations. Their science program, Quest, is one of the best examples of integration I have seen. Each year the 15 staff produce 48 x 6-minute weekly radio segments and 20 x 30-minute TV programs (each of 3 segments). All TV segments are shot in HD. Content is a mix of traditional broadcasting plus streaming, downloads and embeds. In 2007, 3.3 million people watched the TV broadcasts. Of those, almost a quarter (24.3%) watched online. This is a likely future for television, as IPTV and digital video recorders evolve. Quest has a strong educational component: Staff write teacher guides linking TV or radio segments to California’s high school curriculum. They also train educators in how to use media in classroom. Quest’s web site has a blog, updated daily by Bay area scientists, who get paid $25 a post. Flickr photo sets are linked to the site. Paul Rogers, Quest’s managing editor, said quality increases with openness. The aim is to build on the strengths of each medium. ”You have to go where the audience is.” Quest has a wiki that allows staff to suggest story ideas. Another innovation is a video player that people can embed on their web site. Quest is an excellent example of integration, and a likely future for public broadcasting.
Disease of affluence
I visit India about once a year. There, poor people are thin and rich people are fat. In the United States, it appears to be the reverse. Obesity is the disease of affluence in the western world.
Finger food taken with a grain of salt
Went to a local restaurant the night before last. Ate tandoori chicken with my fingers. Next morning my digits looked like I had been smoking for decades, such was the extent of the yellow-brown stain. The stain would not go away despite my scrubbing. Then my chin broke out in red blotches, and I felt awful all day yesterday. Feeling OK today. Do not usually blog about my health, but my worry is the level of colouring agents in food in this country. Every time I buy food at supermarkets I find myself focusing on the labels. One of my concerns is the high percentage of salt in many products. Indeed, people pay more for lower salt levels: Two identical products vary in price based on the amount of salt!
Cup of coffee versus a newspaper
All Starbucks coffee shops closed across the country for 3.5 hours yesterday. The company’s share price has dropped 40 per cent this year. CEO Howard Schultz decided to re-train all barristas, as part of a plan to revitalise the company. People spend an average of $3 each time they buy coffee in Starbucks. Yet people resist spending 50 cents to $1.25 for a daily newspaper. The San Francisco Chronicle offers an annual subscription for a mere $20. This effectively makes it a free daily. Yet circulation continues to decline. Compare the intellectual content in a daily newspaper with what you get in a paper cup from Starbucks … something is terribly wrong in how people perceive daily newspapers
Wonderful jazz at Yoshi’s
Wednesday February 27th 2008, 12:36 pm
Filed under: Uncategorized
My Albany neighbour and friend Andy Gilbert, jazz writer for The Boston Globe and other papers, took me to the premier jazz venue in San Francisco, Yoshi’s in Oakland, to hear a fine Brazilian singer, Claudia Villela. Her band featured Weber Iago on piano, bassist Gary Brown, drummer Celso Alberti and reed player Harvey Wainapel. One of my more memorable evenings in California. You can read Andy’s recent piece about her for the Globe here.
Sonoma pleasures continued
Final stop was Kunde Estate, on the Sonoma Highway at Kenwood. They charge a fee of $5 for tasting the estate wines, and $10 for the reserve wines. This is odd compared with Australia, where tasting is mostly free. But the economies of scale in America are much bigger. Sadly, most of the wines lacked flavour and zest, apart from the 2004 Dunfillan cuvee, a blend of syrah and cabernet sauvignon ($40). It’s a beautiful setting. And the idea of storing their wines in the caves under the nearby hill is a lovely site and notion. But the wines lacked something. Perhaps it was late in the afternoon. One’s palate diminishes as time passes. But it was a lovely day, with lots of sunshine and the splendid company of the witty Harvey Jacobs. Thank you, Harvey, for your driving skills.
The joys of the Sonoma Valley
Surprised to find that the Sonoma Valley is twice as big as the Napa valley. So while I love wine, it’s simply not possible to appreciate this valley in one day. But I tried. Valley of the Moon in Glen Ellen was first stop after lunch. BTW, food in Sonoma town is impressive. Lovely if expensive lunch at Della Santina’s in East Napa Street, Sonoma. Valley of the Moon offers free tasting for their basic wines, but $2 a taste for the reserve wines. All the reserve reds are massive, with big chalky tannins. But the fruit fades. Compared with Coonawarra cabernets from South Australia, Sonoma does not make it. Neither does Napa. Valley of the Moon wines need at least a decade before they can be approached. The 2000 cuvee de la luna (Bordeaux blend) for $35 is better than the 1999, 2001 or 2004, all of which I tasted. But Australian Bordeaux blends are much better in terms of quality and price. The Sonoma valley was a lovely setting. I wish I had room to say more. But in a busy world, one must be succint.
Where are the Americans at the Academy Awards?
So many non-Americans received Oscars last night, I began to wonder if I was watching the Academy Awards. After all, this is the America which usually has a world series and invites only one country! The major awards for best male and female actor and male and female supporting actor went to an Irishman, a French woman, a Spaniard and a Brit. Plus Brits won many of the technical awards for film editing, sound and set design. It was fun and revealing to watch the entire event, rather than the sound bites I get in Oz. The event ran from about 3pm to 9pm California time.
The sad decline of America’s daily newspapers
Americans are abandoning daily newspapers. Why? Firstly, newspapers ignore their audiences. People have limited time. Yet the more ponderous papers write turgid, long articles. Take the front page of a recent LA Times. The introduction to the main story was 41 words. Next sentence 37, next 31. Another big story had a lead of 34 words. The “news analysis” on the front page told me Castro outlasted 9 US presidents, more than a week after Castro stepped down. The introduction was also 34 words. Second paragraph 43. The story was written in Mexico City. Indeed, most of the foreign stories (apart from Iraq) did not originate from the country they were written about. The page 3 lead about Kosovo came from Rome. The Iran story originated from Beirut. Summary: irrelevant stories that ignore the fact readers live busy lives. Many papers appear to be nothing more than vehicles for advertising.