April 30, 2009

Yuk

Posted in life at 11:22 pm by Michael

Tonight is the last night of MMS 2009 (Microsoft IT Management conference) in Vegas. To *celebrate*, I was playing blackjack at the Mirage. (Shoe, stay on soft 17, surrender)

Well, a guy, probably in his late 20’s, and D-R-U-N-K sat down in the seat next to me. First hand I lost (20 to dealers drawn-to 21), he says:

“You want a backrub?”

Me: “No thanks.”

Couple more hands….

“It will be relaxing.”

Me: No reply.

“Really”

Dealer: “Hey, She’s Married!”

“Backrub’s ain’t cheatin'”

YUK!

Advertisements

April 28, 2009

Vegas Taxi Price Guide

Posted in life, travel at 3:31 pm by Michael

I’m in Vegas this week for the Microsoft Management Summit – our yearly IT confab related to the stuff that I work on day-to-day.

You learn so much at conferences – about customers, your competitors – but this year, I learned something in an area I wasn’t expecting – how much it costs to puke in a cab.

Now STOP! I’m better than that, I did not in fact puke in a cab. However, we did hear firsthand from an expert – our cabbie last night – about the suggested price schedule. Nancy from Western Cab was full of fun facts.

She was complaining about a group of drunken girls she picked up the night before – with one of them having set their alimentary canal in “two way” mode as opposed to the more normative and societally acceptable “one way” mode.

“She wanted change. Up the strip, and wanted change for a $20. Unbelievable!”.

The fare was about $10 – so, we established that the cleanup fee should have been $10.

However, she didn’t puke “in” the cab – but on the door.

What about inside, what’s appropriate for that?

Nancy says that depending on the degree of offense, the fee for that is between $50 and $100.

When Anh and I were in Paris at the beginning of April, in the cab from the airport downtown, Samwich lost it in the cab. He had had some suspect milk, the traffic was stop and go, and the diesel fumes were bad, and he didn’t make it. Most of the damage hit both him and me, but some hit the seat. We cleaned it all up with wipes, but I still gave the driver $50.

I told Nancy this story, and she said:

“You are such a bullshitter.”

“Who, me?”

“Yes, you.”

From the backseat – “No, that’s Joe Biden”

High Five!

Posted in work at 10:47 am by Michael

Choice 5

Choice 5

The voting:

#5: 47

#4: 29

#2: 28

#1: 25

#3: 5

The comment stream would seem to agree – its #5!

Thanks to all of you who voted, I have my new corp bio picture.

April 24, 2009

VOTE: New Corporate Bio Picture

Posted in work at 1:46 pm by Michael

I had new corp bio pictures today… Faithful friends and readers, I need help!

Please click on your favorite to vote! Remember, this is *corporate*… for when I’m all pro-fo and stuff.

Choice 1

Choice 1

Choice 2

Choice 2

Choice 3

Choice 3

Choice 4

Choice 4

Choice 5

Choice 5

 Thanks in advance for your help!

April 18, 2009

Restaurant Miramar

Posted in food, travel at 3:20 pm by Michael

12, quai du Port
13002 Marseille
Tel: 04 91 91 10 40
http://lemiramar.fr/

The House of Bouillabaise

The House of Bouillabaise

Miramar is probably the most famous bouillabaisse restaurant in southern France, if not all of France. We had the opportunity to have lunch there, and it was as good as advertised. Quai du Port rings the south side of the main marina, and along that road are a set of restaurants offering French maritime cuisine. On your way to #12 do not stop, do not pass go, just keep going. Miramar is a different beast. They have both inside and outside seating (we sat outside), and the tables were mostly filled with well-dressed, middle-aged French businessmen enjoying a three-hour lunch.

Many of the main-courses are for two (we found this to be pretty common). There are three versions of the bouillabaisse (with and without lobster and one “special” – we couldn’t get a great explanation of “special”). Other super interesting courses for two included various grilled fishes, salt encrusted and baked fishes, and fish in pastry (which are expertly filleted and plated tableside by the “Chef du Table” – a roving outside chef).

We were there for the bouillabaisse, so we went for it. (Regular, no lobster).

To start we had the lobster salad.

Cannibal Lobster

Cannibal Lobster

This was perhaps the most beautiful lobster salad that I had ever seen – note how the claw seemingly grasps the tail. The lobster was nicely cooked (steamed, served cold), however the flavors in the salad (peas, beans, carrots, greens, with a light pesto-cream sauce) while independently beautiful, I didn’t hang together cohesively to make the dish.

We also had the scallop starter.

Truffles: Is there anything you can't do?

Truffles: Is there anything you can't do?

Also very beautiful. The scallops were lightly pan fried, and sat on top of a bed of slightly crunchy, pan-caramelized onions. On top, there are the thick sliced black truffles. Need I say more?

This dish did hang together much more cohesively. A single bite incorporating all of the elements was an amazing pleasure… it just melted in your mouth.

Next came the bouillabaisse…. It was a production. First, the seafood comes out.

Platter of Happy

Platter of Happy

Rockfish, a few kinds of whitefish, mussels, small crabs and potatoes are all delivered beautifully, topped with the “Certificate of Quality”.

The server then brings the garlic, mayo and toast platter. There is a process to follow with those – a delicious, garlicky process.

Platter of Process

Platter of Process

Step one: Select your toast.
Step two: Select a garlic clove.
Step three: Take garlic clove, and “scrape” on toast, liberally.
Step four: Apply dollop of spicy mayo stuff on toast.
Step five:  Drop in bouillabaisse broth.

Oh, the broth.

Now, you don’t just get the broth with the seafood – no. While your seafood is being filleted and prepared tableside by the Chef du Table,  you are given a fullsize bowl to enjoy. You get to play the above toast game with *that* broth.

Swimming Toast

Swimming Toast

I had this preconceived notion that bouillabaisse broth was thin and white. Far from it – here it was very much like a thick, fish bisque (without cream). It was also heavily seasoned with saffron and was somewhat curry-like, with a definite yellow color. With an almost spicy background, it went perfectly with the garlic toast previously prepared.

When finished, the Chef du Table presented us with the complete product – with a new base of broth of course.

Almost there....

Almost there....

While the serving was for two – honestly two people could have shared one bowl and been quite satiated. Each of the elements retained its own flavor and texture, and worked well together.

We did finish with dessert – which was ordered right after the main courses were ordered since each was cooked to order as well. I was ready to burst, but we had selected a Gran Marnier soufflé.

Shh!

Shh!

And, a Baba au Rhum.

....and a bottle of rum!

....and a bottle of rum!

The Baba au Rhum came with its own separate shot of rum (for drinking) – I know it was for drinking as the cake was supersaturated with rum – and perfect of course. The Baba and the topping strawberry glistened – with deliciousness.

Shining Beacon of Strawberry

Shining Beacon of Strawberry

As a bonus, a petit-fours plate was delivered, including these delicious raspberry tarts.

More Shiny...

More Shiny...

Samwich *loved* these, and when we told the ever-accomodating staff, ten more promptly showed up. I kid you not. Samwich then proceeded to eat the raspberries off the top of each one in a maniacal production line of yumminess.

Restaurant Miramar was an absolute treat. The setting was perfect for people watching along the quai. Eating outside in early spring was like a sneak preview of summer. Honestly lunching there was a great combination of luxury and laid-back-ness that I don’t think we would have had at dinner.

Marseille was an hour-plus from where we were staying, but Anh and I considered going back the next day to try more of the treats… only a fear of another post-lunch-caloric-coma caused us to not make the trek.

Go to Miramar… go after fasting… go with friends so you can try everything.

April 17, 2009

CARES Strap

Posted in Air France, Samwich, travel at 4:59 am by Michael

This was our first trip with Samwich using a CARES Strap (http://kidsflysafe.com/) instead of a car seat on the plane.

Most of the time we’ve used a “Sit-N-Stroll” (http://www.strollerdepot.com/items/sit-n-stroll/) which is a convertible car seat/stroller that can sometimes even be rolled right down the aisle. Its super convenient when you have a rental car on the other side.

We didn’t want to take the Sit-N-Stroll this time because we weren’t going to have a car for most of the time we were gone, making it a bunch of dead weight. In addition our experience with France is that it’s not super stroller friendly (curbs, cobblestones, narrow sidewalks).

Additionally, Air France planes (transcon A330’s) have extra-wide armrests that do not completely fold up – this makes it hard to put a carseat in.

The last time we red-eye’d to Boston, Samwich ended up out of his carseat, laying across Anh and I anyway – in that case, the carseat was a detriment, as that was space that he couldn’t use.

For this trip, we had the flight to Paris, and then a flight from Paris to Marseille.

We were able to use it effectively on all the legs, although on the return from Marseille to Paris the flight crew questioned us a bunch, and the FAA stamp didn’t carry weight, since it was France. In the end, they were ok w/it.

Samwich was way more comfortable, and sleeping worked out much better him. On the Paris-Seattle legs, the seat configuration was 2-4-2, and we had window-aisle-aisle, with Samwich on the window, with Anh next to him. On the Paris-Marseille legs, it was 3-3 – so we had three across and chose to put him in the middle. This was a benefit over the carseat, which needs to go on the window, or in a two-aisle plane (2-4-2, 2-3-2, or 3-5-3) has to be in a middle-middle seat.

The only challenge is that the shoulder straps tended to pull the lap belt “up” – so it was a little high. Because there is no “between the legs” strap, he could slide forward too. This isn’t a big deal in an airplane crash, since airplanes typically aren’t rear-ended, but you need to stay vigilant to make sure that he’s properly positioned in turbulence. We fixed this a bit by having him sit on a pillow, which seemed to work pretty well. (Although I’m not sure that’s “approved”).

In the end it wasn’t perfect, but it was better than the alternative, and certainly reduced the lugging weight.

Bad Day

Posted in life at 4:40 am by Michael

I had a bad day yesterday. Not a galactically bad day – nothing *bad* happened, but I didn’t have a good day.

Maybe it was the jet lag. Maybe it was being stressed at work (first full day back in two weeks).

In a meeting of about fifty or so people, someone referred to me as “He”. This is not new, and yes, it still happens. This time it really bothered me… a lot. Maybe it’s because I hadn’t worked w/this person before, and he never knew “Michael”.

I think it bothered me so much because it reflected how I was feeling inside: Not Cute. Not enough running, too much food, not enough electrolysis (what an utter pain in the ass), my eyebrows are out of control, and I need new hair (cut and color).

Deferred human maintenance isn’t a good thing….

The Case of the Curious Customs Agent

Posted in Identification, transgender, travel at 4:31 am by Michael

We (Me, Anh, Samwich) went to France for a couple of weeks (more on that to come). We have travelled internationally a bunch since I’ve transitioned, and never previously had any challenges getting into other countries, or back to the states. (We’ve been to France, Italy and Spain (Canada too!), and I’ve been to Israel as well)

I was initially concerned that because my passport still (and will) says: Gender M; that it would raise questions or we’d be stopped for additional questioning. In fact, the only time we ever got stopped was coming back from Spain – and that was at customs, not passport control – as it seems like they additionally screen everyone coming back from Spain because of the prevalence of Ham Smuggling (I kid you not, and this is NOT a euphemism). We had no ham, just some gummi bears in that international smuggler Samwich’s backpack that under x-ray appear ham-like.

Now, I also do something a little trouble-maker-like (I know you are shocked) – I fill out only one customs form for the three of us, as we are a family, and it asks “Number of People in Your Family Travelling with You”. We are legally married, and I see no reason to do anything different.

Anyway, we got back Wednesday, glad to have gone, glad to be back. We flew direct on Air France from Paris (nice airline…. order the kids meal for your kids). When we got to passport control, I gave the passports and the customs slip to the agent, who was a late 30’s, early 40’s Latina woman. (The agent who I’ve gotten many times before, who is a big, bald, white guy was in the next booth, but we didn’t pull him. The most I’ve gotten from him before is “Where do you work?” and then a hearty “Welcome Home!”. It was not to be that simple…)

She starts….

“Where are you going?”

Me: “Home? We live in Seattle.”

“Are you carrying any food items?”

Me: “Yes, chocolate.” (And declared on the form).

She flipped the form over a couple of times, looked at me, Anh, Samwich….. paused.

“How are you all related?”

Me: (Slowly, and looking right into her eyes, leaning forward slightly) “We are legally married.”

“Is this your son?” (Looking at all three passports again)

Me: “Yes, we are his parents.”

Here’s where it went totally off the tracks. She’s now holding my passport, looking at it intently, and she clearly sees the “Gender: M” thing.

“I have to ask, because of your appearance…. Can you explain?”

Me:  “I am transgendered. I transitioned from male to female, because of the passport rules, I am still ‘Male’. However, we were legally married before, and we still are.”

“And you like it better, being a girl?”

I had no idea how to even answer that.

Me: “I am who I am.”

“And you are still married?”(To Anh) “What, are you just like best friends or something? Not really ‘married’?”

Anh: “No, we are married. Married.”

“How does that work?”

Anh: “It just does. We are married.”

“And you are ok with that?”

Anh: “Yes.”

“And this is your son?”

Anh: “Yes, this is our biological son.”

“And you just like live together now, like friends.”

Me and Anh: “No, we are married.”

“Were you like best friends or something before?”

Anh: “No, I didn’t know about this before we got married.”

She shook her head, and kind of gave us that look like “Well, Whatever”

“I have to ask.”

I’m not sure she did.

“Huh…. I’ve never seen *this* before.”

What like, heffalumps and woozles?

“Ok, thanks for telling me your story.”

Like I had a choice?

“You can go.”

Anh and I looked at each other, kind of shocked as we walked to get our bags. It felt not great, and certainly not within the bounds of normal customs practice. I’m sure the fifty people in line behind us really appreciated her intensive questioning of the trans-family.

Don’t you feel safer knowing that Homeland Security is on the job?