Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Restaurant Review: NAAAP-Pittsburgh goes to Cambod-ican

January Dinner Club, The Cambod-ican Kitchen,
1701 E. Carson St., South Side. 412-381-6199

The January dinner club adds yet another restaurant this month, this time going to The Cambod-ican Kitchen on Carson St. Join us for this taste of street food that moved up in the world and became a restaurant with walls and a roof.

We went to Cambod-ican on Carson St (on the Southside) last week for the monthly dinner club, continuing a two year string of monthly dinner clubs without having to revisit a restaurant. Cambod-ican is a bit different then the normal. While there are some asian restaurants, and many restaurants that try (sort of) to be some variety of asian, Cambod-ican's tie with asian food is purely random, the wife (of the husband-wife team) is Cambodian. But the food is definitely Pittsburgh, with a Cambodian flavor (not the other way around). And it is Pittsburgh street food that stands out.

Cambod-ican Kitchen used to be a street stall on Carson St, before being kicked out to make way for Nakama (which is across the street). And so after looking for a place, they ended up moving indoors. Interacting with them was fun. When I called, I think a daughter answered the phone, and had to take a message. Then when we got there, we had to hang out for a bit waiting for everyone to show up. The husband came out and chatted with us (as well as everyone else) and generally gave suggestions and teased the ladies. Lots of fun. And he explained how to pronounce Cambod-ican (portmanteau of Cambodian and American, no he did not use the word 'portmanteau') And the chant that goes with it among some of the regulars (I can, you can, Cambod-ican)

Food, like everything else that is Pittsburgh street food, is lots of fried stuff, and some other stuff. We had a fried wonton, which is really fried perogies

Fried Wonton at Cambod-ican

And the steamed spring rolls for appetizer

Fresh Spring Rolls at Cambod-ican

Even the dishes, not exactly gourmet (this is grown up street food) but fun for what it is. The setting is not much, but the staff was friendly, and we enjoyed ourselves. Which is the point.

NAAAP-Pittsburgh at Cambod-ican

Sunday, January 27, 2008

Eclipse and 'TODO'

I can be so easily impressed sometimes. I was working on a model, and basically looking over some stuff I had put together in a couple of days to incorporate some feedback before a presentation. So it is a bit rough. And it is a bit late, so what I'm really doing is putting in a bunch of comments about what some of the code actually does and some things that I should do after I get some more sleep into me. And as I go along, I suddenly noticed that my screen was changing, other then just the fact that I was typing in code.

There was this little box to the left of the code.

So I was trying to figure out what was going on, because then I noticed I had a couple of these along with my debugging breakpoints. Then I figured it out. Among my many notes-to-self, I had put in some comments # TODO. And Eclipse was catching this and automatically building a task list for me.

Just a random note on the day. :-)

Thursday, January 24, 2008

In memoriam: Andrew Olmsted

I saw this some time ago over at The Sandbox (AKA the Doonesbury military blog) Maj Olmsted was killed January 3 in Iraq. And these are his words . . .

Final Post

"I am leaving this message for you because it appears I must leave sooner than I intended. I would have preferred to say this in person, but since I cannot, let me say it here."
G'Kar, Babylon 5

"Only the dead have seen the end of war."

This is an entry I would have preferred not to have published, but there are limits to what we can control in life, and apparently I have passed one of those limits. And so, like G'Kar, I must say here what I would much prefer to say in person. I want to thank hilzoy for putting it up for me. It's not easy asking anyone to do something for you in the event of your death, and it is a testament to her quality that she didn't hesitate to accept the charge. As with many bloggers, I have a disgustingly large ego, and so I just couldn't bear the thought of not being able to have the last word if the need arose. Perhaps I take that further than most, I don't know. I hope so. It's frightening to think there are many people as neurotic as I am in the world. In any case, since I won't get another chance to say what I think, I wanted to take advantage of this opportunity. Such as it is.

. . .

The rest is here.

Friday, January 18, 2008

Jawbreaker by Gary Bernsten

Jawbreaker: the Attack on Bin Laden and Al Qaeda: a Personal Account By the Cia's Key Field Commander

When you think about the CIA and special forces going off to war, a number of movies come to mind. This is real life. And it is different, but better and more interesting.

Gary Berntsen is a CIA officer who was sent to Afghanistan as part of the U.S. response to the World Trade Center attack of September 11, 2001 in New York City. After the attack we see him put together a team (there is already a team in place that is laying the groundwork) to go in. It is a story of people who are realistic and practical, even as they are patriotic. And they run into many obstacles. Berntsen has to deal with prejudice amongst Americans as some of his desired team are Iranian or Arab. Bureaucratic rules cause trouble for him as well as some team members who are not released by their bosses. And finally they make it into Afghanistan.

In Afghanistan they are the small team of CIA agents and special forces personnel who build the alliances with the Northern Alliance to fight the Taliban. They deal with the personalities, the shifting loyalties, the oneupmanship and dealing both sides against the middle that is part of war in the Hindu Kush.

It is realistic in the sense that the job of these highly trained men is to coordinate, join with the local forces, and be the eyes and ears of the U.S. commanders, not to fight. And the protagonists of the book are usually away from the main fighting, even through they are in danger because of the unknowns they deal with. They are aggressive, daring, practical, and wise to the ways of people, as they have to deal with the many motivations among the various military commanders they dealt with.

The other special aspect of this book is how Bernsten deals with his own thoughts about life. At times during the narrative he suddenly starts thinking about his bosses back home or his family for a few sentences, then go back into the narrative. And this is very humanizing, and very familiar (as I did the same thing during my deployment). The scenes in the opening chapters where his wife and grown children have to deal with his going into harms way are refreshingly honest and ring true, and the distractions of having to help them through the U.S. government bureaucracy when they are dealing with unhelpful superiors is also shown.

Definitely recommend the book. To both those who are going to war, to give a feel of what it is like to work with a population whose motives are hard to understand, and their families, to let them know that their worries for those going into harms way are normal.

Saturday, January 12, 2008

Pittsburgh Symphony: a composer, a violinist and a Red Violin

I remember a year ago, my then girlfriend asking about going to a specific concert, by some violinist named Joshua Bell. And not going because we would be out of town in the weekend in question. Fast forward to the summer, while reading the Washington Post reading about an experiment, where one of the most talented and sought after violinists of our generation would bring skills and talent, and play in front of a Washington DC Metro (train) station. Whose name was Joshua Bell. And my thought then was "Brilliant". And so when this year's schedule came out, I was looking forward to this concert.

The hall was packed! I was so impressed. We knew something was up when some of the garages were marked as full, and the poster up front bore the notice "Standing room only." And going to the pre-talk with (PSO assistant conductor) Lawrence Koh and (composer) John Corigliano it was a larger and more varied crowd then we are used to seeing at these.

The excitement was palpable in the audience. Before the start of the Red Violin Concerto, Leonard Slatkin came on stage with . . . John Corigliano and felt the need to apologize and promise that Joshua Bell was coming. It showed after the first movement, when there was quite a bit of applause (I know that it is not 'proper' and I don't myself, but I always view it as a good sign when it happens as it means there are new people in the audience, and it is honest applause. It also reminded me of the Washington Post article. Most people at the Washington DC Metro station ignored Joshua Bell's playing, but everytime a child came by, the mother had to tear them away because they were so attracted by it.) The whole piece was a treat.

One aspect making the evening different was the incredible interaction between the composer and the audience. Corigliano came out with Koh for the pre-talk to discuss the work. Both Bell and Corigliano worked the autograph line after the first half (which was one of the largest autograph lines I've seen at Heinz Hall). And they both came for the post-concert talk (which was also much larger then the norm).

I've been exposed to the debate on whether music should be able to stand on its own. And my feeling has always been no, it is part of a context (well, sometimes it is not, but sometimes I walk away from a performance wondering what it was all about.) I have the same attitude towards art (painting and sculpture, literature, and other media. And for something like this, does it really matter that why Corigliano was never a musician (which is a story that my fiancee and I found so honest and realistic about life), or the fear he has when a new piece is first played and how this comes from the days of listening to his father perform? Or that Joshua Bell's violin was also once upon a time stolen and played in cafes, much like the referenced Red Violin of the movie. Maybe not, although it does make it more human. But understanding that the alternative to The Red Violin Concerto was pieces by period composers such as Bach, Vivaldi and Paganini, the desire to have a theme cross through musical styles, the fact (and techniques) that the violin was sometimes played in ways that changed the quality of the sound to achieve effects, and identifying some of the themes did enhance my listening. While the music is able to stand by itself (I have enjoyed my CD, and I'm listening to it as I write), knowing the choices made in its creation, the composing, and its performance has greatly enhanced my enjoyment of it. And the richness of sound as played live by Bell and the PSO in Heinz Hall only added to it.

Thursday, January 03, 2008

QOTD: I should have found a fiancee before I went

S: I heard you got engaged, is this something new?
Me: We were dating before I went (to Afghanistan). She was watching my things while I was away, We even wrote pen and paper letters to each other.
S: Wow, you must have some great momentos for the grandchildren about how you courted their grandmother while you were in a war zone. I should have found a fiancee before I went so I could do that.