Strange Brouhaha

Wednesday, September 28, 2005

I need a new bag!

I just wish I needed a new bag, to be honest. I wish I had known about Tom Bihn bags before I went and bought my dime-a-dozen Targus laptop backpack. Why? Take a very close look at the care label.

I'm speechless

Pets in Uniform was chuckled at on Countdown with Keith Olberman tonight.

I don't think I even have anything to say about it. Just...uh.

Also, I'm not a lawyer, but isn't implying that you kill people for money, even as a joke, not strictly legal? (Thanks to Matt for the link.) I get that they're not serious, but still...

Sunday, September 25, 2005

The other day, I was reading a book on writing. There was a section in this book with suggestions on how to use inclusive language--you know, "humankind" instead of "mankind", that sort of thing. One of its suggestions kind of shocked me.

"For 'cameraman,'" it said, "use 'cinematographer.'" A cinematographer, according to the linked article, is "chief over the camera and lighting crews working on a film, responsible for achieving artistic and techical decisions related to the image." That's a little bit more than a cameraman--although that same article, I will grant, does claim that the term is interchangable with both Director of Photography and (ahem!) camera operator.

That's kind of like saying that instead of "accountant" you should use "CFO," don't you think?

Friday, September 23, 2005

Guilty Pleasures

I've probably written about this before, but hey, everything old is new again. Here are my top five guilty pleasures: things that I really have no business liking, but like anyway.

  1. A League Of Their Own: I always tell myself that I'm never watching it again, but whenever I pass it on TV, I get sucked in. I swear, once I watched it three times in one week.

  2. Debbie Gibson: I guess it's a late-80s thing. Honest, I liked the music.(Hey, maybe I can do a Debbie/Metallica mash-up.)

  3. The Carpenters: Hey, come on, Karen Carpenter had a great voice, and Richard Carpenter is one of the most underrated pianists and arrangers ever.

  4. Bed, Bath and Beyond: I am not allowed in this store unsupervised, because every time I go there, I end up buying much, much more than I'm supposed to. "Oooh, look, containers. And PANS. I need a new kitchen knife. TOWELS!"

  5. Urkel: No, I'm serious. I saw one episode of "Family Matters" where he was falling all over the place--Jaleel White is a really good physical comedian.

What are yours? I tried to think of some books that I'm sort of ashamed to admit I like, but nothing came to mind.

Thursday, September 22, 2005

Great Ending!

I recently bought a deeply discounted boxed set of games which included Black & White (which I hated when it first came out, but wasn't so bad this time around), Medal of Honor: Allied Assault (scariest D-Day ever--er, second scariest, because I'm sure the real thing was just a *wee bit* scarier), Lord of the Rings: Return of the King (utter crap) and Freedom Fighters.

I just finished Freedom Fighters. See, the backstory is that the Soviets went live with nukes first, nuked Berlin to end WWII, and proceeded to take over Europe. As the game opens in the near future (the game is old enough that "near future" is actually "recent past" for us), the Soviets have taken South America and launched an invasion of the U.S. It's a pretty good setup for a video game.

You play a plumber-turned-soldier fighting to take back New York from the Red Army. (Actually, it's kind of funny; you and your brother are plumbers. I half expected to hear "It's a-me! Mario!") It's a pretty standard shooter, obviously a console port. There's nothing really special about it: run around, kill the enemy, rescue your friends. The "squad tactics" portion is almost nonexistent.

Anyway, I just wanted to talk about the great ending. You win, take back New York, and get the hot-chick-leader-of-the-Revolution. The wimpy, whiny sidekick whines. The computer reboots.

Yes. The computer reboots.


Wednesday, September 21, 2005


I finally got up the nerve to borrow Daredevil from the library. I gave the movie a pass when it was in the theaters--I've never been that big a fan of either Daredevil or Ben Affleck. When I saw it on the shelves in the library, though, I decided to grab it just to see if it was as bad as I had heard. (Yeah, it was the destro...err, "Full Screen" version, but it's what they had.)

I want to like comic book movies. I really do. The problem, as I think I've written before, lies in two areas. First is that the visual language of comics, the pacing, everything, is just different from the visual language of movies. It's tough to translate. For every Spider-Man, there's a Captain America, for every X-Men, a Punisher, for every Batman Begins...well, you get the idea. The second problem is that the costumes, in their bright primary colors, really really don't work. They're the one thing that always needs to be rejiggered, because while we'll believe a lot of things, we won't believe that spandex is going to stop a punch.

Daredevil, the movie, is flawed. Deeply flawed. They're trying to do too much in one movie. As I said, I'm not a big fan of the Daredevil comics, but I know enough to know that the story of Elektra is sprawling and important and really can't be done alongside an origin story that ALSO introduces the Kingpin. It would have worked far better to have a straight Kingpin story alongside the origin, build up some animosity between the Kingpin and DD. Save Elektra for the sequel. And with a tighter story...there would have been a sequel. This movie as it stands is a 90-minute prologue to 10 minutes of story.

Ben Affleck can't *move*. There's a scene between Matt Murdock (Daredevil's civilian identity) and Elektra (the girl he loves) where they have a little fight in the park. (As Savannah pointed out, it's basically a musical number without the music.) For someone who's supposed to be able to fight and isn't particularly interested in hiding it, he was awfully stiff and immobile.

For all its flaws, I still found it worth watching twice. One-and-a-half times, really; when I made Savannah watch it with me, we fast-forwarded through the uninteresting bar fight and the dullest love scene ever written (not the worst, George Lucas gets that one) and a bunch of the fight between Bullseye and DD. There are lots of comic-book insider jokes and name-dropping. Stan Lee's cameo is probably the best one he's done.

Here's the funniest scene. Matt Murdock is talking with his law partner, Foggy Nelson, who is complaining about the fact that their clients--mostly poor, mostly pro bono--are paying them in fish and cheese wheels and sports equipment. "This isn't a law office, Matt, it's the set of goddamn Sanford and Son! I walk in here every morning and expect Lamont to walk down the stairs!"

LAMONT! That still cracks me up.

Tuesday, September 20, 2005

R.I.P. Simon Wiesenthal

Simon Wiesenthal died today in Vienna. He was 96.

Here's a link to the Wiesenthal Center web site.

Monday, September 19, 2005

Dan == teh winn4r!!!~!!1one!!

Oh my GOD.

Dan posted a comment to my entry about finally starting the catalog project. He pointed me to Delicious Library, which...there are no words. It uses a webcam (like an iSight) to scan barcodes. I had to wipe up the puddle of drool after looking at the website.

Along similar lines, here's an article in New Scientist about Japanese software that will let you scan a page with a camera phone in just a few seconds. The copyright wars are about to begin in earnest.

Sunday, September 18, 2005

Jumping on the bandwagon

My Mac OS X box has the Apache Web server.

It has PHP.

I installed MySQL a long time ago for work.

So...why not use PHP and MySQL and create an easy Web interface for adding books to a database? Duh, like everyone else!

It took about half an hour to go through a quick proof-of-concept (i.e. PHP is installed, but is it on?) to a first beta-quality interface for the add process. Sometimes, computers are cool.

Saturday, September 17, 2005

The Catalog Project Begins

I'm sure we're going at it the wrong way, but we've started cataloging our books. Until I can get a suitable database up and running, we're just entering information into (ugh) a spreadsheet. We did a symbolically small number of books (181) and are making progress at keeping things neat.

Note that "organized" is not part of the equation. IT'S A START, GOSH DARN IT!

Friday, September 16, 2005

Word verification is on

Both here and at The Hellfire Club, new posts are immediately receiving spam comments. I have turned on word verification for comments. Every time you want to leave a comment, you'll be asked to type in a word that will be presented to you as a graphic.

I remember the first time I received spam on the old Strange Brouhaha. I felt like I had arrived. Now it's just annoying.

Some interesting links

I like free books. I've recommended Blackmask Online and Project Gutenberg before. (By the way, if you like to listen to books rather than read them, Project Gutenberg also has some audio books.)

Anyway, Lifehacker today linked to a site with free technical books called Looks like they've got a lot of books. As much as I like free books, I like free technical books even better.

Speaking of books, we've got a lot of them around the house. My ongoing intention is to catalog them, or at least inventory them to get a sense of how many we have and what we have. I know for certain that I've bought second (and third) copies of books that we already own just because I couldn't find the ones we had anywhere. (Our three copies of Hawaiian Names - English Names are an exception, thanks to Long story.) I've been looking at the online catalog creator LibraryThing (thanks again to Lifehacker) as a possibility. At the very least, it would free me from having to create my own database and front end, but on the other hand, I wouldn't get to create my own database and front end.

And, as always, if you want a gmail invite, let me know.

Wednesday, September 14, 2005

Icelandic Food

I read this article on foods from Iceland in the New York Times (register etc etc) with some amusement. I have two questions:

  1. What in the world would be inherently objectionable about lamb smoked over dried sheep dung?

  2. What do puffin dolls have to do with strips of smoked puffin?

For the first question, I understand that with dung in the equation, food automatically becomes objectionable. However, much like the parents in the movie "Parents", can't you just dodge the question? You know, just say it was smoked lamb? No need to say what it was smoked with. (For the record, I'd eat it, I don't care. It's just smoke.)

On the puffin question: children have cow dolls, and eat hamburgers. Children have pig dolls, and eat pork chops. Children have chicken dolls, and eat Chicken McNug...well, I'm not sure what that actually has to do with chicken, but you get the point. (Note to McDonald's lawyers: I love Chicken McNuggets and am fully aware that they contain actual chicken.)

If you haven't seen "Parents," consider it. The dodge I spoke of earlier was "What was it before it was leftovers? Leftovers-to-be." You'll understand when you see the movie.

Latest entry in the "Bad headline" contest

"Paltrow's past: 'I wasn't pretty enough'"

From the headline, you're expecting one of those typical complaints from gorgeous women about how they went through an "awkward period" or how they really weren't beautiful in high school. Instead, the article is about Paltrow's professional relationship with director John Madden! The line they chose to break out for the head is essentially a throwaway comment about how Madden wasn't allowed to cast her in some other movie.

Come ON!

On the one hand, that headline does make people want to read the article--in that sense, it's a success. I expected to be complaining about exactly what I mentioned in the first paragraph: "Here's Gwyneth Paltrow, complaining that she's not beautiful. Blah blah blah."

On the other hand, since it has nothing to do with what's actually in the piece, it's a poorly thought out bit of work. But they only had a bare handful of words to use, so I'm not sure exactly what the solution is. "Paltrow: 'An immediate rapport'"?

That's a good exercise for J-school, I think.

Monday, September 12, 2005

Beaten by Durian

I was watching a show on the Travel Channel just now. Sorry, I didn't catch the name. Oh, wait, this is the Internets; it was "Travel Channel Presents Bizarre Foods: Asia".

Fascinating stuff. After reading "A Cook's Tour" and watching Tony Bourdain's shows on Food Network and the Travel Channel, I started thinking that it would be neat to go to Thailand or Vietnam and try some of the weird things they've got over there. This show made me rethink that.

The guy on this show--Chef Zimmern--started out in Tokyo eating pig's-testicle soup and drinking sake with a lizard in it. (Yes, a lizard. A dead lizard. In the sake glass. Sake tastes bad enough without a lizard in it.) He also ate frog sashimi, which he started off by eating the STILL-BEATING HEART. In case you missed that, the heart was still beating. I guess that's what you call fresh.

Strangely enough, the rest of the Japanese segment was relatively tame. Fugu for the zillionth time is not interesting. A sushi restaurant where he ate tako...gosh, how horrifying. The restaurant that served only turtle wasn't really that gross, not on the level of lizard sake (or deer-penis sake, and I'm not making that up). The yakitori bar was perhaps the next grossest, because the host and his friend were trying to figure out just what parts of the chicken they were eating. Zimmern couldn't finish a whole stick of anything.

He moved south after that to eat a variety of things in Thailand and Malaysia: fruit bat, organ sausage, cooked-in-the-shell snail, and a lot of other things that were ultimately very, very disgusting. He passed on the fried intestines--a good idea--and ate some congealed blood that he called quite possibly the worst thing he'd ever eaten.

Through all of this, he never once made a face, never looked like he got even close to booting, never spit anything out, never got beaten by any of the foods he tried. (Or, at the very least, through the magic of television he was never shown doing any of those things.) He was eating some interesting-looking stuff, too, if by "interesting" you mean "dear GOD, you can EAT that?" I mean, I still can't get over the lizard and the BEATING HEART.

As the title of this post suggests, though, Zimmern was finally beaten by Durian, the notoriously foul-smelling fruit that Tony Bourdain ate and apparently enjoyed. Zimmern's reaction to the Durian was pretty funny. He put a piece in his mouth and everything that hadn't happened to him throughout the episode pretty much happpened. (Well, except the booting, but he looked close.) Pretty funny--you'd think that after the freakishly bizarre meats he had put down his throat, a vegetable would would be no problem.

If you can catch this, I recommend it.

Sunday, September 11, 2005

"Donnie Darko" and "The Jacket"

A bunch of us went over to my friend Soul Beaver's place to have a freaky time-travel movie night. As the title of this post implies, we watched two movies: the Director's Cut of "Donnie Darko" and "The Jacket".

"Donnie Darko" is a really dense movie. I'd give a little plot summary, but you'd probably be confused by the time I get to the jet engine crashing into the house, which happens pretty early. It's one of those movies where you're wondering what's going on until the last few minutes, when everything comes together in almost perfect clarity--and then you start going back over everything that's gone on and looking at all the little hints, clues and foreshadowings in an entirely different light. It's a movie that you need to watch more than once so you can say "Oh, yeah!"

I do recommend it, but I wasn't highly thrilled with the acting and/or the directing. Jake Gyllenhaal's "schizophrenic face" was just on the wrong side of mugging for the camera, for example. It all seemed too stylized, which of course was probably what the director wanted. If you haven't seen it, just be forewarned that it's weird and worth watching.

"The Jacket" got horrible reviews, I learned after we watched it. I have no idea why--it was pretty good. I read one review that excoriated it for its leaps in logic, but I must say that I didn't really detect any. I guess it all hinges on how willing you are to believe that a man stuffed into a strtaitjacket and shut into a morgue drawer can travel forward in time. I'm predisposed towards time travel by any means, so I bought it.

Maybe it was teh Bevar's sound system, or the widescreen TV, but I was *really* getting claustrophobic the first couple of times they locked Adrien Brody in the drawer. I thought the acting was pretty decent, but it's the only Adrien Brody movie I've ever seen and I hear that a little of him can go a long way.

I just wanted to get these thoughts down. I'll get more detailed after I see the movies a few more times.

Saturday, September 10, 2005

Mildly Humorous Revelation

I keep loading up Strange Brouhaha hoping that it has been updated, and muttering imprecations when I see that it hasn't. Then I remember that I'm the one who's supposed to update it.

Wolfram Tones

This was on Slashdot just this morning, but go check out Wolfram Tones. It's a little compositional-snippet maker based on some of the work Stephen Wolfram published in his book A New Kind Of Science. I've only played with the pre-created ones so far, and they sound pretty interesting to my ears. It would be interesting to see if they could actually come up with songs using this theory.

Here's a tip, if you do go: change up the instrumentation and ignore the genres.

Update: Shucks, I thought you could actually choose a pattern and make your own selections. I guess I've played with pretty much everything. It's kind of hit-or-miss as to whether you'll get listenable stuff, but it's an interesting experiment.

Update to the Update: You can sort of choose a pattern, and different seeds. I actually haven't played with everything. You know, I'll just shut up now and go mess around some more.

Friday, September 09, 2005

Bush Administration, resign!

Here is Gordon Adams' forceful and cogent declaration that the cronyistic pack of Keystone Kops that is the Bush Administration should be summarily fired in the wake of the Katrina disaster.

I remember when Republicans wanted Bill Clinton to resign back in 1998. In this one, we've got Henry Hyde saying that it would be the "heroic" course of action for Clinton and referred to impeachment as "a cleansing of the office."

Well? If those people wanted Clinton to resign over a matter that hurt no one, they damn well ought to be calling for Bush to resign too.

If this had happened in Japan--if thousands of bloated Japanese were floating in toxic floodwater being eaten by rats--the administration that presided over the disaster would have already resigned in deep public humiliation and I bet there would have been suicides too. The replacement administration would already be sworn in.

So, Bushies? Do the right thing.

Upgrading Operating Systems

I finally took the plunge and installed Mac OS X 10.4, a.k.a. Tiger, on my iBook.

The OS itself installed without a hitch; I just clicked the "Upgrade" button after starting up the computer from the DVD and the machine chirped along just fine without me. After a while, I was informed that the installation was complete and that I should restart.

Right about now is when a person says "I restarted the machine...and nothing happened." Fortunately, that wasn't the case here. Restarting did take a while, and the disk chattered away for a long time after the login screen came up. It took forever to log in. I imagine that it was the new search engine, Spotlight, indexing the hard drive.

The only problem I had was when it came time to install the new version of Xcode, the Apple software development environment. I love it that Apple provides a developer's toolkit with the operating system--and not only that, but the same one they use to build the OS. It's a great little chunk of added value, so I'm willing to forgive what a PITA it is to work with sometimes. Anyway, I had a hitch: when I ran the installer, I got the manifestly unhelpful error message "There were errors installing the software." No explanation of what errors, and /var/log/install.log just told me that each SDK had taken a certain amount of time to install unsuccessfully. Thanks a lot.

I tried again, as the installer suggested, but with the same results. I decided to download the absolute latest version of Xcode, 2.1, from the Apple Developer Connection. Same results (and it's a hefty CD-length download, too, 750+ MB). Finally, in desperation, I ran the perl-based uninstaller that lives in /Developer/Tools. That erased most of the older version. Then I reran the Xcode 2.1 installer, which completed successfully.

Unfortunately, I changed more than one thing: I had also updated the OS to the latest patch level, which addressed some installer issues. So, the solution may have been the stuff I installed from Software Update, and it may have been uninstalling the old Xcode.

The big question I've had since the release of the OS is, of course, the big question you have about pretty much anything you buy: "Is it worth it?"

There's no whiz-bang, must-have features in Tiger, at least in my opinion. The one that everyone talks about, Dashboard, is neat but ultimately seems like just a toy. That's not going to stop me from writing a couple of dashboard widgets, you understand, but it's not as immediately useful as Expose. Perhaps over time I'll come to see the utility of it, but I don't really care about monitoring the weather where I am, or having a dictionary lookup, or a Wikipedia client, when I can open up Firefox and have those things anyway. The one thing that I do find useful is the calendar; it's quicker to pull up Dashboard and look at the calendar than it is to pull up iCal or the Date & Time Control Panel.

I'm sure there's a lot going on under the hood, and as I play with the development tools, I bet there'll be some good changes, but on the user level, the OS doesn't seem that compelling, and certainly not $129 worth of compelling. The new features that Apple touts on their OS X web page and on their 200 New Features! page pretty much don't make a difference to me--I don't use iChat so iChat AV is a nonstarter, RSS feeds in Safari are a moot point as I don't use Safari, etc. etc. (Notice, too, that each widget included with the OS rates as a separate feature.)

Despite that...if you own a Mac, you should get on the upgrade bandwagon, assuming your system meets the requirements. Why? Well, I guess it's partly because I'm still a charter member of the Apple fanboys' club, and partly because sooner or later, software is going to start requiring Tiger. Even with the Intel switch looming, you might as well get caught up with the latest.

Wednesday, September 07, 2005

R.I.P. Maynard G. Krebs

It's strange. I watched Gilligan's Island all the time, and Dobie Gillis almost never, but for some reason when I heard the news that Bob Denver died, my first thought was of Maynard's goatee.

For anyone who has played one iconic character, let alone two, life must be an interesting combination of elation and disappointment; you know you'll never work again in any meaningful way, but you also know that you'll live forever in reruns.

Monday, September 05, 2005

Good For A Six-Year-Old

Of course...what do I know? These look good to me. The image on the top is, I think, from the deck of the ferry that my dad and Lani took out to the Atlantis submarine ride. I was messing around with the colors a little bit, but ultimately decided to leave it as it came out of the photo processor.

The image on the bottom is of a bowl on a table on my parents' front lanai. Hmm...I guess I do have to distinguish now, don't I? :) I like the bowl, I like the rocks. This one I cropped a bit and changed the shadows just a little. It was pretty dark before.

I have a couple others, but these are my two favorites.

Fellow musicians...

...not that I necessarily always feel deserving of the title, mind you, but do you find that playing before bedtime helps you sleep or totally wires you? I've been monkeying about with Reason (an "adapted" version, mind you--the full version would be cool!) just to get a better sound out of my keyboard. As I write this, I've been playing for an hour and far from being wiped, I feel like playing some more. I'm just sitting here listening to the stuff I recorded.

I don't know how you guys feel, but I enjoy listening to my own stuff; whether it's any good at all is kind of irrelevant. If nothing else, it makes good background.

Actually, I suppose the question can apply to any creative endeavor that doesn't take forever to set up and tear down. (To use Reason, I simply plug my USB MIDI interface into my computer and turn off "Local Control" on my keyboard.) It's probably a really dumb question; of course creativity energizes you. What do you guys think?

Saturday, September 03, 2005

Kanye West And Irina

Apparently Kanye West ruined the hurricane benefit by going "off script" with some choice words about the Bush Administration.

If this had happened in the Soviet Union--if it was 1987, and there had been an earthquake in Siberia or something, and a bunch of hypothetical Russian pop stars were hypothetically allowed to perform a benefit concert, and suddenly the hypothetical pop sensation Irina Unpronounceableskaya burst out, "The Politburo doesn't care about about Siberians! I hate the way they portray us in the media! They've given them permission to go down and shoot us!", and they cut away from her immediately and Tass announcers primly said that "It would be most unfortunate if [this event were] overshadowed by one person's opinion" and apologized for the "lapse" by saying "She went off script" and that the "person in charge" didn't notice in time to cut away....can you imagine how Americans would take it? Can you imagine the scornful anger we would heap on all that blatant censorship? Can you imagine how Irina Unpronounceableskaya's brave moment of speaking truth to power would be immortalized in our imagination as evidence of the irrepressibility of the human spirit, and the global need for freedom and human rights?

But no. It happened here. All of it--the shock, the cutting away, the prim apologies, the explanation as to why the embarrassing "departure from script" got through, the sense that something untoward and improper had happened, the blaming of the speaker--all of it was home-grown USA.

Matt Lauer *did* say "But [West's impromptu outburst is] still part of the American way of life"--grudgingly. Dammit, I guess we just have to tolerate it, don't we.

But notice that we'll call it a "rant" and mention that West had previously made "an emotional outburst" on TV "after he was snubbed for an award," making him look like a spoiled, petulant brat.

We still let people speak...but we have ways of making sure no one else listens.

Friday, September 02, 2005

LLWS Redux

I'm watching a rerun of the final game of this year's Little League World Series, catching the inning that we missed last Sunday. Vonn Fe'ao is pitching 78-79 MPH fastballs, which is the equivalent of 100+ MPH in the bigs. So fast, as the announcers said, it's off the equivalency charts. I'm surprised he's not ripping his own arm off.

Jazz Piano

I'm taking up jazz piano again. This is like the third or fourth time. Among other sites on the web, I'm looking at Scot Ranney's Learn Jazz Piano. I've enjoyed Jazz Resource Center.

And yes, I'm avoiding talking about Hurricane Katrina's aftermath. It's just too depressing right now. Maybe later.

Thursday, September 01, 2005

Travel Report, part 3

Until this trip, I hadn't seen my friend David in person for a decade or so, and I hadn't seen my friend Michelle in even longer. One of the great things about traveling this time was that I knew that we'd all get to hang out and catch up and do stuff. We made a bunch of plans beforehand, to go out to dinner, and to a Bon dance, and some other things. It was really great to see you guys! (And feel free to correct any part of what comes next. I'm working from notes that I wrote while half in the bag.)

For dinner one night, we went to 12th Ave Grill in Kaimuki, just down the hill from my parents' house. The restaurant is apparently one of the hottest tables in Honolulu these days, and we were lucky to snag a reservation.

I've seen reviews of 12th Ave that claim that it's noisy, but I have to say that the impression that I got when I walked in the door was one of calm and quiet. It's a small, casual dining room, maybe fifteen tables and a counter, all tastefully underdecorated and muted. The counter looks through a large window into the kitchen; the specials board hangs above the window. There was no music playing. Basically, there is nothing in the restaurant to distract you from the main attraction: the food.

For someone for whom "fine dining" is a steak at Outback, it was like walking into heaven. I really don't like places with gimmicks, with gimcracks and gewgaws strewn about, televisions and music blaring, trying to disguise the fact that they're all serving the same reheated, deep-fried Sysco junk. Just in terms of atmosphere, more places should be like 12th Ave.

Our starter was a plate of fried calamari, thoughtfully given to us by our old classmate Denise, who--correct me if I'm wrong--is married to the chef. (It was good to see Denise, too, by the way; she and I go way, way back to fourth grade.) If you've ever had overdone, heavily-battered, rubbery "Italian Restaurant" calamari, you owe it to yourself to go to 12th Ave Grill to see how it should be done: very lightly breaded (the texture of the breading was panko-like), and fried for just the right amount of time. It was served with a fantastic marinara that tasted like it was mixed with shoyu or some other kind of sauce. Heaven: the flavors played against each other perfectly.

We moved on to salads. I had the house salad, and if there had to be a disappointment, this was probably it for me. The greens were okay, but it seemed unbalanced with the (very nicely) chopped carrot and very strong onion. To me, they just overpowered the otherwise very delicate taste of the salad and dressing. The tomatoes felt desultory as well. Michelle and Becky's salads looked much better.

As a main course, David and I both had the cinnamon-and-something-else braised short ribs, served with horseradish mashed potatoes. There are almost no words to describe this dish other than "Oh My God." The knife provided was completely unnecessary. The meat just kind of fell apart when you looked at it. As with the calamari, the flavors were perfectly balanced with no false notes. The potatoes were a perfect complement: the horseradish was present but not too strong. I think there's a reason that people constantly ask for the dish even though it's no longer on the menu, and it's a wise choice for them to bring it back.

Now, at this point in your usual chain restaurant dining experience, you've been stuffed to the gills and are about to explode. When the server chirps out "Did anyone save any room for dessert?" she's reaching for the check at the same time because she knows you're going to say "Helllllllllll no!"

Not so at 12th Ave.

The portions were perfectly sized. The calamari went four ways quite nicely, the salads were nicely done, the entree just the right amount. Dessert, instead of an imposition, was a logical conclusion to the evening.

And what a conclusion. I had the mango crisp and immediately vowed either to never bake again or to keep trying until I could get a topping so nicely browned and crisp. I like pies and crisps, and this was easily the best ever. (It's mango season; I have very little doubt that the mangoes had still been on the tree the day before.) Michelle's lemon mousse cake looked like it was ready for a photo shoot: the blueberry garnish just about exploded out of the vibrant yellow sauce.

The service was excellent as well. I found that the server showed up at just the right times. She was friendly, and a little daffy without being obtrusive about it. She certainly did the wine service nicely.

So, maybe part of it was the company, but I found 12th Ave Grill to be a superb restaurant, easily the equal of any other nice place I've been to, and superior to most of those anyway. If you're in Honolulu, you owe it to yourself to grab a reservation and check it out.