Friday, March 29, 2013


I have some very real things I need to do - write an article for a local blog, do my taxes, deal with some legal documentation around a shady rental car damage claim - which means I am being super productive in all other ways. For example, last weekend consisted of getting some shit DONE around the house. 
First, we installed a new light fixture in the kitchen so that I no longer feel that I'm cooking or eating under an interrogator's lamp. This was a big step for me, since electricity is scary and dangerous. Nobody got electrocuted, though, so cheers to the Brecki household. I also took on the dumb but satisfying task of corralling all my extension cords and either taping them to the wall with white duct tape or tucking them into a rubber cord protector a la this. This is the most boring thing to talk about on a blog, I am sure, but I'll tell you what: it made a difference in my quality of life. That is probably because something is very wrong with me, but at least I'm dealing with it.

I weeded the garden, which was completely taken over by nasturtium, clover, dandelions, crabgrass, and something I haven't yet identified that has yellow flowers and is, thank god, very easy to pull up by the roots. The work went quickly, and I was able to put in tulips (too late, I know, but I had the damn bulbs) and zinnia seeds that Mike's mother gave us - the seeds' grandparents were from Mike's grandma's garden. There's a lot more work to do, but it felt nice to start. And also to be in the sun in my backyard with the smell of the pine trees in the next yard.
We gave the new mixer its first go-round with dough: Smitten Kitchen's cinnamon buns, which Mike pulled off quite nicely. 
Lest other appliances feel neglected, I juiced a ton of fruits and vegetables from the farmer's market and mixed them with sparkling water (thanks to our much-loved SodaStream) for spritzers. If you alternate cinnamon buns and fresh juice, that's kind of like a cleanse, right? Sure.
I also went to Beth's dance competition, which was absolutely delightful. Beth is a master tapper, and seeing her dressed up as a genie/flirty teenager/sassy old lady was a sight.
Isn't she adorable with her jazz hands, even in her normal people clothes? Anyway, another weekend is rolling around, and my to do list hasn't gotten shorter. Which means I'm going to get a ton done. Just none of the right things.

Oh well.

Thursday, March 28, 2013

It is possible

That tonight I went to a pilates-type class where everyone (else) was skinny, strong, and wearing a giant diamond engagement ring, then I called in some sushi, rode the subway, picked up the sushi, and ate it at home, still in my yoga pants, while sipping a dirty martini.

Hey, these are the last months of my 20s. I can be a cliche all that I want.

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Stingy tech

This East Bay Express article on the tech economy is a really worthwhile read. It has its flaws, but I think it gets to the heart of the things that make me most uncomfortable about Bay Area culture. In my mind, it buries the lede by having this passage two thirds of the way through:
But the thing about this particular brand of low-key wealth is that it can lead to a false sense of self, on both a micro and a macro level. Consumption is still consumption even if it's less conspicuous. Class may be harder to see here, but that doesn't make it any less real. Mark Zuckerberg's still a billionaire, even if he's wearing a hoodie and jeans. And if you don't feel or look rich, you don't necessarily feel the same sense of obligation that a traditional rich person does or should: Noblesse oblige is, after all, dependent on a classical idea of who is and is not the nobility. As that starts to fall away, obligation — to culture, to the future, to each other — begins to disappear, too.
That really sums it up for me. Even the older tech guys - Bill Gates etc - took a more old school approach to charity. The newbies are not so into it, the cheap bastards.

As much as I can get het up about Ayn Randian dudebro billionaires, though, I also know that I'm not nearly as generous as I should be. Why? Because I don't feel rich. And that's because I'm not rich! But I'm also making a good living, and I need to be much more rigorous about giving it away. Working on it.

The class aspect of it is most interesting to me. The article is saying - and I, in my limited knowledge, think it seems correct - that if you were born into the upper class, and were raised to believe you deserved to be there, then you also thought it was your duty to help your lessers. It's a weird inversion of how I normally think about class, but an interesting one.

Anyway, it seems like this is something the maker/tech culture should be able to solve. Start some education campaigns, build some apps, let Kickstarter do its thing, and there you go. Boom! Instant generosity.

By the way, I really disagree with the article's argument that Kickstarter is a sign of a culture of consumption, as opposed to cultural philanthropy like the opera or symphony. Relevant passage:
The self-described "world's largest funding platform for creative projects" has, in its three-year existence, raised more than half a billion dollars for more than 90,000 projects and is getting more popular by the day; at this point, it metes out roughly twice as much money as the National Endowment for the Arts...Kickstarter is entirely in and of the web, and possibly for that reason, it tends to attract people who are interested in starting and funding projects that are oriented toward DIY and nerd culture..."A lot of this is about the difference between consuming culture and supporting culture," a startup-world refugee told me a few weeks ago: If Old Money is investing in season tickets to the symphony and writing checks to the Legion of Honor, New Money is buying ultra-limited-edition indie-rock LPs and contributing to art projects on IndieGoGo in exchange for early prints. And if the old conception of art and philanthropy was about, essentially, building a civilization — about funding institutions without expecting anything in return, simply because they present an inherent, sometimes ineffable, sometimes free market-defying value to society, present and future, because they help us understand ourselves and our world in a way that can occasionally transcend popular opinion— the new one is, for better or for worse, about voting with your dollars.
I think that's ass backwards. Rich people don't get anything out of donating to the ballet? Bullshit! They get to go to the ballet, for one, which is something I'd do more often if it wasn't so damn expensive. They get to feel like they're fancy shmancy, and they get to develop a community around other people that are hoity toity like them (hoity toity and fancy shmancy in the same sentence, lucky you, reader). Um, hello, glossy photos in the society pages.

My generation's love of Kickstarter isn't a result of getting to show off our generosity while swanning around in a ballgown in a symphony hall. It's quite a bit more humble than that; it's you, a computer, and maybe a Facebook post about the worthy project. For most of the Kickstarters I've funded I've been driven by a sense of charity (and I mean that in the sense of wanting to help, not of pity), not because I'm going to get some shiny new toy. Also! By contributing to a Kickstarter project, you can be contributing to the broader culture - I've funded some of my friends' extremely worthy arts ventures that many people besides the supporters will get to enjoy. Example 1 and Example 2.

In short (ha!): it's a thought-provoking article, and adds another facet to the dialogue around what the tech community's totally insane wealth means for us all, other than cultural apocalypse and selling our organs to make rent.

Tuesday, March 26, 2013


Do you know This Is Colossal? You should. It's an arts site, but one that covers more than just pretty things. What Buzzfeed is for dumb lists that make you go "Awww," (Ten Cutest Cats etc), Colossal is for things that make you go "Damn. Cool." 

Today's example (via my brother): Prince Rupert's drop. Plop molten glass into cold water and it creates a teardrop shape. The drop can't be shattered with force, but nick the skinny end, and the thing explodes outward with force. It looks like it's shattering, but it's actual the mechanical equivalent of the chemical reaction that causes an explosion. Glass go boom. Watch the video; it's rad. And bookmark Colossal.

Monday, March 25, 2013


I have been shamefully neglectful in posting about our March 11 dinner/reading event at Brick & Mortar, mostly because there's so much to say. I finally got a post up on the Fiddlehead Supper Club site, and so there's no longer any excuse. I'm crossposting from Fiddlehead, with some added color since this is my personal blog.

I should also give a quick overview of what Fiddlehead is; you can read more on the Fiddlehead site here and here. I'm aiming to start a dinner party event series that combines a sitdown meal with art, be it literature, performance art, film, music etc. If it works - and I hope it does - we'll be doing this every few months. Maybe even more, if others step up to help. Feedback welcome!


Two Mondays ago was Fiddlehead's inaugural event: a Middle Eastern-inspired dinner and sci-fi reading at Brick & Mortar in San Francisco for the new ebook company FreemadeSF. It was exciting, exhausting, and a success by our measures. We maxed out on guests, delivered on tasty food and drink, and got to ease people into an event of interesting, fun writing. The bartender at the venue, witness to it all, said he thought it was wonderful. Always trust the bartender.
An ace team came early to help with setup. We had to get the food ready and transform a rock club into a space worthy of a sitdown dinner. Up went tables, down went tablecloths, candles, flowers and place settings. We didn't want to go overboard on the sci fi theme, but we worked it into the table runners, menus and cool glowing flower arrangements. When attendees started arriving, we set out the hors d'ouevres: grilled halloumi toasts with butternut squash puree with honey from my parents' bees, and cheddar gougeres made with our own homebrewed porter. Both went quickly, but the gougeres absolutely flew - I'll be doubling the number I make next time.
A touch I'm glad we incorporated - thanks to Brick & Mortar's bartender Terry - were two signature cocktails to complement the meal, the brainchild of our friends at Spiritworks Distillery. The Buck (named after the first story read out loud that evening) was made with rye, vermouth, lemon juice, grenadine and orange bitters. Served on ice, I saw it getting sipped down all over the room. The Barbarella was also popular - gin, grapefruit juice, Campari, honey and mint. It was smooth and strong, and my personal favorite.
Screen Shot 2013-03-25 at 2.53.21 PMScreen Shot 2013-03-25 at 2.53.30 PM
After an hour or so of cocktail hour, we brought out dinner. Sides included shaved asparagus and fennel salad with carrot and sliced almonds, sweet potato fritters with harissa cream, and burnt eggplant with garlic and lemon on cabbage leaves. The main event was a chickpea phyllo pie. We did beef, vegetarian and vegan versions, as well as a gluten-free option. Based on the fact that many people went up for seconds, I'm judging the meal a hit.
Screen Shot 2013-03-25 at 2.53.08 PM
The piece de resistance was a tray of chocolate cupcakes with salted caramel icing, on top of which perched edible logos for FreemadeSF.
With a room of full and happy guests, our emcee Kat took us through the rest of the evening: four readings, all set to live music. One writer even played the sitar!
A huge thanks goes out to those who helped with the evening, and to those who attended as well. We can't wait for the next one!

Thursday, March 21, 2013

South By roundup

I am sitting at my kitchen table sipping my friends' newly distilled vodka, because you can't stop drinking when you come home from an epic bender or your liver will fall out. Or at least that's my understanding. (Quick note on the vodka: it is absolutely delicious, so good that they hadn't planned on making it for sale - their focus is gin and whiskey - but they feel compelled to. More on that another time.)

That epic bender went by the name South by Southwest, and each year it leaves Mike and I wrung out and exhausted, several pounds fatter, and pretty sure we'll never do it again. But then we do. Why? I can only answer for myself, but for me South By is 1/3 about the music, 1/3 about the food, and 1/3 about the company. We make it down to Austin 2 to 3 times a year, and the beauty of South By is that everyone is out and about. Trying to meet up with them may be hell on earth (text: where are you? text: at liberty, you? text: that [insert name of website, magazine, or snack food company here] party text: ok, maybe see you at mohawk later...), but it all works out, and it's magic. By day your are sunburned, by night you are soundburned, and at all times you have a Lone Star in your hand. Except for the times I was smart and had a Topo Chico instead. But mostly it was a Lone Star, or, later at night, a sugar free Red Bull and vodka, for strategery. And maximum body poisoning.

So let's break it down.

Our friends in Austin are numerous and dear. Many are Mike's best friends from everandever, and others are newer friends who are social butterflies on a scale unheard of outside of social media. It's an impressive crew, and we got to spend time with most of them. We stayed with very generous friends who not only put us up for a week but also hooked us up with special passes that get us VIP access into certain venues, as they do every year. Saints. A good number of our friends have kids, and I realized that our Texas visits are pretty much the only time I interact with children. Luckily, the joy of bouncing on a trampoline spans generations.
Bouncing Luca
Skipping the line at Red 7
Catching up with Wellesley ladies

Thursday, March 7, 2013

Your intertubes for today

It's almost March 11, which means it's almost time for me to cook dinner for 40 paying people! Mostly friends, but still. Monday is the FreemadeSF launch party, which is also the first event of my Fiddlehead Supper Club. Hopefully it will go well enough that there will be many more to come. More info here, and tickets here.

If you create a Google spreadsheet and type "lager" into the first cell, "ipa" into the one below it, highlight them, and then drag the corner of the cell down the whole column while holding down the Option key, it autofills hundreds of beer types. Bravo, Techcrunch, for covering this fantastic hidden feature. I am pleased to have coworkers who love beer that damn much.

Oh, The Onion, you hit the Boston nail right on the head: Pretty Cute Watching Boston Residents Play Daily Game of 'Big City'. I love Boston, I really do. But unlike every other smaller city (I say that as a diehard resident of one), Boston really does seem like the little dog that thinks it's a big dog. Which is not a bad thing - it's adorable. But really, any city with bars that close at 1 a.m. is just not in the big city leagues. (Cue virtual snowballs from my Boston friends.)

I'm starting to collect tips and recommendations for our trip to Turkey in April, and a coworker sent me this pin. I've never gotten into Pinterest - I don't even know where to start, and I lose interest quickly - but I like the concept of using it for travel. I've been plugging in "Istanbul hotel" and getting very excited.
My friend Nat has an article in The New York Times on the artist Ernestine Ruben.

Mike loves portmanteaus, deeply. This Slate writer hates portmanteaus. This does not help my impression of Slate as a place where writers go to bitch, moan, and be contrary just because they feel like it.