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Aug 28, 2008

Happy or Good?

This week in Denver I have watching politicians who discuss moral choices, while I've also been hanging out with my friends' kids who have their whole lives ahead of them.  Here is a thoroughly lousy question that slid into my head while watching Obama's speech with my friend L., her mom and dad, her three young girls, and her boyfriend who is also a parent of two.

If you had to choose for your kid one of these things for the bulk of their lifetime, "you will be happy" or "you will be good," which would you pick?

10:40 PM in Misc 2008 | Permalink | Comments (6)

Aug 27, 2008

Jy hits the DNC - guest blog

My pal Jy is doing a semi-limited-audience blog but said I could excerpt, so here's one from last night:

Keep On Going!

So the last time the Democratic National Convention was in Denver -- 100 years ago -- the first women delegates attended. At this convention, for the first time, there are more women delegates than men. Today, of course, was the 88th anniversary of women having the right to vote.

It's hard not to be a woman and be at this convention and not get caught up in that. I've teared up a few times over the past few days. (Mostly because I'm such a history dork)

We went to an Emily's List event today that, while not nearly as interesting as yesterday's event, was equally inspiring. Pelosi, Clinton and Michelle Obama spoke. Clinton, however, did not at all convince me of being ready to "move on." Oh sure, she said the words, but her delivery didn't sell me. This isn't objective, it's all my intuition. And I'm torn, because I look at that room, older women, little girls, college interns and I totally understand their excitement, their disappointment. But man, she really creeps me out.

I sat next to neat guy from Michigan, an alternate delegate who was co-chair of his county's Clinton campaign. We talked about how disgruntled Michigan is and the challenges there in the general election. He said, "Well, she's meeting with a group of us tomorrow and we will see what she tells us to do." When pressed, he said, he doesn't want her to keep going, but that most of his voters will probably go to McCain without her in the race.

(Realizing the next 3 hours were going to be awfully uncomfortable if we kept talking about this, we shifted to fun topics like health reform -- he, his wife, and 3 of his kids are all doctors. We're hoping we see each other and tomorrow's health forum. And India -- he's originally from a state near Nepal!).

I thought her speech was fabulous, she convinced me, but I'm nagged by how much her demeanor and tone changed from 3pm to 9pm.

On the way home, I chatted with the chair of the South Dakota delegation. A really interesting person and passionate about Hillary. He knows it's up to him to set the tone and unify his delegation and he talked a really pretty game. I asked his nephew -- who appeared to be about 16 -- his impressions. He was about to tell me about a particularly juicy fight the S.D. delegation had at breakfast but then my shuttle bus pulled up to my hotel. His uncle looked a little relieved that the story was stopping.

Occam's Razor is that tomorrow all the official stuff will happen with minimal strife and we'll move smoothly into Thursday. I adore speeches that draw on history....her Harriet Tubman reference was really cool, especially given all the context of today, this convention and this election.

But I couldn't help also to think about Susan Sarandon and Gina Davis, grabbing hands, saying "Let's keep going!" and gunning their car over the cliff into the sunset.

(keeping fingers crossed for Occam's Razor)

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p.s. Susan Sarandon and Jy are staying at the same hotel at the edge of Denver.

08:39 PM in Misc 2008 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Aug 25, 2008

Step Around the World

World_image_from_noaa

Above, the earth as imaged by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.  I like geographic images that don't include political borders.  They let me perceive and notice different things, undistracted by ideas of country or boundary.

That said, I usually make my travel plans on the basis of nationalities, culture, and history.  Here is my list of places-I'm-currently-motivated to see, as an American of Philippine and Indonesian descent.  (Note that countries may belong in multiple categories but are listed only once in which ever category they show up first.  Italics where I've been so far):

For family heritage:

  • Philippines
  • Indonesia
  • China (because you can't find many Indonesians or Filipinos who aren't fractionally Chinese. I think I'm ~1/8th).

Western intellectual and political heritage:

  • Greece
  • Italy
  • Great Britain
  • France
  • Spain
  • Netherlands

Judeo-Christian heritage:

  • Israel
  • Palestine
  • Egypt

Non-western intellectual and spiritual heritage:

  • India
  • Japan
  • Tibet

Relevance to daily US culture and commerce:

  • Canada
  • Mexico
  • Saudi Arabia
  • Venezuela
  • Nigeria

US political and cultural history (war, immigration, other not already listed):

  • Germany
  • Vietnam
  • Russia
  • Ireland
  • West African countries such as Mali, Mauritania, Senegal, Guinea, Sierra Leone, and Ghana
  • S. Korea and N. Korea
  • Iraq
  • Iran
  • Afghanistan
  • Cuba

To see how things could be slightly or very different:

  • Brazil (as my friend Art says, "the US in an alternate history")
  • Ethiopia
  • Papua New Guinea
  • (this list very inexact)

Just because I got interested in them somehow:

  • Georgia
  • Easter Island, Chile

So that's my list so far (minus anything I've forgotten).  I doubt I'll try to reach all of them before my end of days, but a good few and many others not on the list.  Because why not?

I would love to see any of your lists, particularly those of Chap, Barry C., Doc and Claire.

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Note: some places that aren't on my priority list, but that I enjoyed visiting anyway (even if so briefly): Denmark, Singapore, Thailand, Honduras, Belgium, Taiwan, Bahamas. 

06:15 PM in Traveling | Permalink | Comments (4)

National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR) Trail Skylounge

Ncar_tv_time

Some people.  Give them a mountainside vista of Boulder and all they want to do is watch TV.  Above, my pals Jy* and L hanging out on the National Center for Atmospheric Research skylounge.   Not its official name, but that's what I'm calling it.

The NCAR has several miles of trails in the Flatiron Mountains behind their Boulder CO offices.  On one overlook, clever folks have converted rocks into a bunch of lounge chairs, sofas, and loveseats:

Ncar_lounge_chairs

Here's the view for when you're not looking at the tube: 

National_center_for_atmospheric_res

A person who knows these things tells me that the white line going into the horizon is the famed Baseline Road which follows the 40th parallel which, in turn, is the eventual border between Nebraska and Kansas.

To know about the NCAR trail:

1.  Most everyone you meet is very friendly.  Lots of "hi" and "hello" and occasional conversation.

2.  Dogs, on the other hand, just don't care.  They won't stop for petting.  Won't stop to say "hey". 

Signs say they're allowed off leash if they display a green tag that says they're under "voice and sight control".  We saw several of those running free.  We also saw another non-tagged dog that was running free, but with its leash dragging behind.  The owner was walking not far away, following the letter of the law if not the intent.  Lots of dogs in Boulder, though not all are as well trained as Southpark's Cartman after some KFC with Cesar Milan (click for the whole f***ing video at SouthparkStudios.com.  After you click on the link, look for the "Watch Full Episode" link, then click that, f***face.  And "I'm not being aggressive, I'm being dominant.").

3.  There's a big water tank on the NCAR trail, and if you throw rocks at it, they make a really cool "pwinng!" sound.  There's a whole pile of rocks on the trail side of the tank.  Gee, I wonder how they got there.  Interesting thing that Jy noticed: the tank, though metal, painted dark green and in full sun, feels cool to the touch.  Thermal sink, anyone?  Shoutout to Jy for the Southpark link, and to L for the hike.

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*Jy is my Durham BFF who happens to be in Denver for the Democratic National Conference.  We had our own little NC-people caucus in the Barack-y mountains for the day.

02:09 AM in Traveling | Permalink | Comments (0)

Aug 22, 2008

Roasted Vegetables with Cous Cous

Roasted_vegetables_at_450

If you Google cous cous with roasted vegetables you'll get a good few recipes.  Skim them and add your own intuition and you'll do fine.

Above, a just-into-the-oven tray of vegetables that J, P and I had over cous cous tonight.  I was just darned tickled at how well it turned out, this being the first time I've tried to make such a thing.  Here's what we had:

Cous Cous with Roasted Vegetables, v. 21 August 08

Ingredients for 3 servings

  • 1 medium-large eggplant
  • 1 red bell pepper
  • 1 yellow onion
  • l medium-large eggplant
  • 1 large yellow onion
  • 1 red bell pepper
  • 1 head garlic
  • handful of grapes
  • 1/2 cup chopped kalamata and olives-with-garlic (findable in your local grocer's olive cart)
  • olive oil
  • balsamic vinegar
  • ground thyme
  • dried rosemary

Preparation

  • Cut and then lightly salt the eggplant to draw out the bitter.  Let sit for a while.  Rinse.  Pat dry.
  • Cut all the other "food" ingredients (except the olives) to what size you like.
  • Place on roasting pan
  • Dress with a mix of olive oil, balsamic vinegar, thyme, and rosemary (fresh is probably better but we didn't have any so nyaah).
  • Roast at 450F for 45 minutes.

Serve

over cous cous and top with chopped olives and maybe some red pepper.

Notes and Observations

Any number of other ingredients could be added.  The nice thing to remember is to make sure you have some sweet (like from the grapes, or raisins, or whatever) and some acid (from the olives and/or capers and/or more balsamic vinegar).  We also had some green split peas that were meant as a plain side item, but everyone just stirred them in with the roasted veggies.

There are better and worse sizes and shapes for chopping the vegetables.

We meant to serve halvah for dessert, but forgot it in the cupboard.  Instead we had yummy white peaches from California.  I have been told that white peaches and nectarines are an abomination, but we enjoyed ours.

Hey, this meal was vegan!

Tomorrow, something Indonesian.

02:27 AM in Food, Recipes | Permalink | Comments (1)

Aug 21, 2008

Double Feature -- Tropic Thunder and Man on Wire

FEB 24 ALERT: Tom Cruise video is back, courtesy of the Russians at rutube (Top Gun irony?) run to 2:30 to skip the cursing and get to the dancing, playah.

Update/Alert: at least for the moment, YouTube has the Tom Cruise scene in which producer Cruise and agent McConaughey are dealing with the heroin dealers who are holding Stiller hostage.  At first, McConaughey thinks that Flaming Dragon is a rival talent agency.  Watch the whole 5-1/2 minutes while you can, play-ah! Gone, too bad.  Fun while it lasted.  Maybe to return someday.

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Saw two movies this week: Tropic Thunder and Man on Wire.

Tropic_thunder_poster_2 Tropic Thunder was consistently amusing to me, and occasionally laugh-out-loud funny, but I'm beginning to realize that I don't like Ben Stiller in anything.*  Tom Cruise was far and away** my favorite part of the movie and I wish I could remember his quotes better.  I look forward to when YouTube has his bits of this flick, so I can watch just them.  (A friend quoted some critic who said, "Ben Stiller has single-handedly rescued Tom Cruise's career.")  Robert Downey Jr. has a few great moments in rapid-response dialogue*** with Ben Stiller, and Matthew McConaughey has many funny moments as Ben Stiller's agent, doing his impression of Tom Cruise playing Jerry Maguire.

After reading a few reviews, I'm guessing that the two strongest reactions to this movie come from either (a) the politically-correct/activist folks who resent the portrayals of mentally retarded people or (b) the entertainment-industry aficionados who love the Hollywood satire.  Since I don't fall into either of those categories, I give it an unequivocal "Oh, it was pretty funny.  If I were bored and it came on TV, I'd watch most of it on purpose, and the rest because I'm too lazy to move."  Denver mall-theatre ticket: $9.

Man_on_wire_poster Man on Wire was recommended to me by a client (I think that's the movie he recommended) who saw it at Sundance (I'm pretty sure that's where he saw it.  At the very least, I know he was there).  In case you didn't see the trailers on TV (you didn't), Man on Wire is a documentary about Phillipe Petit's tightrope walk between the two World Trade Center towers in 1974. 

It's a good story, but I didn't care for the storytelling or the camera work.  The filmmakers try to weave many story elements into the 90-minute doc: (a) re-enactments of the ~12 hours leading up to the walk, (b) re-enactments of the planning, (c) real photos and videos of their years of preparation, (d) re-enactments of early years from Petit's life, (e) present-day interviews with the participants (including commentary on their relationships in addition to their efforts) and (f) the walk, itself. 

It was too much for them to do skillfully.  The movie (tried to) emphasize how hard it was to do the planning, and how nerve-wracking it was to get the people and equipment into the building and to set up the walk.  I understand how important this part was.  I also think that the way they showed it (with re-enactments that might remind you of police/reality shows on FOX, where they interview a crime victim while showing a re-enactment of crack-addled kids breaking into the house while she's cooking her family's dinner) was cheesy and disorganized.  And they lean unnecessarily on Erik Satie's beautiful but now-way-overused Gymnopedie 3 (or is it 1?).**** So, anyway. See the movie if only if you are very interested in tightrope walking or the World Trade Center.  It was nice to see a contemporary movie about the WTC that wasn't about their destruction.  In fact, you get a lot of nice coverage of its construction, opening, and life. Denver art-house ticket: $9.75.

Unrelated to filmmaking:
my personal takeaway from both movies is the itch/motivation/wish to get myself more focused and energized around single projects rather than scattering myself across many things (including Vonnegut's "farting around").  There's a quote from Man on Wire in which an accomplice recalls the first time he saw Petit step on a cable.  He said something like, "And suddenly, I could see nothing but Phillipe's concentration.  He was like the sphinx.  I'd never seen concentration like that before, and I don't think I ever have, since."

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*Which is too bad because he does so many things. 

**Pun not originally intended, but subsequently heh-ed at.

***bar trivia team name overheard this week, "Never Go Full Retard."

****on my almost-want-to-boycott list: (1) movies that use this beautiful piece because they can't think of anything else to get the job done (extra annoying because this crew went through the trouble of getting Michael Nyman (who scored The Piano) to compose at least a half-dozen original tracks for the film.  They could have asked him to do one more.) (2) weddings that quote Kahlil Gibran or the "Love is Patient" text from 1 Corinthians, or that use the Lohengrin wedding march and/or Jesu, Joy of Man's Desiring.  Yes, I know I'm being overly grumpy about this.

12:57 AM in Reviews | Permalink | Comments (4)

Aug 19, 2008

Pn. on H2O

Being in the water is what grounds me.

-- my friend Pn., at home in oceans and rivers.

12:59 AM in Quotables | Permalink | Comments (1)

Aug 18, 2008

Gravlax a la Denver

Gravlax_platter

Above, the last bits of Gravlax a la Denver, served at the 7th birthday party of my delightful young friend A., daughter of my friend-since-childhood L.

This platter was carried around the party by our friend Jn. who requested a name for the dish so she could introduce it properly.  Gravlax a la Denver was the best I could do on short notice while assembling a second batch, but a proper description would be "first-timer gravlax served on cream cheese and toast, with fresh dill and (most importantly) incredible grape tomatoes picked this afternoon from the garden of friends J., P. and M."

Believe what they tell you: it's easy to convert raw salmon into something extra fun with a handful of salt and sugar, a sprinkle of pepper, and a few sprigs of dill.

Here's what I ended up with after checking out a few recipes*:

Gravlax

Ingredients

  • Two salmon fillets (~.7 lbs each), skin-on.
  • 1/3 cup sugar
  • 1/3 cup kosher salt [way too much! see notes below]
  • 1 tsp. black pepper [way too little!  I got tired of grinding]
  • 5 bunches dill

Preparation

  • Coat the flesh side of the salmon fillets in the sugar, salt and pepper.
  • Sandwich the fillets with the dill in between.
  • Insert in a Ziploc bag
  • Throw in any remaining sugar, salt and pepper.
  • Squeeze out any air.
  • Weight down with something modestly heavy (e.g., a bag of rice)
  • Cure for 48 hours in refrigerator, turning every 12 hours
  • Remove from bag, rinse.
  • Place fillet skin-side down on a cutting board, and cut thin slices on a diagonal, with your knife blade perhaps 30 degrees from horizontal.
  • Slice thinly and on the diagonal (knife blade ~30 degrees from horizontal)

Things I noticed about today's gravlax:

  • This recipe was saltier than I would have liked because I mis-read the recipes. I will try with less salt next time, at least if I plan to eat it plain or just with capers.  However, with toast, cream cheese, dill and tomato, the saltiness was perfectly fine.
  • The thicker parts of the salmon definitely cured less than the thin parts -- the flesh was less salty and less firm.  Closer to (but still more firm than) nova lox.
  • Judging from what kids kept coming back for while I was prepping the snacks: (1) all kids love plain white bread, (2) almost all kids love plain white bread with cream cheese, (3) many kids like Gravlax a la Denver if they can pick off the raw tomato.
  • Clever Jn. pointed out that snipping the dill with scissors is a much faster way to distribute it over gravlax than trying to pluck bits off with my fingers.  Go Clever Jn.!  Even better than Clever Hans!
  • If the platter comes back with a bunch of empty toothpicks, it is kosher to reuse the toothpicks when making the next serving.**

Here's how it looks, mid-prep.  Mmm, pile o' salmon:

Gravlax_prep

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*If you Google gravlax and recipe***,  the first two recipes come from Cooking for Engineers (click for great photos) and Mark Bittman.  These recipes and others disagree on many points.  For example: Bittman says "It is imperative that the fish be as absolutely fresh as possible," while Cooking for Engineers says, "for safety [in killing parasites] use salmon that has been commercially frozen or freeze the salmon yourself to at least -10°F (-23°C) for at least 7 days."  While reviewing these and other recipes just now, I realize that I used way more salt than anyone would recommend for 1.5 lbs. of fish.  I'm not sure why I did that, but I'm glad I didn't ruin the product.

**Lookit, if the guests think it's OK to put their used toothpicks back on the serving platter...  What do they think, we've got nothing better to do than wash plates all day?  One platter, four batches of canapes, then wash: that's my game plan.  I seem to remember an etiquette expert advising "use your pants cuffs" to a gentleman who didn't know where to put his used toothpicks.

***How do you indicate Google search terms while clearly distinguishing whether you want the terms to be in quotes or not?  For my search, I inserted the words gravlax and recipe, but I didn't join them in quotes.  Normally, I'd be inclined to say, "Google "gravlax recipe" (no quotes)" but that seems annoying and/or longwinded ****.  How about if I wrote "Google gravlax recipe".  Would that be clear?  And if I wanted to search for something in quotes, I could say, "Google "Penny Marshall is my friend"

UPDATE, 3/09: Google uses square brackets to describe what goes in the search field.  Thus:

     Google [gravlax recipe]

is different from

     Google ["gravlax recipe"]

Yay!

BTW, "Penny Marshall is my friend" (in quotes) is a Googlenope.  Unfortunately for fun, Google no longer returns a nearly blank page for a Googlenope.  Instead, they return a "no result for phrase in quotes" message followed by results for the words not searched as a phrase.  Ah well.

****I know, I know, so do I. On a regular basis.  But at least here in blogland you can skim.  Or skip.  Or skip to my lou.

01:38 AM in Food, Recipes, Traveling | Permalink | Comments (5)

Aug 07, 2008

Convention Capitalism at $1,000+ per night

Obama_house

From Craigslist:

We would like to rent our comfortable house out to a respectful non-smoking Obama supporter for the Democratic National Convention. We are located in the Bonnie Brae area of Denver, near the intersection of University and Louisiana which is an established and family oriented neighborhood. The house has two queen size beds and a full size bed so six can sleep comfortably. We have a great patio with a brand new outdoor grill.

We welcome dogs (sorry, no cats) with a non-refundable $100 deposit. Our house has a dog door leading to our fenced in backyard. We are 0.9 miles from the fabulous Wash Park (www.washpark.com). We would like a minimum of a three night stay and we can be flexible enough for up to eight nights. The price range would be from $1,500/night for a short stay (3 nights) and $1000/night for longer stays (4-8 nights).

Greetings from Denver where I'm hanging out for a few weeks with friends.  The DNC convention is coming to town in a couple of weeks, and ho-lee-cow do people know how to make a dollar.  While I know I live in cheap-land and am not used to paying retail for much, I'm still astonished at what things are going for in Denver.  A basement apartment that sleeps three is going for $300 a night, and that's by far the most affordable thing I saw on Craigslist except for the tent space for $25 (no word on whether you can use a bathroom.)

I wonder whether the Craigslist poster quoted above is an Obama supporter who wants like-minded people in their home, or a non-Obama supporter who wants to make a dollar off the people who are.

01:56 PM in Traveling | Permalink | Comments (3)

Humane Society of Utah Billboard

View Larger Map

I'm hoping that above this text you can see a little bit of I-15 in Salt Lake City from the Google Maps Street View.  If not, click here

Above and to the right of the nearest car in the right hand lane -- do you see the billboard that looks like a photo of a cat?  It's a photo of a cat, from the Humane Society of Utah that owns this fantastic electronic billboard that rotates a series of pics of animals up for adoption.  More about their five-year-old billboard here from the Deseret News, "Fido, Fluffy on Sign Hard to Pass Up".

02:11 AM in Traveling | Permalink | Comments (1)

Aug 06, 2008

Take Care With Old Friends

Take care with old friends, for they are not quickly replaced.

-- This thought occurred to me ~1989, when my "old" friendships were mostly five or six years old.  Still and more true now, I reckon.

01:12 AM in Me | Permalink | Comments (2)