Tuesday, October 21, 2008

I will soon (Thursday!) be on holiday in Japan (can't wait can't wait can't wait), away from work and bills and all of those things that can sometimes make life suck. But for all you folks who will still have your noses to the grindstone, here's some fun stuff to help counteract work boredom, just a bit...

Palin as President

You'll laugh, and then you'll cry. Happy hunting!

Also, I read today about Midori-san, the blogging houseplant.

BTW, sometimes I love dry, passive-aggessive British wit. "The world's highest profile blogging houseplant." LOL!

Apparently, you can interact with Midori-san in real time, by giving the plant a dose of fluorescent light. Go to this page, scroll down and click on the widget with the date and time ticker, enter your name, and then click "OK." You will be shown a real time video clip of Midori-san in the cafe, getting a dose of the light you granted. You will also get mention in Midori-san's blog.

I linked to the English translation of the blog, because it reads like a poetry reading I was imprisoned and tortured by attended years ago in San Francisco. Read it in your "poetry voice" -- hours of fun!

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Sunday, October 19, 2008

Hayes Carll, Cafe du Nord, San Francisco, 10.18.2008

Yes, I'm in the second row, and yes, he's looking at me. I must admit, I squeed, just a bit.

If you love honky tonk, or roots rock, or folk and Americana, get thee to a record store and get Hayes Carll's latest, Trouble in Mind. Better yet, see him on tour and get it there. You'll fall in love with his sweet melodies and charming onstage presence. What a fantastic musician, and what a good time (thanks be to Hairy Soap for accompanying me).

Go buy this man's record now!

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Saturday, October 18, 2008

Oi, another food post! Haha, can you tell it's getting colder, and my body is telling me to fatten up?

I tried out a place yesterday that I've been hearing a lot about, Amanda's Feel Good Fresh Food in Berkeley.

Great space, non? Clean and bright.

Amanda's serves "fast food" -- burgers, fries, salads, sodas -- with the same aesthetic as some of the big chains. But there's a big difference.

First of all, many combo meals are actually healthy, and come in under 600 calories. She achieves this through a smaller burger all around (yay!), and the burger is grilled and served on a crunchy whole wheat bun, with all the fixins that normally come with a fast food burger -- lettuce, tomato, special sauce. There are also options for organic American cheese, avocado, or olive oil grilled onions, and you can get walnut/mushroom veggie burger or grilled chicken if you're not a beef eater.

I got a cheeseburger, and it was really delicious. It was well cooked and wasn't greasy or suffering from that fast food oil taste, the tomato and lettuce was crisp and fresh, and the bun was so crunchy and light. I was also impressed that the ketchup is organic, and thus high fructose corn syrup free.

I love cheeseburgers, but I often can't finish an "American" sized burger unless I prep my belly all day, and I not only like to eat healthy but I have to watch my cholesterol, so Amanda's is a godsend.

She also bakes her fries, and she offers sweet potato fries as well. Holy smokes, they are good! Her salads are made with organic greens, with goodies like radicchio, grapes, organic peaches, almonds, and jicama, and are served with an organic whole wheat roll.

All of her packaging is done fast-food style, for that fast-food aesthetic to make you feel like you're having something bad for you, but it is all compostable.

But the best thing for me was the homemade sodas -- sweetened with agave nectar and stevia. Not only does this slash the calories in a soda in half and rid you of the high fructose corn syrup factor, but the soda doesn't taste as sweet.

Cola and sweet potato fries:

I love cola, but never drink it (except the occasional Mexican Coke made with sugar). I was in heaven!

Can't wait to take my 7 year old nephew here when he visits next. Highly recommended when you have a hankering for fast food and don't want to feel guilty about it later, or have it come back to haunt you!

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Thursday, October 16, 2008

Last weekend, Trevor and I were invited to a BBQ at our friends Rachel and Alvaro's house. They were grilling up plenty of delicious meats, Argentinian-style -- pork ribs, pork shoulder, whole chickens. I wanted to bring a side dish that would complement such yummy, comforting, homestyle cooking.

I settled on macaroni and cheese. What better comfort food is there? But I wanted to feature some flavors of Autumn, so I put a little spin on it. After perusing the internets for a bit of inspiration, I came up with...

Creamy Baked Macaroni and Cheese with Apples and Cinnamon

Disturbingly addictive, and quite like a teenage favorite of mine -- apple pie with melted cheese. I was very pleased, as the baking dish was clean when I left the party!

8 ounces uncooked elbow macaroni
2 tbsp unsalted butter
2 tbsp flour
2 cups whole milk
1/4 tsp fine grain sea salt
1/2 tsp pepper
2 1/2 cups sharp cheddar cheese (preferably yellow), grated and divided
1 large apple (preferably Fuji), diced
1/4 to 1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/4 to 1/2 tsp cayenne pepper, or to taste

Note: I find that the cayenne is a very important element, as its heat balances the sweetness of the apple/cinnamon combination. If you must omit it, I recommend adding a little less cinnamon.

Preheat oven to 350°.

Lightly butter a 2-quart shallow baking dish.

Boil enough water to boil macaroni. Add sea salt to taste and macaroni. Cook to al dente. Drain pasta, but do not rinse, and set aside.

Melt butter in a saucepan over medium heat. Whisk in flour, one tablespoon at a time. Immediately add milk, whisking constantly to break up lumps, and bring just to a boil. Reduce heat to low. Sauce should begin to thicken at this point, but if not simmer a bit longer, whisking often, until sauce thickens. Add sea salt, pepper, and 2 cups of grated cheese. Stir until cheese is melted. Remove from heat and mix in macaroni, apples, cinnamon, and cayenne. Pour mixture into baking dish, pat down evenly with spoon, and sprinkle remaining cheese evenly on top.

Bake 15-20 minutes, uncovered, or until bubbly and top begins to brown. Let sit 5-10 minutes before serving.

I just made this again tonight for my honey because he couldn't get enough of it at the BBQ, but I healthed it up with whole wheat penne and the addition of a side of beautiful red chard from the farmer's market, sauteed simply in olive oil with freshly ground black pepper. Perfect!

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Wednesday, October 15, 2008

A couple of very good eats...

Caprino Cremosa al Tartufo

This is an Italian goat milk cheese (chevre) supplemented with cream and dotted with black truffles. Oh my, is it amazing.

I bought half a Caprino Cremosa on Sunday from the "past their prime" cheese bin at the cheese counter in Market Hall. Thrifty, I am, so this is where I go to try out the random cheese I really can't afford to buy full price. And every now and then, I get one that makes me come back and shell out the big bucks for another one -- in this case, not but a few days later.

Also, heirloom tomatoes are out in full force! I picked up a bunch of beauties at my neighborhood farmer's market on Sunday. And while I devoured the first few with just a sprinkling of sea salt, I just ate a perfect Cherokee Purple with...nacho cheese. And tortilla chips, of course. Divine!

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Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Mail Goggles Might Prevent Email Regrets

If you're the kind of person who types tipsy and regrets it in the morning, Google's "Mail Goggles," a new test-phase feature in the free Gmail service, might save you some angst.

The Goggles can kick in late at night on weekends. The feature requires you to solve a few easy math problems in short order before hitting "send." If your logical thinking skills are intact, Google is betting you're sober enough to work out the repercussions of sending that screed you just drafted.

And if you can't multiply two times five, you'll probably thank Google in the morning.

[Y]ou can set up Mail Goggles to protect you from yourself at other emotionally vulnerable times — before your morning coffee, for example, or right after "Grey's Anatomy."

Once enabled, you can adjust when Mail Goggles is active in Settings.

I understand why relying on a computer program to pinch hit for someone's lack of common sense, foresight, and discretion is attractive in this, our godforsaken 21st century, but I also think of it as another notch in the belt of the infantilization of our culture.

Have a program take care of your drunken, slobbery lack of self control, and pretty soon you won't be able to control yourself when you're just in need of coffee or the traffic was bad on the way to work. And if you're so damaged you write shitty emails while at the same time forgetting simple math, you need consequences just so you can learn from them, and maybe gain some self-respect, you big baby!

Hey, I'm not all fascist, pull yourself up by your bootstraps bitch about this. I recognize that people are human, not machines. Part of being human is about making mistakes and forgiveness. So what if you send the occasional less than wonderful email when you're vulnerable? But, on the same token, being human is also about weeding out folks in your life who are perpetually less than wonderful. I need the rash and unfiltered populace as my yardstick!

Anyway, please, people, take some responsibility for yourselves. Man up!

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Monday, October 13, 2008

Because it is always timely, but especially so considering the porked-up bailout, and all the election year rhetoric. It is important that we remember.

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Sunday, October 05, 2008

Gogol Bordello at Hardly Strictly Bluegrass, Golden Gate Park, 10.05.2008

Haha, I know -- WTF?! If you try really hard and cross your eyes, you can see just a bit of the Star Stage where they were performing. This year was unlike any other year I've been to Hardly Strictly Bluegrass. It was CRAZY packed everywhere, in every nook and cranny in Speedway, Lindley, and Marx Meadows in Golden Gate Park.

Gogol Bordello sounded great (and probably looked it too), but we decided they sounded even better when we weren't being touched on all sides by dirt twirlers. So you can imagine that once we moved out of serious ganja range, the music, conversation, and people-watching was fun, rather than of the constantly-on-guard-for-stink-and-filth-getting-on-our-persons variety.

Trevor and I left our house with what we thought would give us an hour extra to account for parking, and we still showed up right when Gogol Bordello began. After circling a full 15 block radius that ate up that hour, we ended up parking about a mile away in the chichi Sea Cliff neighborhood, with a trajectory straight through one of my favorite neighborhoods for eats!

This time around we were craving sushi, so we settled on Shimo on Clement. Great sushi -- really fresh fish -- and plentiful helpings of daikon ribbons (I am my mother's daughter -- I can eat a bowlful of the stuff!) but they suffered from overcooked udon, and gyoza that was nothing to write home about. Still a pleasant atmosphere and a really friendly staff and owner. Made up for all the hassle of getting to Gogol Bordello!

That, and our walk back. Golden Gate, Bay, beautiful homes -- not a bad view for a stroll back to car.

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Friday, October 03, 2008

My friend Courtney is a great appreciator of life and all its mysteries -- fitting that he has found a way to spread that interest to others by performing as a magician!

Courtney regularly astounds me with even his most simple tricks and sleights of hand. Do you remember when you saw your first magic trick? I remember an old man who pulled quarters from my ears when I worked as an extra on an unreleased Toshiro Mifune film when I was six or seven. I was so amazed!

BTW, I've been trying to track down anything about that film. If anyone knows about a film that was tentatively called Lost Horizon, about American internment camps for Japanese-Americans during WWII that was filmed in part on the railroad in Jamestown, CA, please give me a holler!

Anyway, I have to give props to Courtney. I can think of no one better than him to conjure up that childlike amazement and wonder inherent in magic. It's definitely a calling, and I'm glad he's putting himself out there to share his gifts.

Who doesn't love a magic show?

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Thursday, October 02, 2008

I remember riding in the car with my dad from my home in the foothills to an Air Force base in the valley, where we would stock up on groceries once a month. We would play a game to make the monotony of the car ride less apparent, where we competed to see who could spot the most wildlife. He always pointed out coyotes, eagles, rabbits, snakes, and even cranes in the aqueducts; me, I had the attention span of a carrot and was lucky to spot a buzzard.

I remember once we came upon an army of tarantulas in the road. I was completely fascinated and a little freaked out, but my wariness was tempered by the fact I was with my dad -- a hunter, gardener, fisherman, and all-around outdoorsman with great love, respect, and knowledge of the animal world.

Though we stopped for a bit, eventually practicality reigned and dad had to drive through them, crunching a few under the tires of the car.

Strange how the human brain works. Today, this made me miss him.

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