Tuesday, May 31, 2016

Book Report

I recently complete the third of what I have now determined will be a four book initial series. It seems that I have been writing this much longer than in fact I have. I went back to my first post related to 'The Story' and it was if February of 2015 and it dates my having started this in December of 2014. I looked at the other posts related to it and it wasn't until June of 2015 that I had finished the rewrite of the original book. Since then I finished a first sequel and just a few weeks ago the second sequel. Each one has gotten progressively longer as the complexity of the characters and their development has grown. In fact the second sequel logged in at 480 pages! Crazy.

I've now started a 'Prequel' so the original first book will actually be the second book. When that is done, the original book will require a total rewrite and change. I certainly keeps me occupied. Since i started this project I've not turned on television one evening.

Sunday, May 29, 2016

Taking A Pasting

Which refers to the act of making Southeast Asian Curry and other types of flavor pastes. We here at de-I HQ in the Tower are blessed in that we have a very high quality Asian Grocery store close by that has just about everything one needs to cook the foods one learned in the plethora of cooking classes I've taken in such locales as Cambodia, Thailand, Malaysia and China.

Whereas many in my various cooking classes would wonder where they were going to get galangal root, green papaya and Szechuan peppercorns, I merely smiled knowing they were all available to me...even the weird ass Malay shrimp paste called Belecan.

I can also get a lot of stuff that is already made. So there are commercial lines of Thai curry pastes and other things. These potentially are a real time saver and I've back way off of the idea that I need to make everything from scratch as I've gotten older. For example, I found a number of Indian dried spice mixtures that are as good as anything I've made from toasting and grinding up a dozen spices.

But I've not been happy with the Thai curry pastes. In general they have way more heat/chile in them than we like to eat. So to get the curry flavor you end up making a dish that is too hot to enjoy. I've also found that purchased sambal -a Malay and Indonesian chile sauce aren't quite the same as we had in the classes. And I've yet to find a purchased harissa, a Northern African chile sauce that I like as much as what I make.

Hence this weekend I was pounding away with the mortar and pestle making Thai green and yellow curry paste. I followed the recipe from the class on the green and ended up with something that seemed imbalanced. When I made the yellow, I adjusted the recipe by putting in more of some ingredients and less than others and ending up with something that to my nose was much closer to what I was looking for.

Wife conjectures that there are big differences in the size and flavor of various ingredients here compared to the native countries and that makes sense. As is so often the case, a recipe can be a good initial guide, but a cook has to use their own judgment and experience to make things come out the way they want.

Thursday, May 26, 2016

Fear Of Frying No More

For whatever reason during all my years of culinary exploits, using deep fat frying as a technique has alluded me. The few times that I may have attempted it, the results were not very encouraging. Plus there was negativity associated with the amount of fat used and a fear that I would screw something up and either burn down my house or give myself third degree burns or both!

During the three cooking classes I took during our trip to Asia however I was forced to use the deep fat frying technique in each. Especially with the Chinese class, the deep fat frying as part of a two-step cooking process was absolutely essential to getting the texture and flavor of a number of dishes.

So this week I took the demon of deep fat frying fear by the horns and plunged in. I did a version of one of the Chinese recipes where you deep fry both the vegetable and the meat component first and then finish the dish (give it its final flavor) by stir frying. That was a GREAT success with the texture and flavors spot on. I then tried to fry some sole Wife bought at Costco. That was good but flawed. I think part of the problem was I didn't have enough oil in the pan and also I didn't want to use any breading so I just put a bit of corn starch. It wasn't bad mind you. AND I neither burnt down the house nor went to the hospital!

Sunday, May 22, 2016

Parents In Abstentia

Our oldest granddaughter 2.1 graduated from her program on Friday. Without going into all the details, 2.1 has had a difficult challenging number of years as have had her parents. It culminated with a decision  about a year ago to enroll her in a boarding school program for parents and children that feel they've run out of options in how they are going to deal with their relationship and fear for how the future is going to turn out. It is a program with tight discipline, a real focus on academics and a lot...a lot of therapy required by both the child and the parents.

With the program being in Arizona and daughter #2 being in Hong Kong it was very difficult for #2 and 2B to visit with 2.1 or have 2.1 come to them as was part of the whole program design. So as the closest relatives (we're about 6.5 hours away), we were asked to fill in the role a few times. It was kind of hard on our part because we were not really in the loop with all the hard therapeutic work and counseling going on. So you kind of felt like a fish out of water. But we did our best.

This held true for this graduation ceremony. I don't know what Wife and I expected but it turned out to be far more emotional than I expected. 2.1 has come such a long way. But she'll still have much more to do now that she's grabbed (I use that word because it is clear that the students in this program have to decide that they are the ones that are going to take charge of their lives) the tools she needs to succeed.

I had to read my daughter's statement and I had hard time doing so and not breaking up. That was true of just about every parent who talked. The same was true for the girls who had their opportunity to speak. I was totally amazed at our granddaughter giving her talk with no notes, looking directly at the audience, and with real poise and feeling.

Then we had to rush her to Phoenix so she could catch a plane the next morning very early to go to Hong Kong where she will spend the summer after which she will go off to a new school in Michigan. A lot of change for a 17 year old. We spent the evening cuddling with her and hung out in the airport for as long as we could with her. It was very emotional.

Then we went drove home to Albuquerque. It was a long couple of days but as grandparents who are physically far removed from our families you don't often get the opportunity to participate in their lives in a meaningful way.

Sunday, May 15, 2016

Asia Trip Perspective

I think a real measure of how successful I’ve been in transitioning out of the full-time work, career mode is how quickly I’ve gone from our balls to the wall travel mode in Asia back to mellow work with lots of personal time lifestyle back at home…and the fact that we are now busy planning our next big trip in the Fall. I’ve so integrated back that I forgot that I wanted to write down an impressions and perspective document about this last trip.

How Much Did We Fly?

We spent a lot…A LOT of time in air travel mode. Each time one took a flight it accounted for a good part of that day considering getting ready to travel, getting to the airport, getting through the airport, actually flying, getting out of the airport, getting to wherever you were going, and unpacking. I had a feeling about this but I actually counted up the number of days that we were in the air travel system and it turns out that air travel (or Airplane World as I like to call it) was the place we spent the most time in during our trip – by a pretty wide margin actually - with the exception of our base in Hong Kong. We were in Airplane World a total of 12 days. The longest we were on the ground in a country where no air travel was involved was 8 days.

Airplane World truly is a country unto itself. The patterns, systems, looks, rhythms, layouts, procedures, smells, everything are the same from airport to airport, airline to airline, country to country. I feel that Wife and I are extremely knowledgeable on the mores of Asian Discount Airlines. We have mastered Hong Kong International Airport and know how to navigate it with our eyes closed (this is like learning a useful language such as Albanian since the chances of us using HKIA on a frequent basis is pretty nil).

I would like to say for the record, I really do not plan on doing another trip that involves so much and so frequent air travel.

What Was Good And What Was Not So Good

  • We were totally immersed in the ‘how’ one travels in this part of the world – a very different way of traveling than what we do in Europe
  • We saw just how different all these countries really are from each other
  • We got food poisoning
  • We had lots of really interesting personal interactions with all kinds of people
  • We were frequently in places where we could neither understand anything nor could we read anything because of languages using different alphabets
  • We ate a lot of good stuff
  • We ate a lot of stuff that was…interesting????
  • We ate a lot of mediocre stuff
  • We saw some the premier tourist sights in the world
  • We almost got heat stroke (really!)
  • We learned to have faith in Vietnam and just step into a whirlwind of motorcycles and motorbikes to cross a street with the confidence that if we went slowly and confidently enough everyone would just go around us
  • I learned the freedom of adopting the Chinese way of just going forth and not giving a shit about anyone else around you, in front of you, or behind you (Wife had to reorient my behavior when we got back in the States and were going through the LAX airport)
  • We learned that China is REALLY BIG!
  • I found out that soup noodles are a form of spiritual pathway to enlightenment
  • Via three cooking classes I’ve taken my East/Southeast Asian cooking up many notches
Will We Go Back?

Going to all these countries so fast left one with the feeling that one had been at a huge buffet where you could just have a taste or two of a lot of things but couldn’t really get to really enjoy anything. That being said speaking personally, there was no one country that really shouted out to me and said “I love this place and want to come back,” such as I feel about France, Italy and New Zealand. I kind of wish Vietnam was later in out trip rather than the first thing out of the gate. The people there are really enjoyable and it is very tourist oriented. I could see going back there some day. I didn’t see anywhere near enough of Malaysia and could see going back there. I was fascinated with China but don’t think I would go back without being with a Mandarin speaker like my daughter. I’m not clamoring to go back to Thailand.


This was truly ‘an experience’. We were challenged in so many ways and came out feeling we’d learned a ton and mentally invigorated and stimulated. We will be going back to Asia.

Saturday, May 14, 2016

Celebrating Eight Years

It is 8 years to the day that I said a fond farewell to my left kidney and sent it off to find its destiny as the sole operating kidney for my sister whose two kidneys she'd been born with had decided to take early retirement.

It was a major life event. For those who might want all the gory details (not physically gory...more emotionally gory), here's the link to the long series of posts I wrote starting 18 days before the event.

Amazingly enough both the kidney I gave my sister and the one remaining in me have been working like Timex watches (they take a licking and keep on ticking). That is not always the case with these donations.

It has made me wonder if my parts all work better independently than they do together as a system. I feel there was some great economic opportunity lost being so old when I did the donation and missing out on the opportunity to go to India or some where and auctioning off other parts of me. Oh well I guess we'll just have to putter along with the ensemble as it is.

Sunday, May 8, 2016


We've had the pleasure of having our oldest granddaughter 2.1 with us this week. As her family is in Hong Kong and she is in boarding school in the U.S., when there are situations where she has breaks from her programs, we are the fall back option.

It is a lovely thing to see the evolution of the child to the adult - not that 2.1 is an adult but at 17 she is showing more responsibility and self-direction. Having her around has been very enjoyable.

She needed to get some new shoes for a program graduation that takes place in a couple of weeks (which once again as the family closest geographically, we will be going to). Wife has been helping her sew a dress this week - which according to Wife was possibly THE most complicated sewing project 2.1 could have ever chosen. So I volunteered to take her shopping for some shoes to match the dress.

She had to take the SAT exam in the morning so I picked her up and after a light lunch of green chile cheeseburgers and green chile cheese fries we headed off to one of the zillion ladies shoe discount emporiums around town.

As luck would have it, when we walked in there were few people there (though it would be crowded by the time we left!) and the very first pair of shoes we saw were almost exactly what she wanted for her dress.

Then we proceeded to spend another half hour second guessing our choice. We did buy her a pair of every day boot type of shoes though as everything was on sale AND there was 50% off on the second pair.
It was around this time that I decided that if we were to truly get into the Grandfather/Granddaughter bonding thing that my personal ladies shoe inventory was woefully out of date. The first pair I suggested I thought fit nicely in line with what I wear regularly.
But 2.1 thought that they were way too conservative. Having been properly chastened, I decided to go with something decidedly more colorful.
Alas the grandchild thought these were WAY too gaudy and not keeping with the sort of stylish megalomania that is de-I. With her expert guidance we finally settled on:
Truly a pair of heels that will make a power statement of style!

Now all I need is the dress to match. 2.1 suggested I go to Lane Bryant.