Sunday, July 16, 2017

MUPGT...Maybe We're Buds?

I have a long time client who has developed pancreatic cancer and we're having to scramble to put in place a program that will ensure the company's continuity and financial security for the owner's wife. The wife who has not been involved with the business needed to be brought into the process and the only time I could get up to Chicago was Saturday. With my schedule already tight, I booked the last flight from Albuquerque I could through Denver that got me into Chicago at Midnight so I could have all day Saturday if necessary with the wife and come home Sunday morning.

I was getting into my car to go to the airport when I saw a text from United Airlines. My first flight was going to take off an hour later than scheduled which would only leave me with 10 minutes to make my connection. Since they shut the plane doors 10 minutes before departure, that was clearly not going to work. Uh oh, Magical Unicorn Pony God of Travel throwing down the gauntlet again. You think you might be forgotten not being the road warrior but you're not.

So I got out of the car and called the airline. As I've said many times in the past, these are the times you cherish having your frequent flyer status. They were able to book me on a flight that left at 6 AM went through Denver and got me to Chicago at 11:30. I got a decent seat on the Denver flight but was going to have to sit in the middle to Chicago. So here is what transpired from that point on.
  • Called the client's wife who was relieved we would be meeting later and said she would pick me up at the airport.
  • Called my hotel (where I have minor status), told them of my flight issue. They saved my room and said they would not charge me for the first night.
  • Got my new flight information. Went to check-in online and decided to check seat availability. A window seat in an exit row had opened up. Sweet! Grabbed it.
  • Got an email telling me I was upgraded to First for my return flight. Really? Sweet!
  • Went to airport for ridiculously early 6 AM flight and went through the TSA Pre line in literally 3 minutes.
  • As I was boarding the plane, the gate agent said, "Oh you've been upgraded to First. Really? Sweet!
  • Although my connection in Denver was tight, the inbound flight was on time and the flights were only five gates apart.
  • Got on the plane and was settling into my window seat when a gate agent swam through the  boarding passengers and said, "Mr. Palohdalny you want your upgrade?" "Uh sure." Sweet!
  • Going back home I whizzed through the TSA Pre line again in just minutes.
 As I'm driving home, I'm thinking, "Come on, this isn't like the pointy headed equine godlet at all." It was almost as if he (or maybe its a she) was just joking with me for old times sake. Or as Wife thought maybe he/she is just setting me up for some epic battle to come. I prefer to think of the Unicorn demi-god and I as old adversaries just getting together to talk about the good old times.

Wednesday, July 12, 2017

Living The Dream - The Transitioned State

Just over a year ago I wrote a post on what I perceived was the conditions that created the post-balls-to-the-wall career state. I called it the Transitioned State and talked about creating new buckets of interests that employed your now reduced energy in a more full and enjoyable way.

Since we came back from Asia and had the post trip buzz, life has just been one wonderful ride. Work is great. I have just about the perfect client load and I'm bringing money to pay for travel (I really...no REALLY like making money...sorry...probably genetic) plus just about every client I'm working with I'm getting to do things that use the skills I enjoy with very little stress.

I am busy planning with Wife our next big trip. We are such a good team. I do the basic research. She reviews and adds a different viewpoint on each potential decision. We end up with pretty good itineraries. I find now that after so much time being back home that I'm hungry again for that travel experience.

I continue my exercise, spiritual, and writing activities. My cooking creativity goes into what we do on a daily basis and if not wildly grandiose is constantly focused on little creative things to change up what we eat on a daily basis. For example today I had some leftover tomato sauce so I sauteed zucchini, onions, tomatoes (all separately) layered them in casserole, put a layer of sauteed sausage (also leftover), a layer of tomato sauce, fresh basil leaves and some grated cheese. Put the whole thing in the oven for 20 minutes. Nice, balanced, not too much food. Tasty.

Wrapped around all of this is a state of extreme gratitude - an understanding that none of this is deserved, that you are blessed to have it and need to give thanks for that blessing. And finally an understanding that it is going to end. Not might. It is. Something is going to happen. Most likely health related. It's only a matter of time. So that gives the incentive to not just milk the joy out of each moment but to be fully aware of the joy that is coming from each moment.

Life is a long hard grind but when you are blessed and you get to be in the Transitioned State you sure the heck should be fully aware of it!

Sunday, July 2, 2017

Spin

Three times recently I have had conversations with others who like to travel that go something like this.

"Yes we are planning a trip to so and so and somewhere. But you know we just like to do XYZ. We're not crazy like you and Wife."

This is always said in a matter the fact tone. "We're not crazy like you are." Like it is just a fact of life. when it comes to travel, there are those that are normal then there is Wife and I.

I happen to mention this to daughter #1 during our regular weekend Skype call. She said,

"I don't think of you as crazy. I think you have a passion for travel experiences."

EXACTLY. So for all you out there, Wife and I are not crazy. WE HAVE A PASSION FOR TRAVEL EXPERIENCES...

...that just happens to manifest itself as looking like we're crazy.

Tuesday, June 27, 2017

Why Is Finding A Hotel So Difficult

You would think that with all the online tools available to find accommodation that one could find a single place to stay wouldn't you. Wife is planning a three day swing to do some photo shooting. She gave me a list of the ten or so towns that we are going to be visiting. I duly began to check my various tools for finding a place to stay. Agoda, Booking, Orbiz, Trivago, HomeAway, Airbnb. Nothing, nada, zip. How could that be?

I went back to Wife to register my frustration.

"Dear, these are the ghost towns we are visiting. Not the places where we would want to stay."

"Oh."

So is there some kind of psychic Trivago I missed? A seance version of Booking I'm supposed to use?  Do you have to be a ghost to stay in a ghost town accommodation? Clearly more research will be needed.

Tuesday, June 20, 2017

Encounters With Endangered Species

I am on one of my infrequent trips for business and flew to Chicago yesterday. While in transit, I ran into that rarest of creatures. I was so amazed I had to take pictures.

Yes! The Rare and Endangered Empty Middle Row Seat!!!


I luxuriated during the flight. Putting up the arm rest, crossing my legs into the space next to me. Putting my drink on the table of the seat next to me while I worked on my computer on mine.

As an additional reward, while there were thunder storms,  we managed to beat them with our flight arriving early. In fact just as we finished landing and taxiing to the gate, the skies broke open.

Sunday, June 18, 2017

Golden Grey Photos

So channeling still the spirit of my muse and photo master*, Wife, I ruthlessly culled pictures and tried to get only those that had some kind of artistic merit. This has been VERY DIFFICULT because I have NO SENSE OF ARTISTIC LOOK whatsoever. But for better or worse here we go.

*(So since Wife is female is the term 'photo master' incorrect? Should I use 'photo mistress'? I think that creates all kinds of bad connotations. Maybe 'photo guru' that's more gender neutral?)

Embracing the Shadow

Focus on Color



I love this because I think it captures the intensity that Wife brings to her photography
First every Black and White attempts


Capturing those few moments where we had the 'magical golden light'

Using our workshop leader in Tokyo's idea on diagonal lines


 


Saturday, June 10, 2017

Chasing The Golden Gray

Golden light...it's what the photographer craves. At least that's what Wife tells me. When last year we were in Bryce Canyon National Park Utah, Wife bemoaned the fact that we did not have a chance to take pictures during the sunset period when the light is supposed to be the best. Coming on a separate trajectory, Wife and I have been saying for years that we really need to do more short trips around our own area which is just filled with natural beauty. I noted that because I tend to go right into work mode after we return from our big trips, that my schedule doesn't allow easily to do this type of thing on an impromptu basis. Therefore, the answer was to start scheduling things. I threw out the idea of running up to Bryce Canyon to do that shoot she wanted. It was booked into our calendar.

So on Friday we tootled up the 550 miles/9 hours to get to Bryce Canyon. This morning we went out to scope the various places where we wanted to take pictures. We also took a lot of pictures; I in particular as I wanted Wife's critique on my composition. After a break in the afternoon, we set out again at 6 PM. Having watched the sun setting on the drive in yesterday, we knew that we had about 2 hours from 6:30 to 8:30.

We got to our first stop at 6:15. It was still really bright but one could see the changes taking place. Then as we made to go to our second stop, in came the clouds. Soon there was no setting sun to speak of. Bummer. But we continued on and found that while we were not favored by the 'golden light' at least the scenes were not bleached out by the high midday sun. I haven't looked at the pictures yet from this evening but I'm hoping that the level of color and detail will be much better than the ones from this morning because of the lack of bleaching bright light.

Tomorrow we tootle on back the 550 miles/9 hours back to Albuquerque. AND I DON'T WANT TO HEAR any snide remarks from various offspring that Wife and I are not slowing down! We are slowing down. We're just slowing down very...well slowly.

Saturday, June 3, 2017

Asia Mega Tour II Retrospective - Part Three

So for this last installment of the great review of the Second Asian Mega Tour, I am going to list all of the wonderful experiences and people that we met along with links to the posts if you'd like to revisit them.

Asia Mega Tour II Retrospective - Part Two

Continuing on with the deep reflective dive into our trip.

Things we were surprised by:
  • Amount of English in Japan - Everything we read said we'd find little English. Instead we found most places, even out in Kyushu, a wide prevalence of understanding and use of basic traveler English and many more English menus than we would have expected
  • Credit Card Usage in Japan - Again all we read warned that Japan was mostly a cash economy. But no, we were able to use our credit cars at the majority of places we shopped and ate.
  • Room Sizes - Warnings and reviews about the small size of rooms especially in Japan before going, for the price we were paying (NOT super premium), we found the rooms as good as what we find in Europe.
  • Fitting in and Not Being Stared at - There wasn't anywhere on this trip where we felt people were looking at us because we were Westerners. A big difference from our experience in China the year before. 
  • Feeling at Home in Japan - Other than the language and alphabet, the whole vibe of building construction, urban layout, transportation systems, store layouts, etc. in Japan was totally not jarring. I was rather amazed by how at home I felt there.
  • Taipei - My favorite place we visited. It was friendly. There was way more English used and understood than in Japan. People were helpful, even solicitous. In six days there we did not do everything on our list. The closeness of wilderness and countryside to city. It is on my short list of places I really want to go back to.
  • Accepting Being Taken Care of In Bali - Wife and I are pretty self-reliant and at least up to now, not all the comfortable having people who are 'help' doing things for you. Maybe we perceive having 'help' as being snooty. However, finding ourselves in a villa with all kinds of help to do cleaning, cooking, washing, laundry, we found ourselves getting accepting it all with aplomb pretty darn fast.
Things not loved:
  • Eating in Japan - Many people expressed surprised when we commented on this during our trip. But even before going, I would have said that Japanese was on the bottom of my list of Asian cuisines liked. But particularly for Wife, the flavor emphases and the preponderance of highly fatty meat were highly negative. It was only by our last stay in Tokyo that we found means of dealing with the situation.
  • Airbnb in Asia - We only did it in Japan but the difficulty of finding where you were when dealing with a foreign alphabet and the tendency of these places to be crammed with bedding to accommodate the largest number of people made them less that relaxing for us.
  • Discount Airlines - We are really getting tired of dealing with the restrictions of discount airlines. Unfortunately they are frequently the best connections and the price differential can be significant. Not to mention a lot of the full fare carriers have similar restrictions.
  • Driving in Bali - Ugh, developing country driving. Hard on the body. So long to get anywhere.
  • Being Overwhelmed in Tokyo - The sheer mass of humanity that you encountered was really too much. The scope and scale of everything was a bit much for us. Wonder if we would have felt different if we had started here or done this when we were not tired and at the end of the journey
Things Loved!!
  • Rail Travel in Japan - Yes there are some quirks you have to figure out about making certain reservations and paying for the journey and the reservation separately but OMG it is so easy to get around, so dependable, and so convenient. When you add the fact that each major train station is like a little city with hotels and department stores around it, you can make the train the focus of your travel. And there is the whole sub-culture of the tourist trains going into the countryside too!
  • Japanese Gardens - Love em. When we go back to Japan it will be to focus on tourist trains and gardens
  • Japanese Department and Convenience Stores - Oh if only we had figured out earlier that the large department stores have restaurants on their top floors and grocery stores with prepared foods in the basement, I would have just found where the largest department stores were and made hotel reservations near them! And if you needed a quick meal, some inexpensive whiskey, an umbrella, a cash machine...there were the plethora of 7-11's, Family Marts and Lawsons.
  • IC Cards - Whether it was the Easy Card in Taipei or the Suica Card in Tokyo, these prepaid cards made transportation so incredibly easy and there were discounts on transportation associated with using them.
  • Taipei Metro - Not sure quite what made it different but it just seemed that his system of anyone we used was the easiest to navigate and the most comfortable. It was one of the many reasons I loved Taipei so much. 
  • Experiences in Bali - I will give a review of all of our experiences in the next post but truly some of the most extraordinary interactions we had were in Bali.
  • Architecture in Kula Lampur - All the written material plays down KL as a place to visit other than for eating and shopping. I was totally impressed with the architecture and loved the cityscape especially the Petronas Towers and our spectacular view of them from our hotel!
  • Eating in Langkawi Malaysia - A lot of this was because we were with the #2 clan and they love to eat but love of eating doesn't mean that you're always going to find good food. The variety and quality and value we found there was top notch. 

Asia Mega Tour II Retrospective - Part One

After having walked barefoot with only a loin cloth to a lonely spot in the Sandia Mountains where I contemplated for weeks on end existing only tree bark, grubs, rain water, the dew on morning plants and ample amounts of VSOP Cognac, the full truths of the Asia Mega Tour have been organized and are now ready to set down for posterity. It took longer than anticipated to get these truths in written form as Wife had to bail me out of custody after I was arrested for public indecency on my way back from my mountain retreat.

As there is a lot of material, I'm going to put this in three posts. Let's start with the deeper, more navel gazing types of revelations.
  • Finding Our Way to Travel - As I mentioned in earlier posts, it was amazing how energized this trip made us feel. I think we have discovered that there is a process that really seems to fulfill all we are trying to gain from travel. That process is going somewhere, going through the initial 24 hours or so of trying to get oriented, followed by another day or two of gradually feeling we have this particular locale understood, followed by another day or two of saying, "Yes, we got this one figured out, we like it, don't like it, would come back, wouldn't come back", after which we are ready to move on. There is something about this process that results in our being stimulated but not overwhelmed and is deeply gratifying too.
  • Self-Planning Opens the Door for Experiences - We had so many amazing serendipitous experiences that totally enriched this trip. And I can point to all of them as being a result of our doing our own planning. I am the first to admit that I enjoy doing the travel planning and making all our arrangements. But it also allows us to get ourselves into places that would normally not be on the travel radar screen. And it is these places where we keep running into the experiences that are so enriching.
  • We Miss Our Physical Capabilities - When we first were dreaming about traveling like this a decade and a half ago, both Wife and I were big time into hiking. We dreamed of going around the world and being able to combine our travel and hiking loves. Sadly our bodies gave out and hiking a lost pastime long before we got to our ability to travel. We are very, very thankful for the physical ability to do what we still can do. But there is hardly a day that passes on our travels where we encounter something that requires climbing or walking that is now not realistically things we can do. 
  • Smaller Versus Larger - There is certainly a point as far as the size and density of a city, its complexity and just the sheer mass of people where Wife and I both kind of shut down. It's hard to pinpoint exactly where this point is. It's not as if we only want to be in small towns and villages. Far from it. We like being in places where they have metros, tram systems and relatively easy to use buses. On this trip for example, Taipei which has 2.7 million in population and 7 million in the region, seemed to us very approachable. While Tokyo with over 13 million in its prefecture and over 37 million in its metropolitan area was just too much.
  • Developed Versus Underdeveloped - We find we are somewhat conflicted on our enjoyment of going to a developed country like Taiwan versus an underdeveloped country such as Indonesia (Bali). In a developed country we have significantly more freedom of movement, to get around on our own, sometimes driving, other times using public transportation and always walking. In an underdeveloped country we need to have drivers and walking is much more difficult and dangerous. Water and eating are safe in developed countries. You have to be careful in underdeveloped countries. The starkness of difference in our level of economic well-being and what is encountered in developing countries can weigh on you. But some of the best experiences we've had and most interesting things we've done have been in developing countries.

Sunday, May 28, 2017

Massive Day of Cooking

To fill the need for Southeast Asian food, you need the curry pastes that are the backbone of the flavors one remembers. Thai curry pastes are fairly easy to find. But the commercial ones we've tried have way too much chile heat for our tastes. And finding curry pastes from Cambodia, Malaysia or Indonesia? Forget about it.

So I have taken to making my own pastes and freezing them. Fortunately (as I think I have posted previously) we are blessed with a great Asian supermarket here in Albuquerque and I can get just about everything I need in terms of raw ingredients. I have had to alter some of the recipes to make them work with some of the things we have here.

Integral to this process is an extreme amount of pounding with a mortar and pestle. I had done a lot or research and almost everywhere I looked it said you could not get the same flavors and consistency trying to do things in a food processor. However, I do chop up all of the various components in the food processor prior to going through the pounding process.

The Cast of Characters
Clockwise from the lower left are turmeric root, galangal root, kefir lime leaves, ginger root, lemongrass, garlic (already chopped), shallots (already chopped), and cilantro stems
These provide the basic components for the curry pastes. Not all of them have all these ingredients and their are other additions for the various pastes

I have found that the key to getting the right consistency is to go from drier to wetter and to add one ingredient at a time. So first in goes that salt and any other dried spices. The the drier roots like the galangal. Then maybe the kefir lime leaf. Then the turmeric, the lemongrass and finally the ginger, garlic and shallots in their turn.

Getting chiles to integrate has proven difficult so I use my already processed NM green chile, harissa and sambal to provide the heat component

Sample of a completed paste - the Malaysian paste in this case
Then putting them in small containers - Cambodian Amok paste in this case

In addition to the curry pastes, I also was smoking - a rack of ribs and two chickens to replenish our freezer.
Most of this work (the rub for the ribs, brining the chickens, cleaning and setting up the smoker) were done the day before. All that needs to be done is turn on the smoker and put the meat in when its hot.
If I must say so myself I am really getting the knack of producing good ribs 😏
Tomorrow I will breakdown the chickens, make some stock from the bones, turn the skin into smoked cracklings, which in turn will give me a little smoked chicken fat.

Hope you are eating well too and REMEMBER all those who have sacrificed for our country!


Saturday, May 27, 2017

Book - Revelation

Before we left for the Asia Mega Tour, I made a decision that I would seek out an editor to read one of the book manuscripts I had written. I had certain suspicions about what I had done but I really wanted some kind of outside confirmation or denial.

Shortly after we got back, I had the editor's report. Most of the things she brought up  were not really surprises and were either in the forefront or back of my consciousness.  But she had made a final comment that she thought there was a book inside all I had written but it would take a  lot of time and money to unlock it and she was further willing to undertake that project.

My first reaction was that this was going to be a lot of work. I didn’t start writing because I wanted a job. I have a career. I could make a quick decision; no I did not want to make writing work. I write to satisfy an internal need.

What came next, however, was really transformational. During a hike/contemplation I realized that I have throughout my life been dissatisfied with the fiction that I have read or seen (movies/TV). No matter how good it was, there was always something done to a character or a plot that I didn’t like or made me unhappy. But when I write everything happens exactly the way I want it to. It really doesn’t make a difference if the writing is good, lousy, or mediocre. I know the story I’m trying to tell and it will be exactly the way I want it to be.

I truly write to give myself entertainment/story telling I can get from no one else – story telling that is literally perfect as far as how I want characters and stories to evolve and end. I am the audience and I write for me. That’s all that counts. It makes no difference if anyone reads what I write. In fact, in a lot of ways it is more freeing and comforting if nobody does.

This realization has been incredibly freeing and has given me great peace of mind.

Friday, May 26, 2017

Hash

I have a passion for making use of leftovers. Although I live in a palatial house where we consume way more energy than any two people really need to, I some how have this fanaticism that I should not waste food. This manifests itself a number of means of using leftovers.

The first is soup. Soup was the original means of leftover recycling. Over many years I have refined the technique for creating flavor bases for soup until now the results have become extremely consistent...and good!

The second is fried rice. I got started on fried rice kick last year after reading an article in the Wall Street Journal about how a chef made fried rice (the secret is cooking each ingredient separately and season each as you go). As I cook a lot of Asian flavored foods and usually have rice leftover and Wife loves leftover fried rice for lunch, it became another major user of leftovers.

Introduce now hash. I had mad a pot roast as one of many dishes for our friend Agent W for after her surgery and over did the potatoes. I decided to try the same process I used with the fried rice of cooking components separately (I had some Napa cabbage and onion left over). I took some pulled pork from last summer out of the freezer. The potatoes were already fully cooked. I mixed everything together in a bowl and then let them sit for 30 minutes to combine flavors.

Getting the hash to brown properly took a bit of experimentation. I tried a long, low cooking with now turning but that wasn't working so I just cranked the heat up. Now I got good browning. The hash didn't stay together but it didn't matter because the brown, crusty parts were substantial and delicious.

With our moving back to more potatoes and rice in our diet (more on that later), I see hash in the future as another of the leftover using team.

Tuesday, May 23, 2017

Not Ready Yet - The Asia Mega Tour II Analysis

Work has been busy (a blessing), and there have been things to do around the house. But I finally, finally finished last weekend going through every post I made during our trip. All I have to do now is review the notes I took and reach some kind of conclusions. Hopefully that will happen this weekend though I have a number of projects on tap for this the three day weekend including making SE Asian curry pastes (a BIG project requiring much pounding of mortar and pestle) and cranking up the smoker for chicken and ribs.

I will tell you this, it has been a real revelation to go back over all the posts from the trip. I can see why everyone thinks we two (Wife and I) are somewhat crazed. I mean I lived the whole thing but when I read my posts my reactions was 'Ye Gad that's exhausting'. Yet when we are doing it sure we feel tired but we actually felt like we were restraining ourselves.

So I have a ton of notes after going through all the posts and now I need to review them. I am really looking forward to studying them and seeing the patterns and the reveals.

Friday, May 19, 2017

You Know You're Old When...

This morning was hiking morning. Hike twice a week, 5 miles as part of my overall conditioning program.

We're having unseasonably cold weather. It is 6:45. I walk outside. I am ready to go. I have my boots on and am dressed. Just need to eat something and be on my way. The wind is blowing. It is 44 degrees.

Ah the vision of my younger self arises. Hiking in all kinds of wind and cold. Master of the elements. Macho. Tough. Driven.

I return to the house and take a hot shower instead.

And in the process of showering discover that I forgot to take out my hearing aids. Fortunately no permanent damage came to them.

This is the reality.


Monday, May 15, 2017

HAPPY KIDNEY DAY! NINE YEARS AND COUNTING!

It was nine years ago and one day that I was  sitting in a hospital operating room waiting to go under the knife to donate a kidney to my sister. I was at the same time incredibly calm and fearful though probably nowhere as fearful as Wife was.

Later that day, I woke up (sort of) in the recovery room and realized I was still alive.

Yet later that day I realized that I had TOTALLY underestimated what this procedure was going to do to me and was in the most excruciating physical pain I have ever endured until then and since.

Nine years later my left kidney (the one I donated) is working like a champ...A Champ I tell you. If I had just realized how good my component parts were (compared to the mediocre whole), I would have thought of some way to monetize me!

Seriously, thank you Lord/Lady for looking over me, allowing me to provide this blessing, and to have survived and prospered.

If you'd like to read about the great journey of organ donation, my dissertation starts here.

Thursday, May 11, 2017

Still Feeling The Buzz

I am still working on the massive 'analysis of the past trip' project. Last weekend I spend a good part of it going over the blog posts of the trip. I barely got half way done. My first impression - 'Ye gads how much did we do!'  It was more exhausting reading about it and imagining doing it than actually doing it. Anyway, that project will be picked up again this weekend.

What is of more interest at the moment is my observations of my internal state. It took literally only a day to recover from the trip due to our system. And ever since then I have been on this 'high'. Sort of like the endorphin high from exercise. There was something about this last trip that despite all the energy we expended and how much we did, left us both invigorated and excited.

If you will remember from our prior trip to Frantaly, we had the opposite reaction - we had felt tired and beat up with lots of adjustments we felt necessary to our travel life. So why the big difference? I'm not sure. As I continue with the massive navel gazing (Daughter #3's contribution to family imagery) project, I'm sure I will come up with some kind of analysis.

But in the meantime, the energy from the trip has carried over to my 'at home' persona which is basically about about work and writing. I will deal with the writing project with another post. But as far as work is concerned, I have been just a humming dynamo. I have certain metrics of how many meetings I need to have to develop business. I am already at twice the number I set as my goal for the month of May! I have lots of proposals out. All kinds of good client stuff being done. And I'm not working any more than I have set as my limit for my semi-retired state.

Almost everyone I meet with who knows me comments on the fact that I seem to be buzzing with energy. And it's true. It is all very mysterious to me. You all know I have a deeply spiritual bent so i can only say thanks for God's grace because I truly don't understand exactly why things are happening the way they are.

👍

Saturday, May 6, 2017

Down To A Science

I promised you the traditional postmortem but I've been so busy here that I haven't had the chance. That is one measure at how successful and seamless the transition has been from our travel mode to our life at home mode.  This was the sixth big trip we've taken (trips of more than a month out of the country) since 2014 as part of the post-full time work, transitioned state. Almost everything about this trip went smoother than had been the case in years past. This was especially true about coming home.

Our system of doing the coming back in two days rather than try and get back in one, continues to make a big difference in how rapidly we overcome jet lag. Unlike past trips, I had no emotional angst about going back to work. In fact we got back on a Thursday and by the following Tuesday, my work schedule was completely booked.

We worked on the garden today. Our timing was pretty good and we missed the snow storm that was here last weekend so we're getting things in as early as is reasonable. The peach tree was viciously de-fruited to avoid the mass over production in prior years.

Daughter #3 has asked that I do a deeper dive into the postmortem so I am going to spend the afternoon rereading my posts from the trip in order to create a definitive trip review.


Saturday, April 29, 2017

Asia Mega Tour II - The Trip Home

Our flight home didn't leave until 7 PM so we had some time to kill in Tokyo yet. We went out shopping for various things that children had requested. Unfortunately the Japan they evidently visited or bought things from was an alternative universe from the one we were in. We dutifully showed pictures to various staff at our hotel and at stores only to be met with stares and typically polite Japanese regret that they couldn't help us. At the hotel they even called around to a number of stores for one particular food item with no success. That used up most of our free time.

We were at one of the department stores on this search and I used my new found knowledge to buy some sashimi. Wife wanted Japanese fried chicken and there was a place right next to our hotel. They were cool with me eating my sashimi while Wife ate her chicken. Then we picked up our bags, caught a cab to the train station, took the train to Narita airport. We turned in our IC Suica cards without problem. Actually I had made a mistake and put both our train rides to Narita on one card and didn't have enough to get out but the automatic 'card recharge machine' was down. So they waved us through. This was picked up when I turned in the cards. But then they didn't charge us for it anyway!

We hung out in the ANA business class lounge. Not as good as Singapore Airlines or EVA by far though the guy making sushi, who was a character, gave me an extra piece because I was willing to use my five word/phrases of Japanese with him.

The flight to LA was totally uneventful. We stayed at a hotel very near the airport. We had our traditional first sticker shock meal back in the US where our 10 inch pizza, shared salad and two glasses of wine matched the most expensive meal we ate in two months in Asia.

The next day it was home to Albuquerque where instead of sun and blue skies it has been snowing and highs in the 40's!

We have this process of coming home down to a science. The jet lag has been managed to a minimum. Wife has about two days to catch up on accounting and stuff. I already had my business meetings set up before we ever arrived. It hardly felt like we had left.

We are so incredibly lucky and grateful to have the ability and the wherewithal to do what we do. The traditional postmortem of the trip will be in the next day or so.

It was really, really, really fabulous.

Friday, April 28, 2017

Asia Mega Tour II - Finale, Search for the One True Ramen

With a single day left on two month tour, we were exploring our options within the Tokyo area. I wanted to see some water and had suggested visiting Yokohama, only 30 minutes by train from Shinjuku. As I researched I came across something that struck my eye...the Shin-Yokohama Ramen Museum! What was this? Going to the museum's site I found out a lot about ramen and the fact that the museum's key feature was subsidiary branches of multiple top flight ramen places from around the country representing the best of their regional styles. This led to more research on my part and my finally understanding the component parts of ramen and the wide range of regional variations.

This led to THE QUEST. The Quest for the One True Ramen.

Some history...remember back to our trip beginnings. We were in the south/west of Japan on the island of Kyushu in the cities of Kagoshima and Fukuoka. We'd had all kinds of issues finding food we liked but our fall back was ramen. It was rich, meaty, and had all the flavor points we were looking for. Fast forward to being in Taiwan. It was our last night there and there was a Japanese ramen place in the train station next to our hotel. The ramen there was 'Tokyo style'. That didn't mean much to us but we were very disappointed when our bowls came with a heaping pile bonito flakes on them giving the ramen a distinctly fishy flavor. We didn't think much about this until we finally made our way to Tokyo. Our first meal was ramen and it was nothing like what we'd had when we were down south. The broth was very fishy and they put a dollop of salted fish in oil on top of the bowl. We were very disappointed and feared to try ramen again.

But my research showed the types of ramen, their use of different broth components, flavoring components (called 'tare' it is a strong flavor on the bottom of the bowl), noodle types, noodle length of cooking time, and additions. And I found OUR ramen, the ramen of the south, the ramen of Kyushu, the TONKATSU RAMEN based on a rich pork bone broth and no fish!!!!!  Lo and behold at the Shin-Yokohama Ramen Museum was a place offering the very ramen we sought! The quest began.

First it is necessary to go to Yokohama
Yokohama is a city of 3 million that is part of the 35 million person Tokyo metropolitan area
Compared to the intensity of the areas of Tokyo we'd been in to date, it was an island of calm.

Yokohama struck us as a particularly attractive and photogenic city
Upon our arriving we went from the main train station to a development next door (almost always the case with Japanese train stations from our limited observation)
We noted this mural
 Yokohama was the major port of entry into Japan after it was opened up in the mid-19th century 
This mural has scenes depicting that era



Next we took a water taxi to another part of the city which gave us great views of the city 
The weather was glorious and the inner photographer freshly blooded from his recent workshop came forth
Behold
Study of Yokohama Harbor on a Rising Sun Theme




Study of Yokohama Harbor without Rising Sun


ARG what is this we spy?
Our nemesis - The Cruise Ship
Actually they all seemed to be in places other than Yokohama today
Into the lovely bay side park






Statue notable for something but I forgot to write it down
Hopefully Wife puts it on her blog
Photographer's study of other photographers

Then we went to what was reputed to be Japan's largest Chinatown
There a slew of school children in uniform
Some kind of end of year field trip we suspect

By this time a number of hours had passed and we were getting tired and hungry
We wanted Japanese fried chicken but this was the kingdom of steamed buns and there was none to be found
Wife wisely recognizing the infamous de-I family hunger crabs made a command decision to buy some recognizable spring rolls which we wolfed down

Next we needed to get to a particular train station to get to Shin-Yokohama, a suburb around Shinkasen train station (not the same as the regular station) where the museum is located
Now the quest truly began
Train station
So close looking on the map
So NOT close by way of the feet and attempts to navigate with map and google
But despite the long, hot walk there were still pictures to be taken

And what is this?
Why I believe it is monument in homage to the veritable ramen noodle itself
At last we reached our goal 
Arriving at Shin-Yokohama a Japanese gentleman struck up a conversation with us in English
(very unusual)
He had a warm spot for Americans based on working there
He walked us to the museum



Ah the splendor of it
video

Inside the museum (which had a steep discounts for seniors thank you - the first and only we'd seen in Asia) - it was laid out as 1950's Tokyo would look like


After some searching, we find our place
Further frustration trying to figure out the system for buying tickets from the machine (too the right) for getting what we wanted
But ultimately the price
THE ONE TRUE RAMEN
Gad it was good
Delicious rich pork broth, crispy fried garlic over the top, highly seasoned pork meat, and NO fish
With extra meat it was $9
I was in heaven 😇
 
So let us say goodbye to our quest with one last
SIGNS OF THE WORLD
Feral bikes clearly are a big problem in Yokohama