30 December 2007

Totally Baked

My mom is one of the best cooks around. I know everyone says that, but has your mom ever had a DJ give her a shoutout? I think not.

While I'm home for the holiday break I thought it would be a good idea to receive tutelage from the wise one. So I baked me a pie.

Don't get excited, I'm not going to become a pie factory. There is one person who is entitled to a pie in 2008, after that I don't know. Anyway, we had some good mom-daughter time and later I got to eat a delicious pumpkin chiffon pie.

Just to prove I'm not going domestic on you guys, I'd like to offer up the above photo - which has to be the most hardcore baker photo ever taken. Note the facial expression.

Earlier in the week, Shanno and I picked up a gingerbread cookie kit at Target. Hey, it was one of those late night purchases. I think we were dodging a meth-head. So, on pie day it seemed appropriate to "get 'er done" (to use the parlance of our times).

It just occurred to me that Crayola is the manufacturer of this gingerbread kit. Interesting. I suppose this wouldn't be the first time I've eaten one of their products.

So, it's impossible to make cookies that look like what's on the box. They don't even give you enough icing packets to do it. I'm not trying to shitcan Crayola, the problem is rampant throughout the crafting and cooking biz. Like the parent who's expectations you could never live up to - your creation will never look as good as what's on the package. The only option is to turn one's back to their hoity-toity ideals - and create cookies that speak to the people.

I present - the midnight cookie collection:

28 December 2007

That's SO Portland

I've been home one week and already I've had some uniquely Portland experiences. I'm not talking about eating tofu scramble or seeing a hippie. I'm talking about the things Portlanders accept as totally normal but are, in fact, kind of odd.

The first one is self-explanatory, I guess. A friend's ex-roommate took polaroids of himself on days he was feeling especially sexy. He would leave the polaroids around their apartment, I guess to cheer him up on fat days. I'm not really sure, but I do know that it's fab-oo-lous.

This next one is also fairly obvious: this couple decided to make homemade granola for their wedding guests. I think this gifting trend is weird to begin with, the idea that they roasted, bagged and labeled their own blend of wedding granola takes it to a whole new level.

I should mention - I shot this photo at a store that sells leftover stickers, diskettes, yarn, and other scraps for school teachers to use in their art projects. Barry got a box of about 100 senior photos from the 80's - for $1.

This is a cut out of Carrie Browstein fashioned into a Christmas tree ornament. If you don't know who she is you are not cool enough to be reading this blog.

Here's another holiday one - a flyer for a Christmas Eve party at Sassy's strip club. I know what you're thinking,

"My neighborhood strip club has a XXXmas Eve party too, so what?"

Yeah, does your strip club offer secret-recipe Jello shots, free porn and a deep-fried turkey dinner? It's a competitive market up here. Also, I'd like to point out that Sexy Santa is inked up. Take that, OC. Our ho's can beat up your ho's... I mean dancers.

The piece de resistance is this seemingly innocuous rave flyer. I guess they aren't called raves anymore, they're trance gatherings, but you know what I mean.

I get my trademark hair extensions done by this really cool chick who lives in southeast. Last summer, she and her boyfriend were told they had to move. The rental house where they lived was being sold and they had thirty days to pack up the house.

So my friend starts packing . . . and packing. She figures her boyfriend will jump in and help out, but a couple weeks go by and he hasn't done a thing. She asks, "can you give me a hand packing up the house?" He declines. Why? Because he's working on a poster for the solstice.

The winter solstice.

For those of you keeping track: the winter solstice was last Saturday. Needless to say, she dumped his ass. It wasn't just the non-helpfullness, once they got to the new place the dude had no money to pay rent or the deposit.

Please see above right for the infamous poster - it's nice and everything, but, definitely not worth sacrificing a girlfriend and a place to live.

Crap, I guess this post ended up being about stupid hippies afterall.

09 December 2007

Beer robot

The Japanese have thought of everything. First the heated toilet seat, now a robot that brings you beer. It even pours the beer - and tilts the glass while it pours. Holy crap.

Check out the beer robot website for a video. 

08 December 2007

Cool Crap that's not on my Christmas list

MIXA USB Mix tape
It's a 1GB USB drive disguised in a cassette tape. I have to admit: I sometimes miss the old days of mixtape exchanging. I used to spend hours making mini-collages out of magazine clippings and Japanese stationery stickers. Capturing the true spirit of my musical medley through the perfect combination of acid-eyed kittens and Tori Amos promotional photos . . . that was ART, man.

I also like this t-shirt, called
Punk vs. Disco.
Unfortunately it only comes in men's sizes so it would never fit.

For reasons I can't explain, I'm drawn to these I Heart Guts things. They're cute-yet-
creepy: my favorite.

You know those people who drive aroundwith stuffed animals in the back window of their car? I'd love to get some I Heart Guts and put them in my back window. Now who's the craziest?!?!

I also really dig this whole "steampunk" trend where people merge old-timey stuff with technology/ sci-fi ideals. For example, check out the modifications this guy made to a laptop:

If I had one of these things I think I'd have to get a monocle and a hot air balloon to go with it. I think I'd also need a pet raven (that's half robot half actual raven) to spy on my enemies.

I digress . . . apparently the damn thing works and gets wi-fi. Check out datamancer.net for how he did it plus more mod's.

Here's what's actually on my Christmas list
  • Black Chuck Taylor high-tops
  • Box of biodegradable garbage bags
  • Swim goggles
After a little more thought I added:
  • Emergency radio
  • The state quarters I'm missing from my collection
I'm a dork, I know. I scored 27% on the geek test.

05 November 2007

Dealing with Other People's Kids

You can't see it, but right now I have an amazon.com search open that looks something like this:

Books › "other people's children" › Family Relationships › Dysfunctional Relationships

As I near my twenty-eighth year I've come to realize I need to learn how to deal with kids. My Total Avoidance Strategy is flawed and increasingly impractical. So there you have it, step one, admitting there's a problem.

Now I've reached step two: ask for help. So I'm asking: HELP!!!

Why can't kids just ignore me, pretend I don't exist? I'd do the same with them and it'd be a win-win. Instead, it's the total opposite. I can see it in their eyes, "Oh boy, here's another adult to bother. Ooo, and this one's got long hair that I can yank on to get her attention."

I could only find one book on this particular subject. I thumbed through it at Border's, and unfortunately the author invested more time reveling in her own cleverness than presenting a viable battle plan for her readers.

Here's the kind of thing that happens to me:

On my last toddler encounter, I was drawn into the backyard (away from my dinner) on the pretense of a "bug hunt." As the tiny, sticky hand pulled me onto the porch I glanced helplessly at the other adults. They avoided eye contact and topped off their glasses of chardonnay.

On the outset, everything was fine. I'm cool with looking for bugs. Perhaps the little tyke is an aspiring entomologist and this foree will one day lead to a scientific discovery that kills all mosquitos everywhere forever. In that case, it would be worth letting my meal get cold.

We didn't find any ladybugs, worms, or pill bugs, so the next best thing (to a toddler) is apparently the dog's pooper scooper. I don't hate kids, okay? I tried to convinced the wee one to put down the feces-encrusted tool. When logic failed, ("the pooper scooper is ucky, okay?") I attempted to gently guide the pooper scooper back to its place alongside the house.

This, of course, brought forth tears and screaming. My instincts said "run" but, in the end I just put the pooper scooper out of reach and slumped my shoulders in defeat. Of course the screaming brought the parent running. It was embarrassing and irritating all at once.

I hate this kind of situation. I would rather be getting a cavity filled or having a pelvic exam.

Honestly, I think the main problem is that I'm too nice. This is the horrible dichotomy of the situation. Children make me very uncomfortable, but I can't tell a little kid to "get lost" because it would be impolite. I think kids know this - some kind of perverse instinct. They won't leave me a alone and worse, none of the adults will help me out. I feel like everyone else is thinking, "good, she's taking one for the team."

Also, why are kids so sticky? I've observed them at length, and even when no candy element is present, they manage to enstickify themselves. Do they make their own stickiness?

Okay, I digress. What I really need your help with is:

#1 How do I get toddlers to leave me alone?
Do I need to wear a t-shirt with a scary clown on it? Should I give kids the stinkeye whenever the parents aren't looking? Seriously, though, what do you do when the kid won't take "NOT RIGHT NOW" for an answer?

#2 How do I get out of a toddler encounter as quickly as possible? I don't want to hurt anyone's feelings, but I don't do babysitting. Never have, never will.

#3 If I get nabbed, and the kid starts misbehaving, what do I do? Come se dice "cease and desist" in kidspeak? Do I threaten to call Mom over?

Any help would be greatly appreciated... the holidays are coming, you know.

24 October 2007

The fire moves on

It's raining ash in the city where I work right now - but the smoke in the sky is white instead of black. This is a very good sign. We received more air support today which brought containment up from 30% to 50%. I think the tide is starting to turn.

Barry got some good news today. His house survived the fire. The fire crews used the property as a staging area - how lucky is that? He hasn't been able to get in yet to check things out, but some or most of a house is of course better than no house.

23 October 2007

The Fire Moves Closer

Heat, wind and low humidity have contributed to what may be the worst fire season in southern california history. More than 19,000 acres have burned in our area and around a dozen homes have burned.

We still don't know if Barry's house is included in that total. He lives in Modjeska Canyon - around 2:00 PM today we received word that firefighters had to abandon efforts in Modjeska. The fire continues to move eastward, so there's a chance Barry will be able to get in later tomorrow (Wed) afternoon.

Interestingly, as the blaze moves east, it gets closer to where I work. We could see the flames from the back patio this afternoon and the fire-fighting DC-10 flew overhead. Luckily, the city of Rancho Santa Margarita is a fairly new development which means lots of fire-retardant stucco buildings and concrete. Worst-case scenario, the air quality will get bad because of the smoke and we'll be evacuated. That's not too bad considering . . .

What everyone is wondering is:

How did all of these fires start?
Out of the 12+ fires, we only know the source for three of them. Ours was arson, another was downed powerlines, and a third was a spark from construction. What about the other nine? One has to wonder how many were caused by crazies.

When is Orange County going to get our fire crews back from Malibu?

. . . and most importantly

Why did the government wait 48 hours to deploy military firefighting assistance to California?
We saw a big fire-busting airplane taking off from New Mexico this afternoon. There's no F-ing fire in New Mexico! What was that plane doing for the last two days, eh? More than half a million people have been evacuated!

This map, though not 100% accurate, will give you a general idea of where the fire is. They update it throughout the day, though it doesn't show the fire having overtaken Modjeska Canyon (which it has). I work in Rancho Santa Margarita and live in Ladera Ranch.

22 October 2007

I Feel My Temperature Risin' (The OC Fire)

On Sunday night around 6:00 pm, the Santiago Canyon fire began. So far 15,000 acres have burned and authorities believe it was deliberately set. Here is a map charting the fire's progress.

The Santa Ana winds howled most of the night. On the drive into work, the sky was a strange color of grey and quite hazy. The office was unusually quiet as everyone assessed the damage. Seven counties were burning - including ours.

As the morning wore on, the smell of smoke grew stronger. At lunchtime, people dashed home to load valuables into their cars. Fortunately I live about 12 miles south of the blaze. Barry, however, lives only a few miles away.

Barry left home around 5:00 on a Sunday afternoon to run some errands. A few hours later he headed home only to find the main road barricaded by fire crews. Luckily, Barry was able to talk his way back in this morning. He shot the photos you see here.

When I first moved to Orange County, someone told me, "Instead of having the standard four seasons, California only has two: summer and fire.

This is the first significant fire since we've been here, but it's off to an ugly start. Down in San Diego, there are so many evacuees they've chosen QualComm Stadium (similar to the Rose Garden) to house everyone.Here's a link to a Google / LA Times map of all the fires.

For better or worse, the Orange County fire, though significant, is not the worst one out there. With fires blazing in all the surrounding counties, it also means the OC fire crews are on their own. The worst problem seems to be citizens who refuse to leave their homes. People insist they can defend their homes with a garden hose and refuse to pack up their valuables and evacuate voluntarily. So firefighters have to waste time convincing the homeowner to evacuate when they should be relieving someone who is hot and tired on the front lines.

That said, the fires in San Diego are so bad, there aren't enough firefighters to defend every neighborhood being threatened. Some folks have been told, "hose down your roof and get the heck out of there."

As I write this, the winds continue to blow. Last night we had a gust so hard it shook the apartment building.

The Santa Ana winds are strange though - different than those nasty east winds we get coming through the Gorge. With the Santa Anas there will be long stretches where it's completely still and then fwooosh a massive gust. Yet, sometimes it will blow like crazy for eight or nine hours and you think twice about going outside for fear of getting blown away to Kansas.

We'll see what the morning will bring. Keep your fingers crossed for Barry and Heidi out there in Modjeska Canyon.

The police came by Barry's place and began voluntary evacuations. They are headed to Aunt Cindy's in Lake Forest.

19 October 2007

Buying Plastic Food in Tokyo: Kappabashi-dori

Before I left for Japan, I asked Barry if there was anything he's always wanted from Japan. One of his requests was, "plastic food." As a tourist in Japan, you live and die by plastic food. When the restaurant menu is all in Japanese, sometimes you have to (politely) ask the waitness to follow you outside so you can point at the display food.Tokyo has hundreds of thousands of restaurants and all of them buy display food from one place: kappabashi-dori.

Located at Asakusa (at the end of the Ginza subway line) kappabashi-dori is not a big tourist attraction and therefore harder to find. I lucked out, there was a nice Japanese man standing next to the neighborhood map inside Asakusa station. I said, Kappabashi-dori doko desuka? He looked at me kind of funny and said, kitchen? He made hand motions like dicing vegetables, it was very cute.It's important to note that Kappabashi-dori is not the plastic food district, it's the kitchen supplies district. There are entire stores devoted to just knives, or just bowls, or just aprons. It's pretty cool.

To get there from the Ginza subway station, you want exit #1. When you arrive at street level, take a right. You'll pass a very large red lantern in front of the Buddhist temple Sensō-ji. Incidentally, this is the attraction that brings most people to Asakusa. I read that there are inexpensive places to stay up here as well, but, it's pretty far out of the way. I think it's better to stay off the Hibiya subway line or Yamanote train line. Anyway, I digress.

Continue down the main street until you come to a five-way intersection. Imagine yourself walking straight ahead and then take the road that veers slightly to the right. It will take you directly past a (tiny) police station. Keep an eye out for these funky lampposts that look like baskets. I thought to myself, "It looks like the lightbulbs are ready to get dunked into tempura batter!" Guess I had food on the brain. Just keep walking and you'll end up right in the middle of Kappabashi-dori (can't miss it).

Another blog I read said all the plastic food shops are on one side of the street. I came across half a dozen plastic food shops in just a few blocks and then none for several blocks, so I think they may group together. Come with an idea of what you want so you a) don't get overwhelmed and b) so you can price compare. I was looking for a bowl of udon and a sliced tonkatsu. At one place, the tonkatsu was 7200 Yen. I found another tonkatsu at the shop next door for only 5500 Yen. Yes, this stuff is expensive. Also, they do not sell you the dishware, only the food. Presumably if you bought a frosty beer you get the mug, but I'm not sure. With the udon, all I got was a very gelatinous chunk of udon and no bowl. It's probably for the best though because who wants to haul a big soup bowl home? Similarly, the tonkatsu came ala carte - even though it was displayed on a plate with garnish.

I picked up a website for one of the stores: http://maiduru.co.jp/. To view it, you may want to get babelfish to translate it first. Click the button that says, "it enters into the store." Next, click "Real Shop Guide." This (Japanese) link might also work.

16 October 2007

Really Weird Japanese Stuff

As we travel around over the next ten days, I'll try to post some of the weird stuff I see a long the way: signs, t-shirts, etc. For vending machines, keep scrolling down to the next post.

16 October 2007

The infamous plastic food. It's a blessing when they have this out in front of a restaurant (most do). In Tokyo there is one place where people go to buy all their plastic display food. It's called Kappabashi-dori.

Don't even think about bringing your cows or your beef jerky into Japan!

I'm trying to think of what the US equivalent to this would be - Buffalo Wing USB drives?

You better have your customs forms in order or Customs Dog is going to have to get all cute on your ass.

14 October 2007

Well this is a good thing, I wasn't interested in a USED Hot Dog.

From the Toyota Exhibition Hall - a concept car. Kind of brings to mind the "PushMePullMe" from the children's story.

Please, do not bring your elderly seagulls on the train.

This anti-itching medication comes with a free cell-phone dangle. From what I can tell, it's a water droplet holding a corn-on-the-cob.

12 October 2007

At most of the hotels, they give you a samurai costume. Okay, Mom says it's called a "yukata." This one came with a sword as well.

These were little wooden plaques you could buy at one of the shrines we went to, I don't know why you have the option to buy one with or without a face.

The guy crouching in front of the school girls was a Brazilian from our tour. He doesn't know these girls and they don't know him.

Apparently there are quite a few Clapton fans in Hiroshima.

On Miyajima Island the deer are not afraid of people. In fact, there are signs warning you that if the deer eat your bus pass it cannot be replaced.

8 October 2007

These are not Halloween costumes.

This is an air guitar bracelet. You put the thing on your wrist and make strumming motions. It either plays Deep Purple's Smoke on the Water, or T Rex's 20th Century Boy.

This is a footprint toilet. The annoying thing is, the stall next door had a western-style toilet, but I didn't know that until I had already used this one. Oh well.

I have no idea what this is. There was a huge line (around the block). The vending machines dispense red and white capsules. Mom says she saw someone get one and it had men's underwear inside. WTF?

6 October 2007

So far as I can tell, this van is part of the Bad Cat Patrol. If you have a misbehaving cat, they come and take it away.

This is the bottom of a sign that displays parking rates. Presumably no rice rockets are allowed. Where's a girl supposed to learn how to Tokyo Drift?

Let me just tell you, from personal experience, that none of these damn buttons actually make the toilet flush.

I thought they'd be on Yoko's side over here...

In Harajuku there's this massive building called La Foret (lah-for-ay). Each floor (there are about twelve floors) has half a dozen stalls where designers sell their collections. This was one of the weirdest stalls. You're note supposed to take photos, which is a shame. La Foret must be seen to be believed. Don't plan to buy anything though, t-shirts start at 5500 Yen (about $53 US).

This is the sink / shower in the Roppongi hotel bathroom.