El Gringoqueño

All a man needs out of life is a place to sit ‘n’ spit in the fire.

Category: Miscellaneous

Why did I just realize I didn’t have a Miscellaneous category?

Why Can’t I Have a Dream Where I Wrestle a Bear or Something

I’ve been having back spasms, knots that have been causing me a fair bit of discomfort.  It could be age, sitting too much, I don’t know.  All I know is that I haven’t been sleeping particularly well. My brain, in its attempt to work the pain into the dream world has seen fit to do so in a novel way.

I’m nine months pregnant. Sigh, in the dream I am so ready to give birth, to get this baby out.  Ugghh, the last month is the worst.

This is the second time I have this dream.

How come I can’t be doing something extreme? Wrestle a bear, cliff dive, hunt a buffalo. If I’m going to have back pain in my dream, it should be manly, I think.  Just sayin’.

After the Ride

After 25 miles on the bicycle, this is what was waiting for me.

Who wants to ride?

Did the Whole World Suddenly Stop Blogging?

Kinda seems that way, doesn’t it, that the whole world stopped blogging all at once.  I got off track and then busy, then one week became two, became a month, then two, then… sheesh.  Will I ever post here again?  Will I ever want to post again?  It’s weird, because a good fifty percent of the blogs I regularly read have stopped cold too.  It’s like the the world breathed some sort of collective “meh” about blogging.  I’m still trying to figure out why I don’t have anything to say, but while I ponder it, my fellow bloggers can suck it.

I posted.  I’m still here.

History Channel Explanations

I was watching the History Channel yesterday, you know, the channel with nothing actually historic, only speculative.  Haha, it used to be the channel about stuff that happened during the years 1938 through 1945.  Now it’s the channel about stuff that might have happened.  Some shows (After Humans), are about stuff that could happen someday.  Is it the Speculative Future Channel?  Maybe they are turning into the vacancy left by the SyFy *snicker* Channel.

But I digress.

So I was watching this show about the ancient pyramids, ruins in Peru (Machu Picchu, etc), and manna in the Bible, all these mysterious and wondrous artifacts (except manna), and how they were all achieved by alien tech.  Yeah, that’s right, aliens gave us advanced technology to play with thousands of years ago.  I don’t make this stuff up, that’s what the history channel was saying.  It’s a fun speculative show and everybody’s all deep and mysterious.

“These tolerances are impossible, even with modern technology.”

“If someone came to me and said I wanted a stone cut like that, I wouldn’t do it for any price.”

Ooo, spooky.

And it goes on, one breathless expert after another speaking at length about how such feats, difficult to achieve today, would have been impossible thousands of years ago – unless they had help.  Help from aliens.

Yeah, that makes sense, I think.  Just because something seems impossible or difficult you’ve got to pull out the aliens card.  I’m more a fan of Occam’s Razor.  There’s a simpler explanation, one that actually has plenty of evidence in existence today.

It goes a little something like this:  Engineers are not particularly good at documentation.  You can actually stop reading here, because that’s it.

Even in our time, clever engineers fail to document stuff that has to be rediscovered as little as ten years later.  Engineers are so enamored of their works, so convinced at their own brilliance of cleverness, that the construction or solutions are believed to be, by them, self evident.  How could you not know what it does, it’s so simple, they say. There’s an old gripe about how clever programmers always think their solutions are self documenting because they are so elegant and perfect.   The pyramids?  Whatever their purpose, I’m sure engineers of the era couldn’t possibly conceive of someone NOT KNOWING what they do.  It’s obvious.  It’s always obvious to someone, except when that someone has been dead for 4500 years.

Without fail we must rediscover these “simple” solutions over and over again.  Remember, concrete?  The ancient Romans used it all over the place, but its secret was lost for 13 centuries until 1756. “Bah, write it down!?  You must be an idiot.  It’s so simple.  No way is anybody going to forget this.  Oh, shit, the Visigoths!  They weren’t covered in our disaster recovery plan.”

I suppose there’s also the problem that people just don’t have a multi-generation mindset when it comes to passing information forward.  We might think of our kids, but beyond that, it’s all a hazy blur of “somebody else’s problem.”

And bam! You forget how to make concrete.

So, it wasn’t the aliens that gave us awesomely advanced technology to make mind bogglingly beautiful and intricate structures.  We just forgot to write it down and back it up.  “That’s the next contractor’s problem,” they said.

What the hell, I’m in the mood to post pictures – lazy, I guess

Here are a couple more.  The­se were taken in the port zone approaching El Viejo San Juan (Old San Juan), Puerto Rico.  We were on our way to enjoy the Fiesta de San Sebastián.  Some of these kids have a real talent.

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Then there was this sweet ride.  It was almost like being in Cuba, except without the political oppression and rationing.

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Pretty Pictures – I’ve nothing to say at the moment.

­Here’s a picture I took of my mom’s gard­en in St. Louis.  We spent a month traveling around the Midwest (Missouri to Michigan), visitin­g family, having fun.

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On our way to Mackinac Island in Lake Michigan, Laura ­spied these flowers growing in front of a Hampton Inn.  She has a good eye and snapped this beauty. 

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The sky looks so beautiful because of my circular polarizer.  The polarizing filter removes distracting refracted light that sometimes makes nature shots look hazy.  It really makes the details of leaves and stems (that would normally have glare) pop.

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Me and My Bike

I got a note a few months ago from someone who­ saw my Oakland, California skyline photo and wanted to use it on a­ website for bicycle advocacy (http://walkoaklandbikeoakland.org/). They were s­o polite, how could I say no?  Besides, I was flattered.

It was taken in February 1996 overlooking Lake Merritt­ from the upper balcony of 407 Wayne Ave. Now that I’ve checked out their website, I’m inspired to put in my two cents advocating bicycling.  I’ve been commuting and running errands on my bicycle for 24 years or so.

I know it’s an old story, the story of me and my bike, but it bears mentioning again. While I could say that I’m being eco-friendly, I really just love getting out in the morning on my bike. Here are some tips for staying in shape, helping the environment, and saving some money.

  1. Get yourself a nice comfortable cheap city commute bike.  You can pick up some great end of the season deals right now for as little as $350 (http://performancebike.com. Or check out your local bike shop).  That’s a nice entry level bike with all the fixin’s.  The key is to not get sucked into the "high end."   High end is just a synonym for light and expensive.  A lot of times the cheaper componant, wheel-set, shifter, brake, etc, is much stronger and more durable.  It just weighs more.  This is not a problem however, because we don’t care about a few grams of extra weight, as we are not Olympic class racers.  Besides, if you want your bike to weigh less, it’s probably a better idea to drop some pounds yourself first, huh?  So buy cheap and tough, not expensive and light.  Got it? 
  2. As I’ve said before, I have some Rob Beckman bags and a Bruce Gordon rack (great stuff – both) that mount on the back of my bicycle.  They’ve served me well for at least 10 years and make grocery shopping a breeze.  I head out every morning for a short but hilly ride that takes 40 minutes.  On my way home, I stop at a local grocery store and buy the days’ items.  There are six of us – two parents and four kids – and I’m able to accomplish nearly all the grocery shopping by doing it daily on my bike.  There’s a lot of satisfacion in that, let me tell you.
  3. The last point is of course the gas savings angle.  I’ve estimated that I save maybe $6/week in gas doing this (10 miles at 20 mpg 3 times a week with $4/gal – I wouldn’t head out every day if I was driving).  With the prices of gas as high as they are, the monetary gains start to actually impact.  Think about it for a second; that’s $312 a year in gas savings.  That’s the purchase price of a nice Trek or Giant aluminum bike, and it pays for itself in the first year AND you can pocket your gym membership.  You’re getting a great aerobic low impact workout for free.  How many more reasons do you need to get on a bicycle for your daily errands?  Commute to work?  Commute to store?  Fun on weekends?  Win! Win! and Win!
  4. Last point: ignore the little bike shop snobs with their shaved legs and snotty attitudes.  They don’t truly love what t­hey do.  True love doesn’t judge, it says, "Cool, let’s go for a ride."

What Has Been Going on Around Here?

*Crickets chirping*

Been busy, you know, with work – unrewarding, brain-dead, unfun work.  I think, and most people have probably noticed for themselves, when one is not fully satisfied with what one is doing, the creative juices don’t flow anywhere.  You blame it on being busy, but really, when you’re busy and fulfilled, you seem to have boundless energy for new projects and creative endeavors. 

Lately, I’ve been swamped with making websites, programming web-apps, and sys-admin work. 

Sigh, but I’m so fed up with making websites… I think I want to take a sabbatical and run a rickshaw service someplace for a year – get paid a little bit to run tourists around, get some exercise, and get some perspective.  This computer stuff is really really getting on my nerves.  Sometimes I wish the Internet never existed – ssh, don’t tell anyone.

There is some good news, though.  This website now runs on a Quad Core 64bit monster machine… well, not really a monster, but better than before.  It’s got 8 gigs of RAM, 64 bits, and 4 cores – all in an economical package.

What I really want is dual quad cores on 45nm transistors, with 32 gigs of RAM.  That’d be a smokin’ server.

Oh, you know what did make me feel a little bit better a while back?  Actually, I hadn’t realized the funk I was in and why, until Barack Obama won the North Carolina Primary and virtually tied in Indiana.  I exhaled.  Finally.  I hadn’t realized I’d been holding all that anxiety.  Now, if America doesn’t make another stupid decision in November, I think our long national nightmare can come to a close and we can begin to clean up this mess.

It’s not that I’m looking for a savior.  I hope America isn’t looking for someone to be the strong man, lead us to the promised land, and make decisions for our poor widdle overtaxed heads.  What we need is to get this monkey off our back, a monkey with the initials George W. Bush… not that I like to name names or anything.

What else?  Cooking?  Here’s what I’ve been working on recently:

Home grown wild yeast starter

  • Consists of equal parts flour and water. Let sit out until it smells like beer.
  • really, that’s it.
  • Okay, so I had to take a page from Belgian beer brewers and encourage flies and bugs to fall into the mixture. It seems that they carry yeast on their legs to help the fermentation process along. Anyway, after a couple of weeks of dividing and refreshing the starter, it really takes on a good beer-like smell and begins to make decent bread. You have to make bread more frequently than I do for it to get really good, but that’s another story.

Mayonnaise

  • one clove of garlic
  • Puerto Rican spices (adobo – a mixture of salt, pepper (black and white), garlic and a bunch of other stuff I’m too lazy to read off the ingredients.
  • 1 cup blended olive oil (extra virgin has too much taste. You want something more innocuous)
  • 1 fresh farm egg
  • 1 tbsp of lemon juice or vinegar
  • Use an immersion blender to emulsify the product into a mayonnaise consistency.
  • *Optional: I also blend in two tablespoons of non-fat yogurt. It smooths out the taste and cuts the calories a bit.

Chicago style pizza dough (using said wild yeast)

I totally guesstimate the dough, but here’s the rough procedure.

  • 1 cup of warm water
  • 2 packets of quick acting yeast  or 1 cup of wild yeast starter if you’re me.
  • 1 cup of corn meal
  • 1 cup of wheat flour (or stone ground wheat or some other blend that you like)
  • And enough high gluten bread flour until you get dough. You do know what pizza dough should look like right?
  • 1/4 cup of olive oil
  • I knead the bread (by hand) until it begins to take on a springy elastic like quality. You can just tell. Fold and press, fold and press, fold and press. You’ll be able to tell in about 10 minutes of kneading when it’s ready.
  • Next you need to let it rise. If you’ve taken the instant yeast route, you’ll have 40 minutes or so to wait before topping and cooking. If you’ve used wild yeast, be prepared to wait most of the afternoon. I typically start in the morning.
  • Top with your personal pizza sauce recipe (I’ll share at some other time), some sort of meat (Italian sausage?), mushrooms, onions, peppers, cheese etc. and bake at 350 degrees for 20 minutes or so. The top of the cheese should get a hint of gold browning. If you oiled the pizza pan with olive oil or shortening, your crust will be nice and crisp. I love that!

Pancakes

  • 1 3/4 cups of milk (low fat or no fat)
  • 2 heaping tbsp of non-fat yogurt
  • 2 large eggs
  • 3 tbsp of sugar
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1/2 cup butter
  • 1/2 cup corn meal
  • 1 cup wheat flour
  • and enough cups of regular all purpose flour until the batter is… I don’t know… pancake like… you know what pancake batter is supposed to look like, no?
  • After you’ve heated up the griddle, add 1/4 cup of vinegar to the mixture.  It will foam up increasing the volume a bit so make sure you didn’t use too small of a bowl.  Your pancake batter will now be light and fluffy. 
  • *Optional: you can add fruit to this too. I like two grated apples and cinnamon or strawberries and bananas. Top with whipped cream and maple syrup. Yum!

Hey, this turned out to be a pretty long post, huh?  I guess my creative juices actually have been flowing.

They Will Burn Your Body Any Time of Day or Night

"Hey, hon.  Does the word cremación mean something different in Spanish than it does in English?"

"Um… no," Laura paused unsure. "No, it means cremation, just like in English."  She seemed puzzled.  What a bizarre topic of conversation.  How does this stuff pop into your head, dear?

"Well, like does cremación mean to burn paper to dispose of items other than bodies?  Could it be document disposal or something?"

"No, you would use incinerar for documents or trash."

I nodded toward the van in front of us.  "Get a load of that, then.  Cremation service 24 hours.  What would someone need with a 24 hour cremation service?"

"Maybe the bodies are piling up in a drug war.  That is bizarre," she agreed.

Cremacion_0002.jpg

"Do they come to your door or something, and you just disappear in the night?"

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