Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Be Afraid of Kim Jong-Il (Or Whoever is Running N.Korea These Days); Be VERY AFRAID

Who cares about Gov. Sanborn's tryst in Argentina? Fox News is stirring the preemptive/preventive strike pot by focussing on North Korea's bluster to "wipe out" the United States (if it starts another war). Why isn't President Obama taking No. Korea more seriously? One person I know on Facebook asked why President Obama has not sent our military to North Korea so we would not be "wiped out"? Fox belittles the "monitoring" of the situation that the Obama Pentagon (run by Bush appointee Robert Gates) is doing and wants more action--perhaps an invasion of a member of the axis of evil?

No one can justify military action at this time against N. Korea based on chest thumping threats on the eve of the anniversary of the start of the Korean War. "U.S. officials have said it would take at least three to five years for North Korea to pose a real threat to the U.S. west coast, " reports. The AP reports that the US is following a N. Korean ship that may be carrying weapons and CNN reports that the Defense Department is prepared if anything is launched toward Hawaii. Indeed, the BBC last week stated that although N. Korea has some long range missiles, none of them could reach Hawaii with a nuclear warhead and those that might reach Okinawa would be detected before they launched.

I am not saying that No. Korea can be ignored. I am just annoyed by the fear mongering of the voice piece of the neocons. At the same time, I am happy that Obama is in charge and not his predecessor. Something to remember when Obama does not do everything we would want.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Santa Fe Apart From the Food Part 1

The short answer to whether we did anything else in Santa Fe other than eat is "occasionally".  As you may see in the last post, we spent a lot of time eating wonderful meals--a nice change from our usual fare of home cooked food and takeout from Whole Foods  and CPK.  However, we did do a few other things on our trip besides eat.  

The first day we went to Ten Thousand Waves where I indulged in a three hour "Buddha's Treat" which included a premium bath in the place shown in the picture above, an herbal wrap, massage and a salt scrub.  It turned out that Paul and I had the same masseuse named Eagle.  He did not want to do the bath for some bizarre reason and had his massage while I was in the bath (which included a sauna and a pool shaped hot tub as well as private showers and a cooling off room).  So Eagle worked on him and did my two hour treatment.  She recommended some of the restaurants we wound up loving and gave us both excellent massages.  She also suggested, when I asked for a place to get tablecloths, a set of stores called Jackalope which turned out to be quite a find.  Junk for your home and garden at very reasonable prices.  
Wish we had brought our own car so we could have taken home some of the larger items of interest, like the piggy grill (a large ceramic pig with a charcoal grill in it) or the huge buddha head (shown here)!

To be continued-- more later on our day trip to Chimayo and Taos, our visit to the Georgia O'Keeffe museum and the arts faire on the Santa Fe Plaza.

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Italy of the Southwest

Years ago I went to Italy for the first time and marveled at how good the food was. We ate in little holes in the wall and in the equivalent of Howard Johnson's and still the food was delicious and far superior to what I usually ate at home. This past few days in visiting Santa Fe we had a very similar experience. No matter where we ate, there were no bad meals. Even the restaurant at the mall served exceptional chile rellenos (according to hubby) and veggie enchiladas.

Our first meal in Santa Fe was at Anasazi Restaurant at Inn of the Anasazi, where we stayed. I ate salmon in some New Mexican sauce that was delicious. They also made a mean cosmopolitan which intoxicated me quickly after a day of traveling on only a few hours sleep. Breakfast the next morning at the Anasazi Restaurant was also good. Paul had some breakfast burrito which he declared excellent. I stuck to steel cut oatmeal and french roast coffee that was surprisingly drinkable.

Lunch that day took place at a mall on the way back from 10000 Waves. Also surprisingly good, particularly for a mall restaurant. Dinner that night we ate at Santacafe. I had citrus crusted halibut which was a bit overcooked. Luckily the atmosphere was delightful since we were able to sit on the patio outside. Paul loved his chile relleno dish.

The following day we ate breakfast at the Plaza Cafe where the real charm was the waitress who happily accepted my offer of Advil to help her sciatica. She also sat down with us for a while to fix her shoes. Again, Paul liked his food more than I since he ordered a traditional New Mexican dish--some sort of breakfast burrito-- and I ate scrambled eggs and fruit. That day we drove up to Taos via the High Road so we stopped in Chimayo where we tried the famous (and rightfully so) tamales of Leona next to the church. Later on the way back from Taos we stopped at Matilda's Cafe in Espanola. Matilda herself waited on us and served us some delightful NM puff fried pastry in addition to what we ordered. Matilda is a small white haired woman who must be at least in her 80s. She was very amusing when she talked about the traffic she expected from the Sikh gathering in the hills above Espanola. "We call them the diaper-heads" she said impishly without any malice which caused me to laugh so hard that I twisted my neck. Apparently Sikhs love NM food and Matilda loves the business.

That night we went to La Boca late for tapas. We wound up with a liter of sangria which mostly Paul drank. The tapas were unbelievably good-- including a mediterranean salad with fig, asparagus with salmon and goat cheese, a lamb croquette called kefta and a lump crab and lobster canelone with manchego cheese sauce. Our waiter was a bit of a sourpuss and largely absent throughout the evening but thankfully the sangria kept us from being put off by the lackluster service.

The next day, Saturday, we headed out early to Cafe Pasqual to beat the crowds that swarm there for breakfast. We still wound up waiting about 15 minutes and agreed to share a booth with an interesting couple our age from Boston. The wife was a chemist and an executive at a large international consulting firm called ICF and apparently consulted on the Katrina cleanup. I talked to her mostly about macbooks and facebook as well as her many trips to Moscow. Her husband was a character-- five years free of throat cancer and a connoisseur of gemstones which he chose for his wife to make into jewelry. Never found out what he did for a living but did learn that he had been in the Marines and had adopted a Korean boy who was now 25. Unfortunately, I did not order well in Cafe Pasqual and my breakfast was no where near as good as the decor and company. However, Paul loved his breakfast quesadilla and wanted to come back for dinner, which we did. Dinner was much better food. We also had a terrific table to oversee the crowd. There were an eclectic group of diners including numerous gay couples and a group of "Woo girls" having a bridal shower for one of their own. This time I ordered something New Mexican and enjoyed chicken enchiladas mole with a sweetness backed up by the spicy kick of whatever chili pepper found its way into the sauce. Cafe Pasqual purports to serve natural and organic food although those who have read Michael Pollan's Omnivore's Dilemma would suspect that Mary's Chickens (sold at Whole Foods and featured at Cafe Pasqual) likely are "corporate organic" and the "vegetarian" diets of those chickens are corn rather than grass etc.

Two other great meals on our trip that I want to mention were lunches. On Saturday we ate at the O'Keeffe Cafe next to the Georgia O'Keeffe museum. I had a delicious blue corn pancake with a venison sausage. Paul had salmon eggs benedict with one of the most delicious hollandaise sauces (touched with dill) that either of us have ever had (and we spent one entire trip up the California coast one year sampling eggs benedict everywhere we could). The other lunch was on the way to the airport home. We stopped in Bernadillo about 15 miles north of Albuquerque on I25 and ate at the Ranch Cafe. Paul declared his relleno superb and I enjoyed Tom's meatloaf which Frommer's had recommended. The decor was also a hoot.
Now I must try to restrict my calorie intake to make up for all the indulgence of the past 5 days. I have ordered Hungry Girl: 200 Under 200: 200 Recipes Under 200 Calories which as Paul points out I can use to create tapas type meals so each meal will include 3-5 recipes. Great plan!

Saturday, June 20, 2009

Another Young Life Needlessly Lost

Although I am on vacation and generally having a wonderful time, I need to get the sadness in my heart out on paper. You see, my daughter told us today that another one of her friends died yesterday. I believe that makes 5 friends that my daughter has lost in the last 4 years. All of these friends have been 21 and younger. My daughter is only 20 herself. That is so much loss to have experienced at such a young age.

The girl who died yesterday had stayed overnight on more than one occasion at my house. We had picked her up from her home and had driven her home. My daughter met her about 3-4 years ago and for a while spent all of her time with this girl. She was 18 years old when she died yesterday.

I remember her making coffee one morning several years ago in my kitchen. Most kids that come over to stay do not make coffee for themselves but this girl acted more mature than many of the teenagers who rambled through our house. She was also a very beautiful girl --slender with shiny long brown hair and clear skin. Her parents were divorced and there were other issues of burden in her life that really are too much for a teenager to have to bear. But she did--until yesterday.

I am at a loss to explain why these children lose their way and ultimately their lives. I am grateful that my own children are still here but I cannot help feeling helpless and hopeless about the ones that are gone. The ones that you cannot reach and who take one too many chances on their road to what they think is self salvation. The ones who you know could have made a difference, only if . . .

RIP Kalin.

ADDENDUM: The picture above was taken from Kalin's MySpace profile page which eerily states as her status "Yes, I am alive."

Monday, June 15, 2009

Japanese Baths for Those Who Hate Long Flights

I have been doing some research on things to do in Santa Fe where me and the honeybear are traveling later this week. One place highly recommended by a friend who said to do as a day spa and not stay is Ten Thousand Waves Spa and Inn. Here are some pictures I found on Yelp:

Oh yes. I am looking forward to this trip.

Saturday, June 13, 2009

What All the Well Heeled Grandkids Are Riding These Days

BOB Stroller Duallie at $569 + tax (9.25%).

Sorry babies. Grandma needs new windows.

Massachusetts Drivers

There was an old saw when I was growing up in NY to watch out for Massachusetts drivers because they were reputedly bad.  (Interestingly when I moved to California, the stereotype here was to watch out for Asian drivers--thereby showing that rather than blame the residents of one state, people here could find fault with an entire race. Needless to say I was offended.)  One of my friends the other day repeated this stereotype about Massachusetts drivers which got me to thinking. 

I read an article last week in an LA Times blog that revealed from a GMAC survey (for whatever that is worth these days) Californians were 48th out of 51 (50 states + DC) in scoring on the GMAC written traffic safety test which draws from various state DMV written tests.  Massachusetts was NOT worst. New York was. And on the NHTSA survey of traffic safety performance based on various measures of traffic fatalities, Massachusetts was the best.

I got a moving violation recently making an illegal left turn on PCH and decided to do online traffic school to get the point off my record.  I signed up for TrafficSchoolForLess and got what was advertised.  The presentation was exceptionally boring unlike the traffic school I did online about 4 years ago where I learned some new things because that course focussed on the practical dangers of speed rather than the boring details of the vehicle code.  My favorite part from the earlier online course was the calculation that you save only a minute on a certain length trip if you go 70 mph instead of 55 but you increase exponentially your injuries if you crash at 70 mph rather than 55 mph.  But I digress.

The recent online course advocated two things for safety which I know from my recent reading of Traffic are not necessarily good for safety.  The first was to lower your stress while driving by listening to something like a book on tape.  To me this is no different from the silly law that many states have passed prohibiting you from talking on the telephone unless you do it handsfree.  I find that dealing with the handsfree  situation is more distracting but in any event it is clear that any cell phone use and by extension listening to books on tape may be distracting.  The NHTSA says in its FAQs:

Q.  Does cell phone use while driving cause traffic crashes?

A.  Research shows that driving while using a cell phone can pose a serious cognitive distraction and degrade driver performance.  The data are insufficient to quantify crashes caused by cell phone use specifically, but NHTSA estimates that driver distraction from all sources contributes to 25 percent of all police-reported traffic crashes.

Q.  Is it safe to use hands-free (headset, speakerphone, or other device) cell phones while driving?

A.   The available research indicates that whether it is a hands-free or hand-held cell phone, the cognitive distraction is significant enough to degrade a driver’s performance.  This can cause a driver to miss key visual and audio cues needed to avoid a crash.

The other thing that the online course arguably got wrong  is the need to check over your shoulder when changing lanes.  I learned in Traffic that such behavior can be very dangerous because it takes your eyes off the road. Unfortunately I do not have the underlying study cited in Traffic so I cannot opine on its validity but it made sense when I read it. In any event the online course I took is a sanctioned course of the CA DMV and if it says I should do certain things who am I to disagree.  I fully intend to keep listening to books on tape in the car since the course said I could and should. While talking on my handsfree cell phone.

Saturday, June 6, 2009

Patience and Discipline

In "Losing Mum and Pup" Christopher Buckley says in discussing his father, William F. Buckley Jr., "Great men are also impatient." Unfortunately, my rudimentary knowledge of logic tells me that the inverse is not true.  Impatient men (or women) are not necessarily great men (or women).  

I have struggled with impatience all my life.  I am now also struggling with a lack of discipline in most areas.  The two seem related to me because the desire to have things right away is a cause of the inability to stick to something long term and plug away at a project.  These two features are not necessarily the same, because you can be impatient and still work on long term projects like books or cross oceanic sailing ventures, as did William Buckley, Jr.  The trick of pushing aside your impatience is an understanding that you must plug away at something to accomplish something and your drive for accomplishment must outweigh your impatience.

This week I found on the internet an old friend from graduate school.  As it turns out she has published an academic book that I was able to order on Amazon.  I started reading it yesterday and was reminded of a conversation I had with this same woman probably 15 years ago before she moved to England (she teaches at Cambridge now).  She told me that she was trying to discipline herself to be more serious and had given up reading the comics in the morning newspaper.  Say it ain't so, I told her.  What else amusing is there in the morning?  Well I guess that form of discipline is the sort of stuff that allows you to write and publish a book of some substance.  I, on the other hand, still read the comics and find that my new "internet habit" eats up so much time that I cannot even read 50 page briefs anymore without incessantly checking FB and Twitter.  (Then again, no one should beat themselves up for not having the discipline to read a 50  page brief!)

Then, this week during a yoga class (something I have also not been doing lately), the person leading the class kept repeating the words "discipline" and "focus".  Hah.  I did okay for most of the two hour class but could not wait to get back to my ADD enhancing existence of the internet.  If you are not born with ADD,  FB and Twitter will give it to you.

Then there is the issue of discipline as it relates to food.  Leaving aside the Gina Kolata thesis that discipline is not at issue with those who are overweight,  I feel frustrated that I no longer have the discipline to monitor my food intake.  My sister managed to lose a lot of weight and gain a lot of energy from disciplined food monitoring and restriction.  I cannot do it right now.  

So where does that leave me in my quest for discipline?  I try to be patient with myself and say that everyday is part of a process.  Indeed, I just had someone tell me that living with 8 people in my house means I am very patient.  Maybe all my patience and discipline is used up by the management of my current life--working and taking care of a large family, including way too many animals.  I just want to hope that there is a deeper reservoir somewhere within that I can tap so that I can start that book I have always wanted to write.   

Thursday, June 4, 2009

Word of the Day

Puckish. Does its origin precede or postdate Shakespeare?
Answer: Both.

According to

Origin: 1870–75; Puck + -ish 1 Unabridged Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random
House, Inc. 2009.

However the word "puck" as part of "puckish" predates the Bard:

Also called Hobgoblin, Robin
a particularly mischievous sprite in English folklore who
appears as a character in Shakespeare's A Midsummer Night's
(lowercase) a malicious or mischievous demon or spirit; a
Origin: bef. 1000; ME pouke, OE pūca; c. ON pūki a mischievous
demon Unabridged Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random
House, Inc. 2009.