28 December 2008

Arrive Alive

The trip to Higashi Koganei was actually a lot better than expected; but, still pretty difficult. Dealing with jet lag is a lot harder than we expected.

Our tickets were upgraded to business class. Once we boarded the plane all our neighbors left to find other seats. So we ended up sprawling over six business class seats. Both girls still had trouble sleeping and Alisa spit up her way through three outfits (plus two each for me and Hirono.) The stewardesses luckily avoided the wrath of Alisa’s tummy, though there were a few near misses with her projectile vomit. Probably the worst episode was when Alisa spit up into her mouth and then immediately sneezed right into my face. Ugh!

In Narita the customs officials escorted us to the airline crew immigration line, which was also really fortunate since there was then only one person ahead of us in line. Then our luggage was one of the first sets out. We caught a bus from the airport to Kichijouji and a taxi from the bus station to Hirono’s parents place. Since then we’ve all been trying to sleep. All told it took 19.5 hours and seven bibs from door to door. So far it looks like nobody caught any serious colds on the ride.

24 December 2008

First Christmas

There was about 45 minutes overlapping of each girl being active and awake. We took the opportunity to open Christmas presents. Our family usually waits until the morning; but, we didn't want to miss the chance to open gifts at all.

Of course, the girls didn't grasp the idea of opening presents. But they sure did dig the gifts themselves. They got a box of blocks and a toy piano. Not surprisingly, Leia loved the toy piano and Alisa liked the box. The blocks simply served as chewy bits of plastic.

Alisa has been making nonsense baby noises for a few weeks now. Leia burst on the scene yesterday with four or five clearly enunciated (for a baby) syllables, strung together by the hundreds. This house is never quiet now.

Merry Christmas one and all. Peace.

Eight Hours

I slept eight hours last night. And a two hour nap yesterday. Incredible!

21 December 2008

Bake-n-Bake: The Universal Recipe

We’ll call this one Episode #7; but, there are actually five meals here.

I really only know how to cook six or seven different recipes. The thing is, you can take any one recipe and use it such that you’ll never eat the same meal twice.

In Episode #6 I was disappointed in the meal. There wasn’t the depth to the broth needed. I attribute it to two things: herb and fat. The pork was too lean to give the broth the richness it needed. And a little herb, no not that kind of herb, was needed to put in some aroma. That got me to thinking about the root of this recipe. Although the dish was Japanese in flavor and could actually be found on a kitchen table in Tokyo, the recipe is universal. Whether I’m cooking French or Italian or Japanese or Chinese or American or anything, this particular recipe serves very well. The only cuisine that I think will not work here is Indian (and its derivatives like Thai.)

The recipe is all about protein, liquor, fat, salt and an aromatic. Mix them all together in a dish. That’s it. The trick is making the right combinations and proportions.

This week I have the time to cook, so I’ve decided to do all one recipe for the week and take you through the days to see how some of the meals turned out. It will give you some sense of the variety available with this one recipe. Incidentally, Bake-n-Bake episode #5 was also this same recipe.

Saturday I bought a big roll of pork loin and some beef chateaubriand. It was enough food for five hearty meals plus lunch leftovers. Coming home, I cut the meat into various shapes to match the meal and then put them in five different marinades.

* Beef sliced with cognac and salt.
* Pork center cut with chunky miso and rice wine.
* Beef sliced with light soy sauce and rice wine.
* Pork cubed with sherry and salt.
* Pork cubed with Cointreau and salt.

Clockwise from top left: sliced chateaubriand with soy sauce and rice wine, sliced chateaubriand with cognac, center cut pork loin with chunky miso and rice wine, cubed pork loin in sherry, cubed pork loin in Cointreau.

You may remember that episode #6 was the same mixture as the second one above. The ratios are different here, as is the aromatic and amount of water added. I was actually aiming to get this dish last week. It actually turned out as desired this time.

Beef Stroganoff

For Saturday night I sautéed the sliced beef in butter just a little bit, then added the marinade and some oyster mushrooms. Thirty seconds of sautéing again and then add some heavy cream. Stir briefly then pull out the beef. Continue to reduce the sauce until its down to the texture you want. We found some good bread at the market on Saturday so I kept it creamy like a stroganoff. We used the bread to mop up the sauce. Rainbow chard seared in bacon fat on the side.

Miso Stew
Oden Inspiration

Since I didn’t know how much time I’d have on Sunday, I cooked the center cut pork on Saturday night as well. Sear the pork in a sauce pan. Add the marinade and enough water to get to the consistency you like. I made this into a very chunky stew. Stew the pork until tender. Add a hefty amount of thickly sliced daikon and Tokyo negi (leeks are a close approximation, though they taste more like scallions.) In this case, there was only enough broth to baste the bottom third of the negi and daikon; but, a lid made them steam up quite nicely. Cook until both the negi and the daikon are tender. Let cool. Pour into a container and stir them gently, then refrigerate. Reheat in a saucepan or microwave whenever you want to eat. This was served with sticky rice and takuan (pickled daikon.) Other tsukemono (fancy pickles) would have been nice but the takuan was all we had in the house.

Spicy Enoki Beef
For Monday I plan to start by splitting some red chilies we’ve been drying in the kitchen. Heat sesame oil until just before it starts to smoke. Throw in the chilies and thinly sliced garlic, quickly followed by the meat. Sear the meat until almost rare in hot sesame oil. Throw in the marinade and some enoki mushrooms. Cook until the meat is done. I like mine rare. Add some cornstarch dissolved in water and thicken. Serve with baby bok choy sauteed in bacon fat and sticky rice.

French Onion Soup
2 per person is a meal
Also on Monday I’ll have enough time to cook another meal, so I’ll make the next soup. Start by boiling some beef bones and a dash of vinegar. When the broth is done add salt. Pour in the pork and sherry marinade. Add bouquet garni. When the pork is good and tender, pull it out and set aside. These are leftovers for anything you want (I think pork meatloaf this week.) Cast aside the bouquet garni, stripping the stems if you like. Put in four coarsely chopped onions and let stew until loose and tender. Heat the oven to 425F. Ladle the soup over a loaf of stale and toasted bread, very thickly sliced. Cover with generous amounts of Emmentaler cheese. Roast in the oven until the cheese is melted and starting to crisp. Let cool and serve at an edible temperature. French Onion Soup, baby! Next time I’m going to add some sautéed garlic with the bones.

Orange Pork Pasta
There is too much marinade for the pork and Cointreau. So I’ll ended up wasting some of it. I’ve still not really figured out how to use this little beast of a liquor. Sautee the pork and let simmer in its juices until tender. Set aside the pork. Add some of the marinade, finely chopped onions and heavy cream. Reduce until thick. Serve with thin slices of tangerine over pasta. Serve fresh spinach salad on the side.

I’ll update this as the week progresses.

Updated: Fixed links.
Update II: The Cointreau dish turned out pretty well. I did end up using all the marinade and I added some grapefruit juice instead of water for the sauciness. Last night I was reading about drinks with Cointreau. In one drink the bartender replaced lime syrup with lime juice and Cointreau. That was the most appropriate description of the flavor of Cointreau I've ever read. It triggered the idea of using grapefruit juice as the sauce base, reduced with cream. We happened to have some grapefruit juice in the fridge. It was much tastier than I expected. The thin tangerine slices weren't quite right. no pics.
Update III: Added pic for French Onion Soup. Its still not quite right with the bread and cheese proportions; but, the broth works now.

19 December 2008

Only in Barcelona

I saw this pic and knew it was Barcelona before ever reading the comments. Only in Barcelona would this occur.

Developing Into A Character

The girls are really starting to show off their personalities.

We're going to Japan in a couple of days. We didn't want the girls to be sick, so we kept them home all week. We hired a nanny rather than send the girls to day care. Oh, my word! What a difference! It was so much easier on us. We haven't found a nanny we really trust yet, so we're always at home too. That means one of us had to work from home every day this week. Being at home two days this week really helped me to get to know the girls a bit better. I can't believe I've got two months off from work starting today. I'm really eager to get to know the girls better.

Now that their more than six months old they are starting to show more personality.

Alisa is loud. Very loud like me. She loves to shout and she's trying to make different sounds. She's really active and was intent on standing up today holding on to the top of her gym. She is also the happy girl and she's always smiling. Her favorite toy is a Calistoga water bottle.

Leia is more pensive. She rarely makes any noises other than grunts and raspberries. She can make syllables occasionally; but, she usually prefers to just groan. She's become very beautiful, even though lots of people still mistake her for a boy. Leia is the one who gets more sick, at least for now. Sleeps in the ninja position most times, all night long.

They're both a tun of fun. I can't wait for them to open their first Christmas presents on Sunday. Of course, we'll have to show them how to tear open the wrapping first...

Updated: Linked to a better picture for "active".

Why Aerospace Research Investments Pay Off

Here's a good post by DarkSyde that is an example of how aerospace research investments can pay off. This is in opposition to investment in military aerospace, where the technology is a by-product of something destructive. In this case, the technology is a by-product of something that is also productive.

18 December 2008

Oh, Happy Day

Today Alisa held her own bottle for about 2/3 the way through the bottle. That's around 3 oz of formula and about 10 minutes of free time for me. Enough time to do the dishes. Yay! Its a breakthrough! I can do something else while both girls are awake - so long as I'm in the same room. This is such a huge issue for someone who every day has to choose between showering or eating dinner.

17 December 2008

He Didn't Have To

Bush says he didn't compromise his soul to be popular.

He's right. He didn't have to. Bush lost the popular vote in '00, remember. He sold his soul to be POTUS, not popular. If there is such a thing as a soul and a Hell, Bush lost his soul long ago and its already burning in hell. I don't know what's animating that empty, brainless skull.

16 December 2008


Someone speaks in the popular press about the US' place in the changing world without fear of the fact that the Empire is over. I hope the American public follows suit and accepts facts without denial.

14 December 2008


Both the event and Bush's reaction afterwards are just embarrassing. What a dumbass.

13 December 2008


Just as I left to go grocery shopping this morning both the girls started to fall asleep. Hirono took them to the bedroom to take a nap and I left for Mitsuwa, the local Japanese grocer. Given their lack of sleep last night, all three girls were going down for a while. Let’s see... going grocery shopping and a couple of hours free. Break out the bowl! Its time for another episode of Bake-n-Bake.

Episode #6, Japanese Baked Pork Stew

This meal was inspired by Japanese food; but, I cannot say its a typical Japanese meal in any sense of the word. All the dishes really can be found in a family meal in Tokyo; but, my style of cooking as a distinctively Western touch. I would normally have stewed the meat; but, given that there was limited time it seemed best to throw it in the oven and let it cook.

First, put the yams in the oven for the yaki imo. 375-425, depending on how crisp and caramelized you like the skin.

Cube the pork. Put it in a casserole dish. Make the marinate out of a heaping tablespoon of course miso, melted with equal parts rice wine and water. Pour over the pork and place in 3-4 whole cloves of garlic. Cover with foil or a casserole cover. Today’s meat is a little too much on the lean side; but, it looked pretty fresh and tasty. Marinate for about 30 minutes while the yams are cooking.
rice wine and miso, dilute with water
too lean
ready for the oven

Raise the temperature to 425. Place the pork in the oven and let it roast until cooked tender. Start the rice in time to be ready when the pork is done.

The veggies here are kumatsuna, very much like a wild mustard or chinese yao choy choy sum, sautéed in sesame oil and a touch of soy sauce. Garnish with roasted white sesame seeds for extra texture.
in hot oil

The girls woke up just as the final picture was taken. It was over two hours before we were done eating.

Update:Playing with the layout to try to make this more legible.

11 December 2008

One Hand

I'm home taking care of two little girls with bronchiolitis today. Its my turn to stay home while Hirono works. There's always at least one baby in my arms, sometimes two. Sleep is a dream of the distant past. I get food and water when I can. Surprisingly, I ate both breakfast and lunch today. The girls are adorable and actually loads of fun; but, holy cow!

This took 35 minutes to write.

Updated: I fixed the spelling of bronchiolitis, a common and relatively mild childhood ailment. Hirono's turn is today, so I'm at work and can actually do some things (if I had any sleep.) -e

09 December 2008

Another Edition of Bend Over

Here's yet another example of AIG executives just taking our money like a pack of thieves. How's that bailout going, eh? Swimmingly? Why don't you tell the folks I had to lay off last week that their taxes are going to these AIG fools?

07 December 2008

Simply Because I Like Memes

From Toast

Five names you go by: (in rough order of frequency)

Three things you are wearing right now:
Sweat pants
Spaghetti Monster T-Shirt

Two things you want very badly at the moment:
For tomorrow to come so that I can hold my daughters again
A fine meal

Three people who will probably fill this out:
Everyone I know online will have already filled this out.

Two things you did last night: (I'll consider last night to be Friday night in India. Its Saturday night in California right now so my time sense is out of whack.)
Drank two Macallan 12s, double, neat
Tried Thai food in India - it wasn't easily distinguishable from other Indian food

Two things you ate today: (I'll consider today to be the long flight home.)
Haldiram Savouries
Balik Salmon with salmon roe

Two people you last talked to on the phone:
The product manager for the Production Premium Suite.
One of my managers in Seattle.

Two things you are going to do tomorrow:
Give the girls big hugs.
Play with the girls for as long as possible.

Two longest car rides:
Tampa, FL to San Francisco, CA
Troy, NY to San Francisco, CA

Two of your favorite beverages:
Macallan 18 (sorry, Laphroig has fallen off the pinnacle here)
Very strong breve cappuccino (with a good roast, no Starbucks please)

Extremeconflicts, if you're reading this I tag you.

Home Again

I just got back from India tonight. Usually I enjoy being in India; but, not so much this time. In many ways it was a disappointing trip. The items that needed to be accomplished were not accomplished. The aspects of business travel that can be considered pleasurable were equally dismal – bad food, bad travel, dangerous surroundings. The one item that was the saving grace was that, as usual, my Wisdom score increased by one again. That seems to happen with every journey to India. Then again, my starting score was around 6 so there is still a long way to go (for you D&D nerds, you know what I mean.) Oh, and the dinner company on Friday was incredibly beautiful and charming. That was nice – though the music was too loud to talk.

What was learned this time? Its so hard to capture the essence of India. India lingers with you long after you’ve left.

The poverty strikes hard. The huge disparity between rich and poor, where some people squat in open dusty fields trying hard to make enough food to eat while others sip from $200US bottles of fine scotch. Yet so many seem to accept their fate. My driver this time mentioned that I must enjoy life because I’m a foreigner. Foreigners can enjoy their life, he says, because they don’t have to work as hard. He works three 24 hour shifts a week, four shifts every other week. The equivalent of a 60 cent tip was greatly appreciated by him.

People can be brutally callous to each other there. Maybe its because there are so many people. Maybe its because there are so many struggling to just eat enough. But then at the same time they revere life and treat animals as individuals just as well as humans. Not just the cows roaming the streets. One morning a teenage boy riding a bicycle kicked a feral dog out of his way. Instantly, as if without thinking, a pedestrian shot out an arm and whacked the boy off his bike.

Workers are treated like slaves in many ways. Extraordinarily long hours are expected, particularly of managers. If you don’t respond to email on Saturday people question you. When I ask people why they accept such treatment their response is that this is the Indian culture. There is no use trying to fight it. The alternative of being out on the street is not viable, not when you see the streets of India and the mass of people who do live off the streets. Of course, there are exceptions to the rule and some teams actually behave reasonably; but, this extreme working condition seems more normal than not.

Then there’s the religion. There are at least four prominent religions in the area where I stay. Hinduism is the norm, with Islam and Sikhism following closely behind. Christianity exists; but, is a minor player. Buddhism seems non-existent – at least I couldn’t find any evidence of it. Hindu extremism is on the rise, partly in reaction to the Muslim terrorism. Also, uneducated and poor people are used as pawns in the political battles. They are whipped into a frenzy of hatred against each other. Between the crushing poverty and a nationalism based on religious hatred, an opening of an army recruitment center in Punjab this past week saw three people trampled to death by the mobs of young men looking to join the military.

By a number of folks there America seemed to be seen as a paper tiger. Condi’s trip to New Delhi was openly scorned. It did nothing but make my own stay more dangerous. We are impotent and weak. The world knows it. There is still plenty of economic power in the US; but, even that wanes.

So what was learned? Again, its hard to say. To me India has always meant Life. Its teeming populace, crazy traffic, pollution, wandering animals, garbage strewn cities, spicy food, and warm heartedness assault the senses. The amazing array of colors and beliefs are an embodiment of the mystery of life. What was learned? The mystery of life is a mystery, and the answer is in the flesh. In the past India has been uplifting. The message this trip was that the flesh is weak: weak minded, weak spirited, mortal and decaying.

03 December 2008

Intense Memories

I just ran across this video at YouTube. Literally hundreds of feet above the pavement on the Las Vegas strip, riding this insane monster. It was really intense but a ton of fun, particularly after the bowl of hashish. Ah, memories...

01 December 2008

Down and Out in New Dehli

Yuck. I feel like crap. 22 hours of plane time. Started out with a bit of a cold, now I'm in full blown throat killing loss of voice hell. The pollution here doesn't help. I wanna go home; but, the project is slipping. This trip wasn't even planned until the last minute.