Sunday, February 28, 2010

Japan Day 1.

I have only been in Japan for a few hours and already I love it!

Val and I left my house at 4:30 AM and after only 24 and one half hours of continues traveling we checked into our hotel in Tokyo. Not getting much sleep on the plane and feeling rather jet lagged, we explored our neighborhood for a couple hours and then called it an early night.

But I am already in love. Everyone one we have met has been very nice and Tokyo (at least the part we are in) feels very clean and safe and there is lots going on. I am also extremely impressed with how efficient everything is here. (The 5:05 bus showed up at 5:05!)

The airline food left much to be desired (as always), but all of that was forgotten with the dinner we had last night. It was without a doubt one of the best meals I have had in a VERY long time. I got grilled mackrel, pot stickers, mushroom tempura and Val ordered a braised pork soup, cucumber spears with miso and ume paste, and steamed dumplings. She also ordered a kind of Vietnamese liquor and I ordered a super sweet tea that when combined made a great cocktail. It was awesome!!!!!!

After dinner we walked around for a while. Being the geniuses that we are, we packed lots of books on Japanese's culture and cooking but we both forgot our phrase books. We looked last night for a book store that sold them for English readers, but were so far unlucky. We downloaded some Japanese/English podcast today. We are flying out to Ginzan Onsen today so we will listen to them on the flight. And hopefully we will find a phrase book soon. (Wish us luck.)

To see photos from the first day of our travels (and the awesome chicken we roasted the night before we left) go on facebook.

You can check Val's blog & photos at

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Time management.

The past 3 days I have worked 10-16 hour days, everyday, and gotten 4-7 hours of sleep a night.  Obviously I need to work on my time management.

But until I have an opening in my schedule to do that, lets enjoy some puppy cam!

Streaming .TV shows by Ustream

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Check them out: Sharon Jones & The Daps-Kings.

A couple weeks ago I went to see the movie "Up In The Air". I heard a lot of great things and my expectations were high. Possibly too high, possibly up in the air. (Ba-dump-dump-chink!)

I thought it was enjoyable, had some funny moments, and of course George Clooney is adorable. But even though the idea of someone who fires people for a living seems an original concept that is appropriate for the current employment climate, I just felt the plot progressed predictably and the characters were fairly cliche.

For me, the most memorable part of the movie was actually the opening credits. They had a great retro feel with their use of fonts, fades and dissolves. And they played an amazing cover of "This Land is You Land". It was very funky; one of those covers that is a complete re-envisions  the original without completely disrespecting it.  It really stuck with me.

I assumed that it was performed by a great funk band of the 60's or 70's who never received the fame they deserved. While researching the song after the movie, I was shocked to find that the band, Sharon Jones & the Dap-Kings, are a modern group and the song only came out a couple years ago. I didn't realize people were making music like this anymore.I bought their album "Naturally" and have been playing it on a loop for weeks.

Check out their cover of "This Land if Your Land" bellow along with two other vintage inspired music videos after the jump.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

My luck with men.

Some people find it very easy to be single.  They are comfortable meeting new people and seem to have an unending supply of new potential dates.  I am not one of those people.  My biggest set back is I am far too chicken to approach men.  And I am not great when approached either.  I easily get tongue-tied and awkward.  And I have usually lived by the philosophy "If you can't say anything that is not awkward, don't say anything at all".

Take for example this one guy from my neighborhood.  He is a very attractive older gentleman who lives near Pitango.  He seems nice, successful and, best of all, sane.  He is a semi-regular and I have developed a little bit of a school boy crush on him.  Sometimes we chat, but usually I look at him, punk out, fiddle with the espresso machine, stare at the brewing shots, and mutter "good day" as I hand him his beverage.

Very recently however, I have challenged myself to grow the proverbial pair and talk to him the next time he came in.  But if only life were simple. 

Yesterday our hot chocolate machine broke and we had to heat up the hot chocolate using the steam wand on the espresso machine.  And when I was trying to steam a drink I pulled the wand out too far and the hot chocolate splattered all over the place.

Now are hot chocolate is very thick (almost syrup) and difficult to wipe up.  The drink is 75% chocolate and more of it streaks across the counter than is absorbed into a rag.  And as my luck would have it, just as I make this huge mess, that is when my gentleman friend came in.

Staying true to my resolution, I did not relent though.  I took his order and while making it I asked how his weekend went.  And in the midst of cleaning chocolate off the counter, cups, coffee grinder, espresso machine, and everywhere else, we continued to talk, doing my best to maintain eye contact.  I ended up engaging him in a 15-20 minute conversation, well past the time it took me to clean.  We talked about weekend plans, movies, and whatever else we chatted about.

After he left, feeling rather accomplished, I went to the bathroom.  That is where, looking in the mirror, I discovered I had chocolate splatter all over my face.  During our entire conversation, the conversation in which I was doing my best to look at him head on and maintain eye contact, my face was covered in chocolate poke-a-dots.

I can only imagine what he thinks of me now.  I am probably coded as "Crazy Chocolate Boy" in his mind.  And if he was ever interested in me I doubt he still is.  I wouldn't be.

But on the plus side not only am I still proud of myself for taking the initiative to talk to him, I got a funny blog post out of it. :-)

Monday, January 4, 2010

Lies my teacher told me.

I just finished reading the revised edition of James W. Loewen's insightful expose  Lies My Teacher Told Me: Everything Your American History Textbook Got Wrong.  This book should be required reading for every high school history teacher, and I strongly recommend it to Kneading follower. 

Originally released in 1995, Loewen surveyed the 12 most popular textbooks, taking note of misrepresentation, misinterpretations, and the flat our lies that the textbooks told.  Upon publication, Lies was an instant hit and re-released and updated in 2008 to include 6 additional textbooks.

What I found most interesting about Lies was not the correction of lies in textbooks.  Growing up with progressive parents who tried to raise me with an honest view of the world, supplemented with a college education which provided a more well rounded view of history than high school provided, and my own studies after college (like People's History of the United States), I could hardly said I found any of the untruths Loewen rectified ground breaking.   However what I found most interesting was Loewen's analysis on how textbooks are so inaccurate (i.e. heroification and eurocentrism), why textbooks are written the way they are, and what the ultimate effects on its' intended reader, the students.

The sociological study is really what made this book so unique and interesting to me.  Even for its complex concepts this book is written in an easy to follow and compelling narrative.  I found it to be a real page turner.  A great read: give it a shot!

Friday, January 1, 2010

Hello 2010.

It seems the older you get the more significant each passing year becomes. As a kid, I didn't notice any considerable changes in my life from year to year. Which is probably why I never made any genuine new years resolutions.

But this year I can not help but reflect on the past year. Where I was this time last year is an undeniably and radically different place. While I am not making any resolution again this year, due to my birthday resolutions, I wanted to share some the memorable things that have happened to me over the past 365 days.

Top 5 worst things during 2009:
5. Running an obscene amount of credit card debt while being unemployed, then paying it back.
4. Moving back in with my parents - Even if my parents are amazing.
3. My mom loosing her job - Not to mention my many other unemployed friends.
2. Breaking up with Robin - Even if it was for the best, it still sucked.
1. Aunt Nancy passing away - I love and miss you Aunt Nancy.

Top 5 best things about 2009:
5. Barack Obama - First black president.
4. Tiana - First black Disney princess.
3. Joining a gym.
2. Awesome new job.
1. The support and love of family and friends - Thanks, you guys.

Top 5 things I am looking forward to 2010:
5. A very interesting midterm election.
4. My trip to Japan.
3. Opening a new Pitango.
2. Fulfilling my birthday resolutions.
1. The unknown.

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Pasta al fail.

Amongst the many great presents I got this holiday season, the ones I was most excited about was the KitchenAid pasta maker attachment I received for Christmas. I think the taste of fresh pasta is obviously superior and Lidia makes it look so easy on TV it should be a cinch to make myself. But when I tried to make a simple egg noodle last night, I received a rude awakening that put my culinary skills into question.

For those of you who have never made pasta before the steps appear to be rather simple:
1. Mix the dough.
2. Let dough rest.
3. Roll into smooth sheets.
4. Cut sheets into desired noodle length.

Well I got steps one and two down pretty easily, I thought. But when I went to take the dough out of the plastic wrap after its rest, the dough had become very wet, sticky, and extremely difficult to handle. And every time I tried to run it through the machine it would stick to the machine and come out uneven. So I would flour it then run it through again, and then flour and run it through again. And finally, after about an hour of doing this the dough was finally making smooth clean sheets.

Moving onto step four I installed the ribbon cutting attachment and prepared the sheets of pasta with a heavy coating of flour. But when I fed it through pasta slicer the pasta did not cut into clean little strips like they do on Lidia's show they came out as a jumbled wrinkled mess and all twisted together. So I had to start all over again. But this time, being an old pro, I got the sheets smoothed out again in an quick 25 minutes.

I reattach the ribbon cutting attachment and feed the heavily floured sheets through the slicer a second time again. This time: Success! The pasta was cutting into clean seperated ribbons, I laid them out on the counter and prepared the water to boil.

But when I moved the pasta from the counter to the pot they became tangled again and the noodles began sticking to each other until they were inseparable. And I was back where I began, a sticky lumpy ball of pasta dough. Being frustrated and hungry I ditched my pasta and boiled a pound of dried spaghetti we had in the pantry.

But on the plus side, the homemade pasta sauce I made tasted really good. And my mom bought a really nice black cherry vinegar that I used to make a really delicious salad dressing.

I will have to try making pasta again; when I have more time and don't have a hungry grumbly family in the other room waiting for dinner.