Saturday, May 14, 2011

Family Recipes

While I doubt that mashed cauliflower is up there on anyone's list of hall of fame dishes, it is one of our family favorites, courtesy of my oldest daughter, whose son loves it with gusto.

Today, my youngest daughter and I decided to experiment with this dish. We started out back, in the garden, picking a small, sweet onion and a nasturtium flower.

A few simple steps later, after adding in sliced daikon from my nostalgic trip earlier today to a certain grocery store in Japantown, and a bunch of other ingredients, we had a winner, according to those who tasted it.


p.s. Here is our recipe:

Tell Me About It...

Health Insurers Making Record Profits as Many Postpone Care

Companies continue to press for higher premiums, saying they need protection against any sudden uptick in demand once people have more money to spend on their health.


Raging Fire in The Neighborhood

Fridays are insane and yesterday, which only became yesterday a few minutes ago, had me on the go from the moment my alarm went off at 6:30 AM until I finally got home for good around midnight.

I figure I made 12 separate outings in the car, all for the usual routine purposes, and several more on foot.

By far the most interesting of these was a walk I took around 5 PM. A huge fire billowing black smoke over the neighborhood had broken out at 20th & Capp Streets, just across from a ZipCar lot I once frequented.

Two houses burned; firefighters climbed their ladders to the roofs and broke through with axes to fire water hoses onto the flames. It was a dramatic scene on a windy afternoon.

In the crowd I spotted an old friend, a professional photographer I first worked with some 19 years ago when I was Bureau Chief for California Magazine.

Two blocks away, two young entrepreneurs I know were setting up their Vietnamese "pop-up" kitchen in the warehouse of an old iron works factory.

Rice Paper Scissors -- as they call themselves -- represents one of the innovative ways a generation of recent college graduates facing the worst job market since the Depression is coping. They are just going out and starting their own businesses, in this case "underground," without asking for any official approval.

The City looks the other way, which is the right thing to do, as hundreds of residents come out to try the cuisine these two young chefs prepare in authentic Vietnamese street cafe style.

My friend interrupted the women's preparations and did a quick photo shoot. Who knows, someday these shots could mean a lot to them. After all, he took some of the earliest photos of a couple guys in a garage -- Sergey and Larry -- as they were founding a tiny little venture called Google.

Bill and I were the first "customers" tonight as Valerie and Katie gave us a dish -- scrumptious!

Bill told me that the house on the corner, right next door to where the fire was raging had belonged to the legendary artist, David Ireland, who passed away in recent years. The house is apparently a sort of living museum inside, so hopefully its walls were not damaged.

Neither of us had our press passes with us; we were very much just observers at the fire, but watching the way Bill photographed Katie and Valerie; and thinking about the way I profiled them in print, I realized that you can take the journalists out of their jobs, but you can never take the journalism out of the journalists.

We just keep writing and shooting whatever we see, whether we're paid or not.

We know what the stories are when we see them. That's who we are.


Thursday, May 12, 2011

Robots, Friends, and Children

While neuroscientists continue to evolve ways to better comprehend how the complexities of our brains affect our thinking, feeling and behavior, I continue to ponder the difference between robots and humans, including which might make a better friend.

Reading books, as always, that touch on these questions, currently one called The Emotion Machine by Marvin Minsky. His style is frustrating, because he uses the artifice of having a "citizen" pose a question that he answers, apparently unaware of how arrogant this seems to us mere "citizens."

But there's useful information buried behind this irritating style about artificial intelligence and why machines can't eventually pretty much copy (and improve on) pretty much everything we do, think, or feel. Who wouldn't prefer a smarter, more empathic, and loyal friend to the messy alternatives out there in the physical world?

Well, I'm half-joking, of course, but only half. First, young robots would need to be as charming as human children before we could actually learn to love them. When adults fall in love, a large part of the attraction -- though we seldom acknowledge it -- has to do with loving how they've evolved, loving who they were as children even though we didn't know them then.

When we tell each other our stories, it is often the images from our childhood that remain most vividly in each others' minds. Long after breaking up with someone, I remember what she told me about her youth, and I can imagine her back then, with so much potential still, long before she met the likes :(

Conversation the other day.

Daughter: "You know that video store near Mom's house called Four-Star Video?"

Me: "Yep."

Daughter: "They have to have four stars to use that name, right?"

Me: "What do you mean."

Daughter: "They can't just call themselves 'four-star,' someone had to award them four stars, right?"

Me: "Sadly, no, my dear. They can call themselves anything they want to, unless someone else already has the name, and even then it might be okay."

Daughter: (silent for a moment) "Well, at least, they are a pretty good store."


Monday, May 09, 2011

The Many Colors of Love

In a somewhat blurry state after an emergency root canal today, much worse than it might had been had I not just dismissed all of the health insurance confusion that continues to confuse and vex me month after month and gotten myself in there before it reached near-crisis proportions.

But before I get into that, aren't all of these colors and textures beautiful? Or is it only me? I've been fixated on the ways that colors blend with glass and moisture for so many years I sometimes assume others share this passion of mine. Yet I have also been told it is an "odd" obsession, and come to think of it, no one else I know seems to arrange things in his bathroom window in this manner.

Back to my health nightmare, which has evolved into a perfectly nice evening after all. Here is the story.

I knew it was bad when the pharmacy lady who has served me every month for years didn't recognize me when I went there today. She asked what my name was! (My face was swollen from the infection that had spread above the tooth into my sinuses.)

Sorry. Hope that's not TMI, but that was my day. The real story is once I made it home, feeling like x2@7%geQ8, my lovely little daughter had been waiting alone there for me for over an hour, due to a miscommunication with the friend who fetched her from school.

She needed help with her homework, and the combination of concentrating on her needs, rather than how rotten I initially felt, started improving my condition almost immediately.

Then, her kind ministrations, trying to make sure in small ways that I was comfortable, gave me more comfort than any doctor or girlfriend could do, remarkably. There is something about a child's love that is so pure and unconditional that it casts all other human relationships into a pale light.

Not that I do not remember and appreciate with great gratitude the way two former girlfriends helped me on the two previous occasions I had root canals -- which truly are one of the worst scourges of aging. Because I *do* remember what both of them did. No matter what, I always honor those memories and remain grateful no matter what else may have happened to our relationships in the interim. They were generous and kind when it mattered.

Mainly tonight I am feeling grateful to lots of people -- to the brother of my regular dentist who came into the office on his day off and diagnosed the seriousness of the matter; to the expert dental surgeon who made time and performed the two-and-a-half-hour root canal, including ten different shots of anesthetic due to the size and location of the infection that had spread above the tooth, generating pressure on multiple nerves reaching down toward that molar; to my daughter and all of her love; and to my ex-wife who drove out after a long day of work to get my medications for me.

It's all too easy to feel alone in this world. But you're never alone, unless by choice. You are not alone. We are all in this together.

It will be a week before this particular health ordeal is over, thanks to my foolish delay is seeking help, but because of all those who helped me today, it is nowhere near as bad as it might have been. I dodged a major bullet this time.

Rack it up to yet another painful lesson learned. Take care of your teeth! And when you begin to feel pain, seek help fast. Whether you have the insurance or the funds on hand to handle it or not -- you can figure that stuff out later. I don't want you to experience what I went through today ever!


p.s. Stories from other root canal survivors especially welcome on a night like this one.